Friday, 26 February 2016

Submission & Authority ~ 1 Peter ~ Ganeida

We recommence our study of Peter in Chapter 2, starting at verse 13.  

In the Greek this passage starts hypotassō & we are going to deal with this word right at the beginning because a correct understanding of this word makes everything else so much clearer.

Peter, like Paul, understood God to be a God of order, order not chaos. 1 Cor 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God's holy people.

Once we fully grasp this everything Peter then says following hypotassō makes perfect sense.

Hypotassō was a military term used to describe the arranging of troops according to rank & authority as you would on a parade ground or in battle formation under the command of a leader.  In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden ~Strongs. In a sense beginning his sentence with  hypotassō, is like a Sergeant bellowing: At~ten~tion! It is a call to action.

Both definitions apply to us as believers. Again & again Paul compares the body of Christ or the church with the military & Peter picks up on this metaphor.  Paul speaks of war in the heavenlies. He says our foes are not flesh & blood. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Eph 6:12

You can’t win a war if your army is all over the place doing its own thing.  It needs to be drawn up in military formation under a single battle commander. Our primary battle commander is Jesus but there are ranks of leader under him, responsible for various aspects of life in this world & Peter addresses most of these: Kings, authorities, slaves, husbands & wives.

Does this devalue any single person?  Of course not! It simply ensures there is order & cohesion. Where there is not order in government we have civil war.  Where there is no order in families there is dysfunction. If there isn’t order in the church there is chaos. The idea of hypotassō is for our own good, ensuring that there is peace & functionality in all aspects of human existence.

Peter then clarifies by stating that we are to be subject to authority for the Lord’s sake. What’s more, good bad or indifferent we are to be subject to the ordained authorities. Slaves are instructed to be respectful even if their masters are cruel. This cuts against the grain in our democratic society where everyone is overly conscious of their *rights*.

Aristotle wrote:
In regard to a slave, his master’s will, and even his master’s caprice, is the only law. Slaves literally had no rights.  They were property to be bought & sold & worked into the grave. They could not marry but if they cohabited their children belonged to their master to do with as he willed. This idea that slaves were a *thing* ~ a possession ~ meant that inevitably many Christians would be abused by their masters. Yet nowhere in scripture do you find the writers telling believers to rise up & overthrow abusive authority.

Now, I am not saying that slavery is right.  I am not saying that all governments are good.  I am not saying that there is no place for civil disobedience ~ when practised in accord with the scriptures.  What I am saying is that there is a principle at work & there are spiritual benefits to our obedience in these matters. 

You will find it in Peter 3:1
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

As believers we only have one mandate from our Lord: to win others for Christ. Exactly the same word for authority is used here: hypotassō.  Same idea. Same principle. How we live our lives matters.  If we are seen as disrespectful we actually blaspheme the gospel 1 Timothy 6:1  All slaves should show full respect for their masters so they will not bring shame on the name of God and his teaching. The word translated shame is blasphēmeō in the Greek ~ to blaspheme.

We have an example of this in modern times.  We all remember the *Eastern Block* countries that were governed by communism for a great part of the 20th century.  Under their despotic rule Christians were persecuted, jailed, bullied, forced underground but there was a difference in how they approached their plight. In East Germany the Pastors learnt to love their persecutors & respected the authority they had as government leaders.  They prayed that their situation would be changed without bloodshed ~ & it was! Not so in Romania. Romania had no revelation of walking in honour & respecting the authority over them & they have suffered because of it.

Again Peter reminds us that our example is Christ who *left His case in the hands of God.* May we learn to do the same!V22~25

Peter then moves on to discussing families, women first.  Peter was a married man so he was not speaking without experience. As we have already said Peter uses the same Greek word expressing an aligning of ordered authority, partly I am sure because that was the society in which he lived, but also because eventually the buck stops somewhere & Peter says it stops with the husband. 

