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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

1 Peter 4:4: Misunderstood

“4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” NIV

The philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, said, ‘Christianity has been made so completely devoid of character that there is really nothing to persecute. The chief trouble with Christians, therefore, is that no one wants to kill them any more!.’

He was, of course, speaking about a certain flavourless brand of traditional Christianity which he saw in his own day and culture. It is manifestly not the case that no one wants to kill Christians, and that no Christians are ever martyred. The persecution of believers is still a sad fact of life in many nations. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard’s words should provoke us to self-examination, because there is much unsalty salt here in the west.

The Christians to whom Peter was writing certainly knew about suffering for their faith. One way this can come is through social ostracism. Your non-Christian friends think it’s ‘’strange’’ that you’ve said ‘Enough’ to your previous lifestyle; that you no longer live as you did, nor want to Some may think you are strange.

I remember David Pawson saying something like this: when you become a Christian you make at least two discoveries. The first is that you’ve got a whole lot of new friends, and that’s good. The second is that you’ve got a whole lot of new enemies, and that’s not so good.

A new convert asked his pastor, ‘Now that I’m a Christian, how much of the world should I give up?’ The pastor’s reply was,’Don’t worry; the world will give you up!’

I believe it was Warren Wiersbe who told the story of a couple of girls who were known for their wild partying. After their conversion to Christ, they received an invitation to yet another party. They sent this reply: ‘We regret to say we cannot attend because we recently died.’

PRAYER: Although living your way, Lord Jesus, may mean that I am misunderstood, scorned, and left out, I want to always be true to you. But I need your help if I am to walk the same path you trod. Thank you that you do help all who look to you.

1 Peter 4:3: Enough!

“3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” NIV

The first present I bought Jilly for her 60th birthday was a bathroom weighing scale . Now lest you think me terribly unromantic, let me say two things in my defence:

  • This was not my only gift to my lovely wife. But, more importantly…
  • She asked for them!!

Of course, we are sharing it, and when I first weighed myself a week or two ago, my reaction was ‘Enough’. Without going into too much detail, I discovered I am quite a bit heavier than when I thought (Surely there is something wrong with those scales. I think I’ll send them back!!!!). Furthermore, last time I got weighed, I had put more weight on than I was comfortable with.

Now to be fair, I seem to still be in the acceptable zone for someone my height and age, but only just. So I have drawn a line in the sand. I have said to myself, ‘Enough’. That needle must not go any further to the right; I’d like to see it gradually coming down to the left. So, ‘Happy Birthday Jilly.’ It’s a wake up call for me.

In these opening verses of chapter 4, Peter is writing about the place of suffering in our growth towards holiness. Here, in verse 3, he says, in effect, ‘As you look at how you used to live in those pre-conversion days, you need to say ‘’enough’’.’ That may sum up part 1 of your life story, but it mustn’t describe part 2.

The Message reads: ‘’You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good.’’

 Whenever you find one of those dirty, ugly, sinful critters crawling back out from the sewers of your old life, you should look it in the eye and say, ‘Enough!’ You might even find it helpful to say it out loud. Send it packing, back to where it came from. (Of course, that old way of life has more characteristics than are listed here. See, for example, Galatians 5: 19-21).

Somebody went home from church one Sunday, and he was asked, ‘What did the preacher talk about? ‘He spoke about sin, I think,’ was the reply. ‘And what did he say about it?’ ‘He was against it!’

So should I be; and so should you.

‘Enough.’

PRAYER: Lord, as I read the New Testament, time and again I hear the call to resist, to come out, to put off, to put to death. Help me to be militantly anti-sin, and profoundly dependent on you to live the life you want me to live.

1 Peter 4:2: What are you living for?

“2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” NIV

‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’

What are you going to do with it? Not only today, but the rest of your ‘’earthly life’’ I mean?

In what we refer to as ‘the Lord’s prayer’, Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

‘’…your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’’

 The sweetest place in all the world in which to live is right in the centre of God’s will. Yet some people seem to fear that His will is the worst possible thing that could happen to them.

Not all ‘’human desires’’ are wrong. Desire is part of being human, and we have many positive and healthy wants/appetites. Our problem is with the ‘’evil’’ stuff. This is what we repent of at the outset of the life of discipleship. But also, we need to keep on repenting throughout our journey. Day by day we will find ourselves in need of ‘course correction’.

