Friday, Apr. 28
2 Pet. 1:1. Peter refers to himself as “a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ.” As Doug brought out in a recent Sunday School class, those two terms, “servant” and “Apostle” represent the two extremes of evaluating the worth of an individual in society, specifically the Christian society of the early Church. The Greek word for “servant” here is “slave,” one that is totally subservient to someone else. Peter, “slave” of Christ, is simply passing on truth as given to him by his Master. As an appointed Apostle, and a leader of the twelve disciples, Peter was the highest human authority figure in the Church. Later, the RCC even referred to him as the first Pope. As a believer, he was a servant to Christ, his savior. As an Apostle he was subject to Christ as the head of the Church and a shepherd of the flock. There is purpose in using these two terms “slave” and Apostle” to start Peter’s letter that was addressed to all believers. He wielded authority as an Apostle—so all believers should heed his message. And, as a servant, he appealed to them on the basis of their devotion to Christ—rather than coerce them as an authority figure. And that is the way we should approach Peter’s letter. Take heed and take action.
Thursday, Apr. 27
John records the miracle of feeding the 5000 in John 6. With the one lunch of a young boy they were all fed. Matthew’s account says “They all ate and were satisfied.” Mt. 14:20. They must have been very hungry because many of them took more than they could eat. As the saying goes, their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. The disciples were called on to gather the excess food—12 baskets of it. As a result of this miraculous event, the people wanted to make Jesus their king, Like the woman at the well in Sychar who wanted a life time of physical water, these people wanted a free source of food for the rest of their lives. After the crowd followed Jesus across the lake to Capernaum, Jesus told them bluntly that they were only interested in physical food, and were not getting his message. His message was that he was the Messiah and as Messiah, was the source of eternal life. Jesus made this very plain by the analogy of manna from heaven (Ex. 16). Their focus was on the present. Their future destiny seemed to be of little importance. To be fair, the Jews felt that they were already chosen by God, were not “lost” and did not need to be redeemed. But the evidence overwhelmingly identified Christ as their Messiah—and they were not listening to his message. But there’s a positive note in this passage. “Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” John 6:64. If some did not believe, it implies that many did believe, perhaps even the majority. And the “some” would include Jewish leaders, who were always present to oppose Jesus and influence others to do the same. This account admirably fits John’s goal as stated in John 20:31. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The bread of heaven is the only thing that satisfies.
Wednesday, Apr. 26
Peter’s answer to the roaring lion in I Peter 5 is “standing firm in the faith.” The root meaning of the Greek word for “faith” is to rely on some truth. In terms of salvation it’s the conviction that Christ is the Messiah and Redeemer. The truth is so compelling that a person will entrust his life to Christ. The word “faith” also came to mean the entire system of belief—as in “the Christian faith.” It was also used in specific situations, to believe that something will happen. Jesus often rebuked his disciples for their little faith. Faith was also a key factor in prayer. All of these usages would fit the text. Peter’s letter is addressed to a Church under persecution. Satan’s goal was to keep Christians from spreading the gospel. Many were tortured and killed for their faith. Peter’s message was to prepare the Church for persecution. This is the setting for the analogy of the roaring lion. Peter’s admonition was to “stand firm in the faith.” It was not to run in fear or to attack Satan; it was to trust God and defend the faith with spiritual tools. See Eph. 6:10-20. We need to remember that faith is not something we can muster up. It’s another gift of grace. “ faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. 10:17 (KJV).
Tuesday, Apr. 25
Analogies are used in the Bible to help clarify spiritual truth. Obviously, the analogy has to be sufficiently understood in order to shed light on that truth. In 1 Pet. 5:8-9 we have the analogy of a roaring lion. Lions were well known in that part of the world. David killed a lion with his bare hands, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, and there are other references to lions in the Bible. So the analogy would have been well understood by Peter’s readers. Most Americans don’t have all that understanding, so we have to do a little research. Most of us know that a lion stalking its prey would not announce his presence by roaring. The pride of lions is working together. The male lion roars in order to scare his prey to run—away from him, and toward the lioness, who will make the kill. And that’s why Peter says that we should resist him. That means that we don’t fall into the trap and run like a scared rabbit. We are to stand firm in the faith. We are in a battle. The context of this analogy is severe persecution. Satan, our adversary, wants us to abandon our post and run. Standing firm against him is the only answer.