There is another reason.  In Ancient Greece & Rome it was unthinkable for a woman to have a different religion to her husband.  If a woman came to Christ before her husband it created problems.  The woman might consider herself superior.  She might be tempted to use her freedom in Christ to belittle or disobey her husband.  She might consider leaving him. How was she to behave towards him? It is these things that Peter is striving to address but they are also relevant to us~ especially if we are yoked unequally.

Peter then talks about a woman’s true beauty.  Now most women are not beauty queens but we all want to be attractive ~ especially to our husband & children. This desire has created powerful industries in fashion & cosmetics but I want to share something with you that one of my sons once said to me. He said, Mum, you are one of the most beautiful women I know!  I was shocked.  I am under no illusions about my physical attributes ~ but my son wasn’t looking at my physical attraction. He was talking about the sort of spirit he saw in me ~ & this is what Peter is talking about here.  As women we are to cultivate our relationship with Jesus & His spirit because that will translate into true & irresistible beauty. When we are Christ’s we will be as Christ in our homes.

In most ancient cultures women & children were the property of the man.  He had absolute rights of law & culture over them.  A wife had none.  Think Islamic marriages in the middle east. The N.T is incredibly radical in its attitude towards women.
Firstly Peter instructs men to honour their wives. The Hebrew is kabed & carries the idea of weight. The Greek is timao, to hold in esteem, to value. 

This is the idea behind Proverbs 31:10
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.

Men are to value their wives. This was an incredibly novel idea at a time when women were considered a man’s property. It was an honour/shame society so in elevating women as persons considered worthy of honour, the men’s status in their society was lowered.  This was to choose between God or man. What’s more, they are to live with them with understanding. We have books like Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars because men & women do not think, act, or even believe the same way.  Generally women will have a more emotional response than a man will but Men are not to dismiss this way of being.  They are to seek to understand ~ & value it!

The woman is described as the *weaker vessel*, something bound to get the feminists hot under the collar. In straightforward terms it means exactly what is says: women are physically weaker than men.  In a society where brute strength was needed just for everyday survival women were at a distinct disadvantage. In the context of culture ~ & this is still true to a large extent even within our own culture ~ women are less able at managing without a man to head the household.  Their wages are generally lower.  They often have young children to care for.  They may have had a break from the workforce & find it difficult to get work. In essence Peter is reminding men not to abandon their wives to fend for themselves.

To summarise, the passage on husbands & wives clearly teaches that a husband & wife are to live in harmony together that their prayers are not hindered because the wife is an equal co~heir with her husband in Christ’s gift of a new life. The family unit was designed to be a reflection of the unity between Father, Son & Spirit. Scripture teaches when 2 or 3 unite in prayer Christ is present, so agreement, harmony, unity are essential in a Christian household.  This is the pattern & it is one that all Christians are to emulate.

I will pause here as Peter moves onto a different subject in the following paragraphs.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Gospel of Mark, part 1 ~ Rabqa

This Gospel was written in A.D 65-70, the theme is the Son of Man who is in fact the Son of God.
Key words: Authority, Son of Man, Son of God, Suffering, Faith, Discipline, & Gospel.

Even though the Gospel of Mark is anonymous, early tradition is unanimous the author of this Gospel is John Mark, a close associate of Peter (I Pet 5:13) She who is in Babylon...greets you & so does my son Mark. & also a companion of Paul & Barnabas on their first missionary journey.

The earliest witness to Markan authorship stems from Papias, bishop of the Church at Hierapolis about A.D 135-140, a witness that is preserved in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. Papias describes Mark as the interpreter of Peter. Although the early Church was careful to maintain direct apostolic authorship for the Gospels the church fathers consistently attribute this Gospel to Mark who was not an apostle. This fact furnishes indirect conformation of Mark's authorship.

The Church fathers state that the Gospel of Mark was written after Peters death, which occurred during the persecution by the Emperor Nero about A.D 67. The Gospel itself, particularly chapter thirteen, indicates that it was written before the destruction of the temple in A. D 70. The bulk of the evidence supports a date between A.D 65-70.

