There is hope in the person of Jesus.
Peter’s letter was not written to instruct believers if they experience suffering, but when they experience it. Suffering is a guarantee for the Christian life, but that should not be a source of discouragement for those who follow Christ.
Peter wrote his letter to Christians experiencing persecution throughout the Roman Empire. During the first three centuries of the Church, believers were constantly oppressed because of their faith. They were threatened, imprisoned, and violently executed as entertainment, like that of the gladiator-like battle in front of the public. This is the context Peter was writing to address so let’s take a look at what he had to say.
1 Peter 1:3-12 (ESV)
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,
11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Living hope is comprehensive. It means it is a balance of realizing it is always faithful and remains the same, but we, being the ones that change often, need Christ in different ways at different time. Christ as a living hope means that he is healer when you’re broken. He is joy in your sadness. He is savior to you sinfulness. He is hope to your despair.
After reminding his readers of who they are, Peter makes a surprising statement in verse 6: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” He doesn’t tell his readers that soon their faith will bring them reprieve, that God will reward them with worldly comfort. Rather, he makes it clear that suffering and joy can—and should—co-exist.
Like children adopted into a loving family, we have been chosen by God and blessed not only with a birthright, but also with an inheritance sealed for us by the Holy Spirit. We belong to a loving Father who allows hardship into our lives for the sake of maturing our faith. Once again, throughout these verses Peter is explaining who we are because our hope comes from a new identity, not merely new instructions.
Again, our suffering and our joy exist simultaneously.
James 1:1-4 (ESV)
1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Here is the truth:
You are living where you’re living and facing what you’re facing because that’s exactly how God wanted it to be. This is a hard saying, but God is sovereign and he is in control of what is happening. The hardships that we all face between the “already” and the “not yet” are not a sign of the failure of God’s redeeming work, but rather a very important tool of it.
It creates opportunity for you to trust him in the storm. It gives you opportunity to have your faith tested to produce steadfastness. All of this so that when you are faced with a truly devastating reality at some point in your life, you will be lacking in nothing. When you face the mightiest storm imaginable you look that storm in the face and say, “I have an even mightier God and I am a child of the King of kings!”
1 Peter 1:6-7 says: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I love that we get to see the greatness of God. He is steadfast. He produces newness of life in us through Jesus Christ.
I love that this is something exclusive to humanity. Look at verse 12…
they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Even a creation as awesome as angels… something that if you ever saw it, it would blow your mind. Even angels long to look upon the incredible work of salvation. We experience something from God that even angels don’t get to experience.
That is something to be excited about. That is what sparks the fire of joy into our hearts even in trials and suffering.
1 Peter 1:13-25 (ESV)
13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,
15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,
19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
What are the commands we see in this section of scripture?
1 )Live holy. (The meaning of holy as something that is “separate” or “set apart.”)
2) Love others. A life of service and putting others needs above your own.
Life with Christ is one of both joy and suffering. The trials we face remind us that this is not our home. Because of his sacrifice, our hardships are temporary, but our hope is eternal. Even more, through faith in Christ the Holy Spirit has transformed us such that we can face suffering with joy. Our hope is no longer rooted in our circumstances, but in the unchanging faithfulness of God.
I want to end our session by reminding you that your identity always drives your behavior. Who we are determines how we will live. If you have trusted in Christ, then you are a new creation and hardship provides the opportunity to reflect that to the world. So, take heart in the difficult days. They are not a surprise to God and he allows them to refine your faith and bring glory to his name.
Where do you find it most difficult to “live holy” in your daily life?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16
Identify someone struggling, maybe even another believer having a hard time with feelings of being an “outsider.” Make an intentional effort to encourage him or her with the hope of Jesus, that he is near and at work within even if we cannot see it.
Meditate on 1 Peter 1:3-9 today. Let the Word of God be an encouragement of hope to you and may your faith increase.
I spent time studying in Colossians today.
I am deeply thankful that every sin, each iniquity, every lie, every ounce of self pride, my anger, my wrongdoing... all of it has been washed away by the blood of Christ Jesus. It wasn’t conquered by the empty, hollow deceit of failing philosophies of the world. All of my fallenness is redeemed by none other than the finished work of God in the person of Jesus. Because I have put off the former things that once consumed me, I can put on Christ’s righteousness given to me through faith. When the Lord looks at the perfect work of Christ, I am hidden within him. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:3-4
I also adore this prayer from The Valley of Vision:
"THIS IS THE FOUNDATION OF MY HOPE,
THE REFUGE OF MY SAFETY,
THE NEW AND LIVING WAY TO THEE,
THE MEANS OF CONVICTION OF SIN, BROKENNESS OF HEART,
AND SELF-DESPAIR, WHICH WILL ENDEAR TO ME THE GOSPEL.
