Protecting Yourself from . . . Yourself?

Peter is a practical guy. He isn’t content to dwell on abstractions. Do you know what abstractions are? It’s stuff that’s theoretical, not practical. It’s stuff that’s up in the clouds, and doesn’t actually reflect reality. It’s ideas that are good ideas, but they’ll never be tested and tried by real people, in real situations.

That’s not Peter.

In 1 Peter 2:4-10, the apostle gave us some more doctrinal foundations. He did it so the real practical stuff he’s about to cover won’t make us run for the hills. He did this once before, in 1:1-12. Now, he does it again.

If you’re a Christian, you should act like one. That’s not exactly news, I know; but Peter has a larger point:

  • If God took you out of Satan’s family and adopted you into His family
  • If God made you alive, and made you an individual building block in the spiritual house that is His church
  • If God made you a holy priest, to represent and show Him and His Son’s Good News to the people He put you around
  • If He gave you this honor, and you should never, ever be ashamed of it
  • If he did all this so you’d show the wonderful things God did, who called you out of the darkness and into His amazing light
  • If God made you His chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation – His own people

. . . then how can you not want to live Godly lives? If you don’t, then you’re failing in your mission! So, that’s the background to his command in this passage (1 Peter 2:11-12).

How do you start to “always keep far away from worldly lusts which are battling against your souls?” Well, take a listen (below) and find out how to start!

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 (11-12)

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)

On “Vision Casting” and Other Stupid Clichés

visionThere are certain phrases, buzzwords and slogans that make the rounds every now and then. I remember, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, when “the bomb” was a common way to express how interesting or amazing something was. Of course, nobody in his right mind would use that term now. Its too passé . . .

No one is immune to these fads. We’re prisoners of our culture and social context. Christians are no different. There are certain phrases that percolate in the pastoral sub-culture, each more mindless and idiotic than the next. One is “vision casting.”

Theoretically, this is a process whereby a dynamic and really spiritual “leader” conceives a vision, a path forward, a roadmap to bring his congregation from where it is, to where it simply must go. Eager and enthusiastic, this hip pastor “casts the vision” to the congregation. Of course, they see it, get it, and sign on for this “vision.”

If you’re a young pastor, you gotta “vision cast.” It’s, like, the cool thing to do.

Pardon me while I retch. In the real world, this is otherwise known as leadership. But, I understand. Leadership doesn’t sound cool. It lacks that sense of deliberate ambiguity, of abstract mushiness, that “vision casting” has.

There is no need to “vision cast,” because the Bible already gave us our mission. We just need to follow it. In this teaching lesson from 1 Peter 2:4-10 (our second one from this passage), the apostle tells us what congregations ought to be focused on. He tells you what you ought to be focused on.

  1. What is a church’s purpose? Its mission?
  2. If you’re a Christian, what is your most basic purpose in life? Why did God save you?
  3. If you’re a Christian, what role do you play in your church’s mission? Where do you fit in?
  4. What are the implications for you? For your work? For all the relationships and circumstances which comprise “your life?”

You see, there’s no need to “vision cast.” Pastors don’t need to catch visions, or cast them to church members. Peter tells us all about our mission, and its clear as day. What are the answers to these questions? How do you find your place and purpose in life, as God intended it to be?

Read 1 Peter 1:1 – 2:10, and think for a little while. Or, do that and listen in as we talk about all this. Drop me a line, or leave a comment if you’d like to chat.

The PDF notes for this week’s lesson are here. As always, all audio and PDF notes from the entire 1 & 2 Peter teaching series are here.


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


Nasty Sinners, Little Babies and Mystery Milk – Peter on the Christian Life

Here, in the picture below, is tomorrow’s passage for Sunday School! Some real food for thought about how Christians are supposed to interact with each other in a church. So many questions to answer:

  • What, exactly, do these sins look like? What are they?
  • Why do they happen so often?
  • What can we, as Christians, do about these problems in our personal lives, and in our corporate lives as members of a church?
  • What is this “genuine, pure milk?” Why does the KJV add ” . . . of the word” to the end of that phrase, even though it’s not there in Greek?
  • How do you “taste” that the Lord is good?

What are the answers? Well, you’ll just have to WAIT, won’t you . . . !?

1 peter 2

Holy Priests, Lego Bricks & Jenga



Christians are individual building blocks, little Lego bricks. We’re each being called by God, and placed into the corporate spiritual temple or household that is God’s kingdom, His family, and His church. We’re each essential, and we’re each important. Don’t believe me? Pay Jenga sometime, and then you’ll get the analogy.

In 1 Peter 2:4-10, the apostle gives us a wonderful passage about what a local church is, and what we ought to think about it. People ought to think about it. The word “church” can also be translated “congregation,” and I think we should start using that term. The “church” isn’t the building; it’s the people. The people in a congregation are your spiritual brothers and sisters, united in Christ by repentance and faith in His Good News.

More on this in a week or so. For now, read the passage and think on these things.

My Translation of 1 Peter 2:4-10

Because you came to Him, (the living stone who’s been rejected by men, but in God’s sight [is] chosen [and] precious), even you yourselves, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood; to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ. This is why God says in Scripture,

Look! I have placed in Zion a stone, a cornerstone; chosen [and] precious – the one who believes in Him will never, ever be ashamed of it.

This means the honor is yours, you who believe! But to those who don’t believe, He’s “the stone the builders rejected that’s become the head cornerstone,” and “a stone to stumble on and a rock that offends them.” These builders are stumbling because they’re rejecting the message. Actually, they were destined for this.

But you believers are a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation – God’s own people. The purpose of all this is so you’d announce the wonderful things God did, who called you out of the darkness [and] into His amazing light. You used to not be a people, but now you’re the people of God! You weren’t given any mercy, but now you’ve received mercy!

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.