Thursday, December 24, 2009

Above All – 1 Peter 4:8

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. (RSV)

There are a few “above all” commands in the Bible. Of course, different versions phrase it a bit differently but here are some of them.

1 Chron 16:25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. (NIV) The first I found is the command to fear the Lord above all other gods. This is also recorded as a psalm of David. He wrote this when he brought the ark of God into Jerusalem. In the psalm, he recounts a brief history of God’s miracles, His provision, and His character. He compares God with the idols that are in the other nations. He also wrote in 1 Chron 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (NIV) While I need to have the proper respect (fear) for God, this psalm also reminds me that the multitude of my sins is covered because of His great love. The fear comes because I know that I don’t deserve His love. There is nothing I can do to earn it. It is there because of His nature and because He sent Jesus to pay for my sins. I can know Him because I accept Jesus. However, can you imagine what it would be like for someone to spurn God’s love by rejecting Jesus and what He went through to cover those sins? That person should have a fear of God, but it would be a fear of judgment. 1 Chron 16:33 for he comes to judge the earth. (NIV)

Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV) It is important for me to guard my heart. It isn’t just the physical organ that pumps my blood but represents my soul. Jesus put it this way: Matt 15:18-19 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. (RSV) The Bible also says that the heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9.) It also says that God will give me a new heart. Ezek 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (NIV) I get that new heart when Jesus takes up residence there by faith (Eph 3:17.) Because Jesus is there, I need to guard what I take into my soul. I don’t want to dump garbage on my Lord. I don’t want to expose my heart to junk that takes my mind and my thoughts away from His kingdom and His goals. As an example I have to be careful to screen TV commercials as well as shows to make sure I’m not buying into the world’s value system. I have to eliminate anything (books, movies, acquaintances) that would lead me into sexual sin, greed, envy, lust, judgmentalness, or any other evils that would then come out of my heart and turn into speech and actions.

James 5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation. (RSV) This is a command to be honest. It is a command to keep promises. I really get sick every time I see some character on TV saying to someone, “I promise I won’t let you be hurt.” The promise may be different but the situation is clearly out of the person’s control. There is no way that he or she can keep the promise. I think that they are sending the wrong message to kids and adults alike. The message is that I can promise anything but if the circumstances change, then I don’t have to complete it. It sets the stage for a multitude of sins. The command is to be honest in life, whether it is in marriage, business, with friends or children. The implication is that making a promise and breaking it is a sin and there will be condemnation if not consequences. Love isn’t going to break those promises thereby covering over, or better yet, avoiding sins.

2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV) I think that this could be the root of all the other “above all” commands. This is the very basis for my faith, that the Bible is the very words of God spoken through men. If I don’t have this as a firm foundation, then none of the other commands in the Bible are worth anything. If the Bible isn’t the words of God, then they have no authority. They may be very nice principles to live by, but they are optional. Because these words come from God, I can compare any other writing to them to determine if the other is truth or lie. If the Bible says there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus, and another “scripture” says that there are many ways, I know the latter is lying. If another “scripture” says that I need Jesus and works, Jesus and someone else, or Jesus and anything else, then I know it is also lying. This is why I must know what the Bible says. Otherwise I can be swayed by any teacher or charlatan that comes to town. Even worse, if I don’t know the Bible, then I can be swayed by my own evil desires. When I obey this “above all” I will know Jesus for who He is, turn to Him for my salvation, repent, and have Him living in my heart by faith. The multitude of my sins will be forgiven. My life may not become perfect but it will be better and another multitude of sins will be avoided.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The End – 1 Peter 4:7

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. (NASB)

My faith is wrapped up in the fact that the end of all things is near. Jesus said that my attitude should be that He could come back at any time. Matthew 24:36-42 is His part of his description of the way it will be before the end. The first thing He told us in these verses is that no one knows when the end will come. I vaguely remember that someone predicted the end to be some day in 1988. When I first heard it, my thought was that surely Jesus will not return on that day because this guy made the prediction. Currently, everyone is saying it will be the end in 2012 because the Mayan calendar runs out at that time. All this speculation is hogwash because Jesus made it clear that no one would know the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven. However that doesn’t mean the end isn’t near. Jesus said in these verses that things will appear quite normal before the end. People will be eating, drinking, marrying, and working in the fields. Business will be going on just as usual. No one will suspect that in a few minutes, the end will come.

Yes, many have believed that the end is near, ever since Jesus left. Peter said it, Paul said it, and the writer to the Hebrews said it. Each one of them tells me how to live in view of that day. The next few verses in 1st Peter are all related to how I should live in expectation that Jesus could appear in the next few minutes.

The first priority in this list is prayer. NIV says that I should be clear minded and self-controlled so that I can pray. The Greek is really fun: sophroneo (so-fron-eh'-o); to be of sound mind, i.e. sane, (figuratively) moderate. I need to be sane when it comes to thinking about the end of the world. This would definitely rules out standing on the street corner, dressed in a robe, sporting a long beard and hair, and holding a sign. Crazy people simply do not influence those that need to be warned that the end could come at any time.

The next Greek word is: nepho (nay'-fo); of uncertain affinity: to abstain from wine (keep sober), i.e. (figuratively) be discreet. I like that last definition. Be discreet. That means to be tactful, cautious, diplomatic, or judicious. I guess I can’t just run up to everyone on the street and tell they will go to hell if they don’t straighten up before Jesus comes back. While it may be true, it certainly isn’t very discreet and therefore probably not very effective.

I don’t want to lose the point of being clear minded and self-controlled. It is so that I can pray. Jesus also gave a big long list of things that would occur just before He comes back. That was listed in a couple of places but Matthew 24:4-35 is a good one. All sorts of terrible things will be happening. Among them will be increased persecution of Christians. This is something that is happening all around the world. Wickedness will increase. That is also happening but those who are involved don’t see it because they have this attitude: Rom 1:32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV) When all this is happening, Peter warns me not to lose my head, but to know how to pray.

In the middle of Jesus’ description of pending events, He says: Matt 24:20-21 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again. (NIV) So I believe that one thing I should do is pray for those who are persecuted. Pray for their escape and their needs. Prayer has a way of leading to action. That is one reason I’m involved with Serving Others Worldwide to help Christians in Pakistan. ( Christians are seeing persecution and are kept in economic slavery as well. They are in constant need of food, clothing, and Bibles. They need prayer to keep their faith in the midst of very trying times.

I can also pray for myself and those around me so that we will be able to stand strong should trials befall us. I would also pray as Paul asked: Col 4:3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (NIV) Paul knew firsthand about trials, yet was always looking for a way to proclaim the Christian faith in the middle of them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Paganism – 1 Peter 4:3-6

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (NIV)

I became a Christian when I was about 28 years old. I had rejected Christianity and my philosophy was that it was OK to do anything as long as no one got hurt. That is pretty much the philosophy of the world today. The only problem with it is that I can’t determine if someone is going to be hurt or not by following my own selfish desires. If I choose to spend all my income on my pleasures, and myself, then I am hurting others that are in need. Without any way of determining what is OK other than my own perception of what may hurt others, I also failed to understand what would hurt me.

The human mind is very capable of rationalizing just about anything in order to satisfy perceived needs. That is why, after abundant information about the dangers of smoking, people still smoke – even physicians. That is why a person with several DUIs will still drink and drive. That is why the man or woman in a loving marriage will still stray and commit adultery. I don’t need to list the things I did before I came to Christ or even the sins committed afterward. All I need to do is re-read verse 4 and know that I spent way too much time doing those things.

