Thursday, April 26, 2007

Solid Citizens for the Gospel

1 Peter 2:13 - "Be subject, for the Lord's sake, to every human authority."
(notes from the message)

Granted, no system is perfect, including our own.

Granted, leaders are sinners, and they often are cruel and/or corrupt

Granted, this system may abuse you personally, as Jesus’ government abused Him

Nonetheless, the Grace of the Gospel Shines in Submission

Not in lordship – co-opting government position to enforce one’s point of view. Christian politicians must be public servants.

Not in belligerence – opposing the government with legitimate concerns, but using ungracious means

Not best even in protest or resistance – though citizens hold these as rights. But if Christians use these rights, they must accompany their words by gracious actions consistent with the measures that they advocate.

Grace Shines in Doing Good

While temporal praise is arbitrary, doing good will shine as it is seen in the many-colored shades of kindness

Eternal praise is authentic, and, in addition, the glad-hearted doing of good produces both joy and peace

Am I a Solid Gospel-Citizen?

Solid Gospel-Citizens are not measured by their vote, nor are they measured by their political action

Submission is a constant theme for Solid Gospel-Citizens, rendering obedience to God-appointed authorities, even as they await God’s “kingdom” resolution.

Doing Good always outweighs talking politics. It is Doing Good that constitutes the praiseworthy expressions of obedience, kindness and service.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech

The killings at Virginia Tech give rise to the question: How can such a person (the killer) exist? But, in light of the Bible’s teaching on the seriousness of sin, a better question might be: Why are there not more such persons?

Samuel Bolton, a Puritan writing in the early 1600’s in England, gives some perspective as he writes about the mercy of God in giving the law which restrains sin, in “The True bounds of Christian Freedom” (Banner of Truth, 1964 (first published in 1645), p.79.

If God had not given a severe and terrible law against sin, such is the vileness of men’s spirits, they would have acted all villainy. The Devil would not only have reigned, but raged in all the sons of men.

And therefore, as we do with wild beasts, wolves, lions, and others, binding them in chains that they may be kept from doing the mischief which their inclinations carry them to, so the law chains up the wickedness of the hearts of men, that they dare not fulfil those lustful inclinations which are found in their hearts.

Blessed be God that there is this fear upon the spirits of wicked men; otherwise we could not well live in the world. One man would be a devil to another. Every man would be a Cain to his brother, an Amnon to his sister, an Absolom to his father, a Saul to himself, a Judas to his master; for what one man does, all men would do, were it not for a restraint upon their spirits.

Therefore we have cause to bless God that he has given a law to restrain transgression, that if men will not be so good as they should be, yet, being restrained, they become not so bad as they would be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Who Is Watching?

Peter tells that two parties are watching (1 Peter 2:12). The “nations” or “Gentiles” are observing. And God is watching (day of visitation). We need to think about both of these from a Gospel perspective.

In Bible translations, the “Gentiles” are all those nations who are not Jews. They were, from an OT perspective, in large part, not the people of God. In the NT, since the Church is not identified with the Jewish people, it seems that a better translation is the “nations.”

In 1 Peter 2:9, the Church is called, among other things, “a holy nation.” The nations mentioned in v.12 then, are the “unholy” nations. The one has an interest in the holiness of God. The other has no interest in His holiness.

Now why is it that the nations are observing the lives and conduct of Christians? Normally, we don’t even notice, unless, of course, there is something interesting. That is, there is something distinctive, unique, or strange (as in “strangers,” 1 Pet 1:1).

1 Peter 4:4 says that the Gentiles, or nations, are “surprised when you do not join them” in their ungodly activities. There is a contrast in the lives of those without God, and those who are children of God. Other differences become apparent as we review 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 and Ephesians 4:17ff. In fact, I think it is a beneficial exercise to actually think what the contrast would be to the miserable conditions or ungodly behaviors mentioned in relations to the nations. For instance, in Eph 2: 1-4, they are described as:

Dead – we have been “made alive” (1 Pet 1:3)

They belong to “the course of this world.” We understand that the course has been changed “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3)

They have a prince (small “p”). We have a Prince (capital “P”) (I know that there are not caps in the original, but the little “p” only bruised His heel, while the capital “P” crushed his head (Gen 3:15).

They have a spirit. We have the Holy Spirit

They are driven by lusts. We are characterized by love for God and neighbor. (It strikes me as I write this how far we fall short, which is why the nations find us so un-interesting.

They are given over to self- indulgence. We are to be known for sacrificial service.

They are called “children of wrath.” We are children of mercy (1 Pet 1:3; 2:10).

The list then is continued in Eph 4:17-24:

They are characterized by sensuality. We are to be known for a spirituality that is due to the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Drunkenness is countered by a sobriety and seriousness that is taken up with eternal and ultimate issues.

Carousing and drinking parties that end up in disgrace are contrasted with gatherings in which grace is given and blessings are shared.

Abominable idolatries bespeak a continual search to find that which is worth living for – while Christians are linked and locked in to “the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom (He) has sent (John 17:3).

