Tag Archives: 1 Peter

It’s not about the chocolate..

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

(Mark 8.34)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2.20)

You attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.. he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

(Philippians 2.5-8)

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

(1 Peter 2.21-23)

As followers of Jesus around the world take time over the next few days to remember particularly the events of the last week of his life, looking forward to his death for all who would believe in him, I have been thinking how easy it is to forget a very significant truth about how he lived for us first.

Before Jesus died to save us from the power and consequences of sin – to offer hope for all the brokenness that each of us carries and cannot by any amount of our own effort overcome – he died to himself.

He deliberately set aside his own desires, the urge for self-preservation, comfort and privacy, for a “normal”life and the freedom to grow old without pain, and in peace. He gave up his rights as the eternal Son, setting them aside in order to become as a servant, one to whom no honour was due; and whose life might be disregarded and set at little worth. He gave up his rights to have his needs met in the ways he desired; he gave up the right to justify himself and to have the last word in an argument; he gave up the right to seek justice on his enemies for the wrongs they did to him. He set aside any notion of status or human authority, and never fought for recognition for his gifts and talents. He did not sulk or scheme against others when their opinions prevailed and his was set at nought.

It is far too easy for us to read Jesus’ words about denying ourselves, and to take them in as 21st century people – immediately thinking of diets, or other forms of privation; as many people still do in Lent, even when they have no faith in the Saviour whose life and death that season is associated with in many church calendars. It is far too easy to confine self-denial to food, or tv, or our favourite social media, or some other relatively innocuous item which doesn’t touch the heart of the matter.

It is ‘self’, the root of all human rebellion against God which must be denied, and that goes so deep with us, that most of us will spend our lives discovering ever more ways in which it rules and must be toppled from the throne over again.

I have no rights. I can demand nothing from life which I am entitled to receive. As a believer, all that I am and have is a gift from God, freely given, for him to use or withdraw according to his purpose and pleasure – for a greater and more glorious future than I can currently imagine. Will I trust this God – as Jesus did? Will I choose to cling by faith to his goodness and his promises when all my dearest hopes are gone; if my health were to be chronically undermined, or my children materially to suffer? Will I choose to let him look after the honour of my name and reputation, if all around treat me like dirt? Will I choose to let the justice of my cause go undefended, trusting in God to see and know, and resting on his love and acceptance of me for all my peace?

Jesus did this. He calls me to follow, rejecting the self which weeps and cries, fights and resists, clinging to every last foothold in my spirit and mind with incredible tenacity and hiding itself behind so many specious arguments.

My precious Lord and Saviour, for whom every step along the road to Jerusalem, every word and deed that last week was an act of obedient submission to the Father, and of ruthless denial of self, may I receive grace to follow and to carry my cross as simply, humbly and selflessly as you. Put to death in me that fierce enemy of the King of my heart, so that he might reign alone, and be glorified by who he makes me.

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To arms, to arms!!

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light…..It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.

(Psalm 18. 28,33-35)

Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

(Ephesians 6.10-13)

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

(1Peter 5.8-11)

It sneaks up on me, little by little, one cord here, another there. I stumble, something bruises me, my eyes are clouded by some distress and I lose sight of the path. Before I realise what has happened, I am struggling desperately in a trap, as hopeless and terrified as a child stuck in the dark of a strange room at night, unable to find the way out..

I am surely not the only follower of Jesus who has experienced such ambushes, oppression and assault, realising only too late that my adversary, the devil, is playing with me for his own devious and harmful ends. My failure to recognise and deal with him promptly has left me vulnerable to a tightening of the trap, a deepening of the darkness, and the emotional confusion makes it hard to think clearly.

I thank God that he opened my eyes to what was happening, that he showed me how the accumulation of small things was all part of an assault on me and on my family – and something not to be surprised at, since where God is at work, there the evil one will also come to undermine and oppose. My husband is a minister, he deals in proclaiming the gospel and making disciples – is it any wonder that his family should be in the firing line? We should not be surprised at such things, and yet all too often, I am; I fail to recognise the enemy until I am down and weakening.

Thank God, who opens our eyes to see and our minds to understand these things, and who graciously forgives all the times we failed to perceive soon enough what was going on! And thank God for the friend by whose conversation I was reminded of the call to arms, the call to strike in defence of who and what I am in Christ!

