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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Peter 3:18; The Goal of The Gospel

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090426_1peter3_18.mp3

04/26 1 Peter 3:18 The Goal of The Gospel

18 oti kai cristov apax peri amartiwn apeyanen dikaiov uper adikwn ina umav prosagagh tw yew yanatwyeiv men sarki zwopoihyeiv de pneumati

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Peter is writing to believers who are suffering, or will soon be suffering because of their faith in Jesus. He has told us that suffering, rather than a detour in the Christian life, is the pathway to blessing. Blessing comes to those who suffer for righteousness sake. Suffering should be met, not with fear and anxiety, but with a reckoning in your heart that Jesus is King. And our hope should be infectious, causing unbelievers to interrogate us. When that happens, we must be ready to answer; our answer should be filled with a humble meekness and fear of God, knowing that we too are undeserving sinners that have been shown mercy.

In the next paragraph, Peter gives us the reason why we should not fear suffering, but rather look at suffering as a pathway to blessing. Jesus is our hope, and in his suffering we find maximum reason to hope for a good outcome.

This verse is almost exactly parallel to 2:21. Peter had told slaves that it was grace in God’s sight when they suffer for doing good. The reason he holds out to them is Jesus in his suffering.

2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

And he goes on there to elaborate on the sinless example of Jesus’ suffering. In verse 24 he gives us the magnificent verse:

2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

There he moved from Jesus’ behavior during his passion to his redemptive death on the cross, to our present experience of being returned to our Shepherd. Here in 3:18, he begins the same way:

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

But here he moves from Jesus’ death and its redemptive effects to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, which have consequences for the readers and for the whole visible and invisible universe. Jesus’ suffering is followed by triumphant vindication, and we who suffer can have hope that we too will be vindicated.

This passage is challenging to understand. There is the issue of the proclamation to the spirits in prison who were disobedient in the days of Noah, and we have to answer the question ‘in what way can Peter say that baptism now saves you?’ after Peter has been abundantly clear that salvation is God’s work and we receive it by faith alone. And, Lord willing, we will attempt to carefully navigate those deep waters next week. But I don’t want for us to get all caught up in controversy about the secondary issues that are less clear and miss the big picture which is quite clear. And I don’t want for us to rush past the simple clarity of the good news in verse 18. This is the substance of the hope that is in us. So today, I’d like us to linger over and meditate on, even memorize this compact statement of the goal of Christ in the gospel

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,

Christ also suffered. We suffer; Christ also suffered. There are similarities. The context here is encouragement in suffering for doing good. In the rare event that we do good and suffer for it, our suffering is similar to Christ’s suffering. But that is where the similarities end. The rest of this statement details how different Christ’s suffering was from ours.

Christ suffered ‘once’. His suffering was a one-time event. We instantly think of the cross, and that is right. But Christ’s suffering began long before the cross. John 1 tells us:

John 1:1-4…the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life…

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…

That was the beginning of the suffering of Christ. Being God, infinite, self-existent, omnipotent; who spoke the galaxies into being; to be born a fragile dependent human child who learned to roll over and crawl and make sounds and had to have his diaper changed; that was a bigger sacrifice than we will ever understand. He was misunderstood by many. Most that did understand rejected his claims and sought to put him to death. Even his closest friends deserted him in his hour of need. Justice was mocked as a notorious criminal was released and an innocent man was nailed to a tree, suspended between heaven and earth. The suffering of Christ began at his incarnation and found full expression on the cross as he cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But the suffering of Jesus was ‘once’. In contrast to the sacrifice made by the Jewish high priest on the Day of Atonement that was repeated year after year after year, the suffering of Jesus happened only once in history. Jesus cried out from the cross ‘It is finished’.

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

And he spoke the truth. No other offering would ever be needed. His suffering was absolutely sufficient. The author of Hebrews expands on this thought:

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Christ suffered ‘for sins’. Peter uses language that is rooted in the sin offering of Leviticus, where an animal would die for the sin of a person. The wages of sin is death, and the death of the animal would take the place of the death of the person. Jesus fulfilled this role and paid the penalty for our sins. This language shows up in Isaiah 53:10

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Paul uses this language as the essence of his gospel message:

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

Christ suffered as ‘the righteous for the unrighteous’. Peter does an interesting thing here; he takes his readers who are unjustly suffering for doing good and moves them to the category of unrighteous sinners in need of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus alone is in the category of ‘righteous’.

