Archive for January, 2018

2 Peter 2

2 Peter 2 has the focus being on false teachers and how we need to watch for and avoid that teaching.  He reminds us of how God deals with those who sin and those who are “blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as  the wage for their wrongdoing”. These three examples of judgment show us the important principle that Peter wants to highlight.

  • God judged the angels who sinned, so no one is too high to be judged.
  • God judged the ancient world before the flood, so God doesn’t grade on a curve, only comparing man among other men.
  • God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, so even the prosperous can be judged.

There is no reason to think you can escape God’s judgment.  It just can’t happen. Many have gone astray.  “They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing”. Balaam was guilty of the greatest of sins – leading others into sin, and that for the sake of his own gain. Balaam had to be restrained by a dumb donkey because he would not listen to God.  He “was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness”.  God will deal with us in judgment.

It is better for a person to have never known a thing about Jesus than to hear some truth, hold to it for a season, and then later reject it. Greater revelation has a greater accountability. “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first”.  It can appear here that Peter is describing the potential of losing one’s salvation if you fall back into sin.  But that isn’t necessarily what it says.

Guzik writes that Christians warmly debate the issue of whether or not it is possible for a true Christian to ever lose their status as saved and fall away to eternity in hell. Perhaps the best way of understanding the issue is to say that it is certainly true that those who appear saved – those who fit the description of Peter here – can end up in a place where it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.  Those with a Reformed perspective will say that they were actually never saved; those with an Arminian perspective will say that they were actually saved and lost their salvation.  We shouldn’t focus on which of those two outcomes are true, but focus on walking with Jesus so we don’t have to worry about what happens if we walk away from God and our relationship with Him.

2 Peter 1

2 Peter 1 has the Apostle reminding us that God has given us all things.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”.  We come to knowledge of Him as we learn of Him through His Word, through prayer, and through the community of God’s people. It is true that we need God alone, but God does not meet us only in our solitude but also in the community of His people.

Peter challenges us to grow in our walk with Christ.  It begins with faith….” For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love”….and it ends with love.  Love is the ultimate outcome of all God’s work in us. These beautiful qualities are not things that the Lord simply pours into us as we sit back and wait but we are called to work on these things, working in partnership with God to build them into our lives.

Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall”. This shows how we can be sure that God called us, and that we are His elect. As we see these things in our life, we know that our lives are becoming more like Jesus. It shows that we are being conformed to the image of His Son.  We have to pay attention because the enemy wants to stop our efforts to become like Christ.  “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty”.  The enemy tries to deceive us.  We have to focus on growing our character.

We can have confidence in what will happen.  “We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”. Even in Peter’s day enemies of Jesus twisted Old Testament prophecies, giving them personal and bizarre meanings attempting to change the future of God’s plan through Jesus.

1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5 has him reminding the elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory”.  The label ‘elder’ is more about wisdom and maturity than age. Peter was qualified to speak because he is a fellow elder.  There is a responsibility to use our wisdom to help those in our patch.

Peter then speaks to the younger crowd and says “you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”. His word to be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility applies to everyone.  Leaders mus still be under authority.  Only God is an authority with no other. True humility is shown by our ability to cast our care upon God. It is pride and presumption to worry and care about things that God has promised to take care of.

He reminds us that we have a very real enemy who is out to destroy us.  “Be sober-minded; be watchful.Your  adversary the devil prowls around  like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”. Peter exhorts us to remain clear-headed (sober) and watchful, because Satan has not yet been bound and restrained.  We know what happens at the end of the war, but for now, the enemy is still out fighting battles seeking to destroy us.

And Peter wraps up his letter reminding us what lies ahead.  “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you”.  We may indeed go through some suffering, but it won’t be without a reward.  Peter lists four things that God Himself will do for us as Christ Followers if we endure and come before Him one day. But what does this glory looks like.  Guzik shared this list:

– It is the glory of purified character.

– It is the glory of perfected humanity.

– It is the glory of complete victory.

– It is the glory of being honored by a King.

– It is the glory of reflecting the glory of God.

– It is the glory of the immediate and constant presence of God.

– It is the glory of the enjoyment of God Himself.

God, who will do this great work in our lives is certainly worthy of our praise.

1 Peter 4

In 1 Peter 4, he challenges us to love each other.  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins”.  Love does cover a multitude of sins, both the sins of the one loving and the sins of the one who is being loved.  Grudem wrote “Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts about – to Satan’s perverse delight.”  Love should define us as Christ Followers.

