Why Me, Lord?

My Sunday School class has just finished the book of First Peter, which has a lot of great teaching. While the major theme of the book is suffering (which I’ll get to in a moment), here is a sample of many significant verses:

  1. A definite reference to the trinity (1 Peter 1:2)
  2. Suffering is proof of your faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, 9, 4:12)
  3. The prophets predicted the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 1:11)
  4. We are called to be holy, fear God and love others (1 Peter 1:15, 17, 22, 4:8)
  5. The Word of God abides forever (1 Peter 1:24-25)
  6. We are to be hungry to understand God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2)
  7. We are to be living stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  8. Live with integrity while passing through this life (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. We are to submit to the authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14, 18)
  10. We find favor with God when we suffer for doing what is right (1 Peter 2:20, 3:14, 17, 4:14, 16, 19, 5:10)
  11. Jesus is our example, we are to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21)
  12. Lifestyle evangelism really is in the Bible (1 Peter 3:1)
  13. God doesn’t hear your prayers if you don’t treat your wife right (1 Peter 3:7)
  14. Always be ready to tell others why you are a believer (1 Peter 3:15)
  15. Jesus preached to the spirits now in prison (1 Peter 3:19)
  16. Just where is Jesus right now? (1 Peter 3:22)
  17. Live for God, not the pleasures of today (1 Peter 4:2)
  18. Exercise your spiritual gift (1 Peter 4:10)
  19. Judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17)
  20. Pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)
  21. Younger men need older mentors (1 Peter 5:5)
  22. We are to humble ourselves before God does it for us (1 Peter 5:6)
  23. We have a spiritual enemy ready to devour us (1 Peter 5:8)
  24. We are told to greet each other with a kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14)

Back to the topic for today:

When we suffer in our lives, we often will think that we did something wrong to deserve the suffering, as if it were some sort of punishment; sort of a cause and effect relationship. While the law of sowing and reaping is very true (Galatians 6:7-8, 2 Corinthians 9:6) and God will at time discipline those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6), the universe would be quite an unreliable place if God shot us a lightning bolt for every evil deed and triggered some pleasure sensor for doing good. Let’s consider the story of the man born blind in John 9:

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:2-3)

A common belief in Jewish culture was that bad happenings or suffering was the result of some great sin, but Jesus used this man’s suffering to teach about faith and the glory of God. We live in a fallen world where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior is not always punished. Therefore, innocent people sometimes suffer. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).

On a larger scale, think about the reason that people follow God. Do they believe and follow God because of what they get out of it, or because He deserves our devotion and it’s the right thing to do? Think it over. Do you follow Christ because He promised heaven at the end of this life? Would you still follow Him even if you knew hell was your final destination? If God took suffering away whenever we asked, we would follow him for comfort and convenience, not out of love and devotion. Regardless of the reasons for our suffering, Jesus has the power to help us deal with it. We don’t go through this life alone.

So, when you suffer from a disease, tragedy, or disability, try not to ask, “Why did this happen to me?” or “What did I do wrong?” Instead, ask God to give you strength for the trial and a clearer perspective on what is happening. First Peter tells us that you will be blessed and rewarded.

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As Christ Loves the Church

I’ve been leading a study through the book of First Peter, and we recently took a look at 1 Peter 3:1-7, some pretty interesting words for wives and husbands. Paul sums up pretty well in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus:

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. — Ephesians 5:25

Men, it looks like we have it easy. After all, our wives have to “submit” (Ephesians 5:22), whatever that means, but we just have to “love” them. What could be simpler? Flowers from time to time. Chocolates on special occasions. Perhaps even a power tool or two she can claim as her own even though we store it on our work bench. We might even manage to mumble “I love you” just to make it clear. Submission sounds hard. It involves yielding to someone else. That someone would be the husband. Does that mean what it seems like it means? We’re in charge? We call all the shots? We give the orders? Let me know how that goes for you.

The movie, My Big fat Greek Wedding, had an interesting analogy about who’s the head in the marriage or family. The bride’s mother says that the husband is the head, but the wife is the neck who is able to turn the head in any direction she chooses. I thought that was too funny.

Let’s go back to Ephesians 5:21. Wait a minute, there’s something here about “submit to one another.” Seems like that could be a problem. Ephesians 5:22 tells her to submit, and Ephesians 5:25 tells me to love.

Take a look at that little phrase “just as Christ loved the church.” It tells us that my examples of loving (in my paragraph above) don’t really apply. Jesus never sent flowers to the church. He never picked up a box of chocolates on the way home from the carpentry shop as a peace offering. He never mumbled “I love you” through a mouthful of hamburger. Jesus loved by dying. He loved by suffering, hurting, and sacrificing. His kind of love sounds hard–almost as hard as submitting. Maybe even harder.

Loving that way might just take everything we’ve got, but here’s the deal. I believe that one of the primary reasons our wives struggle with submission is that they often have little real confidence in our love. Genuine love paves the way for submission (not the other way around). Jesus died for the church before the church was around to submit.

