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Weekly Word

Entries in Calling (5)

Tuesday
Jan162018

Ready for the Call of God

1 Kings 19:19-21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 14, 2018.

There is this situation that we see in professional sports on draft day.  There is a big pageantry about who is going to be picked and who is going to “get the call” saying that they have been chosen.  Typically those who have put their name in the draft and have a very good chance will be sitting at home with their family waiting for just such a call.  I am not knocking the process, but rather, using it as a glimpse at how Christians can sometimes fall into the trap of doing a similar thing with the call of God.  Spiritually we can fall into the rut of sitting on our backside with our friends and family around us and waiting for God to call us to something great.

Today we are going to see that this is not how things work in God’s kingdom.  Those who are called by God are those who weren’t expecting it and they were not sitting around waiting for it.  This is true whether we are talking about the call to salvation, or whether we are talking about God calling us to a specific ministry or station of life.  Let us see that God calls us to be faithful in whatever He has given us.  Instead of looking past our situation today towards the hope of some “other glory,” we must keep our eye on the ball and learn to serve the purposes of the Lord that are right in front of us.  Being ready for the call of God is not about moving to the next level.  Rather it is about having a heart of faithfulness in everything that we have been given in life; regardless of how “great” it may appear to us.

In our short passage today we see God calling Elisha to become a prophet.  In this story Elisha represents what we want to be, a person who is ready when God comes calling.  But, let’s first make clear what is meant by the “call of God.”  The calling of God or the call of God upon a person is used to refer to God’s invitation to an individual to serve a purpose for Him.  There are generally multiple layers of God’s call upon our life that begin with those that are general to most everyone up to those that are highly specific and even rare.  The most basic level of the calling of God on our life is to become a faithful believer in Jesus who is the Savior of the World that God has sent.  Almost synonymous with this is the basic call to live our lives as Jesus would have us live it, or to honor God in how we live.  Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Other general calls involve children heeding the authority of their parents, parents raising their kids for the Lord, and husbands and wives portraying the love between Christ and His Church.

However, there are times that God has a more specific calling that He gives to individuals.  In our story, Elijah had been the main prophet (not to say that he was the only one) and it is clear that he is reaching the end of his time on earth.  God calls Elisha to replace Elijah as a prophet to the nation of Israel in the 9th century B.C.  In real time, God speaks to Elijah, who then speaks to Elisha about God’s plan.  Yet, we should take notice of what Elisha is doing when Elijah shows up.

It is important to see that Elisha is not seeking to be a prophet.  He is not taking night classes on how to be a prophet, and neither is he following the prophet around like a groupie.  Elisha is clearly one of those 7,000 faithful believers that God had told Elijah about in verse 18 of this chapter.  He is not just faithful in that he refused to worship Baal and continued to worship the God of Israel.   He is also faithful to those general calls that God had put on his life.  We find him out in the field plowing with the oxen and eleven other teams.  It is enough for him to be a faithful servant of God within Israel, and faithfully serving on the family farm with his extended family.  It is also clear that Elisha comes from a wealthy family, in light of the previous drought and the large number of oxen plowing.  There are many who want to be a prophet so bad that they can taste it.  They study prophets and even seek them out and try to get them to notice them.   It is as if they are trying to call themselves.  This is a mistake and involves our flesh more than the Spirit of God.  It is our flesh that wants notoriety rather than faithfulness that gets no press.  Just as James warns people about seeking to be a teacher (because they will receive a stricter judgment), so we should recognize that desiring to be a prophet puts one in a similar position.  You do not want to be a prophet if God hasn’t called you to it.  “Calling ourselves” is not the proper way.  We must learn to be content with the calling that God has given to us, to simply live our life in honor to Jesus.  1 Corinthians 7:20 says, “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.”  Today, there is a general sense in which all who follow Jesus are prophets to this nation.  We are called to invite everyone to follow Jesus and receive God’s salvation.  We do this on behalf of God and for the benefit of the lost.  However, there are times when things come into our life out of the blue and we weren’t expecting them.  Yet, in those moments God may be calling us to serve in a different way, or at least an added way that is very specific and not general.