Background: In A.D 64 Nero accused the Christian Community of setting the city of Rome on fire, & thereupon instigated a fearful persecution in which Paul & Peter perished. In the time of a persecuted church, living constantly under the threat of death, the evangelist Mark writes his "good news." Clearly he wants his readers to draw encouragement & strength from the life & example of Jesus. What was true for Jesus was to be true for the apostles & disciples of all ages.

At the heart of the Gospel is the explicit pronouncement that the Son of Man must suffer many things, & be rejected by the elders & chief priests, scribes, & be killed, then after three days rise again (8:31)

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be
killed, and after three days rise again. The Word must indicate the divine necessity stemming from God's will. This pronouncement of suffering & death not only is repeated 9:31; 10:32-34, but becomes the norm for committed discipleship: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him take up his cross & follow me" (8:34) Mark leads his readers to the cross of Jesus, where they can discover meaning & hope in their suffering. Mark structures his Gospel around various movements of Jesus, which are climaxed by His death & subsequence resurrection. After the introduction (1:1-13), in which he says in his opening sentence "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God", packs a real punch. the startling news is out; the purpose of the Gospel & its message are on the table from the outset. Mark narrates the public ministry of Jesus in Galilee (1: 14-9:50) & in Judea chapters 10-13 reaching the highest point in the Passion & Resurrection chapters 14-16. 

The Gospel may be viewed as two half’s joined together by the hinge of Peters confession of Jesus as the Messiah & Jesus' first announcement of His
crucifixion (8:27-30) Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him. This incident which took place six months before the crucifixion, was pivotal in Jesus' ministry, marking the climax of His teaching concerning His own person. Here as well, He began preparing His disciples for His death. Public confession of Jesus' Messiah ship would have created an unwanted national fervour.

 Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, not containing any genealogy & there is no account of the birth & early Judean ministry of Jesus. It is the Gospel of action, moving rapidly from one scene to another, Johns Gospel is a studied
portrait of the Lord, Matthew & Luke present what might be described as a series of coloured slides, while Marks Gospel is like a motion picture of the life of Jesus. Mark accents the activity he records by the use of the Greek word eutheos usually translated "immediately." The Word occurs forty two times in Mark, more then in all the rest of the New Testament. Marks frequent use of the Greek imperfect tense denoting continuous action also moves the narrative at a rapid pace. Marks is also the Gospel of vividness. Graphic, striking phrases occur frequently to allow the reader to form a mental picture of the scene described. The looks & gestures of Jesus receive unusual attention. There are many Latin isms in this Gospel 4:21...Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? is not to be set on a lamp stand? 

12:14...Teacher we know that you are true & care about no one; for you not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 6:27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in
prison, & 15:39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” Mark places little emphasis on Jewish law & customs always interpreting them for the reader when he does mention them. This tends to support the tradition that Mark wrote for a Gentile, Roman audience. In many ways Mark emphasises the Passion of Jesus so that it becomes the gauge by which the whole of Jesus' ministry & the ministry of His disciples maybe measured; For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, & give His life a ransom for many. (10:45) Jesus' entire ministry— miracles, table fellowship with sinners, choice of disciples, teaching on the kingdom of God etc is set within the context of self-giving love of the Son of God. Climaxed in the Cross & Resurrection. Marks Gospel teaches that the life of discipleship means following Jesus along the same path of misunderstanding & rejection that He encountered. For followers of Jesus in all ages the warning & promises are sure. (8:34-35)

...Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. We see from this that we must understand & accept that discipleship means forsaking all selfish & personal ambition. Know for certain that every true disciple must take up his cross. Mark underscores the need for faith in the person, message & power of Jesus to help those in need (1:15; 2:5; 4:40;5:34, 36; 6:6; 9:19; & 11:22-24. So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. This has to be one of my favourite faith passages. A mountain is symbolic of an obstacle, hindrance, or insurmountable problem. 

