Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Knowledge of Him – 2 Peter 1:1-4

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

Peter identifies himself with both his original name and the name Jesus gave him. Simon – represents his human nature along with his fallibility. As Simon, he identifies with the lowly position of servant. Peter – represents his spiritual nature along with the power bestowed on him by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. As Peter, he identifies with the exalted position of an apostle of Jesus Christ. The letter of Second Peter comes to us with both the authority of Jesus through Peter as well as the identification of a fellow alien in this world through Simon.

This letter is different from First Peter in that he is addressing it much more broadly. While the first letter dealt with living under persecution, this letter is more prophetic, looking to the future when opposition to Christ will come from within the church as false prophets and then beyond to the last days when philosophers will bring precepts into the world that deny Biblical faith. How do we live and conduct ourselves in these circumstances?

The first thing he reminds us of is that our faith is the same as his. It is just as precious and sincere as the faith that he has. The servant and apostle had to come to Jesus by faith just like everyone else. Because Jesus is God and Savior, it is by His righteousness that we have faith. The Gospel never changes. Jesus is righteous, always has been, and always will be. Because He is righteous, when He died on the cross, He could bear our sins and then give us His righteousness when we turn to Him in faith for the forgiveness of our sins. Amazing how much can be packed into one small verse.

Because we know God and Jesus, we have grace and peace. That comes in abundance. Do you have grace and peace in abundance today? If not, what is keeping that away from you? Peter clearly says it comes through our knowledge of Jesus. I hope I’m not being too simplistic; however it seems that if I don’t have peace and grace, then something is wrong with my knowledge of Jesus. Am I limiting His power in my life because of my lack of knowledge about His power? Am I continuing in some sin because I don’t really know what it costs to be forgiven? Have I lost hope and I’m in despair because I have forgotten what the eternal future holds? All are the results of forgetting or not knowing Jesus as He wants us to know Him.

Peter wants us to know that God’s divine power is sufficient for anything that faces us in life: all of the problem, heartache, illness, relational problems, and ultimately – death. His power is all we need to live godly lives. There is no need to compromise in this world when we have His power in us. Eph 3:20-21 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (RSV) When we call upon His power to live godly lives, the glory goes to Jesus, not us. That power enables us to do much more than we ever thought we could. We can resist sin, go longer, and work harder than we thought. We can accomplish things we never expected when we let Him work in us.

Peter said that His power give us everything we need for life and godliness. He didn’t leave anything out. Try to think of something that His power can’t handle. Did you think of something? You’re wrong if you did. God doesn’t lie and His word isn’t wrong. This is one of those very great and precious promises that He has given us. There is a catch though. It is our knowledge of Him. He gives us all this through our knowledge of Him. It is very easy to fall short by listening to false prophets or the world. They will tell you all sorts of things about God that will keep you from having peace and grace in abundance. Some will promise these very same things but it will be based on works and not His divine power. They may even teach that faith will give you peace and grace, but the faith they teach is faith in their own teaching, not in a true knowledge of God.

Here are some good tests to determine whether or not we are participating in the divine nature of God. Are our lives holy? How is our anger? What is going on in our thoughts? Are any of these things or other things inconsistent with God’s divine nature? If so, then something is wrong and we aren’t participating in His nature, but fighting against it. It comes back to a faulty knowledge of God. With His divine nature there is escape from the corruption in the world. It isn’t just suppressing our evil desires, but an escape from them.

You’ve heard people say that it is just their nature to worry. Others also use this excuse for other things, “it’s just my nature.” But this is not what God intends. If we have been born again our nature is now God’s nature. We need to exercise that nature by putting off what we used to do and think and putting on His nature by doing and thinking His way. Then we can say it isn’t our nature to worry, or do whatever it was we used to do.

I was going to quote some verses from Romans 8:1-11 to emphasize this new nature, but I would have to quote too much. So please look it up. Let’s set our minds on the Spirit and realize in our lives the power of God to overcome the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faithful Friends – 1 Peter 5:12-14

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (NIV)

We all need faithful brothers. We need to have people in our lives that will be faithful when we need help or encouragement. Faithful is the key word. I remember a person whom I respected for his knowledge and kindness. I went to him seeking advice about something. In his wisdom he asked me questions about the decision that I was working through. However, after some time I realized that he was not providing me any help. He was in essence a very polite and kind “yes” man. He was not faithful to help me find the best answer but was simply affirming what I had already thought, right or wrong. I didn’t seek his counsel for anything else because I couldn’t trust him to tell me the truth if it wasn’t something I had already discovered.

Peter knew about faithful brothers and how they sometimes have to confront you when you are going in the wrong direction. Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. (NIV) Paul had to rebuke Peter when he was wrong. Can you imagine walking up to Peter and telling him he is wrong about something? In Gal 2:14, Paul says that he did this in front of everyone. Now that is a faithful brother! Paul risked being ostracized and maybe even worse.

