1 Peter: Faith In The Fire

Peter is someone we can all relate to in the Bible. He says what he thinks. He is impulsive. He takes matters into his own hands. He blows it really bad with Jesus. In the gospel, he is a big coward.

Yet on the other hand, in Acts, you see a new Peter. He repents. He is restored with Jesus. God redeemed his shame. He grows in faith and grace. The three years he spent with Jesus were not wasted. Jesus made him the leader of the disciples. He has a bold faith and is unashamed of Jesus. He went on to write two books of the Bible (1 and 2 Peter). He was a pastor who loved people (aka: sheep). And like Jesus, He was crucified for being a Christian.

In Peter, we see a normal Jesus-follower. Someone who really loves Jesus. Someone who really sins. Someone with whom God is patient as he grows and matures through his sin to love Jesus more and sin less. His imperfections are endearing and his progress is encouraging.

Peter’s first letter is packed with timeless wisdom for every Christian generation. It is gold for the soul from a seasoned pastor on how to live amidst life’s trials in light of the person and work of Jesus, who also suffered trials.

Peter writes to groups of Christians who lived in modern-day Turkey. They were Christians who were suffering greatly for their faith in Jesus. Their faith was under fire. In the heat of the trials, Peter reminds them that they belong to God. Remembering that we belong to a loving and sovereign God allows us to find peace and purpose in every circumstance or seasons of trial, giving us strength to press onward toward faith and obedience to Jesus.

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humble Christian

A humble Christian is not an oxymoron. In fact, humility is a sign that a Christian is growing to be more like Christ. Peter, a man, well acquainted with pride encourage Christians to pursue humility. Here are five marks of humility:

God is mighty and my humility is a necessity.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” ” – 1 Peter 5:6

Humility starts with God. Humility for a Christian is important because humility realizes God is God and you are not. If not fight for space to prove others how wonderful you are, you will be frustrated because space is reserved for God. However, there is coming a day when God will shower you with praise for his great work in you. Think of that. The God of the universe will exalt you!

Pride and anxiety exist when humility doesn’t.

“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

People in a self-help culture can pride themselves on taking care of themselves and their anxieties. However, Christians realize that anxieties often get the best of us and that we aren’t strong enough to ward off all worries, but God is able and he cares. This is more than a “let go let God” mentality. It’s a “while you go, cling to God” mentality.

Humility is a mighty weapon against Satan and sin.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith,” – 1 Peter 5:8-9a

Don’t minimize the danger or power of Satan. He is a lion-like destroyer hunting you down. Nothing makes him happier than to see you drown in pride and be killed by anxiety. His greatest schemes are to feed your mind with ideas that you are god or that God is not there for you. When you resist Satan and his schemes, and rest in the strength that Jesus gives you, then Satan is no match for you.

Humility is understanding you are not alone in the battle.

“knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.,” – 1 Peter 5:9b-14

Peter gives an example of a few of your “brotherhood”. This is meant to encourage you that you are member of a larger worldwide community of faith that is suffering for the sake of Christ. Yet one day soon Christ will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Humble Jesus ultimately saves the day.

In the end, Jesus will have his way. He wins. Jesus has dominion over all. Jesus is a king who rules over all peoples, times, places, and things as the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is no one more powerful than Jesus. Peter promises that because he loves us, Jesus our powerful king will right every wrong in his wonderfully perfect kingdom. If you are in Christ, you are in his kingdom. That is a glorious promise and hope. Amen. Enough said.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What does humility look like according in this text? How do humble people treat one another? What do you do when you are proud? What do you do when you are humble?
  • What is anxiety? What does it look like to cast your anxieties on Christ? How does God care for you?
  • How does humility protect you from Satan and his schemes? How do you resist Satan? How was pride Satan’s own downfall?
  • What things can Jesus do that the devil cannot do?
  • What is the Christian mindset towards God, Satan and self? What is the reward for humility and obedience in the end? How does Jesus ultimately save the day? How does Jesus kingship and future kingdom give you hope today?
  • Do you agree with the “amen” at this text?
  • As you look back over 1 Peter, how does it give you courage and strength to stand firm, especially when your faith is under fire? How have you seen God on display throughout the letter?

humble leaders

It is easy to be humble when standing at the base of a mountain or the edge of the sea. However, when standing over another person it is a struggle to remain humble.