Faith is the key that releases the resource of heaven into our situation. From Jesus' own lips we receive the most direct & practical instruction concerning our exercise of faith. consider three points: 1) It is to be in God. Faith that speaks is first faith that seeks. The Almighty One is the source & grounds of our faith & being. Faith only flows to Him because of the faithfulness that flows from Him. 2) Faith is not a trick performed with our lips, but a spoken expression that springs from the conviction of our hearts. The idea that faith's confession is a "formula" for getting things from God is unbiblical. But the fact that the faith in our hearts is to spoken & thereby becomes active & effective toward specific results, It is taught here by the lord Jesus. 3) Jesus words "whatever things" We need to apply this principle to every aspect of our lives. The only restrictions are: A) That our faith be in God our living Father & in alignment with His Will & Word. & B) That we believe-not doubting in our hearts. So speaking to the mountain is not a vain or superstitious exercise or indulgence in humanistic mind-science, but instead becomes
an applied release of God's creative Word of promise.

 The opposite of such faith can be seen in motif of hard hearts (3:5; 7:14-23; & 8:17) We see from these verses that evil originates in the heart. Jesus motivates His disciples to live righteously by emphasising that such living comes from the heart with love & trust, more than observance of an external code of ethics. Consequently New Testament wisdom reveals the differences between a correct behaviour, based only on the Law, & righteous actions that proceed from the heart of a new life reborn in Christ. The incarnate Christ that Mark describes is One who is willing & able to help those in extreme need. Marks Gospel assures Christian workers of all generations that the same attesting miracles that accredited the ministries of the apostles will continue as characteristic features of God's people under the new covenant. (16:17,18) And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” The signs accredit the gospel message, cannot be limited to the apostolic age, any more then the Lords commission to carry the gospel throughout the world. The signs, therefore, confirm the ministries of Christ's ambassadors in every generation. Casting out demons, speaking in tongues, & healing all appear in other passages of the New Testament, & there is no scriptural warrant for their cessation before the Lords return. Taking up serpents does not refer to handling snakes in religious ceremonies but casting them away without being harmed (Acts 28:3-6). 

The Greek verb airo means take up, also can mean remove, takeaway, cast away (Matt 14:12; Lk 11:52; 1Cor 5:22; & Eph 4:31). Similarly a servant of the Lord may look for divine protection in matters pertaining to food & drink. Many missionaries have testified to God's miraculous protection in heathen territories, where they experienced no ill effects from impure food & drink. All the signs listed here have occurred repeatedly in Christian history. This book is not a biography, but a concise history of redemption accomplished through the atoning work of Christ. Mark substantiates the messianic claims of Jesus by emphasising His authority as a teacher 

(1:22) This verse teaches that Jesus taught independently without appealing to previous authorities, whereas the scribes only repeated what others had said. Both the substance & the manner of the Lords teaching differed from that of official interpreters of the Law. His authority over satan & unclean spirits (1:27; 3:19-30), sin 2:1-12 This is where Jesus forgives & heals the paralytic-the obvious healing of the paralytic effectively establishes divine prerogative of Jesus to forgive sins. The title Son of Man in v 12 was a messianic title stemming from Dan 7:13...One like the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven... Jesus chose it as a self designation rather then the more popular title: Son of David, which carries nationalistic & materialistic overtones. The Sabbath

 (2:27,28; & in 3:1-6) This is where Jesus & His disciples went through the grain fields & His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain—Jesus & His disciples were not guilty of violating any scriptural law governing the Sabbath, but only in the eyes of the Pharisaic interpretation of it. Jesus establishes two positive principles in these verses, 1. God intended the Sabbath to be for spiritual & physical benefit of His people, not an impossible burden in striving to observe narrow man-made rules. this attitude is in direct contrast to that of the religious authorities. Many of whom taught that the only reason God created man was so He would have somebody to observe the Sabbath. 2. This principal amounts to a claim for deity. If the Sabbath is made for man then the Son of Man, as man's Lord & representative, has authority over it. By this claim Jesus is actually stating equality with God, since the Sabbath is the Lords day. Nature 4:35-41; & 6:45-52 where the wind & sea obey Jesus & where He walks on water.

