April 5 – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Saturday, April 5, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – Boast in the Lord

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

Sometimes it's easy to believe that God called us because we have a special gift or a talent. The thing is … God calls us in spite of what we believe to be our gifts and talents.

The church in Corinth was a mess. They were splitting apart and Paul has only begun to discuss their failings. There weren't very many wise or powerful people among them and that was exactly Paul's point.

The call that God places on our lives has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with God. It is God who initiates salvation and it is God who puts us to work. Everything that we do on our own is foolishness and when we choose to work without being in God's will, we can never have any confidence that plans will succeed.

God chose the foolish and the weak, the low and despised so that no one could boast in themselves. It is so easy for us to desire to see ourselves as important in the kingdom of God, when in reality, He wants us to become nothing so that the only one who receives praise is God.

It is because of God that we have salvation … righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We have received that through Jesus Christ, not because of anything that we have done or because of how talented or gifted we are.

God chooses the foolish, the weak, the low and despised. That's hard for us to understand and even harder for us to accept. When we boast, we can only boast in the Lord.

April 4 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Friday, April 4, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – Christ is God's Wisdom and Power

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 

         “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Much as we have today, the Corinthian Christians were more apt to trust in the wisdom of those around them than they were in that of God. This was part of the reason for all of the dissension in their community. They played games just like the political games that were happening in the city.

It is interesting, but as I read through this passage, I find that today's culture is quite similar to that of the Greeks … and of so many others throughout history. Paul was speaking to the Corinthians, but these words are so desperately applicable today … especially to Christians.

In Greece, the individual's pursuit of intellect and strength was valued above nearly anything else. They spent time discussing intellectual pursuits and when they took time off from that, they pursued physical greatness. If they had lived in the 21st century, they would have developed faster computers so they could spend time at the gymnasium. Sound familiar?

But the cross of Christ, the power of the resurrection was seen as foolishness to the outside world and to those who believed, they recognized it for what it was – the power of God.

The message of salvation is impossible to understand for those who look for it in their learned wisdom. You can't understand it by becoming more and more educated or by looking at it from a philosophical standpoint. The world doesn't come to know God through wisdom … it is the simple message that draws humanity to God. It is a very simple message … the Gospel … Christ crucified. The Jews couldn't understand it and Gentiles saw it as foolishness.

To those who believed … to those who believe today, this simple message is Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

April 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Thursday, April 3, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – Division

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christian communities are often easily divided. We take sides based on what we believe to be true and who we believe to be the best representative of those things with which we agree. In some churches it is a building campaign that creates division, in some churches it is the style of worship. Other times it is the way money is or is not being spent, and sometimes it is about what the pastor preaches on any given Sunday. Maybe it's the pastor's family or the color of carpet being put down in the foyer. It could be a new sound system or refurbishing the education wing. The pianist plays too loudly on Sunday mornings or the high school Sunday School class is too noisy in their classroom.

There is always something in place which will bring about division and separation and Paul reminds the readers of this letter of the importance of unity. For the sake of Jesus Christ, the things that we say to each other outside the church is of utmost importance. We should be in unity so that people are drawn to Jesus. Chaos among the community of believers is never a good evangelical tool, even if we believe that we are justified in our words and actions. We are never justified if we portray Jesus Christ to the world in a bad light.

As important as that is the need for there to be no division among Christ's church. In the Corinthian church, people were taking sides against each other by proclaiming that they followed different leaders. The most self-righteous of them disclaimed Paul, Apollos and Peter by claiming that they only followed Jesus.

Paul speaks to the absurdity of the divisions in the church at Corinth. He is not responsible for their salvation. He is not their savior. Baptism was not what he did, he came only to preach the gospel. Everything Paul did pointed to the cross of Christ and for the Corinthians to reduce that to political camps disgusted him.

April 2 – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 – Thanksgiving

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul tells the Corinthians that he always thanks God for them. In other words, he didn't simply sit down to write a letter to them and all of a sudden spend a few moments in prayer. His love for the people of the Church continuously brings them to mind. As we dig further into this letter and see how much the church in Corinth has misunderstood the gifts they have received from God, it might seem odd that Paul is so thankful, but he goes on to explain that it is because of God's grace given to them in Jesus, not their goodness or lack thereof.

In each verse of this passage, the name of Jesus is lifted up (in verse 5, it is simply the pronoun 'him'). Through Jesus, God has given, enriched, confirmed, sustained and called. It is in Christ Jesus that Christians are in fellowship with each other and with God.

The wealth of Corinth was extraordinary and in this salutation, Paul begins by telling his readers that they are made rich in Jesus Christ. This is very different from what they would experience as part of their every day lives. When the focus is on ever-increasing wealth, Paul diverts it, telling the Corinthian church that the spiritual gifts fill their lives.  They are eloquent (all kinds of speech) and have great spiritual insight (all knowledge). The spiritual wealth poured out on them by God far outweighs the material wealth they know so well.

On the other hand, Paul is about to teach them about the misuse of their spiritual wealth. They have been given great gifts in order to build up the community of faith, but many used those as weapons, rather than mediating them with love.

God called the people of Corinth and gave them grace. He sustained them as they waited for the coming of Jesus and promises to keep them to the end. God is faithful. He will complete the work that he began in each of them … and in each of us.

April 1 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:1-3 – Greeting

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul identifies himself in this letter much as he did in his letter to the Romans by identifying himself as an apostle called by God. He was not called by any church or by any person, but his work is done by the will of God. This is an incredible burden that he has accepted. There is no room for personal ambition or a worldly agenda. It is God's will that causes Paul to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is all-encompassing and all-important.

Sosthenes shows up in Acts 18:12-17. He was the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth and was seized and beaten in the presence of Gallio, the Roman governor because he refused to move against Paul, even though the Jews brought Paul in front of a tribunal for his teaching. Paul calls him a brother now. Sosthenes became a convert to Christianity.

Corinth was a wealthy city. Legend tells us that this was where Jason's Argo was built. It was destroyed in 146 B.C., but because of its location on an isthmus that connected Greece to the Peloponnesus, Julius Caesar rebuilt it in 46 B.C. and soon became one of the greatest cities in Greece. It was a commercial hub; bringing in trade from the north, south, east and the west. Its population was quite mixed and was very cosmopolitan.

The Temple of Aphrodite was located in Corinth; one thousand sacred prostitutes worked from there. It is said that every person in Greece knew what a Corinthian girl was; the city was known for debauchery and depravity. Sin prevailed in this city and Paul's letter on holiness seems quite necessary and appropriate.

Paul came to Corinth on his second missionary journey. We read of his time here and the founding of the church from the home of Aquila and Priscilla and from the local synagogue in Acts 18:1-17. Paul stood in that synagogue and taught of Jesus as the Messiah. When he was forced out of the synagogue, he simply moved next door to the home of Titus Justus and continued to preach. At the end of 18 months, he finished in Corinth and returned to Jerusalem.

