1 Peter: Living in great expectation

This is the ninth (and last) in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

 

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Need some good news? This world finds it increasingly difficult to find any good news to report. And I agree. Terrible things are happening on this planet hanging in space.

But my sojourn with Peter has opened my eyes to other things besides the evening news and newspaper headlines. I hope that has happened for you, too. Because there is reason to be truly glad. There is great joy ahead, and how wonderful for us to be able to live in great expectation!

Peter opens his letter with those phrases. Be truly glad, he writes. There is wonderful joy ahead. Even though things might be pretty grim now.

As citizens of another kingdom, we can look beyond what is happening here. That’s not to say we simply stick our head in the sand and wait for some glorious future day. No, God’s Word is clear that we have responsibilities in this world and we’ll have hard times on our way home.

But this is the good news—there’s coming a day when Satan no longer rules our world. We will eventually live in a world where Christ rules, and the earth is filled with the righteousness and glory of our God!

Ah…now that will be something, won’t it?

And there’s more—we have an inheritance waiting for us. We’ll claim a birthright beyond anything we can dream of inheriting here in this world. God’s children are due for great joy, my sisters and brothers!

Yet our joy does not rest only on expectation of that future day.

When Peter sent this encouragement to Christians mired in tough times (that would be us today, too), I believe he was saying that we can live expectantly and gladly because there is great joy ahead in the next moment, in tomorrow, waiting in next week, and next month.

When he writes that the reward for trusting Jesus will be the salvation of our souls, he was also talking about today, right now, this moment.

Don’t our souls need rescuing every day? Don’t we need the protection, the strength, the firm foundation that Jesus brings to us now? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Our souls are rescued on a daily basis, because we trust Him. He promises restoration and support as we grapple with life, now, in this world.

God is at work. The evening news doesn’t report it. But He’s at work among His children, in His own household, and in the world that does not yet know Him.

He had plans before the beginning of time. He has plans for after the end of time. And we are a part of it all. His holy nation. The temple He is building here on earth. Partners with Christ in His work.

If Peter were writing today, I’m sure he’d tweet this line:

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

Be truly glad, my brothers and sisters. There is great joy ahead.

“It’s going to be good!”

When I was a little girl, eternity looked pretty boring to me. Was life with God going to be like one long church service? No good books to read for hours? No horses to ride? No creeks to play in? No ball games? No friends to share with? Were we just going to wander aimlessly around heaven with nothing to occupy our hands and minds other than singing praises?

Frankly, the heaven in my imagination was so unappealing that I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for spending even a weekend there, much less endless time. But one thing I did know: heaven was preferable to the hell pictured by the preachers, so of course I must focus on heaven.

That was a young girl’s limited imagination. Now, many decades later, I still can’t imagine the great plans God has for His children. But I’m much more excited about stepping into them and discovering what He has in store for us.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3 NLT).

In these verses we have a promise that is far beyond the imagination of anyone, young or old. We can only look forward and say, “Wow. What will that be like?”

We will be like Christ. God began the process when He opened the way and invited us to come back to Him. He continued the plan when He adopted us as sons and daughters, siblings, if you will, of Christ. He gave us glimpses of the future when He sent His Son to model for us how to live out the life of His kingdom — pure, devoted to God, in close relationship with Him. And then God ripped open the limits of our earthly lives when He raised His dead Son to life, pulling apart the curtain to give us a peek and say, “This is your future too!”

As a guarantee of that future, He planted within us the beginnings of transformation. His own Holy Spirit is working as you read this, transforming, connecting you to your Creator and your God, the one who loved you so much He came into your world to rescue you.

And here’s the promise: the ultimate end of this process is that we will be like Christ.

That’s amazing to me for a number of reasons. My first thought is of how far I am—now—from being like Christ. I know I share His Spirit, but I also daily experience the war that still rages within, between my old person and the new person the Spirit has birthed and wants to grow.

Secondly, I wonder what it will be to be like our Lord. We will be like our God? That’s a bold statement. Yet we were created in God’s likeness in the beginning. He paid the price to bring His lost children back. He is now in the process of creating again — He’s established His kingdom and He is creating new lives in His people. And yes, this is the promise: His new creations will indeed share in all that Christ is and has!

