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Archive for October, 2008

Stumble Never AgainTherefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble 2 Peter 1:10It’s a PromiseThis is huge! We have a covenant with Jesus Christ that declares if we do these ‘things’ we will not stumble. (I do not know about you, but I hate it when I stumble). But the promise does not stop there, for if we do these things, our ministries will be fruit-filled and our walks will no longer be spiritually dry. Oh, and I forgot to mention the part about unmerited favor, peace, and exceptionally great and incalculable promises. You must be dying to know what these things are.

What Things

Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

It all comes down to spiritual-math and chemistry. Here is the formulaic equation (add to ‘faith’ the following thing and in the proper sequence): Faith + virtue + knowledge + self-control + patience + godliness + kindness + love = Spiritual-Stability.

Virtue

Faith, we know comes from God by the hearing of His word and it is the medium to which these other things must be added. The first component is virtue, which is really nothing more than the desire to live right before God’s eyes. Think of virtue as you would a diet—the things that you allow or will not allow to enter your body.

Knowledge

Once our ‘diet’ is on the right track, we are ready to add knowledge—and just so we are clear, we are talking about knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can begin to see the importance of maintaining the prescribed sequence, for if our lives are un-virtuous (cluttered with trash) there is little room for knowledge. In contrast, if you are not hungry for the Word, it might be indicative that you are filling-up on junk food.

Self-control

To this we add self-control and discover that in many ways it is a natural byproduct of maintaining a healthy diet that has been fueled by godly knowledge. Self-control, without knowledge as its catalyst, always fails eventually.

Patience

You might say that self-control and patience go hand-in-hand. It seems an impossibility to have one without of the other, but without self-control, enduring patience will never come. Patience lost is patience never gained.

Godliness

Now we can add godliness. Could you imagine skipping the other things and adding godliness directly to faith? The sad thing is (that) we see it happen all the time. It certainly happened to me, and although I am better off for the experience, it is an experience I did not have to undergo.

Kindness

To godliness we add kindness. Why now—why not earlier? We add it now because of an inherent pitfall that often follows godliness—we can become a little haughty and a little nasty with our delivery. By the time we have added godliness we have learned the urgency of the Gospel message for a dying world and there is a tendency to cut-corners to get the message across. If you have ever heard a sermonette that boldly and loudly proclaims, “You’re all going to hell!” you know what I am talking about.

Love

Finally we add love. Love is added at the end because true love; agape love, cannot be realized until all the other ingredients are in place. When we broadcast love in the absence of these other qualities, it is often an emotional and imaginary kind of love; or love as we think it should be. That kind of love is an ugly thing to behold and it is referred to in 1 John 4:20

If someone says, “I love God, ” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

Yea, I Know That

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 1 Peter 1:12

Yea, I know you know that. I know it too. But we forget. Time is short and like Peter, our ministry must be that of stirring people up in the remembrance of things we already know. It is not what we know that counts for anything, but what we do with the things we know—wisdom is the result of using knowledge wisely.


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So You Have an Identity CrisisSimon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ… 2 Peter 1:1aA Name Shift

Most Christians you talk with love Peter. We like him because he is relatable–he stumbles so many times in his walk with Jesus, but in the end he always learns his lesson. Peter was also a humble man and we recognize this in his salutation when he refers to himself by his birth name—Simon.

I was always taught that the name Simon means ‘shifting sand’ (unsubstantiated) and we see that instability continually throughout Peter’s meandering with the Lord. But then Jesus announces the name-change in John 1:42.

Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas.”

It is interesting to note that Jesus was speaking prophetically, because Simon does not officially become Peter; he does not change from ‘shifting-sand’ to ‘rock’ until Matthew 16:15-18

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Who Are You

Does it not seem like the majority of people we know have an identity crisis, not knowing who they are or for what reason they are here? Peter attained his identity when he understood not who he was, but who Jesus is. Therefore, it stands to reason that we cannot possibly know who we are until we know who Jesus is.

Once we conclude that our life is all about His life, we can than begin to grasp who it is we were meant to be. To the extent we understand Jesus, we will understand ourselves. All things were made by Jesus and for Jesus. When we come to understand that Christ does not exist for us and our good pleasure, but that we exist for Him and His good pleasure, then our identity is no longer in crisis. Tell that to any teenager.

Never Forget

Peter has not forgotten. By the mere mention of his former name we know that Peter recognizes this is the person he used to be and by God’s grace he is no longer that person. We note that there is a no sorrow—Peter does not grieve his past, but rejoices in his salvation. I suspect that from time-to-time someone would ask him why he still occasionally used his former name and I suppose Peter certainly took the time to explain.


