Friday, March 22, 2013

Be Holy for I am Holy - 1 Peter 1.15

In this next paragraph of chatper 1 of Peter's epistle (1.13-21) we enter a new thought.  Well, not an entirely new thought, but rather the working out of the Truth Peter just reminded his readers. We spent some time musing on what that inheritance is referring to in a post last week
Once he has reminded his readers of the importance of KNOWING THEIR INHERITANCE, he now begins to tell them it is important to KNOW THEIR MISSION.  In other words, so what?  What impact does the reality of this inheritance have on my daily living?  That is precisely what Peter means to do by starting this paragraph with “Therefore.”  Based on what I just said, now let me tell you what to do about this.
This paragraph contains three direct imperative verbs – three commands – which serve as the outline for this paragraph.
1.13 “set your hope fully”
1.15 “be holy”
1.17  “conduct yourself with fear”
There is much here and I cannot take time to review our 4 weeks of study so far in verse 13-16. But I do want to ask a couple of questions and recommend a couple resources.
What does it mean to “be holy for I am holy?”  How is God Holy, what does that mean?  And how am I to be holy like that?  It certainly is declarative and positional, but here in this passage, as well as in the Lev 11, Lev 19 and Lev 22 passages from where the quote is taken, it is an imperative verb.  It is a command to Be Holy.  What does that mean?
And next, why is Peter now bringing up this call to holiness?  What roles does our pursuit of holiness have to do with our ability to endure and honor God in trials?
For a more in depth look at this idea of God’s holiness and out call to be likewise holy, I recommend  tow resources
Get a copy of Dr. Jerry Bridges excellent little book The Pursuit of Holiness
What do you think?
Grace to you,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Our Inheritance - 1 Peter 1.3-12

This is such a rich passage and there is so much to say here.  But I want to keep current with where we are in our Sunday class.  So at some point in the near future I will return to this post and add some thoughts on this section of Peter’s epistle.
For now, let me point out the three main thoughts of this passage:
1.       He has caused us to be born again (1.3)  The object of our new birth, or what were we have been born again to, is described as a “living hope” and an “inheritance.”  Clearly the concepts of hope and inheritance would bring to mind the idea of the promisesmade to Abraham. The essence of this passage is Peter’s introduction to the real reason why his readers could endure suffering and difficulty. Namely, that God was fulfilling the promises he made to Abraham and his seed (which is Christ – Gal 3.16).  We are the children of promise if we are by faith connected to Christ.  Our new birth, that God sovereignly and monergistically brought about, was the means of fulfilling these promises.

2.       In this we rejoice (1.6)  In the face of trials and difficulties we rejoice because we know our inheritance is secured in heaven. Even though we do not now see Him, we believe and love Him and therefore rejoice in the certain outcome of our faith (1.9)

3.       Concerning this inheritance (1.10)  Even the prophets of old searched their own prophecies in a desire to better understand what would be revealed to us – on this side of the cross.  They understood to some degree that their message would be fulfilled not in a political nation or ethnic people, but for those in the New Covenant, those in Christ, the Children of Promise

In other words, Peter introduces this message of Hope by reminding his readers that God promised our victory long ago through Father Abraham and was in the processing of fulfilling that promise in them.  As he will soon elaborate on, they are a royal nation and a holy priesthood and belong to God Himself (2.4-5). The trials they are experiencing will pass and God will restore, confirm strengthen and establish them.  There was so much reason for them to Hope and Rejoice.
We too must remind ourselves that we have been called to suffer for the cause of Christ… to take up our cross.  When things get difficult, when trials come – even though we do not see Him – we have hope in the promise that our inheritance is eternal and established in heaven.  God is working out his eternal covenant by causing us to be born again.  Preach the gospel to yourself every day.  It keeps our focus on the big picture of building the Kingdom for His glory.
What to think?
Grace to you,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Be Hopeful - 1 Peter Overview and Outline