Technically Elijah doesn’t tell Elisha that he is called.  Instead he uses his mantle as a word picture that says it for him.  The mantle spoken of here would have been an outer cloak that typically still had the hair attached to it.  It was an article of clothing that was associated with kings and prophets, and was a symbol of their calling and authority.  When Elijah throws his mantle onto Elisha, Elisha knows immediately what Elijah means by it.  Now, as symbols go, we see in the Bible a tendency of humans (i.e. us) to be overly fascinated with the object rather than the truth that it represents.  Later, Elisha will be given the mantle of Elijah as Elijah is taken away from this earth.  But the mantle is not some kind of talisman that will ensure Elisha’s success, any more than the ark of the covenant could ensure the success of the wicked sons of Eli (see 1 Samuel 4).  Rather, the mantle points to the God of heaven who is calling a person and puts a heavy job upon them.  Those whom God calls, He has prepared spiritually.  He will also place His power and authority upon them in order to do the task at hand.  At this moment Elijah is still alive and the mantle still belongs to him.  But if Elisha will follow Elijah like the disciples followed Jesus, then the role of prophet will come to him in the proper time.  Thus Elisha has a decision to make.  He can keep the wealth of his family, the security of working a farm and not meddling in politics, or he can leave it all and follow Elijah onto Israel’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.

Elisha accepts the call, but wants to say goodbye to his family.  Note that no words have happened yet.  Elijah threw his mantle on Elisha and just kept on walking.  So Elisha runs to catch up with Elijah in order to explain that he will follow him.  Now this situation is somewhat reminiscent of a couple of verses in Luke 9:61-62.  This passage speaks of a person that was called to follow Jesus but said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  Jesus replied by saying, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Typically the words of Jesus are presented in the sense of saying the guy failed for asking to say goodbye.  Thus Jesus is telling him he “failed the entrance test.”  We should be careful of jumping to that conclusion in light of our passage today.  Elisha is not rebuked and goes on to follow Elijah.  It is most likely that Jesus is not rejecting the guy, but rather warning him.  Family doesn’t always understand when God calls us to something out of the ordinary or general call of God.  Even family of Jesus thought that he was going crazy at first.  Yes, you can say goodbye.  But recognize that the pull on your heartstrings can put you in a situation of only half-heartedly serving God.  If you are going to go out into the field you need to plow looking forward.  Perhaps Jesus is even alluding to this passage.  God has nothing against family and saying goodbye.  However, good things can get in the way of a hard task that God calls us to.  Like Elijah, Elisha is about to become a hunted man that the Lord leads, who knows where, and for many years at a time.  Just as Israel followed Moses into the wilderness only to keep thinking about the things that they left behind in Egypt, and just as Lot’s wife looked back to the city of Sodom that she was leaving behind, so our hearts can get stuck looking backwards to things that we think were better.  The point is not about saying goodbye, but about where your heart is.  To follow god is not always easy, and is not always understood by others.  In the end we see that Jesus warns the man in Luke.  But Elijah let’s Elisha go back without any such warning.  In fact his retort is basically, “Do what you want, what have I done to you.”  Yet, even this phrase has a subtle and unsaid aspect to it.  It makes one think, just what has Elijah done to Elisha?  This subtle reminder points out what is at stake.  Do you want to be a prophet or not?

Elisha does go back.  But he slaughters the oxen that he plowed with and used their yoke and equipment as fuel to cook them.  In a sense he is burning his bridge behind him and sending a message to his family.  I’m done farming.  I will now follow the prophet of God.  Obviously with such expressions as “burn your bridge behind you,” the situation is glossed over.  The truth is that even when we “burn our bridges,” or as in Elisha’s case burn our oxen, there is a way back.  One can follow the river long enough to find another way to cross.  Elisha could return and his family would gladly receive him regardless of the oxen he slaughtered.  So with all symbolic gestures they are that, symbols.  The symbol has no meaning if the thing to which it points is not lived out.  Thus it says in verse 21, “Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.”

Becoming a prophet is not about having power and prestige in the presence of others.  The true prophets of God have always been hated by most of the people of their day.  It is only when they are dead that people tend to honor them and decorate their graves.  If we are to put the calling of God into a single word, it would have to be “servant, or service.”  A prophet served God as a voice to the people, and they served the people as a means of hearing what God thought about their life, king, nation, etc.  God does not call everyone to a specific task of being a prophet to their nation.  However, put aside what you think would be great.  Instead, focus on what God has given you in the present.  Jesus is inviting you to live your life for His purposes instead of your own.  Your relationships, job, etc. all can be a means of serving yourself, or a means of serving God.  When you are using these things to whole-heartedly serve Jesus, and you are content with the tasks that He has given you, then and only then are you truly ready to receive any further call from the Lord.  Let’s be a ready people.

