Archive for January, 2012
Some people store up treasures for themselves on this earth through the church. They will put an unrighteous tax on their parishioners and make themselves rich. This is not what happened in the early church. In 1 Corinthians Paul exhorts the Corinthians to give money to the church in Jerusalem, not so that the church in Jerusalem could be rich but so that they would avoid poverty in the ancient sense. The difference between poverty then and poverty now is like the difference between poverty in the United States and poverty in India. Christ preached to the low and the church was composed of the lowest for the most part.
Persecution did not make the situation any better. At the beginning of the Nazi persecution the first step was to seize their assets and businesses. Imagine then the horror of what happened when these impoverished Christians had their lives taken away. If they had jobs they lost them. If they had unbelieving friends they were rejected. If they had unbelieving family they were rejected. This was the lot of the believer, and Peter, the author of 1 Peter, through the understanding of the Holy Spirit. This is why he begins his letter by reminding those who are being persecuted of the hope that they have in Christ for a better day.
Some Christians are so focused on the present that they lose their focus on heaven. This is easy to do in the American church because Americans have it remarkably well. We are blessed to live in a free society, which is incredibly rich and well off. Our diseases are not born of poverty they are born of wealth. We have heart disease, not small pox. Persecution is not a problem for the church in America, so when we think of heaven we are prone to think of earth.
However heaven is much better than earth. We have a limited scope because we believe we have reached a societal high in this country. We believe that we are at an apex. This was the opposite of how the early church had it. They had no great society in which to place their faith, and their faith in Christ had cost them a lot, so then why should they persevere? Why would they keep going?
The truth is that for all the graces our society has, it holds nothing to what God promises us in his word. Our pleasures will pass on, but 1 Peter 1:4 assures us that the graces God reflects to us will not. His heavens will go on forever, even when Western Civilization’s glories have all gone away. You cannot count on things that perish, you have to follow the word of God into an imperishable paradise. This is a paradise that is not earthly, and will cost you everything that you have on this earth.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3
There are times in our lives when what we are saved to might not be as present in our minds as the fact that we as Christians are saved. Oftentimes the beliefs that we don’t struggle with are ones that we are not confronting opposition to. There are times when our whole salvation can be called into question because of the opposition that we face. Peter opens his first letter to the church by reviewing what we are being saved to, and the rest of the book reviews the implications of that salvation. Peter solidifies the churches position on what they are born to.
We are saved by mercy. Mercy is grace granted to believers. There once was a man named Jesus Christ who lived many years ago. He did not live as any other man but was instead perfect in all his ways. All men inherit a sinful nature from our forefather, Adam. Adam was a sinner as we are sinners. He was the first in a line of sinners that has gone through all of human history. Jesus was perfect. He was a spotless lamb who was sacrificed by sinners for sinners.
When Christ died he did so for sinners. However our mercy is not just found in Christ’s death. It is found in his glorious resurrection. When Christ died he did so that men could be raised. Christ was sacrificed so that sinners in the line of Adam might receive a new heart. We need only believe to be saved, because of the mercy of God.
When Christian’s die it is not the beginning of suffering or complete annihilation, rather we go to onto a greater life. This life with Christ is so great that the old life is put off. The greatest joys we experience on this earth are a foreshadowing of what will happen in heaven. When a Christian becomes a Christian his life is never over, simply goes through constant transformation. This transformation culminates in coming to be with God in heaven. This is a living hope.
No matter how hard life is we can trust in at least two things: the mercy of Christ and the living hope that we have in Christ. Those who come to Christ in faith have access to the great mercy of the Father and the living hope that is found in that mercy.
During my senior year in high school I moderated two discussions on human sexuality. I was asked to do this by my life sciences teacher, one who I greatly respected. She was not, as far as I knew, a believer, but we had similar views on human sexuality to two different ends. I believe in abstinence for biblical reasons, while she believes in them for scientific ones. She rightly says that abstinence is effective 100% of the time. However she also believed that contraceptives should be made available and their proper use should be taught if passions were to be exercised. Over the past few years I have considered what that meant.