Real dying love doesn’t come naturally for men, face it, we’re selfish. If you figure out how to love your wife, you probably won’t have to bring up the issue of submission.

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Christians Loving People

Here are the questions we can expect on Sunday for the lesson on First Peter 3:8-22. I will follow up on July 11 with a lesson on “Suffering for Doing Good.”

REFLECTION
Describe a time when someone demonstrated Christ’s love to you in a practical way.

BIBLE READING: Read 1 Peter 3:8–22.
(1 Peter 3:8-12 – To live a holy life requires Christian unity. The unity of believers results from right attitudes, indicated in 1 Peter 3:8. Peter then quotes from Psalm 34:12-16 to remind the readers that God favors right conduct).

DISCOVERY

  1. How should we treat each other? (1 Peter 3:8-9 – about eight characteristics are listed, notice the parallel with the words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-28)
  2. When is it most difficult to demonstrate a loving attitude toward others? (There could be many angles to this discussion: when you have been hurt, when the person is difficult, when you are sick, when the person is an enemy, when you are bitter, etc. You may want to continue the discussion until you have covered as many angles as possible).
  3. Describe the kind of person who enjoys life and pleases God. (If this question makes you think of someone you’ve known, you may want to open the discussion by telling about that person or telling about an incident you experienced with them).
  4. Why is it better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong? (we should expect to suffer if we do wrong, but those who suffer for righteousness or doing good, they are blessed by God, 1 Peter 3:14, 17).
  5. What difference does Christ’s resurrection make in how we treat others? (Remember all he had gone through for our sake, so why is our momentary suffering anything in comparison? We can stand tall in suffering knowing we will be raised at the right time).

INSPIRATION
Here is an uplifting thought from The Inspirational Study Bible.

In our house we call 5:00 p.m. the piranha hour. That’s the time of day when everyone wants a piece of Mom. Sara, the baby, is hungry. Andrea wants Mom to read her a book. Jenna wants help with her homework. And I—the ever-loving, ever-sensitive husband—want Denalyn to drop everything and talk to me about my day.

When is your piranha hour? When do people in your world demand much and offer little?

Every boss has had a day in which the requests outnumber the results. There’s not a businessperson alive who hasn’t groaned as an armada of assignments docks at his or her desk. For the teacher, the piranha hour often begins when the first student enters and ends when the last student leaves.

Piranha hours: parents have them, bosses endure them, secretaries dread them, teachers are besieged by them, and Jesus taught us how to live through them successfully.

When hands extended and voices demanded, Jesus responded with love. He did so because the code within him disarmed the alarm. The code is worth noting: “People are precious.”

(From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

RESPONSE

  1. When is your “piranha hour”? (You may want to also include in this discussion what it feels like when everyone wants a piece of you. What are some typical stress reactions for your group members?)
  2. How can we find the strength to love people, even when they have nothing to give in return? Consider what angle 1 John 4:19 puts on this discussion (we love because he first loved us), or 1 John 3:16 (we know love by this, that he laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren).
  3. In what way can you remind yourself of Christ’s example the next time you feel overwhelmed by the demands of others? (Scripture memory, visualization of the cross, remember your own sinfulness and the fact of Christ’s suffering…).

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS

  1. What kinds of issues create tension and conflict between believers?
  2. What practical steps can we take to promote harmony in the Body of Christ?
  3. What does it mean to work for peace?

For more Bible passages on loving people, see Matthew 5:43–48; 22:38–40; John 13:34–35; Romans 12:9–10; 1 Corinthians 13:1–13; Galatians 5:13–14; Colossians 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:9–10; Hebrews 10:24; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 16–18; 4:7–21; 2 John 5–6.

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Holy Living and Submission

The topic of Submission and the command for holy living may not be very popular these days, but this Sunday we will take a look at both, from 1 Peter 3:1-7.

  1. What have you admired about your grandparents’ marriage, or some other older couple? Think of someone who displays inner strength and beauty. What have you learned from that person?
  2. How do you define submission by wives (1 Peter 3:1)? How are husbands to live “in the same way” (1 Peter 3:7)?
  3. In a society where wives were rated among the slaves, what can you find that is progressive about Peter’s marriage principles in 1 Peter 3:1-7? This is a topic that is hard for many Americans to grasp. Note the phrase in 1 Peter 3:1, “in the same way.” How does that help us understand submission (refer back to 1 Peter 2:23)? Can it be that a wife entrusts herself to her husband in the marriage vows, submitting herself to her husband’s care? This does not allow any form of cruelty, emotional or physical abuse, since Peter’s instruction to husbands is to treat them with respect. Submission and respect go together. A husband who respects his wife cannot make her a doormat. A wife who commands respect will not allow it.
  4. What reasons did Peter give for acting according to these principles? For wives (1 Peter 3:1). How can believing wives win their unbelieving husbands to Christ? What may be difficulties spouses of unbelievers encounter? For husbands (1 Peter 3:7). That you prayers will not be hindered?
  5. Why is inner beauty precious to God? List some ways we can cultivate inner beauty.
  6. What can we learn from women, like Sarah, who lived long ago (1 Peter 3:5-6)? Key passages on Sarah include Genesis 12:1-5. Name some of the difficulties Abraham’s obedience may have caused for Sarah. She had to leave her home, her friends, her family; suffer hardship and even risk her life because her husband obeyed God.
  7. In what general ways do other people benefit when believers live holy, pure lives?