Paul wrote his letter to the Romans while staying in Corinth, but this letter was written while he was in Ephesus, probably about A.D. 55.  This church is on the front lines and Paul writes to them as a teacher; one who cares very much for them. He offers practical ways to act as the Church in the midst of sin.

March 31 - 2 Peter 3:14-18

Monday, March 31, 2014

2 Peter 3:14-18 – Grow in Grace

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Peter uses the phrase "make every effort" several times in his letters. This is an intense effort … made with haste and with zeal. Sometimes I believe we would all understand scripture better if we had a clear understanding of the power behind the Greek text, because there are so many possibilities that open up once you read the author's words, rather than an English translation. Other times, the translation is helpful because it lends hundreds of years of scholarship to a particularly difficult interpretation.

However, when we read 'make every effort,' we skip over it. There isn't much impact. But Peter wants us to be zealous about holiness. He urges us to hurry and push forward to a life that finds us to be spotless, blameless and at peace with God. It isn't something to put off until tomorrow or until we die.

In the time of Constantine, baptism wasn't performed on a person until they were close to death because it was believed that if you were to sin after having been baptized, you would never be able to return to a life of holiness. The problem with that thinking was that a person could live as they wished throughout their lives and then be cleansed of all their sin when death approached. They didn't read scripture with quite the same interpretation that we do today. Peter tells us that we are to live in holiness right now and with great zeal.

Peter's quick comment regarding the letters of Paul is actually quite exciting to historians. This does tell us that Paul's letters were circulated throughout the churches. Paul writes to the church at Colossae, "And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea" (Colossians 4:16). Paul asked that his letters be shared, but this is the first piece of solid evidence that those letters were shared and that the early Church was building itself on the work of the people who were spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We all know that there are people who will never understand our passion for scripture or for the message of God's saving grace. Peter admonishes us to not get caught up in that, but to hold on to that message for our own stability. Be on your guard.

And grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. John 17:3 says, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" and Paul writes to the Ephesians: "…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him" (Ephesians 1:17).

Peter opened this letter by saying, "May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2).

Growing in grace binds us in the relationship we have with God. Growing in knowledge of Jesus is absolutely essential for us to live as Christians.

March 30 - 2 Peter 3:8-13

2 Peter 3:8-13 – The Day is Coming

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.  

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Quoting from Psalm 90:4, Peter responds to those who mock the delay of Christ's return. God's perspective is quite different from anything a person could ever understand. He sees time through the lens of eternity, we see only by the limitations of our own short years. Even the grand scheme of history is but a moment in the vast panoramic timeline that God knows. We must not presume to understand what God will do and when He will do it.

To those same mockers, Peter reminds us of God's grace toward humanity. He is exceedingly patient with us.

"The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness," (Exodus 34:6)

"The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression" (Numbers 14:18).

"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Psalm 86:15).

"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

When the Lord returns, his anger will finally destroy sin, no matter the form that it takes. This is why He takes the time that He takes … He wants everyone to find repentance. He has boundless patience.

Peter then offers a challenge to all of us. Knowing that complete destruction … dissolution … is coming, he asks what type of people ought we be?  Since God comes to destroy sin – we should live holy and righteous … godly lives.

Holiness – remaining separate from evil, dedicating ourselves to God. Godliness includes worship.

We are to remain holy and godly … praying for the coming day of God, not because of destruction of sin, but because we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth.

Do you pray for the Lord's return?

March 29 - 2 Peter 3:1-7

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2 Peter 3:1-7 – The Day of the Lord

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. 

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Peter does a few interesting things in this letter, things that we might not realize are so important. In his first letter, the emphasis was holiness. Peter encourages his readers to be more than what the world expects, to be whole and complete, because that is what we are in Christ Jesus. The problem we have as broken people, is that we forget that and still respond to the world as though we are in pieces.

Wholesome thinking, he says. As our minds think, so go our actions. In today's culture, it is easy to live in anger and brokenness. We are self-centered enough to believe that our thoughts and desires should all be met and that life must be fair. Jesus calls us to something greater than that – to focus on him alone, rather than our own needs and the actions of others. He makes us whole, having our thoughts on him is what brings us health and righteousness. We can't do it on our own, we can't live a life that meets the needs of the world and still be holy.

The next thing that Peter does is to emphasize the continuity of scripture. He wants us to recall the words spoken in the past, the command given by Jesus … through the apostles. This is the tether, the tie that binds us throughout history to moment of creation. God's word has been made real through the people of Israel to the disciples who followed Jesus Christ.

Peter's next bit of preaching is to those who question the truth of Jesus' return. The earth and the heavens have been here for millennia and nothing has changed. But, he says that the one thing we forget is that there was that moment when God spoke creation into existence. That changed everything. And by that same word, God is preparing for the day of judgment. We should not be so arrogant as to believe that we have things in control and that just because God is waiting, doesn't mean it won't happen.

Be prepared for the day of judgment. It will come.

March 28 - 2 Peter 2:17-22

2 Peter 2:17-22 – Springs Without Water

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus removes thirst from everyone who drinks of the water he gives them. He points to eternity and says, "The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14b). In John 7:37-38, Jesus stood up and said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' "

Proverbs 13:14 says that "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death." Water is a wonderful metaphor for the spirit moving out from us, a never ending, joyous outpouring.

Peter knows this analogy well and tells his readers that false teachers are springs without water. They are mists driven by a storm. Jeremiah uses the analogy of dried up wells to describe those who have forsaken God. He says, "Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns; they find no water; they return with their vessels empty; they are ashamed and confounded and cover their heads" (Jeremiah 14:3).

Though their words carry no depth, they can harm those who listen to them. They promise freedom, even as they are enslaved by corruption. How often do we fall into the trap of looking for something where there is nothing. We want free airplane tickets or a free computer tablet or tickets to Disney and discover that all we've done is given someone access to our lives and to our friends. We look for freedom and answers, we latch on to diets and money-making schemes, we put our trust in false teachers rather than God … looking for something that is easy, rather than someone that is eternal.

These false teachers would have been better off if they had never been exposed to the good news of Jesus Christ. They knew joy and freedom, chose to leave it behind, and then found it necessary to expose others to their filth. Those who have been drawn away from the Gospel are just as bad, their weakness in returning to the ease of trusting in false teachers will make it that much more difficult for them to return to the holiness that comes from knowing God.

The final verse of this chapter brings up familiar images. Dogs and pigs were both scavengers during the time of Jesus. Garbage was fed to pigs and dogs were not pets, but scavenged through the garbage for food. Both return to the mire of what they have always known … just as those who leave righteousness for their former lives.

The spring of living water must not go dry within us.

March 27 - 2 Peter 2:10-16

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2 Peter 2:10-16

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. 
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.  With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

First, false teachers despise authority and follow corrupt desires.  They are bold and arrogant and will even slander celestial beings.  Peter assures us that not only are they brute beasts, but they are ignorant.  They don't even know what it is that they are talking about!  Wycliffe says 'their self-assurance was matched by their ignorance.'  Paul speaks of this type of people in Colossians 2:18.

