Monday, March 31, 2014

Keep On

1 Peter 4:12-19

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

This seems to me one of the biggest things the Southern American church struggles with and part of the reason that the modern "health and wealth" teaching is so very flawed. We are afraid of the cost of discipleship and would rather be "safe". How much joy do we miss out on for being safe? Rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ. The few small whispers of moments where I have participated in that suffering gave me understanding and perspective on life that I would never choose to give up. But somehow when faced with these decisions again I shy away from them. I, too, prefer my comfort.  

The passage goes on to talk about judgement. God usually begins by judging his own people. But if we need correction, how much more those who are on the path to Hell? What will they end up facing in the end? Won't it be much worse? Our troubles will be over soon. We get to entrust our souls to the one who made us. It ties back into verse 12--the "fiery trial" for us is often here on earth. The "fiery trial" for those that are lost will be in eternal fire. It's both depressing and a comfort.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What to do when the end of all things is near...

1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The end of all things is near. This statement is assumed, stated as fact. This is the premise on which he bases the statement after saying "therefore".  Some think this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, others the increasing persecution, whatever the case, the instructions are clear. Be alert and sober minded so that you can pray. I am reminded of the disciples falling asleep in the garden. For them the end of all things was near. They were asked to keep watch, be alert, and pray. But they could not. So often I turn to things that numb my mind instead of staying alert. This is foolishness and disobedience. 

Above all, love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love covers. God's love has covered our sin, not in some willful blindness but with grace and his blood. Love invites people over and serves them (hospitality) without grumbling, without complaining about how you have to clean your house, without bringing up grudges. Love serves dinner to and washes the feet of the man who will betray you. 

It logically follows that we are to use our gifts to serve others. I've been reading Richard Fosters "Celebration of Discipline" again. I'm not sure I've ever really finished it; I find myself re-reading sections over and over. Service is one of them. God has been good to me. I have many gifts. And I know the consequences of pouring them out on others. Sometimes they are received with joy; other times they are thrown back in your face. But you cannot fill yourself up again either way. But the truth of it is here. These things we have are gifts. I didn't give them to myself, they are not an outpouring of myself. Rather they are what I've been given by God, his outpouring into me is my pleasure and joy to be able to pour out to others. In imitation of Christ who didn't hoard his great wealth in himself in heaven, but came to earth to pour himself out, to pull out a towel and wash his disciples' feet, even those of Judas. Thus our words, our service, is God's. The strength to continue in it is his also. And in the end, the glory is his as well. It is my prayer that both I and you will be filled with God's strength to do his will, to use his gifts as faithful stewards in the service of others. 

What did Jesus do when the end of all things was near? He was alert and praying. He was loving even his betrayer. He was hospitable and serving.  

"Voluntary servitude is a great joy." -Richard Foster

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


1 Peter 4:1-6
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
Sometimes various pastors I know talk about going through Scripture so that you can't escape dealing with portions that are difficult. It sounds nice when they say it, sort of like you know they can't get away with a lot of nonsense. When it comes around to yourself, though, things are a little more difficult. Verse one of chapter four makes no sense to me. I don't understand how Christ's suffering in the flesh is a way of thinking or living in the flesh having ceased from sin. I know there are people who believe in some sort of instantaneous sanctification that happens after we're saved, but I haven't found that view supported throughout Scripture or even in the lives of people who profess that view. It could be interpreted in the same way as the other verses about "living in sin" and that makes sense although I haven't looked up the Greek. Maybe I should. Ok.  "Has made an end to fault or failure." No progressives or such in the grammar, but translation is a tricky work and my Greek isn't nearly good enough to be authoritative. I'm going to let this sit and keep going to see if context helps.

Whatever the previous verses mean, it is clear that we are to behave differently. The past carries all sorts of sin, but for now we are not to join in with them. This reminds me of some of my friends in the Special Forces. Drinking parties were the norm. When we didn't join in, they moderated their own drinking, but they thought we were weird. They didn't malign us, though. We all must give an account. 

And then another odd verse. The gospel was preached to the dead. Jesus did it in those three days he was dead. That they too might live in the spirit. That always seems to be such a victorious part of the story. All those who died before Christ who believed in his coming got to be rescued! 

Back to the beginning. We are not to continue to live in sin, certainly. But what more does this mean? That after we die (is that the suffering mentioned?) we get to cease from sin? Or that through Christ's death an end to sin has been made? Is it that through Christ's suffering and death we are set free from sin and given the Holy Spirit (God's will) to live by? Perhaps. Perhaps there is more that I'll discover in another ten years. That's the cool thing about Scripture. There's always more to learn.