Jesus, the Perfect Priest

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 7

As we consider the baby in a manger, let us also consider the man Jesus became. As we remember the role he played as our Savior, let us take note of the role he plays today as our High Priest.

JESUS IS OUR HIGH PRIEST

I must admit I don’t think of that description or role very often. I think of him as my Savior and my Lord, my Creator and my Provider. Yet, how wonderful this morning to just stop and soak in how Jesus has become the source of eternal salvation for all those who believe and obey him – that He goes to His Father on my behalf. Yes, Jesus is my High Priest!

What is a high priest?

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs. – Hebrews 5:1-3

How does a person become a high priest?

And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be CALLED BY GOD for this work, just as Aaron was. This is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, HE WAS CHOSEN BY GOD, who said to him,

“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” – Hebrews 5:4-5

Why is Jesus the perfect high priest for us?

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. – Hebrews 5:7-8

JESUS IS OUR SOURCE OF ETERNAL SALVATION

Through His birth, He came to understand our weaknesses for He faced the same testing we do, yet He did not sin (4:15). Through His blood, we are offered the elimination of our sins. Through His resurrection, we have hope that we can overcome the death we deserve and spend eternity in Heaven.

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:9-10

JESUS GIVES US HOPE AS HE LEADS US THROUGH THE CURTAIN INTO GOD’S INNER SANCTUARY

In the ancient Temple, there was a curtain that hung between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place – the inner sanctuary that only the high priest could enter once a year to atone for the sins of the entire nation. No one else could step inside or even glimpse into this inner sanctuary. Because of Jesus, who is always in God’s presence, we can follow Him and enter into God’s presence.

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:18b-20

JESUS IS ABLE TO SAVE THOSE WHO COME TO GOD THROUGH HIM, INTERCEDING ON OUR BEHALF

There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made THE PERFECT HIGH PRIEST forever. – Hebrews 7:23-28

Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, thank you for being my High Priest. Thank you for becoming the sacrifice for my sins and then stepping before me to present me to Your Father. Lord, thank you for dying for me and for interceding for me. To you be all praise and glory forever, Amen!

Steadily Moving Forward

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 5 & 6

When we choose not to grow, we do not just remain stagnant. We begin slowly drifting away. Our relationship with God needs to be current – not just “current” as in happening at the present time, but “current” as in a body of water steadily MOVING FORWARD in a definite direction. God has a plan for us to be used for His purposes and we need to allow Him to refine us and make us into exactly who He created us to be. Listen to the writer’s frustration with the complacency of the believers.

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. – Hebrews 5:11-14

Father, we stop right here and ask for you to reveal to us ANY way in which we may be guilty of these same accusations. Have we become spiritually dull? Have we stopped listening to what you are saying? Are we comfortably stuck on “milk” when you are ready to MOVE US FORWARD into a deeper knowledge of you? Lord, help us to grow and become mature in our understanding. Train us to recognize the difference between right and wrong. May the study of your word be alive and active, sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. Expose our innermost thoughts and desires and refine us into a tool to be used by you (4:12).

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will MOVE FORWARD to further understanding. – Hebrews 6:1-3

There is no reason to turn away from God or lose hope in His promises. We can trust that what God promises is true and what He promises He will do. God promises He will condemn those who turn away from Him and reject the Son of God. But He also promises eternity to those who hold on to their faith and show endurance in all situations. You can be certain that what you hope for will come true when you fully put your trust in God!

For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened – those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come – and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.

Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, AS YOU STILL DO. Our great desire is that you will KEEP ON loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. THEN you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. – Hebrews 6:4-12

Hebrews gives us the example of the life of Abraham. God promised Abraham, “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number” (6:14). Abraham believed in God’s faithfulness and patiently waited for God to do as He had promised. Just like Abraham, we can be perfectly sure that God will not change His mind because it is impossible for God to lie (6:17-18).

Since we are in the midst of our Christmas celebrations, let me use Mary as another example. The angel told Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God even though she was a virgin and she believed. The angel told her that nothing was impossible for God and she believed. The angel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant and she rushed over to her house in faith that what the angel said was true. Mary believed that the Lord would do what He said He would do! We can have this same confidence.

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:18b-20

Jesus is our High Priest. That sounds like a great place to pick up tomorrow morning!

