Tag Archives: rejoice

THE FIERY ORDEAL

THE FIERY ORDEAL

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4: 12-14)

What was the fiery ordeal of which Peter spoke? In his day it was the persecution of believers at the hands of Nero. There were no lengths to which Nero would not go to rid the empire of the followers of Jesus. Their lives were forfeit at the hands of gladiators, ferocious and half-starved wild beasts kept especially for the purpose, and fire; Christians were covered with pitch and set alight to amuse the emperor and entertain his guests at his lavish garden parties.

Don’t be surprised, said Peter, when this happens. Was this the way Jesus’s followers were normally treated? Peter was merely echoing Jesus’s many warnings that following Him would be no walk in the park. The world then, as now, was polarised into two camps. Jesus said it would be so. He did not come to bring peace but a sword.

‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Matt. 10: 34-36)

But Jesus, I thought you came to bring peace? Is that not the promise the angel brought when he announced your birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem? “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.” The disciples were convinced that Jesus’s mission was to conquer the occupying Roman forces and restore their land to them as it was in David’s day. However hard He tried, Jesus could not convince them otherwise.

Yes, Jesus did come to bring peace, but not the kind of peace they anticipated. His peace was the peace between His Father and His estranged children, reconciliation through His blood which would bring them restoration to their place in God’s household as His sons and daughters.

Of necessity, this new relationship with God would produce a chasm between believers and unbelievers. Everyone who sided with the devil would be in the opposite camp to those who followed Jesus. It would have to be because of the irreconcilable rift between the devil and God. So deep was the hatred in the hearts of unbelievers that they would do anything to get rid of the scourge of those who constantly irritated their conscience by their godly lives.

Peter said, ‘Don’t be surprised.’ The moment they stepped over, through faith, into the camp of those who followed Jesus because they were convinced that it was He, not Caesar, who was the true Son of God, they became marked people. On the contrary, as Peter echoed the words of His Master:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 11, 12)

Instead of complaining or even retaliating, they were to rejoice in the midst of their suffering because it was for His sake that they were facing their fiery ordeal – and they were in good company. The prophets faced and endured the same treatment at the hands of God’s own people. Persecution would be transient and a part of their experience in this life only, but their reward would be eternal.

Jesus even told His disciples not to be afraid of those who could only kill the body and, after that could do no more to them. The body was destined to perish anyway, to make way for a resurrection body that would be eternal and imperishable like the body of their resurrected Lord. They were to live in reverent fear of the one who had the power to destroy them forever in hell.

On top of their temporary suffering which would give way to eternal glory, the very suffering they had to endure to experience forever the glory of God would bring them the overshadowing power of God’s Spirit to endure it in a way the echoed the suffering of Jesus. Far from being a raw ordeal, like Stephen who, in the midst of his ordeal, saw Jesus awaiting his arrival in glory, they would also have God’s Spirit resting on them.

Have you ever wondered how the people in Peter’s day, and even those at the present time who are being tortured and beheaded for their faith, were able to endure? We tremble at the very thought, but God’s promise still stands:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12: 9)

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.

Jesus Did Not Say That We Must Be Peace-keepers

JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT WE MUST BE PEACE-KEEPERS

There is a huge difference between being peacemakers and peace keepers. What did Jesus say?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 9-12)

This chiasm has been arranged a little differently. The central thought has been put first.

 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Once again, to understand this chiasm, we must go back to its use in Scripture. There are only two places in the New Testament where the term, “making peace” is used, apart from here.

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and though Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross. (Col. 1: 19-20).

Through His shed blood, Jesus reconciled to God everything in the universe that was alienated from God through Adam’s disobedience.

Therefore remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth . . . were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.  (Eph. 2: 11-16)

Wow! Can you see how deep the roots of peace-making go? There can never be peace between God and man and between man and man outside of the sacrifice Jesus made to reconcile us to the Father by doing away with the reason for the hostility. Sin alienated us from God, an impenetrable barrier that we could not nothing about.

There was only one solution – a perfect sacrifice made by a perfect son. God demands death as the penalty for sin, but every sinner must pay for his own sin. Only a sinless human could pay the debt for all sin, and Jesus was that sinless human.

Reconciliation, then, is not about bringing warring parties together. Reconciliation is about dealing with the cause of the war. God did that through His Son, so that there is no more reason for people to be alienated from God or from one another. The roots of the hatred between the races lie in the problem of alienation between God and man because of sin. Racial hatred will never be removed apart from the cross. It cost Jesus His own blood to do away with the hostility and make peace between God and man and between man and man.

Where does persecution fit into the picture? Human beings are not neutral in their attitude towards God. Because of our natural bent towards rebellion, we are at enmity with God. There is deep-rooted hatred of God and anything that has to do with Him. Why was Jesus crucified? Because of man’s hatred for God!

Those who represented self-help religion in Jesus’ day, the leaders of His people, the religious leaders, rejected Him because He showed them what God the Father is really like, and they hated Him for it. How accurately He diagnosed the problem:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3: 19)

The way people view sin divides the whole world into two camps – those who hate their sin and those who hate God because of their sin. Those who hate their sin readily respond the Jesus and embrace His solution. Those who love their sin are against God and those who are with Him. The outcome is persecution. The sinner can’t do anything to God so he attacks God’s people.

Jesus did not say that persecution is enjoyable. He did say that persecution is a reason to rejoice because it is a sign that we are in good company; those who hate God persecuted the prophets and killed Jesus. We must not be surprised that we come in for persecution as well.

So, what’s the bottom line?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you, on God’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5: 17-20)

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.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

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The Long Look

THE LONG LOOK

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us (Hab. 3:16).

