Friday, October 20, 2017

Because You’ve Been Born Again

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:22-23‬ ‭ESV

The message that we’re to love one another is nothing new. We see it time and again in Scripture. And, in the above passage, Peter calls on us to love one another earnestly.

We all fail, when it comes to this command. We fail to love each other as God calls us. And even though this is a problem, the bigger problem is the way we excuse this failure.

We excuse our failure to love by pointing to our sinful nature.  We’re sinners, we say. We say that nobody’s perfect. And, although this is true, we use this truth in a way it’s not intended to be used.

We use this to excuse our ongoing behavior. We use it to dismiss the clear and obvious sin in our life. We use this truth to explain why we’ve acted so unloving, and why this behavior will continue in the future. We use it to say that we do not intend to turn from our sin and to walk in love as God has called us.

Peter approaches this differently. We are to love one another earnestly, he says, because we’ve been born again of imperishable seed. In other words, we’re to love one another earnestly because we’ve been born of God and have received the blessing of everlasting life.

Even though it’s true that our sinful nature will remain a part of us until we meet the Lord face to face, it’s not to dictate our actions. It’s the salvation of God that’s to do so. We are to love one another earnestly because Christ has saved us from sin and death.

Because we’ve been saved from sin, we’re to love one another earnestly. Because we are the children of God, we’re to love one another earnestly. This is the identity in which we’re to live.




Monday, October 16, 2017

Taking the Grace of God for Granted


“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

(1 Peter 1:17-19)



As a people who have heard the gospel time and again, our tendency is to take it lightly. We begin to take the grace of God for granted. We begin thinking that our way of life does not matter because God loves us and will forgive us no matter what we do. We go through our day to day life assuming that God’s grace will be present in our life even though we completely disregard him.



We’re reminded of a few truths in the above passage that should cause us to think twice. They cause us to rethink our flippant attitude when it comes to God. They create within us an attitude of repentance. And they cause us to value his grace above the sin to which we desperately cling.



We’re reminded, first of all, that God judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. In other words, God doesn’t show favoritism. He’s not going to hold us to a different standard than he will others because we were raised in the church or in a Christian home. His judgment is based on his holiness and righteousness, a standard up to which none of us can live.



We’re, then, called upon to conduct ourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile, or the time of our life here in this world. We’re reminded, in these words, that this world is not our home. We are citizens of God’s kingdom, and must live as such. We must live as his representatives, as his ambassadors, until the day he calls us home.



This also means that we must live reverent lives. We must realize our place before God. And, for this reason, we must defer to the Lord in all that we do. We must seek to honor and glorify him in all things.



We are to do this knowing that our salvation came at a great price. Our sin was not something that God was able to simply overlook. It required the life of his Son. Jesus had to give his life on the cross for us, that we might be forgiven. He had to give his life, even though he knew no sin and was in no way deserving of this fate.


When we consider these truths, we realize that we cannot take God’s forgiveness and mercy for granted. We can’t count on them while we’re embracing sin and rejecting his deliverance. His grace is more valuable than anything else we could possess, and we’ll treat it as such.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Transforming Power of the Gospel


“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, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

(1Peter 1:13-16 ESV)



As a people who have been saved, the course of our life has been forever changed. Now that we’ve been freed from sin and death, and now that we are receiving the salvation of our souls, we are released to a life of service to God. And we prepare ourselves for this service, we remain sober-minded, by setting our hope on the grace of God.



It’s not our will-power, but the gospel, that motivates this service, or this action. It’s a response to the salvation God has promised us, and it’s also empowered by the gospel. Knowing that, at the return of Christ, we’ll be welcomed into the kingdom of God, knowing that we’ll be released from this carnal existence, we are both motivated and enabled to live a new life.



As a people who’ve been saved, as a people who’ve been made to be the children of God, we’re not to be conformed to the sinful desires of our past. We’re not to allow ourselves to be enslaved once again to these passions. We’re, instead, to reflect the nature of the God who saved us.  As he’s holy, we’re called to be holy.



