July 26, 2008

Accepted, Valued, and Forgiven: 1 Peter 2:4-10


So far in Peter's letter to the Christians scattered throughout rural areas of the Roman empire, he has given us quite a bit of information and advice. He has reminded us:

- We have a living hope because Jesus, our Savior, defeated death itself
- We have an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade
- The world is different from us, opposes us, and we will endure trials
- Trials strengthen faith, and our faith will be honored when Jesus returns
- Through the gospel we know the Savior, whom the prophets saw only dimly

And he advises us to:


- Prepare our minds: be self-controled, our hope set on the grace given us

- Not seek evil desires, but be holy, as our Savior demonstrated holiness

- Live as strangers in the world with reverence for God

- Love each other
phileo love (brotherly love; take care of each other) and
agape love (care about each other)

- Love each other without any selfish motives at all
- Be truthful, kind, not hold grudges, and not speak evil of each other
- Seek to grow more mature in the faith, more holy (our sanctification)

And now, in 2:4-10, he tells us not how to feel and act, but who we are:


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. For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,' and, 'A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.' They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for. But 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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
We are accepted (4-5)

Peter calls Jesus "the Living Stone" who was rejected by mankind but chosen by God and precious to Him; and likewise, we are like living stones and are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood; and our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

That is, the Spirit of God lives in us. In the historical context, the Spirit living in us is the opposite of the idea of temples where pagan gods like Zeus and Diana supposedly resided, and opposite even to the temple in Jerusalem, where the Spirit of God was represented as residing in the Holy of Holies. There is also a sense here in which as Jesus, the true God and Savior, was rejected by mankind, so we will endure rejection. We can infer that from Peter's earlier warnings about trials.

Note that we "are being built into a spiritual house," referring to our continual growth in spiritual maturity, the process of holiness or sanctification. Peter's metaphor is that we are the "stones" or building blocks from which God is building His temple, the church, comparable to the building blocks used to build temples and altars in the pagan culture in which his readers lived.

Then he points out that God's purpose for us is to be "a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices." The priests were considered to be the representatives of God and mediators between God and mankind. Priests in the pagan religions were considered special messengers or representatives of the pagan gods. In that culture, a priest of any religion (1) represented the god to people and reflected his desires and character in his lifestyle (2) offered sacrifices to the god, (3) interceded with the god on behalf of those who worshipped him or her. This was similar to the function of the Israelite priests, the Levites, at the Jerusalem temple in the Old Testament.

But Peter points out that all Christians constitute a "royal priesthood." The priesthood of believers is a core doctrine of evangelical Christianity. We have direct access to God through prayer and through His Spirit living in us and working through us. Jesus is our only mediator and the Spirit our counselor and advisor. And instead of ceremonial sacrifices to atone again and again for sin, we offer spiritual sacrifices-ourselves, in constant presence of God and communion with God, having the mind or attitude of Christ (see 1 Peter 4:1) and living lives that are characterized by holiness.

This idea of the priesthood of believers is consistent throughout the New Testament and was in the 1st century a new idea among both the Jews and the gentiles. Paul gives good insight in 1 Corinthians 3:16: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" Peter is talking about us personally, as God's temple, and to the community of Christians, the church, in which each of us is one of the building blocks. And we find we are acceptable and accepted, His children, and the living building blocks of the church and His kingdom.

We are valued and called to serve (6-9)

Being accepted, we are also valued by our Savior and our Father. Verse 6 compares the Savior to a cornerstone, the first building block laid in the foundation of a building. Verse 7 reminds us that this cornerstone is precious, meaning of great or even inestimable value. And we who trust in Him will never be put to shame. In other words, the building in which we are living stones will never fall.

Often rejected by the world, we have the highest value to the only One whose rejection would mean anything, God our Father. We are as valuable to God the Father as Jesus Himself. The price He paid was the life of the Son. Notice in the last part of verse 7 that it is God's judgment, not mankind's judgment, that is true. Though many rejected the Savior, He is the capstone.

The cornerstone is located in the foundation, on which the building rests. The capstone is on the top stone on a stone wall, a finishing or protective stone. The metaphor is that Jesus is both the cornerstone (foundation) and the capstone (protects, holds structure together) of the church.

