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Weekly Word

Entries in Conduct (3)

Tuesday
Oct302012

Living Honorably In This World

Generally, we talk about honor only when we are referencing the military.  However, in 1 Peter 2:11-12 all Christians are called to live honorable lives.  What is honor?  At the root of honor is the concept of value.  We ought to live in a way that is good and valuable to society, regardless of whether that value is recognized.  To have honor in a dishonorable society is a unique pickle.  True honor is not defined by what the crowd values.  It is inherently valuable and “ought” to be valued by all men.

It is precisely this situation that Peter talks to in this passage.

Living Honorably Begins With The Inner Battle

Verse 11 points out that there is a battle that goes on inside of each believer.  God is not interested in people who appear to have value, like a kind of “fool’s gold.”  Rather, he wants our outward honor to come from battles that have been won inside.  If we try to act honorable without having fought those inner battles we will not have true honor, nor will our conduct truly make a difference.  It will eventually implode because it lacks foundation, and we all know that foundations are valuable.

First he calls them “beloved.”  This is important because in verses 9 and 10 he had reminded them of the book of Hosea.  They were like the adulterous Gomer that had sold herself into slavery to follow her adulteries.  Yet, Hosea, who represents God, had purchased her back to himself from the auction block.  Imagine that guys or gals.  What if you had to go buy your wife or husband back because they had purposefully sold themselves into prostitution?  Would you do it?  God has done that for us.  Those who were not loved through Jesus now become “Loved.”  You are loved by God and therefore should be loved by his people.  You have been given a place in his family.  Like a concerned older brother, Peter “begs” them to fight this inner battle.  He is coming alongside them and urging them towards the good and warning them against the bad.  No matter how this inner battle goes, we need to always keep in mind that if we have believed in Jesus then we are God’s beloved.

Next he reminds them that they are foreigners and strangers.  If you follow Jesus and fight this inner battle then you are going to stick out as strange in the cultures of this world.  Like any foreigner living in a foreign land we can forget our heritage and be assimilated.  Though this is not evil in the natural sense, it is bad spiritually.  In a world that is not fighting the “inner battle,” we stick out when we do.  It can be easy to give up and be assimilated.

So what exactly is this war?  Peter says that the lusts, or strong desires, that are based in our fleshly bodies war against our soul.  Did you ever think that your 5 senses are being used by your lusts to fight against your soul?  What would you be willing to sell your soul for?  What is your price?  The faith in Jesus that resides in your soul is hated by the lusts of the flesh.  Like a little baby that is used to getting its way, it screams and fights for control.  But unlike a little baby, the lusts of the flesh are able to kill faith and destroy our soul.  Jesus said in Luke 21:19 that when we are going through trying times we can take possession of our soul by being patient.  Trusting God in the fire and knowing that he will bring you through; waiting on God beside the Red Sea and knowing that he has a plan of deliverance; these are the things that are the valuables of our soul.

Peter says that they need to abstain from the lusts.  Literally, we should create a separation between us and them.  This tactical maneuver is meant to protect our faith and not lose our soul.  Joseph does this literally when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him.  In our lives we have many outward temptations, but they are working through inner lusts.  If a computer is a temptation to let sexual lusts take over then what are some means that we can do to abstain and separate ourselves from that temptation?  Lust always tells us that “Jesus isn’t enough.”  It tells you that you need something that God says you don’t.  Or, that you don’t need something that God says you do.  Boiling it all down, it is the same argument as Satan used in the Garden with Eve.  Leave God behind and satisfy yourself.

Let me remind you of the gospel, good news, of Jesus Christ.  Before you ever get to doing something good for God, you already have all that you need in Jesus.  When you put your faith in Jesus and follow him, you have all wisdom, power, joy, love, hope, and anything else that you will ever need.  Jesus is the wisdom of God, the power of God, the joy of God, the love of God, etc…  To have Jesus is to have everything you will ever need.  This simple truth can be forgotten by those who fall to temptation.  But it can also be forgotten by those who fight against it.  God does not love you because you have conquered temptation so well.  Nor does he despise you because you have done so poorly this week.  God completely love you, before you ever do anything in this battle.  He loves you because you have believed on His Son whom he sent.  The problem is not solved so much by doing more as it is by believing more.  Don’t let the lie of lust cause you to doubt these truths.  And, don’t let successes in this battle cause you to fall to the lust of pride.   Simply trust God.  When you fight them you are protecting what you already have between Him and you.

Living Honorably Moves to Conduct And Action

Honorable conduct is that which is morally good and brings glory to God.  Of course we need an unchanging means to measure the goodness of our conduct.  Society cannot be a good judge of what is good because society is always changing.  God has given us his sure word so that we can always know what is honorable no matter what society we are in.