Many of us, who profess faith in Christ, fail to realize the freedom we’ve been given. We fail to set our hope on the grace of God. Even after confessing faith in Christ, we continue our efforts to satisfy our sinful desires. We do not repent. We do not turn from the sin from which God has saved us.



However, by setting our hope on the grace of God, this will change. Instead of the pursuit of worldly pleasure, the glories of God’s kingdom will be our heart’s longing. We’ll yearn for something that’s far greater than the pleasures of this life. And, in this way, we’ll begin to desire the things that he desires.



We won’t be perfect on this side of eternity. We won’t perfectly reflect the holiness of God until we’re transformed on the last day. However, the desire of our heart will be to please him. We’ll desire only to live in the freedom he’s granted us. And, for this reason, we’ll turn our back on the sinful desires that have tormented and enslaved us.








Monday, October 09, 2017

The Sole Focus of Scripture


“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

(1Peter 1:10-12 ESV)



There’s a mistake we tend to make when it comes to the Bible. Even though we believe that the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament, we tend to think that these two parts of the Bible have a different focus. We tend to think that the focus of the Old Testament is law and that of the New Testament is gospel.



We also make the mistake of thinking that, although we are saved by the grace of God through faith, believers of Old Testament times were saved by their obedience. We don’t seem to grasp the fact that, just as we’re unable to keep God’s law, just as we’re unable to save ourselves, the same was also true of them. We don’t seem to grasp the fact that they too were saved by grace through faith.



The focus of Scripture from beginning to end is one. This is what Peter is pointing out to us in the above passage. He’s telling us that the prophets who spoke in the Old Testament were testifying about Jesus. God gave to them his promises of the coming Savior.



This is why Jesus was able to point back to the Old Testament as he explained his purpose.  We see an example of this in Luke 24, as Jesus appeared to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. They were trying to make sense of everything that had taken place.  Then, in verse 27, we read: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”



This doesn’t mean that the prophets or the people of Old Testament times had a complete understanding of Jesus. This is why, we’re told, they inquired carefully what person or time was being indicated. God was revealing to them about the salvation that was to come, and they wanted to know more. They longed to understand the details of his coming.



In this sense, the Old Testament prophets were serving us. By their message, they were revealing to us the Savior who’s been born into the world. They were pointing us to Jesus, who came into the world that he might provide for us salvation.



For this reason, my challenge to you is this: As you read the Bible, from beginning to end, look for Jesus. He is the sole focus of Scripture. From Genesis to Revelation, God is revealing to us his Son, who came into the world to save us from sin and death.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Outcome of 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.”

(1Peter 1:8-9 ESV)



Peter was called by Christ early on in his ministry, and he faithfully followed Jesus throughout his time on earth. And not only was he one of the twelve disciples, he was also part of the inner-circle. Along with James and John, he was closer to Jesus than any of the others.



As we read the gospels, we see that Peter was an eyewitness to the things Jesus said and did. He heard the teaching of Jesus first-hand. And, with his own eyes, he witnessed the many miracles Jesus performed, including his resurrection from the dead.



Considering this, we often tend to think that Peter had a leg up on us. We think that he was more blessed than you or I. However, we must bear in mind the words of Jesus, spoken to Thomas, in John 20:29, where he says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."



This, I believe, is what Peter is getting at in the above verses. He tells us that, although we haven’t seen Jesus, we love him. And even though we can’t see him now, we believe in him and rejoice in him. This is the very definition of faith. As we read in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”



He then goes on to say that we are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls. In these words, we are reminded of the fact that we are saved by faith. We are saved as we believe, as we trust, in Jesus.



This is the central truth of the Reformation, which began 500 years ago. Even though works flow naturally from faith, it is not they that save us. Nor is salvation a commodity that can be bought. It’s a free gift of God, given to us through faith in Jesus.