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The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed… 1 Peter 5:1Peter’s Exhortation

First Peter was written only months before horrific persecution of the church was to occur, for on July 19, 64 AD, many scholars believe that Caesar Nero set fire to Rome so he could eventually rebuild the city in a grander style. Seeing an opportunity to multitask, Nero blames the Christians for the blaze, igniting a furor that would result in the annihilation of over six million Christians.

Peter’s desire was to spiritually prepare the church for what ultimately lied ahead. We should find these directives as appropriate today as they were for the fledgling church of two thousand years ago. Going over the main points, Peter’s exhortation is for us to:

Feed the flock, serving as willing overseers, not for personal gain, nor as lords, but as humble examples to those we serve, while being submissive to all. He adds that we are to be sober, vigilant, and steadfast in faith, because satan seeks to eat us alive.

A Tall Order

“I can’t do that, ” you might say, “I am such a failure.”

God might say, “That is precisely why I directed Peter to write it, ” for we see that on every single textual point Peter failed miserably.

Peter certainly was a witness to Christ’s suffering—a ‘far off’ witness the Bible records. And he did witness the glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, but he wound up spouting off inappropriately. He sleeps lazily when Jesus told him to stand watch; he pridefully won’t allow Jesus to wash his feet, and wasn’t very submissive when he took Jesus aside to rebuke Him (Matthew 16). Needless to say that chopping off the ear of Malchus wasn’t a very good example either. Finally we discover a discouraged Peter has gone fishing. It is then Jesus reminds him that he has been casting his cares on the wrong side of the boat and later encourages him to feed the sheep he loves.

In light of his failures, what in Heaven’s Name qualifies Peter to exhort us? As he ends this section of the epistle, Peter tells us it is by God’s grace alone that he is qualified and that by this same grace we too are qualified.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 1 Peter 5:10

Impeccability vs. Teach-ability

God uses us in our brokenness—He always has and He always will. What better person than Peter to drive home that point. While Peter failed in every instance, we discover that to the same degree he was imperfect, he was teachable–in every single case Peter learned his lesson. Our lesson is that it is our failures that make us best suited for the job—that is if we are teachable, for if we are teachable we are usable.


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Choosing the Right TreeFor Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3:18a, 21, 22

The Perfect Tree

Does anyone remember going Christmas tree shopping as a child? Regardless if we went into the woods to chop one down, a parking lot bursting with pre-cuts, or to the mall for the latest artificial model, we can all agree on one thing—the tree had to be perfect. (Unfortunately, dad’s idea of a perfect tree–combined with the perfect price, generally resulted in an inferior conifer).

Peter understood the significance of choosing the perfect tree, for he believed that what Christ Jesus did on the tree—the cross of Calvary was fully sufficient for all sin and thus provided a clean conscience. In darkest contrast, Judas did not believe, although the option for him to choose sensibly was there. Instead his guilty conscience led him to a tree imperfect. Judas was hung-up with guilt.

What Jesus did once and for all on the cross not only cleanses us of all our sin, it also cleanses our consciences. Does that mean we never recall the rotten things of our pasts? No, of course not—it is those very things we share in our testimonies that give God the glory and what Peter is indirectly doing here. The difference is the guilt is gone; the sins of our past now represent the bumpy road that brought us to salvation in Christ Jesus. Without faith, that road just serves to remind us of our guilt and our shame (and likely) the path we currently tread.

Baptism

When we allow ourselves to be baptized, essentially we are declaring by faith that what Christ did on the cross is sufficient, that the blood of Jesus cleanses (not the water), and satan (and his demonic henchmen) have no power over us…A Christian can never truthfully say, “The devil made me do it.”

But I Still Feel Guilty

Revelation 12:10 reminds us that satan goes around night and day ‘accusing’ us of our sin. Take note; ‘his lips are moving and that’s all’—satan and his demons have been made powerless by the blood of Christ—talking is all they can do in this regard. If you struggle to know the difference between the voice of evil and the voice of God, know that conviction from the Holy Spirit draws us closer to the Lord and condemnation from the enemy drives us further away. Your baptism experience is retroactive.

…How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14


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…Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 1 Peter 3:15-16Conscience Decisions

Without a doubt, experience is the best teacher…But no where is it written that it must be your experience. The Bible after all is an experiential-record of other people’s mistakes presented in such a manner that we might not repeat them. Like the good parent who desires to spare a child the horror of their own bad experiences, here we see Peter acting similarly in his counsel to the church.

Do you recall Peter having three occasions to offer a good defense, but because of a bad conscience, wasting those opportunities?

Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Matthew 26:74-75

Defiled Conscience

Titus 1:15 tells of the conscience defiled. That occurs when we habitually allow impure things to enter in. Over time, like soot building on a window, clear vision is impaired. A defiled conscience is likened to cataracts on the lens of your soul. Gone untreated, a defiled conscience leads to a…

Seared Conscience

Look at what 1 Timothy 4:1-2 declares in regard to the seared conscience.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron

Whether or not Peter had reached this stage is open to speculation, but we certainly see this quality displayed today in the voice of many a false teacher. Un-repented sin leads to defilement and prolonged corruption leads to a seared conscience; with that seared conscience being unable to distinguish between light and dark, right and wrong, or good and evil.