In the beginning, God created human beings in His own image; to be holy like He is holy. But we gave up our holiness and spoiled that likeness. Jesus was the one who paid the price for God the Father to get us back and restore our access to holiness. Every time we face a decision between righteousness and unrighteousness, and choose righteousness, we are demonstrating we are restored. Every time we seek forgiveness, we are demonstrating our restoration. Every time we pray and lay our troubles and hopes on Him, we show we are restored.

Only those who disobey the message of the Savior stumble spiritually. In verses 8 and 9, Peter is continuing his metaphor of constructing a building. Without a secure cornerstone and capstone, the building doesn't stand for long. Likewise, those who trust in Jesus become living stones in His perfect kingdom, the church, and those who reject His message inevitably stumble and fall, just as the building without a secure foundation and capstone will not long endure.

Instead of stumbling and falling, however, Peter points out that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood. Remember that a priest (1) represents God to mankind and reflects His holiness in lifestyle and speech, (2) offers sacrifices to God, (3) intercedes with God on others' behalf. We are "a holy nation, a people belonging to God . . . called . . . out of darkness into His wonderful light."

We are forgiven (10)

"Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God." The phrase "a people" means an identifiable people group or tribe. Once, Peter is telling us, we were like everyone else, lost, devoted to sin, rejecting our Savior, lost in the sea of sinful humanity. Like everyone else, we were spiritual nomads, not part of the only spiritual people group, wandering spiritually, without a home, without direction. But just like a newborn baby is part of the tribe he or she was born into, we were reborn into a people group, the tribe or nation of Christians, which transcends race, nationality, and human tribes and people groups.

And we have received God's mercy. Before we trusted in the Savior, we were not only spiritual nomads, but we rejected God's offer of mercy and forgiveness daily. Not trusting the Savior is not a case of no decision, but a definite and continuing decision to reject Him. But by trusting Him, not only are we a distinct people group, but also we are forgiven by God's mercy. We never merited His mercy by our behavior, but merely by yielding our lives to Him. His mercy is something that happened to us, and it also is constantly renewed: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

(Note: While I usually teach from the New King James Version [NKJV], I am teaching from the New International Version [NIV] in this study in the book of 1 Peter because the NIV so accurately renders the thought of the original text. Regardless of the English translation used, I also compare the English rendering with the Greek New Testament. For those not fluent in the biblical languages, a Greek-English interlinear Bible and Hebrew-English interlinear Bible can be of great assistance in revealing the original nuances of meaning of words and grammatical structure. Many of the interlinear Bibles also include Strong's numbering and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries keyed to the Strong's for concise definitions of the original terms. The most helpful Bible I have found is the MacArthur Study Bible, which is available in the New King James Version and the New American Standard [NASB] translation. The notations in the MacArthur Study Bible are extremely accurate in reflecting the literal meaning of the texts and are invaluable in providing the accurate scriptural backgrounds for the basic evangelical Christian doctrines derived from the literal view of Scripture. Another helpful Bible for English readers is the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, which is an NIV translation with numbering keyed to a Hebrew dictionary and Greek dictionary in the back of the book.)

July 13, 2008

Love One Another Deeply: 1 Peter 1:22-2:3


Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).


We can establish a connection between two of the instructions Peter gives us in this passage—love one another deeply, from the heart (1:22) and (2) crave pure spiritual milk (2:2). To fully accomplish the first, we must deeply desire the second. Let me explain.

We are a family (22)

Christians regard being born again (v. 23) as intensely personal and individual. And it is. But we also become part of a new family when we place our trust in our Savior. We have a new Father and new sisters and brothers.

And as on just about every page of the New Testament, we are reminded to love and care about each other. Peter tells us: "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers" (22). The term “Love” here is phileo, the word that was used for what we call brotherly love, that is, love that shows consideration and kindness. Peter writes that this love is to be “sincere,” meaning genuine, a love that is shown openly, a brotherly love that is without selfish motives, an unconditional love that expects nothing in return. Brotherly love includes the golden rule, treat others as we want to be treated, and it can involve self-denial

Think of the sincere kind of love for your own brothers and sisters-usually, no matter what they have done, no matter how wayward they have strayed, you still care about them; you may put time and effort in the relationship, endure rough times and times of correction and downright anger, and rarely break away from them or disown them.