The sinless character of Jesus was so central that ‘The Righteous One’ became a title for the Lord Jesus in the early church:

Acts 3:14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

The contrast is striking, that the people killed the author of life, while God gives life to the dead. They substituted a murderer for the Righteous One, while God gives his Righteous One as the substitute for us unrighteous sinners. Jesus saw this as his own ministry:

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

This language also comes out of Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Jesus came as to suffer, righteous for unrighteous. It is precisely because he had no guilt of his own to pay for that in his suffering he could carry our guilt and bear the punishment that we deserved. And it is because he was the infinite God-man that the value of his substitution was infinite. The concept of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus is inescapable. Jesus took my place. Paul says it this way:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is the great exchange. I am a sinner. He was perfectly righteous. He suffered as a sinner in my place. I enjoy the benefits of his righteousness in the presence of God. He takes my sin and gives me his righteousness!

Christ suffered ‘that he might bring us to God’. Now we come to the ultimate purpose of the suffering of Christ. We often look at the good news as a way to escape the fires of Hell. But he does not tell us that Christ suffered so that we can escape Hell. We think of the gospel as the way to get to Heaven when we die. But he doesn’t say Christ suffered to bring us to Heaven. We are told that Christ suffered ‘that he might bring us to God’. This is the core and the beauty of the gospel message. God is at the center of the good news. The greatest problem with our sin not that it sends us to hell or that it keeps us out of heaven; the greatest problem with our sin is that it causes a separation between us and God.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Sin is lethal because it severs our relationship with God. We cannot know and love and serve the one we were created for. Listen how Paul describes us:

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

‘Brought near by the blood of Christ’; Christ suffered ‘that he might bring us to God’. The Psalmist said:

Psalms 73:28 But for me it is good to be near God;

God is the greatest good and God is our greatest need. We were created for relationship with God. This is the definition of eternal life that Jesus gives:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Do you want to avoid hell? Demons want to avoid hell. Do you want to go to heaven? Self-centered hedonists and pleasure seekers want to go to heaven. Do you long for God? Saints want to be with God.

Psalms 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

What a beautiful picture of Jesus:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

1 Peter 2:25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The Shepherd of my soul, bringing me back to God to find the green pastures and still waters of intimacy with him, he restores my soul.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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April 26, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:13-17; Suffering the Pathway to Blessing

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090419_1peter_3_13-17.mp3

04/19 1 Peter 3:13-17 Suffering the Pathway to Blessing

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Last time we were in Peter we saw him quote Psalm 34 and encourage us in our pursuit of life and joy to pursue the favor of God by righteous living. The abundant life that Jesus promised is a life lived in relationship with God; within the parameters of God’s rules. We want the eyes of the Lord to be on us and his ears open to our prayers. We don’t want his face to be against us. But the standards are high. We are to control our tongues – something James tells us is humanly impossible. We are not merely to avoid evil, but to actively do what is good, to seek peace and vehemently pursue it. This kind of righteousness is clearly beyond our grasp, and Peter is well aware of this. He has highlighted the fact that we were chosen by God ‘to be a people for his own possession, that we might proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (2:9). It is only possible because we have become recipients of God’s mercy. It was ‘according to his great mercy he caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1:3). When we live this way, we demonstrate that it is God’s resurrection power at work in our lives and not our own strength, so that the glory and praise goes to God and not to us.

2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Peter in these next verses addresses the issue of when Christians suffer for doing what is right. He tells us that ultimately, no lasting harm can come to someone who is living in the favor of God. Any suffering we do experience in this life is merely a pathway to blessing. Practically speaking, there are things we are not to do and other things we are to do when these circumstances come. Negatively, we are not to fear or be troubled. Positively, we are to set apart the Lord Jesus in our hearts. We are to be prepared to give reason for the hope that is in us, living in the fear of God with such integrity that those who slander us will be ashamed.