Honorable conduct must always be lived out in the midst of those who are not honorable and are lost.  Peter refers to the Gentiles.  Literally this is all the nations and people.  In that day none of these nations and people knew God.  They were all lost.  We have to live out God’s morality before people who are plunging madly ahead into pleasing the lusts of their flesh.  This is not easy.  In fact we will be often rejected.  That is what Peter means when he says that some “speak against you as evildoers.”  They may call you bigots, haters, ignorant, Judgmental, Intolerant, Out-of-touch, etc. but we are to continue living out what is good.  Why?  It really is valuable, honorable.  They really do need us to live for God before them.  They really do need to see it and rub up against us in their lives.  It is the only way they are going to have any hope.  It is not important that this world embrace us.  But it is important that they observe us living out what is good before them.

Peter reminds them of a coming “day of visitation.”  The day of visitation is a reference to a biblical concept that from time to time God inserts himself into a person’s life, or a nation’s affairs.  When he does it is an opportunity for grace and mercy.  If we receive him and follow him we will find miraculous grace.  But if we reject him we find ourselves handed over to judgment.  This is precisely what happened to Israel when Jesus came.  Those who embraced him found grace and the miraculous activity of God.  But those who rejected him went on to experience the judgment of God as they were handed over to the effects of their rebellious hearts.  If we have lived out the truth before the lost, they have a chance to believe in the day of visitation.  There will be something within them that remembers that strange person who lived differently because of Jesus.  They may be saved.

Food For Thought

We don’t appreciate good things until they are taken away.  Don’t let the rejection of today cause you to quit fighting the inner battles and living honorably.  You won’t win any accolades of this world, but you will make a big impact in some one’s life.  Those who speak ill of you today, may come knocking at your door tomorrow.  Will you help them or be offended?  God help us to work for Him and not ourselves.

Lastly let me just say, God is faithful to visit individuals and nations at His appointed times.  We need to be faithful knowing that God is faithful.  America has had several visitation by God and I don’t know if we have another one coming.  But it is our job to be faith because no matter what, this world is headed for the biggest visitation of them all—the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Maranatha!

Living Honorably audio

Tuesday
Sep252012

Our Present Life II

Today we will pick up at 1 Peter 1:17-21.  Peter continues to encourage them for the task of living for Jesus in this world.  His last instruction was for them to be holy.  In this section he commands them to live in the fear of the Lord.  Did anybody tell Peter he was writing the New Testament?  Sounds like he is still stuck under the law, doesn’t it?  If you think so, then perhaps you haven’t really discovered the heart of the gospel.  Should Christians have a “fear of the Lord?”  What about 1 John 4:18, “Perfect love casts out all fear?

If you honestly read the context of 1 John 4:18, you will quickly notice that John is using this statement to challenge those who say they love God but don’t love their brother.  It is John’s way of calling their bluff at the least and, perhaps even further, challenging them to quit being afraid of where God’s love is leading them.  Here is an illustration for you.  I have driven on some high mountain roads that have scary cliffs on one side.  Generally there is a guard rail to help you stay on the road and also given you a sense of security.  However, if you drive straight into the guardrail on purpose you might just go through it.  The good road and guardrail may help us not to be afraid, but that doesn’t change the fact that a normal person never loses the truth that to fall off the cliff would be a fearful thing.  As long as you are staying on the road, i.e. operating in God’s love, then you don’t need to worry about those fears.  However, we should always have a fearful understanding of what driving off the road and over the guardrails really means.  It would be terrifying.  So let’s go to the Word.

Live In The Fear Of The Lord

Verse 17 contains the command to conduct ourselves here on earth in fear.  It is important to know what this is and what it is not.  Peter is not talking about mental fears such as pessimism and phobias.  Rather he is talking about having a fear regarding the consequences of our actions, and a fear regarding the very real dangers around us.  All of this is rooted in the Lord.  God has created a universe that has very real consequences to everything we do, both good and bad.  So when Peter tells them to be holy, which is more positive, he then follows it up with an imperative that is somewhat negative sounding.  But that is the nature of pursuing Holiness.  I am saying yes to some things and no to others.  I should be joyous in the right things and fearful of the wrong things.  Why? I should be because they represent a threat to my relationship with God.