A faithful brother is more concerned with pleasing God than pleasing people. Gal 1:10 Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. (RSV) Without an eternal perspective it is easy to fall into the trap of pleasing people instead of God. This admonition for a faithful brother really only comes into play when pleasing people is opposed to pleasing God. After all, we do have the command to look out after other’s interest (Phil 2:4.) However sometimes looking out after someone’s interest means you have to tell him the truth, even if it hurts.

There are many more aspects of being a faithful brother. Col 4:12-13 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. (NASB) Epaphras was a good example of a faithful bother. He was one who prayed for his friends. Note that he had a great concern for them. A casual acquaintance is seldom a faithful brother. This requires getting to know each other.

Peter reminds his readers that his purpose is to encourage them in that what he has said is really from God. Remember that the main topic of this letter is to stand faithful in the face of trials. That ability to stand firm is rooted in the message of salvation and eternal hope that we have in Jesus. This salvation is the grace that is from God and it helps us stand through any trials.

Peter ends his letter in the same way as many of the other letters in the New Testament, with greetings from people. We do this all the time when talking on the phone to a relative or friend in a distant location. We say, “Say Hi to Sally (or whoever) for me.” Who is sending greetings in this letter? The “she in Babylon” sounds like the Church in Babylon. This is the simplest meaning and fits with the context of Mark sending his greetings. I read the preface to Adam Clark’s Commentary where he used several pages to come to this conclusion. He cited many historians and others and finally concluded that the ancient city of Babylon was still in existence when Peter wrote the letter. He also concluded that Peter was most likely there since there were many Jews living there. The significance is that we are people and that we really like to acknowledge each other and say, “Hi,” when we are far away from people we love and care for.

When we are present with our friends and loved ones, we should show that love. Not all cultures greet each other in the same way. At that time, a kiss was very common. Whatever our culture has, we should express that love to each other.

With Christ we can have peace. As we were reminded in previous verses, that peace is only available in Christ. For those outside of Christ, there is not peace but only an expectation of condemnation. We have peace. Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (RSV) Those without Christ don’t have peace. Heb 10:27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (NIV) Where do you stand? In His grace or outside of it. What is your hope in trials? I pray that you know Him and His peace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eternal Perspective – 1 Peter 5:10-11

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. (NASB )

Enough with the suffering! How many times in 1st Peter has suffering been mentioned? He referred to our suffering thirteen times. He referred to Christ’s suffering six times. Do you think that Peter had a message for us regarding suffering? If you are ever confronted by a person who says that you lack faith if you are suffering, point them to the book of 1st Peter. Tell them to read it and explain why Peter continued to encourage the 1st century saints to endure and even consider suffering commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20.)

The great thing about this suffering is that it is only for a little while. Peter knew persecution. He had to flee for his life after he was imprisoned in Jerusalem (Acts 12:4-17.) Jesus told Peter that he would die for his faith (John 21:18-19.) Yet in the midst of this, Peter can say that the suffering is only for a little while.

Peter could speak of suffering as being temporary because he had an eternal perspective. He was looking past the events of this world and could see the eternal results. Just as an athlete endures pain and hardship during training so that he can compete in his sport, so we need to view the trials of this world as preparation to receive an eternity without suffering. Ps 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)

Paul put it this way: 2 Cor 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

Peter and Paul could focus on the eternal because they knew that God is the God of all grace and that He has called us to share in the eternal glory of Christ. They knew that God is concerned with each individual. God doesn’t delegate the job of maturing us to others. He is the one who is making sure that we are being developed into people who will be strong firm and steadfast. Ps 139:2-3 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (NIV) Yes, He may use others in our lives but it is God who is making sure that His plan is being accomplished.

The only way to get through the trials is to make sure you understand who God is as well as the fact that He cares for you individually. Peter says that all dominion or power belongs to Him. Now, if you doubt God’s ability then you will not be confident when trials and sufferings take place. You will worry and fret because you don’t really believe that God is able to take care of you. You will look at the suffering as either your own lack of faith or God’s inability. Either removes all your hope for the future.

Your faith needs to have a proper understanding of God’s plan and that understanding is what Peter has hammered into this epistle over and over. You will suffer. That is the Christian way.

You need to understand that God is good and He has your best interests at heart. That means He will not settle for more now if that means less in eternity. He will not settle for an easy life now if that means less glory in eternity. He has the power and the dominion over all things and He knows how to use that for eternal good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Enemy – 1 Peter 5:8-9

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (NIV)

The enemies of Christians are not other religions or institutions that persecute or introduce teachings that are contrary to Christ. Some people who believe in other religions are easy to spot. They have traditional garb, jewelry or some other distinguishing marks that tell us that they don’t follow Jesus. When we see them we shouldn’t consider them an enemy, even if they are wearing the uniform of a government that persecutes Christians. If we have that attitude then we will not be able to reach them for Jesus. We will be fearful, disrespectful, or angry when we see them. These emotional reactions will prevent us from telling them about Jesus when we have an opportunity.

How can we keep from having negative thought when we see these people? The key is found in Eph 6:12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (RSV) Our enemy is Satan and all the demonic forces under his control. The people we see that serve him are his victims. They are flesh and blood people who are trapped in his domain. They have been blinded and confused by the lies that he has spread as well a by their own sinful responses. 2 Cor 3:14-17 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NIV) If we view these people as our enemies rather than people that need to be rescued from Satan’s dominion, then we will not have the opportunity to be ambassadors for Christ so that He can open their eyes to the truth. When they come to Christ they will have freedom from Satan’s grasp.