Humility is not the most desirable characteristic, especially for leaders. However, according to God humility is true greatness.  Humility is viewing yourself in the light of God’s holiness and your limitedness.

Humility according to God starts with those in leadership. Elders and pastors are to be examples of humility. According to Peter, leaders are to show humility in three ways:

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:1-5

Humility is seen as you serve in plurality.

Shared leadership keeps a leaders pride in check. God designed leadership to be done together with other leaders who pass onto one another character.  We see this best in the life of Christ and his disciples (v.1).

Humility is expressed best as leaders shepherd their flock.

The job of a leader is to care for those he leads by teaching and protecting (vs.2-3). Many leaders in the Bible start out as shepherds like Moses and David. Shepherding sheep is a humbling job, but is great preparation for shepherding people. Jesus himself was called the Chief Shepherd. He is ultimately your highest elder. All other elders work for him and do as he did.

Humility seek their reward is the eyes of God not men.

You may not see many humble leaders listed on Forbes 500. The reward for humble shepherding is not the praise of men, but the prize of the unfading crown of glory from God himself (v.4).

Humility in younger leaders is demonstrated in their submission to older leaders.

Those who are younger struggle the most to submit to authority. The younger you are the greater your struggle with pride, but often the older you are the more humble you become because you realize your limitations (v.5).

Peter knows the struggle of submitting to leadership and humbling leading. Early in his life he struggled with pride. He challenged and denied the authority of Christ. However, as he observed the sufferings and humility of Christ it left a mark on him that would forever change him. Christ would restore and call him to love sheep like he did. As we see from his letter, he became a tender shepherd leader.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is or isn’t humility? Why is humility an important character of a leader?
  • What do you know about Peter’s own struggle with humility, especially earlier in his life? How had he grown in humility?
  • What is the motivation for shepherding the flock? How can these motives become distorted? What are the common temptations of leaders?
  • What is to be the response of the flock towards elders? How does also express humility? Toward whom is your humility ultimately pointed? What does it look like to submit to leaders over you?
  • How do elders join in the suffering of Christ? When have you seen God’s grace to the humble or his opposition to the proud?
  • What are the consequences of pride? What is the prize of humility?
  • How can you clothe yourself in humility toward one another?

Worship in Suffering

Do you find it difficult to worship God when life is difficult? If yes, then you are not alone. When reading the Psalms we observe that at least one-third are songs of lament. They teach us an honest and raw worship of God when things are falling apart or when we experience suffering.

Peter’s letter is no different nor does he skirt around the subject of suffering, rather he has straight talk for those who are suffering. What we learn from Peter and the Psalms are how to worship God in suffering.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:12-19, ESV

God has a plan for suffering so don’t be surprised by it.

There are two scenarios of suffering we shouldn’t be surprised by: when we suffer because we sin or we suffer because we follow Jesus (vs.12, 17-19). Both types of suffering are meant to draw us near to God for either repentance or reliance. It is far better to suffer for following Jesus than for doing wrong. And suffering, especially for the gospels sake allows us to share in the suffering of Jesus and that worships God.

Peter knows what it is like to suffer for wrong and feel the shame of it. When Jesus was imprisoned he denied Jesus three times. Jesus restored Peter afterwards and from then on Peter joyful suffered for the sake of Christ.

God is most glorified when we rejoice while suffering.

Rejoicing seems like the opposite response while suffering. More often people become bitter against God or to complain against God. However, when we complain or become angry we miss out on God’s primary means of draws us to himself.

Our deepest worship of God occurs is when we rejoice in him in spite of pain, trust him in the trial, surrender in the suffering and love him when he seems distant or unclear. No matter how difficult the situation may appear God is still good and he is good to us. Suffering has it’s good purpose and therein is a reason to rejoice because God is trustworthy (vs.13-16, 19).

Peter says that when your life is difficult and people are making fun of you for being a Christian it is more important than ever to trust God. This includes trusting that he exists, loves you, will help you, is ultimately in control of your life, and in eternity will sort everything out and make it right. When suffering we can worship in three ways: through honest lament, a resilient hope in Jesus, and a stubborn trust in God.

 

Questions for Reflections:

  • How are suffering and worship interrelated?
  • When you can expect suffering how does it prepare you to suffer well? How did Peter fail in suffering when Jesus was imprisoned? How does shame play into suffering?
  • Why does Peter tell his readers not to be surprised by suffering? What is the difference between suffering for good and suffering because of sin? How are the consequence of sin and following Jesus different?
  • How can you rejoice in suffering? Why is rejoicing in God harder when life is tougher? What reasons do you have to rejoice in God in suffering? How has suffering drawn you to God?
  • How do you see God a trustworthy and faithful? What does it look like to entrust your soul to God?

