Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Peter, part 2

I Peter 1:6-9

We pick up with Peter's flow of thought from v. 3-10. He tells his readers in v. 6, "in this you rejoice..." They rejoice in God's mercy (v. 3) expressed through Jesus Christ and the living hope they have because Jesus is alive. In short, Peter is confident they are rejoicing in God. It makes me think, what am I most joyful for? What do I rejoice IN? The answer is easily found when trials come your way. In fact this is Peter's next thought in v. 6-7, what happens in trials. The thing I most rejoice in is revealed when trials come. Joy is robbed if your have been rejoicing (taking the greatest joy) in anything but God. Because everything else people hope for outside of God can die, break, betray you, hurt you, and so on - thus stealing our joy. Peter's readers rejoice not in themselves, their talents, their money, their spouse, children, job, hobbies, none of that. They are rejoicing in what God has done for them through Christ, because of His great mercy.

Peter introduces an idea common in the Bible in v. 7: trials are good for us as Christians. This is completely antithetical to the notion that many of us have about trials, whether we are Christians or not. We think in terms of what's "fair" or "unfair" and we base that, really, on a very Karmic idea of the world. We hope that if we do more good than bad, then more good should come back to us. And we think (even if we wouldn't admit it) that if something bad happens to us, then we are being punished - either by God himself or just by karma for something bad we must have done. What a horrible, satanic, dreadful way to live! Though God has instituted some level of cause and effect in the universe, it is not the ultimate reason for everything that happens to us. God allows, dare I say brings about, some difficulties into our lives to test the genuineness of our faith and grow us in maturity. Here testing of faith is equated to the heat that even gold can be destroyed in. But the only thing heat will do to true faith is make it more pure. It is not the heat that makes the faith, but it's the heat (trials, difficulties, suffering of many kinds) that shows our faith and purifies it.

The result of these necessary trials in our lives? "Praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Is your faith honorable? Is mine? This is a difficult question for me to face for I fear the answer is "no, actually, it's not". My faith wanes quickly. I want a deeper knowledge of God and deeper faith in Him. I want my faith to be honorable and praiseworthy when Christ returns and restores all things. But that's why God has given me TODAY - to take one step closer to Him, to choose Him over everything else that is vying for my attention, that clamors and claws its way into my heart. Oh Lord, may my heart grow deeper in faith!

Verse 8 is seriously an incredible verse. Remember who is writing this. We are reading a letter from Peter... the same Peter that denied Christ three times, the same Peter Jesus asked three times "do you love me" and the same Peter who was there when Jesus said "Blessed are those who have not seen and who have believed" to doubting Thomas (John 20:29). So, now read v. 8 again - Though you have not seen him, you love him! Peter saw him and Jesus wanted to make sure he loved him. I sense Peter applauding the faith of his readers, who have believed and love Jesus without seeing him (they're probably one generation after Jesus, in contact with people like Peter who DID see him). Not only that, but they rejoice in Christ with a joy that is "inexpressible and full of glory". The idea of a joy filled with glory is mind boggling to me. I'm not sure if I get it, and I definitely don't sense that this is my kind of joy... not yet at least. Christians alone can have a glory-filled joy - a weighty, beautiful, meaningful, full-of-truth kind of joy that nothing else in the universe produces outside of God himself. A joy that cannot be stolen, that is inexpressible - words cannot fully convey the glory of knowing the glorious One who made you and saved you.

What is the result of all this? Of this faith and love? Of these trials that are necessary for our good? Of this great mercy of God and this living hope? The salvation of our souls, that's what. Our belief, or faith (they seem interchangeable here), results in salvation. It results in the forgiveness of sin, the payment Christ made on the cross being credited to you as if you had paid it, and in receiving His righteousness as if you earned it. But you didn't. You (hopefully) simply believed the great news of Jesus Christ. You received as truth that could save your souls the news of who He is, what He did, and that He lives today and will one day complete everything that has been begun. What a glorious Savior. As we'll see next in v. 10-12, this was God's plan all along.

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