False Expectations

This message is a part of the new sermon series for 2016 at King’s Grant Baptist Church, taken from Luke 14:25-35. Here is the video of my message.

There was a debate perhaps 25 years on the meaning of salvation. At that time I discovered a tremendously insightful resource by John MacArthur called, The Gospel According to Jesus. It changed my life. This is what it was all about…

As Baptists we understand that salvation by grace through faith. No one earns salvation through their deeds. But can someone be saved and not follow Jesus as a disciple? Can Jesus be your Savior without him being your Lord? Can you pray a prayer as a younger person, and because Baptists believe in “once saved always saved,” it matters not that you never grow in maturity?

Let me tell you a story about someone coming to Christ while I was out witnessing with my pastor; this was my first full-time staff position after seminary. The pastor and I went out visiting and this young man, likely a senior in high school, sat and talked with us at his kitchen table. I sensed that the guy was not buying what we were selling, but before we left, he was on his knees praying the sinner’s prayer with my pastor. My question after that evening, after it was all said and done was, “will we ever see this guy get involved in worship, Bible study, or have any desire to grow in spiritual maturity at all?” Did he mean it? Was he ready to accept the challenge of following Jesus?

What are the expectations that WE have of Jesus and Christianity? What are the expectations that Jesus has of US?

When Jesus left the Pharisee’s house, great crowds followed Him, but He was not impressed by their enthusiasm. He knew that most of those in the crowd were not the least bit interested in spiritual things. Some wanted only to see miracles, others heard that He fed the hungry, and a few hoped He would overthrow Rome and establish David’s promised kingdom. They were expecting the wrong things.

Jesus turned to the multitude and preached a sermon that deliberately thinned out the ranks. He made it clear that, when it comes to personal discipleship, He is more interested in quality than quantity. In the matter of saving lost souls, He wants His house to be filled (Luke 14:23); but in the matter of personal discipleship, He wants only those who are willing to pay the price.

A “disciple” is a learner, one who attaches himself or herself to a teacher in order to learn a trade or a subject. Perhaps our nearest modern equivalent is “apprentice,” one who learns by watching and by doing. The word disciple was the most common name for the followers of Jesus Christ and is used 264 times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Jesus seems to make a distinction between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is open to all who will come by faith, while discipleship is for believers willing to pay a price. Salvation means coming to the cross and trusting Jesus Christ, while discipleship means carrying the cross and following Jesus Christ. Jesus wants as many sinners saved as possible (“that My house may be filled”), but He cautions us not to take discipleship lightly; and in the three parables He gave, He made it clear that there is a price to pay.

We are going to dive in to what it means to love Jesus Christ supremely and to carry one’s cross.