Helping Hand of Suffering

There is a suffering common to all—suffering in the flesh. In other words, we suffer from an onslaught of temptations that our hearts are drawn to like a magnet. Our hearts are bent towards the flesh. C.S. Lewis described the heart inside himself as, “a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds.”

Suffering is not something to be done in isolation or at least it shouldn’t be. Suffering, especially in the flesh is best fought in community where there are many helping hands to lift you up. If you are suffering it is a time to allow the community to serve you. Here is how to suffer well from 1 Peter 4:1-11:

Be Prepared

Suffering is normal for Christians because Christ suffered. Therefore, we must not be surprised by it, but be ready to for it. Christ knew when he came into this world that he would suffer. He prepared for it. He fought through it with spiritual weapons (cf. Ephesians 6:10ff). And if he did, so must we.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” – 1 Peter 4:1, ESV

Break from sin

Sin is essentially idolatry. In other, words sin substitutes God with a greater love. Often idols are good things that turn bad because we love them much and love God less. In times of suffering our hearts cling to either our idols or God for security (vs.2-3). Many will ease suffering by sinning rather than break from it. Sadly, idols don’t keep you safe nor do they love you in return. God is the only one that truly loves you, serves you, and will bring you lasting joy.

Ready yourself for rejection

It surprises the world when Christians don’t participate in their wiles (vs.4-6). Sometimes we think we are missing out by not participating, but what we miss out on is greater misery. While rejection is a consequence for not participating, it is better to miss out on a little fun this side of heaven than to miss out on the great feast the other side of heaven. And though the world rejects you, God accepts you.

Give grace to others

When we suffer we don’t first think about others. We think about how we can get out from under suffering or how others can serve us. However, suffering is an opportunity to help and be helped by the community of Christ. There are many ways to express grace to one another while suffering and Peter shares a few: First, pray maturely (v.7). Second, love earnestly (v.8). Third, show hospitality (v.9). Fourth, serve with your gifts (vs.10-11).

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:7-11, ESV

Suffering is a part of the will of God because Christ suffered. Suffering is a precious gift from God that he uses as a helping hand to pull you toward himself. It also an opportunity for you to push yourself toward others who are suffering and offer a helping hand.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How has Jesus give you an example of suffering in the flesh? What does it mean to suffer in the flesh like Jesus?
  • How is God’s will less about where you live, who you marry, what job you take, and more about what kind of life you live? How does this help you understand God’s will? Why is it best to listen to God’s will?
  • What is our temptation as Christians when it comes to our ‘old ways of living’? What parts of culture and society do you need to reject? How will this set your apart from your friends or family? How can you do this in a loving way?
  • How does love cover a multitude of sins? (cf. Matthew 22:36-40) Why does Peter command us to love one another?
  • How will those who malign you be held accountable for their actions?
  • How does your understanding of the gospel inform your condition about community with other Christians? Is community optional for Christians? Explain.
  • How does hospitality show grace? How is God hospitable? (see Isaiah 25:6-8) What does it mean to be hospitable without grumbling?
  • Why does God give us spiritual gifts? How is God glorified when we serve one another? Why does serving bring joy? Where are you serving and helping in the community?

classroom of suffering

Suffering happens. It happens to all of us. However, it is in the suffering that we draw near to God and understand Jesus own sufferings. Jesus didn’t come into the world as an insurance salesman offering safety and security from suffering, but he shows us instead how to suffer well. While in the classroom of suffering we have a lot to learn.

See and study the suffering of Christ

‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey” – 1 Peter 3:18-20a, ESV

Jesus suffered once—for sins. When Jesus suffered once, it didn’t mean that he only suffered onetime in life, but that his suffering was unrepeatable. In other words, his sacrifice for sin was only needed once. What is interesting is that Jesus didn’t suffer for his own sins. He didn’t sin or bring suffering upon himself as a consequence of his sin. He was righteous and perfect, and died for the unrighteous and sinful. His suffering was undeserved. Rather Jesus is the hero and example.