HAPPY ARE THEY WHO ARE CHRIST’S,
IN HIM AT PEACE WITH THEE, JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS,
DELIVERED FROM COMING WRATH,
MADE HEIRS OF FUTURE GLORY."
Your world view changes completely when you meet Jesus. It’s no longer a worldview of God being at your call like some genie in a lamp. To treat him as such is wrong and to teach that this is who he is would be heresy. The entirety of your life begins to be transformed and used to serve God and be a witness to others about His goodness. You begin live a life showing the light of Christ to everyone around you. We won’t get this perfect all the time, but we know this… God’s grace will always be there to be given to us should we fail.
Here are some questions to consider:
How could focusing on the future glory of Christ help you keep your mind on Him today?
What kind of confidence does it bring you to know you've been forgiven and will have an inheritance in the kingdom of God?
What does it mean to you that you will appear with Christ when He returns? How does that truth offer hope?
Look to the cross of Christ. It is the collision of two worlds. This is the picture of God's mercy upon us. It is also the picture of God's judgement of sin. It is the connection point of Spirit and flesh. Sin had to be dealt with because the Lord's righteousness requires it. But in His wrath, he remembers mercy.
"O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy." - Habakkuk 3:2
Those that have, by grace, come to have faith in Christ Jesus now bear witness to God's mercy. We were once dead in our trespasses and sins.... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-7
Even in our pain and confusion, frustrations, worry, or lament, we can still remember the goodness of God and that His mercy is abundant. In the book of Lamentations, a collection of laments, believed to be written by the prophet Jeremiah, we see this beautiful glimpse of hope.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” - Lamentations 3:22-24
Imagine with me, if you will, that you have suffered a great deal of grief. If you haven't, you are near to someone who has. Or you are currently being prepared to suffer through a time of grief. All of us are bound to suffer in between the "already" of the cross and the "not yet" of the glories to come. What is your response to having a broken heart? Even still; within the painful songs written by the melody of circumstance and to the tempo of your broken heart, can you sing hopeful promises like the prophet, Jeremiah? It is certainly difficult to wander through the wreckage that sin has left in our world today.
But we have this hope. We have this light. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. God that became man and born into a place that was known for being dirty, unworthy, or "on the wrong side of the tracks." This was God in flesh. This was part of His sovereign plan to see sin defeated. This was His plan to pour out His mercy upon those whom He loves. This was the Lord's way of showing that He is near and that He knows fully what it is like to suffer and experience loss.
Meditate on the Lamentations 3:22-24 today. Let the Word of God be a soothing balm to the wounds that the enemy has left in the wake of his destruction. Let these words be an encouragement to you and may they increase your faith.
Have you given your life to Christ? I mean fully... Does Jesus have your full allegiance? Discipleship, in the way of Jesus, means he must have your full attention. Do you still adhere to the false shepherds of this world or have you postured and positioned yourself within the flock of the Good Shepherd to be disciplined and guided in a path for your good and His glory?
A person that has been positioned in the flock of the Good Shepherd will be corrected in their thinking by the staff and defended by the rod. (Psalm 23:4) This should bring us comfort. Discipleship can sting a bit at times, but it is for our benefit. Think about the words of Proverbs 27:6; "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
A friend will faithfully warn you of wayward actions. This will sting our pride a bit, but it is a faithful thing to experience. Now think of the kisses of an enemy. The enemy will also see something about you that is a detriment to your relationship with God. They will do nothing and say nothing to see that your actions are changed. Rather, they will flatter you to the point that you will be encouraged to live this way. Why is it that we so often look to our own devices and our own righteousness to save us or give us hope? Why do we settle for these false and failing miniature glories rather than look to the faithful glory of God? How can we see this way of living turned upside down? The faithful will not allow us to settle for these things. They will encourage us and correct us with loving rebuke for the sake of our soul.
We must also allow ourselves to realize that discipleship will not happen simply from church attendance and hearing the Word of God preached from the pulpit. It happens when a trusted leader with a solid Biblical worldview pours into the lives of others, equipping them for every good work. Discipleship happens in an open discussion small group setting or a one on one setting with other committed believers praying for one another, sharing their testimony and experience, and raising one another up to become leaders of others that desperately need this model in their lives. Christ bids us to care for the welfare of our brothers and sisters.
- What are your feelings when you think of Christ asking you to follow him?
- What do you think about following his ways?
- Do you seek to be reconciled to your brothers and sisters in faith?
- Are you seeking reconciliation with a spouse or children?
- Are you seeking reconciliation with the Lord?
