Vs. 14, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” A wonderful exhortation and reminder on Christmas Day! In the midst of living in a dark world, we must not lose hope! Peter exhorts those who are older to not live and lead like the world would have them do (vs. 1-4). There is a often a danger in allowing pride to puff up our minds. But, we must remember that pride is in direct opposition to God (vs. 5-7). And speaking of opposition, we must take a stand against the devil who wants to devour (vs. 8-11).
Regarding application…Don’t Be Anxious. Vs. 7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” There was much to be anxious for the original audience of Peter’s epistle. And in many ways, there are always things we can point to in our life to make us anxious. The Christmas season is probably one of the more stressful times in our lives with traveling, visiting family, and the extra-added events that we pile on. Question: Is there anything in your life that is causing you to be anxious? Let’s take the time to rejoice for a Savior has come ready!
Vs. 12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Peter reminds us it’s all about having the right perspective on suffering. In some ways, this is a very applicable text for us as we near Christmas. Jesus came to us in a time when people in the world were suffering greatly. Godly people were losing hope. We are reminded that Jesus is Immanuel (God with us). The world is surprised to see Christians live contrary to the flesh (vs. 1-6). Because the end is near, we should make sure we are living as if Jesus could come again anytime (vs. 7-11). Let us keep fighting the good fight and enduring for glory of the Lord is coming soon (vs. 12-19).
Regarding application…Love Covers Sins. Vs. 8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Question: How are we to love? We are to love each other deeply. This is hands down one of my most treasured verses in the Word. Peter recalls a passage from the OT (Proverbs 10:12). It is this deep love that came down to us from Heaven in the form of a baby. Jesus’ love covered over our sins. This Christmas, you will have the opportunity to love your family, church and friends with deep love. Question: How can you show the love of Christ this Christmas Eve?
Vs. 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.” Jesus set the example for us in suffering and humbling himself. Yesterday, Peter admonished us as citizens to submit to authority. Now he takes the first portion of our chapter today to remind us to submit and be mindful of our relationship in marriage (Vs. 1-7). Question: Why the emphasis on women? Because, like today, when couples are married without knowing Christ it is often the woman who becomes a Christian first. There were women in the new church that did not know how they should now respond to their unbelieving husband. Likewise, men too have a great responsibility to love and be considerate to their wives (vs. 7). In the latter half of our chapter, Peter goes on to give more practical ways we can live in a world where many will persecute and hate Christians (vs. 8-22). No matter how others respond to us, we are to go out of our way to be good. I found much comfort in Peter reminding us not to be afraid (vs. 14). This comes from a man who had learned how to deal with his fear and now is stronger because of it.
Regarding application…Be Prepared. Vs. 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.” Since we are not to fear the retribution of others, we should always be ready to have an answer for our faith. Remember, the recipients of Peter’s letter were living in fear of persecution from Nero. While we here in the States do not live under Christian persecution, we do have the same call to be prepared. In other words, we are to speak up when asked why we live and do the things we do. When people see Christians choose not to party and get drunk, when Christians choose to not curse, when Christians choose to give their tithe and time to church, When Christians love their community….People are going to wonder why? That is why we must know His word and be able to articulate our own testimony to others. Let’s be ready to answer why we celebrate Christmas to our family and friends!
Vs. 5, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Peter shares a wealth of encouragement to us in this chapter. The more we know ourselves and our identity, the more we will be able to live holy lives acceptable by God. At the beginning of our chapter, Peter admonishes us to crave His word (vs. 1-3). As we crave God’s influence (word, church, prayer, fellowship) in our lives we are building our church on the Chief Cornerstone which is Christ (vs. 4-10). Notice that the church as it grows, we are to be a active voice of God’s goodness to a dark world (vs. 9). What a timely reminder as Christmas is right around the corner! Peter expounds upon how we are to live Godly lives (vs. 11-18). And in the last section of our chapter, Peter exhorts the persecuted believers to submit to those who are above.
Regarding application…Our Example. Vs. 21, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery. There are many people we try to emulate. Those who are successful, we often pattern our lives to them. Jesus set the example in how we are to live. Jesus set the example in how we are to submit to authority. In the face of persecution, how we respond can affect our testimony. The world is watching us. We are on display. May our heavenly Father be proud!
Vs. 3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The Lord Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep (John 21), and so this is exactly what Peter was doing. The hope of a new birth was found in our Savior and this important reminder should never be forgotten. Each believer who received this message was to remember that they were God’s chosen (vs. 1-2). With these truths in mind, Peter goes on to exhort the worried Christians how to respond in light of the persecutions of the church (vs. 6-9). I appreciate how Peter acknowledges that there is trials and grief going on. Some leaders may try to minimize such things. Peter gives us insight that such trials reveal the genuineness of our faith (vs. 7). Certainly, the end goal in all of this is the salvation that is offered to those who believe (vs. 10-12). Question: With salvation now given, what then is our end goal? We are to live holy lives (vs. 13-25).