May we, then, continue to love Jesus. May we continue to believe and to rejoice in him. May we continue to do so in spite of the fact that we have not seen him. And may we live in the confidence that, through faith, we are receiving the salvation of our souls.

Monday, October 02, 2017

The Necessity of Hardship


“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

(1Peter 1:6-7 ESV)



We tend to believe, mistakenly, that life should be easy. We tend to believe, mistakenly, that, because we’re saved, God will spare us from all trials. And for this reason, we’re constantly disappointed, we’re constantly frustrated, with the continuing difficulties we face.



We fail to recognize that, although we have a great hope, we have not been promised an easy life in this world. We rejoice in the hope of the gospel, although we continue to be grieved by various trials. But, as Peter points out, these trials are not meaningless.



These trials vary from person to person. Yet, there is a purpose in the various trials we face. There’s a purpose in these trials, which are allowed by God.  Peter refers to them as necessary.



The purpose of these trials is to test the genuineness of our faith. Faith, you see, remains constant in the face of hardships. In fact, our trials will cause us to look to the Lord all the more. In this way, it proves our faith. In this way, it demonstrates our faith. And as our faith is proven, time and again, it results in praise, glory, and honor for the Lord.

                                                    

Because of this, as we face various trials, we should not respond with complaint and disappointment. We should realize that, through these trials, God is at work in our life. We should recognize that, by testing our faith, he is proving our faith. And we should recognize that, as he does so, he is bringing praise and glory to himself.



Knowing this, as we’re confronted with trials and hardships, we should ask God to build us in faith. We should trust that he is not working for our harm, but for our good. We must recognize that his purpose is not to upend our faith, but to confirm it. And, in all things, we should continue to rejoice in the hope of the salvation he has promised us.




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Better Hope


“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.”

(Psalm 118:8-9 ESV)



In my last post, we looked at the beginning of 1 Peter, and were reminded about the true source of hope for the believer in Jesus. We found that, through the Lord, we have been born again to a living hope. And this hope is not only for the moment. It’s one the endures for eternity.

This is a great comfort. And the reminder found in the above verses ties right in with this. It’s better to trust in the Lord than in man. It’s better to take refuge in him than in princes.

This is a sin to which we are all prone. As we face difficulties in this world, we tend to place our hope in man. As we’re faced with domestic and international threats, it could be a particular leader or politician in whom we place our trust. We might place our trust in the military. As we’re faced with health struggles, it could be a doctor in whom we place our trust. As we face existential crises, we might put our trust in a particular teacher or religious leader. The examples are endless.

In the current political climate here in the United States, I think we are prone to putting our faith in a particular leader. As a friend and a fellow AFLC pastor, Jason Gudim, recently published: “Our nation’s obsession with political saviors and antichrists is doing much more harm than any single political figure – male or female – has done in America…We are now prone to placing our hopes on a specific and personal political messiah instead of taking the initiative to finding and contributing to a solution.

Many on the left looked to President Obama as their political Messiah. In the same way, many on the right now look to President Trump as the one who will set all things right. In many ways, we’ve become more focused on politics, we’ve placed our hope more in man, than the Lord.

Many have become fearful of a nuclear North Korea. And we must admit that this is a very real threat. One way in which I am guilty is that I’ve placed my trust in our military. I know that we have a military more powerful than any on earth. I know that we have technology that is far more advanced than that of this enemy. And, for this reason, I’ve felt comforted. I’ve believed that we are generally safe from the attacks of this enemy. I’ve done so rather than simply trusting in the Lord as my help and my salvation.

The Lord is the only one in whom we should trust. He alone is to be our refuge. Although he can use princes, and although he can use military might, it’s he alone who can provide for us salvation.

The question each of us must ponder is this: In what ways have we trusted in man rather than the Lord? In what ways have we trusted in princes rather than the Lord? We must then repent, ask the Lord to forgive us for Christ’s sake, and ask him to turn our hearts toward him and him alone.