You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in a biblical principle. There are plenty of unbelievers who believe that murder and stealing are wrong. It is where conventional wisdom of man and what the bible says align that we often have to ask ourselves why we believe something, because our view of that topic may be distorted by cultural influences. Consider the command in Ephesians 5 for wives to submit to their husbands. This command was culturally supported for many centuries, but the reason why was often muddled leading to trouble. In Ephesians 5 Paul calls us to reflect the love and submission of Christ by husbands loving their wives and wives submitting to their husbands, but Western Civilization adopted this principle as a way to be prejudiced against women. Men who leverage their power over their wives abusively do not follow the bible, because they do not see the biblical reason for their wives to submit. They just assume that it is because they are supposed to lord over them, not as a reflection of the humility of Christ.
Abstinence is a powerful part of the Christian culture. It is a part of our cultural ethos to dedicate ourselves to a life of refraining from sexual contact until marriage. This is a biblical idea which started with the first man and woman. In Genesis 2:22-25 there is a marriage ceremony between Adam and his wife Eve. It is officiated by God, and afterwards in reflection the Holy Spirit quickened the hand of the writer of Genesis to write verse 24 which says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Here we have a basic description of the standard of sexuality that the bible calls us to. We are to leave our parents, cling to our spouses, and have sex. All of this is after entering into a covenant with God and this other person that they would be as our flesh, as described in verse 23.
Adam and Eve’s courtship was very quick, and there were no other women for Adam to engage with sexually up until that point. So what about the time between when we start having sexual feelings towards others and when we get married? Isn’t it wrong to suppress your sexual desires? Why do we have sexual desires I will answer this question using the example of Christ.
Jesus Christ has existed eternally. He is the Son, the 2nd person of the trinity. He is in every way God. He is God with the Spirit and Father. He is one with them, and they are one with him. In being God Jesus is omnipresent. This is to say that Jesus Christ is God, and he is everywhere all the time. God is everywhere all the time. (Jeremiah 23:22-23) (more…)
Persecuted Elect Exiles
The point of the election is not to give a man a meter by which he can judge salvation. Men cannot write some off as “unelect.” Rather election is the reflection of God’s grace of freedom from worrying. One of the most comforting verses in the bible is Romans 8:28 which reads: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Paul then goes on to explain that we have not only been elected but saved. Paul starts this passage out by saying that his present sufferings are not worthy of comparison to future glory.
Election is the fact that God is calling men to future glory. The call of God is a sure thing, God does not lie and he doesn’t change his mind. (Numbers 23:19) If you are called of God it is a sure thing. The assurance is of salvation. With salvation comes the glory of God. We are not just saved to suffer, we are saved to be glorified by God. You are not just elected to be a part of the family of God, you are elected to be an heir with Christ.
As Christians we inherit both the good and the bad. We are elected to suffer as Christ suffered, and then to be glorified as Christ has been glorified.
1 Peter is a letter to those who are suffering. Peter opens up with the fact that they are elect exiles to reflect to them one of the great attributes of God, his providence. God provides for the persecuted in times when they are well off and in times when they are not. He is the constant provider. He is the refuge for the chased, the contender for the wrongly persecuted, and the God of the everlasting covenant. He elected believers to have part in the inheritance of Christ, he devotes himself to giving us relief in their time of struggle, and dedicated himself to seeing that good would be done for us for all eternity. That my friends, is the doctrine of predestination
1 Peter is wrote to the elect exiles a the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. While one could easily find those geographic locations on a map the real mystery is what Peter meant by elect exiles is much more complicated. There is a lot of controversy surrounding election and predestination. Many argue that God does not predestine those who are to be saved, that we have an element of free will to choose our eternal destiny. Others would argue that we are not free by any means, and that the will of God crushes us into conformity with him. This article will explore the idea of election, the implications of election, and who the elect exiles really are.
One of the best things about the bible is that it includes several very intimate stories about conversion. Men who were not running toward God are abruptly turned around. The question of election can be answered in part through looking at the details of these conversions. The first conversion that we will look at can be found in Genesis 12.
Abram was a man of Ur. We don’t know much about Abram’s life in Ur. We know that he had possessions and some family, and that he lived in Ur. However we do not know much else about him. Abram heard God’s call on his life and packed up and left his first life behind to chase the glory of God in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that the Lord continued to bless Abram. We have no indication of how Abram came to hear of God. We also have no indication that Abram believed in God before he was called. Much of Abram’s life suggests that he did not know the laws of God well. However in Genesis 12 God calls to Abram.