Ready for the Call audio

Sunday
May072017

Walking Worthy of Our Calling

Ephesians 4:1-6 & Matthew 22:1-14.  This sermon was delivered by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 7, 2017.

We apologize that there is no audio for this sermon.

Over the last two weeks we have been talking about the wisdom of this world versus the wisdom of God.  This ended last week with the Apostle James stating that those who are truly wise should prove it by their good conduct done in meekness.  Today we are going to pick up on this concept that the wisdom of God leads to a life of good conduct done in meekness.  These are not the words that Paul uses in Ephesians 4.  However, it will become obvious that he has the same idea in mind.  What James calls “pure and undefiled” religion (James 1:27), the Apostle Paul calls “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

It is easy to point to religion as the problem.  But the Bible does not just offer religion.  It offers a pure and undefiled religion that is worthy of the calling to which God has called us.  Some make a better distinction by pointing to extremists within religion.  They are the true problem.  Sure, extremists can cause problems.  But it fails to recognize that even a moderate religion that is untrue is harmful to an individual and the world.  The real problem is our refusal to let God cleanse our understandings of the world around us.  In a sense, it is our refusal to be broken out of the virtual reality that the Powers of this Age have immersed us in.  People who follow Jesus are not the problem.  Rather, it is people who pretend that they are following Jesus, or at the least, who follow a pale shadow of the true Jesus and his teachings.  Let’s look at our passage.

The Call of God

Verse 1, of Ephesians 4, begins with Paul calling himself a “prisoner of the Lord.”  The main point for this distinction is to remind the Ephesians and us who is really in charge.  Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and then he had appealed to Caesar.  This led to him being in Rome under house arrest.  It would be easy in such a situation for Paul to be so focused on Rome and its antagonism towards God’s call upon his life that he would lose sight of God’s sovereignty.  Paul wrote at least 4 New Testament letters during this time of arrest and most likely wrote many other letters that we do not have.  He is a prisoner of man, but also a prisoner in the Lord.  God had a plan through this and Paul trusted Him.  So what is this call that Paul is talking about in verse 1?

Ultimately the call is God crying out to mankind, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28).  The call is the gracious offer of God to save us from the effects of our sin, both corporate and individual.  We are saved by grace because there is no other salvation possible, but by God, and He is not obligated to do so.  Even if we felt God had a moral obligation to try and save mankind, we have taken his grace for granted over and over again, often throwing it back in His face.  Yet, God graciously continues to offer salvation to the world.  We are saved through faith because we must believe in God and follow His directions.  It is called the Gospel of Jesus because He is the one who not only explains the plan of salvation, but also accomplishes the salvation.  The good news is that our savior has come and our salvation has been obtained. 

Paul describes this calling in verses 11-15 of this chapter.   Notice how he points to the purpose behind all that God is doing in the Church, those who have responded to His call.  The whole purpose is to help us become fully like Jesus.  As an individual the arrow of your heart needs to be towards Jesus.  However, this is not done in our own strength.  It is the Spirit of God who supplies people that He has gifted to teach.  It is the Spirit of God who has supplied us with a written account of His words, the Bible.  And, it is the Spirit of God that supplies an inner witness to our hearts of what Jesus desires of us.

This call is to anyone who will listen.  It is not limited by any race, geography, or economic status.  John 3:16 demonstrates that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  The call is to “whoever” would believe it.  Christians are called to take the good news about Jesus and His salvation to the ends of the earth.  2 Peter 3:9 makes the desire of God even clearer.  “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  He does not want anyone to perish and is gives a mission to those who answer His call:  Be my ambassador to extend this call to the ends of the earth.

