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|Posted on October 4, 2016 at 12:50 AM||comments (0)|
Session 6 – 1 Peter 3:17-18 – Always Ready – Day 3
1 Peter 3:17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
It is logical that one would suffer when they do wrong, but many times Christians are persecuted when they have harmed no one. How can that be God’s will? What is good enough for the Master is good enough for the bond-servants. The Father did not spare His Son; so, therefore we can expect to suffer trials as well.
Acts 5:41 (NASB)So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Romans 8:18 (NASB) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
James 1:2-4 (NASB)
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
We live in a fallen world, so those who follow Jesus will be persecuted as we stand out from those who do not. However, God uses our suffering to make us more like Jesus and stronger in our faith. Every time we suffer for the name of Jesus, we are being tempered as gold or cut and polished as a precious jewel. The fire burns, and the chisel wounds, but ultimately we are made more like Jesus and, therefore, made beautiful. When we suffer for doing good, we are not alone, for the Lord is right there with us, His Holy Spirit encouraging us from within.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is all that is needed to reconcile man to God, to pay for our sins. No further sacrifice is needed as He was the final, perfect Lamb of God. He was not only “good” but was perfect!
Hebrews 9:12 (NASB) …and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He extinguished the power of death in the flesh. He vitalized, energized, and infused the realm of the Spirit in those who believe.
Romans 8:11 (NASB) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Ephesians 2:4-5 (NASB) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…
Chew on this: The apostles thought it a privilege and honor to suffer due to their faith in Jesus. James said to count trials as joy. Wow. To live that way is a conscious, deliberate choice. Seeing things from God’s perspective rather than our limited earthly view is something we must purpose in our hearts to do.
|Posted on October 2, 2016 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Session 6 – 1 Peter 3:13-14 – Always Ready – Day 1
Fear Not But Prepare Now
1 Peter 3:13 (HCSB) And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed…
Is Peter saying that as long as we live and act righteously, no harm will come to us? I wish, but no. The only guarantee in this life is Jesus. If we accept God’s gift of salvation, we are secure in Him. And we will suffer because our Master suffered, and we are not greater than Him. I suppose we are less likely to be harmed by authorities if we are doing good, but the fact is that some in authority are evil and persecute those who live for Jesus as you know if you are a student of Scriptures, history, and current events about the treatment of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Do we need to fear those who might harm us? Not according to Scripture:
Psalm 56:4 (KJV) In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Luke 12:4-5 (KJV) And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
If I am martyred, killed, for my faith, then what? The enemy has inadvertently caused you to be ushered into the arms of Jesus. You will take up the position reserved for you in heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:5-7 (NASB) …even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
At that point, no harm can come to you ever again!
Peter tells us we are blessed, happy, when we suffer in the name of Jesus. These believers were being persecuted, and Peter himself would eventually be martyred. So, he was not speaking hypothetically! Peter had a difficult assignment, to write (preach) to these people and motivate them to keep living according to God’s will and ways. I believe we will find ourselves in a similar place sooner rather than later! But Peter urges them and us not to be afraid. I hope that in the midst of persecution, we stay the course and finish well. We can and we will by the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:10-12 (KJV) Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Challenge: Is there any way to prepare for persecution? So glad you asked. Study the word daily, intently, thoroughly. Hide God’s word in your heart, so that if all Bibles are confiscated, you will have internalized it. Live each day in the light of His presence now! There is no way to “cram” for the day persecution visits us.
|Posted on September 19, 2016 at 5:40 PM||comments (0)|
Session 4 - 1 Peter 2:21-23 – Living as Strangers – Day 4
1 Peter 2:21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.
Jesus left us an example to be willing to suffer in order that His name be glorified through our suffering. What was Jesus’ demeanor as He was unjustly sentenced to death on the cross? He asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him because they had no idea what they were doing (Luke 23:34). Also, He was not belligerent and did not resist in any way.
Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Does the Bible teach that most of us will never be called to suffer due to our Christianity? No, it does not. Most Christians in other parts of the world are suffering today to the extent that many are losing their lives. The other night, I heard James Robison quote a statistic that one in ten Christians around the world die daily due to their faith in Jesus. I believe the USA will not be far behind in persecution. The day is rapidly approaching when we will have the opportunity to suffer. May the Lord give us the grace to do so according to His example of patience and forgiveness.
2 Timothy 3:12 (HCSB) In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Notice: the above verse says we WILL be persecuted, not MIGHT be. This is why we need to turn back to God as a nation, and more importantly as individuals, so that we will be strong enough to face persecution when it comes. Our national leaders, our state leaders, cannot fix what is wrong with this nation. Policies cannot make people who they need to be. Only God can do this through a heart change in each individual person. Our responsibility as Christians is to be faithful witnesses of the gospel and live our lives as children who answer to our heavenly Father!
As we face persecution due to our obedience to follow in Jesus’ steps, the Lord will comfort us.
