Tag: Obedience

Grow in Godliness

2 Peter 1:5-7

Peter begins his exhortation by declaring what God has done for his people, next he challenges his readers to respond in the right way. Can be thought of as basic principles for Christian living. What are things we as followers of Christ living counter-culturally should be focused on, seeking to develop in our character? These are traits, when they have genuine expression, will impact others. Remember what Peter said v.4 – “you may be partakers of the divine nature” – as that becomes true, these things Peter identifies in our text will describe us: diligent, virtuous, knowledgeable, self-controlled, persevering, godly, compassionate, loving.

Not the kinds of things typical worldling focuses on, thinks is worthy of putting on bucket list. They are the things God thinks are important, and they don’t just happen. We don’t acquire them simply by living another day or decade. Again… remember what Peter has just declared: “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness”. Doesn’t say God has given us godliness, says he has given “everything required for …godliness”.

If we are to please God, must have right starting place, must develop right things along the way, and have right conclusion in view. Is much that God expects us to do following conversion but never lose sight of this:

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

All we do in our pursuit of godliness must be done in total dependence on Christ, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

A. start with this

there’s a reason

our bequest – everything necessary to please God that comes to us through Lord Jesus – nothing lacking that we need

doesn’t mean is done deal, does mean we need not look elsewhere for resources – can trust God’s word in all things

also means we must respond to God’s gracious goodness in the right way – not “let go and let God”…. is “hold on tight and go with God”

our destiny – escape from corruption that is in the world – if that is truly the goal, not every road leads there… in fact, every road but one leads somewhere else

since we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”, our response to that gift: love, joy, thankfulness, diligent pursuit of our destiny

Phil. 3:13-14 “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

there’s a foundation

precious faith – is where it all begins – Peter says “supplement / add on to your faith”… assumes that very first thing laid down is faith, then built up from there

every good builder knows: quality and character of foundation determines what you can safely/effectively build on it

if we are to build up life of godliness, must have foundation that will support it, contribute to its integrity, resemble Christ

there’s no other option

only faith in the righteousness of Christ produces following traits with kind of qualities that pleases God, result in true godliness

must be constantly using God’s definition of virtue, knowledge, etc. – false teachers will try to supply their own brand

common current tactics: introduce other sources of authority… science, professional training, pragmatism (what works.. or seems to)

B. add these

it’s a package, not a recipe

listed in sequence like shopping list, series of ingredients – is recognized way of speaking, making a point, yet should be taken as comprehensive package bounded by faith and love

Christian life such that never get to point where can say “I’ve mastered that one, time for the next” and move on to another item

just like addition to home, all the pieces have to stay in right places and perform expected function for successful outcome

they’re character traits

are things that take work to develop: “For this very reason, make every effort to add” – if have raised children, know character development far more involved than simple behavior modification

virtue – moral excellence, doing the right thing, what is most pleasing to God when it requires strength and courage

knowledge – not simply facts, even Bible facts… understanding needed to exercise virtue – knowing WWJD in all of life, how to exercise courage so as to further cause of Christ and own godliness

self-control – disciplined daily life that keeps in good all-round health, ready and able to follow Christ in every circumstance

perseverance – maintaining fidelity to faith that forms foundation, truth as it is found in Christ, continuing effort to do God’s will

godliness – knowing God, loving God so well we see his hand in all things; doing all things for his glory, delighting in his company, fellowshiping with Father and Friend

brotherly kindness – treating fellow Christians like family – love, loyalty, compassion, consideration we naturally show biological family

love – putting the good of others ahead of our own… Christian brothers and sisters first but not exclusively – loving neighbors and enemies too

that characterize behavior

every one of these requires use of intellect, each one engages emotions on some level… but, not simply mind game or emotional response

presence of these traits to be obvious in our actions, describing who we are and how we behave in and out of church setting

C. finish with this

the umbrella over all the others

as our precious faith is to be foundation and precious promises to be integral to our motivation, so love is to be what covers the rest

not simple affection for others but self-sacrificing love – Jesus’ words: if you want to be my disciple, deny self, take up cross, follow

applies to our relationship with believers

source of love for family is love for Christ – growing love for Christ feeds and grows love for others which encourages devotion to Christ

is essential for those outside the family to see – John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

and false teachers

where it really goes outside the box, against the flow is when we show love outside the family, esp. those trying to separate us in some way from Christ and his sufficiency

common thread among most false teaching: increases focus on self at expense of focus on God, dependence on self rather than dependence on God

Charles Simeon, pastor in Cambridge, England for 53 years:

No words can declare the importance of these graces to the Christian more forcibly than those in which the Apostle has declared it in [verses 8 & 9]: for he asserts, that the constant exercise of them will prove us to be intelligent and consistent Christians, whilst the want of them will prove us ignorant and inconsistent.

