Friday, November 17, 2017

Minimizing the Threat

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Theologians have noted that there are three enemies which war against our soul: the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. And I believe that we understand the threat posed by the first two. However, I don’t think we grasp the danger of the third.

We understand that the devil opposes Christ and those who are his. He would like nothing more than to have us condemned to hell for all eternity. And, knowing this, we understand the importance of resisting him.

We also understand the danger of the world. We know that the world naturally opposes Christ. Because it is under the bondage of sin, it resists him at every turn. And it seeks to lure away from Christ those who trust in him.

Yet, when it comes to our flesh, when it comes to our sinful nature, we seem to minimize the danger. Although we acknowledge that we are sinners, and although we confess that we’re far from perfect, we seem to think the danger is minuscule.

Believing our intentions to be good, and not questioning our motives, we believe that our flesh is somewhat trustworthy. We scoff at those who’ve practiced extreme asceticism in an effort to put down the power of the flesh. And we instead choose to toy with it in our day to day life.

Peter is clear about the danger the flesh poses in the above verse. He urges us to abstain from the passions of the flesh. And he urges us to do so because they wage war against our soul.

The passions of our flesh are quite literally fighting against us. They seek to lure us from God. They seek ultimately our eternal destruction.

Coming to terms with this truth means taking more seriously the passions of the flesh. It means that, knowing their danger, we fight them as never before. We do so that our flesh might not find itself victorious, achieving the demise of our eternal soul.

We do this not by our own strength. We do so by looking to the Lord for strength. Confessing our sin, living in daily repentance, and standing firm in our faith, we resist it. We count our eternal blessedness of more value than the fleeting pleasures these passions provide.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Whose Glory Do We Seek?

“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 2:9-10 ESV)

We’ve seen already that, as believers in Jesus, God has made us a kingdom of priests. And, in the above passage, we see this truth once again. However, we also see the purpose of our priesthood.

We are a chosen race, we are a royal priesthood, we are a holy nation, we are a people for his own possession, that we might proclaim the excellencies of the one who saved us. We are his that we might declare his praises. In other words, we are his that we might testify of him and what he’s done for us. 

We have been sent out into the world that others might hear of him and place their faith in him. This truth is nothing new. Most of us are familiar with the Great Commission, and we understand this calling that God has placed on our life.

However, our tendency is to proclaim our own excellencies. Our tendency is to sing our own praises. We desire to make a name for ourselves and to earn the admiration of the masses.

We want to be thought of as wonderful parents. We want to be thought of as the best spouse. When it comes to our career, we want to be recognized as the best in our field. We want to be thought of as intelligent, caring, and hard-working. We then set out to prove these things to the world around us.

This is even true of us as we seek to serve God. We serve him, but there’s often an underlying motive in our service. We want the credit for the things that we do. We want others to think highly of us. We desire recognition not only from God, but also from man.

We want to be looked up to as an example of faith. We long to be admired for the things we do in the church. We may even seek the offices and titles which we believe will lead to this recognition. 

However, as priests of God, we are a people who have been called to serve God alone. As his priests, as his people, our focus is not to be upon ourselves. Our focus is not to be upon the honor we can gain for ourselves. We are called to point people to Christ and to the things he’s done for us.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Not An Entitlement, But An Honor

“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.”

(1Peter 2:6-8 ESV)

In our society, today, we have an attitude of entitlement. When bad things happen to us, we don’t think we deserve them. However, we do believe that we deserve every good thing. We believe that we’re deserving of every blessing God has to offer.

We must bear in mind that God’s blessing is not granted to us because of any inherent goodness in ourselves. Nor is it granted to us because of anything that we do. It’s given to us through faith.

Peter told us previously that, as believers, we are being built into a spiritual house. He now carries this picture into the above passage. And we see that Jesus is the cornerstone of this house.

In other words, the entire house is dependent upon him. It is built on him. He is the foundation upon which the rest of the building takes shape.

For this reason, according to Peter, the one who believes in Jesus will not be put to shame. Being incorporated into this house is an honor that God has given to those who believe. It’s a privilege that he gives to those who trust in him.

Those without faith in Christ, those who do not believe in him, will not share in this honor. They will not share in this blessing. Instead, Jesus will be for them a stone of stumbling. He will be the cause of their downfall.

In this way, Peter makes it clear that everything is dependent upon Jesus. We receive the blessings of God through faith in him alone. And, if we reject him, if we fail to trust in him, we can receive no blessing. In that case, we will receive only the consequences of our sin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Priesthood of All Believers

“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.”

(1Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

As we think, today, of the Reformation, this passage stands out.  In Luther’s Day, priests were viewed as holier than the people around them. Their work was viewed as greater in the eyes of God than that of others. However, he understood a simple truth from Scripture.  He understood that all believers are priests.

