Monday, January 22, 2018

Peter's Word 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. Do not let your adorning be external-- the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

 (1 Peter 3:1-6 ESV)

In our last devotion, as we continued our walk through 1 Peter, we looked at a pretty unpopular subject: submission. This theme continues into the third chapter of this epistle.  But this passage is unpopular not only because it again addresses submission.  It also addresses it to wives.

Many women today, even Christian women, think of this as an old-fashioned attitude. They think of it as demeaning to women. And, for this reason, they try to dismiss this teaching and explain it away.

Yet, we see clearly in Scripture that God has set up an order for the home. And it in no way implies that women are inferior to men. It’s an order that reflects our position in Christ (see Ephesians 5:22-33).

However, in this passage, there’s another reason for the submission that’s commanded. Wives are to submit that their husbands might be encouraged in faith. Even if they don’t obey the Word, even if they aren’t believers, wives are called to submit that they might be won for the Lord, that they might be drawn to faith in Christ.

The simple truth is this: When a woman lives out her faith before her husband, it can make a great impression on him. It can make a greater impression on him than anyone else. It can do so because he sees her life like no one else.

When she is respectful toward him, and when he observes her pure conduct, it reveals the genuine nature of her faith. And not only is this true. When she is respectful to her husband, although he clearly doesn’t deserve it, she is manifesting the grace of God. She is expressing the grace of God which is lavished upon undeserving sinners.

Women put a great deal of effort into their appearance, desiring to appear beautiful. They adorn themselves with beautiful clothes and jewelry. They adorn themselves with lovely hairstyles and make-up. But Peter calls on them to adorn themselves in a different way. He calls on them to adorn themselves with internal qualities. He calls on them to adorn themselves with a quiet and gentle spirit.

We’ll address the men in our next devotion. However, may all of you ladies reflect Christ in your marriage. May your faith, and may the expression of your faith, draw your husband to the Lord rather than hinder him.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gracious Submission

“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. 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. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

(1 Peter 2:18-25 ESV)

I think it’s safe to say that most of us want nothing to do with submission. When we’re called in Scripture to submit, the hair on our neck stands on end. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do. And we don’t want to be under anyone’s authority but our own.

Perhaps our American mindset, of absolute freedom, plays into this. We’re constantly being reminded of our freedoms and liberties. However, our problem with submission ultimately flows from our sinful nature. It flows from our desire to be lord of our own life.

Our reaction against submission is even more severe when we deem our authorities unjust. If we feel that we’re being treated unfairly, our instinct is to rebel. Our instinct is to push back.

However, as we see in the above passage, we are called to submit to our authorities. And we’re called to do so not only when we’re being treated justly. We’re called to submit even when we’re being treated unfairly.

We’re called upon, in this passage, to suffer graciously. We’re told that it’s a credit to us when we endure injustice. We are called upon to follow the example of Christ.

We’re reminded that what Jesus suffered was far from just. However, as he suffered, he did not react against his persecutors. He, instead, entrusted himself into the care of God.

He did this for us. He did this for our blessing. He did this that he might bear the punishment of our sin.

He did this that we might die to our sinful nature. He did this that we might not continue living for sin. He did this that we might, instead, live for the glory of God.

When we’re treated unjustly by our authorities, we are to graciously submit.  We are to do so for the blessing of those around us. We’re to do so even for the blessing of those who dole out our suffering.

We’re to do so, entrusting ourselves to the care of God. We’re to entrust ourselves to him knowing that, even if we don’t receive justice in this life, we will in the end. We can be confident that those who act to harm us will ultimately answer to him.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Why Resolutions Fail

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4 ESV

With the change of year, many of us make resolutions. We see things in our life that we want to change, and we resolve to do better. Maybe we want to eat better and lose weight. Perhaps we want to better handle our finances. Or maybe we want to take control of our speech.  But, whatever the case may be, we look at the new year as an opportunity to start with a clean slate.

Sadly, few of us make it even a month before abandoning our efforts. We quickly tire of battling old habits and desires, and go back to our prior way of life. And, in the end, we are no different than we were the previous year.

The same is often true in our life of faith. As we look to God’s Word, our sin is evident. And we want to do better. We want to leave these sins behind.