Slowly Drifting Away

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 3 & 4

A few days ago, we talked about Peter’s second letter to the Church. Peter used that letter to warn the church of how important it was to grow in their relationship with God. He talked about the dangers of walking away from our relationship with God and back into sin instead of taking steps of growth. The writer of Hebrews, who is unknown, gives the same warning. He speaks not only of willfully walking away but also of slowly DRIFTING AWAY.

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may DRIFT AWAY from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? And God confirmed this message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. – Hebrews 2:1-4

Why would the writer take such effort to get the attention of his listeners regarding DRIFTING AWAY from their faith? He was writing to the Jewish believers, the Israelites who had a history of being fickle in their faith. The Old Testament is full of the history of a nation who wavered in their obedience and loyalty to God. They would sing His praises in one generation and then worship idols and false gods in another generation. They would be content with God’s provisions and then they would grumble against God’s plan.

There were false teachers stirring up trouble in the early Church and the Jewish believers were in danger of doing exactly what their ancestors had done – turning their eyes away from the truth and letting new ideas confuse their theology. They were in danger of DRIFTING AWAY from the truth. False teachers were creating this idea that believers needed to pray to angels in order to access God. They were teaching that Jesus was an angel – the highest ranking angel. The writer of Hebrews dispels this crazy idea by revealing who Jesus is.

This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” God also said, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” – Hebrews 1:4-5

And here is where the writer of Hebrews helps us understand exactly how Jesus’ death on a cross changed everything. He explains the plan of salvation and how the sacrifice of God’s Son, not an angel but fully human while being fully God, enables us to be His children.

Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. – Hebrews 2:9b-11

So now that you understand WHO you are (brothers and sisters who belong to God and for whom God is preparing an eternal home – 3:1) – understand that God calls you to be faithful. Just as Jesus was faithful and Moses was faithful, we need to remain faithful and grow instead of being deceived by sin and hardened against God. We need to stand firm in our faith instead of DRIFTING AWAY.

Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we KEEP our courage and REMAIN confident in our hope in Christ.

That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…”

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, TURNING YOU AWAY from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:5-8,12-14

This Christmas, let’s make it a point to draw closer to the God who loved us enough to send His Son. Let’s seek Him in the midst of all the Christmas parties and chaos. Let’s intentionally find ways to grow in our relationship with God instead of letting the distractions of life cause us to slowly drift away.

Precious Father, thank you so much for the privilege of being called a “child of God”. Thank you for having a plan to save us out of our sin into your perfect plan for our lives. Our hearts desire to draw near to you and stay in a wonderful relationship with you. Please forgive us for our moments of drifting away or placing our focus on the philosophies of this world instead of your eternal truth. Help us to grow in our faith today. Today, when we hear your voice, we choose not to harden our hearts as Israel did – we choose to draw closer to you instead of drifting away.

Jesus, Our Creator & Savior

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 1 & 2

“…through the Son he created the universe” – Hebrews 1:2b. The writer of Hebrews preaches an incredible sermon in the first four chapters. I love the flow of these four very powerful points he makes.

1. Jesus participated in the creation of the world therefore, He is our Creator.

He also says to the Son,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.”
– Hebrews 1:10

But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise that the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. – Hebrews 3:3-4

2. Jesus, who created flesh and blood, became flesh and blood so that He could die for our sins and set us free from death. So not only is He our Creator, He is our Savior!

Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. – Hebrews 2:14-15

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. – Hebrews 2:16-17

What perfect timing for these verses! How often do we hear the question at Christmas of why Jesus had to be born? Why was it necessary for Christ to grow in his mother’s womb and be human, just as we are. The writer of Hebrews helps us understand.

3. Because He was human, experiencing suffering and temptations like we do, He is able to understand our weaknesses. How perfect, then, that He would be our High Priest!

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. – Hebrews 2:18

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will RECEIVE HIS MERCY, and we will FIND GRACE TO HELP us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:14-16

4. Just as He shared in our sufferings, He generously gives us the opportunity to share in everything that belongs to Him – to enter into His rest.

But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. – Hebrews 3:6

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:14

For only we who believe can enter his rest…

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” – Hebrew 4:3a,6-7

God’s rest is not something we can earn by our own efforts but is a result of our faith in God and our trust in Him – that we believe He created us, became flesh for us, died for us and rose to life for us.