Peter starts with a rhetorical question: who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? In 2:14 Peter has pointed to good government that is sent by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. If we do what is good, we should have nothing to fear. Here we are described as ‘zealous for what is good’. Titus 2:14 tells us that he redeemed us…

Titus 2:14 …to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

More than avoiding evil, more than grudgingly doing what we know we ought, we are to be passionate and fervent for what is good. There is to be an intensity that characterizes our pursuit of good. We should have a burning desire to do what is right. In our relationship to our government, in our relation with our employer, in our relationship with our spouse, in our relationship with one another, we are to be zealous for good. How do you zealously pay your taxes and enthusiastically obey the speed limit? How do you zealously submit to a stupid boss? This is where an understanding of the bigger picture is essential. You don’t submit to your boss for the sake of your boss or the company. You don’t obey the government for the sake of the government or the country. We submit to and obey every human institution so that the reputation of God in our community is seen to be excellent and praiseworthy. We can be fervent and passionate about putting the glory of God on display through our relationships with those around us. If that is our goal, no-one can frustrate it. Yes, there may be those that seek to destroy what we are doing, but if we are truly seeking God’s glory and not our own, by God’s grace we can maintain a positive attitude in spite of whatever men do to thwart us. In fact, opposition provides a platform on which to elevate God’s glory even more. It is not surprising to find someone working hard and doing a good job when their boss is treating them well and acknowledging their hard work. But if someone continues to work diligently and cheerfully in order to make their abusive egotistic ungrateful boss look good, that is nothing short of supernatural.

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.

Suffering for doing what is right is not the norm. Good government does not punish good citizens. But, if you believe in absolute truth and Jesus as the only way to God, you may be seen as subversive and a threat to society. In fact, if you are really zealous for what is good, you might feel hostility from those who are apathetic toward justice. Your fervent passion for righteousness is intimidating to those who are excelling at mediocrity. The world does not hate benevolence in itself, but when good is done in the name of Christ, it arouses vehement anger. The bible is clear that in the world we will have difficulty.

But as Jesus said: Matt. 5:6,8,11-12

Matthew 5: 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. … 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. … 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Peter has used two different words for blessing; in 1:3 the focus was on God as the source of blessing, the word here concentrates on the happy result. This is not merely a good feeling, but a deep sense of joy when one looks on life from the perspective of God. Indeed, the present suffering is not a sign of punishment, but of God’s favor both now and in the future.

First, Peter gives us what we are not to do in response to suffering for doing good; ‘have no fear of them, nor be troubled’. Literally, this phrase is ‘do not fear the fear of them’. Jesus taught us:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Peter has been very clear that we are to fear God alone. We may be inclined to fear those that threaten us, but we are to consciously calculate the impact of their threats and their ability to carry it out and compare it to God. Then we can exclaim ‘I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ (Heb.13:6). ‘Neither be troubled’ – we are not to be upset, agitated, disturbed or shaken. This refers specifically to emotional turmoil. He has already instructed wives in 3:6 to ‘do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.’

Verse 15 gives the positive; what we are to do instead. This is the main thought of the verse: ‘in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy’. Peter is quoting from Isaiah 8:12-13

Isaiah 8:11 “For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.

He has already referenced this passage in 2:8 in reference to Christ as the stone of stumbling. Here again, he makes explicit his belief in Jesus as the YHWH of the Old Testament. ‘The LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy’; Peter adapts to read ‘in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy’. Jesus is the YHWH of the Old Testament. Jesus is to be sanctified, set apart, regarded as holy. This is the same word we find in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name” or “may your name be treated as holy or reverenced”. Jesus is the Holy One of Israel. Jesus is the sovereign Lord, the one who reigns supreme over all creation. That is the objective fact. Jesus is Lord. The question we are to ask is ‘have we acknowledged him as such?’ Have we bowed the knee to his sovereign demands? Is Jesus our fear and our dread, or are those who threaten us? Who causes us to tremble? In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Jesus is King. Do we own him as our only absolute authority? Have we bowed our hearts to him? Specifically in suffering, do we surrender to him as ultimately in control of our painful circumstances? Do we really believe that it is Jesus, and not our enemies, who is truly in control of our circumstances? And do we believe that he is holy, doing only what is right and good in bringing these trials to us? In the midst of suffering unjustly, can we bow to his sovereign hand and say:

Job 1:21 … The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Now Peter describes for us what will naturally flow from the authority of Christ in our lives. As we joyfully surrender to a higher authority, the hope in us will be so apparent that it will elicit questions from unbelievers.

