Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How Do You Become Holy?

1 Peter 1:13-16

Be Holy
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Peter starts his letter to the believers reminding of the inheritance they have by becoming children of God. Today, he moves to how they should respond in light of the gift of grace they have received. He urges them to be holy as He who has called them is holy. A lot of times we misunderstand the notion of "holiness". We begin with grace, then think holiness is something we achieve in our own. There is an inherent problem in this. It never works.

Since we are a new creation in Christ, becoming holy is about living in the grace we have been given. As we understand the gift of grace we have been given, we are motivated toward obedience not to gain acceptance, but because we already have it. The problem with trying to earn our holiness, is that in and of ourselves we are not holy. But because God is holy and we have entered into a relationship by grace, we become holy because of what he has done for us.

But this doesn't mean the process of sanctification is a passive process on our part. Peter uses the word "obedience", and says "be holy" showing that we have a role to play as well. He also says do not conform to the evil desires you once lived in ignorance. But now they no better! Part of the process of becoming holy is consciously turning away from an old way of life. An old way of life where we were being conformed by the world, instead being transformed by Christ.

Trying to act or be holy in our own power never works. But as we are obedient to our Heavenly Father in His power we can become more like him who is holy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Even Angels Want to Know!

Peter 1:10-12

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

As Peter is encouraging the early believers to stand firm in the midst of persecution, he reminds them of how precious their salvation is. He points to the prophets who so earnestly sought out the time and place Jesus the Messiah would suffer and be glorified. And the revelation to them was through the Spirit of Christ, the same Spirit that spoke through the apostles to the first believers. It was a revelation that even angels longed to hear about!

We see many of the prophet Isaiah's prophecies about Jesus as the "suffering servant" And in Psalm 22 "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from the cry of the my roaring? I cry in the daytime, and thou hearest not; in the night seasons, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of thy people Israel" (Psalm 22:1-3).

The early believers had the privilege of hearing the Gospel regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. So why did Peter spend time writing about the history and manner in which the disciples received the Good News, the salvation of their souls?

I think he wants them to understand the incredible nature of the grace that has now been revealed to them in Christ Jesus, and how it transpired in history. This is a truth that was longed for thousands of years, by men who devoted their whole lives to hearing God's word then proclaiming it boldly in the face of death. These messages were for the people of that day, but also foretold of the grace of God in Jesus. So as they understood what a great a truth they have received and how they received it, they can be confident that in their suffering it would serve a great purpose beyond them. As the prophets did not know all their words would accomplish, neither did these early Christians.

So how can this help us to understand the trials we go through? We never know what effect our lives will have on the lives of those around us and those to come. Just as we are reading about the men and women of God in Peter's day who were encouraged in their persecution, so our lives can encourage others. This is one of the ways God uses our trials for His glory.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How Can You Have Faith in God You Cannot See?

1 Peter 1:8-9T

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

As Peter encourages these new believers amidst their difficult circumstances. He helps them to remember three things.

1. They love him. They have experienced a love they have never experienced before. This is the unconditional love the world could never offer. When we realize what love God has shown us through Jesus' death on the cross, we learn how to love someone we can't see. We can love because He first loved us.

2. They believe in Him. It was easier for Peter, who had spent three years with Jesus to have faith, but these believers had never seen him. They believed through the testimony of the apostles. And through believing in Him they discovered life in His name . They experience that He was is with them through thick and thin. He will never leave or forsake unlike some of the friends in this world.

3. What was the result? They were filled with an inexpressible joy. A joy they had never experienced because it was from God. It is the same joy God experiences and shares as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God shares this Trinitarian joy with us as part of this heavenly community. It is literally out of this world.

And so one day our faith will become sight, but as we experience these gifts now, we are now receiving the salvation of souls. Since we know him and love him though we don't see him, we experience salvation now. And then when he returns we will see him and we will know his voice when he says, "Come with me to the place I have prepared for you and all those who believe in me."

So as we go through our light and momentary trials, let us remember that they are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What is Genuine Faith?

1 Peter 1:4-7

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed

As Peter continues to encourage the early believers, he reminds them of their future inheritance as God's sons and daughters. If he is speaking specifically to the Jewish believers, they have seen their temple for all intent and purpose destroyed. They have been taken from their land which was part of the promise of inheritance to the 12 tribes of Israel. And finally, they are suffering all kinds of grief in their trials.

So Peter focuses on one major thing that cannot be taken from them, their faith, through which they are shielded by God's power. And this won't last forever, as at some point they will receive their salvation when Jesus returns. This is not the salvation that comes when we believe, but our final deliverance from sin and death. But Peter also says there is a refining purpose to the various trials they are going through. And as we remain faithful in our trials, our faith is proved genuine. As we said yesterday it is not the good days that test our faith, but the bad days.

Then Peter says something very important. Our faith which is proven genuine through trials, is of greater value than gold, which though refined is destined to perish. Meaning your faith is one of the few things that you can take with you when die. And when Jesus returns, our faith will result in praise and glory when Jesus is revealed. Why is at important? What difference does it make? Well I think it goes something like this.

Although the believers were undergoing all kinds of suffering it was growing and refining their faith. It was proving it genuine. It was revealing to those that were exercising that it was real and made a difference. And that process in itself made it stronger and more pure. And how does it relate to praise and glory when Jesus returns? Our faith is what proves to others that we are Christians. When we are guarded by faith in trials, people take notice and ultimately leads them to God. And though we see some rewards in this life by exercising faith, one day our faith will be rewarded when Jesus comes to take us home.