This is a truth Peter brings out in the above passage. He points out that, as we come to Christ, we are being built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. In this way, he tells us that all believers are priests set apart to serve God.

Even though most of us do not belong to the Catholic Church nor subscribe to Catholic doctrine, we tend to hold a similar mindset. We would never think of ourselves as a priest. We don’t think of ourselves as good enough to serve in this way.

We also think of their work as more significant than our own. We think that they serve God on a daily basis, while we do not. We think of our work as common and their work as spiritual.

We are wrong on both counts. We are good enough to be priests, not because of anything in ourselves, but because of Jesus. By his sacrifice, we have been made holy, and set apart for his service.

We also serve God on a daily basis. We serve him in our vocations. We serve him as a husband, wife, father, or mother. We serve him as a son or daughter. We serve him in our career. We serve him as we seek to be responsible citizens of our community and nation. And we use the gifts that he has given us for the edification of the church. We do everything for his glory and for the blessing of our fellow man.

Through Christ, we are all priests. Through Christ, we are all servants of God. And, through Christ, we all offer sacrifices to God. However, the sacrifices we offer are spiritual in nature. We don’t cut the throats of sheep or bulls. There is no need because Christ, by his death, has paid the penalty of our sin once and for all. We, instead, offer to him the sacrifices of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. We offer to him the sacrifice of our service, for his glory.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Because You Are Saved

“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.”

(1Peter 2:1-3 ESV)

As Christians, we often get things backwards.  We tend to think that, before we can be forgiven, we must clean up our lives. We think that we must become obedient and, only then, will God save us. And, as our failures mount, we often lose hope and doubt that we could ever be saved.

We also express this false gospel with the world around us. We tell them to clean up their lives before we share with them the true gospel. We believe that they must get rid of the sin in their lives and, only then, will God save them.

We see the proper order of things in the words of Peter, above. The “so” that begins this passage ties it back to the previous one. In other words, it’s because of the truth contained at the end of chapter 1 that we’re able to do what he commands in chapter 2.

Because we’ve been born again through the living and abiding Word of God, we’re to put away all malice and deceit. Because we’ve been born again, we’re to put away hypocrisy and slander. Because we’ve been born again, we’re to long for the pure spiritual milk. It's for this reason that we’re to long for the Word of God.

We do these things, as he tells us in verse 3, because we’ve tasted that the Lord is good. We do this because we know his goodness for ourselves. We do so because we’ve experienced his goodness in our life.

As we live in the gospel, as we live in God’s salvation, we continually turn from our sin. We do so by living in repentance and faith. Turning from sin and trusting in Jesus is not simply a one-time thing,  but a constant state in which we live as believers.

It’s true that we must understand our sin before we can receive the gospel. However, apart from the grace of God, we’re not able to change our behavior. It’s only because we are saved from sin, it’s only by his strength, that we’re able to put these things out of our lives.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Born Through the Word

“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; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

 (1Peter 1:22-25 ESV)

As believers in Jesus, we have been born again. This means that we’ve been given new life by God. While we once lived in the bondage of sin and death, we have been born from above. We’ve been born of God that we might be his people.

This is a wonderful truth.  But how does this happen? How are we born again? Peter tells us, in the above passage, that we are born again through the living and abiding word of God. 

We have a tendency to underestimate the power of the Word of God. We think of the Bible as a book that merely gives us information about God. We think of it as a history book, relaying to us how God has interacted with mankind throughout history. We think of it only as a book that gives us instruction on how to live.

While the Bible does all of these things, we often fail to realize that it’s a means of grace. We fail to realize that, through the Word, we receive the grace of God. As we hear God’s Word, or as we read it, and as we trust in him, we receive God’s grace.

This is a truth that Paul brings out to us in Romans 10. He tells us that we can’t call on the name of the Lord unless we first believe in him.  He goes on to say that we can’t believe in him unless we’ve first heard of him. In other words, as we hear the Word of God, we’re enabled to trust in Christ and to receive his salvation.

We also tend to think that the Bible is a book that is limited by time. We think that, if the authors of Scripture knew what we know now, they would not have said the things that they did. We think that the message of Scripture was true for the people of Biblical times, but not for us today. We tend to think of the Bible as a book that was written by mere men and, for this reason, we think it’s as limited as men.

However, even though the grass and flowers may perish, God’s Word abides forever. It will always remain.  Again, it is the living and abiding Word of God.

As we read Scripture, and as we hear it taught, may we look to it in this way. May we look to it as God’s timeless, eternal Word. And may we look to it as a means of his grace. May we realize that, each time we encounter God’s Word, he’s giving to us the opportunity to receive life.

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.