The Word, The Gospel, & Preaching

“And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:25).

The Apostle Peter was concerned with three primary things, according to I Peter 1:25, for the believers to whom He was writing. So should the church today. These three things were the Word, the good news of the gospel, and preaching.

The Word is the Greek word ῥῆμα, rhema, which is a particular portion or unit of Scripture. Peter was adamant that the source of our preaching/teaching must be a portion taken from the Bible. In the context, the word which literally belongs to and comes from the Lord, which refers us to Isaiah 40.

The particular portion, or topic, to which the apostle was concerned was the good news of the gospel. The phrase “good news” (εὐαγγελίζω; euangelizo) is the good news that God exists, sin exists, One Savior exists and salvation exists by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

This good news is to be preached. Inherent in the word euangelizo, or good news, is that this gospel is to be announced. Its message is not to be changed or altered in anyway and is to be communicated with our entire being. This is the message for which Peter, and the Apostle Paul, among many others were martyred. It is the treasure for which God has entrusted to our care (2 Corinthians 4).

May these three primary components of the early church be found in our churches, beloved. It anything else becomes the reason for which we do ministry, we have lost the biblical vision from God.

Soli deo Gloria!

Remaining Forever

24 “for all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (I Peter 1:24-25).

The truth Peter shares is not solely from his inspired mind. The apostle in vs. 24-25 echoes what the Prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 40:6-8.

Perhaps this epiphany occurs at different times for different people, but as I entered  my sixth decade on this planet I realized that the time I have yet to live on earth is less than that what I have already lived. Sobering thought. The lyrics from the Broadway Musical Fiddler on the Roof rush to the forefront of my mind: “Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years.”

The Prophet Isaiah heralds the message from God that all flesh or life, may be compared to the grass or flowers of the field. No matter how hearty or beautiful they are, they both wither and die. So it is with people; no matter who they are.

The turning point to this humbling, stop me in my tracks, realization is that there remains on this earth one certainty. That certainty is that “the word of the Lord remains forever.” Every promise God has made, every truth He has revealed will never falter or fail. They will endure because God endures, and because God endures, all those who are in Christ will also live for eternity with Christ.

This life here on earth will soon come to an end for all of us. The only question is where, when and how. But for those in Christ, the conclusion of life here on earth translates to the commencement of life forever in heaven. This is what God has promised and His word stands forever.

May this cause each of us to live today with eternity in view.

Soli deo Gloria!

Born Again Through the Living Word

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”(I Peter 1:22-23).

Holy living requires a heart which desires purity. Psalm 119:9 says, ““How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.” You cannot have one without the other. It is cause and effect. Obedience to God and His Word results in purity and holiness of soul and body. This is to be a daily discipline.

The reason for this discipline Peter speaks of in vs. 22 is because God has regenerated our souls, vs. 23. We have been born again (John 3:1-8). God has given us a new birth through the preaching of the gospel (John 1:12-13). The cause for any real change in our lives is because God has given us a spiritual re-birth.

This is not a mortal or physical birth which eventually results in physical death. Rather, this is a spiritual birth which is imperishable (ἄφθαρτος; aphthartos) or immortal. It will never die.

Lest there any confusion as to how this new birth occurs, Peter makes sure we understand that our new birth is only by or through the living and abiding word of God. God’s Word, or truth, is actively alive and eternal (Hebrews 4:12). The Apostle Paul declared that faith in Christ came by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Our entrance into the kingdom of God is solely a work of God. Our obedience once we are a member of the kingdom is a cooperative work between us and God. In either situation, God receives all the glory (Galatians 6:14; I Corinthians 10:31-33).

Soli deo Gloria!

Obedience

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”(I Peter 1:22-23).

Holy living requires a heart which desires purity. Psalm 119:9 says, ““How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.” You cannot have one without the other. It is cause and effect. Obedience to God and His Word results in purity and holiness of soul and body. This is to be a daily discipline.

One pastor writes, “As trials refine faith, so obedience to God’s Word refines character. One who has purified himself by living according to God’s Word has discovered the joy of obedience.”

Obedience (ὑπακοή; hypakoe) is paying attention to the truth. God’s Word (John 17:17). Much like guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23-27), holy living by obedience to God is our responsibility. Thankfully we are assisted by the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13). It is a cooperative effort, but we must not be slack or uncommitted to our responsibility.