  1. Jesus’ Instruction concerning discipleship (Luke 14:25-27)
    1. In regard to the candidate’s family (Luke 14:25-26)
      1. Jesus was still traveling toward Jerusalem, and large crowds had joined him.
        1. Perhaps all these casual followers considered themselves “disciples” of this popular teacher.
        2. Perhaps they thought he was the Messiah and wanted to be there when he inaugurated his kingdom.
      2. Jesus needed to explain that following him did not mean receiving goodies, like the expectation of so many children.
        1. He wanted to explain what it meant to truly be his disciple. So he turned and spoke to them. His disciples had to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.
        2. This may be the only verse that teenagers will enthusiastically quote and follow, after all, Jesus said that I am to hate my parents.
        3. Certainly this caused a stir among the people. Who would possibly ask his followers to hate their family members and life itself? The point is not to HATE, but to LOVE others less. Your love for Jesus must be so strong that any other relationship of LOVE would look like HATE in comparison.
      3. Jesus never contradicts himself. Never has Jesus advocated “hatred”—in fact, he even commanded his followers to love their enemies (Luke 6:27, 35).
        1. In these words Jesus was not going against his own commands of love, or the fifth commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12).
        2. Instead, the word “hate” is a Semitic hyperbole—an obvious exaggeration to make a point (see Genesis 29:30–33; Proverbs 13:24). Their love for Jesus should be so complete and wholehearted that their love for family members, and for life itself, would pale in comparison, to the point of being like hatred. In first-century Jewish family settings, deciding for Jesus could mean alienation from the family.
        3. Jesus warned the would-be disciples that they must be clear about their true allegiance. Jesus’ point was that those who wanted to be his followers would have demands placed upon them. The task would not be easy. Sometimes relationships would be severed, and his followers would have to turn away and remain with Jesus (12:51–53). Those who cannot make that kind of commitment cannot be his disciple.
    2. In regard to the candidate (Luke 14:27)
      1. Besides being willing to love Jesus more than any others and more than life itself, the true disciple must be ready to carry the cross and follow Christ.
      2. Jesus’ audience was well aware of what it meant to “carry the cross.” When the Romans led a criminal to his execution site, the criminal would be forced to carry the cross on which he would die. This showed submission to Rome and warned observers that they had better submit too.
      3. Carrying your cross means daily identification with Christ in shame, suffering, and surrender to God’s will. It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions, and a willingness to serve Him as He directs (John 12:23–28). Bearing a “cross” is something we willingly accept from God as part of His will for our lives.
      4. Jesus gave this teaching to get the crowds to think through their enthusiasm for him. He encouraged those who were superficial either to go deeper or to turn back. Following Christ means total submission to him—perhaps even to the point of death.
  2. Jesus’ Illustration concerning discipleship (Luke 14:28-35)
    1. A disciple must be like a man preparing to build: the example of the unfinished building (Luke 14:28-30). The story has a couple interesting observations.
      1. Adequate Resources – mockery – a landmark of foolishness. If a person could not finish what he started, the community would mock him, and his unfinished building would be a testimony to his lack of following through.
      2. Adverse Reality – the calling to follow Jesus deserves serious thought and contemplation – the example of John Mark leaving the missionary journey (Acts 12:25-13:5, 13:13). The glamour and newness wears off and reality sets in. The young man did not count the cost of following Jesus and serving God as a companion of Paul.
    2. A disciple must be like a monarch preparing for battle: the example of a unsuccessful war (Luke 14:31-33) – To rush out with his soldiers, without first discussing the options, would invite disaster for any nation. It is far better to think it through beforehand. So those who want to follow Jesus should carefully consider their decision.
      1. The Christian life is a battle, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
      2. Satan is the enemy and our adversary, who seeks out downfall. He is the god of this world. Spiritual warfare is not a minor endeavor.
      3. For some, giving up everything may be literal, such as the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–23 and many of Jesus’ early followers; for others it may be a willingness to hold loosely to material possessions.
    3. A disciple must be like a maître d’ preparing for a banquet: the example of an unsavory condiment (Luke 14:34-35)
      1. The maître d’ handles the reservations and preparations, so many Christians blend into the world and avoid the cost of standing up for Christ.
      2. But Jesus says if Christians lose their distinctive saltiness, they become worthless. Just as salt flavors and preserves food, Christ’s disciples are to preserve the good in the world, help keep it from spoiling, and bring new flavor to life.
      3. This requires careful planning, willing sacrifice, and unswerving commitment to Christ’s kingdom. Being “salty” is not easy, but if Christians fail in this function, they fail to represent Christ in the world. The person with ears should be able to understand these words and apply them.
        1. Salt without flavor is good for nothing; it has no purpose at the dinner table.
        2. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

What are those “costs” to believers? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. Family and friends may hate or avoid you. We may have to give up control over their money, time, or career. It is not like living overseas where Christianity is illegal, and may cost your freedom or your life.

Following Christ does not mean living a trouble-free life. All people must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciple so that they will know what they are getting into and won’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets tough.

The title of this message is False Expectations, so let me wrap this us by sharing with you what I would call one of the most haunting verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Talk about false expectations. Those who expects “well done, good and faithful servant,” heard Jesus say, depart from me, I never knew you.”

Discipleship is serious business. If we are not true disciples, then Jesus cannot build the tower and fight the war. Oswald Chambers wrote, “There is always an if in connection with discipleship, and it implies that we need not [be disciples] unless we embrace this. There is never any compulsion; Jesus does not coerce us. There is only one way of being a disciple, and that is by being devoted to Jesus.”

