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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

1 Peter, Day 11: 1 Peter 2:16-21 - How Should Christians Respond to Unjust Authorities?

How Should Christians Respond to Unjust Authorities?

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
- 1 Peter 2:16-21, ESV

Have you ever had to work for someone you just didn't like or respect, maybe someone who wasn't a believer and who actually lived a very immoral life? Or, have you ever had a president you had a hard time respecting morally? (Almost everyone would probably say yes to that second question.) So, what do we do?

Sadly, I can tell you what I have seen countless Christians do, and which I have done at times myself: Slander, back-bite, complain, disrespect. Is that what we're supposed to do?

Peter told believers to "honor the emperor" at a time when the emperor was Nero, an immoral madman who would later crucify Peter. Yet, God had made Nero the emperor, and Christians were to honor him as such. What they could not do was honor him as Lord, which is what he demanded. Proper honor, in its proper place, was something they could offer and must offer. 

And then, after telling believers to honor an immoral emperor for his God-given position as emperor, Peter tells the Christians who are slaves to honor and obey their earthly masters. This is hard enough when your earthly master is a decent, kind, fair man, but Peter tells them to be subject with all respect "not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust."   

How in the world could Peter expect Christian slaves to be respectfully obedient to unjust masters? Well, he tells them that it "is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly." Here we see that motives are everything in the Christian life. If the Christian slave is respectfully obedient only because he wants to avoid getting beaten or is hoping for some kind of reward, then his behavior is just self-serving and not particularly commendable. If he is obedient because he fears his master and thinks of him as some kind of earthly god, then such subservience is definitely not God-honoring. But if he is "mindful of God" - consciously thinking of his service to his cruel master as obedience to God, whose providence has placed him under this man - then his obedience to his earthly master can be obedience to God, and that kind of service is gracious indeed. 

Then Peter gives instruction which is helpful to all Christians living in every kind of situation: "If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." 

Christ suffered injustice at the hands of cruel men. The Sanhedrin, the Roman guards, and Pontius Pilate were all guilty of treating the Lord with cruel injustice. And yet He graciously submitted to their cruel mistreatment. He could have escaped. He could have struck them down and called down fire from heaven on the whole lot of them. But He submitted. Why? Because He loved His Heavenly Father, and this is what His Father had assigned to Him as His suffering. 

When we accept the unjust suffering we experience in faith - whether that's being slandered or attacked or discriminated against or whatever - we are honoring God. We are accepting what He has sent our way, trusting that He has a good reason for sending it. In this way, we are walking in the footsteps of Christ. 

I should say that submitting to injustice is not always the righteous thing to do. If you are in an abusive relationship with someone who is hurting you, it is most loving to get help and force them to get help, too. Peter is not telling wives to stay with abusive husbands. But in other areas - dealing with an immoral president, an unfair boss, slanderous co-workers, etc. - we can honor God by accepting mistreatment and graciously treating with love and respect those who mistreat us. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

1 Peter, Day 10: 1 Peter 2:11-17 - How Should We Live in This World?

How Should We Live in This World?
1 Peter, Day 10


Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
- 1 Peter 2:11-17, ESV

Have you ever seen someone driving really aggressively, weaving in and out of traffic and tailgating dangerously, and thought to yourself, "Who does that person think he is?" Why is it that we see poor behavior, and the question which comes to mind is one of self-identity? It's simple, really: How you behave in the world should be grounded in who you are. In other words, identity should drive behavior. So, when we see out-of-control behavior, we think there must be a core out-of-control self-identity.

Peter has been unfolding our identity as believers in 1 Peter. He opened by reminding us that we are elect exiles. We are loved and chosen by God, but we do not belong in this world. He then unpacked some of what this involves for us:
  • We are born again to a living hope.
  • We have been given an imperishable inheritance.   
  • We are kept by the power of God.
  • We rejoice, with a joy inexpressible, as we think ahead to the hope of glory.
  • We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.
  • We have received mercy from God. 

If we have been following along with Peter as he's been laying this foundation of our identity in Christ, we're ready now for the next step: How do we live out our identity in this world? Or, to put it a different way, to go back to the opening identity of elect exiles, if we know now what it means to be elected by God, chosen in love by Him, what does it mean to live as exiles? How should we live in a world we know is not our final home? 

First of all, sojourners and exiles should not indulge too deeply in the passing pleasures of a fallen world. We need to not attach our hearts and desires to a world in rebellion against God and a flesh that craves the things of this world. So, we need to abstain as those who know they're in a war, a war with lasting consequences.

Secondly, we need to live honorably. While we don't give into the cravings and live for the pleasures of the world, we also don't live as grumpy, angry, militant, self-righteous people. We need to treat others the way we'd want to be treated. We need to be honorable and respectful. 