 In Mk 4:35-41 shows the contrast between the deep peaceful sleep of Jesus with the great tempest of the storm, & the disciples fearful cry. When He rebuked the sea demonstrates Jesus' authoritative reign over the entire Earth, including inclement elements thamind find there source in the destructive power of the evil one. Disease 5:21-34 verses 24-34relates to the account of a desperate woman whose healing was the result of great & persistent faith. Her illness made ceremonially unclean & disqualified her for mixing with crowds of people (she said) If only I may touch His clothes I shall be made well (v28) Jesus did not rebuke her, but delayed His His mission to the home of Jairus, whose daughter was dying in order to reassure her of her healing & salvation. Jesus later raised Jairus's daughter from the dead, but here He took time to minister to to one with positive faith. That such persistence is rewarded is not to suggest healing or any other works of God is earned by human effort. It rather illustrates the need to be bold in what we believe – nor be deterred by circumstances or discouraged by others.

 Death (5:35-43) Someone said to Jairus "Your daughter is dead." This implies that Jesus can heal one who is sick but cannot raise one from the dead. The importance of faith in the midst of  a crisis is underscored in Mk4; Here Jesus contrasts fear with faith & equates fear with no faith. Faith here means to trust in God's helping power in a crisis, help that is both present & active in Jesus. 

Legalistic traditions: 7:1-13,14-20 we learn in verses 1-5 that some of His disciples had unwashed hands whilst eating bread. The charge was not that the disciples were guilty of poor hygiene, but that they did not observe rituals of cleansing. Then the Pharisees taught that religious defilement could spread by touch so they prescribed elaborate ceremonies of cleansing. These were part of the tradition or oral law, which they regard as as having equal authority with the written Law. Temple: 11:15-18 Teaches that the temple authorities had established a kind of religious Mafia which siphoned off enormous profits from fraudulent transactions. By purging the temple in fulfilment of Mal 3:1-3. Jesus dramatized His messianic authority.

Friday, 12 February 2016

1 Peter ~ an Introduction: Ganeida

Perhaps the most well known of Jesus’ disciples is Peter bar Jona. His extroverted, blunt, enthusiastic personality leaps from the pages of scripture. He is first to declare Jesus the Christ ~ yet denies him 3 times. It is Peter who leaps from the boat to walk on water ~ then starts to sink.  It is Peter who starts telling Jesus what to do & finds himself equated with satan! It is Peter who rushes with John to the empty tomb; Peter who recognises Jesus cooking fish from the shore & leaps overboard, too impatient to wait on the boat arriving; Peter who cuts a servant’s ear in the garden when Jesus is arrested.  He suffers from chronic foot in foot. He has grandiose ideas, wanting to bask in the glory of the transfiguration rather than descending into the valley to deal with people’s very real & hardly glorious needs.

I like Peter.  He is very human with such a big personality that it is surprising to realise he contributed very little to our bible as we know it.  He wasn’t even one of the 2 leaders of the church.  James, the brother of Jesus, led the church in Jerusalem; Paul led the gentile church.  Only The Gospel of Mark is attributed to Peter’s memories of Jesus ~ & it certainly sounds like Peter. Then there are just 2 short epistles under his name. Rather, as Peter himself puts it, he was an apostle of Jesus Christ ~ a sent one ~ fulfilling the commission Jesus gave him in Luke 22:32  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers

Stērizō means to render mentally steadfast or to stand immovable ~ & certainly the persecuted church in Asia Minor was in need of strengthening.
For one thing the Roman Empire regarded a people who turned away from the customs of their society with distrust, believing them to undermine society by this attitude.  You are seeing something similar happen in western society today with Christians being vilified for protesting new societal norms.
People also tended to blame this turning away for the disasters overtaking their world & thus blamed Christians for their troubles.
Christians were also suspected of cannibalism, incest, orgies, and all sorts of immorality.

Up until about 54 AD Peter was in Jerusalem & part of the Judaic church. In 54 AD he undertook a missionary journey into Asia Minor with his wife.  If you look at our map you will see that all the countries mentioned in Peter’s epistle are part of Asia Minor or part of Greece, which the Romans called Asia.  These provinces were once part of the great Babylonian/Assyrian Empire that covered all this territory.