Commitment to obedience results in brotherly love (φιλαδελφία; philadephia) or an affection for a fellow believer. Sincere (ἀνυπόκριτος; anypokritos) means that our love is to be genuine. This means a lack of pretense or show. God calls us to love one another sincerely and to not pretend to do so. We are also to love earnestly (ἐκτενῶς; ektenos). This means eagerly and continuously.

Unfortunately, Christians hurt Christians. It happens. Perhaps, it even happens a lot. However, while we may not have any control over other Christians hurting us, we certainly have control of whether or not we hurt other Christians. If we want to be pure, we begin by being obedient to God’s Word which results in holy behavior.

Let’s begin today!

Soli deo Gloria!

Faith & Hope in God

20 “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (I Peter 1:20-21).

In today’s world, all roads lead to God. Religious pluralism says that all religions are equally valid and therefore true. The prevailing worldly wisdom is that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you have a faith which is sincere. However, the Bible teaches otherwise.

The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Salvation is exclusively through the person and work of Christ. His person refers to His eternal existence as God (John 1:1-3), and His virgin birth (Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25). His work focuses on His sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), His substitutionary death on the cross (I John 4:7-11; Romans 5:1-10), and His resurrection from the dead (I Corinthians 15). Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5).

It is through Christ that we see the Father (John 1:18; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 6:46; 14:9). It is through Christ alone that we trust, depend, are committed to, and worship God the Father. It is God the Father who Peter says raised Jesus from the dead as did the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:1-6).

As one pastor has written, “It is through Christ, whom the Father resurrected (cf. v. 3) and glorified in His Ascension (John 17:5; Heb. 1:3) that people may come to know and trust in God. As a result of God’s eternal plan and priceless payment for sin, faith and hope can be placed in Him.”

There are but two religions in the world. First is the religion of human achievement and there are many religious systems which are under this category. The second is the religion of divine accomplishment and this solely focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ who reconciles sinners unto God.

Where is your faith? Is it in what you can accomplish, or rather what Jesus Christ alone has already accomplished?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Motivation of Gratitude

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (I Peter 1:17-19).

What should be the predominant reason we serve the Lord during our time here on earth? For many, it is because they are convinced that if they don’t, they will lose their salvation. They become entrapped on a performance treadmill that is spiritually and physical exhausting with no hope in sight that one has done enough.

Biblically, our motivation to serve the Lord should be one of gratitude. Our gratefulness originates from the understanding that God purchased, redeemed and set us free from our empty and useless life we inherited from those who lived before us.

How did God do this? Peter reminds us that it was not with what the world considers valuable. The most precious metals in the world, silver and gold, could never hope to buy what God possesses. As valuable as gold and silver is, it ultimately perishes (I Peter 1:7). Our human wealth and sincere works can never enable sinners to acquire the gift of salvation.

Our redemption was accomplished through the costly and highly valuable sacrificial and substitutionary death for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. Peter compares Jesus to the Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7; Exodus 12:3; Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29). As God redeemed Israel from their bondage in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb, so too does God redeem sinners by the precious blood, or violent death, of the sinless Lamb who is Jesus Christ.

As hymn writer Twila Paris wrote:

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God.
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Let us all live and honor the Lamb of God today. He is truly worthy.

Soli deo Gloria!

God is Holy

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (I Peter 1:17).

God is holy (Isaiah 6:1-7; Leviticus 11:44; I Peter 1:16). This means that He is absolutely different or apart from His creation and that He is absolutely pure. As Dr. R.C Sproul comments, “The saints of Scripture were called saints not because they were already pure but because they were people who were set apart and called to purity.”

While it is true that God is our heavenly Father (I John 1:12-13) and that He has adopted us as His children (2 Corinthians 6:18; Psalm 68:5-6; Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 8:14-17), believers will still be judged and rewarded for their good works before God (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:12-15). Augustine called this “God crowning His own gifts.”

Therefore, we conduct ourselves while we live on this earth in fear. We must still approach God with humble reverence (Psalm 34:11). We must not approach Him in worship, in prayer, or in service with a flippant or casual attitude of indifference. We serve Him, and not the other way around.