Doesn’t simply happen, requires constant effort on our part depending on Christ and one another to grow in godliness.

 

Precious Promises

2 Peter 1:3-4 

They say that those who are ignorant of history are destined to repeat it. Whether exactly true as stated or not, does seem that the same problems keep coming up… in the family, in the community, in the church. Is true of the two issues Peter felt constrained to address in his epistles – challenges to the church from outside and challenges to the church from inside. The first easily seen in other parts of today’s world, some perhaps rightly warn of increased persecution for Christians in our part of world. The second one not quite so obvious but substantially more dangerous, that is false teachers within the Christian community.

Those who are being used to lead others away from God’s truth never start out in left field. They begin with what Christians have in common and go from there – add little bits of other things, take away little bits of things that don’t seem too important. Before you know it, off the path and headed for serious danger. All fits with Satan and his tricks, intent to lead people away from Christ. Simplest way to accomplish that – convince them Christ is not sufficient for their need. Both Peter and Paul faced that issue and both made clear in their ministry and writing and life that Christ is sufficient for all people in all places at all times.

The idea that Christ is sufficient has consequences in our daily life. It impacts how we do church and how we order our priorities out in the community According to Peter’s declaration, believer has at his/her disposal absolutely everything necessary to live counter-culturally. Everything we need to be transformed from being one of the world to being like Christ is readily available to us. Too many are convinced something else is lacking – enough time in the day, different kind of program, understanding like someone else has, better study Bible, more capable app for electronic device. Perhaps you are among them… Read v.3 again:

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” – His divine power has granted to us, bestowed on us, everything necessary / required for life and godliness

And there is where we need to get back to and stay if we are to avoid danger. Must live like we truly believe it is God’s power we depend on to give good gifts. Confident that God himself through Christ provides absolutely everything we need for life now and later that is lived pleasing to him. Believing promises God has made that pertain to our present godliness and future glory, that we can now and forever be partakers of God’s very nature. God’s goal in all this for us is that we would escape the corruption that comes to us from the world. If all this was important in Peter and Paul’s day, even more now 2000 years closer to Jesus’ return.

A. God’s power

source of good gifts

repeating principle James stated: Jas. 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

both had same things in mind – resources we as children of God need to grow in likeness to Christ, also in favor with God

nothing less will suffice

none would argue, God / his power absolutely essential to save us – can say the same about sanctification, growing in holiness

not case of God using his power to get us unstuck and moving, then on our own – that would be like Tesla cruiser, abandoned chase of criminal because battery went flat

B. God’s provision

all that pertains to life

is God’s power and provision that gives life, that sustains life across the board – is God’s provision that sustains spiritual life also… and he is committed to supplying it to his children

once God grants life, he will supply everything necessary to support life according to his good purpose – never need worry about supply

and all that pertains to godliness

God provides but we have to put to use – simple possession of resources provides no benefit until we actually use them

we lack for no resource necessary to live up to God’s standard of holiness – all we need to know for faith and practice, what to believe and how to behave, in God’s word

all we need for power and strength and wisdom available to us from indwelling Holy Spirit… when we cooperate with his working

C. God’s promises

present godliness

no other worldview makes such astounding and genuine promises: that through faith in Christ we may have forgiveness of sin, be reconciled to God, adopted into his family, conformed to image of Christ, loved by heavenly Father, personal relationship with creator God through Son the Lord Jesus

iow, are promised godliness in this present life – will be complete eventually but don’t minimize this: it starts and progresses in this life

future glory

not left in the dark about what comes next – Peter gets to it eventually, 2 Pet. 3:13 “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

one of many promises concerning future, the inheritance God has stored up for his people, complete restoration of imago Dei

fulfillment of these promises comes to us from the Father through Christ and applied by Holy Spirit, specifically through knowledge of God as revealed in his word – knowledge that is vital protection against error of false teaching

D. God’s person

partakers of the divine nature

through the promises of God as we stand on them and act on them that we become “partakers of the divine nature”

does not mean we become little gods, does mean we develop character like God has, characteristics listed in v.5-8

progressively by the Spirit

would like if it were an event rather than a process, God has ordained it otherwise – the process keeps us mindful of moment-by-moment dependence on God for all things

more next time, but Peter and Paul on same page about work and evidence of Holy Spirit – Christlike character produced in us progressively as Holy Spirit does his work and we do our part