15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

Hope is the defining characteristic of the Christian life. Hope is what we were born again into; (1:3) According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope’. Hope is the first command that is given in this letter; (1:13) ‘Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Our hope is fixed firmly in grace and firmly on God (1:21) ‘who through him are believers in God … so that your faith and hope are in God.’ Hope is what the unbelieving world notices. Hope is what we are called to give reason for. The hope of the believer must be so noticeably different from that of the uncertainty and fear of the world around that unbelievers are driven to find out why. What is the reason for the hope that is in you? This question assumes that there are reasonable solid intellectual grounds for the hope of the gospel. The truth of the gospel is objective public truth that can be reasonably defended in the public arena. Christianity is rooted in indisputable objective historical facts centered around the person of Jesus. And we all are to be prepared to give defense of that hope – at any time to any one. Martin Luther put it this way:

“We must here acknowledge that Peter addresses these words to all Christians – clergy and laity, male and female, young and old – of whatever state or condition they may be. Hence it follows that every Christian should know the ground and reason of his faith, and he should be able to maintain and defend it where it is necessary.” (p.158)

And he goes on to discuss this key part of the reformation, to get the scriptures into the hands of every believer. This is not to say that every believer must become an expert in philosophy and apologetics. But every one of us should know what we believe and be able to explain why we believe it – at any time and to any person.

Peter goes on to describe how we are to defend what we believe. This has been widely misunderstood. ‘yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience’; literally, ‘with humility or meekness and fear’. These are primarily Godward attributes. We are to fear God and God alone, so the ‘respect’ is first respect or reverence or fear toward God. Meekness or humility also describes our relation to God. A proper view of the gospel throws out all pride. As Peter has said ‘Once you were not a people; …once you had not received mercy; …but now you are God’s people; … now you have received mercy’ (2:10). There is nothing in us that is better than any unbeliever. The difference – the only difference – is that we are sinners who have been shown mercy. Out of reverence for God and his ultimate authority, out of humility that we were sinners deserving of judgment and are no better than those we speak to – it is out of this humble Godward attitude that we give reason for the hope that is in us. This is the same attitude that Paul promotes his Gentile readers to have toward Jewish unbelievers in Romans 11:

Romans 11:18 do not be arrogant… If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you… 20 They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast though faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe… 30 Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.

Do not become proud but stand in awe. God has shown mercy to you. He may also show mercy to them. Having a good conscience – this is your personal integrity before God. We live under the watchful eye of God in everything we do, so we must confess our sins to him and maintain a clear conscience. Fear of God, humility before God, and nothing to hide must define our tone and attitude when we speak to others on behalf of God.

The purpose of our defense is now given:

16 …so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

This is a different purpose than the one stated in 2:12

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

There the purpose is that the unbelievers would turn and give glory to God. And it is different from the purpose of the wife in submitting to her unbelieving husband in 3:1

…so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…

There again the purpose is the conversion of the unbeliever. The silent testimony of the wife’s conduct may win the unbelieving husband to Christ. But here the purpose is different. The conversion of the unbeliever is not the only possible outcome. There are some that will persist in unbelief right up to the day of judgment. They will be put to shame by God himself and forced to admit the goodness of your behavior as a testimony against them. Notice, they are reviling ‘your good behavior in Christ’. Any behavior that is truly good is done ‘in Christ’ – by his power and through his Spirit. There is no good behavior that is truly good outside of Christ. That is why the ‘good deeds’ of unbelievers are considered ‘filthy rags’ in God’s sight:

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Peter concludes ‘For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.’ There is a blessing attached to suffering for your good behavior in Christ. The promised presence of God both now and forever is yours if you are in Christ. However, there is suffering for doing evil. Peter has already addressed the possibility of Christians suffering because they have violated laws in his instructions to slaves in 2:18-20

20 For what credit is it if, when your sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

But he is saying more than that here. It is better to suffer now at the hands of persecutors for doing good and enjoy eternal fellowship with God than it is to suffer at God’s hand on the day of judgment for doing evil. It is better to suffer for doing good because that is a powerful witness to unbelievers, bringing them to faith in Jesus, or to shame in the presence of God on that day.