Each and every opportunity for reconciliation requires confession and grace. We need only look to the Father for our example of how to live this out. It is grace that we have been convicted of our sinful nature. It is grace that we can admit to ourselves and others that we have sinned against them. It is by grace we are saved. It is grace that must be extended to others. Christ speaks into this immediately after The Lord's Prayer. "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15 Can you genuinely humble yourself to ask for forgiveness? Can you genuinely humble yourself to forgive?
Discipleship means caring for another and raising them up to do the same. Can you die to yourself and live for Christ? Can you take off the old and put on the new? Can you be clothed in the righteousness that God has imputed to you for the sake of your salvation and the health of the Bride of Christ (the Church)? Discipleship is not the act of debating theology and doctrine, but rather, the fellowship of rejoicing and exploring what it means that God has made dead people alive. A holy God has made it possible for unholy people to be in his presence eternally because of Christ's payment for sin on the cross. This is the foundation of our faith. This should be celebrated in our circles and communities. Then, through the process of the Lord continuing sanctification in us, we walk with one another until that day when we are in full communion with the Creator.
How can you be more aware of how The Good Shepherd is leading you?
What do you need to let go of to follow him?
Pray to the Lord to help you truly see him as your shepherd and that you would firmly believe in his love for you.
Set a time this week to really evaluate your spiritual life. Invite the Lord into whatever it is you struggle with and ask him to lovingly lead you out of a sin that keeps you from experiencing the fullness of his love.
Lastly: GET INTO A SMALL GROUP AND ACCEPT THE COUNSEL OF MATURE BELIEVERS.
What do you hear?
I was recently reading "God Is More Than Enough" by author, Jim Berg. His chapter entitled Unmasking the Source Of Your Noise had some great ideas about what it is that stirs inside of you. What makes noise inside of your heart and mind? He references 2 Peter 1:2-3. Here, Peter explains to us that increased and multiplied peace has something to do with the knowledge of God and the truth of God. This means that in some way, our noise problem is related to the absence of this knowledge and the absence of what is true about God in our belief system.
(paraphrased from Jim Berg's "God Is More Than Enough")
What can we do?
As believers in Christ, we have a unique relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. We can worship the Lord through prayer, singing, study of the Bible, and through the service to others. David Platt explained at a recent worship conference that our worship is a response to a strong God that loves us. Our worship fuels our witness and fuels our drive to share the Gospel all around the world; In our living rooms, prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and remote villages. There are people that have never heard the noise of Jesus' name or the noise of the words of the Gospel. We can hear the noise of truth of our God, but what good is that if we don't share the noise. We do this to build God's kingdom, not to merely entertain our emotions and feelings. What do you accept to be true? What is your belief? What have you encountered in life that makes a noise in you heart and mind? Are your beliefs rooted in fantasy, hatred, or divisiveness? Or, instead, are your beliefs in love, service, and kindness to all people that are made in the image of God?
I'd love to hear your answers to these questions!
Email me if you feel led to share.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. Romans 14:19
The Christian faith should help model the change that is possible in the lives of the people around us. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we become an example of what it means to live a holy life. Instead, we have recently seen people identifying with the Christian faith, but they are divisive and militant. We have to learn what it really means to love our neighbors in this current culture. We have to be aware that in order for this to happen, God needs to truly touch the hearts of people that are filled with hate, deceit, addiction, etc...
Certain world crisis issues are complicated and difficult to wrap our heads around. Other world crisis issues are not as complicated. There is a difference between compassion and justice; between grace and tolerance. Grace and compassion are simple. This is a conversation we should dig into in the church during our small group discussions. We need help from our pastors and elders to share with one another on how to make a positive impact in our communities.
Here are a few questions to ask to yourself, your spouse, your family, your church leaders:
What if we believed and lived like we do when we sing songs of praise in our churches?
What if we prayed to live life the way we proclaim that we do in our churches?
What if we prayed for a life of being brave and bold enough to set a better example for humanity?
What would it look like if we realized that our actions could have an impact on God's kingdom here and now?
How much could we influence the presence of peace if we lived a life like Christ?
Jesus modeled what it looked like to be dependent on God. He modeled what it looked like to depend on God's will and desire for us. He prayed to God and showed the need for prayer in our relationship with Him. We have the opportunity to experience this through prayer and our daily walk when influenced by the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to take some time to pray. Pray for eyes to be opened and hearts to be softened for the sake of learning what it means to be human. We have so much potential. Let's meet that full redemptive potential that is available to us. There is so much grace to be had. All we have to do is ask for it with a sincere heart.
I also urge you to be hyper-aware of your own attitude. As 1 Peter 3:9 says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
Wisdom from Above - James 3:13-18
"Who is wise and understanding among you?
By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast and be false to the truth.
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual,
demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will
be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,
impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown
in peace by those who make peace."