1 Peter: Children. Family. Sheep. Slaves.

This is the fourth in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

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Hmmm. I see that I got carried away yesterday. Even with some editing, that post was longer than I intended. But there’s so much in 1 Peter—these short pages cannot capture the depth of what the Spirit  has to tell us. So I’m only offering some of the things that have touched me. You will have your own precious moments with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as you read and He sits with you and speaks to your heart.

If you want to share some of those thoughts in the Comments section, we’d love to hear them! Some people have reported they had trouble entering a comment. If you do, just shoot me an email with your comment and I’ll post it for you.

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The household of God

Have you noticed some of the metaphors Peter used in describing the people of God? One of the most obvious—and the one that inspired this blog site a few years ago—is “the household of God.”

“Live as God’s obedient children,” writes Peter. “And love each other deeply as brothers and sisters.”

Our birth into a new life was given by the Spirit of God. And so we are His children. As the family of God, we’re to live as He teaches us to live, not as the world lives. Our lives are to reflect our parentage!

Peter tells us several times to love each other in the household of God deeply and sincerely. We’re to be tenderhearted toward each other, keeping a humble attitude.

The best description of how we’re to love each other? 1 Corinthians 13. Take any one of the characteristics of godly love and ask yourself, Am I loving my brothers and sisters in the household of God in this way?
Am I patient and kind?
Am I without jealousy, pride, or rudeness?
Can I refrain from demanding my own way?
Do I let go of wrongs against me, not holding grudges?
Do I rejoice when truth wins out?
Can I say I will never give up or lose hope in my brothers and sisters?

That’s how we’re to live with each other in the household of God.

 

In the Guardian’s care

The image of sheep is used constantly throughout Scripture. Sheep who wander off; sheep who are rescued and cared for by their Shepherd. Sheep who know their Shepherd’s voice. Whole books have been written about We, like sheep…

But the verses here that I cling to are these that say the Great Shepherd is guarding my soul, protecting me, holding me close, bringing me safely home.

Once you were like sheep who had wandered away, But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:25).

And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day (1:5).

We have a great Shepherd, a Guardian of our souls! The world around us might look chaotic and out of control. Our own lives may feel chaotic and out of control. But we can find great rest in knowing the Guardian holds us securely, both for today and all tomorrows. “The Lord is my Shepherd. I have all that I need. He leads me… And I will dwell with Him forever.”

 

Free Slaves

For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves… (from 2:16)

This used to trouble me. How do we reconcile these two things: freedom and slavery? How can Christianity promise freedom if we then say we’re slaves to God?

Then another verse from Peter’s second letter wove everything together for me: “For you are a slave to whatever controls you (2 Peter 2:19).”

Yes, in this second letter, Peter is talking about being a slave to sin and corruption. But the statement holds true about being a slave to God.

We like to think of ourselves as free. “Slave” is a nasty word today. Yet this is the truth—whatever controls us is our master, dictating our thoughts and actions. (We can even be slaves to fierce individualism.)

So we would do well to think about what drives us, what pushes our decisions and motivates us, what is our master. We do have a choice.

I, for one, choose to serve the Almighty God who rescued me and gives me life. I am part of His family and household. My soul rests in His care and protection.

1 Peter: In God’s Eyes

This is the third in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

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As I started down the hill this morning, my shadow fell long and skinny in front of me. For two happy seconds, I thought Good. Maybe those five pounds from vacation are already evaporating. That thought was short-lived. I knew perfectly well that those five pounds are still there and that maybe tomorrow morning, depending on the time and place and the angle of the sun, my shadow will be short, square, and quite pudgy.

Shadows

A silly lesson, maybe, but don’t we too often believe distorted images of who we are? We allow the people around us, the current culture, and the mood of the day dictate how we see ourselves, what we think of ourselves. We let the outside world or our own inner world—both constantly shifting and unreliable—paint the picture of who we are. Even worse, we sometimes believe those shadowy, false portrayals and live accordingly.

As we read 1 Peter, hear what God thinks about us, and how He sees us …. And isn’t God’s view the most solid and dependable portrayal of who we are?

 

Chosen. Holy. Cleansed.

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2).

You are known and chosen. God the Father knows you better than anyone, and He chose to make you part of His family. 

And He declares you cleansed.

Who of us can say that? Who can wipe their slate clean? In our human interactions, we often wish for a clean slate in our relationships. We would like to wipe out so many things, purge our history, start over, have a fresh start. We ask forgiveness, hoping to erase the wrong we’ve done. But between humans, we all know how difficult it is to gain a clean slate. Folks don’t let us forget our past too easily. We don’t let ourselves forget our past. We carry the burden far too long.

To be cleansed of the past, of all failures and shortcomings and outright wrongs we’ve done—can that happen?