‘It is better… if that should be God’s will…’ Literally ‘if the will of God should will it’. God’s will is supreme, even in suffering. Any suffering that comes to a believer was filtered through the loving hand of God, and it is ultimately for my good.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

We can take great comfort in this, that our suffering is designed by the affectionate hand of our creator to do us good. There is no random occurrence in the universe. There is purpose. There is order. God is ruling in this world. Even Satan must obey his command and can go no further than God allows. God has given you new birth to a living hope, he is keeping your inheritance in heaven for you, and by his power he is guarding you for it. Necessary trials prove the tested genuineness of your faith so that it will result in praise and glory and honor and joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1:3,5,6-8)

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 19, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20090412 John 11; I AM The Resurrection

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090412_resurrection_john11.mp3

4/12/2009 Resurrection Sunday

I am the resurrection and the life

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ [Jn.11:25]. I’d like to look at the context of that statement and see what we can learn about Jesus and his resurrection.

John 11

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. [cf. Matt.26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Jn.12:1-8; not Luke 7:37-39, 44-48] 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Notice that this man’s illness was for a purpose. Although Jesus knew that the illness would lead to death, that was not the ultimate purpose for the illness. God had in mind something much bigger. We don’t always see God’s purpose in our circumstances, but we can be sure that he is in control and he is good. ‘It is for the glory of God’. The ultimate purpose for this man’s illness that would lead to his death was to provide an opportunity for the Son of God to be glorified.

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

This is not at all what we would expect. Jesus loved these people. They were close friends. He cared deeply for them. But instead of rushing to be a help and comfort, he intentionally delayed two days. We are not told if there was any pressing business in Perea that prevented him from coming immediately – and it is irrelevant. He gives no excuse. He was subject not to the wishes of his friends or the urgency of the situation or even his own emotional attachment, but only to the will of his Father.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

Bethany was dangerously close to Jerusalem – about 2 miles away. It was just the last chapter that Jesus claimed “I and the Father are one” [10:30], and the Jews accused him of blasphemy “because you, being a man, make yourself God” [10:33]. It says “Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands” [10:39]. Now after having so narrowly escaped, his disciples are concerned that he is walking back into danger.

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus referred to death as sleep, and his mission to awaken from sleep. Bethany was about a day’s journey from Perea, and Jesus knew that Lazarus had died shortly after the messengers had been sent to reach him. They took a day to arrive, Jesus delayed two days, and it took a fourth day for Jesus to travel to Bethany, so that when he arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Although he loved Lazarus and his sisters, and would want to spare them grief, Jesus, who would weep at the grave of his friend, says “I am glad that I was not there”. He could have spared his friends some grief. He could have healed from a distance, as he had done on other occasions, but he had a higher purpose in mind. It was for the sake of the disciples – that you may believe.

16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thomas was grim and pessimistic, but devoted. And he was right. He knew what lay ahead, and yet he was determined to die with Jesus rather than to live without him

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha expressed her confidence in Jesus. When they had sent the message they had not said ‘come at once’ or ‘we need you to heal our brother’. Their message was simply ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill’. They acknowledged him as Lord – as master, the one in control. They recognized his loving care – he whom you love’. And they gave him the facts, and left it to his discretion to do what was best – he is ill. Martha here expresses her confidence in Jesus’ power over sickness and even death. You could have prevented his death, for God always gives you whatever you ask. Jesus pointed her to the resurrection. Martha assumed that Jesus was giving comfort by stating the fact – your brother will rise again. Martha knew her theology. There is a coming resurrection. One day, all who have died will be brought to life again. Scriptures like:

Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Ezekiel 37:12-14 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

But look what Jesus says to her:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life…”

This is one of the great ‘I AM’ statements of the gospels. Jesus takes up the words he spoke to Moses from the burning bush. He is the great I AM of the Old Testament. Martha is thinking of a far-distant future eschatalogical resurrection, and Jesus, standing in front of her says “I am the resurrection”. Resurrection is standing in front of you. I am the life. The living one is here.

