Monthly Archives: January 2015

Be Prepared

BE PREPARED

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3: 13-16).

Wise counsel again from Peter! Be prepared.

Keep in mind the reason for his encouragement, that this section of society to which he was writing, most of whom were Jews and believers in Jesus, were the butt of Roman society’s animosity because they were misunderstood. These believers were part of a new cult, according to the pagans, which was not Jewish. They had tolerated the Jews but this group was spurned even by the Jews. Oh, they worshipped a Jew who was executed by the Romans and was said to have risen from the dead.  However even this phenomenon of resurrection was not new in their religious teachings.

The pagan Romans and Greeks worshipped many gods, including Nimrod by his many pagan names and derivations. His evil wife, Semiramis had elevated to him to a god after he died. Semiramis also proclaimed herself to be a goddess – the Queen of Heaven. Her son, Tammuz, who was born after Nimrod’s death, whom she claimed was Nimrod’s son, conceived supernaturally after he died, was said to have risen from the dead after being killed by a wild beast in the forest.

Christians were accused of cannibalism because, during their love feasts they celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus by ‘eating His flesh and drinking His blood.’ Although they were, in the main, model citizens, they kept to themselves for fear of persecution, and worshipped in secret. This kind of behaviour made them suspect, and spawned all kinds of false rumours about them.

Peter’s counsel was, ‘Don’t be afraid of them’ – a quote from Isaiah 8:12b. You have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear from them. If you are living your life according to the standards of God’s kingdom, their malicious lies will have no substance. You will put them to shame by you respectful behaviour, your good deeds and by your courteous your response to their questions

Answer them when they question you. You have a very good reason for the hope in you that buoys you up and keeps you going in the face of hardships and unfair treatment. They don’t understand how you can do it? Tell them that is through God’s grace powerfully at work in you that you can put up with injustice without retaliating. You don’t only grin and bear it. You accept it joyfully because it gives you the privilege of suffering alongside your Master who suffered for you.

Jesus said that we must not fear the people who threaten to kill us. They can do no more than put our bodies to death. They cannot kill the indestructible soul within us which belongs to God. The one we are to fear, not be in dread of, but to reverence as Lord, is the one who has the power to destroy both body and soul in hell.

Peter encouraged these sufferers to focus on Jesus. This is the antidote to fear and to the temptation to resist or retaliate. If we keep on gazing at Jesus instead of allowing bitterness and resentment to fester inside, our spirits will remain calm as we draw strength from His suffering.  We remember that ‘He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.’

If Jesus trusted the Father and died trusting Him, can we not also trust Him when we are mistreated for His sake? If we keeping thinking about Him, what He did and what He said, and how He suffered, trusting the Father for justice, it will take the focus off ourselves and save us from suffering from PMS (Poor Me Syndrome!) PMS is the root cause of depression in many people, not chemical imbalances. Imbalances are often the result, not the cause of depression.

There is nothing more medicinal and uplifting than a grateful heart. Gratitude for what Jesus did for you will lift you out of the pits of despair because what He did gives you access into the fullness of His life, His favour and His blessing.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

 

The Way Of The Master

THE WAY OF THE MASTER

Finally, all of you be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they 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: 8-12)

Peter, you have learned your lessons well! Peter’s thoughts and counsel are thoroughly Hebrew and steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Prov. 25:21)

Lesson number one – be generous, not vindictive, towards your enemy.

The Old Testament principle was called “heaping burning coals” which, in Hebrew culture was not a form of retribution – quite the opposite. In those times, everything was carried on the head, as many African people do today. They learned to do it with perfect balance, leaving the hands free to do other things. If a woman carried an empty brazier on her head, she had not means to cook or warm her house. It would be an act of generosity to heap burning coals into her empty brazier; it would mean warmth, food and almost life itself for her in her need.

Lesson number two – do the right thing and you will receive a supernatural blessing.

Peter said, ‘Repay evil with blessing.’ What does he mean? There are two words for blessing in Hebrew: baruch, which is the supernatural blessing of God, and asher, which is the blessing of which Jesus spoke in Matt. 5 – the sense of peace and well-being that comes from making the right choices and doing the right thing.

In this situation, when people treat you as an enemy: with contempt, disdain or worse – insult, abuse or physical violence – the right thing to do is to do something positive in response so that you do not compound their sin with your own.

What lies behind the attitude of non-retaliation that expresses the kingdom way of living, a passage which Peter quoted in part? David gives us the answer in Psalm 34:11-14:

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Our motivation for doing the right thing should always be the fear of the Lord. That does not mean being afraid of punishment if we do the wrong thing. It means, very simple terms, taking God seriously. To fear the Lord is to have such reverence and respect for Him that we obey Him without question because He is God and because we cannot escape or hide from Him. He knows everything about us including our thoughts and motives.