Peter tells us we are in that kind of relationship as Christian brothers and sisters. We are allowed to be angry or exasperated sometimes, but God still wants us to genuinely and sincerely love and care about each other.

Peter also tells us to “love one another deeply, from the heart.” Here, he uses another word: agape, which means to love dearly, to be fond of, and to be contented with.” Not only does he tell us to love each other, but also he tells us to “love . . . deeply”: fervently, intensely, even energetically. The adverb “deeply” indicates intensity. We find the same word used elsewhere in the New Testament indicating an intense, fervent effort. For example in Acts 12:5, Luke writes that the church was not just praying for Peter when he was imprisoned, but they were “earnestly” (same word) praying. Similarly, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus was praying to the Father that what He was about to endure be taken from Him. Luke 22 tells us an angel appeared and strengthened Jesus, and Luke writes, in verse 44, “being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly (same word), and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

That's how God wants us to love each other—not just with the consideration and kindness kind of love (phileo), but as if we were immediate family: agape love with the greatest intensity possible.

Peter adds that our love for each other should be “from the heart” (22). Literally, that means "with a pure heart"; pure, clean, without any pretense, selfishness, or ulterior motive. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, a friend of mine was an energetic witness for the Christian faith. He and his wife talked to many people they encountered about their faith and encouraged them to become Christians. I noticed, however, that every few months, they changed churches, leaving the one they had been attending and joining another, and a few months later, leaving that church and joining still another. They always seemed to fit in well, joined small group ministries, and developed good friendships in all the churches they attended. But for me, a new Christian myself in the early 1980s, I was somewhat confused by this behavior, because it was in my mind kind of unusual. So I finally asked him why they were always moving to a new church. He explained they were always trying to meet new people to recruit into their multi-level marketing business. That’s not loving “with a pure heart”; that’s befriending with a self-centered purpose.

We are an imperishable family (23-25)

Peter tells us that not only do Christians constitute a family, but also that that family is imperishable. Mortal families eventually perish: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (verse 24, quoting Isaiah 40:6-8).

But we were born again into a family that will never perish. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we will spend eternity in that relationship: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (23) . . . “And this is the word that was preached to you” (25).

Our new birth was produced through the imperishable word. Jesus is called the word, the living, breathing presence of God among us; the agent of creation, and the source of life (John 1:1-4):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.


The word of God, what we call the Bible, is the record that has been left for us about who Jesus is, what He has done for us, and the life He offers to everyone who trusts in Him. Like us, the Christians scattered in the rural areas of the Roman empire could not physically look at Jesus, hear His teachings from Him personally, and ask Him questions. God chose people like Peter to tell the story and to reveal God to us. And as people read or hear the word even today, the Holy Spirit acts through the word for people to reach a point of decision and to understand their need to trust in their Savior, and, having trusted in their Savior, to understand the mysteries of God and grow progressively more mature in their faith. Note in verse 23 that the word is not something trapped in ancient history, but is living (and it produces life) and enduring (the word will never cease).

Therefore, we must act like family (2:1-3)

Peter summarizes what being part of an imperishable, deeply loving family should lead to in our personal relationships: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (2:1).

He doesn’t leave much to our interpretation! “Malice” is a very strong word. It means ill-will, a desire to injure, willingness to get revenge from an attitude of self-righteousness. I think Peter is using the word malice as a kind of overstatement. The message is to let bygones be bygones among us; as brothers and sisters, don't harbor resentments, don’t dwell on our imperfections, and do forget words and actions that may have harmed us, intentionally or unintentionally. We are called on in the strongest terms to be completely committed to the family bond, which must prevail over all potential ill-will.