2 Corinthians 1:5 (HCSB) For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.
If we die because of our faithfulness to Jesus, we are simply transported into the loving arms of Jesus. I can’t think of a better place to be!
1 Peter 2:22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; 23 when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.
Jesus did not think, act, or speak in any way that would displease the Father. As the God-Man, fully divine yet fully human, Jesus committed absolutely no sin and spoke only the truth.
Isaiah 53:9 (ESV) And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
When the soldiers mocked Jesus and hurled insults at Him, did He curse them or yell back? No, Jesus did not add fuel to their fire. He just closed His mouth and kept the honor of His Father in the forefront of His heart and mind. For this He could endure any insolent behavior. Jesus submitted to the price He paid on the cross and during the torture beforehand because He knew He was fulfilling God’s plan of redemption for His children.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
His submission to the cross and its price was calculated long before His time had come. It was decided before the foundation of the world. The book of Revelation reveals that ultimately all people will be made to acknowledge the deity of Jesus and bow to Him.
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Question: Do you have what it takes to endure persecution? The Lord provides what we need when we need it, but the best way to be prepared is to intensify your relationship to the Lord. Can you list some ways to do that?
|Posted on August 28, 2016 at 1:55 PM||comments (0)|
Session 1 – 1 Peter 1 – A Living Hope –
Day 2 – Introduction to 1 Peter continued
Peter addressed his letter to Christians scattered throughout the northern provinces of Rome due to persecution. Nero had used the Christians as a scapegoat when Rome burned. He blamed them for the fires to draw the attention away from his own madness in destroying things so he could be credited with building new ones. These exiled Christians needed encouragement to continue living out their faith in the face of persecution. In addition to requiring food – sound teaching, the flock needed to be tended and have someone minister to their woundedness and brokenness. Peter was feeding and tending the sheep as Christ had commanded him (John 21).
In 1 Peter, the Apostle addresses how Christians can be victorious and have a triumphant attitude in a world that persecutes them. He gives specific instructions for how to live out one’s faith, how to interact with others, and how to behave as a sojourner on earth whose true citizenship is in Heaven.
Challenge: 1 Peter will address issues that are applicable to the world today. The idea of being victorious during persecution and suffering may become reality for believers even here in the USA sooner rather than later. Are you prepared? If not, stick with us to find out Peter’s advice on the matter.
|Posted on June 28, 2016 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
You WILL be Persecuted
John 16:1 (ESV) “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.
Jesus had just forewarned the apostles of persecution to come. He had also assured them that in the persecution, they would have comfort through the presence of the Holy Spirit. He had promised them He would not leave them as orphans. By this He was saying they would still have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit, and they were still a part of the family even though Jesus would not be present with them in bodily form. Since He had told them all these things, they would be better prepared to stand firm when persecution came. They would be enabled to “stick to their guns.”
John 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
It just gets worse. Jesus was definitely not one for sugar coating reality! He tells them they will be thrown out of Jewish worship. Even more frightening, when the executioners kill them, they will claim that they are doing God’s work. The apostle Paul (Saul) had been one of these before his conversion as he persecuted Christians from town to town.
Acts 9:1-2 (NLT) Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
Saul zealously persecuted the believers thinking he was doing God’s bidding.
John 16:3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
Paul eventually saw the light (LITERALLY) and became a believer himself. Of course, it would be non-believers persecuting them. But remember that many of these who did not trust in Jesus were the Jewish religious leaders of the day like Saul (Paul). Therefore, they would be persecuted by their own people. The persecutors acted this way because they had no intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. They knew Him in the sense that they could identify Him on the street and could even quote some of His teachings, but they had not believed or trusted Him as Savior and Lord.
John 16:4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
Jesus had shared the information about persecution with them so that when it began to happen they would not be completely blindsided by it. They would remember His words and realize that things were still going according to God’s plan. Had Jesus not told them ahead of time, in their humanity they may have questioned, “What’s happening? Where is God in all of this? Have we done something to cause God to abandon us?” Instead they would know that God foreknew and even destined these persecutions for His glory. Looking back on history, we can see how the persecution of the believers scattered them throughout the world in order to lead more men to Jesus. God used the persecution to spread and multiply the Gospel to all of the known world at that time. Since this eventually brought the Gospel to the non-Jewish people, the Gentiles, Susan and I (and many of you) were able to be saved since neither one of us has Jewish heritage.
John 16:4 “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
As long as Jesus was by their side in the flesh, the apostles did not have need of the Holy Spirit internally because Jesus was right there to answer their questions. He did not need to explain the Holy Spirit’s work to them until His departure was imminent. But now He was preparing to return to Heaven and the Father’s side. At this point, the disciples were consumed with sorrow and self-preservation not knowing what would become of them after Jesus was betrayed. Often, if the leader of a movement was arrested, all of his followers were rounded up as well.
John 16:6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
Jesus recognized and acknowledged their feelings of sorrow. The disciples could only see what was right in front of them. They did not and could not perceive the bigger picture. Since they had not yet experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they could not comprehend the comfort He would bring. Eventually, the Holy Spirit would enable them to understand God’s larger plan, but right now they were consumed with grief and fear. They were worried about their own skins.