“…by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” [Colossians 1:16-17];

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” [Hebrews 1:3].

This Jesus, “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life…” [John 1:2-4].

The life giving omnipotent creator was standing in front of this grieving woman, and he is seeking to turn her attention to who he is.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Death is not the issue. If you are trusting in Jesus, your life is such that it will continue even beyond the grave. ‘The moment a man puts his trust in Jesus he begins to experience that life of the age to come which cannot be touched by death’ [Morris, NICNT p.550]. Jesus concludes with a challenge: Do you believe this? Jesus is not arguing philosophical possibilities. This is a saving truth to be embraced and acted upon.

27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha’s answer is incredible. She is moving beyond belief in an idea and embracing the identity of this person who was speaking to her. You are the promised Jewish Messiah King. You are the divine Son of God. You are the God-man who entered history.

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Notice how Jesus connects the glory of God with eternal life. He says ‘did I not tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?’ What he had said was “whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he life, and everyone who lives and believes in me hall never die.” Here he summarizes this concept of life as seeing the glory of God. This corresponds with Jesus’ definition of eternal life in

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus is the life. Jesus can speak to a deceased decaying corpse and command it to come out of the grave, and it has no choice but to obey. Jesus is the life giver, the one who has life in himself.

Jesus likens his death and resurrection to a grain of wheat. His death and resurrection is the means for him to bear much fruit, and thus to be glorified.

John 12:23-24 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Did you ever notice how central the glory of God is in the bible?

John 13:31-32 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.

Let’s look into how Jesus is glorified in the resurrection. Jump back to chapter 10. In verses 10-11, Jesus claims to be the good shepherd, and he defines the good shepherd as the one who gives abundant life to his sheep.

John 10:10-11 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

There and in verse 15, he defines the good shepherd as the one who lays down his life for the sheep:

John 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Verses 17-18 are staggering:

John 10:17-18 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus has authority over his own life. He has the authority to lay down his life, and he has the authority to take it up again. My wife has worked in hospice caring for patients as they die. Some go unexpectedly quickly; others drag on and on. The person has no power over their death. It can be hours, it can drag on for months. Only God controls death.

Job 14:5 Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,

Psalms 39:4-5 “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

Jesus had authority over his own life and death. This is what Jesus told Pilate in John 19:

John 19:10-11 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above….

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

But even more stunning is his statement that he has the power to take up his life again.

John 10:17-18 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

A dead person cannot even close his own eyes. You can’t administer CPR to yourself. But Jesus said he had the power to take up his own life.

Look at how awesome Jesus is. Lazarus was sick and he could do nothing to prevent his own death. His sisters were helpless to prevent his death. No one could take Jesus’ life from him. He laid it down of his own will. Lazarus being dead was utterly incapable of doing anything about his situation. It was the word of Jesus that woke him from his sleep and brought him out of the tomb. In fact, Lazarus, after he was brought to life by the power of God, was helpless to escape from his own grave clothes. Jesus instructed those around to set him free. So we, who have been born again to newness of life, must have the continued influence of the Holy Spirit to release us from the ‘sin which clings so closely’ [Heb.12:1].

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Jesus, after taking up his own life again, needed no one to loose him from his grave clothes. When Peter and John came to the tomb, they ‘saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been of Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.’ [Jn.20:6-7]

Jesus instructed the bystanders to take away the stone from the entrance of the grave so that Lazarus could come out. But for Jesus, a one-and-a-half to two ton stone, the official seal of the Roman empire, and the armed Roman guard were no obstacle.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. In his resurrection we see his glory. But there are two responses to the glory of God. Look back to John 11

John 11:45-48, 53 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” … 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

John 12:9-11 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

There are two responses when we see the glory of God on display in the person of Jesus. We cannot say ‘oh, that’s nice’ and walk away. Either we embrace Jesus for all that he is, or we feel threatened by his claim to absolute authority and seek to destroy the evidence.

Where are you?

