Finished with Sin! (Parts 1 – 2)

1 pet 4(1-2)aIn this passage (1 Peter 4:1-6), the Apostle Peter urges Christians to arm themselves with the same selfless mindset that Christ had; “for Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Pet 3:18).

In particular, Peter says the one who suffers in the body (just like Jesus did) is “through with sin,” (1 Pet 4:1). This mindset, attitude and determination is the foundation and bedrock that makes it possible for Christians to have the same mindset Jesus had. In this passage, we’ll look at this passage and what it means for our practical lives, in the real world.

My bible study notes for this passage are here. The first two lessons on this passage are below. As always, the entire teaching series, complete with my teaching notes and audio from the lessons, is here:

Audio – Part 1

Audio – Part 2

Gentleness and Reverence?

smiley2Why should Christians want to ask for God’s favor, instead of returning evil for evil, or insult for insult? What is the end-goal? Why should we be prepared to give an account of the hope that’s within us? I covered some of this in Sunday School, as we examined this passage (1 Peter 3:13-17; what follows is my translation):

So, who’ll harm you, if you’re zealous for what’s right? But, even if you do suffer because you’re doing what’s right, God will bless you. So, don’t be afraid of their threats or be intimidated. Instead, reverence the Messiah as Lord in your hearts.

Always be ready to give a defense to every man who’s asking you for an account of the hope inside each of you. But, do this with gentleness and reverence in order to have a good conscience, so that when they keep slandering your good way of life because you belong to Christ, they might be ashamed. Because it’s better to suffer because you’re doing what’s good (if that’s God’s will), than because you’re doing what’s evil.

The audio is below, and the translation notes are here.

Husbands and Wives (No. 1)

marriageWhat should a Christian wife do, if she’s married to an unbeliever? Generally, I think there are two possible responses. The first is to be tempted to break the marriage covenant:

  • Maybe she hit the road, and dump the guy?
  • Perhaps she should preach to him incessantly, and heckle him to “get saved” and become a Christian?
  • Should she take a judgmental, self-righteous attitude?

The second response is to be tempted to mix your Christian faith into secular culture, in an attempt to curb any possible offense it might cause in your family, and in society – go along to get along, as they say:

  • Maybe she should go with her husband to worship the gods and goddesses at the pagan temple?
  • Maybe she should burn incense in homage to the Emperor?
  • Maybe she should internalize her faith, and make it a totally private affair. In other words, become a “secret” Christian?

In this passage (1 Peter 3:1-7), the Apostle Peter talks about this problem. His advice is very, very simple – be submissive to your unbelieving husband, because he might be won over to the Gospel by your Christlike way of life.

Listen to the first discussion about this passage, and read the teaching notes, too. As always, the audio and teaching notes for the entire book of 1 Peter are here. Ciao!

Real Christian Life … and Slavery (No. 5)

peterToday, I managed to finish my Sunday School march through 1 Peter 2:18-25. Why on earth would Peter tell his readers, “this is favor with God – if, when you’re doing right and suffering, you endure it. This is why you slaves were called to salvation!” The Apostle answered that question by drawing a parallel to Christ, our Savior.

Christ lived, suffered bled and died on behalf of all people, many of whom couldn’t care less.  In the same way, Christian slaves (and, by extension – all Christians) have been called to salvation to do right (i.e. be faithful Christians who live holy lives), and (if necessary) endure hardship. And, we’re supposed to do it all for the sake of the people we have influence with – some of whom couldn’t care less, either.

Christ is our example.

Along the way, I made some brief comments about how this vision of the Christian life (i.e. we’re slaves for God, and He called us to salvation so we can be witnesses for Him) is extraordinarily counter-cultural. Christian pop-culture in America is largely consumed with narcissism, and the Gospel is so often framed as a tool to give you success. God is the Cosmic Butler, and is Jesus the Divine Therapist.

I suggest two books which discuss this unfortunate state of affairs; Christless Christianity by Michael Horton, and Soul Searching – The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith.

The audio for the lesson is below. As always, all the audio and teaching notes are on the 1 & 2 Peter Teaching Series page. Cheers!

 

Real Christian Life … and Slavery (Part 3)

big-beautiful-stack-of-books-231x300Real life is hard. Peter knows that; it’s why he wrote his letter. Today, in Sunday School, we continued looking at 1 Peter 2:18-25, and considering what it means:

  • We reviewed a bit about what slavery was like (and what is wasn’t like) in Peter’s world
  • Why does God want Christian slaves to submit themselves to their masters, even if they’re cruel masters?
  • What attitude should Christian slaves have, while they do this?
  • Why is God pleased if a Christian slave endures sorrows while suffering unjustly? What on earth does this even mean?

We tackle some of these issues, and more, every Sunday. Here is the archive of lessons from 1 Peter, so far. Listen along to this week’s lesson:

Real Christian Life . . . and the Government (Part 6)

1 peter 2 (13)The audio from the latest Sunday School is below. As always, all audio and teaching notes can be found here.

Peter tells Christians we’re supposed to submit ourselves to every human authority because of the Lord. He says we must do this because it’s God’s will that, by doing right, we’d silence the ignorant slander of foolish men. We’re supposed to consider ourselves as slaves who’ve been freed from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

In Acts 4-5, the Apostle Peter left us an example of how to draw the line between obeying secular laws, and God’s laws. In short, Peter taught us that, no matter what we decide to do in a tricky situation, we must:

  1. Always be respectful
  2. Always tell them why (“we must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29)
  3. Always explain why (i.e. the Gospel)

The goal, of course, is to glorify God and be a testimony for Christ. We have to realize that God wants us to submit ourselves to every human authority so that, by doing right, we’d silence the ignorant slander of foolish men (1 Pet 2:15); so that they’ll see our good deeds and glorify God on the day when He returns to judge the world (1 Pet 2:13).

But, it’s often very difficult to know where to draw the line, and how to draw it. So, today, we discussed two difficult situations from American history to make this command “real” for us. Here they are:

Civil War-era fugitive slave laws

If you were a Christian, living in America in the pre-Civil War era, would you have ignored the Federal fugitive slave laws?

The U.S. Constitution (Article 4, Section 2) made it mandatory for a fugitive slave to be delivered up to his owner if he escapes and makes his way to another state. The Constitution doesn’t say how this should be done.

Eventually, a system developed where “kidnappers” (so labeled by anti-slavery advocates in the North) deployed forth in search of fugitive slaves, apprehended them, and simply brought them back South – with no legal recourse.This set up a terrible clash between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions. The former demanded the federal government assist slaveowners in re-capturing escaped slaves who crossed state lines. The latter factions in several anti-slavery states lobbied their legislatures and successfully passed “personal liberty” laws, which gave fugitive slaves who crossed into their states certain rights (e.g. habeas corpus, testimony, trial by jury) and imposed criminal punishments on kidnappers.

In 1837, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s “personal liberty” laws and, in one stroke, invalidated all such laws throughout the country. Even later, in the 1856 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared slaves were not “citizens,” as defined by the Constitution, and had no legal standing to petition for freedom.

What should devout Christians do in this environment?

  • If you’re a Christian, and
  • you live in Pennsylvania, and
  • Peter says you must submit yourselves to the civil authorities for the Lord’s sake, and
  • the Federal government says it’s unconstitutional to interfere with slave-owners trying to re-claim their “property” in the North

. . . then what should you do about it? How do you balance this? How do you do what Peter says, here (1 Pet 2:13-17)?

Oregon’s House Bill 3391

The State of Oregon recently passed House Bill 3391, which is widely acknowledged to be the most progressive and aggressive abortion law in this country. The bill (just signed into law this past Fall) requires all insurers in the State of Oregon to cover a large range of “reproductive services” (i.e. abortion) to anyone in the state.[1] More significantly, the bill allows a woman to get an abortion without any restriction, for any reason. 

Because insurers are forbidden to pass these costs along to the consumers, the State of Oregon will be contributing about $10,000,000 to offset the proposed costs for the 2017 – 2019 biennium. This cost is expected to grow to over $14,000,000 for 2019-2021.[2] This means, if you’re an Oregon resident, your tax-dollars will be used to reimburse insurers for abortion procedures – and the costs will only go up each biennium!

What should a Christian do in this environment?

Join us as we discuss these tricky issues, and consider how real and practical Peter’s letter is for our life today.

Notes

[1] See the text of HB 3391, Section 2(3).

[2] See the State of Oregon’s fiscal analysis of HB 3391.

Real Christian Life . . . and the Government (Part 2)

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1 Peter 2 (13-17)What do you think of your political leaders? To be honest, many Christians would have to admit they don’t think much of politicians!

What do you think of the government? What do you think about the institutions, the agencies and bureaucracies at the local, state and federal level? Many people wish some of them would go away. In the recent election, “drain the swamp!” was one of now-President Trump’s rallying cries.

The concept is timeless; the political class is corrupt, underhanded and looking out for itself. There is an implicit assumption that all bureaucrats, at all levels of government, are inept and incompetent at best, and nefarious at worst. Even in the Apostle Peter’s day, one pagan writer referred to Rome as the city “where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world meet and become popular.”[1]

It’s almost expected that we should despise politicians, government and those who work for “the state.” In America, we need only look to this recent political season to see the hateful rhetoric and vitriol we often show to politicians from “the other side.” Too often, Christians let their secular political passions get the best of them, and join in on this feeding frenzy of scorn and ridicule. That is wrong.

The Apostle Peter wrote his first letter in a very different context. Christians were under pressure from a pagan society to conform, or at least round some of the “rough edges” off their faith. Former pagans had been ostracized from their communities, cut off from all the support structure they had. Former Jews, who believed Jesus was the fulfillment of their Scriptures, likely had it even worse. The storm clouds of persecution had not yet broken open upon the Christians, but they were about to.

In Jerusalem, James the Just had recently been killed by a Jewish mob, thrown from the top of a building in the temple complex, stoned as he lay injured and crippled, then his head had been beaten in by a club [2]. In Rome, the Emperor Nero would soon conveniently blame Christians for starting a massive fire which had destroyed a good portion of the city. He would use this marginalized “Jewish sect” as a scapegoat, and kill many believers in awful ways. [3]

When Peter commanded Christians to “submit yourselves to every human authority because of the Lord,” he didn’t have our quaint American context in mind. He wrote for a darker time, for a more serious context. In the West, we are blessed beyond all imagination. When we Christians consider “persecution” here, we talk about losing our 501(c)(3) status and cry about bakers being forced to make cakes. In Peter’s day, people died horribly for their faith.

Yet, Peter still wrote those words, and God wanted him to write them. You see, God isn’t concerned with our comfort in the here and now; this is what Peter warned us about elsewhere (1 Peter 1:1-6; 4:12-19). The early Christians rejoiced in persecution, because they knew they were a testimony for Christ (see Acts 4; especially 4:23-31). Instead, we’re commanded to make our entire way of life holy, so we might have opportunity to help draw people to Christ by our own example in the midst of terrible trials. One of those contexts was in dealing with the government.

So to return to modern politics, it’s clear there’s a lot for Christians to disagree with. But, the Apostle Peter tells us we should always submit ourselves to every human authority, anyway. Of course, the Bible qualifies this blanket statement elsewhere (see, for example Acts 4-5).  But, in general terms, we should respect human authority “because of the Lord.”

But, we often don’t do that, do we? This isn’t the way our culture operates today; our culture encourages people to act petulant, childish, angry and crazed when they do not like a politician or agree with his politics or policies.

Last week, we spent some time in Sunday School talking about this. How we speak and think about government institutions and officials, at all levels (local, state and federal) is important. The Christian message is offensive enough; we shouldn’t compound this by crazed activism, un-Christlike rhetoric or insurrection.

Take a listen to the audio (below), and let’s see what Peter has to say about all this. It will take us several weeks to discuss this passage, and some of its implications. 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.

Notes

[1] From Tacitus, “Annals 15.44.2-8.” This excerpt is from J. Stevenson (ed.), A New Eusebius, revised by. W.H.C. Frend (London, UK: SPCK, 1987), 2-3.

[2] I follow Eusebius’ account, who quotes from a near-contemporary source (Ecclesiastical History, 2.23). Josephus makes no mention of James being clubbed to death (Antiquities, 20.9.1).

[3] From Tacitus, “Annals 15.44.2-8.” This excerpt is from J. Stevenson (ed.), A New Eusebius, revised by. W.H.C. Frend (London, UK: SPCK, 1987), 2-3.