What I do need to do is substitute that attitude of self-indulgence with something else. That is impossible without coming to Christ and having a new birth. Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world. (RSV) His grace trains me to live a new life. Without His leading by His Holy Spirit through the Bible, I would have no point of reference regarding what is right or wrong. I would not be able to know what hurts others or myself. More importantly, I would not know what hurts God. With His grace, I am able to know His will and to do things that will please Him. When I do these things, I will not hurt others out of my own sinful self-interest.

Will I be able to avoid hurting other completely? No. However this is my aim: Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. (RSV) According to 1st Peter, I won’t be able to do that, especially when others heap abuse on me and anyone who wants to live a godly life. However, I will be able to stand and declare as Paul did. Acts 24:16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men. (RSV)

One way of doing this is to remember that it isn’t my job to convict the world of sin and to clean it up. My job is to share the good news of Jesus Christ and do it with words if necessary. My life should reflect my belief and my life should match up with what I say.

I need to warn those who are still caught in the ways of the world. They don’t realize that they will have to give an account to Jesus who will judge them. They are currently dead in their sins. (How intolerant of me for saying that.) They will be judged and unless they respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and turn their lives over to Jesus, they will end up in hell. (Oops another intolerant attitude.) If they respond then their spirits will be made alive and they will demonstrate that by no longer living the way they are now or the way I did. I will know that I have done the right thing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I’m Arming Myself – 1 Peter 4:1-2

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (NIV)

Just about the whole book of 1st Peter is about suffering as a Christian. So far most of it has been about how to handle the troubles and trials of life that happen and especially when it is a result of persecution for my faith. This verse addresses suffering in order to eliminate sin.

I’ll have to admit that this one is hard to figure out since I can’t quite come up with any examples where I’ve had to suffer in order to resist sin. However the same concept is presented in Hebrews. Heb 12:4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (NIV) In context, the writer to the Hebrews had just explained how many people in the past, from Abel through the prophets and beyond had to give up something to accomplish God’s will. Many had been killed for their unwillingness to succumb to the demands of others. Prophets, for example, had been killed when they refused to stop preaching that Jerusalem would be destroyed for Judah’s sins.

You can see why I don’t relate to this. I decided that drinking was not something I would do because the spirits in even one beer quenched the Holy Spirit in me enough to make comments that hurt others. Have I suffered because of this? No. some people may think I’m weird or legalistic, but for me, it has been a good decision. Has it completely eliminated my ability to hurt others in my speech? No, but it has reduced the frequency.

There are many parts of the world where the biggest sin of all, denying Jesus, does bring about bloodshed. I just heard on the news that a mega church in China had been forcibly closed and the pastors told to stop their illegal religious activities. Other churches have been razed by bulldozers along with the homes of Christians. Many were sent to the hospital during that incident.

The Living Bible paraphrases the verses which sometimes helps and sometimes hinders. It says that I must be ready to suffer. The implication is that I may not have had to suffer physically as a result of sin or in attempting to resist sin. The NIV and NASB say I’m to arm myself with the attitude of Christ, who suffered. So my conclusion is that while I may not have suffered resisting sin, I can certainly make up my mind that I will not let physical discomfort prevent me from resisting sin.

How do I arm myself with the attitude that I’ll be ready suffer? Many verses come to my mind. The first is James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (NIV) I have to have a mindset that all trials are there to help me persevere. Persevere in the face of sin or persecution or whatever. Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (RSV) Heb 12:10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (NIV) I must look at suffering of any kind as a way that God disciplines me. This is not discipline in the sense of being punished but the same kind of discipline that an athlete goes through to so his body will respond correctly when called upon. Suffering produces strength to persevere in the tough times and it gives the training to respond correctly during temptation. This is how suffering does away with sin. It is a long process that eventually leads to holiness.

When I allow suffering to work in me, I will be able to overcome sinful habits, I won’t spend the rest of my life wondering if I’m missing out on something. Instead, I’ll be eager to do what God wants. I would like to say that I’m eager to do what He wants, but it seems that most of the time I’m not. Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV) It is a two-step operation. First, I need to stop being conformed to the world’s ways and ideologies. All the stuff that says I can be satisfied by something less than God Himself. Then the second step is to be renewed so that I can determine His will. I still have a long way to go in yielding to the Holy Spirit so that I can do that. However, as I look at each trial and each problem as something that is there to teach me rather than just bad stuff happening, I will move forward.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How to Be Great and Who Are Those Guys? – 1 Peter 3:22

Who [Jesus Christ] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (RSV )

How to Be Great

What does it mean to be sitting at the right hand of God? The right hand man of a king or any other authority is the person who is in charge of the daily affairs of the kingdom or company. Good examples are Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai in the O.T. Each of these men became second in command to the king after he had proved himself capable. The king didn’t have to worry because these honest men were not looking out for their own good, but the good of the kingdom. In the same way, Jesus always sought to glorify the Father by doing His will. John 4:34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (NIV)

How does this apply to me? Phil 2:3-7 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (NIV) This is the secret to greatness, putting others first. Jesus sat down at the right hand of God because He put us first. He gave up everything to serve us. Once He accomplished that, He was exalted to the highest position in Heave that can be attained (Eph 1:21-22.) Everything was put under His dominion and control. This doesn’t mean that I will attain to the same position as Jesus if I seek the welfare of others above my own. There is only one place in heaven with that authority and Jesus has it. However, I will have a position of authority in heaven. Rev 1:5b-6 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV) As I serve as a priest in the kingdom of Jesus, I’ll bring glory and to the Father. Since this is Jesus’ goal, it is mine as well.

Who Are Those Guys?

Who are these angels, authorities, and powers that are subject to Jesus? Angels are pretty easy to identify. Heb 1:14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (NIV) They are clearly being who are the good guys. They do what God wants them to do, every time and without fail.

The authorities and powers are not as easy to identify since they are represented as evil in various places. Eph 6:11-12 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV) In these verses, they are clearly aligned with the devil and his schemes.

Daniel gave us a very brief and mysterious glimpse into this spiritual world. Dan 10:20-21 Then he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I am through with him, lo, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince. (RSV) In these verses I can see that there are both good and evil powers and principalities. I can imagine that in the spiritual realms, there are beings that exercise some sort of power or control over the leaders and peoples of nations. As this angel (Gabriel) fought against the prince of Persia, I can imagine that he was able to restrain the prince of Persia from eradicating the Jews who were in exile. You can read the book of Esther to see what that struggle looked like on the human level. I can only imagine what it looked like in the heavenly realm.

Elisha could see these mighty battles and prayed to let his servant see what was happening behind the scenes. 2 Kings 6:17 And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (NIV) Elisha prayed the physical enemy would be blinded and they were so that he could lead them captive to the king of Israel. I’m positive that the surrounding angelic army caused Elisha’s enemies to be blinded.

So it seems that each nation has an evil prince who seeks to destroy and a holy one, an angel, who seeks to protect. Satan told Jesus that all the kingdoms of the earth belonged to him and Jesus didn’t deny it (Matt 4:8-9.) At this time, Satan is still in control of the nations (Eph 2:2) even though Jesus has been seated as the authority over all. One day Jesus will come back and take full control of the earth. That is when we will reign with him. Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years. (RSV)

In the mean time, when bad things happen I know that my Lord Jesus is in ultimate control. Satan may think he is ruling but I know that he can do no more than Jesus allows (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6.) I can be confident in the following verse. Rom 8:28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV) Those who are not under Jesus’ authority, who have not submitted to Him, can’t claim this verse. When Jesus comes back, they will find themselves on the wrong side and will not be punished for eternity.

