Monthly Archives: December 2020

GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE

GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2: 9-10).

Is Peter giving us a clue to the identity of the people to whom he was writing? In his greeting he did not specify that they were Jewish believers, but he did scatter clues along the way – like a parent setting up a treasure hunt for his child’s birthday party.

They were God’s elect according to His foreknowledge but exiles just like the Israelites of the northern kingdom who were scattered throughout the nations when their land was conquered by the Assyrians and the people sent into exile. Perhaps some of these early believers were descendants of those exiles and they themselves were exiles in their hometowns because of their faith in the Messiah.

They were God’s elect, chosen by God and set apart for Himself.

For you are a holy people to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession (Deut. 7: 6).

They were to be a royal priesthood. What does that mean?

God chose the nation of Israel to minister to the surrounding nations by ministering to the Lord. It was His intention that they be God’s representative to the nations, bringing the truth about God to them by carrying out His requirements for true worship. Through their praise, their worship and their holy lives, they were to show the ungodly people around them what their God was like.

‘Now if you will obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Ex. 19: 5-6).

A kingdom of priests? It was God’s intention that the entire nation, under His authority and rule, was to minister to the Lord. When they chose to worship a golden calf instead of obeying God’s commands, they forfeited that right. Instead, God chose the Levites, the only tribe that remained loyal to Him, to have the privilege of ministering to Him.

The Levitical priests shall step forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister and to pronounce blessings in the name of the Lord and to decide all cases of dispute and assault (Deut. 21: 5).

A holy nation? God chose Abraham and the nation that would come through him to be a blessing to the whole world. They were to be set apart from all other gods to be His special people, to live according to His standards and in obedience to His covenant. Through them G,d would bring the Messiah to bless all the nations of the world. They were privileged above all the people of the world to know God and to make Him known.

For what purpose did God call Israel to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation?

. . . My people, my chosen, and the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise (Isa. 43:20b- 21).

Those to whom Peter addressed his letter would have understood what he was writing. They were part of those who were not God’s people and they had not received mercy but now, because of their faith in God’s Messiah they were restored and had received mercy to become God’s people again.

Although there may have been Gentiles among Peter’s readers, the implications of what he wrote must have hit home to his Jewish readers. Just like God’s intention for His ancient people, they (and we) were also included in His purpose to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God’s special possession so that they too might also declare God’s praise to the nations who did not know Him.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

LIVING STONES

LIVING STONES

As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Peter’s short letter is a treasure chest of spiritual jewels. How amazing that it was written by a relatively uneducated ex-fisherman!

The first thing this says to me is that it was the Holy Spirit, not Peter’s level of intelligence, that gave him understanding of the truths about the God-man he had lived and walked with for three and a half years. Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth. What an encouragement for ordinary believers that we can receive revealed truth from God without the need for superior education or intelligence!

Theologians do not have the monopoly on understanding God’s word – in fact sometimes their ability to reason, rather than the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, leads them and us into confusion.

From the day of Pentecost onwards, Peter recognised Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures. His quote from Isaiah 28:16 comes in the middle of a prophecy against Ephraim – the northern kingdom of Israel which was in perpetual rebellion against God. Like the nations of which David wrote in Psalm 2, Ephraim had thrown off God’s yoke. They refused to obey Him, choosing idols in His place and living the ungodly lives of the pagans around them.

God’s word to the nations who rejected His rule (Psa. 2) was the same word to His own people who had similarly scoffed at Him and gone their own way:

To the nations David wrote:

He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain’ (Psalm 2:5-6).

To His own people God said:

‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’ (Isaiah 28:16).

And so, Peter quoted:

For in Scripture, it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame’ (1 Peter 2: 6).

God has only one answer for rebellious nations, rebellious children and His own obedient children – Jesus, the Messiah. He is the cornerstone of His temple built of living stones.

“In ancient building practices, the cornerstone was the principal stone placed at the corner of the edifice. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. Jesus described Himself as the Cornerstone that the church would be built upon, a unified body of believers, both Jew and Gentile.” http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Christ-cornerstone.html

To believers, Jesus is the precious stone that holds the temple together. Everything we do as Christ’s body is based on Him.

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. . . (1 Peter 2: 7a).