Peter reminds them that they are those who call on the Lord.  This is a reference to Joel 2:32.  They were in trouble and under judgment and cried out to the Lord and the Lord saved them out of that judgment.  To lose relationship with the Lord is to go back under judgment.  That should always remain a horrific thought in the mind of the believer.  No turning back, must be our motto.  So what is the character of this Lord who has saved us?  He doesn’t play favorites.  Just because he has helped me doesn’t mean he is going to play favorites with me.  He will judge our lives and works in truth and righteously.  So, though we can be safe because we are on the road of Jesus (I am the way, the truth and the life), that doesn’t mean there isn’t any peril still.  Satan is working to deceive us.  He is working to tempt us.  He is working to get between us and Jesus.  We need to fear that like the plague.  There is no way around the fact of what Peter is saying here and still be true to the Gospel.  God is not looking for people who will say all the right things but live any way they want.  He is looking for a people who will trust him and follow him.

Peter reminds them that they have been purchased back to God.  A price had to be paid and it wasn’t with earthly wealth or money.  Each of us was trapped in a society with traditions of looking at the world and living.  These traditions are like chains that keep us from God and the truth.  But God stepped in and redeemed us, purchased us back for himself, in order to set us free.  If he had done this with mere money then we would only feel obligated to him as much as the amount.  In fact, if we wanted to, we could “pay God back” and be on our own.  However, God paid for us with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus.  We could never pay that back if we wanted to.  Jesus was the lamb of God who was perfect and without sin.  Yet he died for us.  To the world this might seem like a waste.  Here is the perfect sinless man and we “expend” his life early, on a cross?  The world’s mentality would make him king and use his DNA to not only clone him, but also use as a pattern to make all of us like him.  This is what it cost to purchase our freedom.  The idea of living as if that sacrifice wasn’t that important ought to strike fear to the depths of our heart.  Jesus is our very hope and faith.  To treat his sacrifice as worthless would be to lose everything.

Peter then reminds us about this Jesus who was “Foreknown before the foundations of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”   Sure the Father knew in advance that Jesus would die on the cross.  However, as John says in John 1:1, he was also foreknown in the sense that he existed with the Father in Eternity past.  Before God created the heavens and the earth he sat down and counted the cost.  He knew what would happen and what it would take to save mankind.  Several places in the New Testament talk about what God has done before the foundations of the world were laid.  Here they are.

Mt. 25:34, God prepared a Kingdom for all those who would believe on Jesus Christ.

John 17:24, The Father loved the Son.

Eph. 1:4, We were chosen in Jesus for amazing blessings that are listed.

Heb. 4:3, God finished the work of Rest for us.

Rev. 13:8, Jesus was slain

Rev. 17:8, Our names were written in the book of life.

And of course, we have our verse today in 1 Peter 1.  God has thought this through and worked it all out.  We just need to keep our faith and hope placed in Him.  This is the Jesus that we have believed in.  Can we turn our back on him now?  Shouldn’t we live with a deep fear of what our plight would be if we turned away from Jesus now?  That doesn’t mean fear is our only motivation.  But neither is it healthy for it to be absent.  There are very real and serious danger involved.

Let me close with this.  When we walk in the love of Christ and not for the love of this world those fears will be far away and not as visible.  However, the further we get from the love of Christ and the closer we get to the love of this world, then those fears ought to rise up and warn us to turn back.  That is the issue.  May the Lord draw our hearts fully to Him.

Our Present Life II Audio

Tuesday
Sep182012

Our Present Life

We continue our walk through the New Testament book of First Peter and will look at chapter one verses 13-15 today. 

After reminding believers of the testing trials of this life, Peter then moves to encourage them in their everyday life.  Starting in verse 13 we have three exhortations that appear to be commands.  However, only one of them is commanded, where the other two are put out as descriptions of how to do the main command.  Can you figure out which is which?  By consulting other versions you can discover that the main command has to do with our Hope.

We Must Hope To The End

Is that correct?  Is Peter really commanding them to Hope?  Is that possible?  It is just as possible as our other command to love.  We tend to think of love and hope as feelings.  Peter is not commanding them to have “hopeful” feelings.  Rather he is talking about an action that we can choose to do.  Thus, just as love is a decision, so Hope is a decision too. 

Hope always has a future thing for which it is waiting.  So the decision here is not even about deciding to feel.  Rather it is the decision to keep waiting for that promised grace that is to be revealed at the second coming of Jesus.  The object of our hope can change because of difficulties and trials in life.  We can give up and even place our hopes on other things (perhaps even things that are not godly).  That is the decision we have to make every day in the midst of tough times.  Will I keep hoping in the grace I will receive at Christ’s coming, or will I hope for something “realistic.”  Though we are daily receiving grace from God, it is still only a portion of the fuller grace that has been promised.  There is a wonderful day ahead of us where our status as children of God will be not just revealed, but we will also receive immortal bodies that are not tainted by the sin nature.  Peter commands them to not give up that hope.  The challenge is not just to fully hope in that grace as if we had a “hope-ometer” that needs to be pegged at 100% all the time.  Rather the picture is that of a finish line or a goal.  If we are going to obtain the grace then we need to keep our hope pinned on it until we reach it.

