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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

1 Peter 1:18-20: ‘Rum thing…’

“18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”NIV
 
During the Lent period, I have been reading a book of extracts from the writings of C.S. Lewis. In his autobiography, ‘Surprised by Joy’, Lewis writes engagingly about his conversion, and also about the time leading up to it, when, you might say, his armour was being pierced. This is what I read on the morning of writing today’s thought:
‘’Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the gospels was really surprisingly good. ‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All this stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it really happened once.’ To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of toughs, were not – as I would still have put it – ‘safe’, where could I turn? Was there then no escape?’’
Peter, here, affirms that it really did happen once (recently, in fact, when he wrote) although it had been long planned. Jesus died, as the perfect fulfilment of the Old Testament sacrificial system, and in that dying He paid the price to buy people out of an ‘’empty way of life. That is what is so ‘good’ about Good Friday.
We are again reminded that ‘’silver’’ and ‘’gold’’ are ‘’perishable’’ (18). The ‘’precious’’ blood of Jesus, however, is of supreme and abiding value. By His blood we can be ‘’redeemed’’ – that is bought out of the slavery of sin.
Today’s passage is so clearly and helpfully rendered in ‘The Message:
‘’It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you.’’
THOUGHT: ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

1 Peter 1: 17: ‘Strangers’

“17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” NIV
Somebody once described the contemporary church as ‘the best disguised set of pilgrims the world has ever seen.’ In the whirl of ordinary life, with its many demands and distractions, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we don’t belong here and we won’t be long here. As the gospel song says, ‘This world is not my home…’
We are living through remarkable days, when much of the world’s machinery has been completely shut down. I think God is wanting – maybe among other things – to get our attention and wake us up to the realisation that life is short and fragile, and we are not in control. He is! How easily we forget that there is an eternal dimension. Life is brief; eternity is long. One day we must give an account to God for what we have done with the lives, resources, opportunities etc He has entrusted to us.
I was thinking, one of the institutions to take a battering in the Coronavirus storm is the entertainment industry. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but so much of what it pumps out has to do with that ‘’empty way of life’’ (v.18) which Jesus came to rescue us from. How often do we go back there for refreshment, only to find what deep inside we always know to be true: the well is empty and it does not satisfy? Our true home is in the ‘Father’s’ company. When we call on Him we are at home.
At the moment, Jilly and I are using ‘A Diary of Private Prayer’ – an updated version of a devotional classic by Scottish theologian John Baillie. When I read this morning’s prayer, I thought it so relevant. Here is an extract from it:
‘Here I stand, weak and mortal amid the immensities of nature…
Let me remember that my mortal body is only the servant of my immortal soul;
Let me remember how uncertain my hold is on my own physical life;
Let me remember that here I have no continuing city, but only a place for a brief stay, and a time for testing and training;
Let me use this world without abusing it;
Let me be in this world but not of it;
Let me be as though I have nothing, and yet possess everything;
Let me understand the vanity of what is time bound and the glory of the eternal;
Let my world be centred not in myself, but in you.’

1 Peter 1:13-16: A call to arms.

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ NIV

John Stott once wrote that we must actively cultivate a Christian lifestyle, for holiness is not a condition into which we ‘drift’.

You will note that Peter does not say here, ‘Don’t have ‘’evil desires’’ ‘. In this life that would be impossible. Even after you have set out to follow Christ you still have a sinful nature, and you can think, feel and act in accordance with it, rather than living out your new identity in Christ. What Peter does say, though, is ‘’do not conform’’ to these desires. It’s not the case that you won’t have them, but you don’t have to give into them; to capitulate. They don’t have to rule over you.

But we certainly do not ‘drift’ into holiness. This paragraph is in many ways a call to arms. Living a life of holiness will involve your ‘’minds’’ (v.13a); your will (v.13b: ‘’be self-controlled’’)and your heart (v.13c: ‘’set your hope fully…’’). It will involve the whole person.

In yesterday’s passage we saw that the Christian life is cruciform in shape. It is Christ-centred and therefore cross-centred. The pattern is suffering, then glory (v.11b). In ‘the problem of pain’ C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘The sacrifice of Christ is repeated, or re-echoed, among His followers in very varying degrees, from the cruellest martyrdom down to a self-submission of intention…’

When the seed falls into the ground and dies, the beautiful flower of holiness can grow.

PRAYER: Lord, I did not want or choose these days of crisis, but please show me what it means to grow in holiness right in the middle of them. Help me not to postpone growth until a brighter day dawns. By your grace, help me become more like you today.