An Inspirational Thought:

The holiness we are to exhibit is not our own, but the holiness of Christ in us. We are not holy, and we will not become holy humans. Christ in us can manifest His holiness if we will yield our flesh to Him. This is not a human operation; it is a spiritual one. Jesus installs His holiness in us by grace. Not a once-for-all-time transaction, this is a daily, moment-by-moment striving to live more by the Spirit and less by the flesh.

… A friend bought his daughter a new car, but it must sit in the garage until she reaches the legal driving age. Until her sixteenth birthday she only has partial use of the car, when accompanied by an adult. Similarly, holiness is like a gift already purchased for us (by the blood of Christ), but we cannot have full use of it until a certain date in the future (our glorification).

Becoming holy is a process which includes God’s part and our part. On one hand, our part is to stay out of God’s part—to yield, to surrender, to stop seeking God on our own terms. But our part also is to obey. It is to enter His rehabilitation program.

When you put yourself under a doctor’s care, he cannot help you if you don’t follow his instructions. As the patient surrenders his own good ideas and obeys the doctor’s instruction, he becomes well. The same is true in sanctification. If you and I want to be made holy, then we must willingly surrender ourselves to His care, and we must also actively obey His instructions.

We have no more power to make ourselves holy than a dying man has to save himself. We are weak and tired, and we cannot offer much help. However, we can submit to His rehabilitation program—sanctification. The key to our part is faith—to seek Him in obedience.

(From Walking with Christ in the Details of Life by Patrick Morley)

  1. How can we demonstrate holiness with our lives? Some additional verses you may want to include are Ephesians 4:22-24 (put off the old self and put on the new self) and Paul describes what holy living looks like in Ephesians 4:25-32); 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (prayer, quiet living, godliness, dignity); Hebrews 12:14 (pursue peace, and sanctification).
  2. Why is it important to realize that becoming holy is a process, not a one-time event?
  3. What is God’s part and what is our responsibility in the sanctification process (Philippians 2:12-13)?
  4. Walking in his steps often leads to submission, and even to suffering. In spite of hardship, how might you choose this route?
  5. What is one area in the foreseeable future where you could practice Christ-like submission? And how will you do that?

If There’s Time:

  1. Why do we pay more attention to what people do than to what they say?
  2. List some ways we focus more on enhancing our outward appearance than developing our inner character.
  3. What about our lives will attract people to Christ?

More Bible passages on holy living, see Leviticus 11:44–45; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7; 2 Timothy 1:8–9; Hebrews 10:10–14; 1 Peter 1:14–16; 2 Peter 3:11.

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In His Steps

We are called to follow the example that Jesus set for us. I remember the classic book by Charles Sheldon called, “In His Steps” which describes how the Reverend Henry Maxwell and his congregation were forced to consider the question, “What would Jesus do?” and its consequences. No one in town was left untouched by this brief and probing question. These people learn the answer is to walk in In His Steps.

Opening Questions:

  1. Growing up, who was the authority figure in your family?
  2. How was disobedience handled?
  3. In this section, we will see that the saints have various duties toward the government, their work and suffering.
  4. What does Peter say in 1 Peter 2:11-12 that helps to set the stage for this passage?

Reflecting Questions:

  1. Think of a fellow believer whom you greatly admire. In what ways would you like to model your life after that person’s example?
  2. Why didn’t Jesus feel any need to seek revenge? You may want to read an additional passage about Christ’s willingness to suffer (Isaiah 53:1-12).
  3. Why is it important for us to lead good lives?
  4. Why should we yield to authorities?
  5. What happens when believers endure suffering for doing good? Additional passages to explore include Matthew 5:11-12, Romans 5:1-5, James 5:10-11.
  6. What can we learn from Jesus about responding to unfair treatment? You may want to review some times when Jesus was unfairly treated in life as well as death – He healed a man, but was criticized because it was on the Sabbath (John 5:7–18); several times the Pharisees set out to trick him (Matthew 22:15–21; John 8:2–8).
  7. How do we tend to react when others hurt us?
  8. In what way does Christ’s example affect the way you view your problems and pain?
  9. How can our emotional wounds interfere with our spiritual growth? How do emotional wounds affect our ability to trust? to love? to obey? to hope?
  10. In what circumstances is it tempting to retaliate?
  11. When has God helped you forgive someone who hurt you deeply?
  12. How can you fight the urge to get back at people who mistreat you?