E. God’s purpose

escape corruption

escape has been “secured by God’s power, activated through conversion, completed at the consummation” Vinson

the piece we experience now requires us to live counter-culturally – not subject to / motivated by attempts of world to entice us into sinful ways of thinking and acting

already but not yet

Christians are not Energizer Bunnies, able to keep on going…and going – need encouragement, reminders of truth to keep us moving toward final goal / destination

Peter has done that: don’t forget God’s power never runs out, is always available and will enable us to persevere to the end

yes, is a process, and he promises those who persevere will receive the reward – but… we must use God’s power available to us

 

 

Precious Faith

2 Peter 1:1-2 

Testing and trials assault the believer’s faith in every age and place. Sometimes in some places things get a little more intense… like now in Communist and Muslim nations… or then in parts of the Roman Empire. But the dangers are present universally – remember how Peter ended his first letter:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Satan has been doing that since the Garden, will continue to do so until the Second Coming. One of Satan’s favorite targets: our faith. If he can rock that, he’s well on his way to his goal. As is typical of Satan, uses more than one avenue of attack. Peter’s 1st letter encourages those who are experiencing tests of their faith from the world… those outside the church. 2nd letter encourages and instructs those who are experiencing challenges to their faith from inside the church. Is possible, even likely, intended recipients of this letter same as his first:

2 Peter 3:1 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder)”

Peter makes it clear from beginning of his letter what he and his readers have in common: the same faith in the same God. The more he writes, more exclusive his message becomes – it is only through faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ and his righteousness that grace, peace, and knowledge is obtained. This kind of faith is treasure of immense value, something to be esteemed and guarded. Not only strengthens and guides in the present, gives confidence that God will keep promises for future.

Variety of ways that kind of faith is being challenged – ongoing errors of prosperity preachers; efforts for church to take position on addressing climate change; redefining marriage; and leadership roles in the church to name just a few. Each one of those issues as presented encourage reliance on something other than or in addition to God and his word the Bible. Issue, specific false teaching facing Peter’s first audience might have been different. Dangers today have same source, same purpose, need same warnings and strategies to resist effectively.

A. foundation

witness of apostles

is the apostles, the ones sent out by Christ himself with specific instructions:

John 17:18 “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world”

Matt. 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

how is it we know what we know about Jesus? – twelve faithful men who carried out their Master’s instructions to carry witness around the world

communicated by word

just sang: “My heart is leaning on the Word,  /  The living Word of God,  /  Salvation by my Savior’s name,  /  Salvation through His blood.

much of apostles’ early ministry by word of mouth – God was pleased to make sure was written down, less opportunity for errors

we know with confidence what apostles believed and said, what true nature of their “precious faith” was… it’s in the Bible

exemplified by life

have added weight of testimony given by their lives… many literally – wasn’t just words and ideas for them, was how they lived

if their faith had sufficient foundation to carry them through hardships, suffering, imprisonment, persecution, martyrdom, “like precious faith” should certainly be adequate for us

certainly will be adequate if we continually feed it to keep safe from drift, from doctrinal error, becoming like church in Pergamos or Thyatira

B. beginning

obtained

might be thinking: I’m pretty sure I don’t have faith that strong, don’t believe I can work it up – take heart, apostles didn’t come up with their faith on their own

this apostle in particular didn’t show much faith at time of Jesus’ arrest and trial – like all others, his faith came from outside

in the same way

Peter certainly not talking about confidence in his own abilities – he knew what they were, and their limits – how many steps from the boat??

a dad heartbroken over afflicted son put in words: Jesus said “if you believe all things are possible”; he replied “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24)

comes in increasing measure – doesn’t take much to be saved, enduring / persevering requires growing maturing faith

from the same source

we barely have enough faith for our own needs, certainly no surplus to give anyone else… even if possible – must come from God himself directly to each individual

faith itself as well as what it ensures for us a gracious gift of God – Eph. 2:8 – undeserved, unearned, freely given and sustained

C. object

Jesus Christ

to count as a “precious faith” must have right object – is not degree of confidence, measure of faith that makes something happen

this absolutely non-negotiable – must be faith in Christ alone, nothing added – one of Five Solas of Protestant Reformation

God and Savior

is also essential that it be the right Christ – not the one found within everyone according to New Age belief; not Isa of the Quran

is the one who is God in flesh, sent by the Father to be Savior of the world, dead buried and raised again on the third day

imputed righteousness

this Christ who is our God and Savior is the only one with necessary qualifications to be our Savior, to be source of precious faith

only Christ has perfect human righteousness that can be credited to those who believe in him and will satisfy Father’s demands