See and study the suffering of Noah

“when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” – 1 Peter 3:20b

Like Jesus, Noah was rejected by people. For 120 years, he built an enormous boat believing God would send rain even though he lived in the desert. Could you imagine the ridicule? The flood eventual came and only Noah and his family were saved.

When you express faith in Jesus coming to save people from their sins, you express a faith many think is unfounded, foolish and farfetched. So if you are rejected by others for following Jesus, you’re in good company.

See and study your baptism

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 3:21

Baptism itself is a symbol. Jesus died, was buried, and rose from death to cleanse us from our sins. The symbol of baptism is your salvation. Through baptism one shows their belief in Jesus that he cleanses them from sin like water cleanses one from dirt. And since Jesus resurrected from the grave this guarantees that those who believe in him will one day be free from all suffering as Noah was safe in the ark.

See Christ as your victor

“[Jesus] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” 1 Peter 3:22

In order to ace the exam of suffering we need Jesus. It is impossible to pass tough times or survive without him. Jesus suffered greatly and he was victorious over evil. Today, Jesus is seated in heaven at God’s right hand. Everything is subject to him and nothing can thwart his power.

By remembering these lessons and learning them well you will be able to bear under the brunt of the suffering. When you suffer with Christ you are not suffering alone. The Master suffered for his students too.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How is Jesus the greatest hero of all time?
  • What was the result of the suffering of Jesus?
  • What does it mean to be ‘put to death in the flesh’ and ‘made alive in the Spirit’? What does this look like in your life?
  • What is the connection between the Noah story and baptism? How is baptism connected to Christ’s suffering? (See Romans 6:2-4) How does baptism remind you of Jesus? Does baptism make you a Christian? How does Jesus cleanse you from sin?
  • How have you faced ridicule or reject for your faith like Noah?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is at the ‘right hand’ of God? Who and what is subject to Jesus? What are the implications of this? How does your life reflect the fact that Jesus is on his throne? What other things compete for the throne in your life?
  • How does the resurrection give you hope in the face of suffering? How does the victory of Jesus encourage your faith?
  • How does verse 22 inspire you to worship God?

blessing in suffering

Have you ever been slandered, bullied, or made fun of for doing the right thing? For being a Christian? Suffering for doing good or not being like for being a Christian is normal. The hard part is responding well to this kind of suffering. This is why Peter shares some ways to bless to others while suffering.

Respond in the way others least expect

Sometimes people are mean, they say mean things and do mean things. Even people in the church may treat you wrongly, but contrast their meanness by expressing a unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender heart and humility (vs.8-9). When you respond this way it will deflect evil and show others the attitude of Christ.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9, ESV

Responding by blessings those who inflict suffering doesn’t come natural to us. However, you are called to bless, even in suffering. Our suffering is a picture of Christ’s suffering. It is an occasion to proclaim the gospel, not always in words but in the way you walk through suffering.

Remember what God has already said

The Scriptures are chalked full of promises, even in the midst of suffering (vs.10-12). In Psalm 34, David pens a song while he was on the run from from King Saul. The song helps us to reflect on truth and promises already spoken over us. They are good reminders to rest in while suffering.

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:10-12, ESV

Expect suffering for being a Jesus follower

It is not if, but when. The world currently and historically makes fun of Christians (vs.13-14a). It is normal. It started with Jesus and continues with his followers. The reason for this suffering is that the cross is foolishness to those who don’t know Christ.

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” – 1 Peter 3:13-14a, ESV

Answer suffering with grace

Grace offers others what they do not deserve. When we respond to suffering and slander with grace, it puts our enemies to shame (vs.14b-17). The answer is not heaping more coals onto the fire, but to snuff it out with grace. It is God’s will that we suffer, but also that we suffer graciously. One who has received grace himself can freely give it to others too.

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” – 1 Peter 3:14b-17, ESV

The blessing of suffering is not suffering itself or getting even with those who cause your suffering. When you become a follower of Jesus you put yourself in the way of ridicule and rejection. However, as a Christian you are in good company. The blessing in suffering is helping the world see another way. The way of Jesus and his followers.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How can suffering be a blessing?
  • How do people tend to respond when hurt by others? Why would Peter contrast repaying evil with blessing? What does repaying evil with blessing look like? How is this so countercultural? Why is it important to suffer well? How does our response put others to shame? What is the difference between shaming someone and letting your behavior put them to shame?
  • Which of the characteristics in verse 8 do you need to grow in? What are the opposites of these characteristics? How can the Holy Spirit help you to grow in these areas?
  • What does it mean to have unity of mind with other Christians? Does this mean you agree on everything? How is living with others, even in the church an exercise of unity of mind? What important things can all Christians agree on? How can we have unity of mind and what should we do when we don’t?
  • What is the relationship between doing good and suffering? Who receives the blessing for suffering for righteousness? How have you suffered for righteousness sake?
  • What are some temptations you face when suffering for righteousness? What are the consequences of giving into those temptations?
  • How does the gospel help you to understand and deal with suffering for Jesus?
  • How have you received blessing through suffering?