I’m glad that I know I’m on the right side. I didn’t join Jesus for all the benefits. I’ve only learned about them as I study the Bible. It turns out that believers are blessed with much more than we can understand even after a lifetime of study.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Does Baptism Save Me? – 1 Peter 3:20b-22

In it [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand — with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (NIV)

It is evident from these verses that baptism, all by itself, can’t save me. I am saved when I have the right attitude, i.e., a pledge of a good conscience toward God. A good conscience toward God means that I must believe He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6.) It also means that if someone comes to me and says that I need to be baptized in order to be saved and jump in the water but don’t care about pleasing God or being submission to Him, then I won’t be saved at all. Outward obedience to a command of God without a heartfelt desire to live for Him isn’t worth anything. This is what God said to the Israelites through Isaiah the prophet. Isa 29:13-15 And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote; therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous things with this people, wonderful and marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid." Woe to those who hide deep from the Lord their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, "Who sees us? Who knows us?" (RSV)

It doesn’t save me if I don’t acknowledge that Jesus is God, which is proven by His resurrection. If I don’t believe that He is sitting at the right hand of God, baptism is worthless.

Baptism wasn’t invented by Christians. It was around a long time before Jesus came on the scene. Most thought that if they followed ceremonial cleansing, they would become acceptable to God. They thought that doing the right stuff would earn their right to eternal life. They were wrong. John the Baptist was on the right track when he was baptizing people to get them ready for Jesus. Matt 3:11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (NASB) John’s baptism didn’t save anyone as was made evident later. However, the outward sign of baptism indicating repentance will save me because I have a desire to submit to God.

When I look at all that must accompany baptism to be saved, it becomes apparent that baptism is not the vehicle or the necessary ingredient for salvation. Rather it becomes an outward demonstration of what has already occurred in the heart of a believer. Baptism should be one of the first steps of obedience of a person who has repented and changed their mind about sin and who God is. I have to confess that it took me seven years after becoming a Christian to be baptized. I would argue with people who said I didn’t have the Holy Spirit and wasn’t a true believer because I hadn’t been baptized. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was saved because the Holy Spirit let me know. (1 John 3:24, 4:13) I also realized that they were teaching a false doctrine because they would also say, only after I interrogated them, that the baptism was only valid if it was done in their church.

However, that changed for me when I heard a preacher talk about baptism from Rom 6:3-7. Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (NIV) I was convicted that I must completely identify with Jesus in His death in order to live a new life in complete victory over sin. He also used out Matt 28:19-20. The Great Commission says that as a believer, I need to baptize followers if they are to be disciples. How could I baptize others if I had refused to be baptized? It was a point of obedience to Jesus’ command. Since I was disobeying Him in this simple act, how could I tell others to obey Him? If I was disobeying Him at this point, I was leaving myself vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. In essence, by ignoring baptism, I was not identifying with Jesus in His death and I was thereby still a slave to sin, the blatant sin of disobedience.

Just to be clear, a person can be saved without baptism. In fact, baptism never occurred in the Bible until someone made some profession of faith. So a person is saved before they are baptized. The thief on the cross never had an opportunity to be baptized but was saved as Jesus said. Don’t tell me he was an exception. He was an example. In Acts 2:41, those who received the word were baptized. They believed first. Acts 10:48 clearly showed that the gentiles had received the Holy Spirit before being baptized. They weren’t exceptions either, but examples.

Acts 19:5 is an example of people who had been baptized but didn’t know about Jesus. They only had John’s baptism. They weren’t saved until they had the right details, the correct knowledge. Faith in the wrong things doesn’t save.

All the comments about the need to have the right heart attitude and to believe before being baptized leads to one other conclusion. Infant baptism or baptizing children who are not capable of making a decision to follow Jesus is not going to save them. When I mentioned this to people who believe the opposite, they point to Acts 16:33 where the jailer and all his household or family was baptized. First of all, the verse does not say infants were baptized. We have no way of knowing whether or not the jailer had babies in his family at that time. To imply that infants were baptized is making the verse say something it doesn’t. In addition, the word household or family is not in the original Greek text. The NASB italicizes “household” to indicate that it is a word that has been added in translation. The Greek simply says he and his all were baptized.

Don’t make the false assumption that because you were baptized as an infant that you have a ticket to heaven. I was, but saw my need for salvation as an adult. Don’t make the false assumption that because your babies have been baptized that they have a ticket to heaven either. You need to make sure they know the way as soon as they can understand.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

No Second Chance - 1 Peter 3:18b-20a

He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (NIV)

Now that I’ve stated my belief that Jesus is God and some more on the Trinity, I’ll move on to the next topic and that is all this stuff about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. The first thing to note is that it was Jesus who preached to them but He did it through the Spirit that made Him alive. All I can say about that is that it is further proof that the God is a Trinity. If I can say that Jesus is God and that the Spirit is God, then I can also say that Jesus is the Spirit. Eph 3:17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; (RSV) 1 Cor 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (RSV) In one verse I can see that Jesus lives in me by faith. In the next verses I can see that the Holy Spirit lives in me. Since Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are all one, then it means that I have all the fullness of God living in me (Eph 3:19). I have Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.

Some want to split hairs and say that you must receive Jesus, then you must receive the Holy Spirit. Other even say that you then must receive the Father. If you have only Jesus, then you aren’t a full-fledged Christian. Hogwash! If you have one, you have all three. Of course if the Jesus I received isn’t God, then I have received an imitation and imitations have their limits. The biggest limitation is that no imitation Jesus is able to save me.

How do I figure out who these spirits in prison are? One clue would be what Peter writes in the next chapter. 1 Peter 4:6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God. (RSV) Jesus preached to those who are dead. If they are dead that implies that they are people and not just spirits like angels or fallen angels. I assume that spirits can’t die. Peter again mentions the judgment during Noah’s time. 2 Peter 2:5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (RSV) I had read this in the NIV before and it says that God brought the flood on the world’s ungodly people. The Greek doesn’t say people, it says world. So back to the O.T. to see what it says about the flood.

Gen 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Gen 6:8 Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Gen 6:12 And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. (NASB) According to the original account there was only one person whom God saw as blameless and that was Noah. From this I can determine that everyone who died in the flood was a sinner and deserved the fate of death for the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23.) All this to just find out that the people that Jesus is preaching to are not godly and are not demons who have fallen.

1 Peter 4:6 is tough to get my head around. First because I normally think of ungodly dead people in a sort of never-never land where they aren’t aware of anything until the final judgment comes. This verse implies that they are aware and that when Jesus went to them they could understand what He told them. Luke 16:19-31 also supports the idea that they know what is going on and are conscious. 2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (RSV) implies the same thing. Not only are they aware but they are being punished even while they await judgment.

The second thing about 1 Peter 4:6 is that it implies there might be some sort of second chance for them, if not for all who die without Christ. Just what does that phrase mean, “they might live in the spirit like God.” Does it mean a second chance for salvation or does it mean something else? Is there a possibility of a second chance? The Greek word for “like” is “kata” and the definition doesn’t help. It is “down from, through out, according to, toward, along.” In the KJV it is translated “according” in this verse and differently in some 40 other place it is used. Most translations use according in this verse so that it says they will live according to God in the spirit. I think this simply means that even a person who dies without Christ has eternal life. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that they are with God but according to other scriptures, too numerous to mention here, they will live in eternal torment and there is no way out.

The preaching that Jesus provided may very well have gone like this, “You thought that because so many rebelled that I would forgive you. You thought that since no one could live a holy life and please my Father that I would have to let you off the hook. Well, I’ve come to tell you that I emptied myself of my God nature and became a man. I lived a holy life proving that it can be done. I paid the penalty of death for all who would believe in me and turn to me for salvation. However, you turned away from my Father and did not repent when you were confronted by Noah. By turning away from my Father, you rejected me. Therefore, your condemnation stands. There is no second chance after death.”