God says it has happened for you and me. We can hardly grasp this truth. Yet God says it is so. Will we accept His word on this? What Christ did for us makes us clean. He was here for one thing—to wipe out all account of guilt and present us to God, scrubbed and spotless.

That one act blotted out the record of our past. Now He continues to cleanse us daily as we ask His forgiveness for the times we still fail Him. Christ’s own Spirit lives within, washing, purging, scrubbing, changing us.

And His Spirit working in us sets us apart as belonging to Him. Made holy. Dedicated to Him. That’s the meaning of the word holy. He began the relationship; He initiated this adoption. His Spirit comes to live in us and seal the relationship. The Lord looks at us—and says, “I am your God, and you are my people.”

 

Given a new life

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead (1:3).

It is great mercy, indeed, that gives us this chance at a new life. How many people wish for a new life, wish to be something other or more than they have come to be? But who really gets such a chance?

We do. God says we do.

We all were born into the line of Adam, into a genealogy that turns it back on God and rebels and will die as a result. We had no choice in this first birth. The path for the family of Adam was set by that man’s choice in the Garden.

Yet God gave us the chance for another life—a birth into the family tree of Jesus. Because Jesus made a choice in another Garden, died, and then was resurrected—given new  life!—God promises that the same is possible for us. The old dies. Then resurrection comes, and there is a new life to be lived. Now! Today!

And those who believe have that incredible opportunity for a new story, new hopes, and a new ending to their story. Yes, even a new past.

It is great mercy indeed.

 

What you’re worth to God

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1:18-19).

The value of an item is not declared by the price tag attached. The true value of an item is in what someone is willing to pay.

Have you, like me, spent a fair amount of time and money building a collection of something? In a former part of my life, it was Norman Rockwell collectibles. For you, it may be coins, stamps, antiques, paintings, jewelry. The value of my Rockwells lies only in what someone is willing to pay for each. If no one else wants it, its only value is to me—the emotional attachment I may have to it. (And that no longer exists. Anyone want some pieces, cheap?) Even real estate and stocks are subject to this principle: If no one wants to buy, it’s not worth much.

God wanted you. He wanted you so much that He paid the greatest possible price to ransom and rescue you. He gave Himself.

 

Brought safely home

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God (from 3:18).

God had a reason for paying your ransom. And remember, He paid it while you still were set against Him. Can you imagine parents paying kidnappers for the return of a child when the child declares openly that he does not want to come home? Some of you can imagine. Some of you have paid dearly to bring a child home that does not want to be home.

We were not worthy. But He wanted us back. So He paid the cost and claimed us. Gave us the chance at a new life. And now He intends to bring us safely home.

That’s His plan.

 

Under His care and protection

Long ago, God chose one nation as His own special people. Israel was blessed with the Lord’s presence, given special privilege, protection, and care. Today, God chooses all who believe and declares that we are His new Israel.

And as His people, we live under His care and protection. Look at a few of His promises:

4:19 You can trust your lives to Him because He will never fail you.

5:7  The Lord of the universe, the Almighty God, cares about you! Take your worries to Him.

5:10 He will restore, support, and strengthen you

In spite of those all-encompassing promises, there are many days we do not feel this identity, days we can hardly believe these things. Days when we believe, instead, the shadowy, distorted identities built on external or internal lies.

GOD SAYS THIS:  We are His own people. Known. Loved. Rescued. Cleansed. Given a new life. Cared for. Protected.

That’s who God says we are. That’s who God sees when He looks at us.

May the Spirit teach us to live it.

 

1 Peter: Strangers and foreigners

This is the second in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

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To all God’s chosen people:

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).

Peter wrote to believers who lived in Roman provinces of the area that is today Turkey. It’s generally thought that the majority of the people he was addressing were Jewish Christians, “sojourners” and  “temporary residents” of countries other than their homeland. Israel’s turbulent history had led to the scattering of the Jewish people, and many Jews lived as exiles from their spiritual homeland. They were separated from the place of their origin, living in a culture not their own, strangers in a country under pagan rule.

Peter might just as well have written, I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the United States, Canada, South Africa, India, Germany, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. These words are also for us, now, in whatever part of the world we live.

We hear the parallel for Christians today—geographically, we’re living in a country other than the Kingdom to which we give our highest allegiance. These physical bodies were birthed here, in a worldly country under an earthly rule. But our spiritual births made us citizens of another kingdom, citizens revering the Authority above all other authorities. We sojourn here, but belong to that other kingdom.

And Christ’s kingdom is as unknown and incomprehensible to the rest of the world now as it was to Pilate when he questioned Jesus’ claim of being a king.

We belong to Jesus the King, but we’re living as strangers and foreigners scattered in countries around the globe.

As he wrote this, was Peter remembering the prayer he heard Jesus utter the night before our Lord died?

“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world…I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do…I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message” (John 17:11, 15, 16, 20).