IF we tell Jesus that we want to take up our cross and follow Him as His disciples, THEN He wants us to know exactly what we are getting into. He wants no false expectancy, no illusions, no bargains. He wants to use us as STONES for building His church, SOLDIERS for battling His enemies, and SALT for bettering His world; and He is looking for quality more than quality.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when He spoke these words, and look what happened to Him there! He does not ask us to do anything for Him that He has not already done for us.

To some people, Jesus says, “You cannot be My disciples!” Why? Because they will not forsake everything for Christ, bearing shame and reproach for Him, and letting their love for Him control them.

Will you be His disciple?

Next Steps:

  • How possible are this conditions for you?
  • What has it cost you to follow Jesus?
  • What cost of following Jesus seems too high for you?
  • What relationships of other loyalties do you need to pray about to strengthen your loyalty to Jesus?
  • In what area of your life can you have a deliberate effect for Christ this week?

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Church Guests Have Questions

It’s important to encourage attenders to join our church — because they’ll NEVER grow spiritually without a commitment to live out what the Bible teaches while in a relationship with others.

As we encourage church membership, it’s important to keep in mind these five unspoken needs that prospective members are looking for our church to meet.

  • Will I be accepted at this church? – We meet this need best by establishing affinity groups within our church so that people with similar ages, interests, problems, or backgrounds can find and relate to each other. Everyone needs a niche, and small groups play a crucial role in meeting this need. We must show people that we have a place for them. Our Sunday and Wednesday opportunities are great because they can get involved, and if they have children, there is a quality and comprehensive process for discipling kids.
  • Will I find friends at this church? – People are looking for opportunities to develop relationships within our congregation. People aren’t looking for a friendly church as much as they’re looking for friends. The most common feedback we get off the Connection Cards and e-mail surveys is that we are a friendly and welcoming church. Let’s NOT just be polite but bring people in to our circles of commitment.
  • How will I make a difference at this church? – People want to make contribution with their lives. They want their lives to count. They want to feel that they matter. When we can show people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents by joining our church, they will want to get involved. What can we dream up to get people involved, that will need all sorts of talents and abilities — not just singers, ushers and small group leaders. Take a look here on ways to get involved.
  • How will I benefit from joining this church? – We must be able to clearly and concisely explain the reasons and benefits of membership. Explain the biblical, practical, and personal reasons for membership. We have put together a simple brochure on what membership is so important.
  • What will be expected of me at this church? We must be able to explain the responsibilities of membership as clearly as we state the benefits of it. People have a right to know what is expected of them before they join. The Connections Class is a great way to get to know people who are on a similar life journey and to understand what King’s Grant membership is all about.

[print_link] [email_link] [ Adapted From Rick Warren ]

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Causes of a Broken Marriage

Many people enter marriage expecting “personal payoffs.” Eventually, these unrealistic expectations become lost hopes and dreams that grow a root of bitterness. Hebrews 12:15 states, “See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Couples expect marriage will always provide:

  1. Love and acceptance
  2. Affection and sexual intimacy
  3. A loving family
  4. Rescue from present circumstances
  5. Financial security
  6. Social acceptance
  7. Protection from loneliness
  8. Time to change a mate’s behavior

When these unrealistic expectations are unfulfilled, many spouses say:

  1. “Life is too short to live like this. We’ll both be happier apart.”
  2. “This was not a marriage made in heaven. We should never have married.”
  3. “I’ve tried everything—our situation is hopeless.”
  4. “You’re wrong. You’ll never change!”
  5. “Everybody’s getting divorced—marriage doesn’t matter anymore.”
  6. “It’s better for the children if I leave, to protect them from the arguing.”
  7. “I’ll never be happy here, but I’ll try to stay until the children are grown.”

Instead of living with unrealistic expectations regarding what you don’t have, be grateful to God for what you do have. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The Key to a Biblical Marriage?

Mutual submission is based on your love for the Lord and your desire to do His will. Because of your love for God, you both must learn to defer to the desires of each other. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This is information I discovered from June Hunt, the founder and CEO of Hope for the Heart.