No so to the unbeliever. To them He is the stone over which they stumble and who will crush them on the Day of Judgement. To the believer, He is the Rock on which they can depend. He holds everything together and, through Him we are built into a temple in which God dwells through His Spirit. To the unbeliever He is the terrifying Rock of Judgment.

But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for (1 Peter 2: 7b-8).  

Our union with Jesus as individuals guarantees our place in the temple of God, the place He has chosen for His dwelling forever. No longer does He live in a temple built of stone. That was only a picture of His intention to make His people His permanent home. His temple, built of living stones, is the place where He is the centre and where He is honoured and worshipped perpetually by those who love Him.

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. ‘They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21:1-4).

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.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU?

WHAT’S ON THE MENU?

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. Like new-born babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2: 1-3).

When you see a ‘therefore’, you must ask what it is there for! ‘Therefore’ connects what had gone before with what follows.

In chapter one, Peter put his readers into the middle of the picture. It was all about what God had done for them. They were participants in God’s great salvation. They had experienced new birth through the power of God’s word and the working of the Holy Spirit. They had the hope of resurrection and the assurance of an indestructible inheritance. Even the suffering they had to endure was not meaningless because God was purifying their faith through it.

They were privileged beyond the prophets and angels who saw but could not be a part of this salvation through Jesus. The prophets who lived under the Old Covenant had to depend on their faith in animal blood for forgiveness, not knowing that it was only a picture of the blood of God’s own Lamb. They saw in prophetic vision the glory of the Messiah but they could not share in His life. How privileged Peter’s readers were to be partakers in God’s New Covenant!

The whole point of what God did through Jesus was to free them from the guilt and penalty of their sin so that they could return to the Father. In His great mercy, He provided a perfect lamb to redeem them from their plight as firstborn in Adam. He redeemed them from the slave market of sin to restore His own image in them. Sin brought death. He provided the potential to escape death. He gave them His own nature, free from sin and death because He is perfect.

The old selfish, greedy, ungodly nature had been overridden by a new nature, giving them the potential to be holy. God is holy; He hates sin and cannot sin. He requires that His children resemble Him and no longer their old master, the devil. The Holy Spirit was given to them to overcome sin so that they could live holy lives.

‘Therefore,’ said Peter, ‘get rid of the hidden sins that still lurk inside.’ Notice that he did not harp on the obvious sins that were evident to everyone around; things like murder, adultery, theft, etc. This kind of behaviour should have fallen away long ago. It was the hidden things, the sins of the heart; thoughts, attitudes, intentions and motives that were more difficult to overcome. These are the evidences of an active old nature, according to Jesus.

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person (Mark 7: 21-23).

James also understood that sin is conceived in the heart.

. . . Every person is tempted when he is dragged away by his own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1: 14-15).

How could Peter’s readers, including us, overcome the problem of the old nature? His answer was simple. Starve the old nature by fuelling your appetite for the new. Crave Gods’ word like a new-born infant craves milk. How does one do that? We develop our appetite by what we eat. A child who is fed junk food has no appetite for meat and vegetables. The only way to change his eating habits would be to starve him of the unhealthy stuff and force him to eat good food until he loses his appetite for the junk.

Whatever nature we feed will rule our lives. God has given us the potential to live holy lives but it is up to us to activate that potential by nurturing our desires with the right ‘food’.

The problem is that we will eventually become what our desires lead us to become. God has freed us from our sin to become His sons and daughters. It is up to us to become who we are by feeding on His word, the food that nourished our new nature and produces the fruit of righteousness..

What is on your menu today?

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 LIVING AND ENDURING WORD OF GOD

THE LIVING AND ENDURING WORD OF GOD

For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you (1 Peter 1: 24-25).

This world and everything in it is transient – passing away.

Contrary to the evolutionists who insist that everything in the world is evolving upwards, observation and common sense tell us that this is not true. Death and decay follow birth as surely as night follows day.

Take the mayfly, for example, which exists only to reproduce and die. For what purpose? We don’t know. Its larvae spend years in the silt at the bottom of the river, waiting for the perfect conditions to rise to the surface, shed their skin and mate. All in the course of one day, the males mate and die and the females lay their eggs and die. The eggs become larvae and the whole cycle begins again.

