Sunday, October 28, 2012

Suffering in Christ

I Peter 4:12-19 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for your Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” Did you know that suffering in the life of a faithful Christian is part of God’s plan? There is a lot of “feel good Christianity” teaching going around in our culture today that tells us the complete opposite of what scripture actually reveals. If we are living a faithful Christian life and we are obedient and living in God’s will, we will suffer persecution and have trials. This isn’t sugarcoated in scripture and we shouldn’t act surprised when these things happen. Satan doesn’t want us to take a stand for the Truth of God’s Word, so he is going to attack us when we do. Peter is telling us in this passage to expect it, to partake in it, and to REJOICE in it. Why can we rejoice in the midst of suffering? Because we know that it is only temporary. Our home is in Heaven, not here on Earth and we will one day be in a place with no suffering for the rest of eternity. We can joyfully endure ridicule here on earth because it is what God uses to show Himself to the unsaved world. How you react to judgment and mis-treatment is a testimony of Jesus and what He did for us. We also need to understand that the unsaved will suffer an eternal torment in Hell if we do not speak out and share the true gospel with them. Peter also makes it very clear that not all suffering is glorifying to God. A murderer’s suffering is just, so is a thief or other evildoer. Did you notice that he lumps gossip right in there next to the evilness of murder? These things should not characterize a life of a Christian and we shouldn’t look at the suffering caused by our sin in the same way we look at persecution from living a Godly life. You may think this passage out of date or irrelevant to Christians here in America because how much do we really suffer for our faith? Well, have you paid attention in the news lately? Christians who speak out for the Truth get attacked in the media every day. Have you ever been called intolerant, a Bible-thumper, holy-roller, or worse? If not, are you speaking out for the Truth, are you sharing the gospel with the lost? Or are you sitting comfortably in your Christianity afraid to make any waves or upset anyone. God wants us to stand firm in our faith, to grow deep in His Word, and to be different in our daily walk. He promises persecution while we are on this earth, but He also promises rewards in Heaven for those who are faithful to Him. What stand do you need to take this week? Who do you need to tell about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Changed Life

Our ladies Bible Study is well underway and we are getting ready to wrap up 1 Peter very soon! We've learned quite a bit in the last few weeks and have had some great discussions. I wanted to blog after each week, but I've been so busy this has been my first opportunity to write. Sorry if it's too long but here we go.... Peter is writing to "the pilgrims of the Dispersion" which is a very important phrase to understand so that we know the context of the rest of the book. The word pilgrim (parepidemos in greek) means someone from a foreign country residing beside natives, a stranger, sojourning through a strange place. It is used to convey the idea that Christians are natives of Heaven and are foreigners on the earth living in the midst of an unsaved world. The word Dispersion (diaspora in greek) means a scattering and refers to Christians being scattered among the Gentiles. The reason all this is important is that the message of 1 Peter is a call to holiness and godly living for these Christians that were scattered among the unsaved. Peter begins by reminding us of our salvation and our future home in Heaven, urging us to remember this in joy when we go through trials because of our faith. When a Christian lives a holy life, set apart for God's will, it looks strange to the unbeliever. I have heard and seen far too many Christians blending in with the world and use the excuse that "Jesus spent his time with sinners, so I should too." This is a true statement, He did spend his time with sinners, he came for sinners of which I am one. However, He did not sit in a bar and drink with them to reach them. He met them in their homes, on the street, in the cities, and in the temple. He lived a holy life, different, set apart. He did the will of His father while ministering and witnessing to a lost world. If we are going to be a witness of the changed life that God promises through Jesus Christ, then we have to live a changed life. This does not mean you have to clean up your life to come to Christ, but if you truly come to Christ with a repentant heart He will clean it up for you. If we live just as the unsaved then what are we a witness to? I think 1 Peter 4:1-6 pretty much sums up the message of 1 Peter. "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, (meaning that sin no longer characterizes your life after salvation.... not that you will stop sinning) that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles (unsaved), when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." We will all have to give account to God one day. Has your life been changed by the blood of Christ? Are you living like it? I encourage you to read the book of 1 Peter and come join us on Sunday nights. This is just scratching the surface of the truths in this book.