For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from THEIR labors, just as God did after creating the world. – Hebrews 4:10a

God, we praise you for sending your Son to radiate your own glory and to be an expression of your character (1:3)! Jesus, we thank you for your willingness to become a man for your guilty creation. We do not deserve what you have done for us but, by your grace (2:9), you died for us anyhow. Christ Jesus, you have displayed your love for us and your understanding. You have set an example that we do not have to sin – that we can face temptations and suffering yet win the battle through the same strength of God you used to remain without sin.

God, we thank you for your word we have the privilege of studying this morning. Your words are alive and powerful – sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from you, God. Everything is naked and exposed before your eyes. You, oh God, hold us accountable (4:12-13).

Precious God, we lay it all out before you this morning knowing that you understand our weaknesses and have extended your mercy and grace to help us when we need it the most. Thank you for this kind of love – for this kind of grace! We give today to you – our creator and our savior! Today, we choose to hear your voice and rest in you! Amen.

Choosing Not to Grow

Today’s Reading: 2 Peter 2 & 3

Peter spends the rest of his second letter warning the believers. The first chapter talked about growing in our relationship with God. The next two chapters talk about the dangers of walking away from our relationship with God and back into sin, instead of taking steps of growth.

Peter starts by warning them against false teachers who would slander the truth, making up clever lies in order to obtain money from unknowing believers (2:1-3). This is one way we could be led away from God’s truth rather than growing in the knowledge of Him. Then we begin to let sin slip into our lives instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to produce holiness.

GOD DID NOT TOLERATE SIN THEN AND HE DOESN’T NOW.

Consider the stories from the Old Testament we grew up learning about.
God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment. – 2 Peter 2:4
– Consider Noah. God protected Noah and his family but did not spare those around him who were living in sin. They were destroyed by the flood (2:5).
– Consider Lot. He lived in a city surrounded by shameful immorality of wicked people. Instead of joining in the sin, Lot was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. God rescued Lot while making an example of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, showing this is what will happen to ungodly people (2:6-8).

God will judge those who follow their own twisted sexual desires (2:10).
God will judge those who despise authority (2:10).
God will judge the proud and the arrogant (2:11).
God will judge the false teachers who delight in deception and indulge in evil pleasures, committing adultery with their eyes and luring unstable people into sin (2:12-14).

YOU ARE A SLAVE TO WHATEVER CONTROLS YOU (2 Peter 2:19b)

That is a powerful statement. The false teachers Peter was talking about had been believers at one time but had wandered off the right road. For them, the love of money was what began to control them. They then became arrogant and boastful, bragging about themselves.

Next came twisted sexual desires, which they tried to use to lure others into this lifestyle of deception. They promised it would bring freedom – the freedom to do what you want and live as you would like. It’s your right! But there is no freedom in sin and they became slaves to sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.

And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.” – 2 Peter 2:20-22

Peter reminds us of how God destroyed the wickedness of the world with a flood and how the day is coming when He will use fire to destroy ungodly people. The day is coming, even though it seems to us like God is taking his time to judge the sin. 2 Peter 3:9 reveals the heart of this wonderful God who spends time with me each morning over a cup of my morning coffee.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. – 2 Peter 3:8-9

Peter wraps up his letter with words of encouragement. He has described what happens when we grow in our relationship with God v. what happens when we let sin control us. Peter also explained how we can grow in our knowledge of God – by coming to Him, by responding to His promises, and by experiencing Him. It’s our choice now.

WHAT WILL WE CHOOSE?

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved…

Be on your guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. – 2 Peter 3:14-15a, 17b-18

Come…Respond…Grow

Today’s Reading: 2 Peter 1

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you GROW in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. – 2 Peter 1:2

What a great blessing for Peter to speak over us as we start out our day. This is why I pour a cup of my morning coffee each day and sit down to spend time with God. I desire to grow in my knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. This morning I find in the first chapter of Peter’s second letter three different ways to GROW in our knowledge of Him.