This is not a very uplifting study. However, it does serve as a warning. The same applies today. If I have Jesus, I have eternal life apart from that eternal punishment. If I don’t, and die, there is no second chance. Today is the day to decide to follow Jesus.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Trinity - 1 Peter 3:18b-20a Part 1

He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (NIV)

I had to take the last part of verse 18 and the first of 20 to get one whole sentence. This last paragraph in Chapter three is very interesting because of the many different subjects that I can think about. For instance, I mentioned the trinity in my last writing and commented that Jesus is God. Since it was not the main topic, I didn’t pursue it further. However, I have studied it quite thoroughly and can with all convection say that Jesus is indeed the Almighty God. Christmas time is approaching and one of the reminders of Jesus being God is found every Christmas. Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NIV) The triune nature of God is clearly seen in this passage. The son is called the wonderful counselor, who is the Holy Spirit. He is called the Mighty God and Everlasting Father. Now who else can that be other than God the Father? He is called Prince of Peace – the son.

What did Jesus have to say of Himself? John 10:30 “I and the Father are one." (NIV) Did Jesus mean that He is one only in purpose (as some claim) or did He mean more when He said that? Let the people who heard Him explain what He meant. John 10:33 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." (NIV) The Jews new exactly what Jesus meant. Now if I made a statement like that and someone misunderstood me, I would quickly clarify that they misunderstood and there would be no problem. Did Jesus try to correct their misunderstanding? Not at all. Read the next few verses and you will see that they still tried to kill Him.

Still skeptical about the fact that Jesus claimed to be God? How about John 8:58-59 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (NIV) Jesus used the words “I am” to convey clearly that He is God and that He has always existed as God, even before Abraham was born. Again, the Jews, who knew exactly what he meant, tried to stone Him for these comments.

Jesus made it clear that God is the only one to be worshiped. Matt 4:10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (NIV) I would think it strange that Jesus would say this then later accept worship if He were not God. Matt 28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (NIV) Did Jesus rebuke these women for worshiping Him? Not at all. When Thomas called Jesus his Lord and God in John 20:28, did Jesus correct him? Not at all. Did Thomas say God but not mean the Almighty God? There is nothing in the passage or the original language that suggests anything else, contrary to what some would say.

If Jesus were not God, then He has committed a sin that is the same that caused Satan’s downfall. He has accepted worship and called Himself God. What happened to Herod when he let people simply call him a god? Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (NIV). How much more would God not approve of someone who claimed to be God and accepted worship.

One thing is for sure, if Jesus were not God but claimed to be God, if He were not God and accepted worship, the resurrection would have never happened. Jesus would have died for His own sins and His death on the cross would have no meaning for me or anyone else. His disciples would have disbanded and the name of Jesus would only be a minor blip in history. However, over and over in the Bible, Jesus is upheld as sinless. His sinless death bought my redemption. If He were sinful then His death could not purchase my pardon. He is upheld as God by Christians around the world in spite of those who would try to minimize Him and thus play into Satan’s hands. You see, if you believe that Jesus is not God then you believe in a Jesus who is not able to save you from your sins. If you are not saved from your sins then there is only one eternal outcome and that isn’t good.

Either Jesus has to be God or He has to be a blasphemer or a lunatic. If He was either of the latter two then there is no way He should be followed just as Jim Jones and other lunatic cult leaders should not be followed let alone worshiped. On the other hand, if He is God, then I need to bow down and worship Him along with those through history who have affirmed that He is God and that there is no other name under heaven by which I can be saved (Acts 4:12.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Once for All – 1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; (RSV)

Jesus died once for all and that includes me. I think this is one of the greatest statements in the Bible. It is used six other times to explain that Jesus died only once and that His onetime death was a sacrifice for all of my sins. His onetime shedding of His blood was sufficient to provide me with eternal redemption. His sacrifice has done away with sin once for all meaning that it works forward in time from His death as well as backward. He doesn’t have to die each day to cover my sins committed from one day to the next. His onetime death is able to cleanse my conscience from guilt because that death is able to make me holy. See Romans 6:10, Heb 7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 10:2, and 10:10.

You will note that I used the words “is able” a couple of times. I used those words because not everyone is cleansed from guilt, given eternal life, or made holy. Only those who accept this and turn to Jesus in repentance of their sins will have this. God didn’t automatically forgive everyone on the earth when He accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Just like the people in the O.T. who had to come before God and lay their hands on the goat or lamb that was about to be slaughtered and confess their sins, so I also had to do that in a symbolic way. I couldn’t physically put my hands on Jesus’ head and transfer my sins to Him in the same symbolic way. So God had to do that. 2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV) However, it wasn’t until I confessed my sin and turned from it that I could claim to be forgiven and obtain the righteousness that He provided.

Being made holy or righteous must sound really radical, weird, arrogant, and or cultish to someone who hasn’t turned to Jesus. Yes, Jesus has made me holy. It isn’t as if I’ve achieved perfection or even claim to be perfect though. His declaration that I’m holy simply means I’m forgiven and when I stand before God, Jesus’ holiness will be seen and not mine. It also means that from now on, I’m being made holy – day by day I’m getting cleaned up, one sinful habit and slipup after another. It’s a lifetime endeavor and won’t be completed until I reach heaven.

Before I came to know Jesus, I believed that the whole death and resurrection of Jesus was an elaborate hoax. I knew all the theories that people have used to try to explain why He either didn’t really die or that He didn’t really raise from the dead. A careful reading of the Gospels reprove each of the theories.

He didn’t really die. Hogwash! He was scourged and many people died during that ordeal. He was almost at the point of death and then nailed to the cross. Witnesses saw Him die. The Roman soldiers, who were experts at crucifying people, testified that He was dead. The blood and water that poured from His side proved that He was already dead because it showed that His blood had already separated into components. Joseph and Nicodemus took His body and wrapped it in 75 pounds of spices and cloth. Can you imagine that Jesus could have survived that? Can you imagine two of His followers doing that if He were still alive?

He wasn’t raised but His body was stolen by His disciples. Yeah, sure, if you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell you. You really expect that His wimpy disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested would mount an attack on the Roman guards? These guards lost a body; by Roman custom, they should have been executed for failure to carry out a simple mission. Why weren’t they? There is only one explanation. Matt 28:12-15 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV) By the way, Roman guards don’t fall asleep while on duty – another possible death sentence. The guards had the money to escape punishment and the story is still being told to our generation as well.

Some complain and say that if Jesus was God and God died then how can He raise Himself? The verse today says that He was made alive by the Spirit. So the whole Trinity thing comes into play here. Do I understand how God can be three Persons in one God? No, not really. I simply have to go on the fact that Jesus said He was God, that the Spirit is mentioned throughout the Bible, O.T. and N.T. As early as Gen 1:26 and 11:7, God revealed His triune nature when He said “Let Us.” Since we can’t really understand God, we have to take it on faith that He is triune, that He could empty Himself of His God nature and become a man (Phil 2:6-7.) If He can do that, then Jesus could really die and the Spirit could make Him alive again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Hope That I Have – 1 Peter 3:13-18

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (NIV)

Peter knew full well that Christians were being harmed for no reason. They were trying to do good, yet they were being persecuted. It is still happening today as it has always been. David ran into this problem .Ps 38:20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. (NIV) Jesus warned us that it would happen to us simply because we belong to Him. John 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (RSV) The main reason is that when we do good, it reminds others that they are not a right standing with God and therefore want to remove anything that convicts them of that. John 15:22-23 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also.” (RSV)

I realize how intolerant it is to tell someone or even show someone the errors of their ways. Today, everything is a matter of one’s own judgment. Therefore I deserve to be ostracized or even worse if I point out that certain behavior is actually wrong based on an absolute standard that is not within my own judgment, i.e. God’s. However, isn’t that being intolerant of my belief? The only way I can suffer for what is right and know that I’m doing right is to have a standard that supersedes what others believe to be right based on their own desires and dreams.