Unbelievers in the world should be able to look at us as believers and see good deeds, respect for authority, and love for our neighbors. They should see us walking in freedom in Christ, but not a freedom that is self-indulgent or self-righteous, but a freedom that serves others in humility and love. In other words, they should be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus in us. 

How is the world realistically going to see Jesus in us? Only as we're abiding in Him, living in His love, walking in His light, loving Him deeply and drinking from the fountain of the Holy Spirit as dearly loved children of God. The stronger and deeper our dependence on Christ, the stronger and clearer our witness to a watching world will be.   

Sunday, July 7, 2019

1 Peter, Day 9: 1 Peter 2:4-10 - Who are You Made to be in Christ?

Who are You Made to be in Christ? 
1 Peter, Day 9


As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

- 1 Peter 2:4-10, ESV

"Who do you think you are, anyway?" 

You might hear these words from someone if they think you're being a bit too opinionated or pushy with your point-of-view. But this is a good question for us think about. Who do we think we are? The standard Christian answer to this question is usually, "I'm a sinner." That may sound humble and biblical, but it's a very limited and distorted understanding of who we are in Christ, and it actually threatens to undermine our faith in the power of the Gospel. 

When we began looking at 1 Peter, we saw that we are "elect exiles," chosen by God and not at home in this world. Here in 1 Peter 2, Peter unpacks our identity in Christ more richly. He combines several different central images from the Old Testament to weave a powerful portrait of Christ and His people.

The image begins with the Temple, the centrally important place of worship for God's people for hundreds of years before Peter wrote this epistle. Jesus is the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious. Quoting from Psalm 118, Peter says Christ is “The stone that the builders rejected, [which] has become the cornerstone,”    

So, even as Christ was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders (the builders) and was nailed to a cross by the Romans, He was - on that same cross - being made by God into the chief cornerstone of a new, living Temple. Jesus' death and resurrection, which won salvation for all of God's people, made Him the foundation stone of a new place where God is glorified - a living Temple we call "the church." 

As we come to Christ by faith, we are made into living stones - just like He is - that form the new, living Temple of God. We are joined to Christ and to one another as a new place for the display of God's glory. So, you are more than a sinner; you are a living stone in the new Temple of God.

Yet Peter says even more: Not only are we living stones, but we are also "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession." We are chosen by God, made heirs of God and priests, who together form a new holy nation, the people for God's own possession. 

What is God's purpose for us in this new identity? It is "that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light." 

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are so much more than just a sinner. You have been called from the darkness of sin into the marvelous light of God's love and favor. You have been called to proclaim His excellencies, to worship Him as a priest, to glorify Him as a living Temple stone. That's a pretty amazing identity and a glorious purpose - so let's live it!  

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

1 Peter, Day 8: 1 Peter 2:1-3 - Do You Long for the Word of God?

Do You Long for the Word of God?
1 Peter, Day 8


So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
- 1 Peter 2:1-3, ESV

"Betcha can't eat just one!" Remember that slogan from Lay's potato chips? It's effective because it's true. It's really hard to eat just one good chip. If a chip is no good, and you get a bad taste from it, you're not really tempted to take another. You might be able to force yourself to, if you have to. But you don't really long to have another, do you?

Psalm 34:8 says, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" Peter picks up this verse here in 1 Peter 2, and he expands the thought in this way: If you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, then you should long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God.

This is one of the key marks of being a born-again Christian. If you have been born again by the Holy Spirit, then you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. If you are spiritually alive, you will long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God just as surely as a newborn infant longs for the pure nourishment of his mother's milk.

Sometimes newborn babies have trouble nursing, and they may need some coaching and encouraging. But for the most part, the instincts God has given them take over and lead them to nurse well.

New Christians may not always understand everything they read in the Bible. Not everything in the Bible is milk for newborns; some if it is meat for more mature believers. However, the appetite to know God through His word should be strong in every born again believer. If you have no real desire to know God better, to grow in your knowledge of Him through His word, you may have real cause to question whether or not you are truly born again. If the only time you open your Bible is when someone convinced you to do so, then have you really tasted and seen that the Lord is good? 

The pure milk of the Word is as necessary for young believers' growth as milk is for babies. It is the way we "grow up into salvation." Peter doesn't mean by this that we earn salvation by growing in our knowledge of the Bible. No, we are given life as a gift, but we grow up into the life we've been given by spending time in the Word. It is the Word which reveals more of Christ to us and helps us to grow in Him. Just as we were born again by the living and active word, so we grow in the Lord as we grow in His Word. 

So, taste and see that the Lord is good, and then grow up in Him through time each day in His word!