Monthly Archives: December 2020

REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD

REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him and so your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1: 18-21).

Was Peter specifically addressing Jewish believers when he made this statement?

Every firstborn son and every firstborn of the flocks and herds belonged to God. In the old order, all firstborn sons were to be redeemed by the payment of five shekels of silver to the high priest. Firstborn of the flocks and herds were to be sacrificed to the Lord.

God chose the tribe of Levi to take the place of the firstborn when the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt.

The Lord also said to Moses, ‘I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine (Numbers 3:12)

God instructed Moses to count the Levites a month old or more and to take them in the place of the firstborn of all the tribes and the firstborn of their stock in place of the firstbor n of the Israelites’ stock.

The Lord also said to Moses, ‘Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their stock. The Levites are mine. I am the Lord (Numbers 3: 44-45).

When the Levites and the firstborn of Israel were counted, there were 273 more firstborn that Levites. To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs 20 gerahs. Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons (Numbers 3: 46-48).

In Adam we are all firstborn sons of God. As His firstborn, we belong to Him. To save us from being sacrificed as was the fate of the livestock, Jesus paid the price for our redemption by taking our place as the sacrifice.

Every firstborn son had privileges and responsibilities in the family. He represented his father in the family . He was heir to a double portion of his father’s estate but he was also responsible to be the mediator in family disputes, take care of any deceased brother’s widow and family, and to take the rap for a brother’s sins. He got the judgment while the second-born got mercy.

Peter used this aspect of God’s Law to show his readers that, as the firstborn of the human race in Adam, they all needed redemption, but not the redemption prescribed in the Torah. Torah’s sacrificial system was a picture of the redemption which Messiah would bring, not only the redemption from being sacrificed by the payment of a sum of money, but redemption from the problem of sin itself that was the cause of death.

Jesus’s death on the cross paid the price for sin, once and for all, and did away with the necessity for believers in Him to die. By dying, he conquered sin and death. He took away the penalty of death and bought us for God for all time and eternity.

Jesus said to her (Martha), ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11: 25-26).

Now we have every right to have the hope of being raised again from the dead, even though we will die, because Jesus is the firstborn from the dead and we are alive in 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.

BE HOLY

BE HOLY

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father who judges each work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear (1 Peter 1: 15-17).

‘Holiness, reverence and fear’ are not very popular words among believers in Jesus today. We prefer words like ‘relationship, friendship, family’ which are all true but we need to put them in their right perspective.

Before Peter had anything to say about relating to God as our Father, he put it into the context of a correct attitude towards Him – reverential fear. In this generation, the pendulum has swung from legalistic fear and distance from God to the kind of closeness that lowers the standards He requires until we treat God as our buddy and forget that He is still a holy God.

The very word ‘father’ is intended to include honour, respect and obedience. Take Jesus, for example. He came to earth as the Son of God. Was He not always, from before His incarnation, the Son of God? Not according to the Scriptures. Psalm 2 makes it quite clear that there was a specific moment when Jesus became the Son of God.

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ (Psalm 2:7).

God chose the father/son relationship to model the relationship He wanted between Himself and those who come to faith in Him through the Son. Jesus emptied Himself of every right and privilege as God in order to become a reverent and obedient Son. It had to be so that He could live as a perfect son in the place of the rebellious human race that had opted out of sonship to become renegades instead of rulers. He had to do this in order to die in our place. He also modelled and taught us how to be sons.

In order to become true fathers to their own offspring, sons have to learn to be servants to their fathers. According to the Bible, a son’s role is to serve his father until he is mature enough to have his own sons and daughters who will, in turn, serve him – and so on down the generations.

‘. . . Have the same mind set as Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Phil. 2: 5b-7).

Jesus’s call to His disciples, ‘Follow me,’ included the call to be a son like Himself. What are the qualities He modelled and taught?

The first requirement is holiness. That’s enough to scare us, isn’t it? What is holiness? We tend to think of holiness as something mysterious; God is so holy that we dare not whisper or even breathe in His presence let alone approach Him. In the Old Testament era, the people were not permitted anywhere near His visible presence in the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest, once a year and then after he followed strict rules and approached God with the blood of an animal sacrifice.

How can we approach God now? We come through Jesus, the perfect son who became the perfect sacrifice to take away our sin. In God’s eyes. we are already holy because He sees us through Jesus. But that also means that, just as Jesus has removed our sin and blotted it out, it is now up to us to remove ourselves from sin and be set apart to God and for God.

Reverential fear is the second requirement. God is not our buddy. He is our God and our Father. He is our life source and our authority. The fear of the Lord is based on two fundamentals; who He is and what He does. He is the almighty, all knowing and everpresent God. He sees and knows everything. Solomon put it like this:

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

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.