What do “they” fear? Most people fear death more than anything else. That is most often the threat of severe persecutors. They believe that under the threat of death, Christians will recant their faith. It burns them to no end when it doesn’t work. It only makes them madder and they often carry out their threats.

How can I not be frightened under those circumstances? By setting apart Christ as Lord in my heart. If I really believe Him, then death is not the worst thing that can happen to me. Rev 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (NIV) When I belong to Jesus, I am promised eternal life. Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. He now holds the key to death so that when I die, I’ll be brought into his eternal life and live with Him forever. With that view, the threats to succumb to the world’s standards of right and wrong are pure foolishness. The temptations to live life for today and worldly pleasures are overcome by the knowledge that something far better awaits me.

This is the hope that I have. The tough part is letting others know about it with humility and respect. I’ve been accused of being arrogant because I know where I’m going and most people don’t think anyone can know that. But that is what God’s Word tells me. 1 John 5:13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (RSV)

Sometimes I just want to thump a person on the head and yell, “Wake up!” (Not very respectful.) Many people have their own ideas of who God is. Their ideas are based on their own wishful thinking. They somehow think that thinks and acts just like they do so they do as they please. Ps 50:21 These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. (NIV) Even though God will rebuke and punish them for those ideas and actions, they think it is totally wrong for me to warn them. They’ve heard that Jesus is only one way and they don’t like it. The excuses are plentiful – everything from thinking that Jesus didn’t really mean that, to simply ignoring it and saying that they believe there are many roads to heaven. Don’t they know that there are many roads to hell and only one to heaven? They have the same excuses for ignoring that as well.

So they slander Christians as being intolerant among other things. However, they will still see the good things I do and realize that they are wrong even if they don’t want to admit it.

Yeah, there are some who call themselves Christians and do some pretty horrific things. They will suffer for their wrongs, sooner or later. Some claim to be martyrs but the truth is, they are getting what they deserve. But that’s not where I want to be and it isn’t where God wants me to be.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Clean Heart – 1 Peter 3:10-12

For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." (NIV )

Deut 32:46-47 speaks of the very words that God gave to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land. He said that if they took His words to heart and taught them to their children, they would enjoy long life. He said that the words were not idle but were their life. Do I treat God’s Word as my life? Is it the most important part of my life? If so then I will be diligent to teach my children. My kids are grown and I have grandchildren. I tried to teach them as they grew up and now they are doing the same with their kids. That is a joy to see.

Part of taking God’s words to heart includes keeping my tongue from evil and deceitful speech. Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16. In it, God has given us a very simple formula for living a good life. The first part involves the heart and mind. Jesus said in Matt 15:18-20 that what comes out of my mounth reveals what is in my heart. If my heart is harboring evil, then I will naturally speak evil. I won’t be able to stop it. I may, by the will of my own being, attempt to keep my speech clean and even succeed, however it will sneak out at the least opportune time. The only way to resolve that problem is to ask God for a clean heart.

Ps 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (RSV) The only way to have a clean mouth is to have a clean heart and mind. With the power of His Holy Spirit, I can speak in the way He wants. I can build others up according to their needs and not tear them down. (Eph 4:29)

The second part of taking God’s word to heart is to put them into practice. It doesn’t do any good to conform to correct speech without physically following through. “Put your money where your mouth is.” If I say the right things, but by my actions, convey a different attitude, then my heart hasn’t really been cleansed by God. I haven’t submitted to Him if I don’t actually do what He says. James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV) I can actually listen to God’s word and deceive myself by thinking that by simply knowing His Word, it is going to save me.

God listens to me when I have actually submitted to Him and have a clean heart. Does that mean that He gives me everything I want in prayer? No, it means that He works everything for my good (Rom 8:28) even the bad things that happen. I can’t toss all the other verses in 1st Peter and assume that everything is going to be roses all the time. However, I can rest assured that the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, He who controls all things has my best interests at heart. I may not see the results until I reach heaven, but I know that it will all make sense then.

This same God and Father who loves me has not promised good for those who do not love Him. The Psalm says quite the opposite. His face is against the unrighteous. In fact the Bible says a lot about the outcome of those who do not love God. Heb 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (NIV)

There is a simple test to determine if I really love God. John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (NIV) So what are these commands that Jesus says I need to obey? 1 John 4:20-21 If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (RSV)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Harmony 1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (NIV)

It seems quite simple and straightforward to me. The commands are clear and easy to understand. At the beginning of the verses are the ways I should act towards other. It is followed by how I should respond to people who don’t follow these rules. Then there is the reward for doing it. Ok, next blog. Well, maybe not. If it were that easy, I’m sure there would be less conflict in churches and the world in general. Doing these things is a lot harder than knowing that I should do them.

Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (NIV) I need to address pride and conceit in myself if I actually want to be able to live in harmony. I can’t be proud. I looked this up in the dictionary and it didn’t sound so bad. (Feeling pleased and satisfied, e.g. about having done something or about owning something.) Hmmm, shouldn’t I feel good about getting something done? That doesn’t sound so bad. However, I can see that pride of ownership can cause problems, especially when it makes others who don’t have the same things feel out of place or inferior. That’s a good one to work on. I don’t’ want to let my possessions cause others to be intimidated or feel that I think less of them.

Another definition of proud is arrogant (having an exaggerated opinion of personal worth or abilities.) Other versions of the Bible use the word haughty instead of proud. It comes from the Greek word is hupselos (hoop-say-los') which means loft (in place or character.) That seems to fit better, especially in context with the part about being willing to associate with people of low position. I don’t want to appear to be above them. Shoot, I don’t even want to think that I am above others. Romans 12:3 says that I should not think of myself more highly than I ought. Remembering that it is only by the blood of Jesus that I’m in God’s grace and not because of my own worth is a good way to help me from being proud, arrogant, or haughty.

It is also good to acknowledging God’s sovereignty. I didn’t choose where I was born, who my parents were, or any of my natural abilities. I remember talking to a man who was offended that I suggested that he wasn’t in control of his life. He assured me that he had worked hard for his wonderful house, job, education, and everything that he had. When I asked him if he chose where he was born or that he was born to white middle class parents, he essentially asked what that had to do with anything. He didn’t get it. Lord, help me to always acknowledge that everything I am and that I have comes from You!

Don’t repay evil for evil, etc. I think I’ve already gone over that. If not, well this proverb says a lot. Prov 19:11 A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (NIV) If I don’t overlook offenses, I’m pretty stupid. I want to do what pleases God and He says that I’ll be rewarded when I overlook offences. It takes patience to do that and that shows my wisdom or lack of it when I lose it. It’s hard, in the middle of a life situation, to keep my mouth from blurting out hurtful things before I think about them. That’s why it takes practice to hold my tongue. Ps 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips! (RSV) It also takes a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Having the right attitude toward others and not seeking revenge will provide for me an inheritance that won’t fade or spoil. These are the treasures that I can store up in heaven.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Husband – Wife Relationship – 1 Peter 3:1-7

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (NASB)

I wonder why Peter devoted six verses to wives and only one to husbands. My first thought is that he had to educate women about how dense guys are. Men, with their caveman mentality and different biological makeup, are very externally stimulated and need to see more than the external if they are going to be obedient to the Word.