Walking worthy of our calling

So what exactly is meant by walking worthy of our calling, which is to be made over in the image of Jesus Christ?  Verse 2 lists several character issues, and from other passages we know that this, by no means, is exhaustive.  Basically Paul is telling us that character matters.  He starts with “lowliness.”  It is a reference to our mindset.  It is a person who does not think of themselves as higher than others.  It is interesting to think that Jesus, who is Lord of the heavens and the earth, was lowly of mind.  This is highlighted in Philippians 2:5 and following.  To walk worthy of our calling is to walk with humility before God and others.  The next word is “gentleness.”  This word is sometimes translated meekness and refers to an inner disposition and calmness of spirit.  They are not just gentle on the outside, but on the inside as well.  Next is “longsuffering.”  This term regarding patience is about not quickly losing your temper, which flows into the next phrase, “bearing one another.”  Instead of losing our temper, we have a long fuse, and carry along the heavy things about each other.  It is not just about helping other people, but also putting up with their opinions and actions.  Any group that is going to stay connected has to learn to carry the imperfections of each other.  All of this is to be done “in love.”  Now Paul is not saying that a worthy walk is a perfect walk.  He is not a perfect man telling the Church to be more perfect.  Rather, it is about Christians helping each other to be perfected by the Holy Spirit.  Church is not a place of perfect people, but a place of people being perfected.  In fact, the same could be said about this life.  Quit seeking the perfect life and understand that life itself is perfecting you.  It is easy to be so worried about someone else judging us, that we forget we will be judged by God.  Don’t be deceived, God is saving you so that you can change and become like Jesus in character and action.  If you say you are answering that call then show it by living in a manner that agrees with your words.

Paul also brings up the issue of unity in verse 3.  This has become a buzz word over the course of the 20th century.  Yet, notice that it is a “unity of the Spirit.”  Unity is not something that leaders and Christians can engineer, or make happen.  The world and worldly churches turn to forceful mechanisms in order to “make peace.”  However, this is not a true peace.  To say, “There will be unity when you agree with us,” is not what Paul has in mind.  True, Jesus and His Apostles laid down, once and for all, the Faith that all believers should embrace.  However, the key to unity is when everyone in a church is looking to the Holy Spirit and walking in harmony with Him (i.e. walking worthy of our calling.)  Unity is something with demonstrates the level to which we are all walking in harmony with God’s Spirit.  Any other form is the wisdom of this world and not the wisdom of God.  Paul goes on for the rest of this section to emphasize that there is one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that we have received one baptism, faith, and hope.  When we have a living connection with the Spirit of God, He creates unity, but not uniformity.  God’ signature is diversity within unity.  This is why the world can never have true peace and true unity.  They have embraced the wisdom of the Powers of this Age and not the wisdom of God.  They refuse the wisdom of Jesus and continue to create their own wisdom.  Such wisdom is fractured at its source and doomed to failure by its rejection of the Creator.

Paul does not mention the issue of being chosen by God.  But I believe it is critical to discuss at this juncture.  Throughout the Scripture we see the dual concepts of God’s call and God’s choosing, or election.  So let’s look at a parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 22:1-14 to explore what it means to be “called” versus “chosen.”

In this passage there is a call or invitation that is being sent out and there are also several categories of “unworthy” people.  Let’s first understand that Jesus is describing God’s call (as the King) for people to apart of His Kingdom celebration of the wedding of his Son (i.e. The people of God receiving Christ and coming into relationship with Him).  The servants who bear the message are the prophets of God who have been faithful throughout history to declare God’s call to the world.  The first category of “unworthy” people is those who didn’t think the invitation worth a response.  They simply didn’t respond and are apathetic to the call.  The next group is mixed, but they have one thing in common.  They are all caustic towards the call, to some degree.  If the first group is neutral, this group is negative.  Some merely ridicule the call and make light of it.  Others actively abuse the messengers, and still others actually kill some of the messengers.  Clearly this is a response that is unworthy of benefiting from the call of God.  The last group is pictured by the individual who actually comes to the wedding.  He accepts the invitation, but refuses to comply with the conditions and stipulations of the King.  It was common in those days for a King to supply mandatory garments for state functions like this.  Thus the parable implies that the man came to the event, but refused to put on the wedding garments.  He did not care for the King’s wishes, but rather only cared about what he wanted.  He liked his garments better than those supplied by the King.  This is important because Paul uses this concept of putting off and putting on clothing as a metaphor for righteous works.  Christians are called to put off the dead works of our self-righteousness and put on the living works of the righteousness of Jesus.  The man who is being expelled was called and even responded to the invitation.  But, he did not comply with the conditions and thus is not chosen.  Verse 14, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  This is similar to the verse in Matthew 7:22-23.  Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  These had answered the call and even had an outward showing of righteousness.  But putting on the righteousness of Christ begins in the heart.  What makes a work a dead work versus a living work?  Two people can give money to the poor, but for one it is a dead work of self-righteousness, and for the other a living work of true righteousness.  How can that be?  It is so because one has only answered the call, but has not walked worthy of the calling.  In the end they loved their own clothing.  They clung to lawlessness towards God and created a righteousness of their own.  Ultimately, the person who is chosen is the one who responds to the call by following Jesus fully.  They do not look to a man made list of do’s and don’ts.  Rather they are daily listening to the Holy Spirit through the written word, Spirit-filled mentors, and personal prayer.  They are allowing the Spirit to undress them of their own self-righteous sin, and to be dressed in the works that are born of the Spirit of God.  Don’t be deceived.  God is saving us from the lawlessness of self-righteousness.  This world reeks of self-righteousness.  Let us not think that we can remain the same and Jesus will cover everything when we die.  No.  True faith is enabled by the Spirit of God to throw off dead works and put on the living works of the Spirit of God, which is the righteousness of Christ.