belonging together

Block by block God is building a house. He isn’t building it with ordinary stones. His stones are living and breathing and worshiping. His stones are people. He isn’t building a bunch of different buildings, but we are being built up together into one glorious building. We belong together.

God is a master architect. He has had a blueprint in mind since before creation. He has built everything resting on Jesus. Without Jesus everything crumbles. Jesus is the centerpiece—the cornerstone—of God’s plan. As the Cornerstone, Jesus is also a living stone. While living in the world, he was rejected by men. However, God honored and accepted his sacrifice (vs.4-5). This was part of the plan.

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV

Today, we can have one of two responses toward Jesus: belief or unbelief (vs.6-8). Jesus is either your precious cornerstone or he is your stone of stumbling. Jesus either saves you from shame or he offends you. You trust in him or he trips you up.

“For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in  Zion a stone,a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe,  but for those who do not believe,“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” – 1 Peter 2:6-8, ESV

Christians are unlike anything the world has ever seen. They are different. They stand out. In Christ, they have a new identity, which displays itself in four ways: 1) they are chosen by God (v.9a), 2) they are given a position of privilege with direct access to God (v.9b), 3) they are holy before God (v.9c), and 4) they are treasured by God (v.10).

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 1:9-10, ESV

Like Jesus, we live in the world. We are living stones. While living in the world we are to walk with a new integrity. No longer do we walk in darkness. We walk in the light. No longer do we live for ourselves. We live to glorify God. No longer do we want to live like the world. We live like we are sojourners (vs.11-12). We live within the new reality that this world is not our home. We live for the new home God is building for us.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is the meaning of “living stones of a spiritual house”? Who or what are these “living stones”? How does this illustration help you understand God’s plan?
  • What is a cornerstone? Why is Jesus described as the Cornerstone? What happens to your life if Jesus isn’t your cornerstone?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is a stumbling stone? What are some things Jesus said or did that offended people? Does it bother you that Jesus would be a stumbling block?
  • What titles are Christians given in this passage? (see v.9) What is the significance of each title? Which of those titles are most encouraging to you? Which title would you like to understand better?
  • What is the purpose of the priesthood? What is your ministry as a priest?
  • According to this passage, what is the expected response of people to the gospel?
  • Why is it important to maintain a good reputation with those who are not Christian? Why does worldliness damage our reputation? What is your reputation?
  • What darkness has Christ called you out of? What does the light look like in your life?
  • What passions of the flesh wage war with your soul? How does your new identity help or hinder your battle against these things?

Grow Together

Have you ever met a hypocritical Christian? I have. Truth be known, I am one.

Let’s admit it. Us Christians are a community of hypocrites. We aren’t perfect. Far from it. We have an lofty standard God wants us to meet—holiness. That’s a really high bar. We sincerely want to meet that standard, but we fall short like a pole-vaulter trying to jump over Golden Gate Bridge. We sometimes act like we can make it on our own, but we often mask the truth that we struggle to be holy from our fellow Christians.

Why do we hide when we all struggle? Wouldn’t it be better if we admitted our mutual struggle and banded together to grow together? Of course! And Peter agrees too. He calls us to brotherly love from a pure heart and in the processes your display the good news to others around you (1:22-23).

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” – 1 Peter 1:22-23, ESV

The way we fight hypocrisy is through abiding in the Word of God. The Word of God is our mighty weapon against slaying hypocrisy.

The Word of God is powerful because it is the Word is Truth.

Hypocrisy is the opposite of truth. Hypocrisy lives a lie and masks the truth. When we read the Word it reads us. We see who we really are and what we need to become. While not easy to swallow it is the truth.

Jesus was the Word in the flesh—the living Truth—to set us free from sin and hypocrisy. If you look at the first Jesus followers they were a mess. Peter was the biggest mess of them all, yet Jesus loves to redeem messes. A hypocrite must first admit, “I am a mess. I am not what I am, but I want to be as He is. Help me to love truth. I love You and I want to love others too.”