I’ve seen some sects that take these verses to mean that women shouldn’t do any of the things mentioned. The verses make no prohibition against outward adornment, but instead, point out that inward beauty will not only help improve their husband but is what pleases God.

The way the world is going now, guys have the same problem. Most think they have to be some kind of macho dude to get the chicks. However, if I develop character that pleases God, I will attract and have a spouse that has the same character. I hope that my character pleases God, as I can testify that my wife attracted me with her hidden person of the heart before we were married.

I’ll let a woman talk about what it means to be submissive to her husband. I need to concentrate on what I should be as a husband and leave that up to my wife. These verses make it clear that I need to understand my wife. I need to make every effort to know what she likes and dislikes. I need to know how to speak to her so that she knows I love her and want the very best for her. I need to treat her with respect and gentleness. Men don’t know their own strength and how easy it is to hurt their wives physically. Neither do they know how easy it is to hurt them emotionally. Then there are some jerks that take the submissive thing to the point that they want to control their wives, physically and emotionally. There is no room for that in the Christian walk. Peter warns me that my prayers will be hindered if I’m not treating my wife the way I should.

Eph 5:25-33 has the most comprehensive prescription for being a husband. A few points from those verses make it impossible to be perfect husband. There is no way I can love my wife with the same unconditional, unselfish love that Jesus has for us. That doesn’t mean I don’t try.

I’m to protect her purity. That means I have to be pure and stay away from any kind of pornography, sexual deviation, greed, idolatry, or any other sin.

Paul says that no one hates is own body but loves it. Some may argue that, especially with the high suicide rate, but even there, a person is trying to do what they think is best for their body by escaping from the torment or pain they are going through. Regardless, Paul is using this to make sure that I know that I need to give my wife the same attention that I give myself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Does “Thou shalt not kill” Mean?

To answer the question about the meaning of any word in the Bible, I have to apply some logic. The first step of logic is to view the word in context with the verses around it. The next is to study it in relation to the rest of the Bible. If my interpretation contradicts other passages, then I may very well have the wrong meaning. I can also view the word in context of the society to which it was addressed; in other words, I try to determine what the original readers thought it meant. I can also look at more modern translations of the Bible. The King James Version was written so that commoners could understand it in 1604. Since then, the English language and the meaning of many words have changed. Modern translations also do a much better job examining the original languages and culture.

When I look at Exodus 20:10 in several newer translations, they all use the word “murder” and not “kill.” I think they are correct because of the immediate context of the other verses. Exodus 10:2-17 comprise the text of the Ten Commandments. The first four are commands regarding our relationship to God. The last six are commands regarding our relationships with each other.

Since these are commands regarding people, I can immediately eliminate the possibility that the command is telling me I shouldn’t kill animals. This agrees with Gen 9:2-3. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (NIV) If you think that God had changed the rules in the N.T., then you can look at Acts 10:11-13. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." (NIV)

Eliminating one possibility leaves only one option and that the command is a prohibition against killing people. Does this mean that there are no circumstances when I am allowed to kill another or does it relate specifically to murder as the modern translations indicate? Again, I’ll look to other Scripture to see what it says.

Num 35:16-20 “'If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. (NIV)

The Hebrew word for murder used in this verse is ratsach (raw-tsakh'.) It is the same word as used in Exodus 20:13. If you read the verses around Numbers 35:16-20 you will get a clear indication of the meaning of the word murder. It includes the motives of malice and hostility. Finally, there is not a prohibition against all killing. The “avenger of blood” (usually a close relative of the victim) not only was permitted to kill the murder, but it was his duty. The remaining verses around these talked about the cities of refuge where an accused killer could run, face a trial, and be protection if he was innocent.

Does the N.T. change things? Romans 13:1-4 make it clear that the government is responsible for the punishment of wrongdoers. Does it include capital punishment? Yes, it may, depending on the government. That is, if the government is going to use the principals found in the O.T.

I find three reasons for capital punishment in the O.T. The first is spiritual. Num 35:33-34 “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. And you shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (NASB) God lives in the land. He is among us and it ticks Him off when someone murders another person. In a spiritual sense, if the government doesn’t do something about the murder, then everyone is polluted by that crime. God says that there is no expiation, or no way to make amends except by the death of the murder.

This leads right into the practical reasons for the death penalty. Ten times in the NIV translation the phrase “You must purge the evil from among you (or Israel.)” is used as the reason for the death penalty. The most practical reason is that there is absolutely no opportunity for the person to commit another crime. You can look up the verses and see that there were quite a few crimes, some of which we wouldn’t even consider as a capital crime today. (Deut 13:4, 17:7, 17:12, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 22;22, 22:24, 24:7, and Judges 20:13) I think the point is clear, when the government decides that a crime is so repugnant that it deserves death, then that criminal never has a chance of repeating it.

Deut 21:21 provides the last reason for capital punishment. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. (NIV) People argue that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime. As far as I’m concerned, if God said it was, then it is.

Now I don’t want to put myself in the place of government and make the decisions of which crimes are punishable by death. If I were to go through all ten verses above and comment on them, I feel I would never finish this article. Do I have to agree with my government when it pronounces death for someone because they changed their faith as example? No, I don’t. The same applies to war. I have to obey my government when it goes to war. Do I unconditionally support my government when that war is unjust or the consequences of continued action no longer achieve the original purpose? No I don’t. In a previous blog, I talked about when it is right to disobey your government so enough said for now.

Finally, I need to address Jesus’ view of killing. I’m going to back into this with an example. John 8:10-11 Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." (RSV) According to the O.T. commands given above, this woman deserved to be stoned for adultery. If Jesus wanted me to continue to follow the O.T. law, He would have let the people stone her. However, Jesus came to fulfill the law. Matt 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (NIV) There is a big difference between abolishing the law and fulfilling it. If Jesus wanted to abolish it, then He would have said that it was ok to commit adultery. Instead, He acknowledged her sin but fulfilled the law by giving her mercy and another chance. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law because He took my sin upon Himself so that I can receive mercy from God. This encounter with the woman was a preview of what He was going to do for all of us.

Regarding killing, Jesus had some choice words about it. Matt 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.” (RSV) Jesus cut past the action of murder or killing to the matter of the heart. If I’m angry with another person, I am no different from a murderer. I have committed murder in my heart and I stand condemned. If there is any doubt about what condemned means, Jesus added that little bit about the fires of hell. He is talking about eternal condemnation, not the death penalty.

In thepassages that follow, Jesus expands on the meaning of some of the other Jewish laws and traditions. He boiled adultery down to simply lusting after another person. I’m guilty again. He said that I must love my enemy and pray for anyone who persecutes me instead of hating them. Jesus was making it perfectly clear that there is no way that I can possibly meet the strict requirement of the law.

The question now is not “What does ‘thou shalt not kill’ mean?” It is now, knowing that I am a murder, what can I do to escape the just punishment of God? It is simple, yet profound. I admit that I am a murder, thief, liar, and many more things, any one of which is punishable by eternal hell fire. I believe that Jesus, when He died on the cross, paid the penalty for all my sins and those of the whole world. I accept, by faith, that free gift of eternal life. I prove my faith by repenting (changing my mind about how good I am and agreeing with God that I’m not) and surrender myself to Jesus to do as He wants with me. That mean He is my Lord and I will obey Him.