This grabs my heart every time I read it. Jesus prayed for me! He prayed for you. He prayed for all of us who belong to His Kingdom but sojourn as strangers in this world. He identified us with Himself when He said we no longer belong here, anymore than He did. That has great weight if we let it sink into our hearts and minds.

A mindset that echoes Jesus words and says, “We are not of this world,” produces changes in our thinking and doing —
* We are not bound by the limits of this world.
* We know beyond seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or touching.
* Our lives are governed by the standards Christ set for His people, not by the standards of whatever culture swirls around us.
* Our ultimate guide is the Spirit of Christ, not “modern” thinkers, trend setters, gurus , politicians, scientists, or dictators.

We follow Christ. His kingdom is not of this world; we, his followers, only live here as strangers and foreigners.

1 Peter: Who are we? And where are we headed?

 

My friend Judie is a twin. All of her life, she will be a twin. That’s part of who she is. And I will never quite understand what that is like for her, even though I try to imagine myself as a twin—how would that shape and color my thinking, especially if I were an identical twin? What would it be to look at someone who others say is a mirror image of me? How would that affect my thinking and my sense of who I am?

I cannot put myself into the framework of a twin, but I do know what it is to be the eldest child. And, because I was the first in line in our family, I have a connection to every other first-born I meet. We share certain perspectives that second children do not, nor third, nor fourth … I have no idea what it feels like to be the youngest, the last. (Sorry, Sister dear, but remember … eventually you’ll be first and I’ll be last. I’m pretty sure you have that promise in Scripture.)

Our community includes the largest Amish settlement in the country. When a buggy clip-clops down the street, we locals take little notice, but tourists turn and stare or they’ll occasionally stop their cars along the highway to lie in wait with cameras. I wonder what it is like to have other people gawk and view you as an attraction because you dress and drive differently?

So many characteristics of who we are set us apart from others around us. Still, there are things that draw my twin friend and I together, creating a bond of friendship. And with my Amish neighbors I often find common ground.

The children of God live in many dissimilar cultures, have differing political views, are of varying race, gender, age, social and financial status, yet we share a distinction as people of God, all of us taking that identity from the same foundations.

And so, who are we?

Every now and then the Spirit gives us a clear glimpse of who we are and where we are.

These glimpses are gifts, I think — small sips and tastes of the full, grand knowledge of who God created us to be, what we are now, and what we can look forward to becoming. The Spirit shows us God’s thoughts and secrets, and we’re given a moment when we can see from His perspective. With that clearer vision, we discern more of the path on which we are traveling back to Him and we savor hints of the life that awaits us when we finally do reach home.

Toward the end of his life, Peter wrote a letter that gives us just such glimpses. And when we read it attentively and repeatedly, we get not just a small taste but a heavy, heavenly dose of confirmation: Here is a picture of who we are. Here is what God says about our journey. Here is what unites us all as God’s eternally loved people.

 

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At some point, we all identify with the disciple Peter. Peter’s story touches us because we are so much like him. We sail through the highs and trudge through the lows of faith. Our hope and longing for the Kingdom struggle to break through the crusty weight of old nature and earthly thinking. Peter knew both the thrills and the discouragements of that struggle, and when he composed his letter to God’s chosen people, he was not writing only to believers who lived in his day; he was also writing to all who choose to follow Christ at any time in man’s history. Peter knows what it is to be a follower of Christ living in a foreign land, but determined to return home one day.

Reading the first of Peter’s letters reminds us who we are in God’s eyes. We hear the plans our Creator has for us. We begin to grasp the part we play in His plans for the world. And although the height and depth and width and breadth of it all is far beyond our comprehension, taking in what Peter has to tell us will surely change what we think of ourselves and how we meet every event and person in each moment of our day.

The first letter from Peter holds effective antidotes for those days when we want to give up, when we wonder if our life has counted for anything, or when we are desperate to know that God does indeed have a plan and is carrying it out.

 

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So here’s my invitation:

Read 1 Peter—the entire book—every day for the next eight days. It will take only fifteen to twenty minutes. Read it aloud, if possible. Have someone else read it to you if the opportunity arises (for example, while you’re driving). Or listen to the audio one day.

Imagine that you are part of a group of Christians, listening attentively to what this man who lived with Jesus wrote directly to you—because you are and he was.  

Decide that you will make the time to accept this invitation. You can do it! Dedicate yourself to it, for just a little more than a week. Only nine days—but you will catch sight of God’s vision for your life. Each day, read Peter first, then come here and join me in thinking about who we are, our mission, and what’s ahead.

My hope for all of us is this: that we absorb some of the marvel of who we are and the plans God has for us.

“It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen” (1 Peter 1:12 NLT).

 

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Thanks to Keith Ferrin for presenting Scripture-reading ideas that prompted this series.

This is the first in a 9-day study of 1 Peter. The series begins here.