Said Solomon after exhaustively exploring the meaning of life:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12: 13, 14)

On the authority of Scripture, Peter told his readers that the right thing to under injustice and cruelty is to respond with kindness and generosity because that was the right thing to do. It is evidence that the child of God sincerely fears Him by living according to the standards and principles of the kingdom. God will respond with supernatural favour.

This is the way of the Master and evidence that we fear the Lord.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Husband, Be A Real Man

HUSBAND, BE A REAL MAN

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)

The Bible teaches God’s people to live their lives from a different perspective from those who will have nothing to do with God. The worldly attitude is: exploit the weak because they cannot defend themselves so you can take advantage of them and get what you want. Isn’t that the attitude behind abortion?

A defenceless child, living in the environment which should be the safest place on earth for that period of its life, is torn apart and thrown out with the trash at the whim of the mother because it has no power to defend itself. Small children are abducted, raped and murdered by ruthless men, and their cries and terror go unheeded. A wife is abused, beaten and terrorised unmercifully because she is the weaker partner and cannot defend herself against a bully.

God’s ways are just the opposite. The strong are to protect the weak, not to abuse them because they can. God is the protector of the widow, the orphan, the poor and needy. He is a Father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. Jesus looked out for the defenceless and came to their aid – He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, comforted the sorrowing and forgave the sinner. His attention and love were always focused on the most vulnerable people in society and He fiercely defended them against spiritual bullies.

It is the role of a husband, then, as his wife’s partner, to use his strength not to exploit her but to protect her. She is the weaker partner, not in mind and intelligence but in physical strength. Unlike some sections of society who saw their wives as their property or as lesser beings to be used and abused at will, a husband was to respect his wife as an equal partner with him, a person created in the image of God. She had the right to dignity and respect in the same way as any other human being.

Of course, there is a higher reason for a husband to harness his strength to protect his wife and not to abuse and exploit her (and his children for that matter). They are equal partners in a gift that can only comes from God – the gift of eternal life. Every believer in Jesus is a son or daughter of God. They are equally precious to Him as His family members. Any attitude of superiority is abhorrent to Him and alienates that one from Him.

Every son and daughter has a role to play in His kingdom. Each one is a co-ruler with Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly realms and co-operating with Him to carry out His will on earth. Prayer is one of God’s ways of strengthening the relationship with His son or daughter so that His will will be done through him or her. A superior attitude and unacceptable behaviour cuts a person off from fellowship with God. Prayers are hindered and God’s will consequently not done in that life.

Both godly and ungodly behaviour sets off a chain reaction in the world. In the midst of an ungodly society, Peter explained to his readers that God’s way is the way of restraint and self-control. Just as selfishness degrades and destroys, so unselfishness promotes the health and wellbeing of one another. By taking care of one another’s needs, they benefit themselves and the whole family.

What a witness to a world that does not know God when a husband loves his wife and treats her with consideration and respect! How refreshing to witness a wife living in unresisting submission to her husband so that their partnership is one of unity and harmony instead of constant bickering and conflict.

Marriages fall apart when one or both partners are so self-centred that they are willing to destroy their home rather than put their spouse’s interests above their own. The miracle of the new life Jesus gives is that once selfish and self-centred human beings are able to set themselves and their wants aside for the wellbeing of the other.

When each one seeks to build unity rather than self-satisfaction, fulfilling his or her role as God intended, marriage becomes a picture of the unity in the Godhead and the unity in the universe that reflects the nature of God. God’s intention for marriage is that, through mutual submission, harmony in the home and the sexual union of marriage partners, His glory would be mirrored to the world.

Husbands and wives, play your part in the power of the Holy Spirit and you will undoubtedly be putting God’s glory on display!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Wordless Witness

WORDLESS WITNESS

Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (1 Peter 3: 1-6)

Peter, what are you asking? Once again he turned the standard of the world on its head!

It is well known that more women than men are inclined to respond to the gospel. How many spiritual ‘widows’ are there in churches all over the world? That means that homes are divided right down the middle over the fundamental issue of ‘who do you worship?’ People either worship the Creator God or they are self-made and worship their creator. This is the Great Divide between heaven and hell – not the hell of fire and brimstone but the hell of disunity which comes from divided loyalties.

How are wives meant to handle the situation, especially in the first century when women became unequally yoked with their husbands through faith in Jesus? This was not an unequal yoke by choice but by circumstances.

Paul warned believers about deliberately becoming involved in an unequal yoke with unbelievers:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6: 14)

It’s one thing to make a foolish choice before marriage and then live to regret the consequences. It’s another to find the household split through one member’s decision to follow Jesus. What is a wife to do in such circumstances?