In prayer I have asked Him to forgive me and take over my life. When I did that, many years ago, He changed me so that my desires changed. I haven’t lived perfectly and have even hated and lusted since then. However, I come back to Him and slowly but surely He keeps on changing me. Will I fail Him again? Probably. Do I want to fail Him? Absolutely not. This I know, I am forgiven and I will be with Him forever should I die or He comes back before then.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taking a Break

I'm taking a break from 1st Peter to do an extesive article on the meaning of "kill" as in "Thou shalt not kill." This may take a while.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He Died For Me – 1 Peter 2:24-25

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 Guardian of your souls. (RSV)

What did Jesus’ suffering accomplish? When Jesus died on the cross (the tree,) He fulfilled the requirement of the Law as a payment for sin. Deut 21:22-23 If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (NIV) Jesus took the curse of God’s wrath upon sin on Himself. Over and over, it has been emphasized in the N.T. that Jesus was not guilty of any sin, yet He was executed. On the cross Jesus called out asking why the Father had forsaken Him indicating that God’s wrath was truly on Him. If Jesus were not guilty, then why would the Father abandon Him? The answer can only be that my sin was placed on Him. 2 Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (RSV)

How do I know that Jesus took my sin and that it was a satisfactory substitution for my death? I believe that the resurrection of Jesus proves that. Jesus made many statements about eternal life and that it only comes through Him. John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (RSV) Remember, if Jesus had committed only one sin, then His death would have been the payment only for His own sin. He would not be able to pay for mine. If either of these two statements that Jesus made are false, then He was a liar and could not possibly pay for my sin. Since God did raise Jesus from the dead, it proves that everything Jesus said is true. It proves that He and only He gives me eternal life so that I can go to the Father also.

If there were any other way for me to get eternal life, then Jesus’ death was a waste. Paul says in Gal 3:21b-22 For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (NIV) He affirms, with Peter, that I am a sinner.

I went astray and now have come to Jesus, the Sheppard and Guardian of my soul. He who has saved me will guard me and keep me safe until that day He escorts me into the presence of the Father.

When Peter was writing these two short verses, He was either quoting from the O.T. or had it in mind. Read Isaiah 53: 4, 5, and 11. These verses are a vivid prediction of Jesus’ suffering and atonement for my sin.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Called to Be Like Jesus – 1 Peter 2:21-23

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (NIV)

This is a continuation of the same thought as my previous blog – suffering for doing right, not wrong. Obviously, Jesus is the prime example of suffering. I took a quick review of Jesus’ “trial” and execution in John 18:19 – 20:30. It doesn’t have all the details but it brings out enough to substantiate what Peter wrote.

I don’t know if I would be able to be as trusting as Jesus was if I were thrown in prison then beaten for my faith. I’m pretty sure I would yell and scream at the beatings. I would make every effort to escape but not by denying to know Jesus. However, I have made up my mind that I would not seek my own revenge – I would not retaliate. I’m sure that if by some chance I had to stand trial or was asked to testify against my persecutors, I would tell the truth and not hold it back in order to appear meek and humble. I don’t think that this is what Jesus would want nor is it what Peter was advocating.

There are many examples in the Gospels where Jesus went head to head with those that wanted to kill Him. Sometimes He answered them with parables as in Matt 21:23-46. Sometimes He answered with Scriptural logic as in John 8:31-59 which ended when Jesus made an unmistakable claim to be God. As a result, His enemies started to stone Him. In that instance, He slipped away before they could harm Him. In Matt 12:24-45 Jesus even called His detractors a brood of vipers and a wicked and adulterous generation. This doesn’t seem to fit the mild, meek Jesus who Peter was describing. He even chased the merchants with evil intent from the temple with a whip. However, He never took up a sword to kill. He never resorted to physical violence to advance His cause or protect Himself or His disciples.

I think that Peter was viewing the situation from the perspective that Jesus described in Matt 10:18-20 “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (NIV) If I entrust myself to the Lord, then I can be confident that He will give the right words and the right actions when the time comes. If I do not trust Him, then I am very likely to be a bad witness for Jesus. It is very likely that I’ll want my revenge. If I do that, I will bring disgrace to the name of Christians everywhere. History has shown that when people who call themselves Christians (whether they are or not doesn’t matter) do not take these passages to heart then the world eagerly points out their abuse and maligns the good name of Jesus.

There is no guarantee that I will be spared from persecutions. My brothers and sisters in Pakistan are currently facing an increase in persecution as the Taliban and other factions are increasing pressure on Christians. There has been more bloodshed, false imprisonment, and beatings. Matt 24:9-14 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come." (RSV) My prayer for them is that they will be able to be a testimony to those who watch and those who persecute. I pray that in that suffering, Jesus may be glorified, the ignorant talk of foolish men may be silenced, and that many will come to know Jesus. I pray that as a result of their hardship, the righteous Judge may find many more who call on the name of Jesus when He comes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Persecution or Stupidity – 1 Peter 2:18-20

Servants, you must respect your masters and do whatever they tell you-not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are tough and cruel. Praise the Lord if you are punished for doing right! Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong; but if you do right and suffer for it, and are patient beneath the blows, God is well pleased. (TLB)

This must be one of the most quoted Bible verse for employer-employee relationships. Now that I’m self-employed, I only have one boss, Jesus. Well, actually I now work for several people – clients and customers. While working for a company, if I had thought of my employer as a customer for my services, there wouldn’t be much difference.

Sometimes, a difficult part of working for others is telling them that what they are asking you to do isn’t necessarily in their best interests. At these times it can seem that they are not kind or reasonable. However, if I’m doing my best to do what is right, I’ll have to trust the Lord that the end results will be good.

I’ll digress a bit because many people use these verses to claim that they are suffering for Christ in the workplace when they are simply being punished for doing wrong. The usual complaint comes when a Christian shares some nuggets of faith with another co-worker or even a client during work time. The boss or other employee’s overhear or are the subject of the sharing and complain to management. The boss then reprimands the Christian for engaging in non-work activities and the Christian tells everyone that he or she is suffering for Christ.

Not so. I am not being paid to share Jesus with others during work time. I’m being paid to do my work. It doesn’t matter that the person in the next cube or workstation is talking about last night’s football game or anything else. It doesn’t give me the right to steal time from my employer. The idea is that I have to live a life that will silence the talk of foolish men as Peter stated before.

So when can I share the Gospel with someone at work? There are breaks and lunch when you can do it if you are not violating common sense and company policy. It is one thing to know how to engage a person in spiritual conversations that lead to sharing Jesus and it is another to buttonhole a person on break and back them into a corner. The first is Spirit led and the second is worldly passion. Handing out tracts is usually against company policy – they consider that soliciting even though you aren’t selling anything.

With all that said, there are laws that protect you at the workplace and you should know them as well. In general, your employer can’t tell you not to wear Christian jewelry when others can wear jewelry. They can’t prohibit having a Bible on your desk if others can have non-work related books. The same goes for mottos, calendars, and pictures.

In my work career, I only had one run-in with personnel over Christian witnessing. A co-worker and I were asked by another co-worker if we would talk to her about Christianity. We agreed and set up a time in the cafeteria during lunch. A few days later, my boss told me personnel had informed him to reprimand me for proselytizing. My co-worker had the same conversation with her boss. We wracked our brains and realized that the lunchroom meeting was the only thing that could have been construed as proselytizing so we ask the woman if she had complained. She assured us that she hadn’t.

Armed with that knowledge we requested and audience with personnel and we were told we had violated company policy by trying to find out who had accused us even though that person had not filed the complaint. At that point I assured the personnel representative that I knew my rights and she had violated them by accusing us without proper investigation. That ended the matter and nothing was ever placed in my record or on my performance reviews. The person we shared with later discovered that a third party had reported us to her boss based on seeing us together in the lunchroom.

If, in that situation, we had been reprimanded, pay docked, or anything else, then we would have known that it pleased God. If we had really violated company policy in our attempts to witness, then God would not have been pleased.