Because of the ease of access we have in this day and age to all manner of insanity, both in the news and through our social media networks, we often feel as if we are assaulted on all sides by these false teachers.  We are over-exposed to their slanderous talk and often believe that the only thing we can do is combat it. We often lower ourselves to their level, saying and writing things that are unacceptable.

Look at what Peter says. Even the angels who are stronger and more powerful, do not return abuse when they deliver judgment.

We must understand that we can't change their minds, we can't fix their accusations and we can't expect them to live differently than they do. We do not have the power. It is in God's hands and his alone.

2 Peter 2:13 speaks of people who attend Christian events and then carouse, living a life that is completely different than the one they live while chatting it up in church!  When Peter speaks of a feast, he is speaking of the family-type gatherings that Christians had regularly.

But there is more to come with regards to their bad behavior. They never stop sinning.  Their eyes are adulterous, they seduce the unstable, they are experts in greed, and they love the payment they get for wickedness.  When I was in business, it was always a challenge to be above board and honest. Dishonesty happened all around us.  The business world is not an easy place to be a Christian. Too many Christian business people find themselves easily swayed by the easy dollar.  It's much too simple to take a shortcut and charge the higher price ... Peter condemns these actions!

Even though Peter's condemnation of sinful behavior is strong, it still doesn't change the fact that this will continue to occur until Christ's return. We want justice while we are earthbound, while God sees justice occurring on a much larger scale. We want God to fix this world and stop these people from having control. God knows that this behavior isn't new; it has been around since the beginning of civilization.

We need to behave more like his angels who refuse to heap abuse on those God judges. Our only task as Christians is to love … unconditionally. It isn't up to us to deliver judgment. It isn't up to us to ensure that morality is found on earth.

Peter assures us that God's judgment will prevail over evil and sinful behavior.

Just as he dealt with Balaam, whose donkey forced him back on the path toward holiness, God deals with each person in this world. We must remain on the straight path, aligning our lives with God's will.

March 26 - 2 Peter 2:4-9

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2 Peter 2:4-9 – A History Lesson

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless  (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

Peter is about to deliver a very clear picture of God's ability to judge between the righteous and the wicked.  If you read Jude 3-8, you will find much of the same language.  The if ... then statements are summed up in 2 Peter 2:9.  The Lord knows how to rescue godly men and He knows to hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment, while continuing their punishment.

The angels that sinned.  We read about fallen angels in Job 4:18, Matthew 25:41, Jude 6 and Revelation 12:9.  Jude and Revelation both speak of the archangel Michael, who led the battle against the dragon (Satan) and his angels in Revelation 12:7-8.

God didn't spare the ancient world filled with ungodly people, but he did separate Noah and his family to protect them.

He condemned Sodom and Gomorrah, but rescued Lot, a righteous man.  And don't you love 2 Peter 2:8?  'that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.'  Some days, after watching the news, I feel like that. Not that I'm proclaiming myself particularly righteous.  But, we live among such filth and we are expected to maintain a sense of godliness through it. God rewards that!

In 2 Peter 2:9, the word 'terein,' which is translated in the NIV as 'holding the unrighteous for the day of judgment,' actually means that God is keeping them under guard.

False teachers and prophets, ungodly men and women, sinful angels and those who deliberately reject God's commands face an eternity of punishment. We can hope for something better and ignore the fact that it is coming, but Peter wants us to understand that God will punish the unjust and the ungodly. He will also rescue the righteous.

March 25 - 2 Peter 2:1-3

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2 Peter 2:1-3 – False Prophets

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

These words are quite disturbing. It is so easy for us to be taken in and caught up in false teaching.  In fact, sometimes it is nearly impossible to discern what is truth and what is false.

Social media bombards us with tales and stories that often require research to uncover their truth. But, we don't have something that black and white to stop most false teachers and prophets.  Teaching is wrapped up in the guise of truth and many times it is wrapped in a beautiful bow that entices us into desiring that their words be truth.

We've seen cults destroy themselves as their leaders tried to introduce teachings and then fall apart. In fact, we've seen many evangelical pastors lose sight of the goal and turn the importance of the story of Jesus into a personal greedy goal.  Peter assures us that their destruction will be swift.

I don't know that Peter is speaking of Christians who get caught up in something and find themselves spinning out of control as we've seen many evangelical leaders do over the last few decades.  This is a more insidious, deliberate attack on Christianity.  But, the enemy will use any way possible to get people to follow the lie and his false teaching.

What is one of the outcomes of false teaching?  The way of truth is brought into disrepute. Hypocrisy among Christians is one of the biggest reasons that non-Christians offer for not wanting to become a part of the church.  Who can blame them? Christianity, the church, everything about this has been turned into a business and many times not a very 'Christian' one at that.  So, when an honest person shows up, wanting to spread the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, he (or she) must wade through the built-up sludge of lies and destructive heresies.

This is not an easy time to be a Christian. We are not facing direct persecution on a daily basis, but we do face the effects of allowing false prophets and false teachers among us.

In 2 Peter 2:3, the NIV says that 'these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.'  Other translations read 'feigned words.'  The Greek word for this phrase is 'plastos.'  We get our word 'plastic' from that.  Words that can easily be twisted. They twist these words to fill their greed. Paul writes of the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 2:5, "You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness," when assuring his readers that he was different from others.  In the Old Testament, Micah called them out by saying, "Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, her priests instruct for a price, and her prophets divine for money."  (Micah 3:11).

We don't have to pronounce judgment on these people, Peter says that "their condemnation has long been hanging over them ..." (2 Peter 2:3b).  But we do have to be constantly on the alert.

March 24 - 2 Peter 1:19-21

Monday, March 24, 2014

2 Peter 1:19-21 – Prophets

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

At the end of the passage that we read yesterday, Peter spoke of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus ensured that Peter, James and John saw the glory of the living Presence of God.  Peter is about to teach about a false teacher, but before he gets there, he wants us to know that he is preaching truth.  Those 'cleverly devised stories' of 2 Peter 1:16 were not used to tell us about the power and coming of Jesus, but Peter was a witness and the prophets told of those things.

Pay attention to prophecy, he says. It is a light shining in a dark place. Psalm 119:105 say that God's Word is a "lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Peter goes on to write that we are to hold to the Word 'until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.' (2 Peter 1:19b)

Numbers 24:17 says "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel."

And we read in Revelation 22:16 that Jesus is the bright morning star.

After the dawn of the morning star - scripture will no longer be needed.  Understand this - it's beautiful!  Scripture shines as a light until the coming of the dawn.  That's what Peter is saying.  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  Jesus is the morning star. We will no longer need scripture with the dawn of the morning star. We will have entered the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:23 says "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light ... and the Lamb is its lamp."

Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10?  "But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

2 Peter 1:20-21 gives us more information about these prophecies. Firstly, the prophet did not make them up on his own and secondly, they came from God through the Holy Spirit.

The prophecies that are a light shining in a dark place are God's Words to us ... love letters, if you will.  A promise that Jesus will return. A light to encourage our hope in the darkness.

March 23 - 2 Peter 1:12-18

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2 Peter 1:12-18 – We Knew Jesus

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. 

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

In John 21:18-19, Jesus tells Peter that he will die a martyr's death. We find Peter acknowledging that this is going to happen soon in these verses (2 Peter 1:12-15). He wants to make sure that things are put into place so that his readers are able to remember the truths that he has spent the better part of his life teaching. Some scholars believe that 2 Peter 1:15 indicates that he spent time recounting his memories to Mark so that the Gospel would be written.

False prophets and teachers used myths and stories to emphasize their teaching. Peter clearly states in 2 Peter 1:16 that the stories he relates are true because he was an eyewitness.  Paul used the same terminology in dealing with false prophets in 1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4 and Tit. 1:14.

One of Peter's favorite memories had to have been the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13). Jesus ensured that Peter, James and John were allowed to witness the glory of heaven so that they could relate the story to others on earth ... as witnesses and participants.

Non-Biblical sources are used to make suppositions regarding Peter's life in Rome and his death. However, these sources are generally accepted as historical.  Josephus (AD 37 - AD 100) wrote two major works which describe Judaism and early Christianity, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ireneaus of Lyons all spoke of Peter - that he and Paul were the founders of the church in Rome. Josephus wrote of how Roman soldiers entertained themselves by crucifying men in varying positions, which affirms the possibility of Peter's crucifixion being upside down.

Tradition holds that Peter fled from Rome to avoid execution, but in a vision/conversation with Jesus, was told that he (Jesus) was going to Rome to be crucified again, so Peter turned around and went back to Rome to meet his death.

He would have been murdered by Nero between 64 and 68 AD. On October 13, 64 AD, Nero celebrated the 10th Anniversary of his ascendancy to the throne. This holiday was generally celebrated with much bloodshed and came three months after the fire which Nero blamed on the Christians, hoping to eliminate many of them in the aftermath.  This may have been a good time for Nero to execute one of the great leaders of the Christian faith.

All of the stories, all of the traditions are interesting information, but what we actually know of Peter is that he as a man who knew Jesus intimately and his purpose in life was fulfilled as he taught people how to come to know his own Savior personally.

March 22 - 2 Peter 1:3-11

2 Peter 1:3-11 – You are Called

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life 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, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sometimes I have a very bad habit of skimming over scripture and missing important thoughts because I do that. This is one of those passages. Before we get going too deeply, I want you to have the words from 1 Peter 2:10 clearly anchored:  "make every effort to confirm your calling and election."

Now, let's start at the beginning of the passage. We have everything we need given to us and then the next bit barely makes sense, unless you spend some time with it.  'through our knowledge of him' (NIV) is probably more easily translated to 'through our acknowledgement of him.'  So, as we acknowledge or know Jesus, we have everything we need for life and godliness given to us by His divine power.

The last part of this sentence speaks of our calling.  We don't learn about or gain knowledge or come to acknowledge Jesus on our own, but because Jesus called us.   He took the initiative in this relationship.  And it is by his glory and goodness - that is - it is based on His own honor and excellence, that we are called. Peter makes it very clear that this has nothing to do with an action or activity on our own part.

In 2 Peter 1:4 we find Peter talking about Jesus' very great and precious promises.  What are these promises?  The word (epangelmata) used here for 'promise' is only used in this letter in the New Testament. The other place that it is found is in 2 Peter 3:13.  Peter opens and closes his letter with a rare word and this emphasizes its importance. The Greek word used here focuses on the content of the promise more than on the promise itself.  While Peter doesn't offer us the exact content yet, we will discover more about this in the second usage of the term.

What it does do is point us to the benefits of the calling: participation in the divine nature, which in essence means that we are more like God than like humanity - which reminds us of Peter's declaration that we are aliens and strangers in this world; and escape from the corruption in the world which is an ongoing process as we walk in this world.

2 Peter 1:5-7 begins a list of virtues that we are to build upon as we grow in knowledge of Jesus Christ. There are three other lists of virtues in the New Testament. We know of the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, but we can also find lists in Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:3-4.  Some of these cross lists, but some are individual to the writer.

What we can't miss here is the way that this list is put together.  In essence, we must spend some faith to gain goodness; we must spend goodness to gain knowledge; we must spend knowledge to gain self-control; we must spend self-control to gain perseverance; we must spend perseverance to gain godliness; we must spend godliness to gain brotherly kindness; and we must spend brotherly kindness to gain love.  There is expense and effort involved in growing virtuously.  It isn't something that God just lays on us. So, by growing in virtue, our lives in Christ will be fruitful.

God has called and chosen us.  He alone can do this, but for those who think that you can simply live without any type of growth in the virtues of the Christian life, Peter wants us to know that we have a responsibility.

Living a virtuous life will stop us from falling (stumbling) into sin.

You are called and chosen. You have a responsibility, but it will take some work - it won't be easy.  The reward? Eternal life in Christ's kingdom.

March 21 - 2 Peter 1:1-2

2 Peter 1:1-2 – Greetings

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.

Peter took Matthew 23:11 quite seriously since he was obviously the leader of Jesus' followers after the Resurrection.  As we read the early chapters of Acts, we see that Peter steps forward in the head position of the group of followers that seems to be growing exponentially.  So, in 2 Peter 1:1, he not only identifies himself as an apostle, but as a servant of Christ.  The lesson was learned.

The use of the word 'servant' here is translated from the Greek word 'doulos,' which actually means 'slave.' The term describes a person who is totally owned by and devoted to Jesus Christ.  Even as a leader … one of the original Twelve, Peter signifies he is nothing except as he is related to Christ.  Peter's authority is not his own, it comes because he belongs to Jesus Christ.

If you compare this to 1 Peter, you will find several 'letter' components missing.  There are no personal greetings and no thanksgiving (which occurs in 1 Peter 1:3) and there is no blessing of the recipients. This letter is more like a sermon or a speech which is transmitted as a letter.

However, 2 Peter and the letter from Jude contain portions that are nearly identical.  I will make every attempt to point out to you the parallel passages between the two letters as we work through this.  Today, as you read 2 Peter 1:1-2, read Jude 1-2 as well. The opening portions are very similar.

Then, read Jude 3 and notice that he speaks of the faith of the saints, while Peter writes of the faith that we have. This faith is granted through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Notice here that this is one person. Peter does not distinguish here between two separate persons. In many translations, and in the original Greek, it comes forth as 'our God and Savior Jesus Christ.'  Profound theology.

In 2 Peter 1:2, we find one of the main themes of this letter. Knowledge. Peter insists that this is very important. This is the knowledge that we gain upon conversion to Christianity.  It isn't just an intellectual knowledge or simply knowing someone upon meeting them, but knowledge that results in a difference in our living.

While 1 Peter focused on holiness, we will find that we have a lot to learn about living a life in the fullness of glory. This second letter has plenty to say to us about knowing God and understanding the things of faith.