In an excellent book for pastors entitled, ‘The care of souls’, Harold L. Senkbeil writes:

‘ So for as long as he lives the pastor, like other children of God, treads the path of continual repentance and faith on his own personal pilgrimage back home to the Father’s house…This daily dying to sin and rising to new life through faith in Christ is the pivotal hinge in every Christians life…’

Yes, this verse applies to us all. It’s challenging. It’s also encouraging. For even if we messed up yesterday, today there can be a mid-course correction, as we realign our lives with the compass set to doing God’s will.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I honestly do not want to spend one moment of the rest of my life outside of you will. Please have your way in me.

1 Peter 4:1: A further thought on ‘mental fight’

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin.” NIV

We saw yesterday that an attitude can be an armament. Peter is calling his readers to fortify themselves with a certain ‘’attitude’’ towards ‘’suffering’’. People who follow Christ, He who suffered so intensely to do away with sin, cannot expect to lie back in a warm bath of ease. Suffering is part of normal Christian experience. Christianity is ‘cruciform’ in shape.

But I have been struck by the idea that the principle of arming yourself with a certain attitude can be applied to other areas of discipleship. I believe C.S. Lewis furnishes an excellent example of this in his book ‘Mere Christianity’:

‘The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at your like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day…We can do it only for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our systems because now we are letting him work at the right part of us.’

1 Peter 4:1: ‘I will not cease from mental fight’

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin.”NIV

It’s interesting that an ‘’attitude’’ can be an armament – a part of our spiritual armoury.

In this context, Peter is writing about fortifying ourselves with a certain attitude towards suffering. Okay, we don’t like it; we don’t want it; we wouldn’t choose these trying circumstances, but we recognise they can have a purifying effect upon us. They can wean us more and more off the world, and press us ever more closely to the heart of God. It can have such a positive outcome. This result is not inevitable, but it is possible. This is the essence of what Peter is saying here: not that you stop sinning altogether if you suffer, but that it can be a means of making you more holy. So we should ‘’arm’’ ourselves with an attitude towards it that recognises God can use it to make us more like Jesus; that realises He may have precious gifts for us in the midst of it.

Extending the broad principle that an attitude can be an armament, in what other ways do you need to ‘’arm’’ yourself?

One example for me is that I have learned to ‘’arm’’ myself with the attitude that I will set the alarm clock early, get out of bed, pray, read my Bible, do some exercise and listen to good Christian content, before I get into the other demands of the day. If I did not ‘’arm’’ myself with such an attitude, it probably wouldn’t happen.

I once heard a preacher who just kept repeating, ‘It’s a fight all the way, but fight on.’ Maybe many of us are feeling something of this at the moment. It’s a daily plod. It’s a fight to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. In the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, there is a line that says, ‘I will not cease from mental fight…’

So many key battles are fought and won in our minds. Let’s remember that attitudes can be armaments.

PRAYER: Lord, when I think about the darkest places you have taken me, I have met you there, and I believe you have done something in me that may not have happened any other way. Help me Lord to always have that mind in me which was also in Christ Jesus…

1 Peter 3:18-22: A ‘Little flood’

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. 19 After being made alive,he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”NIV

I was probably in my early teens when, one Sunday evening, I attended an after-church meeting in a home in Culcheth, near Leigh, in Greater Manchester. The large room was full, and we listened to a cassette tape of a preacher who spoke at length, but held my attention throughout. He had a gentle voice, and didn’t shout. He was remarkably clear and captivating. I knew then that he was different to most other preachers I’d heard.

The preachers’s identity was David Pawson, who died last Thursday (Ascension Day) at the age of 90. Especially when I was a student, and in my early years of ministry, I used to listen to cassette after cassette containing his Bible teaching, and make my own notes. Even today, if I’m preparing to preach on a passage, I will often listen to David to see how he dealt with it.

His sermons were memorable, and I still remember so many of the things he said. It may have been preaching on this very passage that he said these three things about baptism:

  • It is an act of submission;
  • It is an act of separation;
  • It is an act of salvation.

In water baptism we submit to the Lord Jesus. He commanded this act;

In water baptism we are separated from the old world and brought into a new one – just as it was for Noah and his family. It was quite literally a ‘watershed’ in their experience. David Pawson said that for each one who submits to baptism, they are undergoing a ‘little flood’ which separates them from the old era and brings them into a new one;

Water baptism might also be said to be the outward part of conversion. I once read that the word ‘’pledge’’ (21) carries the idea of sealing a contract. The earliest gospel preaching repeatedly called people to baptism as well as repentance and faith. There is no power in the rite of baptism as such to wash you clean. The power is in the living Lord Jesus. Baptism by itself makes no difference. But if the person being baptized is expressing their faith in Christ it makes a very great difference. It’s like when you repent and believe you enter into a contract with Jesus and in baptism you seal it.