ALERT AND SOBER MINDS

ALERT AND SOBER MINDS

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance (1 Peter 1:13-14).

Straightforward and serious, not exaggerated, emotional or silly” is the definition of set your hope”sober”, according to the Free Dictionary. Alert and fully sober! How much we need minds that are not cluttered with unnecessary information and irrelevant junk in order to focus on what really matters.

Because of our access to the media in all its forms, we are a people who suffer from information overload. It’s as though we think we will somehow suffer damage or deprivation if we are not constantly informed about everything that goes on in the world. As soon as we have an unoccupied moment, we tune in. We flick on the TV, switch on the radio, pick up the newspaper, or check what’s going on, on Facebook, and fill the air with sound or our eyes with words – and we blot out the opportunity to think soberly.

Even in the Christian context, we are constantly bombarded by every “wind of doctrine” that Christian thinking produces. Never has there been a time when so much confusion is being sown in the minds of believers through the media and Christian writing. Everyone who broadcasts or writes makes his or her own contribution to the chaos. It’s imperative that God’s people switch off the radio and TV, put away the Christian books and magazines for a while, shut down the computer or cellphone, and get back to God’s word. It’s there that the simplicity of Jesus’ teaching and what He came to accomplish will be rediscovered.

To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32).

Peter’s three basic instructions are as relevant today as they were for the believers of his day who were in urgent need of redirection. They were in danger of being swamped by the threat of persecution. How much more are we in danger of being drowned in the sea of misinformation because everyone is intent on making his or her opinion known!

What were they to do? Be alert! Let your mind be like a sieve. Filter out everything that does not come from the Word or does not match the teaching of Jesus. He is the authority, not the theologians, no matter how many degrees they might have.

Jesus gave His disciples the mandate and the authority to ‘bind’ His yoke on those who believe their word and choose to follow Him. This is a huge responsibility – His yoke is His interpretation of the Torah and His application of the spirit of the Torah in their everyday lives. Our interpretation and application of Jesus’ teaching must match His disposition: ‘I am gentle and humble in heart.’

Be sober! Be straightforward and serious, not full of exaggerated or silly ideas which do not come from God’s thinking but ours. Take the Christmas and Easter seasons, for example. Where did these traditions originate? Certainly not from God’s mind but from the minds of people ‘drunk’ with their own ideas and the deliberate plan to deviate from the truth.

Santa Claus, snow and reindeer, Christmas trees and lavish decorations, presents and feasting? From God? Really? Merry Christmas – wishing you a merry sacrifice of Jesus! Does this come from God? And as for Easter bunnies and Easter eggs! The very name ‘Easter’ has a pagan origin. Are these the product of sober minds or the stupidity of our ‘sheep’ nature who follow tradition because everyone else is doing it!

The ‘silly season’, we call Christmas. Why? Because God’s people are no longer alert and have lost their ability to think soberly. Overindulgence, spending sprees, debt, drunkenness etc. in Jesus’ name? I don’t think so.

What is the antidote? Set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. There is a reward for those who live in the light of Jesus’ return which presupposes that they will live as obedient children of God and no longer according to their old, evil desires.

Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing (2 Tim, 4: 8).

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.

 

HIGHLY PRIVILEGED PEOPLE

HIGHLY PRIVILEGED PEOPLE

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed them that they were not serving themselves when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:10-12).

In these three long and complicated sentences, what exactly was Peter getting at? We have to look at these thoughts in the context of what he had already written.

His readers were a rejected and abused people. Some of them were Jews who had embraced Jesus as their Messiah and others had come to faith in Christ from worshipping idols and practicing wicked things in the name of their religion. Instead of being recognised as upright citizens, they were despised and rejected by both Jews and Gentiles because they no longer fitted in. They would not acknowledge Caesar as Lord and they refused to take part in idolatrous worship and the practices of their pagan neighbours.

It was natural that they should feel like outcasts. One can sense, from Peter’s encouragement, that they were in danger of forgetting who they really were. It was his intention to show them who they were in God’s eyes regardless of what the people in the world thought of them and how they treated them. He had to put their circumstances into perspective so that they would not lose heart and go back to their old ways.

Far from their suffering being the evidence of God’s neglect, it was proof that they were genuine children of God. Rejected by the world? They were chosen, holy and beloved of God. Suffering for their faith? God was purifying their confidence in Him. They had reason to rejoice because, far from being the off-scourings of the earth, they were a privileged and blessed people.

They were so blessed, in fact, that they experienced what prophets and angels could not! God’s prophets of old were the most privileged of all His people. They were called and anointed with His Spirit to stand between God and His people. They stood in the presence of God to hear His word in order to speak it to His people. They had access to God’s counsel in ways which kings and people and even the priests did not. They not only understood what God was doing in the lives of His people in their current circumstances – they also had insights into future events.