Tuesday
Jun252013

A Heavy Word to a Loved One

We are going to begin a verse by verse walk through the book of Malachi.  This is the last book of the Old Testament and the end of the section that is called the “Minor Prophets.”  They are called minor because their written prophecies are very small compared to the “Major Prophets” like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  Malachi literally means “my messenger.”  So there is some dispute as to whether the prophet’s name is Malachi or it is a reference to his prophetic role.  Note that there is no reference to a father ( e.g. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo; or Haggai the son of Shealtiel).

The prophecy is given to Israel during the period after their exile into Babylon and subsequent return.  So let’s begin to look at what God had to say to these people who had been judged by God and now were back in the land rebuilding.

God Reminds Us Of His Love For Us

Verse one begins by calling the Word of the Lord a burden or heavy load.  It is a picture of a camel or donkey that has been weighed down with something to carry.  Malachi received a “Word” from God that was very heavy.  Love can be a fun and light thing, but it can also be very heavy.  God and Israel had been through some very stormy waters.  And, now, the people of Israel had come to a place where they doubted God’s love for them.  Often the myopia of our own circumstances can cause us to think we have it so bad when, in reality, we have it far better than others.  Such is the case with Israel.

Malachi employs a technique where God makes a statement and then points out how Israel is questioning this.  Thus, God says, “I have loved you.”   Whether they were saying it out loud or only in their hearts, God could hear their response, “In what way have you loved us?”

As a Father, God had judged Israel’s actions as wrong.  He had disciplined them and now was restoring them.  What child doesn’t sometimes feel like their parent doesn’t love them?  All of us feel this.

We can grow insensitive to God’s love for us because we want things to be different.  We don’t have the bigger view that a parent would have, much less God.  The present realities of now cloud our ability to see God’s love.  Remember, God is not content for us just to be happy.  He wants us to be like Him.  Thus we chafe under the discipline it takes to become like God.

Next God reminds them of the difference between their nation and the nation of Edom.  As Israel was the descendants of Jacob, so Edom was the descendants of Esau.  It is not surprising to hear God say that he had loved Israel.  But it is surprising to hear God say that he has hated Esau.  What?  There are two points to make about this statement. 

First of all, in this context hate is more a comparison that God loved Israel more and didn’t choose Esau like he did them.  God’s blessings upon Israel were greater than Esau and Edom.  It is not so much about a intense dislike for someone as it is about the lack of a loving choice.  Think of it from the prospective of the jilted person.  Jacob thought he had married Rachel, but instead was given Leah.  Now Jacob did not have an intense hatred for Leah, but he wasn’t satisfied with her.  He worked another 7 years to get Rachel and then demonstrated that he “really” loved Rachel in countless ways in the decades ahead.  The Bible says that when God saw that Leah was unloved (same word translated hated here) he opened her womb.  Jacob may not have had an intense hatred of Leah like we think, but he didn’t “love” her like he did Rachel and that hurt Leah.  Similarly, God is saying that when Jacob and Esau were in the womb, God had chosen to bless Jacob above his brother.  Esau would not receive the same blessing, although he was blessed in many ways as well.  This choosing was not based on biology (same mother and father).  Nor was it based on birth order (the first would be less than the second).  Now we should be careful of confusing this with salvation.  The role and purpose that God was giving to Jacob played a part in salvation, but it was not an declaration that Esau could not be saved. 

Esau could have recognized God’s calling and chose to join with his brother, like Jonathan did.  When Saul was rejected and David chosen we see two very different spirits on display.  In refusing to accept this change, Saul pitted himself as an enemy against David and, even worse, against God.  It led to his eventual physical and spiritual destruction.  Now Jonathan on the other hand recognized the just nature of God’s judgment and chose to embrace David and thus embrace God.  Though Jonathan is killed because of Saul’s folly, no one would make the case that Jonathan was not “saved” or went into eternity with God’s mercy upon him.