By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by COMING TO KNOW HIM, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. – 2 Peter 1:3

COME TO KNOW GOD

The first way to grow in our knowledge of God is obvious – by coming to know Him. When we come to God, intentionally spending time in His word and bringing every detail of our life to Him, we grow closer to Him. Our understanding of this Almighty God increases each day as we soak in His Scriptures and pray to Him. Daily we GROW in our relationship with God when we COME to Him.

And because of HIS glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. – 2 Peter 1:4-5

RESPOND TO GOD’S PROMISES

So a second way to grow in our knowledge of God is to respond to His promises. God promises that He has given us everything we need to live a godly life. Because He is a glorious God and an excellent God, He is able to promise us the possibility of a godly life. He makes it possible by enabling us to share in His divine nature, with which we can escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. So when our human desires say to sin and the world is pulling us to sin, God promises that He has given us the ability to choose holiness – to respond to the Spirit instead of to the sinful nature.

But we still have to RESPOND to His promises. We have to accept the gift given. By His grace, we can grow in our knowledge of Him and, in response, claim His promises. Peter explains how this growth takes place and what it looks like.

Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you GROW like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. DO THESE THINGS AND YOU WILL NEVER FALL AWAY. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 4b-11

GROW THROUGH OUR EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST

A third way Peter mentions we can GROW in our knowledge of God is through experiences. He spoke of his own eyewitness account of the Transfiguration of Jesus and then how that experience increased his confidence in the message of Jesus Christ (v. 16-18).

Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place – until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. – 2 Peter 1:19-21

Because of His grace, we are able to come TO Him, respond to His promises, and grow from our experience OF Him. In all of this, we grow in our knowledge of who He is – not just because we understand what we are reading, but because we are experiencing Him firsthand. He fills us with His Holy Spirit and begins to speak through us!

WOW! I love God’s plan of redemption. It’s about so much more than the forgiveness of my sins. It’s about a relationship – a growing process that produces godly living and magnificent experiences! So, I wake up each morning and pour myself a cup of coffee. Then I sit down with my God and His word – the words that are like a lamp shining in a dark place. And then I experience Him; I experience Christ the Morning Star shining in my heart. And I grow…by grace…through faith…coming to Him…claiming His promises…and daily experiencing Him! Praise God!!!

I want to be close to You / I want to be close to You / There’s nothing in this world that compares to all You are / We are found in Your presence / Seeking You in Your fullness / Give us eyes to see / You are all we need – [sang by Lauren Daigle / North Point InsideOut] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhS-LhYU0WE

It Is to Be Expected

Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 4 & 5

Dear Friends,

All I have said to you in my letters over the last three days is to help you understand what you are going through. I do not want you to be surprised at these fiery trials, as if something strange is happening to you. It’s not strange, it is to be expected!

Now your former friends, they are the ones who should be surprised. They were surprised when you no longer partied with them and participated in destructive behaviors. Their reaction was to slander you. But you have had enough of all the evil things your godless friends enjoy – the immorality and lust, the feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, as well as the worship of idols. You are tired of chasing after your own desires. Now you are anxious to do the will of God.

So do just that! Chase after God’s will! Everything God has called you to do, all the spiritual gifts He has given you, do it with all the strength and the energy God supplies you with. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.

The end of the world is coming soon, when all people will have to face God’s judgment. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Did you hear that? Earnest and disciplined – do those words describe your prayer life? Most importantly, continue to show deep love for each other, FOR LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

If you think your former friends have been rough on you, watch out for your great enemy – the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, just looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. You are not the only one going through a hard time. Your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of sufferings you are.

So don’t be surprised, instead be very glad – glad for these trials that make you partners with Christ in his suffering. One day you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory revealed to all the world. In His kindness, God has called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So, after you have suffered a little while, He will RESTORE, SUPPORT, and STRENGTHEN you and He will place you on a firm foundation. All power to Him forever! Amen.

So don’t be ashamed to suffer for being a Christian. Instead, praise God for the PRIVILEGE of being called by His name! Be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. For the time will come for judgment, and it must begin with us – God’s household.

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. – 1 Peter 4:19

And now, for those of you who are leaders in the Church, I have these words for you. Take care of the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly or for personal gain; watch over the flock simply because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord over the people assigned to your care but, as their shepherd, lead them by your own great example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. So humble yourself under the mighty power of God. Don’t try to lift yourself up, but wait for God who will lift you up in honor at the right time.

I know it hasn’t been easy, that is why I am writing to you. I want to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Greet each other will Christian love.

Peace out (or Peace be with all of you who are in Christ– 5:14),

Peter

True Beauty

Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 3

If Peter was writing chapter three of his first letter to us, maybe it would read something like this:

Dear Friends,

First let me speak to all of the wives in the church. Remember in yesterday’s letter how I spoke of Christ’s example to us – how he suffered for us and we should follow in his steps. In the same way that He accepted the authority of God’s plan for him to carry our sins on the cross, YOU must accept the authority of your husbands. Why? Because this kind of godly life will speak volumes to others, even those who refuse to obey the Good News. They will be won over simply by observing how pure and reverent your life is.

Look inside and SEE YOUR INNER BEAUTY – the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is what matters and this is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. Not by concerning themselves with outward beauty enhanced by fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. Instead, they trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. This is true beauty. Remember Sarah? She obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are daughters of Sarah when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.

Now husbands, it’s your turn. You must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should or don’t expect your prayers to reach God unhindered.

Now this part is for all of you – husbands and wives, men and women:
…all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. This is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”
– 1 Peter 3:8-12; Psalm 34:12-16

Now, if you are doing the good God has called you to do, who will want to harm you? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of the threats of other people. Instead, worship Christ as Lord of your life!

If someone asks you about this hope that you have in Christ, be ready to explain it to them in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will only be ashamed of themselves when they see the evidence of the good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! – 1 Peter 3:17

Let’s consider again how Christ suffered for our sins. He never sinned but he died once for all sinners in order to bring you safely home to God. Did you catch that? “Safely” – remember this when you suffer. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

Remember those who disobeyed God a long time ago when Noah was building the ark. Only 8 people survived that flood. Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison of those who disobeyed and died. That water is a picture of baptism – it saves you now, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clear conscience. This is effective because Jesus Christ arose from the dead!

Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. – 1 Peter 3:22-4:2

So, wives submit to the authority of your husbands and husbands honor your wives, while both of you submit to the authority of God in your lives and honor Him as Lord. When life gets difficult and you suffer, remember that Christ suffered for your sins. Consider your baptism. The water that washed over you symbolizes that you have died to your old way of life, those sins Jesus carried on the cross. When you came out of the water, you were a NEW PERSON– anxious to do the will of God!

You are a new person, one with INNER BEAUTY. Instead of retaliating, you keep a humble attitude and remain tender-hearted. You sympathize with others, love each other and pay back only with blessings. This is what God has called you to do and He will bless you for it!

Your friend,
Peter

You’ve Got More Mail

Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 2

Dear Friends,

Maybe this will help you to trust in God through the difficult times. Think of God as building a spiritual temple. He chose Christ for the great honor of being the cornerstone of His temple. And how lucky are you?!!! You get to be the living stones God is using to build this spiritual temple.

Not only are you the stones, you are also His holy priest. Because Jesus Christ is mediating for you, you are able to offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. You shouldn’t be surprised at this analogy. Remember what the Old Testament Scriptures say:

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
Chosen for great honor,
And anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
– 1 Peter 2:6; Isaiah 28:16

“The stone the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” – 1 Peter 2:7; Psalm 118:22

“He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” – 1 Peter 2:8; Isaiah 8:14

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, but you are not like them. You were chosen by God to be a royal priest, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. He called you out of darkness into his wonderful light so that you can SHOW OTHERS THE GOODNESS OF GOD.

“Once you had no identity as a people;
now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
now you have received God’s mercy.”
– 1 Peter 2:10

As God’s people, find your identity in Him and not in this world. Remember that you are “temporary residents and foreigners” so KEEP AWAY from the worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then, even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

While you are in this world, you must show respect to all human authority for the Lord’s sake, for he has appointed them. They have been given a job to punish those who do wrong and honor those who do right – SO DO RIGHT! Live an honorable life, respect everyone and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Your honorable life will silence those who make foolish accusations against you. Don’t use your freedom as an excuse to sin.

So accept the authority of your bosses with all respect. Do what they tell you, whether they are kind and reasonable or cruel. God is pleased with you when you DO WHAT IS RIGHT and patiently endure unfair treatment. If you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God will be very pleased with you.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow his steps.

He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and LIVE FOR WHAT IS RIGHT.
By his wounds you are healed.
Once you were like sheep who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
– 1 Peter 2:21-25

Are you ready to look to His example, to follow His steps? You may end up with wounds but He will be there to heal you by His wounds. You may feel lost in the chaos, but He will be your Shepherd, the Guardian of your soul.

Living under His authority because I am His,

Peter

You’ve Got Mail

Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 1

1 Peter is a letter written to God’s people who were living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (this region is now the country of Turkey). Peter knew they were experiencing hard times – trials and persecution for their faith. Their faith was scorned, their morality criticized and their hope mocked. This letter was sent to encourage them to remain faithful. As pressure increased, Peter challenged them to renew their commitment and live out their faith in order to please God and to be a witness to God’s work of grace in their lives.

Can you relate? Every year it seems like the battle against Christianity in the United States intensifies. Our faith is scorned, our morality criticized and our hope in Christ mocked. Let’s study Peter’s letter as if it was written to us just days ago. We open the mail today and there is a letter addressed to us from Peter. Perhaps this is what the letter might say (1 Peter 1:1-2:3):

Dear Friends,

Isn’t God good?! Isn’t God worthy of our praise this morning?! The God who knew you and chose you long ago (in fact, before you were even born) has given you His Spirit TO MAKE YOU HOLY. He has cleansed you by the blood of Jesus Christ and just keeps giving you more and more grace, along with a big dose of peace.

Because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He has also given us the opportunity to be born again – all because of His GREAT mercy! Now we can live with great expectation of a priceless inheritance that He is keeping in heaven for us. Your inheritance is pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. Until the day comes when this inheritance will be revealed for all to see, God is protecting you through faith and by His power.

Did you hear that? God is protecting you, so be truly glad! I know you are going through lots of trials right now but there is a wonderful joy ahead. These trials are showing how genuine your faith in God is. Your faith is being TESTED just as fire tests and purifies gold. Your faith, which is even more precious than mere gold, is being STRENGTHENED and PURIFIED as you suffer through these hard times. And the result of your response is that you are bringing praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ.

I know you have never actually seen Him but it is obvious you love Him. Though He is invisible right now, you trust him as if you can see Him. You rejoice with a joy that is glorious and inexpressible! The reward you will receive for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls. I hope this encourages you.

I know things are difficult right now, but think of how blessed we are. The prophets foretold of this great salvation – of the suffering of Christ and how He would be glorified – but it wasn’t for them to experience. They knew the messages were not for themselves but for us. They were filled with the Spirit and joined the angels in eager expectation of what was going to happen.

So, think about this. Think about this gracious salvation we have to look forward to when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. Exercise self-control and live as God’s obedient children. He chose you; He has prepared an inheritance for you – you are His! So don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. LIVE A HOLY LIFE because that’s what He desires – because He is a holy God. The Scriptures are clear when they say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

So, as “foreigners” in this world, remember that the inheritance you received from your ancestors was an empty life but God paid a ransom to save you – not a ransom of silver or gold but of the precious blood of Christ, our spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him as your ransom SO CHOOSE A HOLY LIFE. God will judge or reward you according to what you do – You can’t just get by on being His favorite.

So live in reverent fear of this holy God. Continue to trust in God through Jesus Christ. Because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory, you have placed your faith and your hope in God. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now show evidence of this cleansing through your sincere love for your brothers and sisters. Love each other DEEPLY with all your heart!

You have a new life that will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God! You have been born again! You no longer belong to the temporary things of this world so live for the eternal. Remember what the Scriptures say:

“People are like grass;
their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
But the word of the Lord remains forever.”
– 1 Peter 1:24

That word of the Lord the Scriptures are referring to is the same good news that has been preached to you. So live for the eternal and not for the temporary, no matter how strongly your faith is tested. Get rid of ALL evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

Now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness – yes, all the blessings you have experienced are only a “taste” of what you will receive – crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Get hungry for it! Crave it! Seek it! Nothing else matters because nothing else will last forever. Keep this in mind no matter what difficulties you may face today.

Remember He loves you and you are His!

With sincere and deep love,

Peter