In Luke 5, Jesus Christ called his first disciples. He did not give them a convincing gospel message. He didn’t present apologetics. God performed a miracle and they followed him. Now these men were not the smartest, most handsome, or richest men. They were the lowest of the low in many respects. They did not take a lot of time to calculate a response or consider what they should do, they simply jumped out of the boats and followed his call.
In Acts 9 we read of a man named Saul who was trying to destroy the church until he encountered a man named Jesus. This Jesus did not walk along side him but appeared to him with such a light that it blinded him for several days. Jesus called to Paul and told him to end his persecution of the church and instead turn to faith in him. Saul, who knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards required a visit of Christ, quite literally.
Salvation is not stagnant. Salvation is gloriously invigorating. In each of these three cases the salvation of the Lord made something happen to these men that caused them to move about. Abram became Abraham and he traveled from Sumer to Egypt and eventually to Palestine. His family would spend many hundreds of years traveling from Palestine to Egypt and then back again. There they would become the nation of Israel. They were God’s people.
Those first few disciples ultimately grew to a group of twelve and traveled all over Israel ministering with Christ. Then Christ died and they scattered, only to be gathered again when Christ rose from the dead. After that they congregated in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came and they were each given different languages to speak. From their some stayed in Jerusalem, but some would go as far as India to preach Christ.
So we have released an e-book! If you remember our Weeding series from last year then you will want to pick up this e-book. We have released all the articles combined together on the Kindle. This makes for a quick read and it is only a dollar on the Kindle store. The Kindle store is available in app form on the Ipod, Ipad, and desktop computers. All proceeds go back to the Dispersion, helping us run the website and expand into future projects.
Thank you for your support.
Peace in Christ,
As I was reading through a blog by Grace to You Ministries internet minister I began to think about some of the conventions of ministry. Having been close to many different churches I can tell you that no two churches work the same. If you went into the strictest of ritualistic congregations you would see subtle differences in how they “do church” from the language spoken to the edition of the hymnals. Many religions have a strict ritualistic approach to worship, but what we find in the New Testament is a collaboration of different parts of what most of us would call church into what the church actually is. There is a pretty good list in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul speaks about speaking in tongues, prophesying, understanding, encouragement, and singing songs as a part of the practice of the church. Elsewhere Paul will speak about defending and contending for the gospel, but this is a pretty exhaustive list. Theologians like Martin Luther would add administering the sacraments, like communion or baptism, as a part of what the church does. However the back bone of the church, the center of the church, is love. Paul compares one of the greatest obligations of the church, to suffer for Christ, unworthy in comparison to love. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3
With love at the backbone of church things get complicated. Love is not formulaic. Love for Christ is a supernatural thing. It is beyond us to completely understand the love that Christ has for us, but it is that love that we are called to emulate. That is at the very core of church. This creates a host of problems in and of itself, but Paul in 1 Corinthians when Paul defines what love is. It is an incredible list of impossible standards, however these standards are vital. What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 is that things like patience, rejoicing in truth, and enduring all things are not on the same level as preaching truth, prophesying or speaking in tongues. He is saying that they are much more important.
There will probably be many hours spent in 2012 with pastors wondering how they should “do church” and most of them will approach it like they approach a machine. They will try to work out inefficiencies or design systems that make the whole thing require less energy to run. However God puts systems, structures, and obligations aside for love. Love is the greatest thing to have at a church service. Pastors who worry about the effectiveness of their preaching should pray for Christ’s love to be reflected in their sermons. Children’s workers should pray for Christ’s patience. Those who minister to those in hospitals should pray for Christ’s endurance. All of these things are a reflection of his love.
The question for many churches, when it really boils down to it, is not about logistics, but about love. You will always run out of buildings, or have one that is breaking down. That’s just the way the world works. Do you have love? Do you have the love of Christ? Do you consider love before you consider the other parts of your service? At the core of the church should be the love of Christ. At the core of our understanding and service to the church should be the love of Christ.
