Suffering For Doing Good

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

In our Verse of the Day, Peter articulates some essential aspects of the Gospel – the message of Jesus Christ. But I think it is important for us to put this verse in its larger context in order to understand and appreciate why Peter mentions the suffering of Christ in this verse. Beginning at 1 Peter 3:8, Peter reviews the expected conduct of believers and how we should interact with one another … even to the point of “suffering” for doing what is good. Remember in 1 Peter 2:15, we studied that “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” These may be the same people who consider us “foolish” when we “do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” On the contrary, Peter tells us that we are expected to “repay evil with blessing”.  Let’s check it out:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Citing Psalm 34:12-16) 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear (or their threats); do not be frightened.” (Citing Isaiah 8:12) 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I think what Peter is driving at here is that suffering for righteousness … suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ … is to be expected. As Jesus had already told His disciples: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Therefore, it is important that we revere Christ as Lord and follow His commands. We need to do what is right … even if it hurts or brings hardship or suffering to ourselves. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. And perhaps that is the point. Our “reserved” response to others who are “ignorant of the truth” might actually convict them of their own evil … it might actually “bring them to God” just as the “kindness of God in Christ led us to repentance.” (Cf. Romans 2:4)

Jesus taught these same principles in His “Sermon on the Mount”:

Matthew 5:9-12 (NIV)

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:22-23; 27-30 (NIV)

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

And Paul affirms the same principles that we should follow in this regard:

Romans 12:14; 17-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Citing Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Citing Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In light of these additional passages, it is clear that Peter is leading us into what it means to exhibit Christ-like conduct. And in doing so, he entertains the probability that we also, in doing what is right, will be treated by the world as Christ was treated. I hope these insights will resonate and give us more thoughtful strategies on how to deal with those who do not know God … who have not been reconciled with Him through Christ Jesus … and who might be hostile toward you and me for our “good conduct.” As Jesus encouraged, we should rejoice and be glad. We will be blessed because our reward in heaven will be great! Let that be our hope when suffering comes our way for putting those things Jesus taught into practice … as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Word of God Speak…

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Our Verse of the Day continues to emphasize the Word of God and its power to change the thoughts of our hearts. It has the power to transform our lives … affording us the knowledge of God and His will! Indeed, its importance cannot be emphasized enough because it is how God reaches out to us through His Spirit to come to a knowledge of the Truth! Perhaps the instruction of Paul can help us out in this regard:

1 Corinthians 2:9-14 (NIV)

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” (Citing Isaiah 64:4) —the things God has prepared for those who love Him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual truths with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

We have learned from Paul: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16) Peter affirmed: “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:21) The writer of Hebrews enlightened: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the Prophets at many times and in various ways; but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe.” (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) And John proclaimed: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (Cf. John 1:1-4)

And so, this is the key point I have found to be my guide: “Embrace what Jesus has revealed through the words He received from the Father!  He is the Living Word … alive and active! It is His words that bring discernment and judgment into our hearts! Yes, He alone, is our salvation!

John 8:25-32 (NIV)

25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But He who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.” 27 They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM HE, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me29 The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” 30 Even as Jesus spoke, many believed in Him. 31 To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 12:44-50 (NIV)

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the One who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the One who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

As I meditate on these things, my thoughts recall what Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus … His praises to God for the spiritual blessings we receive through His Son … our Lord Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 1:3-14 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In Him we were also chosen (made heirs) having been predestined according to the plan of God who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

And so, I join with Paul in his prayer: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-19) Indeed, the great power of transformation is found in the Word of God! It is our light in the midst of this dark world! Amen.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. ~ Jesus

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. ~ Isaiah 55:10-11

The Words of My Mouth…

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

As I read our Verse of the Day, the first thought I had was: “What words? What meditation?” So, I stopped to read the entire Psalm and find out.  I have reprinted it here for you:

Psalm 19 (NIV)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 2 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wow! King David had a remarkable awareness of God … an intimate relationship with Him. He understood God as the loving Creator of all things … the entire universe and all of its inner workings, the stars and galaxies, the planets, and all that fill them. David understood His inconceivable power and divine being and that God is worthy of reverence and worship from all created things. He even meditates here that the heavens testify of God’s being and His glory. Then David moves to recognition of God’s Word. Words … speech … languages are nothing more than the articulation of thoughts … of concepts. They can be descriptive or definitive. But words (and sounds) are connected to the ideas intended to be communicated and shared between living creatures. In this context, the Word of God is the articulation (revelation) of God’s thoughts and of His will. David declares the thoughts of God are perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, radiant, joy giving, wisdom instilling, righteous, pure, highly valuable, and eternal. In keeping (observing and obeying) the Word of God, we receive the reward of knowing Him in an intimate way. We discover the passion of His thoughts toward us and His sovereign will for us. We conceive and experience the “heart” of God … full of love (agape) for us – creatures made in His own image. I cannot think of any greater reward than His gift of everlasting life and being surrounded by His presence and glory.

So, what are the meditations of your heart today? What thoughts have you or will you share with God today? David gave us an awesome example that I believe God found “pleasing” to Him. As for me, my thoughts drifted to this verse in Isaiah as I began to write:

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.

1 Corinthians 2:6-14 (NIV)

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”the things God has prepared for those who love Him10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:18-30 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before Him. 30 It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Lord God, may it be that only your words become the words of my mouth. May it be that the meditation of my heart is upon you and you alone.  May I see the wisdom of your Word … may it be my only guide … a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path. (Cf. Psalm 119:115) This is the meditation and desire of my heart, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. There is no one like you.  There is none besides you. You alone are Creator. You alone are Savior. You have blessed my soul with thoughts too deep for me; and yet, my soul rests in you. Indeed, those who know your Name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation! Yes, I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!