Evil Conscience

Can it get any worse than having a seared conscience? It most certainly can. Defilement leads to searing which leads to evil—and the truth be told, that is where the majority of us began our spiritual journeys; in the pit of an evil conscience. It was there that our Lord found us and placed within us the desire spoken of in Hebrews 10:22.

…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Cleansed Conscience

Anybody ever told you as a Christian that you are brain-washed? Peter harkens that we are desperately in need of brain-washing, so much so that regular cleansing should be a daily (if not more frequent) ritual. Then and only then will we be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks the reason for the hope we possess.


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Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7Knowledge

A husband must understand his wife in the same manner Christ understands His bride. We have for an example Jesus and His bride Nathanael in the first chapter of John.

Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! John 1:48-49

To appreciate the passage, we need to recognize the implications–Nathanael did ‘not’ believe Jesus was the Messiah merely because He saw him sitting beneath a tree. In that day the expression, ‘To sit under a fig tree, ’ meant that a person was studying; the inference being that Nathanael was not only reading the Bible, but was likely reading the account of Jacob (and ‘Jacob’s Ladder’) in Genesis 28. Jesus knew what he was reading, because when you are in His Word, you are with Jesus.

Jesus knew His bride well because His bride was in the Word. Therefore it stands to reason we will know our bride best when together, we are in His Word. And yes, this writer is convicted by his own words.

Honor

Men and woman are equal, but we are not the same. A woman’s desire for things spiritual exceeds that of a man and it is for this reason satan approached Eve in the Garden—the desire (at least in part) makes her more susceptible to deception. The other thing that added to her vulnerability was that Adam was not around. The Bible doesn’t tell us where Adam was, but only where he wasn’t—with Eve. Not very honorable is it?

As a result of Adam’s sin, God imposed the condition whereby a women’s desire to be with the man will intensify (despite the pain of child birth), but the man must work by the sweat of his brow. This is the way it is. The lesson of the Garden reminds man that we honor the wife and not the job (or worse, the avocation). Spending time together in the Word is most honorable. Once again, the writer stands convicted.

Enrich

The Godly man and the Godly woman have much to share with one another, but sadly it is the man who often dismisses that which the wife has to offer. This should not be the case.

Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” Exodus 4:25

“What does that have to do with man being enriched by woman, ” you ask?

Moses was all puffed-up about being ordained by God to confront pharaoh with a host of miracles, so much so he had forgotten to take care of his own house hold. If Zipporah had not stepped in and did what she did, God would have killed Moses on the spot. The lesson is of course is that we should listen to our spouses long before it comes to something like this.

Or Be Hindered

Men should understand, honor, and be enriched by their wives so that their prayers will not be hindered. This is not about God suddenly cursing you for being disobedient, but rather His not giving you more than you can handle. After all, why would the Lord open more doors if we are failing to walk through the doors He has opened in our own homes? Spiritual opportunities appear when we are obedient to the ones He has already provided.


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Wives, likewise be submissive to you own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe you chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:1-4Dangerous Waters

The shortest sermon you will ever hear will likely begin with the idiom, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.” Upon hearing that phrase it is practically guaranteed that you are only moments away from, “The Lord bless you and keep you… make His face shine upon you…be gracious to you…lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. Amen.”

Pastors quake in their clericals for the fear of those six words, but that should not be the case, for these words are applicable to Christian men as well. So having said that, the best way to navigate these dangerous waters is to take the plunge, after all, are not men (also) the bride of Christ?

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

But make no mistake about it Peter is addressing Christian women here; however there is enough meat on this bone to be shared. Christ calls us (men) to be submissive too, our conduct can draw the unsaved to the cross, and like the ladies, our concern should be for our inward appearance and not the outward. Needless to say, there would be very little spousal objection (to the submissive doctrine) if the husband practiced what he preached.

Cosmos

Changing gears only slightly, I wanted to briefly address the outer woman. What is God telling us about hair, jewelry, and clothes? I think the (above) text is pretty clear, but in this instance, I believe the King James Version of 1 Peter 3:3 says it better…Take note that the word ‘fine’ is absent from before the word apparel.

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel

Why is that significant?

It is important because some religious fanatics read this verse and take it to mean that women should not spend time fixing their hair, nor should they wear jewelry. If that was what Peter was saying, then he is also saying that women should not wear clothes—ever. Peter is not saying women shouldn’t wear clothes. Obviously the writer is merely declaring that the priority of the woman needs to be inward. As for make-up and such, some old-time pastor said it best when he said…

“If the barn needs painting, paint it.”

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30


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