As somebody once said: ’The idea of an unbaptised Christian is totally alien to the thought of the New Testament writers.’

1 Peter 3: 18-22: Man alive!

“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. 19 After being made alive,he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” NIV

Last Thursday was Ascension Day in the church’s calendar. It’s the day when we remember, and celebrate, the reality described in verse 22. Jesus Christ is Lord!

In some ways, at first glance, this appears to be one of the more complex New Testament passages. But, properly understood, its truth is wonderful. Our task here is not detailed, technical Bible Study, but I do want to highlight one or two of the key ideas.

First of all, let’s note that Jesus not only died, but rose from death, and ascended to the place of supreme authority in the universe. It was this victory which Jesus proclaimed ‘’to the spirits in prison’’. I believe the Greek word used does not imply the preaching of the gospel (as if these long dead people had an opportunity to repent. The Bible does not indicate that there is such a second chance beyond the grave. Besides, the reference may be to fallen angels anyway). Whoever they were, Jesus declared His triumph to them. It is this all-conquering Jesus who is front and centre in the passage. It’s the reality of this total victory we need to grasp, and its wide-ranging implications for all of us in Jesus.

Jesus died. But death did not have the last word with Him. Nor will it have with any true believer.

‘Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour;

He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.’

PRAYER: LORD Jesus, we celebrate your victory. Thank you that by your grace we share in it. The other side of death there was richer, fuller life for Jesus, and so it will be for all of us who believe in you. We cannot thank you enough.

1 Peter 3:17-18: The Supreme Example

“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.” NIV

As we have seen, Peter is writing in this section about ‘the good life.’

It seems that living such a life will give us opportunities to speak about our Christian faith (15).

That said, we should not expect to be universally popular (16). There will be opponents. Peter knows that this is counter-intuitive (13), but it happens (14). The persecution of unbelievers is an unpleasant reality of life in this world. We have to face up to it.

Peter’s conclusion is this:

‘’It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil’’ (17).

Then he shows that Jesus is the supreme example of unjust suffering (18). He did not deserve to die. But I feel the implicit encouragement in this text is that Jesus’ suffering was not wasted. It was productive: ‘’to bring you to God.’’ I think we are meant to infer that if we also have to suffer because it is ‘’God’s will’’, what we go through will not be wasted, however senseless it may seem.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord Jesus for this lovely statement of the gospel. Thank you that you died in my place, for my sins. I have done so much wrong. You did nothing wrong. But through your death you have brought me to God. I am so grateful. I pray my life and lips will always show my thanks.

 

1 Peter 3:15-16: Tone

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 behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

In trying to answer people’s questions about Christianity, tone matters. Some Christians just come across angry, and that’s not helpful. To answer ‘’with gentleness and respect’’ surely means that we listen as well as speak. Don’t over-talk, and try to deal with the questions being asked, and not the ones you wish they were asking.

In the 1980’s, I served as an assistant missioner at a Manchester University student mission. The well-known evangelist J. John was the lead missioner. At one lunch time event, two young girls were plain difficult and cantankerous – in fact, pretty obnoxious in my opinion. I will never forget how lovely and kind the evangelist was. He didn’t get riled; he was so patient. That is probably my best memory from the period of the mission. What an example he was.

‘We do not need to speak forcefully. We must never put others down. We must never argue or give offence. Because if a person is offended by our manner of speaking, he will not listen to the words we speak.

Surely, as Peter wrote…he remembered his own experience. Three times Peter had denied His Lord. He had been afraid then. He certainly had not been ready to witness to Christ. He answered those who questioned him neither with gentleness nor with respect-nor with truth! (See Mark 14:66-72). Therefore, let us not be discouraged when we fall; if Peter could overcome his early sins and weaknesses, so can we.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’,p.915.

Why is keeping a ‘’clear conscience’’ so important for your witness? Well, could it be that if you feel guilty, condemned and unworthy, you are more likely to remain silent. But in the context, it is very much about ensuring that you live right, even though people may be falsely accusing you of wrong.

PRAYER: Help me Lord to see everyone I meet through your eyes, and remember they are in your image. Please give me many opportunities to point people to Jesus.

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