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Weekly Word

Entries in Gospel (23)

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

Tuesday
Oct022012

Our Present Life III

Today we will pick up at 1 Peter 1:22-25.  As review, Peter has encouraged them: to keep their Hope in Christ to the end, to pursue holiness, to live with a fear of the Lord, and now today, Peter encourages them to go deeper in their love for one another. 

Love One Another Fervently With A Pure Heart

Verse 22 has a lot to say, but the core of the verse is at the end.  Love one another fervently with a pure heart.  Let’s look first at the word fervently.  The root of this word has the idea of being stretched out, as in stretching out one’s hand to do something.  It can be translated as earnest.  In a sense Peter is asking them to go the extra mile in their love for one another and stretch themselves out.  By analogy, perhaps we can think of a football player who is trying the catch the ball.  Sometimes the quarterback throws it just a bit too far in front of us.  At that moment the receiver has a decision to make.  Do I stretch myself out and risk getting hit to catch that ball?  Or, do I play it safe and not try so hard?  Players who stretch out to make the catch don’t do it because they like getting creamed.  They do it because they are earnest in making that catch.  They are willing to expose themselves for the sake of making the catch.  How about you?  Do you stretch yourself out in love or do you play it safe and only meet out love in small, safe increments?

He also reminds them to love with a pure heart.  This is talking about our motives.  Do I have impure motives?  Sometimes our great successes at love were actually motivated by what we thought we would get in return.  “I’ll love you as long as it makes me feel good.  But as soon as it no longer brings me pleasure, I’m out of here.”  Or, perhaps we do loving things because of the social prestige that it gains us.  Maybe I am just conforming to expectations that I am afraid to try and break out of.  Whatever our motivation behind love, if it isn’t for the right motives then it is for naught.  In any group it is easy to give in to social pressure.  We are not to “act” like Christ.  We are to pick up our cross and follow him.  That takes some sincere and pure motivations.

Peter points out how they had been obeying the truth by sincerely loving each other.  So his main purpose is to call them to a higher level of love—a stretched out love.  If you are going to obey the truth and love then do so with all your heart and all your might.  Notice that he points out that they had been made pure by their obedience.  When we think of obedience and God’s word, a good picture to keep in mind is pruning.  God’s Word points out those dead areas of our life and pursuits of our heart that need to be cut off.  It also points out those areas that need to be cut off so that we can be more fruitful.  This “cleaning” of our hearts is what enables us to stretch ourselves out in love.

However, this cannot just be a surface obedience.  Peter mentions that they obeyed “through the Spirit.”  Their obedience was led, encouraged and corrected by the Holy Spirit.  They were responding to his inner promptings to the Word of God.

He then reminds them of their new birth.  This was mentioned back in verse 3.  This new birth was not a biological birth from the corruptible seed of man.  Biology is impotent to help us.  Even if we could perfect all DNA errors, we are passing away along with this world.  They were spiritually birthed by the incorruptible seed of God’s Word, or Truth.  The verse in Luke 18:11 points out this analogy.  “The seed is the Word of God.”  It cannot perish.  It will never pass away.  The information you start with affects the durability and outcome of what it creates.  No biology can create eternal life.  Only God’s Word can give us eternal life.

Lastly Peter ties this in with the Gospel.  The good news of who Jesus was, what he did, and what he is doing now, was the main Truth of God that they had received.  That Gospel is living in that it is active and powerful.  It is also living in that it is life-giving.  However the Gospel is also eternal.  It has been said that the gospel will never cease, although the need to spread it will.

Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8.  In this verse they are reminded how the things of this world are passing away, but the Word of the Lord will remain forever.  Now Isaiah 40 is an amazing passage within an amazing book.  Scholars through the ages have pointed out that Isaiah is a mini-Bible.  It has 66 chapters like the 66 books of the Bible.  The first 39 chapters deal with Israel’s failures under the law and the judgment of God upon the nations.  However, chapter 40 begins a turning in the book where Isaiah points to the good news of God’s merciful salvation.  Just as they had received the gospel, so Peter quotes from this chapter in Isaiah that is pointing towards that very same gospel. 

It is worth it to look at Isaiah 40 for a brief moment.  It starts out with the cry to “comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.”  Then in verse 10 he points out that the Lord will come with a strong hand and rule for him.  This hand will shepherd the flock of God and gather the lambs into his arms and carry them in his bosom.  This is clearly a picture of Jesus the messiah.  Then the chapter ends with the famous lines, “they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  The things of this world are passing away, but God’s Word is going to remain.  No matter what you are hoping in, if it is something other than God’s Word, then it is going to fail you.  Don’t let the failure of the things of this world, religious people included, take your hope off of what is true: God’s word.  We have to learn to wait upon the Lord in faith.

Here is some food for thought.  We need to ask ourselves, “What is hindering my love from being His love?”  Don’t just ask yourself if you love, but do I love like He did?  Lord, help us to remove those things that would keep us from loving like you.

Another thought is a quote that someone came up with.  A coach is someone who makes you do what you don’t want to do so that you can become what you want to become.  Perhaps those difficult things that are causing you to want to quit loving are just God’s way of stretching you.  Is God stretching you?  Have you only saw the reason why you shouldn’t have to love and not the reasons why it is imperative that you do?  May God fill us with a fervent love that comes from a pure motivation: to be like Jesus.