D. blessings

Second Peter opens with a prayer and blessing, “May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (1:2) and closes with an exhortation, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18). The opening prayer and blessing, followed by the closing exhortation, embrace the whole letter with a pastoral inclusio. Richard Vinson

growing grace

James talks about dead faith, one that has no accompanying good works – saving faith alive in other ways: not static but growing

has blessings that go along with it and grow as well – growing experience of God’s grace lavished on us as we continue to mature

growing peace

one of obvious indicators the believer operates on different principles than world – more turmoil / conflict in world, more peace in believer

like grace, Peter’s prayer that grace and peace will be poured out on believer in massive abundance, more than enough to meet need

growing knowledge

our world becoming more inundated with data every day – information increasing exponentially, knowledge actually declining

the believer, though, to be increasing in knowledge… not of facts, data, information, but intimate experiential knowledge of Jesus

Ken Jennings and others can wow on Jeopardy, don’t forget this: Col. 2:3 “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”

Treasure that precious faith. If you don’t have it, seek it… without delay. Grow in it, nurture it, share your story with others so they can experience same blessings. And remember – not your genius or mine, not hard work, not lucky breaks, is the wonderful grace of Jesus that gives us hope and future.

 

Right Standing

1 Peter 5:6-14 

Standing is important… for a lot of people… in a lot of situations. Which teams will be in the playoffs? Which candidate on the ballot? Where in the bidding process for a new contract? And then matters of personal standing – where do we stand in line for promotion? vacation time? retirement? Also question has been used frequently in personal witnessing: if you died tonight, where would you go / spend eternity? Common answer, heaven. Then follow-up: when you meet God at entrance to heaven, he asks why you should gain entrance, what would you say? Is a question of standing, what is your standing before a holy God.

Standing of Peter’s readers in that ultimate eternal sense was this: 1 Pet. 1:2 they were “​elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”. But what about standing in day to day life, while being tested and marginalized and persecuted and simply trying to live quietly and faithfully for Christ? If they were standing in right place the right way, could count on God’s approval and assistance.

Same is true for us. If we are to come through our fiery trials in way that brings glory to God, need to be sure we are standing right now. First place to be is standing under God’s hand.

A. stand under God’s hand  v.6-7

humbled

often a hard one for us independent Yankees – idea of voluntarily coming under authority of someone else not real popular

no safer place can be found anywhere than resting under God’s mighty hand of provision and protection – our task to humbly accept whatever comes through his hand to us… as his best for us

hard stuff as well as blessings have place in God’s perfect plan for his children – can trust God completely in all things

exalted

don’t need to worry about missing out on anything that is rightly ours – humble submission does not require giving up anything of real value – in fact, is the only way to gain what has true worth

in God’s time, in God’s way, will be assured of God’s approval – God will exalt his people because they are one with Christ – no need to worry about man’s approval, his giving us credit/glory

calm

think about things that make you anxious, that weigh you down – you can’t fix them, you can’t bear them all… but God can… and he will… if you give those cares to him

can do so confidently because… get this… you and your cares matter to God! – he cares about you and your problems

Jesus did – Luke 2:49 – didn’t tell his parents he had to be doing his own thing, had to be doing his Father’s business, including being subject to his mother and step-father

B. stand up to the devil  v.8-9

watchful

people often quick to blame the devil for bad behavior – the devil made me do it; accurate or not, doesn’t have to be that way

we have minds being renewed by Holy Spirit, have ability to recognize devil’s tricks even when he uses agents to do dirty work

must be thinking / watching – minds engaged, filled w/God’s truth, concerned w/God’s agenda, attentive to hazards around us

resistant

devil certainly a dangerous and powerful enemy – his greatest power not some kind of force, is power of deception, seduction

Bible assures us we have power and ability to resist his efforts to destroy our trust in God, Christian witness, usefulness to God and brothers and sisters around the world

steadfast

here is the key: not strong in intellect, not great willpower, not long record of faithfulness – strong / firm / steadfast in faith

is unshakable confidence in God and his truth found in the Bible that empowers / enables us to resist devil’s deceptions

and… don’t forget… brothers and sisters enduring same kinds of things while resisting devil and are encouraged by our effective resistance just like we are encouraged by them

Jesus did – Luke 4:13 – Satan mis-used the Bible, twisting to his purpose; Jesus responded with proper use just like we can… “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God”

C. stand in God’s provision  v.10-11

called

God in his grace and wisdom has called us to glory through suffering – what we experience now is necessary but temporary

is his perfect provision for us to prepare us for what he has called us to, eternal life in heaven and… it will accomplish his purpose for us

completed

if suffering left out of our experience, we would not be complete – either in our preparation or in our likeness to Christ