In verse 1, the term “deceit” means being deceptive for a selfish purpose. Some versions translate this term as “guile,” which is a more accurate translation and is defined as being cunning to achieve a selfish or secret goal, being tricky or crafty, misleading another person so that he or she will act in a way that benefits you. At its worst, being guileful may involve crime or fraud, but it also may be as seemingly innocent as what is called puffery in the sales world. Puffery means overstating the benefits of a product, or understating or even hiding its shortcomings, to influence the customer to decide to buy it. Even in our personal relationships, being guileful involves deceit, false assurances, insincere compliments; any attempt to influence that even skirts the complete truth. Again, I think of my friend from the past, whose smooth manner disarmed people as he moved from church to church and ultimately invited them to become distributors of his products.

Peter also tells Christians to “rid yourselves of all . . . hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is insincerity; for example, when we treat people nicely and then reveal what we really think of them by criticizing and gossiping about them when they are not present. He also tells us to “rid yourselves of all . . . envy.” That term needs little explanation. When we resent the good fortune other because we want what they have, that’s envy.

And finally, Peter tells us to “rid yourselves of all . . . slander of every kind.” Slander is speaking evil of someone else, defaming them; any communication designed to harm their reputation. The term “slander” had a broader application in the first century middle eastern context than it does in our 21st century western culture. Even gossiping about someone by stating something that is true falls into the New Testament meaning of slander. Think of slander as any gossip or talk, whether or not the facts are true, that is designed to harm someone.

Acting like family also means we work on deeper relationships with each other (2-3)

Notice in verse 2 that we should “crave pure spiritual milk” (literally, “crave the pure milk of the word”). That craving is not for the purpose of just knowing more scripture or having a better intellectual understanding about God, but “that you may grow up in your salvation.”

In other words, we should crave spiritual growth so we will become progressively more mature in understanding and applying the characteristics of our Savior in the way we live and the way we related to the people around us.

The context of this instruction is our relationship with other Christians as brothers and sisters. That context is the connection I mentioned earlier between the two commands in the passage we are looking at today to (1) love one another deeply, from the heart (1:22), and (2) to crave pure spiritual milk (2:2). Although we find in other passages that milk is used as a metaphor for teachings suitable for immature or worldly Christians (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Corinthians 3:1), Peter is not using it in that way here. Rather, Peter sees the spiritual milk metaphor as the continual maturing which all Christians need in order to nurture their spiritual life in Christ and their relationships with each other.

(Note: While I usually teach from the New King James Version [NKJV], I am teaching from the New International Version [NIV] in this study in the book of 1 Peter because the NIV so accurately renders the thought of the original text. Regardless of the English translation used, I also compare the English rendering with the Greek New Testament. For those not fluent in the biblical languages, a Greek-English interlinear Bible and Hebrew-English interlinear Bible can be of great assistance in revealing the original nuances of meaning of words and grammatical structure. Many of the interlinear Bibles also include Strong's numbering and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries keyed to the Strong's for concise definitions of the original terms. The most helpful Bible I have found is the MacArthur Study Bible, which is available in the New King James Version and the New American Standard [NASB] translation. The notations in the MacArthur Study Bible are extremely accurate in reflecting the literal meaning of the texts and are invaluable in providing the accurate scriptural backgrounds for the basic evangelical Christian doctrines derived from the literal view of Scripture. Another helpful Bible for English readers is the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, which is an NIV translation with numbering keyed to a Hebrew dictionary and Greek dictionary in the back of the book.)

July 5, 2008

Be Holy: 1 Peter 1:13-21

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 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 man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was 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 1:13-21)

Remember the context in which Peter wrote this letter. In 64 A.D., a fire destroyed several hundred acres of homes, shops, and pagan temples in Rome. The people suspected the emperor, Nero, had set the fire, and historians agree. Shortly after the fire, Nero appropriated about 100 acres of the burned areas (some historians say he seized 300 acres) to build for himself a new palace and its grounds. Facing a growing public opinion that he had had the fire set for the purpose of clearing land for his new palace, Nero placed blame on the Christians, releasing a long and bloody government-led persecution in which thousands of Christians were murdered and crucified. The Christians in Rome and other large cities of the Roman empire fled to the countryside, where the could find relative peace in villages and rural areas, primarily in the northern parts of Asia Minor (modern Turkey).


Virtually every pagan religion was acceptable in Roman culture because they recognized many gods, and those practicing one of the many pagan religions did not object to worshiping the emperor in addition to their other gods. The Roman government required worship of the emperor as a god as a condition of Roman citizenship and in order to have the right to own property, earn a living, and buy and sell in the marketplace. Christianity was not acceptable in Roman culture because it did not acknowledge pagan gods, including the emperor.