1 Peter 1:10-12: ’It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!’  

“10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” NIV

Here is a postscript to yesterday’s thought. There are a number of other important things to highlight in the passage:

  • Salvation in the crucified and risen Jesus (11) is all of ‘’grace’’. It is a work of God, and it is undeserved. What a sense of privilege we should carry: ‘’Do you realise how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!’’ (Verse 12: The Message);
  • Searching into spiritual things – into the Word of God with its over-arching theme of salvation in Jesus – should always be done ‘’intently…and with the greatest care’’ (10b). It requires diligence, recognising that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit for understanding;
  • Biblical leadership is never self-serving (12a). It is always for the sake of others. Simon Sinek reflects a Biblical understanding of leadership in his book title: ‘Leaders eat last’;
  • The Christian life is cruciform in shape. Jesus gives us the pattern for the life of discipleship. It involves suffering then glory (11b). If it is a Good Friday in your experience, you know that Easter Sunday is coming!

 

1 Peter 1:9b: A work in progress

for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.      10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” NIV

Reading through the opening section of 1 Peter (verses 1-12), it becomes obvious, by its repetition, that ‘’salvation’’ is a dominant theme. What also is clear is that ‘’salvation’’ is a process. In today’s verse we read:

‘’…for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’’ (NB – this is something currently happening, in ‘the now).

A few days ago we read: ‘’…the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’’ (5b). So there is still a future dimension to this process. We await the final stage, the full picture – the last piece of the puzzle to be fitted in.

In verse 10, Peter refers to ‘’this salvation’’, and from what he goes on to write (11) we find that the death and resurrection of Jesus lie at its heart. Jesus died and rose again to save lost, sinful people.

Salvation – God’s work of saving (rescuing) – is a process. A believer can say:

  • ‘I have been saved’ (from the penalty of sin. This happened instantaneously at conversion);
  • ‘I am being saved’ (every moment, from the power of sin);
  • ‘I will be saved’ (one day, from the very presence of sin)

We live ‘between the times’; we are caught in the tension between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. Each Christian is a work in progress. As someone said, ‘I’m not what I want to be, and I’m not what I’m going to be, but praise God, I’m not what I was!’

A hymn captures this idea in saying, ‘Jesus saves me all the time, Jesus saves me now.’

PRAYER: Lord, it fills me with joy and wonder to remember the time I was saved. What a day that was, when I repented of my sins and put my faith in you. But I confess I need your saving power today, and how grateful I am to have it. There is so much in my that still need to change. I mourn and grieve over my all too many faults. By your power, Lord Jesus, please save me from them all. I look forward to that day when seeing you I shall be like you. What a day that will be!

 

1 Peter 1:9b: A work in progress

“9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” NIV

Reading through the opening section of 1 Peter (verses 1-12), it becomes obvious, by its repetition, that ‘’salvation’’ is a dominant theme. What also is clear is that ‘’salvation’’ is a process. In today’s verse we read:

‘’…for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’’ (NB – this is something currently happening, in ‘the now).

A few days ago we read: ‘’…the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’’ (5b). So there is still a future dimension to this process. We await the final stage, the full picture – the last piece of the puzzle to be fitted in.

In verse 10, Peter refers to ‘’this salvation’’, and from what he goes on to write (11) we find that the death and resurrection of Jesus lie at its heart. Jesus died and rose again to save lost, sinful people.

Salvation – God’s work of saving (rescuing) – is a process. A believer can say:

  • ‘I have been saved’ (from the penalty of sin. This happened instantaneously at conversion);
  • ‘I am being saved’ (every moment, from the power of sin);
  • ‘I will be saved’ (one day, from the very presence of sin)

We live ‘between the times’; we are caught in the tension between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. Each Christian is a work in progress. As someone said, ‘I’m not what I want to be, and I’m not what I’m going to be, but praise God, I’m not what I was!’

A hymn captures this idea in saying, ‘Jesus saves me all the time, Jesus saves me now.’

PRAYER: Lord, it fills me with joy and wonder to remember the time I was saved. What a day that was, when I repented of my sins and put my faith in you. But I confess I need your saving power today, and how grateful I am to have it. There is so much in me that still need to change. I mourn and grieve over my all too many faults. By your power, Lord Jesus, please save me from them all. I look forward to that day when seeing you I shall be like you. What a day that will be!