In times of trial and struggle, keeping our minds on the Big Picture serves as our hope and energizes us to endure, and even thrive, in the midst of difficult times.  Of course we need to ask, what is the Big Picture?  What is the purpose, what is the goal? That is what Peter is addressing in his first epistle.  Understanding that our Eternal Inheritance, – the promises that were made to Abraham, delivered to ancient Israel and fulfilled in Christ – which is ours through the new birth, will serve to strengthen our faith, our resolve to obey and  our love for each other.
So let’s take a high level look at Peter’s epistle.  We will briefly comment on the Author, the Audience, the Historical Setting and the Thesis of this letter.
One the very exciting plot lines of the Scripture is the transformation we see in Peter.  From his calling in Mark 1.16-18 to the writing of the Epistles we see a dramatically different Peter.  The stereotype of Peter is a young, impetuous, short tempered zealot .  Let’s look at the Biblical record.  What do we KNOW about Peter?
-          Originally from Bethsaida (John 1.44), Peter was an entreprenuial business man that ran a successful (he had a large house shared with his brother and extended family  – Mark  1.29-31) fishing practice (Mark 1.16) in Capernum (Mark 1.21,29)  with his brother Andrew (Mark 1.16). 
-          Think of all the traits necessary to operate a successful fishing business: hard work, early riser, disciplined, manager of others, manager of assets such as boats and nets, salesmanship, aggressive.
-          These same skills are often observed in Peter during his three years with Christ.  He was almost always the first to speak up among the apostles.  His name is always the first one listed when the Apostles are named.  He was a recognized leader among the 12.
-          Peter was gradually and significantly transformed from a proud, self made man into a humble. Gentle servant of others.  God used such experiences as watching Christ crucified, Peter’s own denial, his racing to the empty tomb with John, and standing on the mountain watching Christ ascend to transform him into the Peter that we see leading the nescient church in the book of Acts.
-          In Acts we see Peter humbly preaching, yet with power, conviction and knowledge.  We see his response when jailed is very different than the Peter who cut off Malchus’ ear in Garden.
-          We know that Peter began an itinerant ministry along with his wife after James rose to prominence in the Jerusalem church. (1 Cor 9.5).
By the time Peter writes his Epistles he is a season Christian minister with a humble understanding of the sovereign work of God is the circumstances of life.  He rests in the certainty and confidence that God has instituted his New Covenant and secured out eternal inheritance in heaven. We see this certain hope all through both Epistles.
Peter is writing this letter to the elect scattered around mountainous regions of what is today northern Turkey. He writes with a specific audience and with a sense of intimate relationship.  I think it is a safe assumption that his ministry travels along with his wife took him to this region.  He probably started many of the churches there.  Paul’s ministry trips were in the southern Turkey region and then he was directed by the Spirit to go to Macedonia.  Paul never traveled to the Northern regions that Peter is addressing in his letter.  There are probably many gentiles in the churches of that region, but the content of Peter’s letter indicate that there were a large population of Jews in the church as well.
It appears that Peter is writing this from Rome. (I won’t take this space to go into the usage of “Babylon” as a reference to Rome – but there is sufficient evidence.  Though admittedly not certain)  I draw this conclusion because tradition tell us that Peter and his wife are crucified upside down at the hands of Nero.  That would put Peter in Rome in the mid 60s.  He writes his letters before the persecution breaks out in full force, before Nero burns Rome.  But he has the foresight to tell his readers not be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon them (4.12).  Clearly the readers are experiencing some persecution and trials already, but the most intense is yet to come.
Peter wrote to these Christians, many of which we of Jewish background, but certainly not all were, to remind them that they, as New Covenant believers, were a Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation, the fulfillment of the OT picture.  This was their Hope in times of trial and persecution.  Not a physical, political nation and certainly not in the Old Covenant.  This was increasingly obvious.  Their hope was in Christ, the New Covenant. The thesis of this letter is found in 5.10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself, restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
As we progress in our study I will fill in more detail of the outline of 1 Peter.  As of this writing we are in 1 Peter 1.15.  Here is the outline so far in the study.

1.1-2                Greetings
1.3-2.10           Hope is anchored in our Great Salvation (1.3, 18-19)
1.3-1.12           Knowing Our Inheritance
                                    1.3-5                Inheritance Preserved
                                    1.6-9                Inheritance Proven
                                    1.10-12            Inheritance Prophesied
            1.13-1.25         Knowing Our Mission
                                    1.13                 Be Hopeful
                                    1.14-15            Be Holy
                                    1.16-21            Be Honorable
                                    1.22-25            Be Loving       
            2.1-2.10           Knowing Our Identity
2.11-4.6           Hope lives each day in Obedience (2.13-15)
4.7-5.11           Hope sees the victory coming (5.10-11)
5.12-14            Closing

Grace to you,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! Back to the Blogosphere I Go

At the Assembly of Christians, the little Reformed Baptist Church of which I am a member, we have recently begun a verse by verse study of 1 Peter.  I have the immense privilege of leading our study.  I don’t say “teaching” necessarily, because, more than any other class I have ever “taught,”  this class is truly a venue for us to “encourage one another.”  I get the greatest joy from leading this group of believers in our fellowship in the Word.  So many people are engaging the Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them.  People are experiencing the joy of personal discovery in the Word.  So our brief times together on Sunday mornings serve less as a unidirectional lesson and more as a venue for mutual teaching, admonition and education. 