It takes a lot of self-control to be able to keep from hiding our faith in the presence of Satan’s servants. It takes self-control to keep from falling into the traps that Satan has laid in this world. Self-control sounds like something that we have to muster up within ourselves. However, true self-control is not something that we can do on our own. 2 Tim 1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. (RSV) Self-control is a product of God’s Holy Spirit living in us. Depending on the Holy Spirit is the only way to have success overcoming the temptations in this world, whether they are temptations to do wrong or to avoid doing what God wants us to do.

Resisting the devil requires dependence on the power of the God in our lives. I have had temptations in my life that I thought were beyond my capability to resist. As I struggled with them I learned that my thoughts were correct. I was incapable of resisting them by myself. It was then that I understood these words from Eph 1:19-20 … the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead … (RSV) The same resurrection power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead is in every believer. That power gives us self-control only when we rely on it. If I think I can exert enough self-control to overcome a temptation then I’m deceiving myself. When I have faced temptations and rely on God’s power in me and ask Him for that power, His Holy Spirit has given me the power to overcome the temptation. I have experienced James 4:7 in my life. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (NASB) I relied on Jesus and His power in me to resist and the temptation disappeared. The circumstances that led to the temptation were still there but the desire or motivation to succumb were gone.

When we resist Satan by either sharing Jesus with others who may be hostile to Christ or just by doing right, we may often face suffering. Peter reminds us that we aren’t alone. We have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world who are undergoing the same kind of problems that we are. This should be an encouragement to persevere. If they are trusting in the power of Jesus in their lives, then I should also be able to do that.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Worry – 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. (RSV)

There are three point of clarification in this passage: what is anxiety, does God care for you, and how do you cast your anxieties. The first thing to consider is what makes up anxieties. According to the Encarta Dictionary, anxieties come in four flavors.

  1. Feeling of worry: nervousness or agitation, often about something that is going to happen
  2. Something that worries somebody: a subject or concern that causes worry.
  3. Strong wish do to something: the strong wish to do something, especially if the wish is unnecessarily or unhealthily strong
  4. Extreme apprehension: psychiatry a medical condition marked by intense apprehension or fear of real or imagined danger.
The common denominator of 1, 3, and 4 is that the subject of concern has not happened. Only the second definition suggests that the subject of anxiety could have already occurred. While it might make sense to address these differently, the Bible doesn’t appear to make a distinction as how to handle the situations.

In Matt 6:19-34 Jesus’ addresses the subject of worry and the fact that God does care for us. Most people divide this passage into separate parts, the first dealing with money and then the second dealing with worry. However Jesus put a word in the middle that ties them together. The part about worry starts with the word “Therefore.” The biggest cause of worry is an incorrect perspective on money or things. Jesus sets the correct perspective in verses 19-21 by telling us to store up treasures in heaven so that our heart will be there also. He then reminds us that we can’t serve two masters. Matt 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (NIV) The first clue to being able to handle anxiety or worry is to make sure you have a heaven perspective and to know who you are serving.

Jesus says not to worry about anything. He talks about food and clothes and the fact that God knows we need these basic of life. He tells us that our worth is much greater than that of birds and grass yet he takes care of the needs of even these. He tells us to contemplate the complexity of a flower and consider that it is much greater than the splendor of our best clothes. If God takes care of the things of nature, how much more is He going to take care of us?

Matt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV) Jesus brings it all back to the proper perspective. When Jesus’ kingdom and being righteous is more important than anything else, God will take care of us. Does this mean that we will never be hungry or without clothes? No, Jesus also told us that we would have troubles in this life including persecution. So look back at the beginning of 1st Peter and remember what the purpose of suffering is. Get your focus back on the eternal and not the temporal. Isn’t it interesting that one little question or doubt and suddenly we’ve lost perspective?

So how do you cast your anxieties on the Lord? There are some examples in Scripture of people doing this. 1 Sam 1:10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. (NIV) The priest, Eli, observed her praying and after talking with her, he encouraged her with a short prayer of his own. Hannah’s face was no longer downcast.

1 Sam 23:15-16 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (NIV) Here is another example of a friend that encourages and helps another who is concerned.

Matt 26:37-38 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb'edee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." (RSV) Even Jesus knew that friends can help when we are distressed.

Jesus prayed, Hannah prayed, and David wrote his prayers down in the Psalms. The Psalms are great examples of David pouring out his heart to God. He didn’t deny the problems he was facing or his discouragement. Prayers dealing with anything must be honest. God knows our fears and worries so denying them will only hurt our communication with Him. Be honest in your payers; however don’t let that honestly overshadow what God can do. Remember that you need an eternal perspective and then trust in God. Ps 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (NIV) David always came back to the basics.

God is in control. This life is only preparing us for eternity. Maintain the proper eternal perspective.

Phil 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)