The Word is living and enduring.

There is no other book like the Bible on earth. It is the very words of God. It’s alive. The Spirit of God still gives life through it. While man and generation come and go (1:24-25; cf. Isaiah 40:6-8), the Word of God stands the test of time impacting generation after generation. If the Word has the power to change so many lives he has power to change my life too, even hypocrisy.

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25

The Word is good and our source of growth.

The Word of God is like milk to a baby (2:2-3). A new Christian craves the Word. He can’t get enough. It is life-giving. No Christian is too old or mature to feast on the Word or drink its spiritual milk. It is the Word that gives him motivation and power to fight the hypocrisy he struggles to overcome (2:1). Remind one another of the tasty goodness therein and obey it.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3

Christianity isn’t a solo or personal walk. It is a arduous journey we take together with other Christians. There are many personal aspects to the journey like our salvation and daily choices, but it’s in those parts that walk with one another our faith is accentuated and amplified. We grow as Christians by growing together. We fight hypocrisy by walking in Truth together.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is hypocrisy? How is hypocrisy a temptation? What are some ways that Christians struggle with hypocrisy?
  • What are the implications of a life filled with 1 Peter 2:1?
  • How does a vulnerable and open faith within the church help us overcome hypocrisy?
  • What issues of hypocrisy do we need to deal with as a community?
  • How are you banding together with your brothers and sisters as you fight hypocrisy in your own life?
  • What is the purpose of loving one another? (see John 17) Why is love so important to Christianity? Where does true love come from? (1 John 4:8)
  • How does abiding in the Word of God help us to love one another? (see Psalm 34)
  • How can we encourage one another to renew a longing for “spiritual milk”?
  • How does Isaiah 40:6-8 speak to the issue of our brevity and the Words eternality? Why is this an important truth to dwell on as we encourage one another?
  • How does the way we treat other Christians (or non-Christians) reflect on our faith in Christ? How is the gospel preached in relationships?
  • How has your faith in Jesus changed the way you relate to people? Are there any attitudes you need to repent of?
  • What opportunities do you have to love one another in your community?
  • What does it mean that God is good? What ways in the Bible do you see that God is good? What are some ways God has been good to you or your family?

life together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.” A life with Christ is not meant to be lived alone, rather together with a community of Christ followers. This requires intentionality and vulnerability. Togetherness encourages focusing our eyes on what matters most—Jesus. Bonhoeffer continues, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this”

Here four actions to focus our minds and encourage togetherness.

Set your hope on future grace

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:13, ESV

The mind is a battle ground. While there are many pressures from outside, it is in the mind that one is most often tempted to fear, lose hope, or skirt holiness. Alone we are prone to distraction and disillusionment from the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ. If your hope is in anything, but Jesus you will be disappointed. It is a gift of God’s grace that we are together in this fight of faith and that we will be together around the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Pursue holiness

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” – 1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV

Above any other attribute of God, his holiness is mentioned the most in the Bible. God is holy, meaning he is “set apart” and there is none like him. If God is holy he wants his children to be holy too. God is not a militant nor a mongrel demanding perfection, but he is a loving father who wants his children to pursue holiness everyday. Encourage one another to be holy in an unholy world.

Have a healthy fear of God

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,” – 1 Peter 1:17, ESV

Peter tells us that God is a Father and we should have a healthy fear of him because he judges his children fairly. While we aren’t perfect kids, he is a perfect daddy. Sometimes we are tempted to view God through the lens of what our earthly father was or is like. While this can be helpful, not everyone had a father who was loving, caring, or taught them right and wrong. God is a good Father.

Look to Christ our example

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” – 1 Peter 1:18-21, ESV

Christ came to earth. He lived a holy life and obeyed his Father in everything. He even obeyed God by going to the cross becoming the sacrificial lamb for our sins. Through Jesus we can have faith and hope because in Jesus we see what God looks like with skin on. Jesus also helps us to see what holiness looks like as a human. Follow in his steps.