I can’t think of anyone in the early church better qualified to write to a persecuted church than Peter.  If Peter had learnt nothing else from his time with Jesus he had learnt that it was fatal to take his eyes of Jesus!

This then is the central theme of 1 Peter: The God of All Grace. It so occupies Peter’s mind that he can barely write a paragraph without mentioning Christ & what He has done for us.

From his opening paragraph Peter makes it very clear that believers are refugees, sojourners, foreigners, in this world, set apart & sanctified by the Holy Spirit. He finishes with the benediction that the believers might experience an ever increasing amount of God’s grace & peace. 

Remember we have studied the close correlation between Charis [grace] & chara [joy] before. Peter makes this connection clear as he proceeds, pointing out that as believers who have been redeemed from the world we live with great expectation & the outflow of all that we have in, through, & from Jesus Christ should result in an overflow of joyful gratefulness that triumphs over our trials & tribulations.

V3. In the Old Testament there were 3 circumstances for the sprinkling of blood
·      At the establishment of the Covenant (Exodus 24:5-8).
·      At the ordination of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:21).
·      At the purification ceremony for a cleansed leper (Leviticus 14:6-7).

This is the pattern. Jesus blood over us is the New Covenant we have with Him [Matt. 26:28]; we are ordained as priests  [1 peter 2:9] after the order of Melchizedek; we are cleansed of our corruptness [Romans 11:27]. On top of all this Peter states in v5 that God is protecting us.

So why, oh why, are the Christians of Asia Minor suffering?  Why do we suffer? Peter explains from v6 onwards that the trials are allowed to prove the genuineness of our faith. V7 says we are refined like gold.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. Gold is refined in the fire to rid it of all impurities.  How do you know when the gold is pure?  When the refiner can see his reflection in the gold!

Trials & tribulations are not arbitrary.  We become overcomers by overcoming.  We become holy by being refined in the fire. We become like Christ by imitating Him in all things ~ & this includes our suffering. Trials & tribulations are meant to force us to closeness to God where we learn to rely on Him more fully & to form the image of Christ in us.  They are not a punishment! Of all men, Peter knew this to be true. This was a man of whom it is written they put their sick out in the streets of Jerusalem that his shadow might fall on them & they be healed. Acts 5:15 Peter learnt through his pride that he could not stand in his own strength because he fell but he could stand in Jesus because the Holy Spirit imparted the grace to stand! 

Now some people will tell you it is the will of God that you suffer trials & tribulations.  Not at all!  They are allowed that you might put your faith to work & become overcomers, exercise joy in tribulation & bring glory to the father.  It is not God’s will that you live defeated, impoverished, downtrodden lives.  We walk in the victory Christ bought for us with His own blood & we put our faith to work.  By faith in prayer Peter walked out of jail [Acts 12:5~17] He didn’t sit there bemoaning his lot.  Or consider Paul in Acts 16:25 singing praises to God till everyone’s chains fell off!  I tell you trials & tribulations will come because the god of this world is still satan & he is the destroyer, the liar, the murderer but we do not have to live under his yoke. Rise up, saints, & take your authority in Christ!

Salvation is such a wonder & a mystery that even those who prophesied it & the angels who witnessed its implementation desire to understand it!

In this chapter Peter also gives the call to holy living. V 13 is correctly rendered as to gird up the loins of your mind. Or as Romans 12:2 puts it: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

The Christian life is one of training.  It is not one where we are expected to do everything ourselves for we are to be led of the Spirit but the leading of the Spirit will have certain results.  For one thing he will convict us of our sin & help to change our thinking so that our thought patterns conform to God’s. He helps us to resist the call of our fleshly nature & do the bidding of God.