I do not yet understand how seeing Him “as He is” will complete the transformation, but I suspect that knowing Christ fully, being with Him face to face, will have a transformative effect on me. We know that even now, the more time we spend with our Lord, the more He can change our minds, hearts, thoughts, and actions. Yet our sight is clouded. When we see Him clearly and when we are fully with Him, what exciting and incredible things will surely happen to all of us who love Him?

I take from this another promise: I will someday see His love clearly. I’ll be able to see it on His face and in His eyes and feel it in His touch and hear it in His voice, and I will finally understand the love that is so deep and wide and beyond my comprehension now. We know that in our life here, being loved has transforming powers. Perhaps knowing Christ’s love fully and finally seeing its depth will transform us completely. For now, it is enough for me to know that I will see Him and know, face to face, how much He loves me.

So, John writes, let’s work at keeping ourselves pure because we are headed for this exciting future. Of course John knew, just as we know today, that perfection before God is impossible—we still stumble and fall short of Christ’s purity and sinlessness. John knew this reality, and he reminds us (in chapter 1 verse 9) that God uses even our sin and confession to cleanse and change us, working toward the future promise of our complete transformation.

My little girl imagination had such narrow limits. Even now, my grown-up imagination can only go so far. But Scripture says that all of this Good News of what God is doing is so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching as it all unfolds.*

As one of my friends says, “It’s going to be good!”

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*see 1 Peter 1:12

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On Waiting for God

I’ve been impatient about many things lately. No, more accurately, I’ve been impatient all my life. God’s timing often seems much too slow for me. I know His time is not my time, but still … Why not do this now, Lord? Why not judge this now? Why not fix this now? Why not bestow the blessing or the joy or the answer now? Why not show me this now?

I wrote recently about one particular blessing in waiting. But my usual attitude is, What’s the point of waiting?

This morning, I timed my walk perfectly. Deep rose, crimson, and purple on the eastern horizon heralded the rising sun:

 Morning glory

I turned my back for only a few minutes to climb a hill (lots of those around here), and when I turned again toward the east, the sky was gray with heavy clouds muffling all but a trace of color.

 Morning Sky

 

Isn’t this the rhythm of our spiritual days? Sometimes our days blaze with God’s glory, full and spectacular. We can’t miss it. We fall at His feet in reverence and awe and praise and worship and thankfulness. But at other times clouds block our view of the glory. We see darker skies, portents of rain or storm, and we lose sight of the intensity and glory.

Yet I know the sun came up today. The day is already growing lighter and warmer. The sun will march across the sky and nothing will prevent the morning from turning into noon and then evening.

Our God is even more unstoppable and persistent than the sun.

My sister remarked recently that there are so many Scriptures full of promises to those who wait on God. Wait. Wait. Wait through cloudy days and wait through the glorious, light-filled days. We must wait on God, and we will see His glory.

Of course, my first impulse was to not even wait for the Scriptures—I took out my phone to call my sis and ask her to send me a list of those verses ASAP so I could write this post. Nope, did not want to wait to do the searching myself (even though I know what a blessing comes with that searching).

But I did not dial. I will wait upon God as I look, myself, for His promises about waiting.

I’ll get back to you and share what I’ve found … but you may have to wait a few days.

In the meantime, you could start searching for those promises yourself. And I am so certain of God’s dependability and steadfastness that I can promise you’ll catch some of God’s fantastic glory in the process. 

I’m sure of it.

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“Let all who are helpless take heart”

What do we do when we are up against a wall? We are so programmed to be self-reliant, strong, assertive, empowered—we know all the buzz words that today’s self-help culture throws at us. Yet every one of us will see times when we are helpless—totally powerless to make a difference in a situation or circumstance.

That’s real life.

Psalm 34 is real life too.

I will praise the LORD at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the LORD;
let all who are helpless take heart.

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Fear the LORD, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.

The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.