Our Present Life III audio

Tuesday
Sep112012

Our Present Joy

We are continuing our walk through the letter of 1st Peter.  As Peter laid out the truth of the believer’s new birth and secure inheritance, he then turns to recognize the affect that has had upon them.  The section we will look at today is 1 Peter 1:6-12.  The thrust of this section is this: Believers rejoice in their New Birth and Secure, Heavenly Inheritance.  It was a wonder-filled thing that they could claim to have been adopted by God and given a portion in his inheritance.  In truth, it would be considered hogwash if it wasn’t for the greatness of what Jesus taught and did.

We Rejoice Even Though We Have Various Trials

In verses 6 and 7 Peter recognizes that their great joy is despite various trials that they had gone through.  Whether it was the persecution back in Jerusalem that led to their scattering, or it was trials they went through in the new areas to which they had immigrated.  He recognizes that trials cause us to grieve.  Notice they are not berated.  They are not grieving as if they had no hope.  However, it is wrong-headed to berate people for grieving over trials and difficulties.  There is a process of feeling the weight of a trial, grieving over it, and finding peace in Christ through it.  This cannot be short-circuited by our knowledge of it.  Christians grieve and there is nothing wrong with that if we are looking to Christ for comfort and encouragement. 

Part of our comfort is to recognize that these trials are temporary.  Peter’s phrase is “for a little while.”  Peter is not an inexperienced kid telling them this.  He has been through the wringer himself.  Peter has been grieved by the treatment of his own people and further crushed by his personal failures at the cross.  Peter knows what it is to grieve.  However, he reminds them that it will not last forever.  In fact, in light of eternity this present heavy thing will not only seem quick, but also light.  This is not intended to object to their grief but rather to soothe it.  We need to find the grace to look past our present grief to the coming inheritance that God has secured for us.  However, this is a process that will occur many times throughout our life.

Peter also reminds them of why God allows trials in our lives.  They serve to “prove” that our faith is genuine.  The picture here is one of a metal that has been melted down and had the impurities removed to demonstrate its purity.  The “heat” of the trials in our life makes our faith stronger by causing weaknesses to rise to the surface so we can deal with them by the help of the Holy Spirit.  This kind of faith is what will be praised, honored and glorified at the return of Jesus.  Yes, only Jesus deserves these things.  But don’t discount the fact that we have been given the grace of sharing in the praise, honor and glory of Jesus Christ.  God’s plan of salvation was precisely a choosing of believing faith.  In fact Peter says that this kind of believing faith is more precious than gold.  God is not looking for the wisest, strongest, most beautiful, etc.  He is looking for those who will simply believe even in the midst of heated times.

We Rejoice Because Faith Enables Us

In verse 8 Peter ties their joy to their believing in Jesus.  How does faith lead to joy?  Well first he mentions Jesus.  Jesus is the Foundation of their faith.  They are looking forward to something, but the thing that holds up those expectations is Jesus himself.  If it wasn’t for Jesus we would have no hope before us.  Thus they have received the testimony regarding Jesus and have trusted it.  To the degree we trust, we have an internal confidence that we are going to receive our hope.  Thus, faith in Jesus yields confidence in our future hope.  This enables us to rejoice even when temporary difficulties afflict us. 

Notice that Peter refers to it as an “inexpressible” joy.  First of all, it is inexpressible because we just don’t know the full reality of what God has in mind for us.  1 Corinthians 2:9 quotes the Old Testament, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”  Our joy is expanded by the knowledge that God has only given us a sneak peek at the joys ahead.  It is also indescribable in that we would not have enough time (or enough tongues) to express all the goodness of God.  2 Corinthians 3:18 points out that God is transforming us from one level of his glory to another level.  Little by little we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit of Jesus.  This ever expanding blessing of God give us an ever increasing joy at his goodness that is present and future.

We Rejoice Because We Have Obtained Salvation

In verses 9-12 Peter reminds them that they have obtained the goal of their faith: salvation.  Yes, there are aspects to salvation that haven’t happened yet: Total Sanctification, Eradication of Sin, Resurrection, etc.  Yet, those who have trusted in Jesus and followed him do have salvation in hand.  It is a present possession.  We are no longer under the doom of the judgment of this world and our personal sin. 

This is the salvation that was promised by God through the prophets.  Now, Peter gives us an interesting look into the lives of the Old Testament prophets.  They spoke of the grace that was going to come to the believing remnant because of a process that led to God revealing to them his plan.

It starts with “indications of the Spirit.”  As they looked around them and saw the corruption of their society and the difficulty of weeding sin out of their own nature, the prophets began to sense indications from the Spirit that if the messiah came he would suffer.  If they had suffered for being faithful to God’s word then how much more would the messiah suffer who would be perfect in righteousness and faithfulness?  Yet, because they knew that no man could stop God’s plan to save mankind they recognized that he would overcome even this and bring mankind to the glories of salvation, but not because we deserve it.  These indications in their hearts drove them to prayer and searching the Scriptures.  It was in this environment of fervent and prayerful Bible study that God spoke of the things he would do.

It was also revealed to them that all the suffering, studying, searching, hearing and writing was not for their own benefit.  But, rather, it was for the benefit of those who would believe in the messiah because of their words.

The Apostles of Jesus not only had these words of the prophets, but they also listened to the One whom all prophecy points, Jesus.  They witnessed his teaching, love, death and resurrection.  Thus they passed on to us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth about God’s messiah.  Yes, he suffered and died for us.  However, he has obtained the grace of salvation for us.  What joy we not only have ahead of us, but also can have right now as we recognize the truth of what we have been given.

I love how Peter ends this with the quip that these are things that the angels strongly desire to look into.  Just as you and I may search Scripture to understand the end times, so angels are strongly curious about this work that God is doing among mankind, salvation.  Praise God!

Present Joy Audio

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