We often find ourselves wanting to carry the discussion further than time will allow, so I have decided to reenter the blogosphere and utilize this space primarily as a forum for us to continue our discussions from our Sunday classes. 

At some point I will post a brief summary of what has transpired in my life and in my family since the last time I posted here (November 2005).  But we will save that for another day.  I will probably post other thoughts and articles as well.  I will likely even repost some of the older articles from back in 2005 to restart the conversation in the comment threads.  But the primary purpose of this space will be to discuss 1 Peter. 
So if you are part of the class with us on Sunday, please, please join in the discussions in the comment threads. If you are not, please feel free to still chime in.  We welcome all, and look forward to the conversations.

We are into Chapter 1, already at verses 13-21.  So I will post my outline of 1 Peter and few background and overview thoughts in the next post.  Then I will do a high level overview of verses 3-12.  At that time, we will begin to dig into the nuances of the current passage – the language, cross references, typology, grammar and theology of the verses.

If you are a first time visitor, feel free to take a look around the archives.  Perhaps you’ll find something challenging, encouraging or just little entertaining.  Glad you have come by.

Grace to you,

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reformation Day

It is amazing to me how few Christians know anything about Reformation Day. Those who do often play down the significance or even denounce the celebration of such, because it is divisive and elitist.

As for me and my house, we had a special worship service at home on Sunday that included a selection of hymns and spiritual songs that focused on the power, priority and preminence of the Word of God. I gathered the children around and told them the vivid story of Martin Luter's confrontation with Pope Leo and the Catholic rulers of his day. Then we did a Bible study from 2 Tim 3.16... looking at five really good reasons to study the Bible.
1. It is God's very word "God'breathed"
2. It tells us what God expects us to do "doctrine"
3. It tells what God forbids "reproof"
4. It tells how to be sanctified "correction"
5. It tells how to do the hard work of living holy "training in righteousness"

I trust as Christians, we will never downplay the significance of a man who was so passionate about the Truth of God's Word, that he staked his entire reputation and even his very life on the line for the defense of it... in so doing, changing Christendom and the World forevermore. Praise the Lord for the legacy of Martin Luther and may we have such courage.

May we all say "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel!"

Please take a moment and share how you celebrated Reformation Day by voting in the poll to the right and them sharing your experiences in comment!

Grace to You!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Why Should We Pray?

“The spectacle of a nation praying is more awe inspiring than the explosion of an atomic bomb. The force of prayer is greater than any possible combination of man made or man controlled powers, because prayer is man’s greatest means of tapping the infinite resources of God.”

Guess who said that? J. Edgar Hoover! That's right! The 48 year Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. I never would have guessed that as a source, but the last thought is very profound... "prayer is man's greatest means of tapping the infinite resources of God."

Isn't that an amazing thought. God has "blesseds us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph 1.3) The means by which we appropriate those infinite blessings is the intimacy of prayer. See James 4.2 "You have not because you ask not!" God tells us to ask in the name of Christ and we will receive. When we ask God for His will, we can be confident that we are going to find it. We ask GOd for His blessings on His terms in His time and he showers them upon us! As Pastors, we might wonder why our church doesn't grow. As Parents, we wonder why we struggle with our children. As Sunday School teachers, we wonder why our students are not growing and appropriating the Truth. How much do we pray for these things. You ever wonder why people don't come to the Lord in faith and repentance? How much do you pray for God to work a miracle of rebirth in the lives of people? Prayer is the means by which we tap the infinite resources of God.

How much have you tapped into the resources God has stored for you? Prayer is an earnest discipline of pouring your heart out to God and seeking His face and His will in the issues of life. It is not vainly repeating some prayer found buried in the an Old Testament geneology. It is honest and passionate. It is heartfelt and mind driven. What a privilege we have to enter into the presence of Holy God and pour out our requests to Him in confidence and boldness.