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Pursuing Excellence

I’ve read that leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and their lives striving for their best. No one wants to settle for second best. Check out what was said about Jesus…

They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything He does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” — Mark 7:37

I sense that Jesus was committed to excellence. We read in John 3:16 that God gave his very best–his Son. Likewise, as Mark reminds us, God’s Son gave his very best–his life (Mark 10:45). He prepared the best food (Matthew 13:19-20), made the best wine (John 2:9, 10), and the arms He healed were completely restored (see Mark 3:1, 5). Since we are to be in the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) we should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God gave us His very best.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we must strive for our best. The measure of our success is not attached to our career or what we earn but to our character and what we give back.

From my days as a basketball player in school, excellence does not mean you’ll always win, or being the best, but it means being your best. Just as sanctification is becoming more like Jesus every day, excellence is being better today than you were yesterday.

I’ve heard it said that some people have fame thrust upon them. Think about it, very few men have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved and earned. So, what changes do you need to make so that people may say of you, “Everything He does is wonderful” (Mark 7:37)?

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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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Elements of Trust

I enjoy reading blogs on a variety of topics, and I found some information on leadership worth passing on (from George Ambler). In the May edition of the Ignite! Newsletter published by The Ken Blanchard Companies (Blanchard is the One Minute Manager and Lead Like Jesus guy) is an interesting article on trust. The article discuses the ABCD Trust Model from Cynthia Olmstead, founder and president of TrustWorks Group, Inc. which highlights the following four elements of trust:

  1. Able: demonstrates competence, expertise, experience, and capability in getting the desired results accomplished.
  2. Believable: walks the talk of a core set of values, demonstrates honesty, and uses fair, equitable practices.
  3. Connected: interacts with staff, communicates and shares relevant information, provides praise, and gives recognition.
  4. Dependable: is accountable, takes responsibility for own actions, and consistently follows up.

We are well aware that trust is the foundation of all effective leadership, however trust does not just happen. It’s something that a leader must consciously and constantly develop. When it comes to developing trust, actions matter! Cynthia Olmstead goes on to explain that “…people need to see trust in action more that they need to hear about it.” It’s only as leader’s act in a trustworthy manner, by example that trust is developed.

The Bible has plenty to say about trust, too:

  1. Many began to trust in Jesus (John 2:23 NLT)
  2. Put your trust in the light while there’s time (John 12:36 NLT)
  3. Trust in God… trust also in Christ (John 14:1 NLT)
  4. Anyone who trusts in him will not be disgraced (Romans 9:33, 10:11 NLT)
  5. Trust in God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:5 NLT)
  6. God trusted Timothy and appointed him for service (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)
  7. Trust in God, not the world (1 Timothy 6:17 NLT)
  8. We don’t see yet still trust (1 Peter 1:8 NLT)
  9. The reward for trusting is our salvation (1 Peter 1:9 NLT)
  10. Trust your lives to the God who created you (1 Peter 4:19 NLT) because he will never fail you

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Christianity and Conflict

The Jews were by law separatists. You are likely familiar with many passages of Scripture where Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9) or were forbidden to enter the house of a Gentile (Matthew 8:8, John 18:28) so these events in the life of Peter are best understood when we understand the culture of Peter’s day. There was sometimes a volatile religious mix that required strong leaders like Peter and Paul to break down barriers. God blessed them with strength, faith, revelation, and lots of grace–because sorting out the truth among so many competing beliefs would usually lead to some mistakes and misjudgments. Peter, well familiar with all sorts of social missteps, would play a key role.

A Course Correction: Acts 10:1-11:18 (Primarily Acts 10:1-19, 44-48)
Peter will later be known as the apostle to the Jews, while Paul will become famous as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7). But it’s through Peter that God first chooses to swing open the door of salvation to the Gentiles. This vision on a rooftop is a radical departure for the early church and gives it a straight path to reaching Greeks and Romans with the gospel.

Cornelius was a man of considerable means, power, and authority. As a centurion, he was in charge of a fighting force of one hundred Roman soldiers. He was also what the Jews call a God-fearer, a Gentile who had accepted the Jewish God and faith but stopped short of adopting the practices, like circumcision and dietary laws, necessary to become an authentic Jew.