Thus Esau and his descendants went on to go down the same path Saul chose,  that of a rebel and self-trust.  The emphasis here is not on what Edom had become, but on that original choosing.  Thus it might be better to see this as Jacob was loved, but (in comparison) Esau was unloved.  The calling is what is in view here.  We can fight against the calling of another or we can join with them and be blessed.

Because of their similar choices, both Edom and Israel had been defeated and destroyed.  Yet, God revealed that he would help Israel rebuild, but he would not help Edom.  In fact God states that he would pull down anything that Esau’s descendants tried to rebuild.  God was not going to bless their wickedness.

We might be quick to cry “foul” here, but recognize that in all of this the issue is not God giving one salvation and refusing to give it to another.  Both are equally able to be saved.  However, because of his calling God would restore Israel.  In fact we know that Israel would go on to a point of rebellion that would cause God to cast them out of the land again between 70 AD and 135 AD.  Both found that not matter what your calling is, only faith in God would bring salvation.

In verse 5 they are told that they would see God’s love for them and recognize that His greatness would overflow the boundaries of Israel, which it did in Jesus the Messiah.

Thus in these last days all nations have the same opportunity to hear the Heavy Word of the Lord and repent.  We, like Jonathan, can agree with God’s rejection of us and acceptance of Jesus.  We can secure for ourselves the favor of God by serving Jesus as Jonathan did David. 

Further Thoughts

It is never easy to deal with heavy things.  But they will never go away unless we face them.  God has given every individual the choice to enter into His love by following Jesus, or remain forever under His judgment.  Have you made that choice to believe on Jesus and follow him yet?  Believe me when I say that the day will come when those who have put their faith in Jesus will see his glory revealed over all the earth as he returns to take up the governance of the earth.  And, all those who have chosen against him will find themselves on the losing side of the battle.  God loves you.  Why would you die?  So, choose life today.

Heavy Word Audio

Tuesday
Jan012013

The Calling of Believers

As we approach the New Year it is helpful to evaluate where we have been and where we are headed.  This is true for both groups and individuals.  It is has been common in the last several decades for companies to develop a mission statement.  Such a statement lays out the purpose of the company in one or two brief, clear sentences.  Probably not very many individuals do this.  But it might not be a bad idea.  We all need to be reminded from time to time about our main purpose.

Today we will be looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12.  This section begins with the word, “finally.”  Peter started with some general comments to the believers, but then moved to some very specific groups within the church.  He starts with citizens, then speaks to slaves, then to women, and then to men.  Here he does not mean finally in the sense that he is done with the letter.  But rather, finally in the sense of wrapping up this section of directives to Christians both specifically and generally.

How We Should Treat One Another

Peter reminds the believers how they ought to treat each other.  He will speak to several different things, but begins with the mind.  He calls them to be of “One Mind.”  This “one mind” that we are to all have is not the mind of the leader or each of us fighting for our mind to be “the one.”  But rather we are to have the mind of Christ.  The mind and thinking of Jesus needs to be what all believers use in their words and deeds.  Paul speaks to this in 1 Corinthians 2:16 when he says, “We have the mind of Christ.”  There are two ways to look at the mind.  We can first focus on the purpose or goal of the mind.  Jesus was focused on glorifying the Father.  He did nothing for himself.  But rather did all things to bring glory to God.  He only spoke the words of the Father and only did the deeds of the Father.  The second area is one of attitude.  The mind of Jesus operated in a humble way that was willing to submit to the plan of the Father.  Thus in Philippians 2:5 it states “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.”  Paul goes on to talk about how Christ lowered himself to the lowest place.  If we all operated from such a mind this would be a different place.  We need to work and pray every day that God would help us to think like Jesus.  This starts by reading the Word of God and moves to trying to do it and ends in prayer as we wrestle with God over what we discover.

Next Peter calls them to have compassion towards each other.  The word literally means “to suffer with someone.”  It is natural to want to avoid negative things and difficult situations.  When someone is suffering, it affects those who come around them.  We are way too quick to “sniff out” suffering people and run from them.  We are called to suffer with each other, to have compassion on each other.