Football players watch tape and preachers read the bible. The “game tape” of a teacher comes from studying great theological resources and studying the glory of God in the bible. Perhaps the hardest thing about Christianity is that God has called Christians to preach and teach to each other. Preachers and teachers are called to teach others who are called to teach others who are called to teach others. God calls some to be over tens, and some over tens of thousands. Wherever you are called you are called to preach and teach well. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on teachers to know and study the word so that when they teach they are not allowing bad teaching to trickle down.
We live in a culture of over-production. Our texts are short, our tweets are short, and our attention spans are short. Teachers of Christianity may sometime react to this wave of inattentiveness by modifying the message of Christianity into something much simpler than it is. The thinking is that we should mold the message of Christ into something that is easy to be heard by the person we are talking to. We develop messages that speak to parishioners but do not preach the harder things of the faith. (more…)
What kind of books to do you look at when you go to the bookstore or are surfing the web? Are they by the same author or come from the same publisher? Do they reflect the same theological perspective? A great book, that is full of great theological understanding, is a great resource to have. However what happens when a book isn’t as full of good theology or doesn’t line up with all of our views? Reading a book that is bad can be very beneficial for seeking great understanding and perspective on what God is calling us to as Christians. Below is a list of ideas on why and how to read a bad book.
While a lot of people decry the end of Christendom, there is a powerful Christian culture that still exists. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life is the second best selling book in history, only to be outdone by the Bible. Books by men like Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, and Bill Hybels have sold very well through mostly Christian veins. Rob Bell’s books ask a lot of questions about classic Christianity and his ideas are very prevelant. So what if a brother or sister in Christ, who is not necessarily as solid in the word as you are, asks about Rob Bell’s ideas? Would you be able to respond following the scripture? Reading books that are by authors that we are not used to reading can help us respond to their ideas and contend and defend the gospel from bad teaching. (more…)
1 Peter was written to a church in turmoil over persecution. People were coming to Christ and facing extreme pressure because of that decision. This happens today in places like the Middle East where converts to Christianity can be stoned to death if they don’t renounce their faith and turn back to Islam. Imagine the church that you go to loosing members weekly not to sin or to moving, but to arrest and execution. I imagine that in many of the congregations we attend that would not go over well and probably lead to violence on behalf of the congregation. However what if you didn’t have the hope of attack, voting, or protesting? What if you simply had no hope but to wait. Where is your hope? Well of course your hope would be in Jesus Christ, and that is where Peter starts.
I am sure that when people came to Christ they didn’t start out thinking, “Well my family will hate me, my boss will fire me, my spouse will leave me, my boss will fire me, and I might get arrested or beat up in the streets.” While they might have had an inclination of the understanding of the persecution they faced, those kinds of realities are always hard to understand unless you are in the middle of them. In 1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter looks at why they are suffering and what it means to be a Christian. The first place that Peter goes is the faithfulness of salvation that God gives to the church and the spreading of the church through the world. God has called all believers to be believers, and it is his plan to spread us out, through persecution at times.
Foreknowledge of God the Father
Believe it or not when you were saved you did not surprise God. God knew that you were going to be saved. Not only did God know that you were going to be saved, but he orchestrated events so that you would be saved by grace. This is helpful to remember because even in the hardest times in our lives we know that God has ordained all these things to help us grow closer to him.
In the Sanctification of the Spirit
Not only did God save us and know that he was going to, he is still with us. Sanctification is the idea that God is with us, refining us to be more like him. The Spirit of God is with us in hope and truth. The Spirit guides us as we grow in faith. The Spirit is also with us when we experience persecution and pain because we are in Christ.
For the obedience of Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood
We are saved according the foreknowledge of God and we walk with the Spirit in hope and truth, growing in holiness, which is obedience to Christ. The blood of Christ is sprinkled upon us, giving us righteousness. Of course this is not a literal sprinkling of blood. It is the sprinkling of the sacrifice of Christ. In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus tells his disciples that the wine they were drinking was representative of his blood which is poured out for them. The way that we are saved according to the foreknowledge of God, the sanctification of the Spirit, to the obedience of Christ through the sacrifice of Christ.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you
Because we have been saved according to the foreknowledge of God, and are being sanctified by the Spirit, to the obedience of Christ through the sacrifice of Christ, we can cling to grace and peace in any circumstance.