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)
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brief but big

Climbing up Mount Everest for a fit team can take almost two months from base to summit. Most climbers upon reaching the summit will stay for only 15 minutes before making their way back down. Why such a brief stay on such a big climb? One would say that they had been admiring the beauty of their surroundings during the entire climb from the base to the top. Getting to the top was a great accomplishment, but the climb was greater.

Reading the book of Hebrews could be a lot like climbing Mount Everest. All along the way we behold the beauty of Jesus. With each step we see his greatest. Once at the summit there is not much more to say, but there is a lot to celebrate.

As we reach the end of the climb, the author of the letter of Hebrews wraps up his letter by saying, “I have written to you briefly.” (v.22) Surely he is being sarcastic, right? By today’s standards, if this letter was an email it would take about an hour to read aloud. It’s the kind of email many would skim through or file for another day when there was more time to read it.

Hebrews is a big letter that makes a big difference. It desperately needs to be read and understood by Christians today. It is a letter that teaches and changes lives. So how does the author close such a letter?

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.” – Hebrews 13:20-25

First, he closes with a blessing in Jesus name (vs.20-21). It is a fitting conclusion to the letter in which Jesus was the big idea from beginning to end. There is no greater document in the New Testament that explains the correlation of the Old Testament to the work of Christ, than Hebrews. Even the last few verses are jam-packed with Christology and the practical out-working of that theology. In other words, the out-working of Christ’s work has a continual in-working within Christ’s followers.

Second, he closes with a charge and good wishes (vs.22-25). Ink could not tell all he wanted to say, but it will have to do for now. In the same breath, he wishes to visit his readers soon with Timothy who was just released from prison. This in a roundabout way connects the author to Paul’s ministry, possibly in Italy. We may never know who the author was, but he certainly wrote a stellar thesis on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Hebrews may be a difficult letter to digest in one sitting. It is like a dinner of thirteen courses with each chapter being a meal of its own. Each meal filling and satisfying the soul. Each meal giving us a greater and greater taste for Jesus, the undoubted big idea of Hebrews. The author masterfully shows how there is no equal nor rival. Jesus is above all. He is not only great, he is the greatest of all.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What are your overall thoughts, impressions, and takeaways from the letter to the Hebrews?
  • What did you learn about Jesus from this letter? How did you love for Jesus grow? If you were the author of Hebrews what more would you want to say about Jesus?
  • How is Jesus the big idea of the letter? How does the letter show that Jesus is the greatest of all?
  • How does a theology of Jesus impact practice? In other words, how does knowing about Jesus’ life and work affect the way you live?
  • What would you like to go back and discover more about within the letter?
  • Write a short prayer of adoration or appreciation: