Your Mission . . .

It’s always good to know what you’re doing. Have you ever worked for somebody who had no idea what he was doing? Was it fun? No, I didn’t think so.

I’ve been in these situations before. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You’re horrified at what’s coming, but you’re too amazed to look away. Like a spectator at a grisly accident scene, you can’t not look. . .

What is your mission, as a Christian? What is the collect mission of your congregation? If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you won’t accomplish much. If your church doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be doing, then it won’t accomplish much, either.

  • What’s your individual identity? To use a horrible, contemporary term, how should a Christian “self-identify?”
  • If you’re a Christian, why did God save you from yourself and give you eternal life?
  • What implications does this have for your congregation and its mission?

Thankfully, the Bible tells us what a congregation ought to be doing. It also tells you what you need to be doing. And if you’re a Christian, unlike Ethan Hunt, you have no choice but to accept this mission . . .

This past Sunday, we wrapped up our discussion on this passage (1 Peter 2:4-10) with the last two verses (vv.9-10). The audio is below. The teaching notes for the passage are here. All audio and teaching notes for the 1 & 2 Peter series so far are here. Feel free to contact me with any questions, or to comment below.

1 pet 2 (9-10)

Living Stones in God’s House

Peter has a lot of practical advice for Christians. His original audience were believers who faced “unofficial” hostility from society. The storm cloud of official, state-sanctioned persecution had not yet broken, but it didn’t a meteorology degree to see it was coming soon. These new Christians faced all sorts of pressures from evil-intentioned and well meaning people, alike.

Some were Jews who embraced Jesus as the long-promised Messiah, and had been abandoned by their family, their synagogue, their community – effectively, they were non-persons. Cast adrift, they had no family and no social support structure besides other members of their Christian congregation.

Other believers were former pagans, who had renounced everything their society and culture stood for. They found themselves to be an unexpected minority, likewise cut off from a world they used to move quite easily and freely in.

Whether Jew or Gentile, the temptation to soften the shaper edges of the Christian message were the same. If they could only see their way clear to reinterpret some of the more “objectionable” things (like, say Jesus’ deity, His miraculous resurrection, His exclusive claim to be the only conduit for salvation and eternal life), then perhaps life would be easier.

One of the reasons Peter wrote his letter was to tell them to not give in to this self-delusion. Over and over again, he emphasized that Christians have been called to suffer for Christ’s sake. He stressed the idea of Christians in community with one another; fellow exiles trying to make our way in this wicked world together, serving the Lord and waiting for Him to return to fix everything.

This passage today, 1 Peter 2:4-10, is all about mission and purpose. What on earth are Christians here to do? What is our mission? Peter tells us all about that today.

  • How should you think of a church? What is its mission?
  • How should you visualize the people who make up a church?
  • If you’re a Christian, why did God save you? For what purpose?
  • What does God think of you as?
  • What implications does all this have for your life, for your job, for the way you should view yourself?
  • What implications does this have for the way you should think about your position or station in life?

All this, and more, is what Peter’s message here is all about. Take a listen, and consider what all this means for your congregation, and your personal and unique role in the life of your church. More than that, consider what it means for who you are, and why God made you the person you are today.

The PDF notes for today’s lesson are here. As always, all audio files and PDF notes for all lessons are here. Unless I note otherwise, you can assume the translation from 1 Peter is mine.

Generic Parchment Reference (ES)

Jealousy, Slander and the Christian Life

fighting smileyHave you ever been a member of a church where all people did was fight and hate each other? Have you ever seen two factions wage ecclesiastical war against each other, while peacemakers in the middle hunker down, eager to avoid stray rounds and just escape with their lives?

No? Good for you.

The reality is, this is what some churches are like. Things usually get this bad for two reasons:

First, Christians often don’t really love each other.

This means they don’t confront one another when someone goes off the reservation into spiteful wickedness, cunning trickery, hypocrisy, jealousy or slander.

If they loved each other, they’d look out for each other. This is a symptom of a cheap, commitment-free view of covenant church membership. See, for example, this wonderful parody of the consumer approach to church membership which plagues the Western world.

Second, church leaders are sometimes not leaders at all.

Sometimes, they’re timid, afraid of conflict, cowardly and desperately hopeful that “things will just work out.” They often spiritualize their cowardice and timidity with a pious gloss of meaningless Christian-ese (e.g. “we’ll leave this to God to sort out;” “we’ll give the Spirit time to work,” “we can’t judge”). This attitude betrays not only their own immaturity as spiritual leaders (or, worse, their absolute unfitness for pastoral ministry), but their own confusion on what forgiveness actually is. Hint – it isn’t “forgive and forget. (I wrote about this in more detail in my article “Forgive and Forget? No!”).

Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense under both President Bush and President Obama, recently wrote a book on leadership. He cautioned, “If you don’t have the guts as the leader to make tough and timely decisions, for God’s sake, don’t take the job,” (pg. 94).

Yes, indeed. To pastors and aspiring pastors – if you don’t have the guts to make tough decisions, do something else. Anything else. For God’s sake; literally. Your indecisiveness and weakness may destroy your church. It will likely harm some of the people within your church.

Today, in Sunday School, we finished our look at 1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3. We looked at the sins of jealousy and slander, and talked about what we ought to be craving instead – Christ Himself! Rather than gorge ourselves on internal strife and malicious pettiness, we ought to be always craving the genuine, pure milk that is the eternal Son of God. He’ll grow us until He returns to deliver us. Have you actually tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:3; cf. Psalm 34:8)? Then you should want to examine your own life, and be ridding yourself of these wicked sins.

This is a powerful passage, with far-reaching implications for how to love God, how to love each other, and what a congregation is supposed to be marked by. I took four sessions to cover this passage, and particularly enjoyed the discussion this morning. I hope you’re blessed by it, too.

The complete PDF notes for this passage (1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3) are here. As always, all PDF notes and audio for the entire 1 & 2 Peter teaching series are here.

How to NOT Love Fellow Christians . . .

People can be mean. Christians can be mean, nasty, evil, hypocritical, petty, and rude. Yes, I know this is a great shock. No doubt, your own experience with Christians has always been positive, Christ-like, and glorifying to our great God and Savior. We all know Christians are sweet, gentle and nice people – all of ’em, right!?. This must be a rude awakening to you. I understand. Take a moment to compose yourself . . .

All better? Good.

As I was saying, Christians can be nasty. Peter understood that – it’s why he wrote us (1 Peter 2:1) and told us how not to love the brethren in our churches. You want to know how to love fellow Christians in your church like the brothers and sisters in Christ they are? Don’t do this list of things.

Of course, there’s more to it than this. Peter also told us how we should love them. But, for today, I only managed to get through a bit of 1 Peter 2:1. I’m disappointed. I wanted to get through the whole passage (1 Peter 2:1-3), because I don’t like talking about this kind of stuff. I’ve seen Christians hate one another, and watched it tear them and a church apart. I don’t like remembering it. But, alas, I didn’t get through all the material.

I hope this discussion is a blessing to you. I pray it will make you consider yourselves, your lives, your motives and thoughts. Does the shoe fit? Then, solve the problem and do something about it. Put these things away.

The updated PDF notes are here. As always, the entire teaching series on 1 & 2 Peter is available here.

1 peter 2

 

Loving the Brethren (1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3)

God commands Christian to always love one another out of a pure heart. He said it in the Old Testament. Jesus repeated it in the New Testament. It’s important. Most of us probably don’t do it well.

This past Sunday School, I discussed the first bit of Peter’s command from 1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3. It’s an important topic. So much more can be said. It’ll probably take me three lessons to get through this material.

The PDF notes are available here. As always, the entire 1 & 2 Peter teaching series is available here. Unless I note otherwise, assume the English translation in my notes (and in the Scripture graphics, below) is mine.

1 pet 2(22-25)

Living With Fearful Reverence (1 Peter 1:17-21)

The Apostle Peter has a lot of practical advice for real life. But, he doesn’t issue commands and then stop. He tells you why:

  • Why should a Christian try his best to be holy, because God is holy?
  • Why should you prepare your minds for action, by being sober-minded?
  • Why should you not conform yourself to the wicked lusts you had during your earlier ignorance, before you were a Christian?

We talked a bit about that last week, but here Peter gives us one all-important reason – gratitude. Peter could have answered in so many different ways. He could have emphasized judgment and wrath. He could have stressed God’s holiness. He could have warned about certain punishment. He didn’t, even though all those answers would have been right.

Instead, Peter focuses on loving obedience that flows from your gratitude and thankfulness to God because of what Christ has done. This is at the heart of what it means to “live with fearful reverence.” Listen to today’s Sunday School lesson for more:

The PDF notes are available here. As always, the entire 1 & 2 Peter teaching series is available here. Unless I note otherwise, assume the English translation in my notes (and in the Scripture graphics, below) is mine.

peter