Once again, we strive to do better. But, we quickly tire of these efforts. And before long, we return to the sin we desired to leave behind.

We will never be free of sin this side of eternity. But, as we seek to do better, as we seek to turn from sin, we have the wrong motive. Our reason for making a change is insufficient.

We often try to change for our own sake, to make ourselves a better person. We try to change because we want to feel better about ourselves. We try to change in an effort to make ourselves worthy of God and his blessings. We try to change in an effort to improve our image and our standing in this life.

With motives like these, we will never make a permanent change. Once the battle gets hard, we’ll decide it’s no longer worth it. We’ll conclude that our efforts are futile and that true change is elusive.

However, when we truly recognize the kindness of God, true change, true repentance, is possible. Recognizing that God has provided salvation in spite of our unworthiness, recognizing that he loved us when we were unlovable, this repentance flows naturally. In response to his love, we want nothing more than to love this God in return. As we see above, God’s kindness leads us to repentance.

At this point, change that couldn’t be attained by our own willpower, that we were powerless to effect in our life, suddenly becomes possible.  And it’s the gospel that makes it possible. The message of God’s grace, and the reception of that grace, results in a sincere repentance and the power of God at work in our heart.

Our focus, then, must not be on the things we can do to change. Our focus must be upon Christ and what he has done for us. We must sincerely trust in the gospel knowing that, as we do so, he will be at work within us and that change will happen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Sacred Nature of Life

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

(Ezekiel 18:23 ESV)

January is a month that has been recognized as Sanctity of Life Month. The 21st of January will be Sanctity of Life Sunday.  It’s a time to remember that, because it was created by God, all human life is sacred.

Our focus, during this time of year, is typically on abortion. And it’s needless to say that this practice is a terrible evil. However, the scope of this remembrance goes much further. It speaks to issues such as euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, in vitro fertilization, living wills, contraception, and more.

One of the primary things we must remember, when it comes to life issues, is that God is the giver of life. Life flows from him. And life has value because of him.

We remember from the creation account that God formed man and breathed into him the breath of life. We’re told also, in John 1, that life is in the Word, that it’s in Jesus. And we find in Scripture that not only did God provide for us life in this world. He’s also provided for us eternal life. Through Jesus he’s enabled us to live not only for eighty, ninety, or even one hundred years. He’s enabled us to live forever.

Even though he is just, even though he issued the punishment of death upon man in response to our sin, and even though he’s decreed the punishment of hell for those who do not receive salvation, he doesn’t take pleasure in this. He is not a sadistic God who celebrates as the wicked receive their due. As we see in the above passage, it’s his desire that the wicked should turn from his way and live.

It’s God’s desire that all should live.  It’s his desire that all should live forever.  And, for this reason, he’s made eternal life available for everyone.  Jesus’ death served as the atoning sacrifice for the lives of not only a few, but for all.

This great blessing is available to all people through faith in him.  By trusting in Jesus, by trusting in his sacrifice, we’re enabled to receive salvation.  And we are called to take this message to the world around us.

Seeing that God desires life for all, we should share this desire. We should desire that people would gratefully receive the blessing of life in this world, and that it would not be denied them.  And we should also desire that all people will receive the blessing of eternal life. It should be our desire that, through faith in Jesus, they will receive salvation from sin and death.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Proper Use of Freedom

“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 2:16-17)

As Christians, we tend to err in one of two ways. Some of us fall into legalism. We depend upon the law to attain for us salvation and the blessing of God. And, on the other side of the spectrum, some of us fall into antinomianism. We believe that, because we’re saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what we do. We feel that we can do as we please because God freely forgives us.

Both of these mindsets are a misunderstanding of the gospel. Scripture tells us that the Law does not save us. In fact, it cannot do so. And it also tells us that the Christian life is one of repentance. It’s a life of turning from sin and living for the Lord.

In the above verses, Peter tells us to live as people who are free. And we should do just that.  We should do so because, again, we are not saved by our obedience to the law, but by the grace of God. We have also been freed from the requirements of the ceremonial law.

This truth takes a great weight off of our shoulders. No longer must we be consumed by efforts to earn our salvation. And no longer are we burdened by unrealistic requirements that have nothing to do with our redemption.