“predestined to be conformed to his image” – since Christ Jesus suffered for us, is suffering with us, we must suffer too

unlike us, God not working by trial and error – not a let’s see if this works – his purpose will succeed, we will someday be complete… what we ought to be, fully restored

established

God himself will carve out the place he has in mind for us – a place where we can thrive, love, serve without hindrance

God may give sample to us in this life – no matter how much God blesses / prospers us now, is only faint shadow of future

strengthened

might wonder some days, will strength be sufficient – remember God’s purpose, does not intend suffering to overcome/destroy

will provide all necessary strength to make proper use of experiences (incl. suffering), resources he gives, opportunities

and… will continue to do so… for all eternity – providing all we need to please him perfectly in all ways forever

settled

especially comforting to pilgrims – will not be wanderers forever, really are pilgrims headed for final settled destination

have a sure home, place being prepared that will be ours forever – place in glory, with glory, where we will live for his glory

Jesus did – John 4:32 during his ministry, had source of nourishment unknown to followers, at end of life trusted Father’s provision to carry him through sacrifice and death

D. stand with the saints  v.12-14

in God’s grace

God doesn’t expect us to endure alone – he is always there and he gives us others with skin on for strength and encouragement

“source and provider of unlimited supplies of His gracious and powerful working on behalf of all who are His own” Peter Pett

in love

is good to show affection and appreciation for fellow believers at every opportunity – strengthens bonds between, lifts spirits, equips us for next challenge

in Christ

those who are in Christ are one, are family, are sharers with Christ in his suffering and his eternal inheritance

Jesus does – John 14:18 he may have returned to heaven but he didn’t leave us orphans – we think of Holy Spirit indwelling us, and he does

remember Jesus’ prayer, John 17:23-24 “the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

One of best ways to please Heavenly Father is to show evidence of his unlimited grace when we experience suffering and trials. Lord Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters walk beside us, great cloud of witnesses surrounds us and cheers us on (Heb. 12:1) Let’s stand for him, in his strength, looking for that crown of glory he will give to us on that day.

 

Tending Sheep In Tough Times

1 Peter 5:1-5  

This portion of 1 Peter viewed by many as sort of stand-alone section, rabbit trail only loosely joined to rest of letter. Pick up on that from choice of topics related to text: “Profile of a Pastor”; “How to Be a Good Shepherd”; “Prescription for a Healthy Church”. To some degree, all are valid descriptions of Peter’s theme here. But… Peter had something more in mind as he wrote – his instruction / encouragement intended for spiritual leaders of particular sort of Christians… those living as persecuted pilgrims, experiencing daily hardship and little support.

Peter exhorting, not demanding – says “I exhort” – not standing up front and lecturing like drill sergeant, instead as one who comes alongside with idea of helping. He speaks “from the trenches”, a “fellow elder”, and as a first-hand witness of Christ’s suffering; has strong conviction of suffering that awaits him (John 21:18-19), that he would die as a martyr. Peter encourages fellow elders in the way they should tend sheep who are suffering.

Peter not making this up new for first readers – is taking what he already received for instruction, making application to their setting.

Read John 21:15-17 

Jesus not simply restoring Peter to fellowship, also commissioning him for particular kind of ministry – fisherman is to become a shepherd, eventually mentoring other shepherds. “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, “Feed my sheep”. Just from living where he did, Peter had some idea of shepherd’s skills and duties. Now has served in ministry for thirty years, can rightly speak as one with much first-hand experience. Knows now what needs of two-legged sheep are, how to feed lambs and sheep, what is necessary to be effective shepherd.

Peter encourages leaders to lead, followers to follow, and all to serve one another in spirit of submissive humility.

A. lead  v.1-4

where you are leading

the goal he has in view (1b) – glory seen through the lens of suffering… that of Christ… and his own, both past and anticipated

must be confident of goal in spite of current circumstances – is leader’s confidence that encourages followers to follow

the goal they should have in view (4b) – the crown of glory – crown finishes the picture, has something worthy on which to rest

remember: leaders lead… they show the way (path and manner)… from out in front – no remote-control drone flying, giving orders from place of safety

make sure followers stay on the path, rescue/recover any strays, show by example how to make progress toward goal

who you are leading

God’s flock – not CEO of privately held company, flock belongs entirely to God… Psa. 100:3 “…We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

leaders are overseers, not masters – they lead and guide, not drive and control – follow me, follow my example

entrusted to a shepherd – responsibility in two directions… to the flock and to Chief Shepherd – must properly lead / nourish / protect / encourage flock… according to Chief Shepherd’s standard

with oversight responsibility (not ownership) – owner can do with flock as he pleases, under-shepherd must do as Christ pleases