God has equipped us to function together in the body of Christ.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ”.  There are several principles of spiritual gifts that Peter points out here:

  1. Gifts are given to all of us as Christ Followers
  2. Gifts are given to serve others, not for our own benefit
  3. Gifts are given to glorify God, not ourselves

This chapter speaks about the end times, and it won’t be rosy as we approach that time.  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed….if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God  in that name.”.  Guzik wrote “We should never deny the place of suffering in building godliness in the Christian life. Though there is much needless pain we bear through lack of knowledge or faith, there is also necessary suffering. If suffering was a suitable tool to teach Jesus (Hebrews 5:8), it is a suitable tool to teach His servants”.

He reminds us that we will all stand before God someday and give account for our lives.  “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God….Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good”.  Christians can rejoice that the sufferings they face in this life are the worst they will ever face throughout all eternity. We have seen the worst; those who reject Jesus Christ have seen the best of life their eternal existence will ever see.  What lies ahead for them will be much worse.

1 Peter 3

1 Peter 3 begins with him speaking directly to wives.  “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct”.  A godly wife will be submissive to her husband. This submission isn’t a reward for the husband’s good behavior; God commands it as the proper order of the home.  Submission has no requirement of any action by the husband.  But God has a different expectation of men.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”. A godly husband lives with his wife. He doesn’t merely share a house, but he truly lives with her. The godly husband understands the essential unity or oneness God has established between husband and wife.  Men are not superior to women in any way.  In fact, submission is man’s responsibility to protect and care for a woman.

Peter goes on to talk with all mankind.  “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind”.  Most of us are willing to have one mind, as long as that one mind is my mind! But the one mind is to be the mind of Christ.  The world does not revolve around us.  It needs to revolve around Christ in and through us.  Peter described the kind of warm love that should be among the people of God.  We are part of the family of God and as such, need to express real love for one another.  He is watching.  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”.  How we live and treat one another matters!

We should live in a way that “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”.  Jesus is the center of our universe and we need to be prepared to share the truth of our relationship with Him.  We need to be prepared to share our faith with gentleness and respect, but be prepared for the response we may receive which may not be positive at all. Our future is secure as Christ “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him”.  He is able, more than able, to save us from all things!

1 Peter 2

In 1 Peter 2, he writes about how we should focus on growing as Christ Followers.  “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”.  The failure to either desire or to receive this pure milk of the word is the reason for so many problems in both individual Christian lives and in congregations.  It is how we can grow.  God has provided us what we need to grow spiritually, but we have to take in the truth which is contained in His Word.  It’s there for us.  We merely have to make it our own.

Peter’s picture here is that God is building a spiritual temple (a spiritual house) using living stones (Christians), those who have come to the ultimate living stone (Jesus).  “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”.  As God builds us up, we become holy priests that are empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.  We have direct access to God through Christ!

Peter defines who we are in Christ: “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”.  Now in Jesus we belong to God as His own special people.  We’ve been called by Him to Himself.  We are chosen, royal, holy, and His.  Why?  To proclaim His glory and Christ crucified.  God didn’t select us for our own benefit alone, but to be light in the darkness and point people to the Cross.

We will face difficult times.  “If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God”.  We will struggle and even suffer.  But Jesus did too.  “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed”.  Jesus set the example of how we need to live.  He was perfect, and yet suffered.  We are not, and will suffer.  But Christ paid the price for our sins.  He has set us free and healed us, soul and spirit, and allows us to live righteously in God’s sight.

1 Peter 1

1 Peter 1 has the writer we learn about the reality of our life as a Christ Follower.  “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”.  Here’s the result of the gospel – Jesus gives us the opportunity to be born again and receive an inheritance that can never be lost.  It is guarded by God’s power for eternity.

Our relationship with Christ is based on faith.  “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.  Faith is the assurance of things not seen.  That’s what we have to have in order to have a relationship with Jesus.  Some struggle to find that faith.  But we have to dig into Scripture to understand the blessings of God’s truth and realize that believing in Jesus will lead to salvation for eternity.  Faith is the key.

Peter goes on to describe how we should live as a Christ Follower.  “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”.  Because of our salvation, we need to put our hope fulling on God’s grace.  Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  It is unmerited favor.  We need to stay focused on the promises of God and live in a way that is pleasing to Him, as holy just as God is holy.