For more Bible passages on following Jesus’ example, see John 8:12; 12:26; 13:15; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1–2; 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

Here is an uplifting thought from Max Lucado:
The disciples are annoyed. As Jesus sits in silence, they grow more smug. “Send her away,” they demand. The spotlight is put on Jesus. He looks at the disciples, then looks at the woman. And what follows is one of the most intriguing dialogues in the New Testament.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” he says.
“Lord, help me!”
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs,” he answers.
“But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables,” she responds.
Is Jesus being rude? Is he worn-out? Is he frustrated? Is he calling this woman a dog? How do we explain this dialogue?…
Could it be that Jesus’ tongue is poking his cheek? Could it be that he and the woman are engaging in satirical banter? Is it wry exchange in which God’s unlimited grace is being highlighted? Could Jesus be so delighted to have found one who is not bartering with a religious system or proud of a heritage that he can’t resist a bit of satire?
He knows he can heal her daughter. He knows he isn’t bound by a plan. He knows her heart is good. So he decides to engage in a humorous moment with a faithful woman. In essence, here’s what they said:
“Now, you know that God only cares about Jews,” he says smiling.
And when she catches on, she volleys back, “But your bread is so precious, I’ll be happy to eat the crumbs.”
In a spirit of exuberance, he bursts out, “Never have I seen such faith! Your daughter is healed.”
This story does not portray a contemptuous God. It portrays a willing One who delights in a sincere seeker.
Aren’t you glad he does?

(From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

Bible Study Questions:

  1. Find several examples of submission in this passage. What is difficult about each?
  2. How are Christians to act toward governmental authority? Why are they to treat governing leaders with respect (1 Peter 2:13-15)?
  3. When the word “submit” is used in the New Testament, it is voluntary in nature. How is this different from other interpretations of the word today?
  4. How could the teachings of 1 Peter 2:16-17 keep you from being a “muddy doormat” to the government?
  5. What connection does the text point out between Christ’s suffering and a Christian’s submission in the situation of slavery (1 Peter 2:18-21)?
  6. What is Peter’s response to one whose master is not a Christian or is just a difficult person (1 Peter 2:18)?
  7. What are the effects of Christ’s suffering (1 Peter 2:22-25)?
  8. Jesus “entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). How might a similar trust in God help you to submit to the necessary suffering that has come into your life?
  9. Slowly read the words of 1 Peter 2:24, substituting your name for the appropriate pronouns. In what specific ways have you seen Christ’s work here played out in your own experience?
  10. How does Christ’s death result in both an ending and a beginning in our lives (1 Peter 2:24)?
  11. In Peter’s day, persecution and slavery made submission to authority difficult. What conditions today make it difficult?
  12. How can Jesus’ example help you face hardships you can’t change?
  13. What should people do whose rights are being violated by authority gone bad (accept, suffer, insist on justice, sue, confront the authority)? (see also Mark 11:15-16, 15:1-15, Acts 16:35-37).

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The Duties of Believers

This section of First Peter deals with God’s Salvation and the duties of God’s people. We are not saved just to sit and soak, but to serve, to worship, to become more and more like Jesus.

Duties Concerning the Scripture (1 Peter 2:1, 2)
Desire pure or sincere milk – desire speaks to an intense yearning (Psalm 19:9, 10). Israel had shown no desire for the Word of God in the Old Testament, so when Jesus appeared, they viewed him in the same manner (Isaiah 53:2). The word sincere is literally unadulterated, meaning nothing is mixed with it.

Duties Concerning the Savior (1 Peter 2:3-8)

  1. He is God’s precious Rock. This stone was tried and rejected; Jesus flunked because he was not what they looked for in a Messiah. Here is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise (Matthew 16:16, 18). The word rock or stone appears five times here, and is a theme throughout the Bible:
  2. He is a smitten rock to all who will drink (Exodus 17:6, 1 Corinthians 10:4, John 4:13, 14, 7:37-39)
  3. He is the precious stone to all who have drunk (1 Peter 2:3, 7)
  4. He is the chief cornerstone to the church (Ephesians 2:20)
  5. He is the stumbling stone to the Jews at his first coming (Romans 9:32, 33, 1 Corinthians 1:23)
  6. He is the head or final stone of the temple, to the Jews at his second coming (Zechariah 4:7)
  7. He is the smashing stone cut from the mountain (Daniel 2:34)
  8. He is the crushing stone of judgment to unbelievers (Matthew 21:44)

Duties Concerning the Saints (1 Peter 2:9, 10)
To serve as priests of God – some thoughts about the priesthood:

  1. Before the Law, the head of each family was the family priest (Genesis 8:20, 26:25, 31:54)
  2. When the Law was introduced, Israel promised to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), but they violated the Law and the tribe of Levi became the priestly tribe (Exodus 13:2, 19:6, Numbers 8:16, Exodus 28:1)
  3. The church is now constituted as a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6), which is a birthright, just as every descendant of Aaron was born to the priesthood (Hebrews 5:1)
  4. The priest had access to God; the high priest coming into the Holy of Holies only once a year (Hebrews 9:7). But the veil was torn, so now all believers have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22) and our High Priest is already there (Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:24).