The fire in Rome was devastating not only to the thousands of homes and shops it destroyed, but also to the many pagan religious ideas in which the people believed. The fire spared nothing, including the pagan temples and the household gods, small pagan idols in every home and shop to protect the property and inhabitants. After the fire did its work, the people saw that their gods were not powerful enough to protect them, and blaming the Christians was, in a way, a method of rationalizing the destruction: the Christian God had somehow overpowered the pagan gods, whose powers were seen as having been reasserted by the persecution and killing of the Christians, because killing them proved their God was not powerful enough to protect them.


Last week, we discussed Satan’s desire to discredit God and His people. In the instance of these first century Christians, it was in the form of a huge public event, the fire in Rome, and a government that instigated persecution. Today, it may be more subtle as various cultures, including our own western culture, seek to discredit or minimize the Christian principles and practices, as well as deny the existence of God Himself or reject the idea that Jesus is the only way for salvation and communion with God the Father. In a semantic reversal, the Christians, and not the culture, are regarded as intolerant, whereas it is the culture itself, with its ecumenical, polytheistic ideas of religion, that is intolerant. Sometimes Christians observe that it is their religious beliefs, and only theirs, that the culture seems to routinely reject as unacceptably rigid.


Some Christians themselves don’t help matters, as we discussed last week. Every evangelical leader publically exposed in sexual sin, fraudulent business or ministry practices, or opulent living tends to reinforce the culture’s attitude toward our faith. Every Christian business person whose business practices are less than honest leads unbelievers to conclude that the Christian faith is inconsistent with its claims has little to offer. Every Christian who yields to sexual temptation, expresses racial bias, or lives a prideful, arrogant lifestyle helps the unbelieving culture conclude once more that the Christian message is not that different from that of the culture.


But Peter points out that Christian are different. In chapter 1 verse 1, Peter calls these first century Christians “God’s elect, strangers in the world.” That applies to us, too. Authentic Christians do not subscribe to the self-centered, me-first values of our culture. We are different. We are “strangers in the world” because worship and serve the one and only God and energetically adopt His character traits and subscribe to His principles for living.


Lest we start feeling sorry for ourselves or see ourselves as victims in a culture that largely rejects our beliefs and values, remember that God chose us to live in the world as His ambassadors and witnesses, a world full of opposition to our faith and full of temptations that confront us. The night before He died, Jesus prayed: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15).


In light of that, in the passage today Peter advises us how we should live as strangers in a hostile world. The basic question he answers is: How do we live a holy life in an unholy world? Peter gives us four principles to follow:


Be prepared (13-14)


God wants us not to live blindly, following whatever notions of character and behavior currently in vogue, but to think and live in light of who we really are. Notice that verse 13 starts with “therefore.” Peter is saying that in light of what I’ve just told you, here’s what to do. And what has he just told them? Look at the first 12 verses for the answer. He has told them that God has a great interest in us, has given us a new birth; we are no longer who we were, enslaved to our sin nature, but new people with a new relationship with our Creator. Peter also has pointed out that God has a purpose for allowing us to face trials, and, finally, that we live in a special time: whereas the prophets who wrote centuries before about the coming Messiah, we have experienced Him.


Peter advises us to prepare our minds (verse 13). Literally, he writes “gird up the loins of your mind,” evoking the picture of a soldier preparing for battle. He adds that we must be self-controlled (literally, “sober”; in control). Living in a pagan culture and facing temptations does not mean merely to try to live detached in a spiritual dream world. It takes a decision of the mind. As James says, resist the devil and he will flee from you.


Peter is reminding us that our propensity to do wrong or determination to be holy is a decision of the mind. Paul expresses it just as clearly: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). That means removing the contaminants, like your heating system’s filter removes the dust from the air in your home.

But the process is not just to resist evil. Peter adds that we must set our hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. So it’s not just filtering out the unholy from our minds that is important, but filling it instead with what is good.