What a difference in the prophet’s attitude now! Gone were the accusations that God was seemingly indifferent; gone was the frustration with his own people for their unrestrained wickedness; gone was the confusion about God’s ways. God had taken him step by step through a process from fear to faith. He was now on God’s side, watching the unfolding of history and recognising the purposes of God in the rise and fall of empires because God had given him understanding.

This did not lessen his fear of the immediate future. His description of his physical reaction is realistic and vivid. He did not underestimate the terrible suffering the Babylonians would inflict on his people.

But, at the same time, his perspective had changed. He was no longer angry and frustrated because his people had forsaken the Lord and were as wicked as their neighbours and God was doing nothing about it. He now knew that God was not indifferent and that He had planned a strategy which would shake them out of their stubborn rebellion and disobedience and bring them back to faith in Him as their covenant God.

Not only did Habakkuk express his fear of what was soon to fall on his people, he also expressed his willingness to look beyond the devastation to the day when just retribution would fall on the evil nation that God would use to whip His people. God’s promise of perfect justice brought him comfort and reassured him that God was still in charge, no matter how bad things appeared to be. No one would get away with wickedness because God rules in justice and truth over all the earth.

This reassurance caused him to break out in a song of praise and an expression of confidence in God that rose above earthly events to the realm of God’s everlasting nature – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. Yes, He would punish His people by confirming to them the consequences of their waywardness. Yes, He would deal justly with all parties, even those who inflicted punishment on them but, in the end, God was still their God and a shelter for those who trust Him even in the midst of the worst that could happen.

And so Habakkuk concluded his dialogue with God with a song that anyone can sing with confidence even when it seems that the sky has fallen on their heads!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there be no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights (Hab. 3: 17-19).

This is the expression of the highest level of trust that anyone can have in God. It’s not about whether everything is going well for me. It’s not about how much He has done for me or what He can do for me.  It’s not about whether He has answered my prayers or not. It’s not about how blessed I am or not. It’s about Him. In the end, everything that happens about me and to me is God painting His bigger picture, writing His bigger story.

Instead of my being the centre of the universe and everything revolving around me, God is the centre of it all and everything is designed to work out His universal plan – the one He started at the beginning and the one He will complete when Jesus returns to bring it all together.

On the strength of that, Habakkuk could sing. No matter how rough the terrain he had to climb, God had equipped him with enough grace to climb the heights. He had given him “the feet of a deer”. Like a mountain goat he had the confidence to navigate the precipices and not fall because he was sustained by the promise that God was working to all out for His glory and the good of His people.

Can you sing, like the prophet, on the highest cliffs and the most dangerous places, when everything in your life has fallen apart and you are, as it were, staring down the barrel of a gun – physically, economically, relationally, whatever – “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour”? 

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.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

The Fiery Ordeal

THE FIERY ORDEAL

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4: 12-14)

What was the fiery ordeal of which Peter spoke? In his day it was the persecution of believers at the hands of Nero. There were no lengths to which he would not go to rid the empire of the followers of Jesus. Their lives were forfeit at the hands of gladiators, ferocious and half-starved wild beasts kept especially for the purpose, and fire – people were covered with pitch and set alight to amuse the emperor and entertain his guests at his lavish garden parties.

Don’t be surprised, said Peter, when this happens. Was this the way Jesus’s followers were normally treated? Peter was merely echoing Jesus’s many warnings that following Him would be no walk in the park. The world then, as now, was polarised into two camps. Jesus said it would be so. He did not come to bring peace but a sword.

‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Matt. 10: 34-36)

But Jesus, I thought you came to bring peace? Is that not the promise the angel brought when he announced your birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem? Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests. The disciples were convinced that Jesus’s mission was to conquer the occupying Roman forces and restore their land to them as it was in David’s day. However hard He tried, Jesus could not convince them otherwise.

Yes, Jesus did come to bring peace, but not the kind of peace they anticipated. His peace was the peace between His Father and His estranged children – reconciliation through His blood which would bring them restoration to their place in God’s household as His sons and daughters.

Of necessity this would produce a chasm between believers and unbelievers. Everyone who sided with the devil would be in the opposite camp to those who followed Jesus. It would have to be because of the irreconcilable rift between the devil and God. So deep was the hatred in the hearts of unbelievers that they would do anything to get rid of the scourge of those who constantly irritated their conscience by their godly lives.

Peter said, ‘Don’t be surprised.’ The moment they stepped over, through faith, into the camp of those who followed Jesus because they were convinced that it was He, not Caesar, who was the true Son of God, they became marked people. On the contrary, as Peter echoed the words of His Master:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 11, 12)

Instead of complaining or even retaliating, they were to rejoice in the midst of their suffering because it was for His sake that they were facing their fiery ordeal – and they were in good company. The prophets faced and endured the same treatment at the hands of God’s own people. Persecution would be transient and a part of their experience in this life only, but their reward would be eternal.

Jesus even told His disciples not to be afraid of those who could only kill the body and, after that could do no more to them. The body was destined to perish anyway, to make way for a resurrection body that would be eternal and imperishable like the body of their resurrected Lord. They were to live in reverent fear of the one who had the power to destroy them forever in hell.

On top of their temporary suffering which would give way to eternal glory, the very suffering they had to endure to experience forever the glory of God would bring them the overshadowing power of God’s Spirit to endure it in a way the echoed the suffering of Jesus. Far from being a raw ordeal, like Stephen who, in the midst of his ordeal, saw Jesus awaiting his arrival in glory, they would also have God’s Spirit resting on them.

Have you ever wondered how the people in Peter’s day, and even those at the present time who are being tortured and beheaded for their faith, were able to endure? We tremble at the very thought. God’s promise still stands

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12: 9)

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 unpick 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 beyond 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 of your refusal to 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 road 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.