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Entries in Suffering (7)

Tuesday
Jun182019

Finding Focus after Failure

Philippians 3:7-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019.

Today, we take time to celebrate fathers; a blessing for which they did not ask.  Being a father can fill you with all kinds of moments in which we feel great success and, of course, great failure.  It is one of those things that we cannot fully appreciate until we have been put in the harness ourselves.  Of course, this applies to parenting in general.

Our passage today is not about being a father.  However, it presents a problem that is common within parenting, that of getting up from failure and moving forward.  What do you do when your greatest attempts and endeavors are found out to fall short?  What do you do when that little baby who has grown up yells at you and slams the door to their room, or storms out of the house?  Sadly, many men run from such experiences.  Our society is full of missing-in-action fathers who decided to never start in the first place (often despite the children they have helped create).

Yet, for those who bravely jump into marriage and children, the challenges can mount and overwhelm a person.  We seem to be confronted with our weaknesses and shortcomings at every turn.  It is a very intimidating situation, even a crucible of sorts. 

So, I want to use this passage where the Apostle Paul is explaining his come-to-Jesus moment.  In it we will discover the proper response to those moments when you are made aware of your failures.

Confidence in the flesh does not lead to Jesus

Paul often spoke against the religious mindset that focused upon its own religious accomplishments because this does not lead anyone to Jesus.  Oh, it leads to all manner of places, but never to Jesus.  Confidence is good if it is placed in the right thing.

Paul had been raised in a religious environment in which performance was everything.  In verses 4-6 of this chapter, Paul lists his credentials among the Jewish people.  He had been circumcised when he was 8 days old.  This was the required mark that he belonged to God.  He was also from the tribe of Benjamin, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Thus, he was a true heir to the promises of God.  He was also a Hebrew of Hebrews, which meant that he was not one of those Hellenized Jews who adopted the Greek culture and mixed it, in varying degrees, with the culture of Israel.  He was a Pharisee, who prided themselves on exact, literal conformity to the Law.  His zeal was so great that he had been persecuting the Christians and even going to Damascus in order to seize more.  Lastly, his law keeping was blameless by the standards of his day.  Everything in Paul’s life told him that he was blameless and succeeding within his society.  Yet, the day that Jesus confronted him, he was made aware of just how greatly he had been failing God. 

Think about how we come from different subcultures within the greater USA culture.  Even Christians grow up within a subculture of the overall world-wide Christian community.  Each subculture has its own variation of what it means to be good, right, and successful.  However, those cultural trappings, whether religious or not, can blind us to our mounting failures.

Paul should have had his confidence centered upon God, but he had been taught to center it upon himself inadvertently.  On the road to Damascus, when Paul finally saw the light, he began to know just how far away from God he was, and yet also, that God still loved him.  I pray that today you may know that no matter whether you were a failure or a great success story, in regard to the subculture in which you were raised, God loves you too much to leave you alone.  He calls you to Himself through Jesus and says, “Put your trust in me.” 

Perhaps the greatest problem within Christianity throughout history has been the many men who were more confident in their ideas about Scripture than they were in the God who gave them.  On top of this is a similar problem.  Christians are often looking back to smart Christian men of the past and put more confidence in their great ideas about Scripture than in the Word itself.  Whether a group points to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or for Pentecostals, men like Charles Parham or William Seymour, or for the Assemblies of God, men like E. N. Bell and J. Roswell Flowers, it matters not what men your subculture points to and holds up as the great light to this generation.  What matters is if our confidence is truly placed upon Jesus instead of the reason of brilliant men.

Knowing Jesus is more important than the things we lose

Paul recognized that everything for which he had been working fell short of God.  He would rather know Jesus than have the greatest Jewish resume among his people.  Thus, he had to let go of certain things in order to know Jesus.  He had come to that moment of realization (my great works have fallen short), and chose to go after Christ rather than doubling down on his life’s work.  He let go of his standing and reputation within the religious community.  He let go of his potential within the leadership of Israel.  However, verse 9 also points out that he had let go of the righteousness of his own attempts to satisfy the Law of Moses, in order to obtain a righteousness that is from God through faith in Jesus.  The righteousness of faith in Jesus is diametrically opposed to the self-righteousness obtained by keeping the law.  Paul points to this as the great problem for Israel in Romans 10:2-3 where he says, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

To know Jesus is more than to know information about him.  Yes, we want to learn about who Jesus was, what he did, and what he taught.  However, the words used for “knowledge,” and “know,” in this passage, include a knowledge that comes through a relationship with someone.  Paul doesn’t just want to go to school and learn about Jesus.  He wants to do life with Jesus.  His life would now be about learning who Jesus is through a personal relationship with him.

