Peter and Jude, Part 3

How can you tell if somebody is a “follower of Jesus Christ?” Is it because they and other people call them a “Christian?” Is it because they go to church? Is it because they wear a cross? How can you tell? Peter tells us:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 | NIV84)

That’s it. A “follower of Jesus Christ” is one who follows in Christ’s steps; He learns from Christ’s example and then lives accordingly. By necessity that means following Christ will change a person’s life. For some, the changes will be drastic, and for others not so much, but every follower of Christ lives a changed life.

That’s the basis of this quick study. Let’s take a look at what kind of changes take place in a person’s life when they make the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Living blamelessly

Throughout 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote about the practical implications of one’s salvation, demonstrating that a believer’s new relationship with Christ would impact his existing relationships with the government, his employer, and his family. Being a Christian should make a person a better citizen, a better employee, and a better family member. In chapter three, Peter continues this line of thought by giving similar exhortations of a more general type. In all, Peter writes about five things a Christian should have going on in their lives.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8 | NIV84)

First, in verse 8, there’s this:

live in harmony with one another…

Christians are to “live in harmony with one another.” That sounds so easy, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s hard to get along with certain people. Disagreements easily arise when two people talk together for just a few minutes. What does Peter have in mind here? Simply put, the character of a believer is determined and revealed by the things that are foremost in his mind. As far as Jesus was concerned, His followers should be united in a common goal and common interests. That doesn’t mean that Christians should always agree with each other on every single issue in life. But it does mean that as followers of Jesus Christ, our minds should be controlled by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Paul had a similar thought when he wrote to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5 | NIV84)

All believers should hold the same attitudes about things as did Jesus. Other translations refer to this as “having the mind of Christ.” His mind – His attitudes – serve as examples for us to follow. Essentially, that means that we need to adopt a Biblical worldview; a worldview that frequently, though not always, runs contrary to a secular worldview. In order to accomplish this, believers need to know the Word of God and need to follow Christ’s example.

Second, believers are to be sympathetic, also in verse 8. This means that Christians should have an active compassion for each other. In fact, the Greek word really means “suffering together.” That means Christians ought not to be selfish. What affects one believer should affect all believers.

Third, still in verse 8, Christians should love as brothers. It’s not that we form a brotherhood when we confess Christ, it’s that we become members of one big family: The family of God. Think about how you get along with your mom and dad, or your siblings. Surely you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Surely you have your disagreements. But in the end, you would probably give your life if it meant saving a member of your family. That’s the idea Peter is trying to get across using the phrase, “love as brothers.”

Fourth, believers need to be compassionate. The Greek word carries with it the idea of being “kindhearted,” to be “sensitive to the needs” of other believers. Christians should never be afraid to show genuine affection to each other.

Fifth, followers of Jesus should be humble. This kind of humility has to do with being humble in spirit – it’s the same kind of humility that characterized Jesus. Humility is a big thing in the Bible, where it paints a humble person as one who sees himself as weak or dependent upon God, one who is a finite being whose existence depends on the God he serves.

Those simple characteristics should be obvious in every believer’s life. Next, Peter tells his readers how to manifest them.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9 | NIV84)

That, of course, is exactly opposite to our natural response: We strike when stuck. But because our lives have been changed, we won’t do that. To retaliate is not the Biblical answer. Jesus taught:

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44 | NIV84)

When Peter wrote that we should “bless” those who hurt us, the Greek word he used suggests that we speak well of those speaking evil of us. In other words, we treat them opposite to the way they treat us.

He then quotes from Psalm 34, which gives the believer certain guidelines to follow if he wants to live a life full of meaning and purpose.

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10 – 12 | NIV84)

In all, there are three things a believer must do. First, he must keep his tongue from evil and lips from deceitful speech. If you want to live a good life and love the life you’re living, never say words calculated to hurt another; never say anything tainted with falsehood. If you do, in the end you will regret it.

Second, believers must turn from evil and do good. There’s more going on in those six words than meets the eye. Doing evil takes planning; most of the time we don’t accidentally do wrong. Therefore, if you want to live a worthwhile life, instead of planning ways to sin, plan ways to do good things.

Last, we must seek peace and pursue it. This doesn’t mean Christians are to be passively sitting around letting fascists steamroll over them. What it does mean is this: We will live disciplined lives; we won’t say things that tear people down; we don’t repay evil with evil; we don’t run around insulting people we don’t like. Instead, we will be peacemakers; we will find peaceful solutions to arguments or disagreements.

Peter uses the rest of Psalm 34 as a reason to live this way. First, God is well aware of everything going on in our lives. Everything. Because of that, He is attentive to our prayers and ready to help us. But second, God is steadfastly against all who do evil. He will deal with evildoers in His own way and it won’t be pleasant. That’s reason enough to abstain from retaliating in kind!

Suffering is no problem

Then Peter askes a rhetorical question:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (1 Peter 3:13 | NIV84)

The cynic in me cries out, “Anybody!” And I’d be right. Plenty of do-gooders have been harmed or killed over the centuries since Peter wrote verse 13. Look at all the missionaries who became martyrs! But it’s verse 14 that’s important:

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14 | NIV84)

It’s important but paradoxical. If you are suffering because of your faith, you should consider yourself “blessed?” Really? Peter is not suggesting you should be thrilled with the prospect of losing your job because of your faith or with being lied about because somebody wants to cause your problems on account of your faith. The idea here is “privilege.” Jesus suffered because of who He was and what He believed, so if the same thing is happening to you, you’re doing something right. Something Paul wrote to the Romans makes this idea of suffering a bit more palatable:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 | NIV84)

Then there’s this bit over in 2 Thessalonians 1 –

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. (2 Thessalonians 1:4 – 7a | NIV84)

The unpleasantness a Christian goes through because he is a Christian prepares him for what lies ahead. God, as any good parent would do, allows His children to pass through difficult times to teach them discipline; to toughen them up. Neither Peter nor Paul has in mind suffering because of misdeeds, but suffering for living right.

Keep in mind that Peter wrote to suffering Christians. Suffering for doing wrong is easy to wrap our minds around, but not so suffering for doing good! It’s a challenge to accept the very notion. It’s funny that this Biblical teaching on suffering has been in the Bible for 2000 years yet even the most seasoned saint seems surprised by it to the point that they try to avoid this kind of suffering!

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17 | NIV84)

It may well be that suffering for doing good is God’s will. Doing good, by the way, is rarely an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. When suffering touches our lives, God uses it for good:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, a who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 | NIV84)

That kind of insight is usually only seen in hindsight. That’s why it’s helpful to know the Bible. Joseph, in hindsight, realized the truthfulness of what Peter and Paul taught. Here was a young man who had risen to the heights of Egyptian politics and was used by God to rescue his entire family from drought and starvation. But all that was possible only because of what his nasty brothers did to him.

You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20 | NIV84)

This is God’s amazing grace in action. When we choose to serve Christ and devote our lives to living for God with Christ as our example, the Lord promises to use everything for our benefit.

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