As we move into chapter 2 Peter clarifies his thoughts on holiness.  He wants believers to grow into maturity that we will have the full experience of our salvation. V2

It is in Peter that you find the imagery of believers as *living stones*, *God’s Temple*, *A Holy Priesthood* offering *spiritual sacrifices*.  You see Peter understood there is a correlation between reverencing Christ & his blood shed for us, our hunger for the word [which washes us Eph 5:26] & the way we live.  Little of the word in our life, little power to overcome sin or present spiritual sacrifices. V8 clearly says they stumble because they do not obey God’s word, which is why Romans 10:13/15 says: How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?

I am going to stop at chapter 2:11 because at this Point Peter shifts his focus to how a Christian is to deal with various forms of authority & correct submission.

Peter’s focus in these 1st 2 chapters is on the joy we should have in our salvation & the correlating fact that as new creations we should no longer be subject to the ruler of this world.  Indeed Christianity has thrived as a diaspora, going into all the world & Planting themselves as foreigners in their own countries that as Peter observes when they see your honourable behaviour, they will give honour to God when He judges the world.

Peter lists 5 things that are a cause for joy: Great mercy, The new birth, A living hope, Resurrection from the dead, An imperishable inheritance

There is a 6th thing that I also think is a cause for joy: (1:5) "... Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."     The Greek verb phroureō, is a military term meaning "to maintain a watch, guard, here 'to provide security, guard, protect, keep.'"[9] This guarding will continue until Christ returns -- and personally consummates our salvation [Heb 9:28]

This life is not always easy.  It can be confusing & heartbreaking but we have no cause to despair  for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous… This is a promise declared over & over in scripture, so much so that David declared, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me

I urge you to cultivate your relationship with Jesus for this is the way to walk in utmost confidence & yes, even victory, no matter what this world throws at you!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

What is Good? ~Rabqa

Good & evil. We all know the difference, we are born into this world with an inherent knowledge of what is right & wrong.

People often say are inherently good, but is that true? we know that movies, documentaries, & other programs warm our hearts are those that highlight the goodness of folk. There are not many stories or movies where evil triumphs over good that are extremely popular.

We all grew up watching the good guys go through tough challenges. The odds were stacked against them, they faced defeat, usually right up to to end, but suddenly our heroes broke through to victory or justice.

In recent years we see on the T.V a trend for reality shows featuring makeovers. the show starts with a struggling family's home. We sit glued to our T.V set admiring the excitement & generosity in their outreach to the poor & needy. We anticipate the shock of those who benefited in that climatic moment when they see their refurbished home for the first time. Then there was that show that helped those struggling to
lose weight, & there are many more.

There is someone I know who on the outside seems to be doing good works, helping those in need, but one day as I was praying for him, God showed me that he was doing it all for his own glory, not for the good of others or more importantly not to show God's Goodness. I hear comments such as he's such a good man, people accept this evaluation at face value, even if they don't know him. We have to be careful of what we accept because some assessments are not always accurate.

could we ever fall into the delusional state of calling what's right wrong, or what's wrong right? everybody knows the difference, & we certainly could never fall into the deceived state of calling good evil or evil good or could we?

Many centuries ago, a wealthy rich young leader met Jesus on the road, he was honest & morally pure man. He had never committed adultery, murdered, lied, stolen, or cheated anyone. He had always respected his parents, was model citizen, & was liked by many. He honoured Jesus by calling Him the Good Teacher.

This leader was speaking to another leader; one good man appealing to another good man. He sought common ground with the notable Teacher, I point out here whom he'd never met before. Maybe he though if I flatter Him by appealing to His goodness, I'll convince Him to give me a good response to my inquiry. BUT before Jesus acknowledged his question He said "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One that is God. Mk 10:18.

True goodness is the prerogative of God, yet the man had called Jesus Good Teacher. If Jesus was only a teacher then he did not deserve to be called good. On the other hand if He was indeed good, then He was God. Whether or not this is a veiled claim to deity, Jesus directs the man's attention to God, the ultimate standard of goodness. Our standard of goodness is completely different to God's.