Where is your faith being tried right now? How is God using these trials to make your faith more genuine? How can seeing that your faith will one day give praise and glory to God encourage you? Give thanks to God for giving you genuine faith. Every trial we go through makes it more genuine. It is the most precious possession we own. Guard it well!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

No Fade Inheritance!

1 Peter 1:3-4

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

After a brief introduction, Peter sets the table for the rest of the letter by stating who we are through our new birth in Christ. This word is only used by Peter in the New Testament, but has the same meaning of John's "born again" used in John 3:5. He mentions this idea of re-birth and regeneration in two other places in this letter. As the believers faced persecution, as we talked about yesterday, knowing who they have become and where they were going some day is of great encouragement.

Importantly this new birth is into a living hope. It is not a hope that is here one day and gone tomorrow, but living in us. Secondly, although of our possessions here on earth perish, spoil or fade, what we inherit as God's children will never fade or spoil. If have noticed the nice things we get here on earth are also subject to the wear and tear this world brings. Every time I have bought a new car (3 times now), I love the new car smell, and the perfect exterior finish with no scratches or dents. I was always anxiously awaiting when that first scratch would come. I washed it maybe a couple of times a week to preserve the new car.

Over time, soon enough, came a scratch here or there. A dent in the side door from the guy parked next to you. A spilled soda on the interior. I tried to maintain my car as much as possible but inevitably it wore down. The buyers and sellers call this depreciation. With any possession we have here, there is depreciation. Of course there are sentimental things we own that have value of their own, but that is because it is attached to a relationship, not the thing itself. But Peter wanted to let the early believers know that no matter what happens here on earth, a glorious inheritance is awaiting that will never spoil or fade away.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Chosen Ones!

1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

As we start the letter of 1 Peter, the first two verses give us insight into who this letter is written to, and it's purpose. We see it starts, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ". If we date this letter around 62-63 AD, most scholars agree that is indeed Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus three times, but was reinstated after Jesus' resurrection. Tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside down under Emperor Nero's brutal reign, because he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified as Jesus was.

We also see who Peter is writing to. It says to the exiles scattered throughout Asia Minor. Both Jews and converted Gentiles were exiled after the temple was overrun. Most of these regions were populated by Gentiles though and were churches planted by the apostle Paul on his missionary trips recorded in Acts. Peter's purpose is to encourage the early believers in the midst of their trials. Ultimately their encouragement comes from their being God's elect people who He has chosen in His foreknowledge according to His grace. Simply put, if God had chosen them, God would give them power in the Risen Christ to withstand these fiery ordeals.

1 Peter has great encouragement for Christians who are suffering in any way. Sometimes it is hard to see God's purpose when we are suffering. It is hard to take a long view when in the short term we are in pain. Not only is Peter's letter meant to encourage us, but also to challenge us to live out our faith in bold ways. He knows that as we stay faithful in the midst of suffering it will be the proof of their faith in Jesus Christ. As we read this book I think it will have a lot to say to us today. Although we may not be suffering in the same way as these first Christians, we still will undergo trials and temptations. Peter's letter will encourage and challenge you to remember that God has chosen you out of the world to be a witness to His only Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to be ready at any time to give an answer for the hope we have within us!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What is the Truth?

James 5:19-20

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

We have different words for somebody who has fallen away from the faith, "backslider", "lukewarm Christian", or "not walking with The Lord". The bottom line is that a lot of us have had times in our lives where we have wandered away from the Truth. Sometimes more obviously and dramatically, or sometimes in the form of the "the subtle sellout". As the passage says we have wandered away from the Truth. We have wandered away from Jesus who is the Truth. And we have believed the lie, the evil one is always throwing in our face.

And what is this lie? The big lie is that we can have a better, easier way outside of Jesus' plan for our lives. Following Jesus is not the best alternative. So we wander away and try out some other way, some other purported "truth". Notice in the NIV translation Truth is capitalized. Showing that it is THE TRUTH! The truth about who God is, the truth about who we are, and the truth about how we in our sinful nature have been reconciled to God through what Jesus did. When someone believes in these truths, they are saved and become children of God. (This is also called "being born again"). As we are saved by the Truth, we continue to walk in it. Since we are given the Holy Spirit, which is also called the Spirit of truth, we now know the difference between right and wrong. As we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we walk in truth, and the truth sets us free.

But despite knowing all of this and having the proof of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we are still prone to wander. Why? Because we still live with a sinful nature that tells us there is a better way. This nature wants us to take back control of our lives. And when we do this, we wander away from the truth and see the errors of our ways. Here is where being in a community of other believer really helps. When someone knows you it is apparent when one is "straying". Of course God is the only one who can help us turn back to him (this is what the term repent means). But God uses us as brothers and sisters in Christ to bring each other back when we have strayed.

Do you know someone who is wandering away from the Truth? First, all of pray for them that the Holy Spirit in them might guide them back to the truth. Second of all, be part of bringing this person back to God as the Spirit leads you. And know this, when a sinner turns back to God it covers a multitude of sins. How? It covers all the things this person would have done had they not returned to God! We probably cannot imagine what has been prevented as a wanderer finds his way home. In the Prodigal Son story the Father waits for the lost Son and says when he sees him returning, "my son was lost and now He is found!" There is great joy in heaven when one person who is lost is found.