So, how do you have a relationship with Jesus?  You do so by faith.  You pray, you believe, you trust, you succeed, you fail, you repent, you keep your eyes upon Jesus.  I pray that today you will be struck with this desire to know Christ and not settle for anything less.

However, to really know Jesus, you must also get to know those major aspects of his life.  Paul wanted to experience and to learn about that same power that raised Christ from the dead.  He wanted that power operating in his life.  He also wanted to experience and to learn about the sufferings that Christ submitted himself to go through, even to the point of laying his life down for others.  Paul wanted his death to conform to that kind of death that Jesus had, which was a noble and godly one.  Ultimately Paul wanted to experience the Resurrection from the Dead himself, which is promised by Jesus to all believers.  There is coming a day when he will give the command and all the righteous saints of history will receive glorified, immortal bodies.

What do I do when I haven’t arrived yet

Fatherhood is a constant reminder that we haven’t arrived yet, and I’m not talking about the kids in the back seat droning, “Are we there yet?”  It is easy to get the wind knocked out of your sails when you are faced with your own failures.  In fact, it is easy to get angry, even filled with rage, as life constantly reminds us of how short we fall.  Yet, just as Christ was calling Paul to a different life that was not filled with hatred, anger, and rage, so Christ is calling us to let go of our failures and follow him.

Paul clearly says in verse 12 that he had not attained the list of the facets of knowing Jesus.  In fact, because the Resurrection is on the list, he still hasn’t attained that whole list even today.  Unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, all of us will close our eyes in death, realizing that we hadn’t attained it all yet.  But, God will not fail us.  He has set a time in which all of these things will be attained by all of the saints of all time together.  All of us will simultaneously enter into our full inheritance on the Day of Resurrection.  Wow!  What a day that will be.

Paul could have run away from his failures and away from Jesus.  Instead, he ran towards Christ.  Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.”  Yes, we are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and work hard for our Lord, but we always remember that he will bring us through and finish us.  Yes, I haven’t arrived yet, but Jesus will get me there, just as he will get you there too.

Paul points out that he had to forget those things that were behind him.  We can learn lessons from our past, but we must not allow ourselves to become stuck in our past and frozen.  Paul had much guilt and shame behind him.  Yet, Jesus had forgiven him.  Have you ever noticed that we can still hold failures over our own head, even though Jesus says that he forgives us?  Faith is letting go and trusting Jesus.  Yes, you fell short.  Leave it behind you and move towards Jesus who promises to forgive you.

In fact, Paul was pressing forward to the things that Christ had set before him and us.  We first press towards those things that Jesus has for each of us in this life.  We don’t know what that will involve and everybody’s story is unique.  Yet, as we approach the end of our life, we must again press forward to those things that lie in our resurrected future.  Our greatest prize is that which we enter into at the Resurrection of the Dead.  All of us have to learn to get up and go to work.  This is what Paul is expressing.  He had to get up and get to work finding out just who this Jesus was.  Jesus is calling to each of us today.  “Come and get to know me!”

Paul ends this section with a reminder of our thinking, which he had been addressing back in chapter 2.  The mind of a person who keeps doubling down on their own accomplishments is not the mind of Christ.  Christ trusted the Father instead of trusting what he could do in the flesh.  He submitted to the cross and was rewarded with the highest honor of the entire universe.  The mind that is never too great to simply do what the Father asks us to do.  Failure is part of who we are as humans, but in Jesus it is not the final word.  If we will humble ourselves and press forward towards him, then Jesus will bring us to victory!