To make analogy between the man I mentioned earlier who appears to do good & the tree of the knowledge of good & evil that Eve was drawn to. It was the good side. Gen 3:6
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Notice the words Good, Pleasant, & Desirable, To God there is a good that is not of Him. Suspect urgings that come from carnal appetites, visual enticements that invite acquisition. & things that tug at personal ambition 1Jn 2:16. Man fell by choice. The tempter is the father of lies (Jn 8:44) deceiving & seducing us to sin. The lie questions God's Word, giving our opinion absolute authority. Our opinions are easy prey to satan's deception. The desire to become wise seems quiet reasonable to the woman. Unfortunately, her definition of wise was human-self rule as taught in Prov 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. The fear of the lord means the secret of obtaining genuine wisdom, it is not the terror of a tyrant, but the kind of awe of respect which will lead to obedience to Him who is wisest of all. But fools despise wisdom, stark & immediate contrast is one of the strongest ways the writer makes his point.

Prov 14:12 says There is a way that seems right to a man, But it's is the way of death. The last part of this verse says "But it's end is the way of death." Many Christians don't pay attention to these words because they think I'm saved, heading towards heaven, & will not see death. In their minds they think this only applies to non believers. Look at the words " the way of death."

 Scripture speaks frequently of the way of life & the way of death. God declares to His own (not to those who don't belong to Him), "Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life & the way of death" Jer 21:8 Way here means the wisdom we live by. You'll see this often throughout Scripture. Jesus said Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Mk 7:13;14

Suspect things that are popular or favoured by world minded majority. Jesus motivates His disciples to live righteously by emphasising that such living comes from the heart with love & trust, more than through observance of an external code of ethics, consequently New Testament wisdom reveals the differences between correct behaviour based only on the law, & righteous actions that proceed from the heart of a new life reborn in Christ.

God placed the tree of life in the centre of the Garden of Eden. It represents God's way of life, His wisdom. The other central tree in the garden was called the tree of knowledge of good & evil. this tree represents the way of death; it stood for man's wisdom apart from God. Partaking of it's fruit didn't just impact Adam & Eve in the afterlife; but affected them immediately. Before their foolish act they had been unrestrained, productive, healthy, & successful at what ever they set their hearts to do. But once they partook of the forbidden fruit life became hard. They were plagued with sickness, lack, stressful toil, & difficulties the had never known before. They entered into the way of death. God is a Redeemer. He'd already planned to recover what had been lost. He made a covenant in order to restore the way of life. His wisdom would once again produce happiness, pleasant living, peace, abundance, & other great benefits.

 Prov 3:13-18 Instructs us to embrace wisdom & to follow after understanding. Know that patience, discernment, favour, prosperity, safety, & other benefits will result. Going back to prov 14:12 we looked at the last part of the verse but the beginning: There is a way that seems right to a Man. This can easily be applied to anyone, that is both Christian & non-believer. There is a way that seems right-it seems good, wise, beneficial, strategic, profitable & so on. Yet the warning is clear: What seems good may actually be detrimental, harmful, & non-productive-the way of death. Heb 5:11-12 &14 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

This passage teaches that it is only through a sustained daily effort to apply God's Word to our life that we will come mature. The disciple is an apprentice to Jesus. Learning to live how He lived. God disciplines His children, correcting & training them to live in His kingdom.

 Correction, if received with the right attitude of heart, produces the right fruit of righteousness. The Father's object is to bring His children to maturity, & what is truly good & what is truly evil. In other words, what is truly good is not always clear to our natural thinking.

We must hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to us, Jesus constantly taught "He who has ears let him hear!" Matt11:15 Ears to hear notes the essential need for a teachable hearing heart to be present if the seed of the kingdom truth is to be received & become fruitful. Solomon prayed, "Give me an understanding heart so that I can...know the difference between right & wrong" 1 Kings 3.9

Be confident that God honours those who depend on His wisdom to carry out the work He has assigned for them. Scripture maintains a consistent testimony that those who hearts are fully devoted to God are blessed by Him. Partial devotion to God is lukewarmness so inevitably results in spiritual mediocrity  & sporadic communion with the Lord. As you come to communion be sure that you are right with the Lord in every way.

Acknowledgements: John Bevere