I’m afraid that there are too many cases when Christians are poor workers or do stupid things and then claim to be suffering for Christ when they lose their job or are passed over for promotion. I pray that it happens less and less.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Live Free - 1 Peter 2:15-17

For it is God's will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (RSV)

I have observed that doing right doesn’t silence the talk of foolish men in this world. I recently read an article on a very liberal web site that accused Christians of having an agenda to overtake the U.S. The means of doing this is by home schooling and private Christian schools. The claims are that Christians have been brainwashing the next generation and that we are the most dangerous of all factions. There was much name-calling in this article. It was written by the son of a well-known Christian theologian. He had been home schooled and advanced the very causes that he now rejects. If you think I’m just making this up, you can find the article at

In light of the current world, how am I to interpret these verses? I can only think that this must refer back to verse 12 where Peter says that they will glorify God on the day of visitation. Certainly, Jesus predicted that we would be maligned and even worse. John 15:20-21 “Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (NIV) I have a feeling that the foolish men will not be silenced until Jesus comes back.

In the mean time I need to live a free man. So what does that mean? Jesus said in John 8:31-36 that the truth will set me free. The Jews were shocked just as the people of the world are shocked at Christian behavior. They didn’t consider themselves slaves just as non-Christians don’t consider themselves as slaves to sin. But that is exactly what Jesus was said.

So I need to live free from sin. Some read into Paul’s writings that my freedom includes freedom from the Law and that is true. However I capitalized that word Law to limit Its meaning to encompasses the Levitical law of sacrifices and all that went with it. Regarding sin, Paul said in Rom 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (NIV ) When I live free from sin and the law, I live by God’s standards, which are even higher. That is why Peter added that I must live as a servant of God.

In conclusion, this requires me to honor all men. It doesn’t give me the right to abusive speech toward anyone in private or public. If someone is wrong, I can still point that out, not with name-calling, but with carefully researched truth.

I must also love the brotherhood – meaning that I am to love all Christians. I can’t pick and choose which Christians I am to love based on their denomination. Again, that doesn’t mean I have to condone heresy or bad doctrine that is taught in some denominations, but I am to love true believers.

Finally, I need to honor the king, emperor, president, prime minister, governor, mayor, or whoever is leading the country, state, city, or county. That means that I need to treat them with the respect that is due their office. If they are in the wrong, I can still point that out, but in the same way as mentioned before.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Government – 1 Peter 2:13-14

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 wrong and to praise those who do right. (RSV)

What a timely topic for an election day. It’s too bad I didn’t do this before or even finish it on Tuesday.

It’s hard for me to put together submission to human organizations in the same sentence with doing something for the Lord. But, there it is in black and white. The hard part of this is that Peter was writing to people who had been persecuted by the government. It was written about 66 AD which was two years before the end of Nero’s reign of terror. He picked on Christians because they were easy targets and could divert attention away from his own political failings. I sometimes wonder how Peter could make this statement considering who was in power. However, it is evident that the power of the Holy Spirit was moving him to act justly and in accordance with the law of the land.

Of course we can point back to where Peter was called before the Jewish authority. Acts 4:18-20 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." (RSV) This is probably the most often used passage used to disobey government edicts. It sets precedence for Christians everywhere to disobey the government when that law is violating God’s commands. In my opinion, however, it does not give me the right to violate God’s law in order to oppose the government. In other words, I can’t assassinate Nero because he has been wiping out Christians.

Romans 13:1-7 is Paul’s comprehensive exposition on Government. Take the time to look it up and read it. In it, Paul asserts that all governments are established by God. You can look back at the O.T. and see how God used ungodly rulers to punish Israel and Judah. He says that if I rebel against the government, I am likely to bring God’s judgment on myself. Regardless of the government, I’m to do right because government is God’s servant to bring wrath on the wrongdoer. This is not easy to hear, especially if I’m living under an oppressive government. Paul continues to say that I must submit to that authority. I am to pay taxes because the government is God’s servant who gives full time to governing.

I can understand why many Christians did not support the American Revolution. They were ostracized by their fellow citizens who wanted to break free from England. However, they couldn’t see any moral reason to rebel against the king. Taxation without representation was not a violation of God’s commands in their eyes.

Today, I feel that people who are creating and supporting initiatives to cut taxes are not looking at the big picture that Paul presented. They are only looking at their own pocketbook. There is a prevalent attitude among many that government is too big and should be scaled back. I believe that when Christians are not providing the needs of others in the community that the government has the right to tax us to provide those needs. I generally vote for levies because this is the means of paying for services that are beyond the Church’s realm. Fire protection, police forces, public schools, libraries, roads, armed forces, you name it. The Church doesn’t take care of these things.

However if I only pay taxes and don’t get involved in any other way, then I shouldn’t complain when the government is ungodly. 1 Tim 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. (RSV) The first and foremost thing is to pray daily for our leaders, whether we like them or not. Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men. (RSV) Included in that is not to continually bad-mouth our leaders. We should show perfect courtesy, not jump up during a speech (or town meeting) and shout insults.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Flesh - 1 Peter 2:11-12

Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (RSV)

This is Peter talking to people who have been scattered to people because of persecution. How does this pertain to me? As mentioned before, I am an alien in this world and for that reason I should resist the passions of the flesh even more so. When it comes to these passions, the Bible is quite clear about them.

Rom 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. Gal 5:17-21 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (NASB)

As I look over the lists of fleshly passions, I notice that greed isn’t listed. However Eph 5:3 ties greed right in with impurity. Lev 19:11 takes care of lying and stealing also. There just isn’t any wiggle room for me to indulge myself in the things that the world has approved. The world gives lip service to avoiding many of these things but sexual promiscuity (including impurity) and carousing are probably the two most “tolerated” sins that I see in society. I also find it interesting that sorcery and idolatry are listed in the deeds of the flesh. Both of these are becoming more commonplace.

What exactly is Peter talking about when he mentions the flesh? Some versions use the term sinful desires or sinful nature. The dictionary has a definition of flesh that explains it in secular terms: the physical body along with its needs and limitations, as opposed to the soul, mind, or spirit. There are limitations in me that are going to want to do the things listed. How can I abstain from these? The answer is in Gal 5:18. I must be lead by the Spirit. That means I must yield my desires and emotions (soul), my thinking which results in my goals (mind), and my body to God. Since my spirit has been born again, it is the only thing in me that is already yielded to God. It is the means by which the Holy Spirit lives in me and changes my desires to do God’s will. Yielding is an ongoing process until one day I’ll be completely submissive to God. That will be the day of His visitation (when Jesus returns again) or when I die and am finally with Him and free from all the temptations of the flesh.

Peter refers to the world as the Gentiles. Gentiles didn’t have God’s law and in the Jewish mind they did all these things since they had no restraint. The world in Peter’s era, for the most part, acknowledged that most of these things were wrong. Even today the world agrees, otherwise we wouldn’t have everything from anger management classes to specific laws. This reveals that even a person who isn’t being led by the Holy Spirit (a non-Christian) still has a sense of right and wrong.

When Jesus comes back again, it will be too late for non-Christians. However, they will still give glory to God. They will then have to admit that their accusations against us were false. I note, however, that they will do this because they will see my good deeds. One way of avoiding all the lusts of the flesh is to replace them with good deeds. Eph 4:25-32, 5:4, 11, and 17 lists sins and what I should do to replace those sins in my life. When I’m doing these things, the world will see and note it.

Don’t be mistaken, the world knows how a Christian should behave even if they don’t agree. Sometimes they know better than some Christians. They are watching and my strongest witness comes when my actions match my words.