Peter’s counsel is both wise and productive. Many a wife in such a situation thinks that preaching to her husband is the way to go. Unfortunately, it seldom works that way. It usually has to opposite effect on an unbelieving husband. Remember that one who does not believe in Jesus is God’s enemy (Romans 5: 10). The more the wife bangs him with the Bible, the more resistant he becomes and the worse the conflict in the home.

Preaching won’t do it and dressing like a princess won’t do it either. Peter certainly did not advise Christian wives to dress like frumps! Perhaps she might even want to do that to get even with him or to turn him off physically when he doesn’t treat her with love.  Dressing up may arouse the husband’s sensual desires but it will not touch his heart. The wife may adorn herself outwardly to please her husband but it will bring him no nearer to believing in Jesus.

What kind of behaviour will break through his defences and touch his heart? The same kind of behaviour Peter counselled slaves to exhibit towards harsh and cruel slave-owners. Submit to him, whatever his demands until he recognises in you a supernatural grace that only God through His Spirit can produce. Preaching, dressing up or even resisting him will not do what a humble and gentle attitude will.

Jesus’s attitude and behaviour in the face of injustice brought life out of death. Imagine what a wife’s willing submission to her husband would do. If he were cruel or unreasonable, it would expose his wickedness against her purity of heart.

Peter’s counsel to believing wives is simple. Be like Sarah who willingly and quietly submitted to Abraham as head of the household. Be quiet and live it! Is that easy? No! Is it right? Yes! Why? Because God says it’s the way that works. It’s wisdom – doing what works.

The ways of the world and the ways of God’s kingdom are completely opposite to each other. The worldly way is to force other people to do what you want whether they like it or not. Use whatever it takes to make them do things your way. It may work by controlling your husband’s behaviour, but it only makes his heart harder and more resistant to the truth especially if you use the Bible as a weapon against him!

The kingdom’s way is to submit without a word, even if the demands are unjust. Absorb the wrong until the conscience of the wrongdoer is so activated that he is awakened to the truth through the example of his wife. You never know. He might just be won over by your being like Jesus. An example is better than a thousand words.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Scapegoat And Sacrifice

SCAPEGOAT AND SACRIFICE

‘He Himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed.’ For ‘you were like sheep going astray’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2: 24, 25).

In spite of his dismal failure during the time of Jesus’s trial, Peter must have been enthralled by the way Jesus conducted Himself when every false accusation and insult was hurled at Him. He was at the foot of the cross during those terrible hours when his Master hung there, writhing in agony and yet more mindful of those around Him than He was of Himself.

It was inevitable that his mind would stray to the familiar words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we were healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53: 4-6)

How often had Peter not been a part of the solemn Day of Atonement ceremony at the temple in Jerusalem. The high priest would press the sins of the nation onto the scapegoat which was driven out into the desert. Then he would repeat the procedure on the second goat, pressing the nations’ sins onto the sacrificial goat which was slaughtered and its blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place.

How many times had he repeated that Scripture and puzzled over its meaning? Not even the learned rabbis of the past and present could understand to whom the prophecy referred until the Holy Spirit interpreted His own word to the sincere followers of Jesus.

Gradually the light came on! Of course! The man with whom they had lived so closely for three and a half years, listening to His teaching and watching His marvellous works, was the very person of whom Isaiah spoke. Who else fitted the scene which Isaiah described more perfectly than Jesus? The realisation must have sent shivers of joy through Peter’s soul.

What better message could he share with these believers who were part of God’s own people and now a part of Christ’s body? He was the very one to whom all the ceremonies of Israel’s most holy day pointed. The implications were huge. Just as the scapegoat bore the sins of the nation away into the desert for another year and the blood of the sacrifice covered their sins and received the forgiveness of God, so the sacrifice of Jesus took away their sins forever.

Animal sacrifices had no power to remove sin or cleanse their guilty consciences but they were pictures of the reality Jesus came to bring. He was God’s lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. He died at a point in history, but the effects of His death were so enormous that, from God’s perspective, He paid the debt of all sin for all people for all time.

God’s people in the old dispensation only had pictures in the form of ceremonies and sacrifices to point to that sacrifice. Peter and his fellow disciples had the fulfilment as the Holy Spirit revealed it to them. It was up to them to make the bold declaration to everyone who would listen and everyone who would believe, that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

When the sinner is forgiven, sin removed and the conscience cleansed of all guilt and shame, the wayward son is free to return home. There is nothing left to separate him from his offended Father. He has an elder Brother who took his place. All he has to do is to admit his guilt and receive the forgiveness which has been freely offered to him.

It must have filled Peter’s heart with joy to be able to write:

For ‘you were like sheep going astray’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.