how you are leading

willingly – not “I need volunteers, you, you and you” – the one truly called by God is given interest/desire/willingness/courage to lead under tough circumstances

if leader wavers, is uncertain, will transmit quickly to followers who will scatter / lose their way / get injured

eagerly – eager leader not content to stay in one place – rallies / encourages the flock to keep pressing on toward the goal

exemplarily – leader must be doing right in tough times or flock will not follow well or reach right destination – at worst will end up being tragically harmed

why you are leading

called by the Chief Shepherd – Christ is one who has given gifts to the flock, among them shepherds he calls to serve particular flock

crowned by the Chief Shepherd – Christ is the one who crowns his own work in / through his under-shepherds with an eternal glory

is good reminder that suffering experienced by both shepherds and sheep is temporary while glory at end is eternal

love for the Chief Shepherd (remember Jesus’ questions) and his sheep – ones truly commissioned by Christ genuinely love him

those who love Christ love his people, put interests of Christ’s people ahead of their own – see 1 John

B. follow  v.5a

in the same way

headed for glory – shepherd and flock have same destination, glorious inheritance already reserved in heaven for those who are Christ’s – major motivation in midst of suffering, what shepherd holds up alongside his example

as a member of God’s flock – should confidently stick together, pursue the goal together, confident God will make it happen

being led by a shepherd – flock needs shepherd, sheep cannot defend themselves, cannot find food for themselves

there’s that word… submit

willingly – lack of willingness makes life difficult for the shepherd, hinders individual’s and flock’s progress toward godliness

eagerly – having strong desire to experience the “glory that will be revealed” together – following closely, not dragging feet

from love for God – if motivator for shepherd is love for God and his people, same should be true of his people

C. serve  v.5b

submissive to one another

common goal – intention is that entire flock will reach destination, not just select individuals – how can we help each other along since all going same way

btw, true of believers regardless of which part of Christ’s fold happens to be their favorite part – he has one flock

common enemy – don’t forget, enemy is the devil and not particular agents he uses (more next week) – favorite tactic: division

common need – need one another, support / encouragement each gives; need direction / protection supplied by faithful shepherd

humble toward one another

proper estimation of self – not thinking of self more highly than we ought (Rom. 12:3), product of renewed mind, opposite of pride

beware of false pride/humility – making too little of self, thinking God cannot use you to minister to needs of others

proper estimation of others – equally ready to receive service from others as to give to them, recognizing others as equally worthy of service

supporting role – not only toward fellow sheep, also have role in supporting the shepherd – times when of necessity shepherd is out of sight, sheep follow sheep who are following shepherd

especially helpful when are number of lambs / sheep that need focused assistance – sharing the load is vital

recipients of God’s grace

given to sheep (dependents), not goats – God’s favor is absolutely essential if we are to persevere through trials/suffering

enables perseverance – by giving additional strength/support, by reducing effect of persecutors and demands on sheep

prompts growth in godliness – given for express purpose of encouraging / enabling to become more like Christ

In times of persecution and suffering, flock of God needs leadership of good and faithful shepherd. Sheep need help and support and encouragement of others in the flock. Most of all, sheep and shepherd need God’s grace in abundant measure in order to live well and finish well.

 

Encouragement for Hard Times

1 Peter 4:12-19 

First responders have hard jobs. Routinely put in situations where lives are at risk – their own, those of fellow responders, the ones they are trying to help. Requires countless hours of training, preparation, practicing skills so as to carry out duties well under pressure. Same is true for Christians and Christian life: to respond well to hardship/suffering, must be prepared for it. Certain fundamental principles need to have well in hand before hard times come – one of reasons God put 1 & 2 Peter in the Bible.

And keep this in mind: all of this, good times / hard times all part of God’s sovereign purpose for lives of his people. Because God is a good Heavenly Father who in all things does what is best for his children, whatever comes our way has a good purpose. Evil people may seek to do us harm yet God will by his power use their evil to bring about good in our lives… for God’s glory.

The injunctions contained in this inspired directory seem all reducible to the four following: Be not astonished at your sufferings; Be not depressed by your sufferings; Be not ashamed of your sufferings; and, persevering in well-doing, commit the keeping of your souls to God, under your sufferings. John Brown, Edinburgh, 1848

 As it is to be in all of life, primary aim when hard times come should be far more than simple endurance. Bible doesn’t encourage us just to make it through the day, hang on by a thread ’til Jesus comes. God in his word makes plain he wants us to experience joy even in suffering, to trust him and give him glory in all things.