Every living creature, large and small, lives to pass on its genes to the next generation and, for the males of the species, the battle for the right to mate is fierce, even to the death.

Self-preservation is equally strong in the human race. We fight to stay alive. Medical science has advanced in every possible way to keep us alive, even when our brains have ceased to function. Side by side with the desire to live forever is the instinctive belief that there is life after death. Even people who are primitive in their cultures have a belief in an afterlife. Only the cynical feel that death is the end of it all.

The problem is that most people, at the same time, cling to this life and to the transient world system in which we live as though it will go on forever. Unfortunately for those who have made this present world their permanent home, it is a vain hope because the world as it is, is condemned to judgment and destruction. It has been corrupted through sin. It and those who cling to its standards and practices will perish when Jesus returns.

We have only one guarantee of escaping the judgment that is to fall on everything that is corrupt, that is, everything that does not fulfil the purpose for which it was created; to be reunited with the God who made us for His purposes. Everything that does not fulfil God’s will is doomed to destruction.

God’s word is indestructible. According to Hebrew interpretation, His word is the manifestation of Himself in another form. We know that Jesus is the living Word of God, the visible manifestation of the Father in human form. His spoken word is inseparable from Himself because, again, it is a manifestation of Himself in another form. His word cannot die because it is perfect – and that which is perfect has no death in it.

And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible; like gold refined seven times (Psa. 12: 6).

Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).

How then can we be sure that we are not part of the imperfect world that is passing away?

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2: 15-17).

We have only one guarantee of eternal life. God’s indestructible seed, His word must be planted in our hearts. It is through belief in what God has spoken that we are rescued from a life of sin and are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Sin is the killer. In order to live forever, sin must be removed and our lives set on a course to be recreated in the image of our Creator.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col. 3: 9-10).

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. . . (1 Peter 1: 23).

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God (1 John 3: 9).

God’s “seed”, His eternal Word, written on our hearts as He promised in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31 – 34), is the guarantee that we will live forever with Him.

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.

 

BORN AGAIN

BORN AGAIN

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each another, love one another deeply from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1: 22-23).

Being first-born or second-born in Hebrew culture has all sorts of implications. We have already examined the privileges and responsibilities of the firstborn in the family.

Perhaps the most serious of all the implications is that the firstborn son received judgment for the rest of the family’s misdemeanours while the second-born – and all the other siblings were classified as second-born – received mercy. In other words, the first-born had to take responsibility for his siblings’ wrongdoing while they got away with murder.

This has important implications for us when it comes to judgment and mercy for our sin in God’s eyes. In Adam we are all firstborn and, since the firstborn took the rap for the sins of the family (and, in God’s eyes, there are no second-borns in Adam), we are all responsible for our own sin.

What do we need in order to receive mercy? We need to be second-born. But how can we become second-born when we are the first-born in Adam? This is where the genius of God’s wisdom comes in. He did not violate His own word but fulfilled it through His own Son.

Since Jesus is God’s first-born, He took the judgment for our sin and died in our place.  Through faith in Him, we are in Him and therefore, as we all die in Adam, so we died ‘in Christ’.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? (Rom. 6: 3).

But, as the same time, Jesus was the ‘second Adam’, created in the likeness of Adam so that in Him we might receive mercy. How do we move from judgment to mercy? As Jesus explained to Nicodemus on the night he visited Him, ‘you must be born again.’ To move from judgment to mercy you must move from first-born in Adam to second-born in Christ. How does this happen? Through believing what Jesus said.

To Nicodemus He said, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh give birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’ (John 3: 5-6).

A miracle takes place in the spirit when a person who is in Adam takes Jesus at His word, confesses that He is Lord, and believes in heart that God raised Him from the dead. He is moved from firstborn in Adam to second-born in Christ. Instead of judgment which he deserved in Adam, he receives mercy because of Jesus.

For the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5: 15).

Jesus is also the first-born from the dead. Since we are ‘in Him’ in His death, we are also ‘in Him’ in His resurrection and therefore guaranteed resurrection from the dead.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy (Col. 1: 15)

But Christ had indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22).

It is, therefore, on the grounds of God’s faithfulness to His word that we have hope that we, too, will share in the resurrection of the dead, the perfection of our bodies and the blessing of eternal life.

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.