Regarding application…Be Holy. Vs. 15, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” For many Christians, the understanding of what is means to be holy has been a bit skewed. There seems to be a tendency of guilt surrounded around this idea of holiness. In our weekly Bible study this past Wednesday, we discussed Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:2 to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. To live holy lives we must ensure our minds are being filled with Godly things. “Garbage in, garbage out.” Certainly what we put into our minds can corrupt our very life. May our hearts respond with resounding joy in the midst of our trials! Let the joy of Christmas shine in our faces!
Vs. 1, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James now begins to show us practical ways to show our faith and works. The Jewish society was an honor and shame society. There was a problem with the church giving favoritism and honor to those who were rich, while neglecting the poor (vs. 1-12). When we show favoritism, we are not having the mind of God (vs. 4). Notice how they were not to ignore the rich, it’s just that they were to not give more honor to them. While many of us know this truth about rich and poor, it is a true paradigm shift to how this world operates. James reminds his audience about the law since they were well versed in it (vs. 8-13). Much of their perspective was based on living righteous by obeying the laws of God. However, they were doing so without love and therefore breaking God’s royal law (vs. 8). And lastly, we come to one of the central points of the book of James: Faith and deeds (vs. 14-26). While faith is believing what is true, there is far more to it. True faith is one that is demonstrated in both belief and action. Now, one of the big issues in James is the seeming contradiction that James presents verses what the Apostle Paul states (Romans 3:8). If you have real faith, you were produce good deeds. Indeed, we are saved by faith and a true believer won’t do works out of obligation, rather out of heart.
Regarding application…Living Faith. Vs. 22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” I once heard this analogy about a fruit tree. A fruit tree grows and has one purpose; to grow fruit so others can enjoy. Technically, if a fruit tree had free will, it might choose to grow rotten fruit or no fruit at all. But, a fruit tree’s purpose is to bear fruit. When we put our faith in the Lord, we become a new tree, rooted on the foundation of Christ. We were created to bear fruit. However, there are those who think that just being a fruit tree is enough. But, the very essence of a fruit tree is to bear fruit. Likewise, the very essence of a Christian it to bear the fruit of good deeds. Let us have a living faith today!
Vs. 2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” We don’t wake up in the morning hoping and praying for trials in our lives. However, James reminds the Christians who were living in their day that all their trials had its purpose. Many of the recipients of this letter had lost much of what they had once known; their loved ones, their homes, their community, their means of income. When we go through such trials, we must persevere and grow (vs. 3-6). James also reminds us that much of our trials can also be a lack of our own faith (vs. 6-8). Sometimes we think the grass is greener or that money will take away the trials (vs. 9-11), however, we should be thankful for such situations in our lives. When those trials come, our response to them can determine our spiritual condition of being alive or dead (vs. 12-15). In light of our nations tragedies of the Connecticut school shooting and Oregon mall shooting, it is tempting to blame God. But God is the source of good things (vs. 16-18). As children of our Father in Heaven, we would do wise to listen to the Lord and others (vs. 19-21). But James doesn’t stop there, while we may listen, that is only half the battle. We must take action and be doers of God’s words (vs. 22-25). But we must not be selective in our doing, Let us be authentic and speech and deed (vs. 26-27).
Regarding application…Persevere. Vs. 12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Question: Persevere from what? From trials. This is someone who had endured much trials and opposition, but none of that stop their ultimate faith in the Lord. Think of Job in the Old Testament. Jesus forewarned us that we would have troubles in this world (John 16:33). There are troubles and atrocities that we cannot fathom, but let us persevere in our faith to bless the name of the Lord in good times and bad times.
Vs. 1, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” We continue to see Jesus interacting with those around him and teaching in parables. Yesterday, I talked about exercising our faith. Question: Have you ever felt like you just wanted to give up? In the persistent widow, we see how important it is to keep our faith when we pray to God (vs. 1-8). Continuing the prayer theme, Jesus gives us a contrasting scene of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector (vs. 9-14). There are many lessons to prayer, but the one I see here is the importance of humility before God. We can never stand before God with justifiable reasons; it’s only the grace of God. We are once again reminded of how important children are to Jesus (vs. 15-17). This morning, our church invited the Youth group to come to the adult early morning service. We had an opportunity to really pray for the youth and remind ourselves that they are the future church! In the rich young ruler, we are reminded from two chapters ago about the love of money (vs. 19-29). How sad that the man realized the truth, yet chose riches. Thankfully, another person in the blind beggar, would respond with joy (vs. 35-43).
Regarding application…Obedience in Trials. Vs. 32, “He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.” May we never forget the obedience to death, even death on a cross that Jesus would do for us. Jesus knew it beforehand, yet was obedient. Christians with faith when life is good, they come a dime a dozen. What separates the sheep from the goat is having faith even in the storms and trials of life. Question: How do you respond? Over the years of ministry, I’ve seen many respond in different ways. Some use trials as a reason to blame God or the church. Others use it to feel sorry for themselves. Still others choose to not give up and are faithful. Question: Which one are you?