John 20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 12, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:10-12; The Reward

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090405_1peter_3_10-12.mp3

04/05 1 Peter 3:10-12 The Reward

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Last time we saw that Peter commands us to connect – mind, emotions and will, with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to have unity and humility of mind, sympathy and tender heartendness, and brotherly love. And when we are wronged or spoken against, we are not to respond in kind. Instead, we are to respond by blessing. Jesus said:

Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

And Peter tells us that we were called by God to respond in this way. In return, we will inherit blessing from God. We are going to look today at some big questions: What is the blessing that is promised? What is required to receive it? And should we even pursue a reward?

-Should We Love Our Life?

Psalm 34 is Peter’s favorite Psalm. He has referred to already ‘if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good’ (1Pet.2:3)

Peter rephrases the Psalm: ‘whoever desires to love life and see good days’. Is this a bad thing, a neutral thing, or a good thing? Are we supposed to ‘love life’? Jesus said

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

1John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

And in revelation those that ‘loved not their lives even unto death’ are commended.

Revelation 12:11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

We are clearly not to become too enamored with this life. So how do we ‘love not our lives even unto death’ and ‘not love the world or the things in the world’ and yet ‘desire to love life and see good days’? Isn’t this contradictory? It seems that Peter is not condemning those that ‘desire to love life and see good days’; in fact he is using this scripture to support his statement that ‘you may obtain a blessing’. Is pursuing blessing a legitimate way to live the Christian life? Is it OK to seek the reward? Should we ‘desire to love life and see good days’? Shouldn’t we ‘deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him’? How do these things fit together? We believe that all scripture is breathed out by God and that God does not contradict himself. Let’s look at the Psalm Peter quotes and see if we can find help there.

Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16. This Psalm was written by David when he was running for his life from King Saul. He went to the town of Gath, (remember the giant Goliath of Gath – this is his home town – enemy territory), and he was brought before the king. David perceived that the king saw him as a threat and intended to harm him, so David acted as if he were insane and the king released him [1Sam.21:10-15]. This is a Psalm of praise to God for his deliverance from danger. We’re going to see that David assumes the desire for life and happiness is common to all people, and his instruction points us toward finding fulfillment in God.

Psalm 34:11-16 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

It is a given that it is the common experience of all humanity to desire life and love many days. When we look closer we find nothing in scripture to tell us this is an evil desire. In fact we find just the opposite. Jesus himself said

John 10:10 I came that they might have life and have it abundantly

John 15:9-11 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Jesus wants us to live the abundant life; Jesus wants our joy to be full. He even compares the experience of his disciples with the experience of a woman in childbirth and he says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 24 …Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

John 17:13 …these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

So the joy that Jesus offers is rich and full, permanent, lasting, indestructible. It is a joy that is found in and defined by relationship with God:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Peter has already pointed to this in:

1 Peter 1:8 though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory

Joy is the second thing listed in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22)

In fact, throughout the bible joy is commanded:

1Chronicles 16:10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! (Ps.105:3)

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

1Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always,

So David’s logic, and the logic Peter picks up from Psalm 34 and uses goes like this: You want to live a good life, to enjoy life to the full? Doesn’t everyone? And you should. God created you with that desire. Here’s the only way to find those desires fulfilled: Fear the LORD; be righteous. Life lived within the parameters that God commands will receive his blessing. This is in direct contradiction to the lie of the serpent in the garden – God is withholding good from you – he made rules that prevent your full enjoyment of life. You will find more pleasure if you disobey and live outside God’s will and God’s commands. Both David and Peter are flatly contradicting that lie of Satan and affirming that true joy and lasting fulfillment are found inside obedience to the Lord. Do you want true satisfaction in life? Good! Pursue that satisfaction. Pursue it passionately by living life in the fear of God. Live in righteousness. James tells us that if you don’t stumble in what you say you are perfect (Jam.3:2), so David focuses our attention on avoiding sins of speech. ‘Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.’

-The Requirements

Let’s look at the requirements. Peter has already told us that we are to bless in the face of persecution and mistreatment. Now he goes on:

10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

We start out with sins of the tongue and the lips. This reminds us of the example of Jesus:

1 Peter 2:22-23 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten…

This is truly the most difficult area. Here’s what James says about the tongue:

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Your mouth can cause a lot of irreparable damage. If you would live the joyful life, you must keep a close guard on what you say.