Recalling I Peter 1:1, Peter once again refers to the believer’s time here on earth as one of exile. Our status in this fallen world is that of aliens, strangers and pilgrims. We do not seek to be like the world, but rather to be distinct from it, as befitting our status as belonging to God’s kingdom. To his first century audience, this took on not only a spiritual meaning, but also a physical one. It may also for many today.

Man’s chief end, according to the Westminster Catechism, is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. May we do so today!

Soli deo Gloria!

Holy

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16).

As we noted in our previous devotional, one of the most basic disciplines in the Christian life is to not be conformed to the world’s desires which stem from a disobedient spirit towards God. The Apostle John described these desires as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (I John 2:15-16). The Apostle Paul also encouraged believers to not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:1-2).

Along with what we are called to not do, God also reveals to us through Peter what we are to do. God commands each believer in Christ to be holy. The holiness of God is His most important attribute (Isaiah 6). It stands to reason that the Christian should be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7).

What does it mean to be holy? Holiness (ἅγιος; agios) means to be separate from sin. It means to have pure, moral qualities. Consequently, we are commanded to be holy in all our behavior or conduct (ἀναστροφή; anastrophe). This refers to how we daily live and conduct ourselves. A holy inner life from God (Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21) leads to a holy outer walk before God (Ephesians 2:10) and other people.

As one commentator has written, “Though absolute holiness can never be achieved in this life, all areas of life should be in the process of becoming completely conformed to God’s perfect and holy will.”

Our standard of holiness is God. It is His moral perfection which we are to pursue (Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 5:1). As people recreated in His image to be like Him in His holy character, let each of us today reflect His holiness. Read today elated Isaiah 6:1-7; Revelation 4-5.

Soli deo Gloria!

For His Good Pleasure

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (I Peter 1:10-12).

Sometimes it seems that for some people serving the Lord is about themselves and not about Christ. The emphasis for these individuals often appears to be on the musicians, or pastor or evangelist and their giftedness to the church rather than on the One True God who has gifted them (I Corinthians 12:11). For many, the intoxication of the lighted platform and screaming crowds may outweigh the service of suffering in relative obscurity.

This was not the case for the Old Testament prophets of God. They preached about the grace of God and predicted the sufferings and glory of Christ. God revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but rather the believers in Christ who would follow. They often were persecuted for their service rather than praised (Hebrews 11:32-40).

An old friend of mine, who has gone home to be with the Lord, once told me that when the Lord would begin to use me for His glory, it would be very easy to think that serving the Lord was all about me when it should be all about Him. How accurate my friend was in his counsel. When those moments of self-exaltation occur,  which are more than I care to admit, I remember that it is God working in me and through me for His good pleasure and for His glory (Philippians 2;13; I Corinthians 10:31).

Let us never forget who we are serving and who is truly significant. His name is Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

Trials

 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (I Peter 1:6).

The blessings we have from God, which Peter spoke of in 1:3-5, are eternal. This is in contrast to the problems believers face here on earth. These problems, or various trials, are only for a little while. That is to say they last for only a short or brief time.

The adjective “various” comes from the Greek word ποικίλος (poikilos) meaning diversified or many. This word is used throughout the New Testament (Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40; 2 Timothy 3:6; Titus 3:3; Hebrews 2:4; 13:9; James 1:2; 1Peter 1:6; 3:7; 4:10). I read somewhere that poikilos may be the word from which we derive our English expression Polka Dot.

Believers in Christ do not encounter just one kind of trial or persecution. On the contrary, we experience many different kinds of trials in all shapes, sizes and durations. It is not a one size fits all kind of teaching or reality.

The word trial (πειρασμός; periasmos) refers to a test or examination. The word is in the plural form which means that there is more than one trial or test we will face as believers in Christ. One person may experience physical persecution, while another believer faces emotional suffering. Still another may encounter social or relationship persecution because of their faith.

Regardless of the kind or type of trials we face, they are temporal. We will experience them for only a little while. Yet, make no mistake we can and are grieved by them. They irritate us and cause us heartache. They are painful and there is no timetable as to when the grieving will end.

So what do we do? We rejoice in the eternal blessings from God. Remember, God’s blessings are eternal and our various trials causing us grief are temporary. The trials will eventually end. Thankfully, God’s blessings are eternal. Read today James 1:2-4.