The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.
Psalm 34:1-10,17, 19 NLT

Psalm 34 is real life. There’s a lot of talk of helplessness, trouble, and fear—things we face every day. We find ourselves helpless in the face of a diagnosis or the conflicts in a relationship. Economic uncertainty creates anxiety. We walk in a world filled with evil, and we are not immune to all that brings pain and tears.

David wrote this psalm, and he suffered through more trouble than many of us will ever see. A rebellious son who wanted to kill him. Family turmoil. Wars against his kingdom. Conflict and opposition from powerful people. A heavy burden of guilt. And even a feeling of alienation from the God he loved so much.

But in Psalm 34 we also find joy and praise and gladness, side by side with helplessness. David knew what it meant to be kept safe in the care of the Shepherd.

That’s the real life I want!

When we are helpless, we can take heart because we are not without help. The Lord rescues all who come to Him for help. In the midst of pain and tears, our hope knows that the Lord’s eyes and ears are open to His people and He is good. He will answer!

I wonder if we miss the joy because we are trying to be so self-sufficient. We look only at the difficulty of our situation and do not even think of the goodness and greatness of our Shepherd. Look again at the verses that mention joy. Those who look to Him for help and those who take refuge in Him are the ones who find radiant joy. Are we looking to the wrong places for our help? Is that why we do not find joy in the midst of our troubles? Is that how the words hopeless and helpless creep into the thinking and the vocabulary of the children of God?

David sets the example: constantly praise the Lord. Tell of everything He has done. Even boasting in the Lord is in order. When we are helpless, when there is absolutely nothing we can do, this psalm reminds us over and over again: We are not helpless. Remember who the Lord is and what He has done. Remember that He comes to rescue us and will also bring us good things even in the midst of trouble.

Tell of the Lord’s goodness. Thinking about and speaking the greatness of our Father will be the antidote for the feeling of helplessness.

“Let the helpless take heart” reminds me of Christ’s words: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world. I’m not going to leave you alone. My power will work in you, and my power is greater than any power in the world.”

What better place to go for help than to the One who defeats and disables every power of this world? With the Spirit of Christ living within, the helpless are never without help. Jesus says this is a fact of our lives as children of God. We are kept safe in His care. Will we believe-live it?

Yes, this psalm is real life. Ripples of small troubles upset our days. Monster tidal waves sweep over our lives and we fear we are drowning. But in every thing, the Lord is good and will rescue His children. The Shepherd surrounds and defends those who belong to Him. We can take heart. Joy comes even when we are helpless.

It’s putting all our eggs in one basket —  and it is never a risk! Going to our God for help is never fruitless, and it’s the only way to joy that survives even the most frightening storms.

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Through the Curtain

King David voiced the yearning: “Let me live all my days in your sanctuary.” Our own hearts respond. Let us live, Lord, as close to you as we can get!

I’ve written before that one of my favorite stories in the Bible is only one verse in length, the simple statement that says at the moment of Christ’s death the veil setting apart the Holy of Holies in the temple and denying entrance to everyone except the high priest was ripped in two.

Christ’s death ripped apart the barrier between us and God. His body and blood, sacrificed for us, gave us the right to enter into God’s most holy presence—washed clean, spotless. The way is opened for us!

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. 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. (Hebrews 6:18-19)

I feel the same yearning David wrote into his songs. I seek God, I thirst for God. And here we find that hope leads us to know Him more intimately than ever before. Hope that knows, hope that trusts, hope that is confident, hope that believes what God says—this hope brings us into the presence of the Father, ever closer to the One we long for and seek to know.

Hope — trusting what God says. His promises tell us who He is. Through His promises He tells us of His love for us and His plans for us. How can there be an intimate relationship with anyone if there is no trust in what they say or no faith in who they are? Our trust in our Father, our belief, our hope leads us deeper into Him.

Yet even as we are seeking Him, it is He who is drawing us. God, the source of all hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit will fill us with confident hope as we walk in step with Him (Romans 15:13). I love the wording of the verse from Hebrews: Hope will lead us into the innermost sanctuary of His presence. Even as we long for Him, He leads us into Himself.

Holy Spirit, fill me with strong and confident hope that leads me through the curtain.