Wednesday, March 25, 2015

1 Peter | How Does the Church – God's Family and Kingdom of Priests – Become More Like Jesus for the Sake of the World?

Emmaus City Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Who is God? What has He done? Who are We with Him? What Are We to Do to Follow Him in light of what He says in His Word?

We do not read the Bible simply to fill our minds, 
but to change our hearts. 

We do not read the Bible simply to be informed, 
but to be conformed to the image of Jesus. 

We read the Bible to stir our affections: 
our fear, our hope, our love, our desire, our confidence. 

We read it until our heart cries out, 
‘The Lord is good!’” – Tim Chester, Everyday Church

When Jesus commanded us to go and make new learners of Him and baptizing them into His family, He also gave us another command. He didn't simply ask us to share the Scriptures with others, or have people read them and understand them, but He said that we should "teach them to obey everything I have commanded."

Bread & Wine in Portland, Oregon has an excellent post on How to Read the Bible that complements how we are to read the Scriptures so we can continue to better learn how to live in light of who God has made us, saved us, redeemed us, and is restoring us to be in Christ.

As a church, we are coming to a close with our series in 1 Peter. Not including holidays on the church calendar (Advent, Christmas), we have been immersed in Peter's first letter since the end of August 2014. What a journey! In bringing our time to a close, I feel like we are saying goodbye to a close friend in Peter.

The title of our sermon series has been "The Hope of Humble Holiness for the Sake of the World" based on Peter's regular references to the hope, holiness, and humility that categorize God's family, which is the ChurchIn chapters 1 and 2, Peter reminds us that grace and peace have been multiplied to us according to God the Father's plan to save us through Jesus' sacrifice so that we can be made more like Him by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2). He sees us as chosen and precious, a family and household of His very own possession, whom He has called to be a kingdom of priests to the entire world (1 Peter 2:4-5). 

Peter also encourages and challenges us that if, as Jesus' Church, we are learning from His Word together, not just to fill our minds and be informed, but to have Him change us through His Word by His Spirit as Peter writes at the beginning of his letter, then we need to examine our lives and see if we are obeying the nearly forty commands God provides in this key letter written to His Church: 

"Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1:13)

"Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance" (1:14)

"Be holy in all your conduct" (1:15)

"Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile" (1:17)

"Love one another earnestly from a pure heart" (1:22)

"Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander" (2:1)

"Long for the spiritual milk (found in Scripture)" (2:2)

"Abstain from the passions of the flesh which war against your soul" (2:11)

"Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable" (2:12)

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" (2:13)

"Live as people who are free" (2:16)

"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." (2:17)

"Be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust" (2:18)

"Be subject to your own (spouse)" (3:1)

"Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (3:3-4)

"Live with your (spouse) in an understanding way" (3:7)

"Have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind with the church" (3:8)

"Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling; bless" (3:9)

"Have no fear (of those who can harm you physically)" (3:14)

"Honor Christ the Lord as holy" (3:15)

"Arm yourselves with a thinking that understands suffering for Jesus will help you cease from sin" (4:1)

"Be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers" (4:7)

"Keep loving one another earnestly" (4:8)

"Show hospitality to one another" (4:9)

"Use your gifts to serve one another" (4:10)  

"Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you" (4:12)

"Rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings" (4:13)

"Do not be ashamed, but glorify God's name" (4:16) 

"Entrust your souls to our faithful Creator while doing good and suffering" (4:19)

"Be subject to the elders" (5:5) 

"Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another" (5:5) 

"Humble yourselves before God" (5:6) 

"Be sober-minded. Be watchful." (5:8)

"Resist the devil" (5:9)

"Stand firm in the true grace of God" (5:12)  

"Greet one another with the kiss of love" (5:14) 

That's quite a list. But it's a list from Peter for our good. Imagine if we followed Jesus like this. How would a church who didn't just read these commands, or pick and choose which ones come most easy to their personality, but by the power of the Holy Spirit obeyed these commands and was transformed more into the image of the One whose name we bear? How would neighbors and neighborhoods be impacted? How would schools, businesses, and nonprofits take notice? What kind of glory would Jesus receive in Worcester due to such a humble and holy family of missionary servants?

If we are lacking in any of the above, we can find grace and peace in Jesus because He accomplished every single one of those commands for us. And if we walk in step with His Spirit, we will be led to enjoy Him in obeying these words from one of Jesus' closest disciples.

In listening to God's voice through His Word in light of what He's commanded above and who He is as our Savior, Healer, Comforter, and King, we follow Him by seeking to embody and obey all of the above as we live out His generous hospitality and invite His children
lost and found to experience His grace and peace.

 – Sully

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