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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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Bible notes Stephen Thompson

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 3:15-16: 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.

Thoughts for today

I find there are many blessings in keeping a journal. This time last year Jilly and I were in Florence, and day by day we had separate quiet times, and then came together to share what we had discovered in God’s Word. We were looking at the later chapters of the book of Revelation. As I was reading my journal this week, and looking at the notes I had made, I could scarcely believe their relevance to the present time.

When we returned home, these jottings became the basic ‘ingredients’ for a number of devotional thoughts. For the next few days, I’m going to interrupt the current series on   1 Peter, and have a few re-runs from Revelation 18. I’m not saying we are living through the fall of ‘Babylon’. We may be. I don’t know for sure. But I think this is certainly a foretaste of it’s fall, and a warning to turn fully to the living God. Let’s make sure that we are not building our lives on idols that will fail us, and ultimately fall.

So here are my thoughts from Wednesday 29th May 2019:                                      Revelation 18:9-20: Three Woes

“9 ‘When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:

‘“Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!”

11 ‘The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more – 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

14 ‘They will say, “The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered.” 15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out:

‘“Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”

‘Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, “Was there ever a city like this great city?” 19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:

‘“Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    where all who had ships on the sea
    became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!”

20 ‘Rejoice over her, you heavens!
    Rejoice, you people of God!
    Rejoice, apostles and prophets!
For God has judged her
    with the judgment she imposed on you.’ NIV

 

Everything in the world which is man-made, however glorious it may appear, has a ‘sell-by’ date on it. It won’t last. Nothing in this world will, but Jesus’ words ‘’will never pass away’’ (Matthew 24:35).

I was considering this recently while on holiday in the beautiful Italian city of Florence. Jilly and I visited the Pitti Palace, where the powerful Medici family once lived and ruled. Their art treasures may still be around, but they are long gone. In the state rooms we saw portraits of various people who must, at one time, have been famous, wealthy, and maybe even feared. But we had no idea who they were! So it goes with this world’s pomp and glory. It is fading and passing.

‘The pleasures of sin are but for a season, and they will end in dismal sorrow.’ Matthew Henry

‘Babylon’ – the world system – is under God’s judgment, and it is a just judgment. She is on borrowed time. I was impressed by this quote from the ‘IVP New Testament Commentary’:

‘The kings, merchants and seafarers of the earth mourn Babylon’s demise with three variations, or stanzas, of the same song (18:10, 16/17, 19)…The merchants and the seafarers elaborate the basic stanza in keeping with their respective interests…The seafarers do not know it yet, but before long the sea itself will be gone (21:1).’

‘’The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever’’ (1 John 2:17).

 

1 Peter 3:10: Button it

10 For,‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.”NIV

‘’He that keeps his mouth keeps his life…’’ Proverbs 13:3

‘Beware of leaving your tongue in gear when your mind is in neutral.’

I don’t know who said the above, but it’s a super quote. As Peter writes about ‘the good life’, he emphasises how important it is to rein in the tongue, and he indicates that this is possible. We know from James 3:1-12 (and from regrettable personal experience!) that it is oh so difficult to control our speech. But it’s not impossible for anyone who has Jesus living in them by the Holy Spirit. (Consider 1 Peter 2:23).

I am learning, over the long haul, that this must apply not only to the words I speak out loud, in conversation, with others, but also to what I quietly say to myself inside my own head. I can create scenarios in my mind that have no objective reality; I can tell myself lies about what is happening and believe them as if they were true. I doubt that I’m alone in this. We need to be careful about our self-talk (and we are always talking to ourselves).

To live ‘the good life’ we must walk in repentance (11). Positively, we are to pursue peace; negatively, we must turn from all evil. This includes the sins of speech.

PRAYER: ‘’Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.’’Psalm 141:3

1 Peter 3:7 The importance of prayer.

“7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” NIV

The possibility of prayer somehow being ‘hindered’ should set off alarm bells for us all. I wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?

‘’If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened’’ (Psalm 66:18).

Peter says to Christian husbands, in effect, ‘If you don’t treat your wives as you should, your prayers could be obstructed’:

‘’…in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.’’ The Message.

But I believe what we have to consider here is not just the possibility that my prayers, as a husband, will be hampered, but that our prayers, as a couple could be adversely affected. (It’s not totally clear in the passage whether ‘’your prayers’’ is singular, plural, or both.)

As Jesus taught, there is something powerful about the principle of agreement:

‘’When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.’’ (Matthew 18:19, 20: The Message).

Could this be why Christian couples often admit they struggle to pray together? There is something mysteriously powerful about two people praying in agreement. Now, who do we know who just might feel threatened by that, and want to put a stop to it?!

Yes, I thought you’d come to that conclusion too!!

1 Peter 2: 11-12: The good life

“11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”NIV

As we saw yesterday, ‘’declaring’’ God’s ‘’praises’’ is, in this context, very much about how we live; the pursuit of holiness.. It is not merely about living a ‘’good’’ life, but living ‘’such good lives’’. There is a goodness which is ‘’the fruit of the Spirit’’. It is supernatural goodness: God-given, God-directed, God-energised. It’s not ordinary, every day goodness. It is goodness with a plus in it. The call is to live ‘’such good lives among the pagans’’.

 Peter heard the ‘ sermon on the mount’ live. He was there in person when Jesus preached His famous message. I wonder, was he remembering and re-echoing part of it when he wrote v.12? (See Matthew 5:16). Just as Peter wrote about living ‘’such’’ good lives, Jesus had said, ‘Let your light ‘’so’’ shine before men. Two little words carrying big weight.