 

1 Peter 1:8: I love you Lord.

“8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” NIV

His name was Peter, and for a time he was the youth leader in a church I attended in my teen years. But prior to that I looked up to him as older member of the youth group, and valued him as a friend. Peter was a rugged, craggy individual. As I recall, prior to his conversion he had drunk deeply from the murky well of sin. He’d had his fill and found it unsatisfactory. But Peter was very much a man’s man. One night, a few of us were out ‘witnessing’ on the streets of Wigan, trying to engage people in conversation about Christ. This was something we often did. On this particular evening, I distinctly remember Peter saying to a group of people we were chatting with, ‘I love Jesus.’ There is something powerful, even now, about the memory of this strong man wearing his his heart so unashamedly on his sleeve.

The Peter who wrote this letter was also very much a ‘heart on the sleeve’ kind of guy. Here he writes about the love a believer has for the invisible Jesus – and the overwhelming joy which accompanies such faith.

I feel very much for those who are having to face the current situation alone. But remember, ‘’The Lord is near’’ (Philippians 4:5b). He loves you, and because He loved you first, you love Him. Today, this is cause for thankfulness, whatever else may appear difficult. You are deeply loved, and you love in return

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that Christianity is not a religion, but a most precious love relationship. I am grateful that, by your grace, I can say, ‘I love you Lord’, and mean it with all my heart. Thank you that I don’t have to see you to know you are real, and that you are with me.Thank you indeed that I do ‘see’ you by faith. You have made me certain of you. Thank you again.

1 Peter 1:7: A spiritual bank statement.

“7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” NIV

As I reflected on this verse, three thoughts seemed to stand out:

  1. The value of faith: We are once again reminded of the transience of earthly wealth. It can sprout wings and fly away. Even something mankind prizes as much as gold can ‘perish’ Hebrews 11:6 says: ‘’And without faith it is impossible to please God…’’ This faith, which is God’s gift in the first place, is so precious. If you are believing in the temporarily hidden Jesus (8), this makes you (and everyone else who shares the same faith) the wealthiest person in the world. This faith is not subject to stock-market fluctuations. It’s value cannot plummet;
  2. The durability of faith: Faith has to persevere through trials and tests in order to ‘’be proved genuine’’. God doesn’t need to test your faith so that He can find out how much faith you’ve got. He knows that full well. But it provides you with a sort of spiritual ‘bank statement’. Faith which goes through the mill and comes out strong the other side is ‘’genuine’’.
  3. The glory of faith: When Jesus Christ returns, as He one day will (‘’when Jesus Christ is revealed’’) our faith – our enduring faith – will bring glory to Him. He gave it to us in the first place, and He kept us strong to the end. It’s all glory to Him. This is the glory of genuine faith, that it brings glory to Jesus.

‘’ I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.’’ (The Message 1 Peter 6-7).

Today’s prayer is based on verse 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.”, and was suggested to me by a comment Jilly made on Monday morning:

PRAYER: Lord, we often hear talk about certain people in our society being ‘shielded’. Thank you that all your people are ‘’shielded’’ by your ‘’power’’. I know this doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be able to avoid all sickness, or to cheat death. But thank you that in ultimate terms we are safe in your eternal grip. As one great saint said: ‘All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.’ It is well with my soul.

1 Peter 1:6: ‘A little while’

“6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” NIV

It is true that ‘’all kinds of trials’’ beset Christians. Of course, no human-being can imagine themselves to be beyond the reach of testing times, and disciples of Jesus are definitely not immune.

The recipients of Peter’s letter knew the harsh reality of persecution for their faith. This should put our own circumstances into perspective. Without wanting to minimise the seriousness of the current situation, it is important to remember that many people were experiencing far worse things before the Coronavirus outbreak, and many will continue to do so when, God-willing, we are through this.

But this is a trying time, and in such a season the human heart tends to cry, ‘How long O Lord?’ At the moment, the immeasurable road seems to stretch out across a barren wilderness of isolation, and we can’t see a finishing line. However we need to know that all trials are temporary. They ‘come to pass’. From the vantage point of eternity, all earthly trials will seem short.

‘All my trials, Lord, soon be over.’

Furthermore, as loving believers in the hidden, living Christ, even in the middle of trying days, we can and should look forward to all we will enjoy when He returns.

PRAYER: Lord, in your mercy, please will you shorten these days of trial. We pray for many lives to be saved. Yet we do not want to find ourselves praying at odds with your purposes. We trust your infinite wisdom and ask for your will to be done. Give us grace, please, to rejoice in you in every trial.

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