Finding Focus audio

Tuesday
Dec082015

Lessons of Christmas- The Mystery of It All

1 Peter 1:10-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 5, 2015.

As we enter the Christmas season, we have been looking at lessons that it teaches us.  Last week we talked about the Goodness of God displayed at the birth of Jesus.  Today we are going to look at the Mystery of God.  It has been said that God works in mysterious ways.  Although this is true, there is much more to it than that.  Whether you are a person who likes mysteries or not, there is something about mystery that engages our mind.  Our natural curiosity wants to try and solve it.  One thing about a good mystery is that it usually has a surprise twist that provides the hidden information to solve the mystery.  We see these same elements in the plan of God, which has some parts that are very clear and others that are not.  At the birth of Jesus there was the mystery of who the messiah would be and how salvation would be accomplished.  A big part of the mystery was the timing.  When would all this happen?  Lastly, I would point out the mystery of God’s dealings with Israel and the nations of the world.  All of these mysterious things come together at Christmas in an even greater mystery: the incarnation.  In Jesus was united God and man in one being.  He is the one who is both fully God and yet fully man.  This is a mystery. 

In 1 Peter 1:10-13, Peter points out these things to the believers of his day.

Salvation Was A Mystery

Through the years prophets in Israel had spoke on behalf of God.  They explained past, present, and sometimes future things.  Of course God himself gives the first prophecy in the Garden of Eden when he explains that the “seed of the woman” would crush the serpents head.  This first word of hope to mankind let us have a glimpse that God was doing something about our situation.  Over the centuries a large body of prophecies had been accumulated.  These words were not a complete picture, and in fact they left many questions in the hearts and minds of those who pondered them.

The prophets themselves were in the same boat as those to whom they spoke.  They did not understand everything they were being told.  Yes, Adam and Eve knew that God would help one of their seed to give them victory over the serpent, but they didn’t know how and when.  Peter reminds us that there has always been mystery in what God is doing.

Yet, this drove the prophets to search and inquire into it carefully.  Up to Moses, the Words of God were handed down orally.  Thus to search and inquire into the matter could only be done by finding an elder who was faithful to the old ways and would explain what God had done and said in the past.  Such wise men like Noah had held onto the promises and prophecies of God despite the fact that the rest of mankind had cast them aside.  With Moses God began directing the prophets and others to write these things down.  Once that was done the writings themselves could be searched and compared.  Ultimately we see the prophets exemplified in Daniel who was searching the scroll of Jeremiah and came to understand that the exile into Babylon would only last 70 years.  Thus he knew that God was going to help his people return to Israel.  He also received many visions and prophecies regarding the future.  Yet, Daniel had many questions.  In chapter 12 of the book of Daniel, we see him asking God for more understanding and yet the Lord tells him, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”  Even though he was the holy prophet of God, he had to trust God in the midst of many mysterious, unknowns regarding the plan of God.  We live in days where it is easy to connect with faithful, godly elders.  We can also search the Scriptures with the help of powerful computers.  Along with this, God is as close as He has ever been when we pray.  So have we grown weary of the mystery?  Have we come to the place where we quit hoping for the resolution of God’s plan?  There are even some in the Church today that teach that prophecy and searching it out for understanding is a problem.  The problem is not trying to understand prophecies.  This has been the impulse of godly people from the beginning.

Peter points out that these prophets wanted to know who the messiah would be and when he would come.  Over time God gave further clarification.  First we find that the messiah would come from Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob.  Later we are told that he would be of the lineage of David.  In regards to time, they are eventually given some inkling in Daniel.  In fact chapter 9 of Daniel is a prophecy that lays out how much time was left.  He also reveals that it would happen during the reign of the 4th Beast Empire.  Notice how similar their questions are to ours today.  Our waiting for Jesus to come back is very similar to what they waited for.

Peter points out that that, by the Spirit, they saw the sufferings and subsequent glory of the messiah.  These two incongruous ideas created a lot of questions and mystery concerning the plan of God.  The suffering and victory of the messiah may seem to be a contradiction, but it is more a contradiction of implausibility rather than impossibility.  God had promised a savior.  But when he came he would suffer.  Why?  He would be glorious on one hand and yet there would be nothing about him physically that would draw men to him.  They mystery was in how all these puzzle pieces fit together.  At Christmas God solved part of this puzzle for us.  Christ came first to save us from our own sin (the true enemy).  To do this he had to make himself vulnerable and let himself be tortured, even put to death, for our sake.  But how could he do all that and yet remain the King who would raise up the righteous and put down the wicked?