We are to be “a light to the Gentiles (or nations)” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:23). Our light is dim in that we have sunk to many practices that look suspiciously like the nations who do not know God. We aren’t all that interesting.

The second point is that God is “visiting” or “overseeing.” Jesus, in 1 Peter 2:25, is called “the Shepherd and Overseer (or Guardian) of our souls.” He is watching.

But many people have erroneous views of God’s oversight. Some think that He is watching, waiting to pound us when we mess up. But they miss the all-important point that, in Christ, we are “accepted in the Beloved.” There are no paybacks for Christians. Our punishment has been meted out to Christ, and it found satisfaction in the righteous judgment of God. He is not watching us to catch us, but because He delights in us.

On the other hand, some view God’s interest in His children as inconsequential. They suppose that, now forgiven, they should give no thought to what God thinks of their conduct. This is a denial of authentic faith. Faith in God is a dynamic presence in the life of a man that manifests itself in expressions of faith, one of which is fear and love for God. Luke 12 reminds us that if God has His eye on the sparrow, then He certainly will observe and care for His children far more.

We sometimes live as though no one is watching, neither the world around us, or God. We live as though there is nothing or no one to life for. How can we miss the point so badly?

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Cure for a Sick Soul

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1Peter 2:11 ESV)

When we go to the medical doctor for examination or surgery, he can find our brains, but she cannot repair our minds.

When the doctor opens our chests to do surgery on the heart, he is unable to do anything about our character.

When we receive a physical, there are no reports given on the state of our souls.

The Bible diagnosis for man in general is that we have great sickness of soul.

Mankind tends to ignore the soul, and thus to misunderstand the most weighty issues of life. Mankind places great emphasis on what the Bible calls the flesh. They may speak of human nature, human condition, wholistic health, etc. – but when considered apart from God, man is flesh – independent and temporary; willful, but weak.

The soul, in Biblical language, is the organ for relationship with God. When God formed Adam (Gen 2:7), he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man, a-dam, became a living soul – a creature made to correspond with the Creator in faith and fellowship.

But a dead or dormant soul does not have faith. We cannot enjoy fellowship with God with a captivated or collapsed soul. And it is not only God who desires your soul, but also the devil (1 Pet 5:8).

I am going to allow the context of 1 Peter 2:11 to control our thinking about the soul. In addition to the reference to “soul” in our text, Peter also refers to the soul in 1:9; 1:22, and 2:25.

Nothing to Look Forward to

1 Peter 1:9 speaks of “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” This is followed, after a brief (but important) aside in vv. 10-12, with the admonition to “set youre hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v.13). A sick soul has nothing to which it can look forward.

A sick soul has no dream of a future revelation (v.13), but is instead stuck in the present or perhaps the past. A sick soul has no sense of the holiness (vv. 15-16) of God which is above, beyond and behind all that we can see with our senses. The sick soul is then unable to respond to God with a proper fear (v. 17) that is due Him. He is left, by default, in the futility (v. 14) of a short-sighted, mortal and mundane existence.

Nothing to Act as Its Guide

The soul, by God’s gracious revealing, is broken free from its prison of blindness and ignorance to a whole new kind of life. This new life includes a consecration to God (1:22) which frees us from self-indulgence. God is gracious in that He has given our souls a guide in what is a trackless wilderness of life for those who are sick of soul.

This guide for the soul directs toward self-sacrifice rather than self-indulgence. We are to practice a brotherly kindness which is strenuous and which arises from only the purest of motives (v.22). Further, this kind of energetic direction does not allow for the crippling distractions mentioned in 2:1. These are to be put away so that our lives, as living stones (2:5), might be properly aligned with the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (2:4,6). He is the Guide for our lives, and the Director of our souls.

Word studies lead toward to Biblical illustrations. The first is Joseph (Gen 39:8-9), who, in submission to his master and allegiance to God, endured false accusation and affliction. The second is Moses, recorded in Hebrews 11:24-26, who “refused,” “chose,” “considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” These men had a guide from above that remained unaffected by the circumstances taking place here below.

No One to Look Up to

Jesus is called by Peter the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (2:25). For those with sick souls, we have no one to look up to. For those who are wandering, their goal must be to either remain anonymous in the room, or strive to be the biggest person in the room. And when I try to “enlarge” myself, I cannot admit to a Leader or a Captain. But Jesus is the one who has blazed a path for us, “leaving you an example” (v.22). He suffered and died, and now serves as the One to whom we look (Heb 12:2), the Author and Finisher of our faith, for those with souls that are being healed.

The Cure for a Sick Soul is not education for our ignorance, but rather God’s gracious revealing of things that we cannot see with our eyes. The Cure is not moral improvement in order to overcome self-indulgence, but is rather the Call to become part of something that is bigger than us and our private dreams, and that will last eternally longer than a temple made with stone. The Cure for my soul is not heroism, unless that means that I finally find in Jesus what I can never be in myself.