Life together is primarily about keeping our minds on Jesus Christ until Jesus Christ comes again and makes us completely like him. Walking in grace, holiness, and a fear of God is impossible alone, but together it is a lot more encouraging and doable.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What does holiness mean? What does it look like to be holy? What is the opposite of holiness?
  • How does the illustration and reality that God is Father and you are his children encourage you? Why do God and parents ask their children to do good things not evil things?
  • What does it mean to obey? Are there any rules or standards from the Bible or your home that you don’t think are fair or right? Why? What rules or standards are difficult for you to obey? Why?
  • How is God a Judge? Why is it good that God judges?
  • How does the world make fun of Christians for being holy or different? How does knowing that at the end of our life God will reward us for holy life?
  • What is the meaning of the word redeem? How did Jesus redeem mankind?
  • How do thinking on these verses help guard your mind from temptation?

Scripture, Trials, and What is to Come

If you’re a fan of the Star Wars movies you are familiar with the chronology of the story and the films. When the original three films were made the producers started in the middle of the story. Then they made three prequels—how the story began. Now they are making numerous sequels—how the story continues. As the franchise has grown there are parallel stories like Rogue One that follow a unique character all within the original Star Wars plot.

The Bible is similar in that the Old and New Testaments aren’t two different stories, they are groupings stories with the same plot. The Old Testament begins with the world spinning into chaos, but it ends with the prophets foretelling and anticipating a Messiah who would come to save the world. The New Testament picks up with the Messiah coming into the world and ends with a promise that the Messiah will return again to finish off once and for all evil in the universe. We are still awaiting the sequel.

The wait for the next installment of the story is not easy. In fact, the wait is hard. The wait is full of trials because the story continues and we are characters in the story. The world is full of evil, the villain still lurks, and wreaks havoc. Yet the Bible promises that grace and glory will come (vs.10-12).  There will be a day when Jesus will eradicate trials. The Bible was written to remind us that Jesus was promised, came, will come again. Wait for it. The wait will be worth it.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” – 1 Peter 1:10-12

The Bible from cover to cover has been about Jesus. Everything said or prophesied about Jesus so far has come to pass. Therefore, you can believe what is yet to come will come to pass too. Only God knows the future, controls the future, and tells the truth about the future. The truth you need to know about the future is written for you in the Scripture.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How is the Bible one great story? What is the story about? What is its plot?
  • How does our perspective of history, in particular redemptive history, affect our faith?
  • What was a prophet? What were the prophets trying to discern? How do we see clearly now what the prophets could not see?
  • How were the prophets serving us not themselves? How have you been served by the writers of the Bible?
  • What is the good news that has been revealed to you by the Holy Spirit? Why is it such good news?
  • What is the meaning of “grace that was to be ours”? What are the implications that we have been given more grace than the prophets?
  • What is the significance that angels long to look into the things spoken to you?
  • When facing trials, where do you look first for comfort?
  • How does understanding the Scripture give you hope during trials or suffering? How have the Scriptures brought you peace and comfort?

Jesus, Trials, and Joy

There are days when our joy skirmishes into the shadow of trials and hardships. Trials can steal our joy and cause doubts or questions as to the possibility of joy.

Trials come to all of us, even Christians. They don’t come when it is convenient. They can come without warning. They don’t necessarily come one at a time but can come as a barrage. They can repeat over and over again. They can even range in severity and duration from momentary annoyance to lifelong anguish.

Feeling encourage yet?

Peter says joy is possible even in our darkest situations. Joy is possible because Jesus. Peter share at least three ways how Jesus completes our joy under trials.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:2-9, ESV

Jesus is the source of joy, even under trials.

Jesus endured the greatest trials known to man. He endured the cross for a greater joy—our joy. Jesus is our joy because he alone saves and raised from the grave (v.3). The resurrection of Jesus secures our hope and joy. He has reserved for us joy, guards it, and will complete it (vs.4-5). Despite our circumstances, we can have confidence that Jesus is for our joy.

Jesus is a light that eclipses the temporal trials of life.

A glorious day is dawning when our trials will be no more and we will be free from the pain and brokenness in this world (v.6). This is really good news.

Trials have their good purpose. Under trials we learn about Jesus and grow to be more like him. How we respond to trials shows our closeness to Jesus. If we embrace trials as an opportunity from God, they will sift our faith and the result is the glory of Jesus because faith that shines more stunningly than gold (v.7).

Jesus knows our trials very well.

Jesus walked into our shoes. He lived in this broken world. He knows what it is like to be rejected, falsely accused, abused, abandoned and persecuted. And even though we have not seen him we are drawn to him, we love him, we trust him more and more, and he fills us today with an inexpressible joy and hope of the complete salvation of our soul (vs.8-9).