Monday, Apr. 24
Phil. 2:3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” I’ve read this passage many times and got the general drift of it, but have always been puzzled as to how we can consider all other people better. There are lots of people better than I, but many who aren’t. I was born with certain abilities and with limitations. I recognize that my brain functions fairly well, but I will be no Albert Einstein. My college professor was gracious in giving me a D in Calculus. I will not even come close to LeBron James as to athleticism, and I will never compete with Yo Yo Ma on the oboe, nor be compared to Billy Graham. On the other end, there are lots of people with less skills than I have, which gives me no reason to brag. OK, I took a long road to get to this point, but I think the Scripture has a little different core meaning than to “consider others better.” I think the message is that we are to put others ahead of ourselves, to put their welfare above our own, to think of their good, not ours. The NIV note on this verse has it right. “Not that everyone else is superior or more talented, but that Christian love sees others as worthy of preferential treatment.” The context of this verse is humility and Christ is singled out as the role model. Here is God himself coming to earth in the form of a man. How humbling is that? And then he suffered abuse and eventually died a cruel death on the cross at the hands of the sinners whom he came to redeem. We are to be like that. Verse 5: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. So Phil. 2:3 is not contrasting abilities; it’s contrasting pride and humility. My problem is not that I don’t understand this, but I am not consistent in putting it into practice. As vv. 1-2 reveal, love or lack of love is the real issue. I will practice humility when I take hold of Christ’s love.
Sunday, Apr. 23
“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love.” This would not be a new thought for any of us, but how much do we practice it? We all have a default button that directs us to love those that love us and hate—or at least shun—those that don’t love us. This is a universal trait, observable in all cultures on personal levels, racial levels and national levels. And the Christian community is not exempt. This negative and counter productive trait does not automatically change when we are “born again.” Our sin nature is “alive and well” during our sojourn on earth. Knowing that we need to change will not produce change. There has to be an “over ride” button, a divine stimulus to allow us to replace hatred with love. The indwelling Holy Spirit is that “over ride” button. He gives us the power to reject sin and to respond in love, but it’s not automatic. As Paul explains it in Rom. 8, we can choose to walk in the Spirit or to walk in the flesh. When we choose to walk in the Spirit, the world takes notice. The world took notice following the birth of the Church. Thousands of new believers forged a loving fellowship that could not be ignored. Many sold their property, sharing their wealth with others. Something special was happening. They were not normal by the world’s standards. No one had witnessed a societal change like this. The Jews had no such reputation. The Sanhedrin took notice. And it wasn’t long before the entire Roman Empire took notice. Alas, things have changed. It didn’t take long for the Church to go back to that default button. When Jesus evaluated the Ephesian church in Rev. 2-3, he had some good things to say about it, but he also said (Rev. 2:4)—“You have lost your first love.” How would Jesus evaluate our churches today? Do you know any church that is known for its love? Some are known for their gifted speakers, for correct doctrine, for extensive programs, or for their support of missions. Those things are not bad, but they are not what the early church was noted for—love. What can we do about this? Maybe we should start with ourselves. When people think of me, do they think of love? If not, I should be concerned. Jesus told the Ephesian church to repent. When that “lost” love returns, the world will take notice.
Saturday, Apr. 22
Can an unregenerate man do good? The issue stems from Biblical teaching about the inherited sin nature that we’ve all been born with. To what degree does the sin nature affect our relationship with God? Paul says in Rom. 1:18-32 that the entire human race was corrupted by sin. He uses the words “depraved” and “depravity” in vv. 28-29. This became more of an issue when theologians came up with the term total depravity. Although Paul doesn’t use the word “total” in this passage, he obviously is saying that the entire human race is corrupt. But when theologians added the word “total” to “depravity” to form “total depravity” they weren’t talking about the entire human race. They were talking about the individual sinner. This could mean that unregenerate man can do no good, that every thing he does is bad. The reformers did not take that extreme view. What they meant by total depravity was that every part of man has been corrupted—his body, his conscience, his mind, his emotions, and his will—everything that makes man a man. “Total” does not necessarily mean “complete.” Habitual criminals can still love their wives ad care for their children. Bad people can do good things in order to gain prestige or for financial gain. The real issue is what motivates the action. For the unregenerate, it is never to please God; it is always to serve self. Paul says in Rom. 3:11-12 that there is “no one who seeks God” and “there is no one that does good.” Going back to my original question “Can an unregenerate man do good?”—it’s yes and no. In one sense, he can do good, but it is always motivated by self. The act can be a good act, but not for the right reasons. There is no effort to seek God or serve him. My second question was “To what degree does the sin nature affect our relationship with God?” It renders us incapable of doing anything good. We can do absolutely nothing to please God. The law (God’s moral standard) reveals our sinful condition, but does nothing to change it. The solution has to come from God. You might note that Paul’s next words after his conclusion in Rom. 3:12 are “But now,” which launches Paul into the remedy for sin, the gospel. God did supply a resolution to the sin problem.