By the way, you may also see a likeness to what we have read in chapter 1:13-15. Peter does not say, ‘Don’t have ‘’sinful desires’’ ‘.That would be impossible for anyone who has a sinful nature, and the last time I looked I still had one! What about you? No, what Peter exhorts his readers is to ‘’abstain’’ from these longings which assault the ‘’soul’’.In other words, don’t give in to them; don’t nurture or feed or encourage them. Don’t vote for sin. You hear its campaign speeches, but don’t be taken in

We ‘fight the good fight’ against indwelling sin recognising that we are ‘’aliens and strangers in the world.’’ As I’ve said before, we are a people who don’t belong here and who won’t be long here.

This morning, I read a prayer which could not be more relevant. Having thanked God for the many blessings of the day, John Baillie says:

‘Yet let me never think, O eternal Father, that I am here to stay. Let me always remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on earth. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Lord, by your grace prevent me from losing myself so much in the joys of earth that I have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven. Do not let the happiness of today become a trap to my overworldly heart.’

 

John 16:25-33: On top of the world!

John 16:25-33: On top of the world!

“25 ‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’31 ‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied. 32 ‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ NIV

Here is a truth you will discover sooner or later if you haven’t already done so: people can be fickle. You will probably, in the course of your lifetime, be wounded, and feel let down by and disappointed in people who you thought were your friends. You loved them, and served them; you treated them kindly and courteously, and then one day you find yourself bleeding copiously from a ‘knife wound’ they inflicted on you. And it hurts so much. Sometimes the cut goes that deep you feel you will never recover. At least, you can’t imagine the scar fading.

Many years ago, as a rather naive eighteen year old, I asked a Ugandan student in Bible College how he found people in the UK. His deadpan response was, ”People are people brother.” As someone said, ”The best of men are men at best.” We are all fallen, flawed and frail and capable of damaging as well as being damaged. ”People are people”.

In this world Jesus had trouble – terrible trouble. He soaked up the hatred and violence of His enemies. But He was also badly let down, when ‘push came to shove’, by his closest friends. He had spent around three years with these men, and poured His life and love into them. He had given Himself unstintingly to them. Even as they were telling Him that they were beginning to ‘get it’; that they were starting to understand His specialness, His uniqueness, He knew that they were about to let Him down big time.

”Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it – saving your own skins and abandoning me.” The Message.

Like Jesus we will have trouble in this world. It will come predominantly from an antagonistic culture. But probably too much will come our way from fellow disciples who ought to know better. (Yet, knowing the worst about ourselves, we are not surprised, even if we are saddened.) How do you deal with this? Jesus points the way by example and word:

  1. Remember you are never alone. The Father will not abandon His beloved child.
  2. Recognise that in Jesus, the ‘Prince of Peace’ there is peace. ‘He is our peace’. In this world we will have trouble. But there’s a deeper reality: first and foremost we are in Jesus
  3. Realise that Christ is the Victor and we share in His victory. I believe that in one version Jesus, having spelled out that in the world His disciples will have trouble, goes on to say, ”But cheer up. I’m on top of it.” That’s important to remember. In fact, never let it out of your sight.

John 15:18-25: On persecution.

John 15:18-25: On persecution.

“18 ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: “They hated me without reason.” NIV

If the last section in John was about love, this next one turns to the theme of hate – the hatred of the world (”the moral order apart from God” D. Guthrie) for Christ, for His Father, and for the church (18, 19, 23, 24). At one level it is an inexplicable hatred because it is ”without reason” (25; see Psalm 25:19; 69:4). Why would ”the world” hate the God who ”so” loves it (John 3:16). It doesn’t make any sense naturally speaking. But we are not ‘naturally speaking’. We live and serve in war time realities (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here are four observations from the passage:

  1. The persecution of Christians is indissolubly linked to the persecution of Jesus (18, 20, 21). The Lord had previously enunciated the principle found in (20) back in (13:16): ”No servant is greater than his master.” There it related to the need for humility. Here it has to do with how the world will treat them. If Jesus was hated by the world they will be. But some did respond warmly and positively to the teaching of Jesus and we will find this too. The picture is not totally bleak.
  2. Christians are persecuted because they do not belong to the world (19). We belong to another country, a better land, a different commonwealth, a greater kingdom: ”But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We have been born from above. We don’t belong in this world. It’s been said that the principle here is that like attracts like but repels opposites. It’s like when birds turn on other birds of a different plumage and want to kill them.
  3. Persecution has its origin in ignorance of God (21). People who truly know God would not hound other lovers of God. They just wouldn’t.
  4. Persecution may be understandable, but it is nevertheless inexcusable (22,24). The preaching and miracles of Jesus left them without excuse. Brilliant light had shone in their darkness. They allowed their day of opportunity to pass them by.

I applaud every sincere attempt to befriend people who are not Christians. Jesus was the Friend of sinners, and I want to follow in His steps. But if we offer that friendship without compromise, we will find that there will be many who do not wish to return it. Don’t be surprised if you are often rejected, ostracised and even hated. Don’t let it be because you are offensive, or unwise in your behaviour. But you must be prepared for it. That’s how things are. That’s how Jesus said it would be.

I heard that a new Christian said to Charles Spurgeon: ”Mr. Spurgeon, now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?” Spurgeon replied, ”Young man, don’t worry. The world will give you up.”

PRAYER: ”Lord Jesus, in the face of hostility, help me to not be surprised, and fill me with courage to still stand by your Cross.

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