God gave Cornelius and Peter complementary visions. He told Cornelius to send men to bring Peter to his house, and he showed Peter that keeping one’s distance from Gentiles for dietary and other reasons is no longer necessary. Salvation is for the Gentiles too, and the church will generate a few gatherings where Jews and Gentiles fellowship together, work alongside each other, and eat together. They can’t do this while thinking a fellow believer is unclean. No walls should separate Jews and Gentiles, slave or free, male or female. The body of Christ should be a united whole.

At Cornelius’s house, Peter explained the gospel, and as he was speaking, the Spirit fell on everyone there. I see this as evidence that God is making no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and the only reasonable response is praise.

  1. How would you respond if God told you to do something that would violate one of your long-held personal values?
  2. If the Spirit dramatically manifested himself among people who had never been to church or read the Bible, would you be more likely to feel jealous or praise God? Why?

A Council Convened: Acts 15:1-35 (Primarily Acts 15:4-21)
Some Pharisees who had become Christians were finding the Gentile mission very difficult to accept. It was clear in the Law that circumcision was to be a sign God’s people (Exodus 12:48-49; Leviticus 12:3). Actually, all of the laws of God were to be a sign that set his people apart from the rest of the world. It isn’t possible for the Spirit to contradict himself, so, Gentiles who accept the Jewish Messiah should be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.

But salvation is by grace through faith alone, and neither circumcision nor any other work is a prerequisite of God’s grace, which was hard for the Jews to understand. So a council of church leaders convened in Jerusalem to settle the issue. Jew and Gentile believers, apostles, and elders offered their views. And then after much discussion, Peter stood up and laid out his simple, evidence-based argument: “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). In other words, if the Spirit isn’t keeping his distance from uncircumcised Gentiles, why should we?

In the end, James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, spoke up declaring new believers need not become Jewish before they come to Christ. He then added that the council strongly urges Gentiles to reject the rituals of paganism, like eating meat sacrificed to idols and rites of sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). Basically, the Holy Spirit will conform Gentile believers into the image of Christ and the character of God. This new freedom is not a license to sin, but the liberty to believe, worship and be filled with the Holy Spirit apart from Jewish rites becomes official church policy.

  1. How difficult do you think it was for Peter to advocate for Gentiles among his Jewish brothers?
  2. How difficult do you think it might have been for him to endorse the ministry of Paul, who was once an enemy of the disciples?
  3. How well do you think Christians today affirm ministries that employ unfamiliar methods? Why?

A Confrontation Commences: Galatians 2:1-21 (Primarily Galatians 2:11-21)
Peter’s conviction on the issue of accepting Gentile believers had wavered since the Jerusalem council. He had been accepting invitations to dine with Greek friends in Antioch, but when some disciples of James come to visit, he began to distance himself from the Gentile believers in order to appease the Jewish believers (Galatians 2:12).

The change in Peter’s behavior was noticeable; he had suddenly allowed the pressure of Jewish guests to intimidate him. Even Barnabas, Paul’s companion, joined in this “hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:13). Since it had become a public issue, Paul confronted Peter publicly. There is no evidence in the New Testament that Peter ever rejected the criticism. I suppose in his maturity, he had become correctable.

  1. How do we know where to draw the line between the absolutes of our faith and the freedom we’re given in Christ?
  2. When is it right to confront others who may be abusing their freedom in Christ?
  3. Paul was adamant that Peter shouldn’t avoid eating with Gentiles just to appease Jewish believers. However, he also taught that we shouldn’t use our freedom to offend others (Romans 14:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Why do you think Paul was less concerned about offending strict Jewish Christians in this particular case?

Think About It:
Suppose you grew up in a very conservative Christian area that discouraged all forms of interaction with the secular world except the most unavoidable. But new people within your community had recently begun preaching a new interpretation of the group’s principles, saying that the only way to impact the world is to mix and mingle with it (to get involved in secular organizations and to try to understand secular culture, including its media and entertainment and ideologies). Needless to say, there’s quite a conflict between the traditional faction and the contemporary one. Your concept of holiness is being stretched beyond your comfort level.

  1. Why is change, especially in matters of faith, so controversial and contested?
  2. How is it possible to know when a new direction is initiated by God and when it isn’t?
  3. How do we balance our faithfulness to long-held values with our willingness to be moved by God’s Spirit?
  4. What was Paul’s answer to this tension between old and new perspectives? What was Peter’s?

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