A. don’t be surprised  v.12

expect suffering

danger of prosperity gospel and its various flavors/brands – not just Africa where casualties are piling up, comes in many forms

from “God loves you, has a wonderful plan…” to full-blown “God wants you healthy, wealthy and wise” – when it gets tough, then what?? – those attracted to goodies turn back on Christianity

those unprepared: question their level of faith, sin in their life, goodness of God – fail to profit personally, glorify God adequately

will be real suffering… with a purpose

not talking about inconvenience, momentary cost – is real thing, often painful – trial by fire never comfortable, but it does purify

will be sufficiently challenging to give faith fair test – opportunity to learn how strong faith is and how faithful God is to his children

btw, remember history

if story of Bible mostly concerned with redemption of fallen sinners and giving hope and future, then path to glory lies through suffering… not because God is mean, but his wise perfect plan requires it

is also story of how time after time God brings his people through suffering, step by step conforming them to Christ’s likeness

to this point in time God, unlike everyone else, has 100% success rate – no one who is truly Christ’s fails to reach goal, cross finish line, receive the prize from hand of God

B. don’t be discouraged  v.13-14

rejoice in suffering

if we are to be Pilgrims Living Counter-Culturally, here’s another thing to add – world’s response to suffering usually to complain

Christian, understanding God’s purpose has good reason to have positive attitude – not Pollyanna, spin, calling evil good

closer fellowship

shared suffering brings people closer together – gives you things to reminisce about :-), more things in common… this time growing/strengthening fellowship with Jesus

don’t have to fully grasp all in’s and out’s, from God’s perspective suffering because you are a Christian means you share in Christ’s sufferings

Col. 1:24 “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church”

greater joy

benefit, good that comes from suffering experienced both in present and future – sharing in Christ’s sufferings now increases our joy when he returns, receives full glory due him

not only have privilege of sharing in suffering now (you might question that), will also have privilege of sharing in his glory then

Spirit in fuller measure

here’s the real key – not in this suffering thing alone, not expected to have right attitude/response by ourselves w/o help

suffering believer is blessed by Holy Spirit present and active… encouraging, equipping, strengthening, protecting, sanctifying

C. don’t be ashamed  v.15-16

glorify God in suffering

again, not just slogging through, trying to make it under the circumstances – need to be actively looking for God’s fingerprints, giving him glory for what he is doing

and… don’t think you lack faith, must be some sin in life somewhere if you are suffering – God has lots more in mind than that

make sure it’s not simple consequences

obviously can’t do that if suffering result of bad behavior – make sure you’re doing it right!!… I’d never do that stuff, uh-huh

murderer, thief, criminal, of course – but how about meddling, busybody, making trouble – expect push-back then

praise Him for sufficient evidence

if suffering for being a Christian, praise God there is enough evidence of your faith to attract opposition from Satan, agents

those who claim Christianity, live like the world no hindrance at all to Satan, rather a help – no persecution from him for that!

thank Him you are deemed worthy

remember that bit about sharing in Christ’s suffering! not just anyone who gets to do that, only those who so identify with Christ that God approves of their witness… in and out of suffering

D. do trust in God  v.17-19

don’t give up and fall away

strong warning here: if righteous only barely survive… through all this… imagine what is like for the lost!! – don’t be like them!!

fires of persecution accomplish several things: separate genuine from pretend, purify genuine from sinful corruption, purify Christ’s church of casual cultural christians

remember their destiny

those who fall away from truth and stay that way have ultimate destiny that should make us recoil in horror, and pursue faithfulness to the truth

those fiery trials that are but for short period of time in life of believer will be continual never-ending torment for unbeliever

trust the right One for your future

instead of turning / running away from the only source of genuine hope, commit your soul to him, cling to him, follow him

in God’s acts of creation, bringing things into existence that depend entirely on God for that existence, God was committing himself to doing all necessary to sustain them

Remember: hard times / persecution comes our way to test our faith, not destroy it. Testing proves the genuineness, the strength, the reliability of something. In this case, the object of our faith… God himself. Keep your eyes on the goal, listen to the Holy Spirit, press forward in the strength God gives. Be assured the One who has already ascended to heaven will bring all those who are his safely home.

Get Serious

1 Peter 4:7-11 

Perspective counts for a lot. From the International Space Station, the Grand Canyon looks like a little ditch. From the North or South Rim, you get picture is big ditch. And from raft on Colorado River, looking up at the rim more than mile up, is even more awe-inspiring. Similar kind of thing is true about time – at times a few minutes seems like forever, other times event of few decades ago seems like yesterday.