Why All The Mystery

There is a part of us, whether as an atheist or a frustrated believer, that wished God would make things clearer.  Yet, he has a penchant for mystery and long waits in between times of revelation.  Peter points out in verse 12 that it has to do with the fact that prophecy is not just for us.  We are serving others.  Either God has to make a clear explanation to every single person who ever existed within their time, or we have to put up with a bit of mystery.  There is no way around this.  Prophecy was never given to elite men for their benefit alone.  It was given to them in order to serve others.  First they served the people of their time by sharing the prophecies.  However, Peter points out that they also served the generation that would be alive when the messiah finally came.  Those who would see the resolution of prophecy needed served in this way.  Because of the words that were shared and written down, they would be able to see the connections between what was happening and what God promised.  It would help them to navigate especially difficult times with the understanding that God desired them to have.  Thus early Jews who were heard the good news of Jesus could either ignore the Scriptures and reinterpret the events, or they could embrace them and rejoice in Jesus.  Of course, Peter is talking about the mystery of salvation.  Through Jesus it became far less mysterious.  Of course we also recognize that Jesus and his Apostles prophesied about a future 2nd coming.  Thus, as I said before, we are in the same boat.  We have been served by Jesus and the Apostles in order to understand what God desires of us in these last days.  God was not interested in giving each generation full understanding.  No, that would come after the events occurred.  Rather, was giving each generation enough information that they would be encouraged and pass down the prophecies until that generation in which they would occur.  We are not just waiting for Jesus to come back.  We are also serving the next generation for him.

We are not just passing on information about God’s plans for the future.  We are also passing on an inner response of faith toward God himself and toward His promises regardless of how much we understand.  Some reject the prophecies because they are not clear.  However, the mystery also ensures that someone somewhere will still be interested in these things.  The intellectual puzzle laid alongside of the spiritual battle helps to keep faith alive until the event itself is revealed.  We think we need full disclosure.  But what we really need is trust and faith in God.  Peter points out that the prophecies were explained to the believers of his day by the Holy Spirit.  If we do not hand down the Word of God to the next generation in the power of the Holy Spirit, then our stream of influence is doomed.  Faith is kept alive by the help of the Holy Spirit.  Prophecy must never be a matter of intellectual curiosity and fleshly pride.  It must be a matter of a soul who has placed its hope in the hands of God.  There is one last aspect here that Peter doesn’t point out, but is shown in Ephesians 3:4-10.

In the first century things were revealed by God that had been kept a mystery from the beginning of creation.  The people of God as His Church are a message from God to both mankind and the Spiritual rulers that have abused their positions.  Those angels who were put in charge of the nations and were leading mankind away from God through the teachings of demons, are just as important in this as we are.  The wisdom of God is being displayed and explained in the mere existence of the Church, much more what it has to say.  There are still mysterious things that are yet to be revealed.  But to those who put their faith in God and trust Him, there is a joy of bearing the revelation of God’s wisdom as it has been revealed.  Part of God’s plan is to raise mankind to a position greater than those angels that ruled.  All authority is being stripped from them and given to Christ and His Church.  We are being raised up to reign with Christ in their place.  The elites of the world may scoff at such thoughts and the powers of darkness may bristle at such thoughts.  However, God has pledged himself to destroy the wisdom of the wise men of this world and the power of the powerful of this world.  Thus we see the present mystery of God’s choice of the lowly over the top of the great and proud.

The first Christmas reminds us that there is ahead of us a great day of rejoicing.  No matter what it may look like in the now, a great day of revelation is coming in which the wicked and powerful of this world will have no say in the matter.  God will do what He is going to do.  Blessed are those who put their faith in Him!  Maranatha!

Lessons from Christmas

Saturday
Jan242015

Fire Upon The Earth

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:49-53.

It has often been the dream of man to have a place where everything was peaceful and people coexisted in perfect harmony.  In the 1970’s there was a famous Coke commercial that had a group of young people singing about such things.  It was a bit cheesy however, with a line about buying the world a Coke.  Regardless, even the politics of the day differ not because we can’t agree that a world in perfect harmony would be good.  Rather they differ due to disagreements about how that can be done, and whether it can be done at all.  This brings us to Jesus.

Today, many see Christ as the perfect picture of world peace.  It is true that he is the Prince of Peace and at his birth the angels proclaimed, “peace on earth and good will toward men.”  Yet, our passage today makes it clear that the message of God to mankind through Jesus was more complex than a simple slogan like, “make love not war!”  In this chapter Jesus has been warning his disciples that he would go away and the condition of their hearts would be tested.  How they respond to these tests will affect how Jesus treats them when he does come back.  It is the misconceptions we have about Jesus and the “Messiah” or Savior, that cause us to miss what Christ is actually doing.

His First Coming Brought Fire Upon The Earth

Jesus starts out with a statement of purpose.  “I have come to bring fire upon the earth.”  If this doesn’t sound very much like Jesus to you then it is probably because you have fallen into a common misconception about him.  It is the view that at the first coming Jesus had come to fix everything wrong with the world.  That is, he would remove all the bad guys and put all the good guys in charge.  Of course the people of Israel were wrong about Jesus removing all the bad guys.  Yet, the misconception only changes.  Now we say that Jesus took out the real enemy (Satan and sin’s guilt).  Thus now we can fix it all and the world is on an ever progressing trek towards Utopia because of what Jesus did.  This passage along with many others stands as a roadblock to such thinking.  The statements of Jesus here stand much of modern Christianity on its head, at least in the West.  We tend to labor under the misguided principle that Understanding and Compromise will unarm every warrior and solve every dispute.  It tends to think that people are basically good and the real problem is miscommunication, or perhaps better, malcommunication.  Jesus lets his disciples know that they are not headed into a peaceful situation, nor would it develop down the road.  In fact Jesus is going to make it much worse, i.e. he is bringing fire upon the earth.

The symbol of fire is connected to judgment in general.  However, more properly think of it as making a distinction.  It always burns up the bad and leaves behind the good.  Thus when the Bible uses the image of purifying metals, it is the fire which breaks down the metal so that the bad impurities can be brought out and removed.  The good metal is then poured into a cast and tempered.  So fire is only bad to that which is impure and bad.  However, it is good to that which is pure and good.  Similarly, Paul uses the image between wood, hay, stubble and metal.  Things that are done for our flesh and the purposes of this world are considered wood, hay and stubble. But the things we do for Christ and his eternal purposes are like precious metals and precious stones.  The fire of Christ’s judgment will distinguish which works are worthless and are burned from those works which are valuable and still remain.  Thus the test of fire reveals Truth and Eternal worth.  So what is this fire that Jesus is going to ignite?  The fire could be connected with the Holy Spirit poured out upon believers.  This is true and the picture is given in Acts 2.  However, the context does not point towards the Holy Spirit.  This fire is going to cause division.  I believe that Jesus is the fire (His works and His Teachings).  It is he himself who is the polarizing fire and in fact he is also an accelerant to the underlying divisions that already existed in the hearts of people.  When the truth of Jesus is taught and the life of Jesus is lived out, it is like fire in the midst of a culture that consumes the bad and purifies the good.  It is easy to accept that there is a God.  But, once Jesus says that this is what God looks like and what His nature is like, you are going to have those who disagree.  When Jesus gives commands to his disciples, you will immediately have people who are going to disagree with such narrow commands.  When Jesus says that the cross is the path to salvation (i.e. Utopia), even now we can feel our flesh shrinking back from such a thing.

It is easy to see the fire that is raging throughout the Middle East due to the promotion and rejection of Jesus.  However, we should recognize the same thing is being played out here in the West and especially here in America.

Notice that Jesus first has to go through a baptism.  He had already been water baptized and Spirit baptized at the same time.  So the imagery here is pointing forward to a baptism of suffering culminating in the cross.  Another image Jesus uses is that of a poisonous cup of suffering.  On the night of his betrayal he asks the Father, “if possible may this cup be taken from me.  Nevertheless Your will be done.”  The cross and the death of Jesus were a critical part of this fire that Jesus was igniting.  After he suffered these things, he is resurrected and spends many weeks explaining to his disciples what he wants them to do.  Like a small fire being kicked, the disciples become many different embers catching flame in dry tinder.  This necessity of the cross in the life of Jesus and his followers becomes a stumbling block that our flesh hates and rejects.  “I will not be a doormat!”  “Forget being crucified!  I am going to do the crucifying!”  These harsh rejections of the way of Christ make the fire all the hotter.  As long as God’s people entertain the delusion that God’s path would not involve suffering, we would continue to resist His plan and stand in the way.  Thus Jesus brings fire that polarizes not just the world, but even his own people Israel.  “Who’s on the Lord’s side?  Come on over here to the Messiah who died.”   It doesn’t sound like a winning proposition does it.  A true follower of Jesus is one who has crucified the objections of their mind, heart and soul and cling to Jesus no matter what suffering comes their way.  Why?  They do so because they are convinced that it truly is the path to salvation and Utopia.  However, much of the world today is not enamored with such a vision.  Why do we need God and such a horrible plan of salvation?  We will build Utopia ourselves!  Whether it is radical Muslims hacking heads off of Westerners, or scientists manipulating DNA in a laboratory, in many different ways mankind is seeking a way of its own making.

In verse 51, Jesus comes back to this.  Rather than peace, he would bring division to the earth.  He goes straight to the one institution that is the most resilient against division and that is the family.  Now don’t get Jesus wrong.  He definitely is the Prince of Peace and God really does desire peace for any who will come to Him to receive it.  But the reality is that many would reject his terms of peace.  The work and teaching of Jesus would bring in a good harvest and yet, it would be hated and ignite a war even among family members.  The point here is not that it is inevitable.  Clearly a whole family can serve Christ and live in peace together.  But if they do, it will not be because of the familial tie.  It will be because they have all embraced Jesus and his peace reigns in their hearts.  Believers have peace with God in that we are no longer His enemies.  We are also given the internal peace of God that passes all understanding.  This gives us the ability to live in peace with each other.

However, no Utopian society would be brought to the world through the First Coming of Jesus.  How we deal with this concept of Utopia is at the heart of who Jesus is.  We have two choices before us: the path of the cross, which is submission to God’s way, or the path chosen at the Fall, which is rebellion and rejection of God’s way.  Essentially it is, “We can do it.”  We will do what we want.

The world has many divisions (race, gender, religion, and politics to name a few).  However, Jesus points to the most basic of all biology.  Even families will split over the reality of who Jesus is and what he calls us to be and do.  Remember, “There is a way that seems right in the eyes of a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  Which way will you choose?  The path that looks like death leads to life and the path that looks like life leads to death.  The fire throughout our land is only going to burn hotter.  Israel’s greatest fire was ignited right before its judgment.  We as a nation are at a crossroads and many are in the valley of decision today.  Make sure you don’t allow misconceptions about who Jesus is cause you to choose the wrong path.

Fire Upon the Earth audio

Tuesday
Mar052013

Peter's Prayer for Believers

Today we will finish the book of 1 Peter as we look at 1 Peter 5:10-14.  It begins with a prayer that Peter prays for them and, by extension, for us today.  Before we look at the specifics for which Peter prays, let’s look at his descriptions of the God to whom he prays.

The God To Whom Peter Prays

First Peter describes Him as the “God of all grace.”  He is the source of all the good things that have come into our life.  James 1:7 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow of turning.”  Even things that we may think came from other people, can be traced back to God when we ask questions such as: Who gave them the health, strength, finances etc…, to do what they did?  What moved their heart to help me?  Did they make themselves?  Good comes to us through the creation which God himself made.  Thus he is the source of all good.

He is also the God of all grace in the sense that, when we are in difficult times, He is the One to whom we should turn.  His potential supply of help and grace is inexhaustible.  He has “all” the grace we need.

Second, God has called us into His glory by Jesus.  Just as he told us, Jesus is the door by which we are invited to participate and enjoy the glory of God.  This God who has made a way for you to have a part in His glory is the God Peter addresses.  Notice that Peter qualifies this with the statement, “after you have suffered a little while.”  Now my flesh really wishes Peter had left that out.  Suffering has been a big part of this letter.  Peter recognizes that in this life we have our particular lot of suffering.  Here, Peter agrees with what Paul said in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  After the sufferings of this present world, we will join God in his eternal glory.  In that moment this present suffering will seem small, light, and incomparable.  That may not make it easy now.  But it is part of the Hope that we hold.

Lastly, in verse 11, we see that God is the only One worthy of the glory and power of creation.  Any glory and power of this world has its being in Him.  Thus any glory it has reflects upon the God who made it.  Within our own lives we should live in a way that is reflective of the glory that he has.  And, if there is any praise or glory back to us from people, it really is ultimately deflected back to Him.  All glory and all Power really do exist for his purposes and are representative of Him.

Peter Prays that God Would…

He prays that God would perfect us.  The word for perfect here means to mend or fix that which is broken.  As a fisherman, Peter had “perfected” many a net so that he could use it again.  Like a ship that has gone through a storm, we may be beat up and wounded.  Perhaps, like the shipwreck that Paul went through, we may have thrown some precious cargo and tackle overboard in order to survive.  Peter prays that God would fix and mend their lives.  He prays that God would equip them with whatever needful thing they have lost and supply any new thing necessary for them to fulfill the purpose for which they have been made.  We need to cooperate with this perfecting in our lives.  Some things that are painful or difficult are the very things that God is using to mend and fix us, if we look to Him in faith and trust.