March 20 - 1 Peter 5:12-14

Thursday, March 20, 2014

1 Peter 5:12-14 – Final Greetings

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.

As we come to a close in this first letter of Peter's we meet some of the people who are close to him.

Silas, or Silvanus, is more than likely the same man that was a companion of Paul's and participated in much of the growth of the early church.  It is likely that he not only assisted Peter with writing this letter, but delivered it as well.  Peter calls him a faithful brother, which probably means that he was quite familiar to the people reading this letter.

We meet Silas in Acts 15:22 and read about his ministry with Paul through Acts 18:5.  He assisted Paul and Timothy in writing the two letters to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:1-2, 2 Thess. 1:2) and was obviously a part of Paul's ministry to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:19).  This man of faith had a strong evangelistic ministry.

At the end of 1 Peter 5:12, we find that he repeats the message of grace that he began teaching at the beginning of the letter (1 Peter 1:2b). He calls us to stand firm in the message of grace. That message is found all through the letter, but spelled out clearly in 1 Peter 1:8, 21.

Stand firm in this message of holiness.

Scholars are unsure as to whom Peter is speaking of – the woman at Babylon. Some assume that he is speaking of his wife.  She traveled with him, was well-known to his readers and tradition says that she was martyred in Rome before he was.  The 'Mark' that is spoken of here is more than likely John Mark, who authored the second gospel. Most believe that Mark's gospel is actually Peter's gospel; he wrote down the things that Peter remembered about Jesus' time on earth.

The second meaning of the woman in Babylon is that Peter is speaking of the church - the word 'ekklesia' is a feminine noun. If this is so, then it is likely that Peter was already in Rome.  Babylon was a term used to describe this city, though that is also disputed. He would have been sending greetings to the Asiatic churches from the home church there.  History shows that Peter was in Rome at the end of his life and Col. 4:10 also places Mark there at the same time.

The NIV version of the Bible translates 1 Peter 5:14 as 'Greet one another with a kiss of love,' yet the original meaning here is 'holy or divine kiss.' The Greek word is 'agape,' which is the love that comes from god. This greeting was common among New Testament Christians (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26).

Peter concludes this letter with prayers for peace for those Christians who are persecuted. Jesus said "My leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." (John 14:27a)

Greet each other with a divine kiss.  Love and holiness cannot be separated.

March 19 - 1 Peter 5:8-11

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

1 Peter 5:8-11 – Be Alert

Be alert and of sober mind. 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 the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

After you read these verses, turn to Luke 22:31-32.

Peter knew something about Satan messing with you.  He had definitely been devoured by Satan when he denied even knowing Jesus, but since he had come through it, he also learned a lesson in resisting him.

This verse doesn't actually give us the full image that the Greek text is expressing.  Peter wants us to imagine a courtroom as we read this.  Remember, he has been telling his readers to hold up under persecution.  If the accusations against you are false, stand firm, be respectful, etc.

Now, he finally arrives at the courtroom scene after all of the information he has put into this letter and assumes that we are dealing with persecution simply because we are Christians, not because we have done anything wrong.

Be self-controlled and alert.  The original Greek actually translates to 'calm' and 'watchful.'

I'm a huge fan of the old black and white Perry Mason shows.  There were two things you could always count on when he was in the courtroom.  He never showed his emotions (he was calm) and he was always ready to pick up on the errors coming from witnesses or the prosecution (he was watchful).

'Your enemy; comes from the Greek word 'antidikos' which means adversary - in the courtroom sense. The word 'devil' (diabolos) in this verse actually translates as 'slanderer' or 'false accuser.'  Peter is telling his readers that false persecution and false accusations will come at us and our accuser is trying to swallow us.

We must stand firm in the faith because we know that fellow Christians throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

We meet up with this same slanderous adversary in John's Revelation.  In Revelation 2:10, Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that the devil will test some of us for ten days.  That number is meant to be encouragement, as it is a relatively short period of time.  In Revelation 12:9-12, the devil - who is identified here as a slanderer and accuser - is seen standing before God accusing believers day and night.  At some point, God finally is done listening to his lies and flings him to the earth and sea.  In Revelation 20:2, the devil is bound for a thousand years, released, but then in Revelation 20:10, is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur to be tormented day and night for eternity.

Stand firm. We are told that the suffering is only for a little while.  We are then restored and made strong, firm and steadfast.

Praise the Lord - to Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

March 18 - 1 Peter 5:1-7

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

1 Peter 5:1-7 – Humility

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

At the beginning of this letter, Peter identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ.  Now, he tells us that he witnessed Christ's sufferings and has confidence he will share in the coming glory.

Imagine what is going through Peter's mind as he writes this. He remembers the arrest in Gethsemane (Mark 14:43-46), the beatings (Matthew 27:28-31) and denial (Matthew 26:69-75), and the crucifixion (Luke 23:44-46) as he identifies himself as a witness to Christ's suffering.  Without missing a beat, he speaks of the glory that he saw revealed in the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).

The next verse is reminiscent of Jesus' conversation with Peter in John 21:15-18. Jesus healed the pain of Peter's denial and removed the sting of those moments by asking him to feed the sheep that would be in his care. Peter now extends this command to the elders of the church.  "Tend to the sheep ... feed them ... take care of them."

He would have remembered Jesus tearing through the courtyards of the temple in Luke 19:45-46 as he upended tables and insisted that the overseers not be greedy with the money that comes in to them as gifts. Peter was not speaking of the money that was due them, but additional funds that came in for tending to the flock.

When Jesus taught the disciples in Luke 22:24-30 about who would be the greatest among them, he said that kings and great men who lorded it over their people were not personalities to be emulated. Peter listened and translated those words back to his readers.  By the time Peter gets to 1 Peter 5:5, we know that he is remembering that very strong lesson in John 13:1-17 when Jesus knelt down to wash his feet.

Even though it goes against everything we are taught in this culture, we must remember that we humble ourselves - under God's mighty hand.  And why? So that he may lift us up in due time.  Our time is not His time, our plans may not be His plans. Only by stepping under that hand ... will we find ourselves walking in harmony with our Lord.

Holiness takes us to our knees before God.

March 17 - 1 Peter 4:12-19

Monday, March 17, 2014

1 Peter 4:12-19 – Don't Be Surprised

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, 

         “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter certainly has plenty to say about suffering in this letter and this time he tells us that we shouldn't be surprised at what is in front of us.

In the 70s, there were little cards that Christians passed around with the question, "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" That question strikes me now as it did then. If people aren't slandering me, lying about me, teasing me or persecuting for being a Christian, do they actually even know that I am one?  Do I surround myself with people who are safe?  Even my non-Christian friends are safe - they aren't actually non-Christians, they're more like non-churchgoers.

So, what do these passages on suffering for the name of Christ mean to me?  I take this as a challenge to be less like the world and more like Christ. I'm not sure what that looks like on a day to day basis, but I am certain that I need to be constantly aware of my interactions with others.  It's not about a legalistic set of rules that I need to live by, it's about how I actually show love to the people that I encounter from day to day.

1 Peter 4:14 really spells out why this is so important. "If we are insulted for the name of Christ - if we are actually living like Jesus so that people might insult us, we are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us."

The original Greek in this passage actually means 'pauses over.' This blessing is essentially that which we receive at the end of time. God's glory rests on us when we are insulted for Christ.

The final four  verses (1 Peter 4:17-19) explain our responsibility.  The only way the world will know Jesus Christ is for it to begin with the household of God. We can not be ashamed of the gospel. We must glorify God. We must live our lives so that God is glorified.

To the 'faithful' Creator. Peter constantly reminds us that we are to set as our baseline for living something that is much higher than any of us can hope to achieve.  God is more faithful than we can ever dream of being. Yet, He has committed Himself to us. As we commit to Him and continue to do good, we will make it easier for the ungodly and the sinner to be saved.

Are you distinctly different from the rest of the world because of your relationship to Jesus Christ?

Holiness is not easy, even though we think that it might be.

March 16 - 1 Peter 4:7-11

Sunday, March 16, 2014

1 Peter 4:7-11 – The End is Near

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

This is an amazing passage, one that is filled with deeper meanings as you look at the Greek, yet on the face of it, is still filled with so much truth.  Take some time to read it through.

The end of all things is near. Whether it is our own death or the return of the Messiah, we don't have that much time. When you begin to add up the minutes and the hours, the days, weeks, months and years that are left in our individual lifetimes, we find that time is short and we cannot afford to squander what we have.  1 Peter 4:7 - "...be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray."

In 1 Peter 4:8, Peter discusses love - a deep love. There are three words for love in the Greek language: "agape - divine love; eros - physical love; philos - brotherly/friendship love." The word in this verse is 'agape.' This is the same love that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. Love that is sacrificial, love that overlooks others sins and wrongdoings, love that comes from the depths of our soul ... the deep that calls out to deep.

Then Peter writes of hospitality.  This gracious gift was something that was never questioned in Jewish society. Hospitality above all else was practiced. But, that didn't mean that behind a guest's back, the host wouldn't be murmuring and grumbling.  Peter calls us to gracious, sacrificial giving.

The gift that Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 4:10 is the Greek word 'charisma.' The holder of this gift is a steward of the grace of God. There is no question as to whether or not each of us have received a gift, the only question is whether or not it will be used.  As this verse goes on, it says 'faithfully administering God's grace in its 'various' forms.'  The word 'various' is translated from the Greek 'poikolos' which means multi-colored or variegated.  The word polkadot comes from the same word. God's grace comes through in many types - multi-colored/variegated - of gifts.  Each of us has a gift from God. We are stewards. We can't hoard this or hide it.

The last verse of this passage begins with a direct call to use the words we speak to speak the words of God. God's sayings (Greek: logia) are so much more important than our own. And yet, we barely know God's Word. How can we be certain that we are speaking it? Peter calls us to serve, using God's strength not ours.  He isn't being kind or generous to us, worrying that we might wear ourselves out. He knows that when we set ourselves aside, God will be glorified.

He ends this passage with a short benediction, actually glorifying and praising God. That's all I can think to do after reading these verses.

God is holy and is worthy of our praise.

March 15 - 1 Peter 4:1-6

Saturday, March 15, 2014

1 Peter 4:1-6 – Imitating Christ

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 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 are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, 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 human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Peter has just finished telling his readers that suffering is not a sign of weakness. Now, he asks us to arm ourselves with the same attitude that Christ had so that we can win the battle against a life of sin. He reminds us that we did all of those things in the past. We lived as the pagans – in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

But, he goes on to say that the pagans don't understand a Christian's behavior, since we refuse to participate in their bad behavior.

I wonder what our world would look like right now if that were true.  What if Christians actually chose not to participate in that behavior and did so with gentleness and respect, rather than announcing to the world that they weren't going to be living detestably like the pagans do and then ... come to find out ... they are actually participating in secret.

There are many lifestyle choices we have to make as Christian. Do we choose to walk away from bad behavior because of God's calling? More often than not, our choice is rather to judge others.

What if living a pure life were a sure sign that you were a Christian and that was the only way someone could see who Christ really was? What if that were the standard that was set for a life lived in Jesus' name?  What if our attitude was such that we cared more about living as Christ calls us than we do about giving in to our own selfish desires?

Oh, these words convict me to the core.

Judgment is coming. We are judged according to men in regard to the body - but, we live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Mankind looks at each of us and judges us according to our behavior. If we are judged to be a non-Christian because of our actions, what will that do to the world - how will that affect people around us?

Holiness is living according to God in regard to the spirit.

March 14 - 1 Peter 3:13-22

Friday, March 14, 2014

1 Peter 3:13-22 – Suffering

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 their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere 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. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it 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 clear 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.

The first question Peter asks here is rhetorical, yet even though we do what is good - persecution will still occur.  Matthew 5:10-12 is the original beatitude (blessedness) that Peter is remembering and then he continues by quoting Isaiah 8:12-13.  Christians shouldn't fear their enemies, but should instead, fear God (Matthew 10:28). And in that reverent fear of God, Christians ultimately have nothing to be afraid of if they are doing good. Our salvation and eternal life is assured.

We are to honor Christ as holy. Now this might seem obvious, because of course he is, but what Peter is exhorting us to do is to revere only Christ … to fear only Jesus. Setting anyone else above Jesus to receive our reverence and fear is unacceptable. He says that we are to do this 'in our hearts.' The heart (Greek – kardia), is the central core of the human in Peter's belief. It is here that love begins for the Christian.

We read in 1 Peter 3:4, that women were to let their adornment be the hidden person of the heart and in 1 Peter 1:22 that with sincere brotherly love, we are to love one another earnestly from a pure heart. This is the deepest part of a person's core … the heart and it is here that we are to make Christ holy and to acknowledge him as above all else.

In our acknowledgement of Jesus Christ, we are to always be prepared. He has given us hope, we should never fail to tell others about that hope, but always with gentleness and respect. Since Peter uses the terminology of "make a defense

We are to imitate Christ. If we think that our suffering is too much, Christ suffered for absolutely no reason other than to save us. He was the righteous one and died for people He would never meet, simply because they could never atone for their unrighteousness.  All of this was done for us so that we could have full access to the throne room.  Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 2:18, 3:12 and in Romans 5:2.

1 Peter 3:19-20 are difficult verses to interpret. Even Luther admitted to not knowing what Peter meant. Most scholars interpret this passage according to the book of Enoch which does not exist in most of our Bibles. However, the spirits may be the evil angels from Genesis 6:1-4 who were imprisoned because of their sin – having sex with human women. This isn't so much about him descending into hell, but Jesus' victory over all evil, including those powers. Peter links Christ's victory over sin throughout the ages to the baptism that Noah's family faced – coming through the flood that destroyed earth.  All angels, authorities and power will be in submission to Him.

Sin caused mankind to suffer. Christ is victorious over sin, from the beginning of time until the end. The greatest moment of baptism … clearing away the sins of the earth … during the flood of Noah's time is reflected in the symbolic baptism we now receive.

Holiness sometimes means more on the inside than it does on the outside.

March 13 - 1 Peter 3:8-12

Thursday, March 13, 2014

1 Peter 3:8-12 – Blessing

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 

         “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they 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.” 

We are truly visitors in a pagan land. And yet, Peter tells us that we must live together in here, with each other and with the residents of this world.  Within the Christian community, though, we should feel safe. We shouldn't have to face the same types of stress that we do in the world. He gives us five characteristics for living together:

1. Live in unity with each other.  In other words - be of like mind.  This is very similar to Paul's teaching to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-2:4. Both of these men were trying to teach something that seems so simple, yet is so alien to our nature.

2. Be sympathetic. The Greek is sympatheis and means 'feeling with.' Romans 12:15 tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

3. Love as brothers. Greek - philadelphoi.  1 Thessalonians 4:9. Paul says that he didn't need to tell us about brotherly love because we had already been taught by God to do this. It should be obvious to everyone how to love each other because of God's love for us.

4. Be compassionate.  This word is found only one other time in the New Testament - in Ephesians 4:32.  This is a tender-heart towards someone in need. It shouldn't matter what the person has or has not done to be in need, our task as Christians is to be compassionate … always.

5. Be humble. Putting others before ourselves. This is a difficult thing for us to do, especially in today's culture. We believe in the 'me first' mentality. If we don't grab the goal, someone else will. That is absolutely against the teaching of Jesus and Peter reminds us of that fact.

In verse 9, Peter tells us we aren't to repay evil with evil or insult for insult.  I'm reminded of a friend's story. He was a veterinarian in a small town in northern Iowa and one of the local farmers had decided that he was just not going to pay this friend for an incredible amount of work that had been done. The community was small enough that tales were told and people began taking sides. One day, the friend pulled into a gas station and ended up on the other side of a pump from the farmer, who scowled and refused to speak. My friend heard God telling him that forgiveness needed to happen. He didn't rush over to the man and ask for forgiveness, he stood there and forgave the man in his heart and chose to love beyond the anger. It was my friend who needed to forgive first, because it was too much for the other man to break the cycle. With his heart firmly in the right place, he could pray for healing and it wasn't long until the incident was fixed and forgotten. Insult for insult, evil for evil … it never pays.

Peter goes on to say that we must react with blessing instead, because it is to this we are called as Christians.  The reason is so that we may inherit a blessing. Jesus speaks of that inheritance in Matthew 5:10-12, while Peter goes on to quote from Psalm 34:12-16.

Holiness must go out from us in our interactions with people, first within the body of Christ and secondly to the world.

March 12 - 1 Peter 3:1-7

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

1 Peter 3:1-7 – Wives and Husbands

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

These words might seem difficult and offensive to women when we first look at them. But we must understand this passage within the context of the society in which Peter was writing as well as read deeply into what they say. New Testament women were still in the middle of a transformation of status. We can see by Peter's words that there was already a loosening of the bindings that held a woman in a subordinate role to her husband. She was doing things that even fifty years earlier would have not been allowed. Peter was dealing with those who were going too far for their culture.

But, we must also take into account Paul's words from Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew no Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," and the fact that women played very important roles in the early Church. Christianity equalized men and women. They were (and are) equal in the sight of God.

That being said, submission does not necessarily bring about inequality. Remember - Jesus is in submission to the Father and yet He is equal. Peter reminds the women who read this letter that inner beauty is much more important than outward trappings. No one would truly disagree with that assertion.

Peter writes again of the contrast between the imperishable (unfading beauty) and the perishable. These are things that are important and will last far longer than a person's life. The hidden person of the heart transforms into the person who lives through into eternity.

By the time he turns to the husbands, notice that he uses the same phrase "in the same way."  This implies a sense of equality. Again, just as he did with slaves, women who were not given any respect in the secular world of the day, received not only respect from Peter, but were given expectations and privileges.  The woman's role was expanded beyond that of a dominated housewife. The husband now is to look at his wife as a co-heir with him to the Kingdom. Any mistreatment on his part will also hinder his prayer life.

On the face of this, Peter spends more time describing exactly what a woman is to do, but his words to husbands are quite blunt and straightforward. Holiness was part of the social aspect of their lives.  They were called to pray at the temple and to pray in public. Being disrespectful of their wives closed off that part of their lives.

Holiness in the home - what a concept!

March 11 - 1 Peter 2:18-25

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

1 Peter 2:18-25 – Enduring

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 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. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

While the idea of slavery is abhorrent to us, it was a reality in the time of Jesus and his disciples. Paul's letters generally dealt with guidelines for the masters of slaves and by Peter's asking the slaves to act morally gave them privileges and expectations that most outside the Christian faith did not.

This code of conduct is set out for all - not just for slaves.  I think that for nearly all of us, the idea of enduring a beating for doing wrong - or for doing good is unacceptable. The idea of suffering for any reason is also just as unacceptable.  If there is money available and someone can fix it for us - we don't suffer.  Why should we?

Isaiah 53 is the prophecy around which the 'Suffering Servant' is understood. It was intertwined into the teaching of the Messiah and was a large part of the teachings regarding Jesus Christ. Peter quotes from it in 1 Peter 2:22 and weaves it into his words in 1 Peter 2:25. We are going to continue to read about this in the next chapter.

He reminds us in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ suffered as an example for us, so that we can follow in his footsteps.  In fact, he says at the end of 1 Peter 2:20 that we are called to this.  What in the world can he mean by that?

While we avoid suffering at all costs, Paul tells us in Romans 5:3 that there are deeper things going on ... Suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance produces character. Character produces hope.  Look back at 1 Peter 1:3.  God has given us new birth into a living hope and into an imperishable inheritance. Peter is teaching the same lesson.  Christ died on the cross (Peter uses 'tree' as a euphemism in 1 Peter 2:24) so that we can return.

Very few of us know or understand what it is like to actually suffer in the name of Christ. I'm not suggesting that any of us should actually pray for that understanding. I know from experience that asking God for teaching on something like that generally gets a response.  But, I do believe that when we are faced with it, we might learn to ask God what it is that He wants us to learn before we ask Him to remove the suffering.

The road to holiness ... never simple.

March 10 - 1 Peter 2:13-17

Monday, March 10, 2014

1 Peter 2:13-17 – Submission

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

These words are echoes of those Paul wrote to the Romans and words that we must face humbly if we are to call ourselves Christians.

The striking thing is that we believe we live in a time so unlike any other time and that the woes visited upon us by secular leaders are greater than even God can overcome, but as we read Peter's words in this letter, we have to understand that the persecution faced by the people who read these words was greater than we will ever know.

He tells his readers to submit to secular authority. In his time, we are more than likely reading about pagan authority. Not only did they call God's sovereignty into question, they lifted up other gods as national rulers. The Caesars were seen as gods and people were forced to bow to them and to their likenesses.