To shine as beacons of light (1 Peter 2:9) calling others out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Duties Concerning the Sacrificer, he or she offers:

  1. Self or a living body (Romans 12:1, Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6, James 1:27, 1 John 3:16)
  2. Songs or praise to God, fruit from our lips (Hebrews 13:15, Exodus 25:22)
  3. Substance or living out what we say we believe (Romans 12:13, Galatians 6:6, Titus 3:14, Hebrews 13:2, 16, 3 John 1:5-8)
  4. Service, to do good (Galatians 6:10, Hebrews 13:16)
  5. Supplication and intercession (Colossians 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:1)

Salvation is a multistage event in the life of a believer: justification is being saved from the past (all of our sin) and becoming “just as if I’d never sinned;” sanctification is the life-long process of growing in Christ, into his image (Romans 8:29) and becoming more like him in thought, word and action; and glorification, which is the ultimate and final state of being in God’s presence, standing before him without sin. We did not do anything to earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9) because Jesus paid the price so we can enter into the Father’s presence.

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Do You Want to Grow Up?

The purpose of today’s lesson is to desire spiritual growth. When have you wished, at least for a moment, that you were not an adult? What people and events has God used to move you toward maturity? Make a list or create a timeline. As much as you are able, re-enter those events, and thank God for what happened then.

The apostle Peter opens this section of his letter by insisting that his readers “grow up in your salvation.” Read 1 Peter 2:1-12. What is it that made 1 Peter 2:4 especially important to the first century Christians?

1. What characteristics of spiritual maturity do you find in this passage?
This question leads to an overview of the passage. Notice characteristics inhibiting spiritual maturity in 1 Peter 2:1. Note that our maturity begins with God; he chooses us (1 Peter 2:4). The implications of being chosen by God become more fully evident in our relationships with other believers, as described in 1 Peter 2:9-10, and are lived out in particular ways that point to an eternal future (1 Peter 2:11-12). Maybe we can rephrase the question, “What forces do you see in this passage that lead a person toward spiritual maturity?”

2. Peter speaks here of two aspects of Christian growth: individual and corporate. How might the five inner sins of 1 Peter 2:1 damage our relationships with other believers? When have you seen this kind of damage?
Don’t settle for a mere recitation of the sins listed in verse. Discuss how each one corrupts Christian relationships.

3. What does the metaphor in 1 Peter 2:2-3 suggest about how we should nurture spiritual growth?

4. How does belief or unbelief influence the way a person understands Jesus, the living Stone (1 Peter 2:4-8)? What are some of the effects of these differing points of view?
Find several phrases that represent the two opposing points of view. Discuss the differing effects of belief and unbelief. 1 Peter 2:8 raises the question “Does God destine some people to be eternally lost?”

5. What would you expect to see in a person who had imitated Jesus and become a “living stone”?

6. What reasons do the people here have to praise God (1 Peter 2:9-10)?
What is the “royal priesthood” mentioned here? The New Bible Commentary points out that throughout Old Testament history a division existed between kingly functions and priestly functions. In fact, King Saul received severe condemnation from Samuel when he attempted to combine the two roles (1 Samuel 13:5-15), but believers in Christ are both royalty and priests before God.

7. As you look more carefully at 1 Peter 2:9, think of Christians you know. What steps could you take in these Christian groups to live up to this description?

8. What inner and outer battles do you see in 1 Peter 2:11-12?
Consider both what we are together as well as what we do.

9. 1 Peter 2:11 repeats a now familiar theme in this letter, that Christians are aliens and strangers in the world. How might living up to the description of 1 Peter 2:9 cause a Christian to be alienated from the world?

10. The New Bible Commentary interprets 1 Peter 2:12, “the day [God] visits us,” as “the day God will visit the earth and search out man’s hearts in judgment.” If this were to occur in your lifetime, what evidence would you want God to find of your own spiritual growth?

11. How could today’s passage help you overcome a tendency to be a spiritual Peter Pan?
Thank God for specific forces he has brought into your life that have drawn you toward spiritual maturity. Ask for his care in further preparing you for the time when you will meet him face to face.

Going Deeper
Take a prayerful look at spiritual maturity as Peter describes it in his letter. Place this alongside several areas of your life and evaluate your progress in that direction. Where appropriate, give yourself spiritual goals, noting a date when you will look back at your notes and evaluate your progress. These questions below may help guide your thinking and praying.

  1. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander keep me from growing to spiritual maturity (1 Peter 2:1). I need to root these out of my life by …
  2. God calls me to spiritual maturity by joining me with other Christians as a “spiritual house” 1 Peter 2:5), “a royal priesthood” and “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). I need to work on this spiritual connection with other Christians by …
  3. Christian maturity means that I am never quite at home in this world. I am an alien and a stranger (1 Peter 2:11) who wants to live in a way that causes even current non-Christians to “glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). I will express my alien status in this world by …

An adult Peter Pan is only a shadowy shape of an adult. In what ways would it be tempting to follow Peter Pan’s approach to life? What happens when a person refuses to grow up? Why might some Christians intentionally limit their spiritual growth?