However, that being said, we are not to use this freedom as an excuse for our sin. We cannot live as we please, doing as we choose, believing that our sinful actions will be overlooked by God. We must not live in unrepentance, believing that it doesn’t matter.

We must bear in mind that, since we’re now free from this bondage, we are servants of God.  We must not forget that our life belongs to him. And we must not forget that we’ve been called to willingly and gladly honor him in all that we do.

In this spirit, we’re to honor everyone. We’re to love the brotherhood, meaning the people of the church. We’re to fear God. And we’re also to honor those who rule over us.  In all of these ways, we act as servants of God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Above Reproach

“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.”

 (1 Peter 2:13-15 ESV)

As we live in this world, Christians are often accused. Some of these accusations are made in an effort to discredit us, while others are made in an effort to shame us. This is done with the goal of silencing us and discrediting our ministry.

These accusations often have the intended effect. We cringe when, as believers in Jesus, we’re referred to as a “goody-two-shoes” or as a “do-gooder.” These comments are intended as insults, and this is the way that we take them.  And, for this reason, we seem determined to prove that we can sin with the best of them.

We are, of course, sinners. It’s not my intention to imply otherwise.  However, our desire to fit in with the world around us opens us to sins we otherwise might not commit.

We seem to think that we can only reach out to the world if we identify with them.  And, by identify with them, I mean taking part with them in their sin. We think that we must talk like them and behave like them if they’re to listen to us.

We’re also, at times, dismissive of “small” sins that we commit. Even though we do our best to keep from falling into the "big" sins, we pay little attention to others. We intentionally drive above the speed limit. We cheat on our taxes. We park illegally. We refuse to submit to the authorities in these ways because, in our mind, it’s no big deal.

However, as we see in the above passage, our actions serve as a testimony to the world around us. It reveals to them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are different. It reveals to them that we have, indeed, been set apart from the world around us. It reveals to them that we have been transformed by the gospel.

As they accuse us, as they seek to find fault with us, our life silences them. When they see the good that we do, they can only conclude that we are, in fact, living out our faith. And, in this way, all of their efforts to discredit us come to nothing.

This is God’s will for us, according to Peter. It’s his desire that we will live life in such a way that our accusers have nothing left to say.  It’s his will that we live our life in such a way that their ignorance is made clear. It’s his will that, as people look at our lives, there is no question that these accusations are baseless.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Because of His Great Mercy

“For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.”

(Dan 9:18 ESV)

Prayer is something in which we regularly engage. As we go through our day to day life, and as we encounter various trials and struggles, we end up with a laundry list of requests for the Lord. We then go to the Lord, asking him to help us with these trials and to remove from us our struggles.

We’re also confronted with our sin on a daily basis. And, as we recognize our wrongdoing, we again go to the Lord in prayer. We go to him asking that he might forgive us.

Typically, when we bring our requests to the Lord, we approach him arguing that we are deserving of the blessing we seek. We make our request, reminding him of our faithfulness. We make our request, reminding him of our love for him. We make our request, reminding him of our goodness and of our obedience to him.

We’ll also, at times, make our request promising something in return. We tell God that, if he grants to us the blessing we seek, we’ll do something for him. We’ll perform some duty that, up to this point, we’ve been hesitant to perform. We’ll surrender an area of our life that, up to this point, we’ve held back.

We fail to realize, as we pray in this way, that we are not depending on the grace of God for his blessing. We are, instead, engaging in works righteousness. We’re trying to earn God’s blessings by our efforts. We are seeking his blessing because of our imagined sense of inherent righteousness.

We fail to realize that we’re a sinful people and that, because of our sin, we deserve nothing from God. In fact, the only thing we deserve from him is judgment. We cannot rightly approach him for any blessing based upon our own merit.

We must, instead, follow the example of Daniel, in the above passage. As he asked for God’s mercy for himself and his people, and as he requested God’s blessing, he didn’t base it upon their goodness. He did not approach God believing that they were deserving of this blessing. He approached God, asking for his grace.

He tells God that he approaches him, not because of the righteousness of his people. He approaches God because of his mercy. He approaches God not because of their character, but because of his.

As we approach God, we must do the same. We must do so recognizing our unworthiness. We must do so recognizing that only by of his grace can we receive his blessing. We must approach him based not upon who we are, but upon who he is.