We shy away from the language of warfare which is used in the bible, but it is surely the best way to understand our part in God’s work in the world today. In Christ, we have ultimate victory over death, the wages of sin are paid and the devil has NO jurisdiction in our lives. But he is fighting a desperate rearguard action, and if he can, he will render us useless for Christ by binding us in traps of despair or even just indifference.

It is for us to claim the victory we have in Christ – hence Paul’s rousing words to the Ephesians! We have the armour, and in Christ, we have the king who has dealt the fatal blow to our enemy. Christ is my king, the Lord of my life, and the evil one has NO right to interfere and no authority to destroy. I can and must take all the weapons given me and stand firm, resisting until he flees. My marriage is God’s calling of two into one, and the devil has no place in it; in Jesus’ name I can shut him out. Our congregation is God’s family in this place, and we can claim the protecting arms of the great Shepherd around his sheep.

Praise God, for in him we have a final victory; and also the strength to stand firm and claim that victory in each part of our lives. I do not say this lightly: we don’t presume that every difficulty will be removed, but rather that in Christ, we can and will bear suffering with hope, and confidence. There is – as Paul so famously says in Romans 8 – NOTHING, that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and that is our victory!

Give me eyes to see..

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God…

..once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!

(Ephesians 5.1,2 &8)

You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

(1Peter 2.9)

The image of light is a very powerful one, and used in many ways in the bible. Here, Paul and Peter are using it to contrast the before and after state of the believers to whom they write. We know from our own experience how much we depend upon light in order to function.. Only the other night, awaking in the pitch dark of a strange bedroom and trying to  creep out quietly to visit the bathroom, I ended up nearly in tears in a corner frantically trying to find the door handle…My long-suffering husband was wakened by my increasingly agitated fumblings, and putting on the bed-side lamp was able to show me the way out!! It was an educational experience; the next night, I used my phone as a light.. The glow from the screen was minimal, but enough for navigational purposes.

But what does that say about our need for spiritual light? How much is enough? With a tiny glow in the darkness, we suddenly see that things could be so different, and embrace the illumination which God’s offer of salvation brings. And as we grow in faith and walk with Jesus through the maturing experiences of life, it is as if the light within us grows steadily stronger.

I firmly believe that one of the most encouraging things about becoming more mature as a Christian is a growing awareness of how much about us is still needing to be changed! The stronger our source of illumination, the greater degree of detail we can observe, and that applies just as much to our spiritual lives as to the rest of life. I can’t sew properly unless I have sufficient light to let me see the needle and thread clearly, but a dim light is enough to show me the letters or cards for a board game.

I wrote last week about the struggle to take my thoughts captive, to exercise the victory which Jesus has won for me and to turn away from acting on wrong thoughts. But I realise now that I can be most deeply encouraged by my own distress over my thoughts! Think about it: if I was not – by God’s grace – being made more like Jesus, a little less sin-sick, and a little more holy, then I would simply not care about these rogue thoughts. As I am being re-shaped by God’s word at work in me, my spiritual eyes are growing healthier and the light within is showing more of the reality of remaining sin in my life. So although I may regret the necessity for the struggle, I rejoice that I desire to engage in the battle. I am on the Lord’s side in this, and more importantly, he is on my side. We are fighting together, and I have his power at my disposal, his spirit to help me to see as he does, and his love to inspire me.

The love and mercy poured out upon me are continually drawing out a response of gratitude, which manifests itself in a desire to bring delight to the one who has loved, God himself. That is why Paul exhorts his readers ‘as dearly loved children’ to respond to that love by imitating their heavenly Father. When we come to him in our struggles, sharing his hatred of the sin which clings to us like smoke in our clothes, and claiming the victory he has won for us; surely then our God is full of gladness and delights in his little ones. We are not perfect, we are not as nearly perfect as we could be.. but by his grace and to his glory, we are not what we were, and the light in us is growing stronger and stronger.

A blank sheet..

For we are God’s masterpiece. 

He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

(Eph 2.10)

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.

(1 Peter 2.9&10)

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth.