Next he calls them to brotherly love, Philadelphia.  This is a family type of love.  When brothers are young and immature, they often step on each other’s toes and don’t have great feelings for each other.  However, later as they mature, they realize that no one else understands them and what they have been through like a family member.  There is a strong bond that is more and more appreciated over time.  So are we going to be stuck at the stage of Jacob’s 12 sons back in the book of Genesis?  Or, are we going to go on to the brotherly love they found later when they wept with Joseph in Egypt?

Next he speaks about being tender hearted.  This speaks to our intentions and actions.  Do they come out of a heart that seeks the good of others?  Do you have good will towards them or ill will?  Our Father demonstrates this attitude in John 3:16.  He so loved the world that even though it was in rebellion to him he gave his only begotten son so that WHOSOEVER would believe on him would not perish but have everlasting life.  Such good heartedness leads to God not crushing the rebellion, but making it possible for everyone to make a choice.  He is willing to forgive.

Next we talk about being courteous.  This is simply being “low minded.”  Not low in the sense of being bad, but low in the sense of being humble.  We are courteous to people when we not only think lowly of ourselves but also when we in “honor prefer them above ourselves.”  No matter how great we are in this world’s eyes, we ought to recognize how Christ lowered himself and served us as if we were the greater.  Can we follow him in this example?

Next he speaks to a “payback” attitude.  We need to stay away from an evil for evil, revenge oriented attitude.  Even if we don’t seek revenge, we can fall into a low form of hostility towards others because of things they have done.  We act like a bunch of banty roosters around each other, strutting, and pecking at each other.  This ought not to be among God’s people.  In fact it is the opposite of what our Lord commanded us in Matthew 5:44-45a. 

“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” 

We are not called to curse people, but to be a blessing to them.

Thus Peter ends with the call to blessing.  God has given us as a blessing to this world.  After the cross, he could have sent legions of angelic warriors to slay all mankind.  Instead, he sends us as his ministers of peace.  He speaks a gracious word of reconciliation to the world.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a judgment day.  It just helps us to see why we are here.  We are here to bless the world in the name of Jesus.  Now, blessing is not defined by the world.  It is defined by Truth and Reality, and thus by God himself.

Reminded Of Our Inheritance

In the second part of verse 9, Peter reminds them of the inheritance that is theirs in Christ.  Our inheritance involves some things in this life, but it is ultimately and largely in the Age that is coming.  However Peter does remind them of this blessing with its present reality of enjoying God’s goodwill or favor.  So let’s break down exactly what Peter is saying in the second part of verse 9.

First he says “knowing.”  They have come to know certain things that should affect their present treatment of one another.  Sometimes we can forget or choose to ignore these realities.  This is complicated by a spiritual enemy who works in many ways to assail our mind.  The more he can get us to lean on our natural mind more than the mind of Christ, then the more he can cause us to fall in this spiritual battle.  Thus, this mental battle can keep us in the spiritual battle, or knock us out of it.  This battle is for our soul and the souls of others.

Next he says that they were called.  This is a reference to the fact that they are disciples of Jesus.  Jesus had come up to certain ones and called them to follow him.  In a similar way, believers are followers of Jesus.  He has purposefully called us and we have intentionally followed him.  It was a personal choice to follow the purpose of Jesus.  However, when the way gets difficult, it is easy to pull back from what we are called to do.  Will I turn back and walk away from Jesus?  Or will I, like Judas, continue to hang out with Jesus only to betray him in the end?  It is our inheritance to be followers/disciples of Jesus; to take our place among that great company of people who belong to Jesus.

Lastly he reminds them of their blessing by quoting a passage from Psalm 34.  It begins by listing some natural blessings such as life, and long life.  But it goes on to a largely spiritual blessing, in which God is favorably disposed to us.  So as he determines we see him favorably disposed to hear our prayers and to answer them (not that we get whatever we want).  But ultimately this favor of God is demonstrated in what he is bringing us to; making us to be like him.  God is actively against those who reject his ways, but he is favorably disposed towards those who embrace his ways and his nature.  Our inheritance is to be transformed to the point that we are like God.

Final Thoughts

If these things were easy the apostles would not have kept reminding us about them over and over.  We can shrink back from these things for different reasons and need to be encouraged in them.  In this world evil tends to be “rewarded” immediately.  So we can be tempted and leveraged by our own fleshly desires.  We need to remind ourselves that the delayed reward of righteousness (aka our inheritance) is better in the end.  It is better because it is eternal and it is better because it makes us to have a place wherein we can have a relationship with God and be like him.

Happy New Year!