How do you respond to Peter’s description of you (1 Peter 2:9)? In what dark rooms in your life has God turned on the light? How does 1 Peter 2:11 encourage you and relieve your anxiety about temptation, or make you feel defeated? What war or struggle are you facing that only Jesus can overcome?

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Called to be Different

Purpose of this lesson is to lead us to respond to God’s gift of salvation with holy imitation of Jesus.

Being a Christian shapes us, often in surprising ways. We discover God-given strengths and use them in ways we never imagined. But we also discover our flaws and learn the painful effort of overcoming those sins. God calls his people to be different: different from what they would be if they did not believe in Jesus and different from the unbelievers around them.

  1. How did you get ready for exams in school? (Kept up, Cram, Good night sleep).
  2. Who was your best coach? How did this person help prepare you and help you excel?
  3. What surprising strengths (or weaknesses) have you discovered in yourself as part of your Christian growth?
  4. Think of a Christian (living or dead) you admire. In what ways has that person practiced holy living? Pray, thanking God for his or her influence in your life.

Peter opens this section of his letter with the warning to “prepare your minds for action.” Go ahead and read 1 Peter 1:13-25.

1. What mental and physical actions should a follower of Christ pursue?

2. Peter lists several ways that followers of Jesus ought to respond to his gift of salvation. Define each of these responses more fully (1 Peter 1:13, 14, 15, 16). Can you spot the five commands?
Gird your ___________________________. Girding or preparing: meaning the ancient practice of gathering up one’s robes when needing to move in a hurry; here, it is metaphorically applied to one’s thought process. The meaning is to pull in all the loose ends of one’s thinking, by rejecting the hindrances of the world and focusing on the future grace of God (Ephesians 6:14; Colossians 3:2).
Keep ____________________ in spirit. Spiritual sober-mindedness includes the ideas of steadfastness, self-control, clarity of mind, and moral decisiveness. The sober Christian is correctly in charge of his priorities and not intoxicated with the various allurements of the world.
Fix your ___________________________ on future grace. In light of their great salvation, Christians, especially those undergoing suffering, should passionately live for the future, anticipating the consummation of their salvation at the second coming of Christ (see 1 Peter 1:7, Colossians 3:2-4). Christ’s future ministry of glorifying Christians and giving them eternal life in His presence will be the final culmination of the grace initiated at salvation (Ephesians 2:7).
Do not be ___________________________ to the former lusts. This is very similar to the Pauline command of not conforming to this world (Romans 12:2).
Be _________________ in all your behavior. What does it mean to be holy? Holiness essentially defines the Christian’s new nature and conduct in contrast with his pre-salvation lifestyle. The reason for practicing a holy manner of living is that Christians are associated with the holy God and must treat Him and His Word with respect and reverence. We therefore glorify Him best by being like Him (1 Peter 1:16, 17; Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 5:1; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 18:30; 19:2; 20:7; 21:6-8).

3. Select one of these responses above. If you were to put that response on the front burner of your priorities, what changes would you have to make in your life?

4. 1 Peter 1:15 says, “Be holy in all you do.” How might an honest attempt to be holy by God’s standards improve your relationships with people close to you? In what situations might it make you more like a stranger (1 Peter 1:17)?

5. Why does Peter tell us that we ought to live in “reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17)? Why would Peter tell these persecuted believers that God is their judge and they should live in fear? Holy living is motivated by a God-fearing faith that does not presume upon the redemption that was purchased at so great a cost (1 Peter 1:18, 19).

6. What events from the past would help the recipients of Peter’s letter to appreciate God’s concern for them (1 Peter 1:18-21)? Examine the following past events noted:
“You were redeemed” (1 Peter 1:18) – meaning to buy back someone from bondage by the payment of a price; to set free by paying a ransom. “Redemption” was a technical term for money paid to buy back a prisoner of war. Here it is used of the price paid to buy the freedom of one in the bondage of sin and under the curse of the law (eternal death, Galatians 3:13). The price paid to a holy God was the shed blood of His own Son (Exodus 12:1-13; 15:13; Psalm 78:35; Acts 20:28; Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4, 5; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:11-17).
“The empty way of life [was] handed down to you” (1 Peter 1:18) – Meaning the old Law system was empty; also we recognize that the old life we used to live was empty.
“He was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) – Meaning in eternity past, before Adam and Eve sinned, God planned the redemption of sinners through Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 2 Timothy 1:9).
He “was revealed” (1 Peter 1:20) – Meaning at the end of the law, He appeared from heaven to rescue us from our former way of life. Peter wants to impress us even more deeply with the importance of making a clean break with the world system from which Christ died to deliver us. We are in the world but not of it. We must not isolate ourselves from unbelievers, but rather carry the gospel to them. Yet in our dealings and relationships with them, we must never share in or condone their sins. We are to show by our lives that we are children of God. The moment we become like the world, our testimony is weakened. There is no incentive for lost people to be converted if they cannot see a difference, a change for the better in our lives.
“You became believers in God” (1 Peter 1:21) – Meaning, as W. T. P. Wolston said: “It is not by creation nor providence nor law that man knows God, but by Christ.”
“God … raised him from the dead and glorified him” (1 Peter 1:21) – Meaning God, through the ascension, returned Christ to the glory that He had with Him before the world began (Luke 24:51-53; John 17:4, 5; Acts 1:9-11; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:9).
Each of these events from the past had a bearing on the current condition of those who received Peter’s letter.