Jesus is our joy today and forevermore.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How has Jesus been your joy?
  • What is the “living hope”? How does this hope transform the way you live?
  • Why is the resurrection so important? To Christianity? To our own hope? To understanding Jesus as God?
  • Did people know Jesus was going to die and resurrect?
  • How does the Jesus resurrection change people? Compare John 20:19 to Acts 4.
  • What is an inheritance? What is the inheritance that Peter talks about?
  • What is the significance of the words “imperishable,” “undefiled,” and “unfading”?
  • What is unique about Peter’s use of the word “salvation” in this passage? Do you see past, present and future aspects of salvation in this passage?
  • What is the purpose of trials in our life? Do you think about this in the midst of trials?
  • What is the connection between faith, joy, and salvation?
  • How do you express your love for Jesus?
  • What things in your life subdue in expressible joy?

under trials

Jesus was everything to Peter. Peter longed to follow Jesus and for three years he did. He walked with Jesus saw his miracles, heard his preaching, and was there when Jesus rose from the grave. Peter wasn’t always a cooperative follower. In his early years he was brash and impulsive. His lip got him into messes, but Jesus was tender and tough with Peter. He forgave Peter, appointed him to service, empowered him, and helped him endure a trial-ridden life. No wonder Peter endured so much for Jesus.

Peter made it his mission to love Jesus and shepherd the flock. You get a glimpse of Peter’s heart when reading his letters. Peter was a pen pal pastor and counselor to many Christians who faced trials for following Jesus throughout modern-day Turkey (v.1). As Peter begins his letter do not skip over the salutation. Packed within are three hopeful promises for Christians under trials.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” – 1 Peter 1:1-2

First, even under trials God has chosen you, saved you, forgiven you, adopted you, loves you, and you are his from before time (v.2a). What precious gifts to remember in a time of persecution or hardship. God is with you and for you. He won’t fail to be good to you.

Second, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying you under trials (v.2b). No body likes trials. In fact, we try hard to avoid them. Yet trials are unavoidable. They follow us. Not that we are to embrace trials, but we must see how God uses them to draw us to him. Trials are part of God’s sovereign plan. God doesn’t just want to save us; he wants to change us. Trials tend change us to make us more like Jesus. This is God’s holy work of sanctification.

Third, remaining obedient to Jesus is vital when under trials. Jesus is acquainted with our trials. He has been there. He knows the full weight of being under trials. He was under trials to the death, but it was by his blood and sacrifice that our sins are forgiven. Jesus blood was the signature of his covenant between God and man. As Jesus remained obedient to God under trials the result was global blessing, so must we remain obedient to Jesus under trials for the result will be great blessings.

Peter writes to early Christians, but he also writes to you so that you would see trials under the lens of God’s grace. Grace is God acting and working on your behalf for your good. Peters points to the possibility of grace and peace in the midst of trials. Don’t panic. God is with you, for you and at work within you under trials.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Who was Peter? What do you know about Peter’s life?
  • What do you know about the people to whom Peter is writing? How are we like them?
  • How does Peter start his letter? Why is this important?
  • How did Peter know Jesus?
  • What is election? How does election show God’s love? How is election like adoption?
    Why are the “elect” called “exiles”? (aka: stranger or alien) What is the purpose of our election?
  • How are we citizens of a different kingdom? Where have you become to “at home” in this world?
  • How do you see the Trinity in verse 2? How do you see the Trinity working together in this verse? What do you learn about God from these verses?
  • What is the significance of “sprinkled with his blood”? (see Exodus 24:1-8)

Encouragements for Christians When their Faith is Under Fire

God never promised that this life will be easy, but he promises to be with you in the fire.

The consequences of saying that you love and worship Jesus can be real and hurtful. Those who are close to you may even turn their back on you.  For many around the world there is pain and suffering.  There is ridicule and rejection.

Peter knew what it was like to experience persecution, hardships, and suffering for Jesus Christ. This gave him a raw, yet real palate for encouraging other Christians who are walking through the same fire.

1 Peter is an excellent book to read to be encouraged.  Here are a sampling of encouragements for Christians when their faith is under fire:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1:6-7)

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (2:2-3)

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (2:7a-8)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (2:9)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (2:13-15)

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (2:20-21)

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (3:13-18)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (4:8)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (4:12-16)

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (4:19)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (5:5-7)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (5:10)