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Weekly Word

Entries in Calling (4)

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!

Tuesday
Nov132012

The Virtue of Submission 2

We will finish up 1 Peter chapter 2 as Peter continues talking to us about the virtue of submission.  Last week we looked at how our response to government can send the wrong picture of what Christ is.  He was not a rebel trying to take over the earthly kingdoms of this world.  But then neither was he a sycophant who was in love with human governance.  The passage today deals with the area of slavery.

The term here could be literally translated as a house servant as opposed to a lesser slave.  However, I’m not so sure that would make a difference in the instruction given.  There were many reasons why a person may end up as a slave.  Many ended up in slavery through indebtedness.  Depending on the size of that debt they could be slaves for less or longer periods of time.  Others were captured in wars and thus had little opportunity for freedom.  Others were born into that class.  Some hired themselves out as house servants with a contract for service.  Lastly some were in an apprentice relationship and thus took care of the master’s needs in return for instruction in a trade.  Notice that even in America we still have these types of relationships.  Have we truly abolished slavery?  We may have abolished a certain form of slavery, but no economic system can completely remove the principle of slavery.  Some men will always be at the economic mercy of others, whether through fault of their own or not.  Even the false hope of communism that called for all the workers to unite and cast off their oppressors, soon itself made everyone slaves to a system that was ran by the elite in the government.  Now put yourself in God’s position.  You have to give a word of instruction to people who will live under every kind of government conceivable and under every possible variation of leadership from evil to good.  What would you say that would serve your people or children well under every circumstance?  It is easy for modern people to hear this instruction to slaves and scoff like we are somehow more righteous than God.  May we approach His Word with the understanding that God is less concerned with meeting 21st century America’s approval and more with helping his people not lose their faith in this society.

Servants Should Submit To Their Masters

Peter speaks to those in the lower class of society who are being told through the Gospel that Jesus has set them free and they are children of God.  Instead of promoting a revolt against Rome and all governments that supported slavery, he tells them to take their proper place under their masters with fear.  Instead of despising their master and abandoning their post, they need to serve him and not assume that God would look kindly on any insubordination.  Because we get stuck on the word slave, we refuse to move on to the deeper point.  True slavery is never about your circumstances.  It is about your heart.  We see submission and service as slavery when in fact a free man is most able to serve.  God can set us all free in the natural, but will our hearts still be slaves to pride, arrogance, and selfishness?  If we attack God for speaking to this heart issue then we must at least own up to the fact that we are seeking temporary trinkets over the top of eternal joys.

Peter then speaks to the obvious question about a good versus bad master.  The good and gentle master is compared to the “harsh.”  The Greek word is skolios (where we get the word scoliosis).   It means twisted and perverted, curved towards self.  God is not pleased when his people use the errors and sins of others to justify their own error and sin.  We are not to deceive ourselves and cloak our sinful attitudes.

Peter reminds them that suffering because of doing good will be commended by God.  When we are aware there is a God, we are not so quick to try and take justice into our own hands.  Do you remember Jesus talking to his disciples in Matthew 5:46?  He said if you love those who love you what credit is that to you?  Don’t sinners do that too?  But if you love those who hate you, then you will be rewarded by God.  The same is true here.  If you submit to a good and gentle master that is not a credit.  But to lovingly serve a twisted, perverted master is to give him a picture of Christ.  Evil will not help a wicked master.  Only good can break through if it is possible at all.  However, our flesh is tempted to not care about God’s reputation or the wicked master’s soul.  We have a day of eternal reward coming, but he has an eternity suffering ahead.

Servants Must Remember Their Calling

Peter then reminds them of the Lord Jesus who has called them to follow him.  Our master, Jesus, suffered.  How can we be above suffering?  Even those who are not servants in the natural need to recognize that, we are called to follow Jesus in his sufferings.  He suffered injustice on our behalf because he loved us.  Am I refusing to do the same?  My flesh certainly does.  We need to learn to step in his steps and follow his lead.  Remember the passage of Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53?  He is the suffering servant who is well acquainted with sorrow and grief.  When his disciples were asleep, his two constant companions, sorrow and grief, were wide awake.  However, we also need to follow Jesus in his response.  He didn’t use injustice as an excuse for sin or deceit.  He didn’t pay back wrong for wrong.  The word “revile” literally means to heap abuse upon someone.  He had the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and more piled upon him verbally, physically, and emotionally.  Yet, he didn’t threaten.  Can you imagine being threatened by God?  But Jesus didn’t do that.  He committed himself to God’s judgment and submitted himself to the judgment of men.  He was free to suffer injustice because he knew in his heart that he was right before God.  God would vindicate him and reward him.

Peter then reminds them that Jesus died because of our sins.  Imagine, Jesus carried your sins on himself.  He suffered your punishment.  The true believer has felt the repugnant effect of his own sin and died to it.  On the other hand he has seen the beauty of Christ’s love and come alive to his righteousness.  The suffering of Jesus (his stripes) makes us whole.  Who might be made whole through my suffering?  I can’t satisfy the punishment of other’s sins.  But Jesus has already done that.  However, we can be a vehicle for demonstrating and revealing Jesus to them.

It is clear that Peter had Isaiah 53 in mind as he wraps up this instruction by referring to them as sheep.  Isaiah said that all we like sheep have gone astray, but God has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Peter reminds them that they were wayward sheep who have come back to the good shepherd.  Only this shepherd is not watching over your flesh to help it be well fed.  He is watching over your soul.  Many a soul is lost for the sake of the pleasure of our flesh.  Always remember that rebellion destroys the soul.

Final Thoughts

Ask yourself, is my life reflecting Jesus or am I following a Jesus of my own making?  It is important for us to often remind ourselves of our sin and what it did to Jesus and yet his love is still towards us.

Lastly, ask yourself, do you trust God to deal with the injustices done to you in this life?  When we keep our “station” whatever it may be, even under the threat of evil, God is pleased and promises to reward us in the coming judgment.  God help us in the days ahead to understand that Jesus was not a wimp and yet he submitted.  Jesus was not a slave and yet he served us.  Let’s follow him!

Submission II Audio