7. What is a good test to see if one really has a change of heart (1 Peter 1:22)? How could the conditions that Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:21-25 promote sincere love among Christians?
O_________________ to the truth.
P_________________ of the soul.
S____________ and F_____________ love for one another.
B_________________, imperishable.

8. In speaking of a Christian’s relationships, Peter drew a contrast between “love for your brothers” and being “strangers in the world” (1 Peter 1:1, 17, 22). How is loving deeply and actively possible? When have you felt sheltered by a family kind of love among believers?

9. What contrasts do you see in 1 Peter 1:21-25 between what is temporary and what is enduring?
Temporary                                           Enduring
all people (1 Peter 1:24)                     new birth (1 Peter 1:23)
flowers (1 Peter 1:24)                         Word of God (1 Peter 1:23, 25)
grass (1 Peter 1:24)
glory of men (1 Peter 1:24)

10. Peter links the Word of God with salvation and new birth (Compare 1 Peter 1:10, 12, 23, 25). What do you think Peter means when he says that this Word is “enduring” and “stands forever?”
Try to understand the flow of Peter’s reasoning. These verses trace God’s redeeming work from the age of the prophets who searched for information about Christ’s coming (but did not themselves experience it). They “served” the believers of Peter’s era with their preparation. It was part of the “imperishable seed” presented to the new Christian church (the “word” that Peter preached).

11. The readers of Peter’s letter learned of God’s gift of salvation because it was preached to them. How have you learned about it?

12. If you were trying to convey to someone else the value of new birth in your life, what would you want that person to know?

13. Are you more like a pilgrim, an explorer or a land owner on this earth?

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Strangers in This World

All of us have experienced times when we did not fit in: arriving overdressed (or underdressed) for a social occasion, not knowing the language spoken around us, being in a setting as a minority race or minority, gender, holding a single dissenting opinion in a hotly debated topic. But underneath these embarrassing and painful moments sometimes lurks a pervasive sense that maybe we don’t fit anywhere.

  1. Think about a time when you felt out of place, like a stranger who did not belong.
  2. If you knew you were about to enter a difficult time in your life that would test your faith, how would you prepare yourself?

Early Christians were subject to many kinds of isolation. Although their faith originated in Judaism, the Jews rejected them because Christians saw Jesus as Messiah. Romans would eventually use Christians as scapegoats, blaming them for all sorts of political problems. Pagan Greeks saw Christians as atheists because they insisted on worshiping only one God rather than their pantheon of deities. Here comes Peter offering first-century Christians (and us) a different kind of belonging.

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. Imagine you are one of the early Christians receiving Peter’s letter. After studying this opening section, what would motivate you to keep reading?

2. Study Peter’s description of the people who were about to receive his letter (1 Peter 1:1-2). How does his description of them help explain why they were “strangers in the world?”

Notice the source of our salvation (1 Peter 1:2).
The Father elected us – we still have responsibility (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Revelation 22:17).
The Spirit sanctified us – he convicts of sin (John 16:8) and points to Christ (John 16:13, 14).
The Son redeemed us – blood sprinkled signifies cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7), ratification of a covenant (Exodus 24:3-8) and set apart holy items (Exodus 29:20-22)

3. How does the introduction to Peter’s letter help you appreciate the three persons of God? The word blessing is the same root word for eulogize.

4. Peter says that God has given his people “new birth.” What does he say grows out of that new birth (1 Peter 1:3-5)?

Notice the blessings of our salvation
A living hope (1 Peter 1:3) living word (1 Peter 1:23) living stone (1 Peter 2:4)
A lasting home (1 Peter 1:4) which is perfect (incorruptible), pure (undefiled) and permanent (does not fade away)

5. Peter says in verse 6, “Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” If you were to hear that kind of message, what information in this paragraph might help you through the suffering (1 Peter 1:3-9)?

Notice the trials of our salvation
Attitude – greatly rejoice (1 Peter 1:6)
Duration – for a little while (1 Peter 1:6)
Evidence – proof of authentic faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Blessing – belief in the unseen (1 Peter 1:8)
Effect – bringing salvation (1 Peter 1:9)

6. How does the future as Peter describes it here offer you hope in your own setting?

7. What did Peter believe to be true of genuine faith (1 Peter 1:7-9)? Proof of faith rests in the fact of the ability to give God praise, glory and honor in the midst of suffering.