It was from those who lived in intimate fellowship with God that we can draw an accurate picture of the Messiah long before He arrived on the earth. When we compare Jesus with the predictions the prophets made about Him centuries before, we come up with a perfect match. How else can we be sure that the man who claimed to be the Son of God and sent from God was who He said He was?

But there was one thing the prophets could not do – experience what they predicted because it was for a future time. They could only see it from afar. They would experience the benefits of His death because He was ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ but they would never experience the temporal blessings which are part of the package of salvation.  However much they longed to be a part of what they had written, it was not to be.

Only those to whom Peter was writing and all those who follow in their footsteps of faith are privileged to be participants in the blessings Jesus, the Messiah brought when He came to earth.

Why is it important that believers go through the kind of things of which Peter wrote? Why does God not snatch us out of here the moment we believe? Firstly, of course, He needs witnesses to live and speak of His grace to a broken world. But secondly, and this is the part we don’t like, He takes time to sanctify and purify our hearts from the corruption of the world.

While we are here on earth in the midst of the world’s brokenness and wickedness, we are serving our apprenticeship for the life to come. God is grooming us for our role as co-rulers with Christ on His restored and perfected earth. He is teaching us to reign in life now so that we can reign with Him then. He cannot use untrained and untested rookies for so great a responsibility! How we function now will determine where we function then.

Far from being underdogs, Peter had to ensure that his readers understood who they were, why they were suffering and what their privileges were so that they would persevere, not with gritted teeth but with joyful purpose because, in God they were going somewhere – into the eternal realm of unimaginable blessing.

So are we if we hang in there!

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.

 

TAKE THE LONG LOOK

TAKE THE LONG LOOK

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of you faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Peter could not be more positive than he was in these three sentences, as well as those that went before. If we place these truths side by side with Paul’s in Ephesians 1: 1-3, we have an amazing declaration of what these early believers had in Christ compared with what their pagan or Jewish beliefs had offered them.

Let’s unpack these sentences and explore what he was actually saying.

The first thing that stands out is that their present circumstances (and we know that Peter wrote to encourage them to keep on believing in spite of the ‘fiery ordeal’ – ch 4:12 – they were suffering), were transient and were nothing compared with what lay ahead for them if they kept their eyes on the big picture. Their suffering would not last forever; it was only a part of this life. It would come to an end when they entered into the presence of the one they loved.

Suffering for their faith in Jesus was inevitable but it had a purpose. Like gold refined in the fire until all the impurities were removed, their confidence in God had to be put to the test to remove the dross. Everyday, comfortable living would not do it. It had to be purified in the fires of adversity until nothing would move them from their trust in God. After all, faith was the invisible link between themselves and God. Without their trust in Him, they had no connection with Him and with everything that was theirs through Jesus.

Why do Christians suffer? The age-old question does have an answer – to put us into situations where we are forced to cast ourselves on God alone. It is a natural, inborn flaw is us to be suspicious of God. Adam was before he even sinned, and we are too because we inherited it from him.

How can we ever navigate a world full of trials and adversities of every kind if we do not trust God implicitly? How can we learn to trust Him if our faith is not put to the test? When the crunch comes, do we crumple up, scream and give up or do we keep going because we are secure in Him?

The next thing I see is that these believers were going somewhere. Life for them was not just a jumble of meaningless events and purposeless living. They were being groomed for something after this life which was indescribably wonderful beyond their imagination. Was this just a pipe-dream, the fantasy of someone’s fertile brain? Definitely not! Why could Peter be so confident about what he wrote? The hope of which he wrote was not just a futile wish but a declaration of fact because it was backed up by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

The whole point of Jesus’s coming, His living and dying and the miracle of His rising again was to accomplish something – not for Himself initially but for them – to rescue them from their plight and restore them to their rightful place in the family of God so that they could enjoy the glorious things God had prepared for them and for all who follow them through faith in Jesus.

Instead of being drowned in the misery of what they were suffering, Peter urged them to look ahead. The very things they were called to endure for the sake of their faith in Jesus were proof that they were on the right road. At the end of the tunnel there was the real life they had been promised – ‘the salvation of your souls’. Their broken and imperfect souls would be restored – made whole, unblemished and pure so that they could stand before God in the perfection of His beauty and enjoy Him forever.

Was it worth enduring the suffering? A thousand times, yes!

When you are faced with the uncomfortable experiences which are part of your lot as humans in an imperfect world, or the ridicule thrown at you because you will not take part in the debauchery of sin or even, as some are doing right now, losing their heads because they refuse to deny their faith in Jesus, there’s a glorious light at the end of the road.

Rejoice, because you’re on the right way and at the end of it your destination is heaven!

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.