Q – Jesus was preparing the apostles and really all of His followers through their eventually teaching for the fact that they would face persecution. We should not be surprised when our Christian testimony meets with ridicule or worse. Jesus knew this would happen. However, we have the Holy Spirit to encourage and strengthen us. We can have joy even when following Jesus is hard because we trust that God is in control. As Stephen Curtis Chapman expresses in song, “His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on.”
|Posted on June 26, 2016 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
The World Will Hate You
John 15:18 (ESV) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
If you are not with Jesus, you are against Him. This may sound strong, but to be “of the world” is to be on the devil’s side. Worldly people do not necessarily see themselves as hating Jesus, but in reality everything they stand for works against Him and His chosen ones. They do not follow, nor do they intend to follow His kingdom principles. Jesus was and is hated by the world, those who do not believe Him to be the Son of God, equal with God. The disciples would be cherished by the family of faith but persecuted by the world. It stands to reason that if we are the offspring of God; and the world hates God and Jesus, His firstborn Son, then the world will hate any son or daughter adopted into God’s family. Jesus chose us out of the world to be “in the world but not of it” (see John 17:14) Our lives should stick out as drastically different from the non-believers around us. The world hates those who do not conform to its way of life, and we are told not to conform:
Romans 12:2 (NIV) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I particularly like the way J.B. Phillips rendered this verse:
Romans 12:2 (Phillips New Testament) Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
Our lives should be so transformed by Jesus that we stick out like a sore thumb. Our lives should be so changed by the Lord that we are unrecognizable to our friends and loved-ones, truly a new creation after trusting Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (AMP) Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].
Reformation Study Bible notes on 2 Corinthians 5:17:
In Christ. Union with Christ summarizes our experience of redemption. Believers are elected (Eph. 1:4, 11), justified (Rom. 8:1), sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2), and glorified (3:18 ) “in Christ.” Here Paul focuses on the momentous significance of the believer’s union with the Savior. Because Christ is the “last Adam,” the One in whom humanity is recreated (1 Cor. 15:45; Eph. 2:10) and who inaugurates the new age of messianic blessing (Gal. 1:4; cf. Matt. 11:2–6), the believer’s spiritual union with Christ is nothing less than participation in the “new creation.” Translating “there is a new creation” instead of “he is a new creation” draws this conclusion more clearly, but the thought is there either way.
Other believers will recognize this change as coming from the Holy Spirit and will welcome us into the family of faith. Worldly friends will wonder what made us “weird,” and may confront us about our manner. An excellent opportunity to share the gospel!
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Jesus is our Master and was persecuted to the point of death on the cross. We are not better than our Master. It would, therefore, be foolish to expect better treatment than our Master. Jesus does not say that we might be persecuted but that we WILL be persecuted. Today we think of the persecuted church as those in communist or Islamic countries far away. However, I believe persecution is beginning in America. If we are living a life that is completely different from the main worldview, we will be ostracized, have difficulties, and someday (maybe soon) suffer true persecution. However, those who are faithful to Jesus will remain faithful to Him and their brothers and sisters in Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit within us will enable us to stand firm in our faith and persevere to the end. The persecution is a result of the world not knowing Father God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.
John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
If Jesus had not come, men would not be guilty of the sin of rejecting His message of salvation. But because He had come, taught publicly, and performed many miracles, they were guilty of rejecting the truth. The men of His time and those today who have the entire word of God, have no excuse for this sin. If you reject Jesus, you reject not only His message but the one who sent Him who is the Father.
John 15:24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
If Jesus had not proven Himself to be equal to God and to have the authority of God by performing miracles, their unbelief would be understandable. But they saw and hated both Jesus and His Father with no cause except that He complicated the Pharisees’ political agenda. This was all in fulfillment of prophecy, but those who hated without cause were still responsible for that choice. Like the Pharisees, many people see Jesus as someone wanting to take things from them – the Cosmic Killjoy. If only they could see that He truly wants to give them more than they could ever imagine.
John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Everything that Jesus had taught the apostles would be brought into focus when the Holy Spirit came. He is still the part of the God-head who clarifies God’s word and will for the believer as He indwells us. The apostles, the eleven faithful, had been with Jesus since the beginning of His ministry. They had been present for all of His teaching. His plan was for them to be the initial witnesses to the truth of His sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection. They would be the beginning of His church. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us today to actualize what Jesus taught them, and through them, taught us.
Q – Sometimes we are led to believe that becoming a Christian will immediately solve every problem we have and bring us prosperity as the world thinks of prosperity. However, Jesus promises us persecution. Are you suffering some difficulty as a direct result of following Jesus? If so, do not despair. Keep following. He does not keep you from hard circumstances, but He promises to be with you in the midst of them. This life is but a breath. We will have eternity in His presence, a presence of pure joy.