Notice what Peter describes as precious:
Precious trials of faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Precious blood (1 Peter 1:19)
Precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4)
Precious spirit (1 Peter 3:4)
Precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)

8. Peter complimented his readers because they believed in Jesus and loved him, even though they had not seen him (1 Peter 1:8). What questions do you think people today have to cope because they have not personally seen Jesus?

9. When have you seen Jesus (through a person or event) in a way that increased your faith?

10. By what different routes did news of salvation come to the readers of Peter’s letter (1 Peter 1:10-12)? Old Testament prophets did not always understand their messages. Prediction would be understood at a later time (Matthew 13:17).

Notice suffering compared to glory (1 Peter 1:11)
Clothing (Luke 2:12 – Psalm 93:1)
Possessions (Luke 9:58 – Hebrews 1:2)
Rejection (John 1:11 – Isaiah 9:6)
Grief (Isaiah 53:3 – Hebrews 1:9)
Crown (John 19:5 – Revelation 14:14)
Appearance (Isaiah 53:2 – Psalm 27:4)

12. In what ways are Christians special, even when compared to Old Testament prophets and angels (1 Peter 1:12)? Angels don’t understand salvation!

13. Peter refers to new birth, or salvation, throughout this passage as a central difference between Christians and the world. What tensions have you experienced because of this difference?

14. How does God’s gift of salvation help you cope with these tensions?

Right now, thank God that you belong to him and that you have an eternal home with him and his people. If you have not yet come into God’s family, ask that he continue to guide you on your spiritual journey.

For Further Thought

Review some of the people who came to mind as you considered question 9, people who have increased your faith. Write a letter of appreciation to one of them. If this is not possible, write a prayer of thanks to God for that person’s influence in your life.

Suffering and joy are mixed in this section of Peter’s letter (a lot like right life). Consider the people and events that have brought you pain; consider sources that have brought you joy. Are some perhaps the same sources? In prayer, share all of this with your loving God, who understands the mixture far better than we do.

Read again 1 Peter 1:8-9. Meditate on love and joy as Peter describes them. Thank God for offering a joy that cannot be diminished by earthly events. Then, as much as possible, enjoy!

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Introduction to First Peter

We are finishing our study of the life of Peter, and decided to move right into the writings of Peter. First Peter is a wonderful book of hope for the hurting. Get the First Peter Chart. Here are a few facts about the book:

  1. Of the 12 original disciples, only three where inspired by the Spirit to write Scripture (Matthew, John and Peter).
  2. In Peter’s letters, he takes seriously the last command of Jesus to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17).
  3. Peter writes a lot about hope (1 Peter 1:3, 13, 21, 3:15) , whereas Paul writes about faith and John writes about love (Faith, hope and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13).
  4. A key theme in Peter’s writings is suffering (word used sixteen times) and grace (used eight times).
  5. The church appears to be affected by worldliness in the pew (1 Peter 2:11) and materialism in the pulpit (1 Peter 5:1, 2, 3).

Peter develops the doctrine of Christ in a remarkable way:

  1. Incarnation (1 Peter 1:20)
  2. Names of Christ: Spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:19), Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6) in relation to the Scripture, Precious Stone (1 Peter 2:7) in relation to the believer, Stumbling Stone (1 Peter 2:8) in relation to unbelievers, Bishop of our Souls (1 Peter 2:25), Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
  3. Sinless Life (1 Peter 1:19, 2:22)
  4. Suffering and Death (1 Peter 1:11, 2:23, 24, 3:18, 4:1, 13, 5:1)
  5. Resurrection (1 Peter 3:21, 22)
  6. Ascension (1 Peter 3:22)
  7. Presence at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22)
  8. Second Coming (1 Peter 1:13, 17, 4:13, 5:1, 4)

Peter describes believers in a remarkable way:

  1. Obedient Children (1 Peter 1:14)
  2. Newborn Babes (1 Peter 2:2)
  3. Living Stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  4. Holy Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  5. Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  6. Holy Nation (1 Peter 2:9)
  7. Peculiar People (1 Peter 2:9)
  8. Strangers and Pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. Christians (1 Peter 4:16)
  10. The Righteous (1 Peter 4:18)
  11. The Elect of God (1 Peter 1:2)
  12. The People of God (1 Peter 2:10)
  13. The Oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11)
  14. The Flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)

It is considered that Mark’s gospel reflects the teachings of Peter.

  1. Peter and John are the only NT writers who refer to Jesus as a lamb (John 1:29, 36, Revelation 5:6, 1 Peter 1:19).
  2. Peter was familiar with Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15, 16).
  3. There is a similarity of teaching and wording between 1 Peter and Ephesians.
    Ephesians 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:3
    Ephesians 3:5, 10 and 1 Peter 1:12
    Ephesians 3:6, 21 and 1 Peter 4:11
    Ephesians 3:8 and 1 Peter 1:8
    Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:9
    Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 1 Peter 4:10
    Ephesians 4:13, 15 and 1 Peter 2:2

Next we will look at being strangers in this world…

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