(Eph 1.9&10) 

As I contemplate the next few months, with a change of home; church and lifestyle – moving after 16 years in one house, 22 in the same church, and a lifetime in the city – I am deeply conscious that God is asking every day, “do you trust me?”

Do I? I am tempted to barter with God, to ask to see in advance how he will provide for me – for friends, rewarding activities, replacements for all the things that make my life here so rich. That is not trust. Indeed it speaks of a deep suspicion, an unwillingness to believe that God is going to be faithful to his promises, and I am ashamed to recognise it in my heart.

The whole of scripture reveals an active God, one who has a plan – both a great overall strategy and an intimate personal plan for the lives of the individuals caught up in it. Think of the wonderful story of Ruth, called out of her native land to become a mother and grandmother within the people of Israel, and part of the blood-line not only of King David, but also our great King Jesus himself. She needed to be cherished and provided for as a woman in her society, and God brought Boaz to be her husband, meeting both the intimate personal needs and the larger plan he was steadily working out. Or consider Hannah, a faithful but barren wife – mocked and demeaned by her neighbours and suffering deeply for her lack of children. God heard her prayer for a son, and filled her arms and her heart with joy; but he also brought into the nation the boy who would become one of the greatest prophet leaders, Samuel, who would anoint first Saul and then David as king.

I need to remind myself of these promises, these stories, of God active to meet personal needs within his great plan, as our family faces upheaval and I wonder what I am to do in our new place of ministry. God’s great plan remains – to call a people to himself, to make disciples of all nations and to see all things gathered together under the lordship of Jesus Christ. It is astonishing to think that I have a part to play in that adventure, but it is for this that I was created new in Christ, and God has planned good works which he will enable me to do for him!

But on a personal level too, I will have things to do, new relationships to establish, people to encourage and serve, new ways to serve and glorify the God who has called me out of darkness into his glorious light! Will I not trust him to reveal those to me in his own good time? I want to close with words which I first heard through Elisabeth Elliott – a woman who learnt to trust God through great suffering – and which although archaic to our ears yet convey that sense of waiting in trust that God will direct my steps in his own, good, time.

From an old English parsonage, down by the sea

there came in the twilight a message to me;

Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,

Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.

And on through the hours the quiet words ring like a low inspiration –

“Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,

Many a doubt hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,

Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.

Fear not tomorrows, child of the King, trust them with Jesus,

“Do the next thing.”

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;

do it reliantly, casting all care;

do it with reverence, tracing His Hand

who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe’neath his wing, leave all resultings,

“Do the next thing.”

Looking to Jesus, ever serener

(Working or suffering) be thy demeanour,

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance be thy psalm,

Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing, then as He beckons thee

“Do the next thing.”

(author unknown) 

Praying for my children….

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now  for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and 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 an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1. 3-9)

How often when praying for those dearest to us do we find ourselves asking God to keep them safe, to make their path smooth, and trouble free? It is all too easy, and very natural since as parents we expend so much time and energy in protecting and nurturing them as they grow! But is it healthy for their growth in faith? I fear not, and this passage from Peter’s letter would suggest otherwise. It is of course very painful for parents to see their children suffer, or drift away from faith in the God whom we believe is yearning over them. I do not wish in any way to minimise how we struggle to bear it when our children are in trouble, or how our own faith is tested in those circumstances.

Nonetheless, we do them no favours if we will not recognise that their lives are outwith our control, that they belong first and foremost to God, and we cannot control his dealings with them! For some parents, this will entail watching a child walk deliberately away from faith, with no guarantee that they will live to see them return. For others it may be a time of physical or mental suffering, perhaps a broken relationship or failure in some cherished ambition or career path. Even for the child whose path appears to be smooth and secure, there is never any guarantee in our sin-sick world that it will remain so, and nothing can be taken for granted.

So how should I pray? Obviously until they come to personal faith in Christ, our prayer will be that God will be at work to remove the barriers to faith, drawing them to himself, and convincting them of his claim to be lord of their lives. We must accept that the paths they take may not be those we would choose. For as long as they deny Christ as lord, their decisions will not be based on seeking God’s will, and how could we expect otherwise? But they are never further from God than anyone else, no less likely to be reached by His love and power, and so we pray with confidence and trust in His saving grace for their conversion.