Peter doesn't tell his people that they should rise up against these rulers, but that God's will is for his people to good work.

Now, he is also not speaking of unlawful or tyrannical authorities. In Acts 4:19, we find Peter speaking to the Sanhedrin and refusing to abide by their command to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Their reply was "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."

No, Peter clearly states at the beginning of this passage that we are to obey authority for the Lord's sake.  If we suffer at the hand of an authority, it should be because we are a Christian, not because we have committed another offense.

Why is this to happen? So that no one can slander God by our actions. If we honor those who are in authority, we bring honor to God. If we respect those who lead government, we silence those who would slander Christianity. A Christian's good works brings honor from those who are in authority and lifts up the name of God.

He asserts in 1 Peter 2:16 that we are to live as free people, but we are to never use that freedom to cover evil. We are servants of God. We must not act as the world acts when it questions authority. We must always do so with respect and honor.

1 Peter 2:17 offers up two pairs of commands.  Show respect to everyone, love other Christians.  Fear God, honor the King.

There are distinct differences between how we are to treat people in the world and how we treat those in the fellowship of Christ. We show one group respect, but we are to sincerely love our Christian family. While we may honor or respect those in authority over us, we are to give God reverence.

We are taking holiness out into the world.

March 9 - 1 Peter 2:9-12

Sunday, March 9, 2014

1 Peter 2:9-12 – Chosen People

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

One of the beautiful things about the men who led the early church was their absolute command of God's word. These men used scripture as part of their everyday lives and when they wrote letters, quoted it as part of their conversation. Without citing chapter and verse, they filled the minds of their readers over and over with God's word and then began establishing the words of Jesus as part of the new Covenant and our New Testament.

1 Peter 2:9 is the fulfillment of Matthew 21:43.  We are the people who will produce the fruit of the kingdom of God!  This is why holiness is so important.  We are being built into the spiritual house - the tabernacle of God.

This verse is a combination of several Old Testament passages: Deut. 10:15; Exod. 19:6; Isa. 43:20-21 and Isa. 61:6. While these originally applied to Israel, Peter has exploded the words to encompass all who believe in Jesus Christ, both Gentile and Jew.

In Paul's letter to the Romans, we uncovered that the lineage of Christians comes from a spiritual relationship to Adam, not just a physical genealogy. Peter applies the same consideration here. As Christians, we are a chosen race … our lineage is traced to Abraham, just as Isaiah told the Babylonian exiles that they were the chosen people of God in Isaiah 43:20.

The words "royal priesthood," come directly from Exodus 19:56. Moses spoke to the people of Israel as a covenant nation. By abiding by this covenant, Israel would remain a holy nation. By living lives that "declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light," … we remain within the New Covenant established by Jesus … a holy nation of believers.

1 Peter 2:10 comes from Hosea 1:9, 10, 2:23.  Peter continues to explain the same thing established by Paul in his letter to the Romans … as Christians, we are now the people of God, fulfilling ancient prophecy. We have a responsibility to live as spiritual heirs to the kingdom.

1 Peter 2:11-12 are an introduction to Peter's 'rules' for living in the world.  He reminds us who we are.  We are not of this world. The entire nation of Israel became corrupt while living among the pagans of this world, how much easier is it for individuals to do so. We must constantly be on our guard.

It's still about holiness.  Living lives free from sinful desires is the message for today.

March 8 - 1 Peter 2:4-8

Saturday, March 8, 2014

1 Peter 2:4-8 – The Living Stone

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house  to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: 

         “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 

         “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”  


         “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”  

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

This passage is layered with many different meanings, all of which focus on the fact that we are part of a living kingdom and while we may face persecution or any other sort of difficulty living out our lives as followers of Jesus, He is the foundation of our faith and our life.

There are two groups of people described in the passage. There are the builders who reject the stone and there are those who are being built on the foundation of that cornerstone. Two different approaches to using the Living Stone … one which ends up in people stumbling and the other which grow into the building which relies on the Living Stone for its foundation.

Peter is also describing the process of building a temple.  The temple was the most important building to the Jews and many gentile Christians would be familiar with pagan temples erected to various gods and goddesses throughout the region.  Those temples were made out of stone - stone that could be destroyed and was susceptible to destruction.

With the death of Christ, God no longer communicated with his people from within the Temple, but took up residence in the hearts of men ... temples that were made of 'living' stone. We are that temple.  We are a spiritual house. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were no longer needed, priests were no longer needed ... we are the holy priesthood, we offer sacrifices through Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock upon which His church will be built.  Peter, however, deflects this image back on to Jesus here.  Jesus is the foundation of the church.  Paul, in Ephesians 2:19-22, describes this same structure.  The holy temple is all of us, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.  And in this temple, God will dwell.

The first chapter of this letter described a process that would draw us toward holiness. Peter is pointing out our responsibility - not from a worldly perspective, but from God's perspective.  God wants to dwell within us as He did among the Israelites in their Tabernacle and later, in their Temple.

As God's dwelling place … as living stones in the temple that Jesus is building … we are called to holiness.

A call to holiness. A call to be in the presence of the Most High God.

March 7 - 1 Peter 1:22-2:3

Friday, March 7, 2014

1 Peter 1:22-2:3 – Love Sincerely

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 

         “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  

And this is the word that was preached to you. 

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Peter has declared that we should be holy and then that we should fear God. Before the first chapter is complete, he exhorts his readers to do one more thing … love each other sincerely. Being a Christian is more than just being in relationship with God, it also requires us to be in a relationship with other Christians. To do that, we must love each other … sincerely and deeply.

Why are we to love each other? He gives two reasons. The first is that we have been purified by obedience to the truth. This is the process of sanctification, being made holy. The second reason is that we have been born again. We have set aside our old lives and come into a relationship with God. God is love … love is God's essence and by living in His will, we will reflect His love.

The eternal relationship that we have with God is the same relationship with have with each other, because each of us is born again. Our salvation is not ours alone, but ours in community with other Christians.

From Isaiah 40:6-8, Peter reiterates that the word of God endures forever. This word is the Good News of Jesus Christ … the salvation that comes from knowing Him personally. It was promised to Israel by Isaiah when they were in exile in Babylon and it has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

God is love. Our salvation comes from him and cannot die for God's word endures forever. Thus, we are to love.

Therefore, since God is love and his word endures forever, we are commanded to put away all evil that would separate us from each other and from God. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander are things that destroy love. Our responsibility … the command we received from Jesus Christ is to love God and to love others (Matthew 22).

The translation of 1 Peter 2:2 into English is weak. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk..." His words actually contain much more passion than we read. Imagine an infant who is impatient for milk and has arrived at the end of its wait.  We are to be voracious and hungry … to crave with passion, pure spiritual milk so we can grow into maturity as loving members of the Kingdom of God.

Peter encourages his readers to grow up. We are to be holy, we are to fear God and we are to love.