Peter goes on; ‘let him turn away from evil and do good;’. We must turn away from evil. Is evil tempting you, pursuing you, chasing you down? You must turn away. Shun evil. Turn your back on it. Walk away. Run like Joseph ran – leave your coat behind and run. Get out. Get away.

But that is not enough, merely to avoid doing evil. He says we must do good. Do you want to hear a verse that I really don’t like? When I was first introduced to this verse as a young man, I winced. I wished it wasn’t in the bible. I wished I hadn’t heard it. But once you’ve heard it, it’s too late. There’s no going back. Are you ready?

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

I first heard it in the King James:

James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Let that sink in. This is what’s called sins of omission. It’s not enough just to avoid doing what is evil. We must do what is right. When we know the right thing to do and we do nothing, God calls that sin! Neglect is sin! Failure to do good is sin! This is weighty. But Peter goes on: ‘let him seek peace and pursue it’. We are to actively and aggressively pursue peace. We are to go after peace with all our might.

The author of Hebrews puts it this way:

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

-The promise of Blessing

Now let’s look at the promised reward. If we live this way, what do we have to look forward to? Peter has already referenced Psalm 34 in 2:3:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.’

Peter picks up on the Psalm’s promise of blessing and reward for righteous living. There is direct correlation between obedience and blessing. Blessing comes to those who live inside God’s commands. You live inside the joyful abundant life when you bless those who persecute you. You find true joy when you return blessing for insult. You find satisfaction when you restrain your tongue, turn from evil, do good and pursue peace.

We need to clarify something here. Does this mean that if you live this way, that everything will go well for you? Psalm 34 says ‘those who fear him have no lack .. those who seek the LORD lack no good thing’. Is this a promise from God that a Christian will never go hungry? Does this mean that a believer will never suffer from physical needs? Maybe I can claim this promise and say that since ‘those who seek the LORD lack no good thing’ and a Hummer would be a good thing for me to drive, if I seek the Lord he will give me my Hummer. This would be an abuse and misinterpretation of these verses. In fact, if we claim that this is a guarantee from God that we will have adequate food and clothing, we would be misreading it, putting our own spin on it. God certainly provides for his people in miraculous ways. He has also allowed some of his followers to starve or to be killed. Does that mean he was unfaithful to his promise? What we must do to rightly understand these verses is ask the question ‘what does ‘good’ mean? How does God define ‘good’? I think that food on the table and a roof over my head and a Hummer or two in the driveway is ‘good’. But is that the definition that God has in mind? We must either accuse God of lying, or find a definition of ‘good’ that includes both the plenty that we enjoy and the starvation of our brothers and sisters in Kenya and North Korea. We need to understand ‘good’ to include my health and our fellow believers who are suffering the ravages of disease. ‘Good’ must be understood to include both the circumstance where an angel led Peter out of prison and miraculously delivered him and when Caesar Nero had him crucified upside down.

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

How do we fit this all together? Let’s look at another passage that describes in more detail how God defines good:

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Just what is the good that all things are bringing about? It is the love of Christ:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice, Christians were experiencing tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword; he even describes them as ‘being killed all the day long’. This is part of the ‘all things’ that are working together for our good. It is not apart from all these things, but ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors’. Why? Because even in the midst of these circumstances, the love of God in Christ Jesus holds us firm and will not let us go.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Look over at how the apostles describe their own condition:

2Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. …16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

There it is. The outer nature and the inner nature. The outer nature is wasting away. The inner nature is being renewed. The afflictions we suffer are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. We look to the unseen permanent reality. God will not withhold anything that is good; anything that is necessary to prepare our souls for glory. The medicine may taste bitter. The shot is painful. But the great physician tells us ‘this is for your own good’. This is preparing you for a good that is beyond your wildest imagination.

Look back at Peter so that we can see this in what he says there:

12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Blessing, good, the abundant life consists in life lived in the presence of God. God can’t take his eyes off you; He is listening intently to you. God cares for you more than you care for yourself. To have the favor of God on your life is the richest blessing imaginable. And it was made possible only by the finished work of Jesus. The righteousness I have is not my own. It is a gift given to me. I was an evil doer, and God’s face was against me. But in Jesus I am freed of my guilt, clothed in his righteousness, and can now delight in the favor of God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 5, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment