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Archive for 1 Peter

Dec
01

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Seven

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“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” — 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT)

Peter uses architectural language to describe our relationship with God, one another, and the world. Clearly he has the Temple of Jerusalem in his mind as he unfolds this imagery. In the analogy, Peter cites Jesus as the cornerstone. Several years ago I participated in a mission trip to Haiti, where the chief objective was to build a church in a small village. When our team arrived, we discovered that the floor had been poured in preparation for construction of the block building. I stood and watch for what must have been two hours as the team leaders laid the very first cornerstone. It had to be placed perfectly because that first cornerstone was what would bring the entire building to square.

That experience added color to my previous understanding of Jesus as the cornerstone. He is the first stone laid, and his work brings the entire Kingdom to “square.” As Peter fleshes out his analogy, he states that the believing community of faith are living stones as opposed to the dead stones of the Temple. Believers are the living stones of a new temple that house the presence of God. We are built on top of the foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, and we lean on one another as we rest on the cornerstone.

Peter then switches gears and suggests that the living stones of the new temple also have a second function: serving as priests to the world. Old Testament priesthood was a position of privilege. To be a priest one had to be born of the trive of Levi. Today we are qualified as priests by rite of the new birth. Peter makes the argument that every believer functions in the role of priest, offering the spiritual sacrifices of their bodies in continual service to God (cf. Romans 12:1-2). As living stones and priests, we house the presence of God’s Spirit who empowers and guides our work. We live as the incarnational presence of God in our communities and our world.

As believers, we are to function as priests in a world in desperate need of priesting. How can you be a priest to the world today?
Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering
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Nov
17

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Six

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So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be hold because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleaned from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other, as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass, their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like new born babies you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
– 1 Peter 1:13-2:3 (NLT)

Theology precedes ethics. Or one might say what we believe determines how we behave. This is the pattern of the epistles. It is clearly evident in Paul’s letters, and 1 Peter is no exception. The first section of 1 Peter (1:1-12) is an intense theological passage. Like Paul, Peter follows up his doctrinal statement with an ethical section. In the above passage, he challenges his readers with five imperatives to apply to their everyday lives.

1. Control your thought life (1 Peter 1:13).
Their new found faith should inform how they process information. The same is true of us. The experiences of life are real. But what we choose to think about those same experiences is under our control. We can’t change reality, but we can manage our thoughts about those experiences.
2. Be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).
I find it interesting that Peter’s instruction is to be holy, not to do holy. We commit a grave injustice when we reduce holiness to a list of “do’s and don’ts” rather than seeing it as a vital part of our position in Christ. As holy people we do self-examination. But holiness motivates our self-checking, not vice versa.
3. Live in reverent fear of God (1 Peter 1:17-21).
One of the most important daily disciplines a Christian should exercise is the simple confession “God is in control.” Living in reverent fear of the Lord is the result of living with the conviction that God is sovereign and in control of all things. God has already saved us from the worst of all, so we can trust him to reign over every circumstance in our lives.
4. Intentionally love others (1 Peter 1:22-25).
One of the first things we learn when we come to faith is that God loves us. We know our faith is beginning to mature when we learn that God loves others too. Love is important, because it’s the one eternal value that we possess on earth that will carry over into our life in heaven. In heaven we won’t need faith and hope for faith will be sight and hope will be fulfilled. But love endures eternally.
5. Develop good eating habits (1 Peter 2:1-3).
Good nutrition is a critical part of good health. This is true of the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. We must grow as believers, and a balanced diet from the word will make sure that we are spiritually healthy and balanced.

Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering, Theology
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Nov
02

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Five

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Throughout chapter 1, Peter continually references joy. It reminds me of James’ words found in James 1:2, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” Why does Peter place an emphasis on having joy in the midst of suffering?

Joy is the by-product of settled faith. When a person becomes convinced that victory has become certain, joy begins to emerge.

Football fans know that when a team has the lead in the last minute of the game, the quarterback will take the snap from the center and drop to one knee. Those who watch football know exactly what I’m talking about. Today its called the “victory formation” or the “victory play.” Because the game is secure, players on the sideline start congratulating one another. Coaches take off their headsets. The fans stand and cheer. Why? Joy overflows when victory is secure and the outcome is assured.

Joy doesn’t come in moments of uncertainty. Even in the midst of suffering we can experience true joy because of our confident faith in God.
Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering
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Nov
01

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Four

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“This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” — 1 Peter 1:10-12 (NLT)

In these verses Peter discusses the Old Testament prophets and the angels unique perspectives on the salvation we enjoy. The prophets spoke no nearer than four centuries prior to the life and work of Christ. Yet they did so with great confidence that one day the Messiah would come and provide the final sacrifice for sin. They were intrigued by the promise and investigated those promises with great interest knowing that what would happen in the future would someday impact even them.

Though they didn’t fully comprehend all of the promises, they spoke nonetheless with great confidence. They didn’t know when or how the promise would be fulfilled, but that didn’t diminish their bold enthusiasm. The words of the prophets remind us that it is possible to live a life of conviction regarding something in the future, even though we may not fully understand it. This principle is true of all things including our response to suffering.

While the prophets were seperated from salvation by time, the angels were seperated from salvation by distance. From heaven they eagerly watched the drama of salvation unfold. The angels live in the continual presence of God, yet have not experienced the fullness of grace that we enjoy (cf. Hebrews 1:5-14).

These two examples are given to us to remind us of the reasons we have hae to celebrate our marvellous salvation. While we look to history to see the fulfillment of the promise in Christ, we are reminded that we have much more to anticipate that is still to come.

Categories : 1 Peter, Evil, Hope, Suffering
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Oct
29

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Three

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“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” –1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT)

The theme of Peter’s letter is suffering and hope and throughout its verses he informs his audience how to hold those two in tension. His opening paragraph has reminded readers that whatever we face in life begins with Christ, specifically the salvation that he has provided. Whatever we face must be viewed through the lens of the cross, not vice versa.

In verses 6 and 7, Peter gets into the subject of trials. A textbook definition of the word trial would be “subjection to suffering or grievous experiences, a distressed or painful state; an affliction or trouble.” We don’t really need a better definition of the word trial. We already know the word quite well from life experience. The Christian distinctive, however, helps us to see the purposes that trials serve in our lives. This is where Peter invests his energy. Here are some purposes that I see that trials serve in the life of a Christian:

1. Trials reveal authenticity
Last week when I was preparing my sermon on Paul’s thorn in the flesh, I came across a line I had written in the margin of my Bible. I have to confess that I don’t recall if it came from a sermon I heard or from a book that I read. But I thought it was powerful. It said, “Vision makes leaders passionate, and thorn keep leaders authentic.”
There is something about suffering that helps peel away the thin veneer of life that we like to hide behind. Trials do produce some positive outcomes in our lives. But as a point of departure, trials reveal what’s already there.

2. Trials reveal the existence of faith
Peter’s readers were suffering because they were Christians. They endured many things simply because of their faith. There is a sense in which all of us suffer because we live in a fallen world. But there are also elements of suffering that are particular and unique to those who are Christians. Persecution is a clear example of that. God’s loving discipline is another. Everyone suffers at some point in time. Christians are called to suffer in unique ways above and beyond that.

3. Trials Develop Humility
Suffering works to produce and develop humility in our lives. They cause us to realize that we are not in control and us that we can’t fix every challenge of life. We are God dependent. We learn to rely on God’s help through others. We are not “large and in charge.” We are reliant and desperate at best. Humility teaches us that we don’t have it all figured out and that our true significance comes from God alone.

4. Trials Produce Holiness
Whenever we suffer we are invited to take inventory of our lives. We pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24, and invite God to search our hearts to “point out anything that offends (Him).” Suffering will naturally incline our hearts to walk with God. He is holy, and those who walk with him will be holy. One of the biggest battles that rage in our lives is the battle of duplicity. Those trials we experience remind us that we cannot live with one foot in each world. We must be firmly planted in God’s kingdom with both feet.

5. Trials Increase our Faith
In verse 8, Peter continues, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”
Trials invite us to higher levels of faith. God allows us to undergo those painful experiences to prove that he is trustworthy. If we address our trials properly, God becomes larger in our lives, not smaller.

Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering
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Oct
16

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Two

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“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change or decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” (1 Peter 1:3-5, NLT)

One of the rich doctrines of my Baptist tradition is the doctrine of eternal security. Or, as our folks like to call it “once saved, always saved.” This selection from 1 Peter is one of the great passages on eternal security. Peter uses wonderful imagery to describe the permanence of our salvation in Christ.

I think the most helpful point Peter makes is his affirmation that our salvation is kept by the power of God. Just as there is nothing one can do to attain salvation, there is nothing one can do to preserve salvation. That which is received by grace cannot be lost by works.

Peter’s statement reminds me of the words of Jesus in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and his is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (NLT).

Good news, right?

This strong statement concerning eternal security is made in the context of suffering and is addressed to an audience that is suffering. So how does salvation and eternal security relate to suffering?

Salvation is my anchor when pain comes into my life. The suffering I experience is, in Paul’s words, “a light and momentary affliction.” Paul isn’t suggesting that what we suffer is easy. What he means is that what I face is not lasting, eternal, or ultimate. Salvation causes me to think about my suffering in an eternal dimension. It helps me to keep things in perspective. By securing salvation I have secured the most important thing of all.. It cannot be lost or taken from me. Peter begins his letter by writing about salvation and security. By doing so, he is encouraging his readers to view their suffering in light of their salvation and not to view their salvation in light of their suffering.

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Oct
14

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter One

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“This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:1-2, NLT

I’ve always enjoyed the book of 1 Peter. I remember preaching verse by verse through the book twenty years ago when I served a congregation in St. Louis. I’m sure I gave it my best effort, but clearly did not have enough miles on my odometer to appreciate the value of what Peter offered to his audience concerning suffering and hope.

I facilitate a men’s Bible study that meets in the early hours of Thursday mornings at a local supermarket restaurant. Over the next several months we’re going to do work on this marvelous New Testament book. It’s my desire to share some of my reflections on our study and conversation over bacon and eggs.

1 Peter begins with his salutation to a general audience that is scattered over (at least) 5 provinces. His intended readers are Jewish Christians that have been scattered across the region due to persecution that arose in Jerusalem (e.g. Acts 8:1-3). One of his purposes is to encourage the readers to faithfully live their lives as Christians even though they are undergoing suffering and persecution at the hands of those who are hostile to Christianity.

The NLT (I’m a fan!) describes these believers as “foreigners,” which they were in more ways than one. Literally, they were not citizens. They were not native or indigenous to the region they were living. Metaphorically, they simply didn’t belong. They didn’t fit in and were clearly out of place because of their faith. I like Joel Green’s thoughts at this point. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Green remarks, “1 Peter is written to folks who do not belong, who eke out their lives on the periphery of acceptable society, whose deepest loyalties and inclinations do not line up very well with what matters most in the world in which they live. This is not the sort of life that most people find attractive.” (Green, p. 18) For Peter’s audience, this exclusion would have extended to a person’s economics, family, religion, social structure and government.

Perhaps there are times when you feel like you don’t fit in because of your faith. While our government guarantees certain freedoms and protects our rights to worship, Christians can still face exclusion, even if only in social circles. If you have never felt out of place, then perhaps something is wrong!

Peter continues his salutation by referencing our great salvation. In our salvation he references the entire work of the Trinity: the Father who chose, the Spirit who makes holy, and the Son who cleanses by his blood. One may doubt whether or not Peter’s readers understood all of the implications of election, sanctification and justification. After all, we’ve been plumbing the depths of these concepts for 2,000 years. Suffice it to say, all of God was involved and is involved in saving all of me! Salvation has provided grace and peace, which frames Peter’s prayer request at the end of the verse.

Unlike Paul, Peter concludes his salutation with a brief prayer. He asks God to provide “more and more grace and peace.” Given the subject matter of the book, suffering, this is a curious request. It would seem natural and logical for his request to be more akin to God delivering these persecuted sufferers from persecution and suffering. He does not.

Grace and peace are at the front end of our Christian experience. But it’s also the stuff that composes our ongoing life with God. So what does this prayer request tell us about salvation and suffering?

First, my suffering may not be removed. Our obvious prayer is to alleviate or remove it altogether. But sometimes God’s sovereign providence allows us to continue in our pain and suffering. Grace and peace become the things that sustain us in the midst of what we are called to endure.

Second, as grace and peace have brought Christ into my life, grace and peace continue to bring Christ into my life in deeper and more meaningful ways. Suffering becomes a pathway which ushers more and more grace and peace into my life. Grace and peace strengthen my character and transform me into the likeness of Christ.

Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering
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