And for believing children, I think the most important thing we can pray is that God will be at work by his spirit in their lives to create resilient faith. What do I mean? I mean faith which is strong enough to weather storms, to face darkness and hold fast to God’s promises. The kind of faith which is modelled for us in so many places in the bible, by real people who endured struggle and loss and yet trusted in God. Think of Joseph, all those years in an Egyptian prison; or David, on the run from Saul and wondering if his promised kingship was a daydream; or Esther, who put her life on the line for her people, believing that she was God’s instrument at that moment for their deliverance.

This is the faith which Peter tells his readers is being created in them as they face persecution, and is it not true in our own experience that it is only as we face the reality of our own helplessness that we fully learn to rely on God? Am I modelling that kind of faith for my children? If I am serious about praying for my children – and in fact any disciple of Christ – then I need to pray for their trials and struggles, that they would glorify God in and through them by standing firm in their faith. God never wastes our experiences of trouble if we accept them as opportunities to experience and witness to his grace and perfect goodness in meeting our needs.

May we, and those we love, learn to say with the Psalmist:

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

(Ps 27. 13&14)

It all comes to this..

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

(1 Peter 1.3&4)

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

(Hebrews 3.1)

Sometimes we are blessed by the presence in our lives of very wise souls, whose company and conversation are always a refreshing, and sometimes challenging experience. I am privileged to know several such people, and to see them regularly.

Last week as I shared with one lady about how my latest ‘devotional’ reading book had left me rather unimpresssed, she confessed that she had altogether stopped buying such things. They left her dissatisfied, and uninspired – rather like spiritual junk food which swiftly leaves one craving again! At the grand age of 91, she had decided that the only and best way to ensure in her growth in faith was simply to ‘keep close to God’. Her words have been ringing in my mind ever since, and as I came to write, they were before me.

She is right. Not all the most learned theological books, the most persuasive sermons, or ‘inspirational’ writings, can do us as much good as spending time looking at our Lord, considering His power and glory, His character and wisdom, His life, death and resurrection. In Jesus, we see our God revealed, the depths of His love and the lengths to which He was willing to go in order to bring us into His presence. It is true that theology, good preaching and inspiring words can help us to focus on Christ, to grasp more and more of who He is, but ultimately we must depend solely upon Jesus himself.

We rejoice in the presence of a God who is greater than our minds can begin to comprehend – and give thanks that in His mercy, He has revealed Himself to us in ways which we can understand! Is it not wonderful to us that the creator of all things should choose to “confide in those who fear him”(Ps 25.14)? Who are we that this majesty should notice us at all? The libraries of divinity colleges are stuffed with works exploring the nature of God, the person of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, and all that flows from that. Twenty centuries of scholarship since the coming of Christ have not exhausted the subject, and every generation finds fresh food for thought and engages in a new way with the word of God. Truly our God is unfathomable, and our worship should spring from a place of humility as we realise this afresh.

And yet… the truth about our God is also very simple, so that we teach it to our children, in confident hope that as they grow in years, so they will grow into faith. How many of us remember singing these words from our earliest years?

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong!”

A lifetime of steadfast study and growth in faith cannot exhaust the riches of our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet the whole truth can be summarised in one verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(John 3.16)

Our loving Father made us, and knows us, and has provided all that we need to grow in our faith. We have his word, the true and reliable guide to his character and his work in the world. And we have Christ, who lives in us, whose Spirit directs our thoughts and inspires our worship and service and stirs up the inclination of our hearts towards our saviour.

In Christ, we have all the nourishment our souls need for this life, and indeed for eternity. In him, there is beauty without blemish; power without pride; love without measure. Here we find a subject to engage and fascinate us, one which transforms us as we immerse ourselves in it. This above all, is a matter worthy of our full attention and devotion, at whatever level we can engage with and express our response to it. From the youngest child to the oldest saint in the congregation, we are able to cry out together in genuine worship of our beloved Lord. Let His be the praise and the glory, as ours will surely be the blessing!

O Let the praises of my heart be Thine, for Christ has died, that I may call Him mine,

That I may sing with those who dwell above, adoring, praising Jesus, King of Love.

(W.V. Higham 1926-)