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Weekly Word

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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!