Peter is in agreement with the other New Testament writers: the temptations and troubles of the present pale compared to our future hope, when we see our Savior. Paul gives us the practical prescription in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


Be holy (15-16)


We know that “holy” means “set apart to God” or, simply, “pure” or “set apart from sin and impurity” in the sense of God’s perfect moral purity. There is not much to add to Peter’s instruction: be holy in all you do. No doubt we can find a lot of lists of do’s and don’ts about how to live more holy lives. But becoming better at being holy isn’t just something we do, it is something God does together with us called sanctification. As we mature in the faith, we naturally show that with thoughts and behaviors closer and closer to holiness.


That said, let me just give one practical way to help us along the path of holiness as we face temptations daily: always think about the consequences and not the brief pleasure of sin. In the short run, frankly, most wrong actions offer pleasure or satisfaction. We tend to want to take vengeance, for example. Don’t we all feel justified or satisfied at the prospect getting vengeance for some wrong done to us? Also coming to mind are other self-centered actions such as sexual sin, stealing, gossiping, anger. We could make a long list of unholy attitudes and behaviors which, in the short run, offer temporary feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, or justification.


But when a little time passes, the positive feelings are gone. They always go away, and we are left to deal with the consequences. There are the spiritual consequences such as grieving God, damaging the cause of Jesus Christ, and harming our reputation and ministry. There can be physical consequences such as pregnancy and disease and emotional consequences such as guilt, shame, and broken relationships.


Here’s what the writer of Hebrews had to say about how Moses handled a big temptation: “By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel” (Hebrews 11:23-28).


Or perhaps we should just remember to heed the advice from Proverbs 10:23: “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” (In Proverbs, the definition of a fool is a person who does not have wisdom.)


So a good question to ask when on the verge of lashing out at someone or yielding to some temptation that promises pleasure or satisfaction might be: Is the short-term satisfaction I will have worth the pain that will follow?


Live in constant reverence (17)


The term “fear” means both reverence or extreme respect, and fear or terror. (I am using the NIV for our study of 1 and 2 Peter because of how well it translates both the words and the thoughts; “reverent fear” is as close a translation as we can get.)


Everyone will appear before God one day to give an account of how he or she lived. For the Christian, our works will result in gaining or losing rewards: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).


No one, saved or unsaved, escapes giving an account of himself or herself to God: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).


That leads me to better understanding the “reverent fear” in verse 17 of our passage today. In every temptation, I should learn to think about the fact that there will come the day when I stand before God to be judged according to my attitudes and actions. So it’s a good idea to begin every day with a sense of awe for Him It’s also a good idea to pray about the challenges facing me and ask for His grace and power to deal with them.


Remember what God has done for me (18-21)


So far we have dealt with the “what”: be prepared, be holy, live in constant reverence for Him. Now Peter deals with the “why,” the motivation: refusing to yield to temptation not just because I will be judged, but more important because I want to honor my God after all He has done for me.


Jesus rescued me by dying in my place. It’s hard to think of love and sacrifice stronger than that. That act of redemption also enables me to be a different person. Jesus also gave us the perfect example of living and dealing with temptations: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).


But He did something else, too. He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, and it is He, the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible for us to live the way Jesus lived: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).



(Note: While I usually teach from the New King James Version [NKJV], I am teaching from the New International Version [NIV] in this study in the book of 1 Peter because the NIV so accurately renders the thought of the original text. Regardless of the English translation used, I also compare the English rendering with the Greek New Testament. For those not fluent in the biblical languages, a Greek-English interlinear Bible and Hebrew-English interlinear Bible can be of great assistance in revealing the original nuances of meaning of words and grammatical structure. Many of the interlinear Bibles also include Strong's numbering and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries keyed to the Strong's for concise definitions of the original terms. The most helpful Bible I have found is the MacArthur Study Bible, which is available in the New King James Version and the New American Standard [NASB] translation. The notations in the MacArthur Study Bible are extremely accurate in reflecting the literal meaning of the texts and are invaluable in providing the accurate scriptural backgrounds for the basic evangelical Christian doctrines derived from the literal view of Scripture. Another helpful Bible for English readers is the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, which is an NIV translation with numbering keyed to a Hebrew dictionary and Greek dictionary in the back of the book.)