Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Redeemed to be 'living stones' …"

Day #353

Scripture Reading:  I Peter 1 - 3 …

In his first letter "to God's elect, strangers in the world" (1:1), Peter begins by reminding them who they are and why God has chosen THEM, and then proceeds to explain how living life as one who has been "redeemed" looks different than living for yourself.

In Chapter 1, verses 3-10, Peter explains the place of trials in the life of believers by putting them in the context of what we know we HAVE that can't be lost:  "new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1:3).  We have an inheritance in heaven and we are being shielded by God's power as we await the end of the age.  He states boldly, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials" (1:6).  God had given to Peter and other believers an understanding that through suffering and trials He was refining them and using their testimony to bring glory to Himself.  Peter assures his readers that they will receive the goal of their faith:  the salvation of their souls (1:9).

Those who have gone before us looked forward to the day when God would fulfill His promises, even as we look forward to the return of Jesus Christ. Peter says, "even angels long to look into these things” (1:12).  Spiritual matters are of FIRST importance and those who are chosen by God and born again by His Spirit understand this truth.  "THEREFORE …" (1:13) …  Truth always calls for a response.  Whenever you and I read truth in God's Word we should always ask ourselves, "So what?  What does this truth have to do with me and what difference does it make in my life?" 

In the remainder of Chapter 1, Peter reminds the believers that they have been called to "be holy" because God is holy (1:16).  He reminds them that they were redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1:18).  Having been born again through the living Word of God, he calls them and us to "crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may GROW UP in your salvation!" (2:2).  Then he gives this beautiful picture of the true Church, made up of those who are born again by the Spirit:

"As you come to Him, the living Stone - rejected by men 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. … you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light!!" (I Peter 2:4-5, 9).  There's an identity that transforms you and your life.  We who believe have been made alive by the Spirit of God so that we will LIVE as God's people, as light in the world.

Peter goes on to call believers to a way of life that is counter-cultural, that is focused on others instead of ourselves and that displays our trust in the God who saved us.  He begins with submission to those in authority over us. Many Christians spend a significant amount of time demanding their "rights," but Peter writes, "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.  Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.  Show proper respect to everyone ..." (2:15-17).  Even if you have to suffer for doing good, he says "this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for YOU, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps" (2:20-21).

Everything we are called to do as believers is based on our relationship with Christ and His work on the cross.  When called to suffer for doing good, Peter points us to Jesus:  "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by HIS wounds you have been healed, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (2:24-25).  Submitting to authority is really submitting to Christ!  It is knowing that He paid your debt and set you free so that you could now live with hope and peace in this world, no matter what your circumstances, knowing that you have eternal life!!

In his instructions to husbands and wives Peter says much the same thing Paul does in Ephesians 5:  mutual submission, mutual respect, mutual caring for one another flows from submission to Christ.  It is only when you know that you are here to live for God that you are willing and able to accept your role in your family, in the church and in the world.  We are here FOR GOD!!  So he concludes:  "Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing" (3:8-9).  Here is the REAL "good life" ... the life that has the blessing of God.

The rest of the chapter calls us to follow Jesus' example of being willing to suffer for doing good by setting our hearts on Him and seeking to be His witnesses:  "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. ... It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil" (3:15,17).  It takes the knowledge of God's love in Christ and the power of His Spirit to give you strength and courage to endure, to persevere, to submit, to testify to the hope that is within you through faith in Jesus Christ.

Are you one of God's elect ... chosen, redeemed, called and empowered to be a "living stone," a part of the Body of Christ who will receive Jesus from heaven when He returns?  Whatever trials or suffering may come into your life, remember that you have inheritance in heaven that can never perish, spoil or fade away.  Be ready to share the reason for the hope you have, live your life as a servant of God, and discover life as a living stone, chosen by God ... forever!

"My Father and my God, only in knowing You do I find hope and strength to live in this world, to endure trials and sufferings as part of Your plan to make me more like Jesus.  I thank You for Your promises and for Your love for me and I submit to You, my God.  Help me to live in obedience to You in all things and to pursue righteousness in order to glorify You!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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