Also makes big difference with regard to time which things are identified on timeline. Peter begins our text with declaration that “the end is near”. He was talking about the big one, the end of all things. And he said it almost 2000 years ago. Hmm, did he get it wrong? or did something change? No, addresses those questions 3rd chapter of 2nd epistle. Peter not alone in using that kind of language, others throughout NT did same.

Regardless of exactly when Jesus comes back, are two important things to keep in mind: First, Jesus’ return is the next event identified on God’s timeline for us. No other really big things in God’s plan of redemption to check off before the end. Second, need to think and act like it will happen tomorrow… living with purpose and intensity. Whether all the shocking reports are true or not, self-driving cars do not have very good reputation right now. We could expect similar disasters if we tried to live a self-driving Christian life. Peter makes plain to his readers there is a better / preferred way. We need to be thinking right, doing right, all the right way according to God’s standard. iow, living in the light of Jesus’ return.

A. right thinking

serious / self-controlled

not to say can’t/shouldn’t enjoy life – joy is to be part of Christian experience; but… need to use wits, discern time to relax and have fun, when to be serious

should be putting renewed minds to good use – recognize what is important, what is most important, what priorities ought to be… since we are on the clock

means our actions / responses should be appropriate according to model Jesus set – ought not be like tail-gater, can’t wait to go 20 over the limit

is real easy for Christian to stand out from crowd in this respect – fewer people each day even know how to be self-controlled, even fewer require same from their children

is one of distinguishing marks of believer indwelt by Holy Spirit: Gal. 5:22-23  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” – all of that in contrast with how world operates

watchful / sober-minded

word here used outside NT as “be sober, not drunk” – Peter had in mind significant differences between way person thinks when drunk vs sober

sober person has accurate assessment of their circumstances, what would be wise course of action, what they are capable of doing, when to call for help

all know professional who can look at / listen to something, tell exactly what it needs – can be that way for ourselves and others

especially in view here: effectual prayer – if are to pray right way for right things, need to be thinking clearly, acting appropriately

intense

remember where Peter started: “the end is near” – if were truly convinced Jesus was coming back… tomorrow… what would we be doing differently? especially toward others?

people get really intense about lot of things – exercise, bucket list, pursuing corporate goals, more; Christians ought to be same

should be living with intensity, pursuing holiness… godly living… reaching lost people with Gospel… building up body of Christ… fueled by fervent prayer… as working against a deadline

B. right doing

love one another

not surprising Peter would put love first: something Jesus referred to at least 20x (John 13-17) plus one statement in particular

John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

world has no problem loving self above all other things; Christian should stand out in crowd because love for God shows in love for others… as what is most noticeable about them

to be kind of love for others that seeks to build up rather than find fault and tear down – instead of “you’re doing it wrong”, use “this way has been really effective/helpful for me”

bless one another

risks come with hospitality: Jesus criticized for who he associated with, we may be also; in other places, other kinds of dangers

Peter talks about hospitality toward one another, word (φιλόξενος, philoxenos) “lover of strangers”, one who welcomes guests

there is another kind of danger… that comes with welcoming people into your home, being transparent and vulnerable – is one of best settings for others to experience real Christian love

serve one another

we are expected to be not just recipients of God’s grace – are to be conduits of God’s grace… using God’s gracious gifts to us for benefit of others

here is a way we put love into practice – being good stewards of whatever gift or gifts God has given us to serve one another

must be using the gift, exercising it, that requires time spent regularly with fellow believers… more than an hour on occasional Sunday morning

encourage one another

Christian life is hard, even more so when objects of persecution – if we are to persevere, stay faithful, need lots of encouragement

is why Christ has put us together in church families, members of a body, remind us are not alone, others have our back

C. right way

no grumbling

hospitality provides lots of opportunity for grumbling – time it takes, don’t wipe their feet, sit in wrong chair, stay way too late – now you know how God feels!

grumbling gets in way of blessing and serving others – turns focus toward self, away from those who need our encouragement

using God’s words

start with those who have gift of speaking – preaching and teaching – must not be making it up… are reporting not making news

also applies in less formal settings, interactions with other believers as well as friends/family – God’s truth should make up significant portion of what we say

and God’s equipping

cannot be effective and rely on own strength / ability – when God supplies the gift, he commits to providing all we need to exercise it the way he expects

for God’s glory

like everything else, goal is that God will receive the glory through our love and service to others in the face of persecution / hardship

knowing what we do about return of Christ, is essential we live every moment in light of that so he will receive the glory due him when he does return

How much time do we have left? May be hours, may be decades or centuries. Need to be living like it’s only hours. How much time do you have left? No guarantees of tomorrow… or even this afternoon. All know people whose life has been changed in an instant, all of their plans out the window with no warning. Must live so when that moment comes, God will be glorified.