So how can we not lose hope in God’s amazing promise in the light of this world’s trials and reminders that we are not there yet?  This is where the phrases, girding up the loins of the mind, and being sober come into play.

Girding up the loins, or waist, of your mind is a strange phrase.  It is a picture of first century clothing.  The robes they wore would have a tie or belt that kept them held shut.  If you were going outside you would tie your robe shut.  Or if you were going to do some physical labor you might even need to hike up the robe and tie it off in a way that would not encumber your feet and legs.  When this is used of the mind it is clear that a mental issue is involved.  It speaks of preparation.  What mental preparations do I need to make so that I will not be tripped up and restricted in this challenge to hope to the end?  First I need to recognize that my own desires can pull me away from it.  Also, the schemes of our enemy, satan, are focused on aiding this.  Mentally I need to be aware of those things that would keep me from the grace God has for me and prepare for them.

The phrase “be sober” also points to preparation.  However, the issue is different.  In the first I need to make preparations.  In the other, I need to refrain from things that could affect my ability to hope adversely.  Think of how alcohol affects a person in the natural state.  It causes people to lose their inhibitions and self control.  It causes people to lose their awareness of things around them.  It can even eventually lead to losing consciousness and death.  Though the believer should stay away from drunkenness, Peter is speaking spiritually and mentally here.  We need to be sober in the sense that we are not “drunk” from drinking in the lusts of our flesh.  Those who live to please their flesh, will become spiritually drunk.  They will begin to lose inhibitions and eventually any control on their fleshly appetites.  This will lead to a loss of awareness of their true spiritual condition.  They will think everything is alright.  But to any sober minded person they will be clearly out of control.  Eventually a loss of spiritual consciousness can occur.  This is where a person is unable to receive any stimuli from the Lord, whether through the cautions of others, injunctions in the Scriptures, or the pressings of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person will lose sight of the hope and degenerate into only hoping for the “next fix” for their fleshly appetites.   Let’s face it.  Satan uses the love of our flesh for the desire of this world to get us spiritually drunk.  This tactic is quite effective on those who are not mentally prepared.

We Must Be Holy

The next two verses focus on how we need to be a reflection of the one we are following.  If God’s promised grace at the coming of Jesus is what we are hoping FOR, then Jesus himself is what we are IN or ON.  We can have hope for the future because of the one on whom our hopes are placed.  There is a relationship between faith and hope.  Whatever you are putting your faith in will affect what your hope is.  Yet Peter is more focused on how the enemy derails our faith and hope.  Satan uses the impure desires of our flesh for the things of this world.  Ife we are to truly follow Jesus then it will involve a focus on being holy.  So what does that mean?

The simplest understanding of holy is the idea that something has been set apart for a divine purpose.  It is not to be used for ordinary purposes even though it may be very ordinary.  It is not the inherent quality of the thing but the fact that it has been set apart that makes it holy.  If you have put your faith in Jesus then through him God has decreed that you are for His holy purposes.  In the Bible we see Belshazzar of Babylon using the holy cups and bowls of the temple for a drunken party.  This angers God and he loses his kingdom.  However, when it comes to people, we are not inanimate objects.  We can make choices to be involved in purposes that are contrary to God’s purposes.  We don’t pursue holiness as if we could attain it.  Rather we cooperate with the holiness that God has given to us in Jesus.  We can either walk in harmony with that holiness or we can fight against it.

This is why Peter gives the analogy of an obedient child.  A child doesn’t always understand why mom and dad won’t let it do whatever its little heart desires.  It has a choice.  Obedience is not a matter of becoming a son or daughter.  It is a matter of cooperating with the reality that I belong to God because I AM his child.  If we please ourselves then Satan will succeed in getting our hopes pinned on the lusts of this world and eventually robbing us of our heavenly inheritance.  Are you about your father’s business?  Or are you in the business of pleasing your flesh?

When Scripture says, “be holy for I am holy,” it is reminding us of our nature.  We were created to reflect God.  God is holy therefore our lives should reflect that holiness.   This is not out of some puritanical prudishness.  But rather out of protection against the spiritual unconsciousness that results in the life of those who pursue the lusts of the flesh.  Those are the things we pursued in our former ignorance, before we knew Jesus and God’s love for us.  But now that we know what he has done for us and is bringing us to we need to watch our lives guardedly and keep our hopes fixed on Jesus who brings the completion of God’s grace with him.  Maranatha!

Our Present Life Audio