Grace to You!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Blame it on the Brain!?

An recent article at Fox News reporting the recent delcarations by the National Institutes of Mental Health that 46 % of all Americans will development a mental illness, caused me to once again ponder the issues of sin, psychology and Biblical answers.

Where do I even begin? When I was an elementary student in the early 1980s, the school counselor recommended that my parents put me on a regular intake of Ritalin. It seems I was not performing up to par. I was easily distracted and could not stick to a task for very long. Now I am 31 years old ... I am still not the most disciplined person. It takes a lot of work to excerise discipline and self control, especially for an 8 year old boy who had an overactive imagination. Did I need drugs to control by chemically "imbalanced" brain? Did I need someone to help me discipline myself for life?

Please don't misunderstand me! I understand that there are some situation in which legitimate, physiological concerns must be addressed by qualified medical professionals. However, this does not change the clear meaning of God's diagnosis and subsequent prescription for what ails the human condition.

What God has called sin, modern "doctors," have labeled sickness, disease, and (when they have no quantitative evidence) disorders. See for example:

Stealing (Eph 4.28)= Kleptomania
Worry Phil 4.6,7 = Anxiety
Laziness (Ecc 9.10) = Attention Deficit Disorder
Homosexuality (Rom 1.26,27) = Sexual Orientation
Fear (1 John 4.17,18) = Phobia
Selfishness (Rom 12.3-5) (Phil 2.3,4) = Depression
Drunkenness (1 Cor 6.9-11) (Eph 5.18) = Alcoholism

And so on and on the list goes. There are of course many dangers in creating excuses for sin. The greatest danger, as I perceive it, is the failure to offer any real solutions, a lack of hope. For example, when a drunkard is told he has a disease and will always have this disease, there is no hope. Sure, he is relieved from responsibilty, he is released from the consequences of his actions, and is given a formula to attempt to control the disease. But in reality, he is left with no hope.

When we call rebellious action what God calls it - sin - there is a solution, there is hope! Jesus came to "save his people from their sins" (Matt 1.21). "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1.15). There is an answer for sin. It is repentance and faith in Lord Jesus Christ. When we simply seek to mask the evidence and reality of sin, we are blocking God's call of repentance to the individual. When we tell a homosexual struggling with the guilt and shame of his sin that his lifestyle is a result of an innate sexual orientation, we are redirecting his God-given sense of guilt and shame away from the path of real hope, namely repentance and forgiveness.

By the definitions provided by the National Institutes of Health and the American Psychological Association, all humankind has a variety of mental disorders. I prefer simple recognize the problem of sin and declare the only true prescription, repentance and faith in the Lord!

Grace to You!

Further Resources
Articles from the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors
Blame it on the Brain, by Ed Welch

(I anticipate the response to this post will be varied and emotional. Let's try to interact on a rational, biblical level)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Isaiah 8.11-22 - Fear God; Heed His Word

I am using the London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689 for my personal Bible Study time. Chapter 1, "Of the Holy Scriptures," has provided much for my musing these last couple of days. Of particular interest to me was the opening phrase "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience." A footnote here references, among other passages, Isaiah 8.11-22. Here Isaiah has just prophecied the coming Assyrian invasion. Even in the midst of the pending threat and sure overwhelming force and influence of the Assyrians, God tols the people not to walk in the ways of these people or take counsel from them. Isaiah declared from God, "And when they [the Assyrians] say to you, "Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter," should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?" (v19)

In other words, God knew the temptation to seek counsel, wisdom, truth from sources and resources other that through His declaration through the prophets would be powerfully tempting. He reminded them in verse 20, "If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn." They have "no dawn;" there is no light in them; they have no understanding! Truth, all truth, comes from God alone. Truth is not discovered, experienced, developed... it has once for all been delivered.

We are probably not prone to turn to "mediums and necromancers" (unless your an avid Harry Potter fan - had to take that shot, sorry) to discover truth. God clearly condemns that! We, however, are prone to seek truth in other places: our experience, our feelings, science. The temptation to interpret Scripture in light of our experiences (i.e. "I know this works") or through the lense of our emotions ("it feels like the right thing to do") is great. But we must remember the truth with which our Baptist forefathers opened their confession: "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience."

Praise the Lord that He has declared to us all we need to be all that He wants us to be (John 17.17; 2 Tim 3.15-17; 2 Peter 1.3)

Grace to You!