Peter breaks it down to the most basic way we can be holy, to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again”.  Being born again should change us.  It should fill us with love.  That love should flow from a pure heart.  Being born again makes us different.  We have a new mission, to live God’s way and love those in our patch.  Our heart can become pure and we need to stay focused on walking with our Savior.  Our orders will never change.  “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever”.  We are to love!

James 5

James 5 confronts the reality of riches when used incorrectly.  “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you….You have laid up treasureYou have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence”.  There is nothing wrong with money.  It’s how we respond to money that matters.  All the money on the planet belongs to God.  When we lose sight of that, and think somehow it is our own, we slide down a slippery slope of greed and idolatry that will lead to God’s response. “You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you”. There will be a price to pay for living rich.

It doesn’t necessarily happen quickly.  God tells us to be patient. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”.  Everything happens in its time.  And we are not in control, of the rain, or God’s return.  So how we live matters.  Not only with our money, but also in how we relate to each other.  James tells us to “let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no”.  That is a noble thought.  Wouldn’t it be nice if a person’s word meant something?  That’s what God expects.

He also expects us to be engaged with those in our patch.  “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord”.  God works in our lives through the body of Christ – the church.  We need to do life together there, and live life in a way that those around us can be part of the challenges we face.  The Christian life is not meant to be a solo event.  We are to do life as Christ Followers together.

But it goes deeper than praying for each other.  James tells us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working”.  We’re getting pretty deep now.  It’s one thing to ask for prayer, its entirely another to be transparent about our sins.  But that’s how the church should work.  We need to be accountable to each other.  And we need to submit to each other too.  “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. We have a responsibility to help each other stay the course.  If we wander, we need someone to pull us out of the ditch and back on the path of being a Christ Follower.  It’s our responsibility to each other in the body!

James 4

James 4 has the writer teaching us about pride and wanting things.  “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask”.  God makes it clear that one of our issues is a failure to ask for things we want and need.  But there is a catch.  “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”.  Life is not about us, nor what we can accumulate.  God wants to give us more than we need, but not for ourselves.

He wants us to stand apart from the ways of the world.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God”?  We aren’t to fit into the world.  We are to stand apart because “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”.  We can’t serve God and man.  If we are going to live in a way that pleases God, we have to be willing to be different from the world around us. We have to be willing to stand firm even if it means we are different and don’t just slide into the world we live in.

There are some strong words about how we view ourselves.  “God opposes the proud, but  gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”. God looks for a humble heart.  Another reality that life is not about me.  In fact, we need to realize that the world revolves around Him, not us.  We do that by putting Him where He belongs – on the throne of our life.  “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts,  you double-minded”.  God needs to be in control of our life.

We also have to come to the realization that we are not determining the days of our life. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”.  But what we do certainly matters.  Sin is not just doing the things we know are wrong.  Sin also is not doing the things we know are right – “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”.  Sin is sin, and sins of commission are no worse than sins of omission.  God wants us to live in a way that aligns with His will, through what we do, or don’t do!

James 3

James 3 begins with the author reminding us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”.  God tells us in many places in scripture that those who teach or lead will be held to a higher standard.  We need to carefully consider the responsibility that comes with teaching and leading.  And then James launches into one of the key problem areas for every human – the tongue.  He makes it clear that small things create huge outcomes – be it a bridle, rudder, fire or our tongue.  They can all do great good when controlled properly.  We have to realize just how important it is to have that small part of our body under control.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet  it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire”!  Words matter.  What we say makes a significant impact to those in our patch.  The fire of the tongue has been used to burn many. “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”.  James isn’t telling us to never speak or to take a vow of silence; in many ways that would be easier than exercising true self-control over the tongue.

But he is warning us that “no human being can tame the tongue”.  Trying hard is not the answer here.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to win this fight.  There aren’t many sins that don’t involve talking in some way.  “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people  who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so”.  Our excuse can’t be that we just can’t help it. The tongue can be brought under the power and the control of the Holy Spirit. Only God Himself is mightier than the human tongue!  So to tackle taming it on our own will be futile.  We need God’s help from God’s helper – the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

James goes on to describe God’s wisdom telling us “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”. God’s wisdom is shown clearly by its fruit. This wisdom can be seen by the fruit it produces. It isn’t just the power to think and talk about things the right way, it truly yields a fruitful result.  James isn’t talking about theory here.  If we seek and live out God’s wisdom, our life will bear the fruit of godliness and make an impact in the lives of those in our patch!

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