Thursday, December 18. 1 Peter 3 – 5

This morning’s newspaper brought a surprising article on self control (see Ann Lukits, “The Secret to Resisting Temptation” in The Wall Street Journal (November 25, 2014) D1). The surprise was that it was in the newspaper at all, but here was the “latest study” finding: “People who excel at resisting temptation . . . deliberately avoid situations in which their self-control might fail. . . The finding suggest high self-control is associated with avoiding, rather than overcoming, distraction.”

Peter closes his first letter with a command to be self-controlled and alert. He is not, however, the only person to mention this in the New Testament (Paul mentions it 3 times in 1 Thessalonians and 2 Timothy), but it seems to be of special interest to Peter for he refers to it three times in this book alone (1:13; 4:7 and here).

We cannot rush headlong through life without thinking about where we are going. We must consider the paths most traveled and note where they lead from the lives of those who have taken them. We must consider the paths less traveled and note the same thing of them. We must also consider the path of Christ, lit by scripture. It some cases, it will be the path most taken. In others, the path least taken. But either way, we must resist the temptation to be lazy, popular, or contrarian and instead, lay aside everything that would weigh us down and travel the road to God. While God has provided us an inheritance reserved for us in heaven, it can be lost without proper attention to discipline and self-control.

1 Peter 4

A divided mind.

This is what most of us operate with. I don’t mean the two hemispheres of the brain. I mean the division between what we want and what we have; between what we are and what we want to be; between what we want to be and what God wants us to be.

Peter calls us to focus, to be single-minded and clear-minded.

His readers are having a difficult time. It’s not just the difficulty in living like Jesus, it is also the opposition we face from the world because we choose to live like Jesus.

Peter warns that the end of all things is close. Whether he thought Jesus would return soon (in which case he was mistaken) or simply that time was running out for those Christians (as it surely is for us all) doesn’t matter, his point is that every day brings us closer to God’s judgment day. There is no time to lose. We should pray, love one another, serve God, do good and make sure every word we speak and deed we do is not wasted. This is the real heart of the purpose driven life – a single-minded devotion to adopting and living the mind of Christ.

Sunday, December 8. 1 Peter 1 – 3

Is there anyone who wouldn’t like a “do over” in life?

Honestly, I have no desire to re-live my teenage years – or any part of my life really – just to have more time. But if I could re-do my life knowing what I know now, that would be a blessing.

In his first letter, Peter uses an abundance of metaphors to refer to Christians, but one of them has prominence: childlikeness.

This is most appropriate not because it refers to some immaturity or irresponsibility or weakness, but because it refers to newness, a “do over.” God has given us “new birth” (1:3). We are “children” (1:14), having been “born again” (1:23) and become “newborn babies.” Before God and through Jesus, our past has been erased. We get to start anew knowing everything we learned from our former life, but cleansed from all failure and sin. Having been cleansed, he calls us to live differently.

This “different” living he describes in detail as he moves through the book, but it has two purposes: First, faithfulness to our heritage, what we have become in Christ. Second, it is essential in leading other people to Christ. No one is going to be encouraged to become a Christian by Christians who live no differently than everyone else. Peter says: “Live such good lives among the pagans [non-Christians] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when He comes.”

Why would they glorify God? Because by admiring our example and following us, they have become one of us – His children.

Thursday, December 13. 1 Peter 3 – 5

Rudyard Kipling, the British poet, wrote the following words (and I paraphrase greatly):
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
. . .
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
. . .
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Less poetic is 1 Peter, but Peter reminds me of this poem because Peter calls Christians, undergoing the kind of suffering and intense pressure (mentioned by Kipling) that causes most folks to lose their composure and panic, to instead be calm, unafraid, and steady in their course of following Jesus.

Chapter three is a minefield of controversy, not the least of which are the early verses that call Christian wives to be “submissive” to their husbands.  Peter describes what he means.  Christian wives should try to win their husbands to Christ by godly behavior – not by coercion, force, or nagging.  The behavior should exhibit a “gentle and quiet spirit,” not a mean or anxious one, a focus on the heart rather than a worldly attractiveness, and a determination to “do what is right” no matter what.

Another controversy comes at the end where Peter talks about baptism.  You should remember that Peter is not trying to lay a rational for being baptized, but rather, he deals with what happens at baptism.  In baptism we pledge to live in such a way as to maintain a good conscience before the Lord, and salvation cannot be had without such a pledge.  Peter’s point is that because they have made this pledge, they should live up to it, no matter what the difficulty.

Wednesday, December 12. 1 Peter 1 – 2

First Peter was written to Christians in Asia Minor who were undergoing great persecution. If you look up “suffer” in all its forms in a concordance, you will find the terms mentioned twice as often in 1 Peter as in any other book in both Old and New Testaments. Peter reminds his brethren that Christ also suffered at the hands of unjust men and therefore, they are simply following in Jesus’ footsteps. Peter reminds his readers who they are:
* God’s elect, chosen according to God’s eternal plan to be obedient to Him.
* Called to be holy, because God is Holy.
* Royalty and priests entrusted with the task of declaring the praises of God.

Considering their high calling, Peter reminds his readers they should act accordingly, and tells them precisely what is expected of them. Peter does not tell his readers that their troubles will soon be over, or that God will deliver them in this life. Instead, he reminds them that deliverance will be found in the life to come.

Reading Through the Bible, Sunday, December 18. 1 Peter 2 – 5

    Any presentation of a New Testament document that does not address practical behavior misses by wide margin the intent and content of the book.  This point is easily seen in the shorter books like James and Peter’s letters.

    Peter is the best known of the twelve apostles and the most often mentioned in the New Testament.  But while much is written about him, we have only a little written by him – just two letters comprising a total of eight chapters.  Both letters were written near the end of his life.  Tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome about 68 AD.

    First Peter was written to Christians in Asia Minor who were undergoing great persecution.  If you look up “suffer” in all its forms in a concordance, you will find the terms mentioned twice as often as any other book in both Old and New Testaments.  Peter reminds his brethren that Christ also suffered at the hands of unjust men and therefore, they are simply following in Jesus’ footsteps.  Peter reminds his readers who they are:

* God’s elect, chosen according to God’s eternal plan to be obedient to Him.

* Called to be holy, because God is Holy.

* Royalty and priests entrusted with the task of declaring the praises of God.

    Considering their high calling, Peter reminds his readers they should act accordingly, and tells them precisely what is expected of them.  Peter does not tell his readers that their troubles will soon be over, or that God will deliver them in this life.  Instead, he reminds them that deliverance  will be found in the life to come.