He also prays that God would establish us.  This word means to be firmly set.  It is the picture that we will not be easily knocked over or moved.  Clearly we are to be firmly set in Jesus.  So that we will not be easily swayed or knocked off of our dependence and faith in Him.

Next he prays that God will strengthen us.  This word does often refer to physical strength, but I am quite confident that Peter has an inner strength in mind here.  Thus he is asking for God to strengthen their hearts and souls.  Our hearts and minds are inundated daily by the temptations and deceits of our own sinful flesh and of our enemy the devil.  Thus we will need strength in order for our faith to persevere through the individual tests and to the end of our life. 

Lastly he prays that God would settle us.  This word literally means to put a foundation under something.  Clearly, as I said earlier, this foundation is Jesus.  1 Corinthians 3:11, “No other foundation can anyone lay that that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”  However, it is more than just a name or an identity.  God places the life, teachings, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus under us as a foundation.  He does this by giving us teachers, fellow believers, and the Holy Spirit.  As we cooperate with this process we are enabled to build upon a foundation that can never fail.  When the person and work of Jesus is the basis for everything we do then we can say that God has finished this task in our life ; )

Peter’s Closing Comments

Verses 12-14 are the closing of this letter.  Peter makes it clear that his purpose in this letter was to exhort and testify that they had received the “true grace of God.”  Much speculation had traveled throughout the empire and the apostles had to be vigilant all the time in the area of doctrine.  He encourages them that they have already received the “true” grace of God, as opposed to any new “grace of God” that someone might be shilling.  Though it might not seem like enough, we have been given the grace that God knows will not only help us, but is all we need.  We can trust his provision.  In light of a day and age that speculates on everything, we need to hear this message now more than ever.  Every year a new speculation about religious conspiracies within Christianity or even in its origin try to question whether we have been given the true grace of God.  It is true that many Christian groups have added to God’s Word.  However, in the Bible we have the eye witness testimony of men who were there and verify that the things we have recorded are true.  I won’t go into it here, but the text of the Bible is without question the most verified ancient text.  Any attempts to change its text have been easily spotted throughout history and were never global in their acceptance.  We can be confident that we have just read the actual letter that Peter wrote to believers in the first century.

Peter also exchanges greetings from the church where he is writing.  The “she” referred here is tied to the believers who are receiving the letter by the phrase “elect together.”  This clearly is a reference to the church (a feminine noun that would use a feminine pronoun) rather than a specific woman.  It is interesting that Peter appears to be in Babylon.  If it is meant literally then it would be a reference to the Babylon of the Mesopotamia.  However, many have pointed to a possible coded reference to Rome.  John appears to do this in the book of Revelation.  So it is possible.  Another reason to believe that this may be a reference to Rome is that in the book of 2 Peter 1:14, Peter mentions this first letter and that he is about to be put to death.  Since the clear testimony of history is that Peter died in Rome, it is very likely that he was in Rome which led to his martyr.  Many Protestants have rejected this because of the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that Peter was the first Pope in Rome.  There is no evidence that Peter ever was a Bishop or Pope in Rome.  Yet, we need not be blind to the fact that Peter probably interacted with the Roman church before his execution.  These two letter appear to have been written in the period leading up to his death.

Peter’s last statement is to remind them of their duty to love one another.  He does so by referring to a customary greeting, the kiss.  The biblical injunction here is emphasizing the kind of greeting rather than the act of greeting itself.  As Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, so believers are to reject such hypocritical and deceptive techniques.  They are to truly love one another and not hide behind the mask of social customs.  Then he prays peace to those who are in Jesus.

Are you in Jesus today?  That means you have trusted in him to be the forgiver of your sins.  You have looked to his death as the price of your own sins.  You have trusted in his work on your behalf to make thing right between you and God.  Have you done this?  Don’t put it off.  God has loved you within time and throughout history.  It is revealed to you today through this letter that Peter wrote.  Your faith is not a leap of faith, but a trusting in the objective reality of the testimony of not just Peter, but also thousands who witness the coming of the Savior of the World, Jesus.

Peter's Prayer audio