Friday, November 13, 2009

I Peter, part 4

I Peter 1:13-19

Peter is beginning to move from his opening discourse, rich in theology and elevating the salvation of God in Christ, to getting into the "nitty-gritty" of the Christian life. Like other authors the Holy Spirit inspired to write Scripture, he will mix theology with practical implications, but here it's more on the implication side - basically answering the question, "so what?" What difference does this living hope through the resurrection make in my behavior, motivation, thinking, and so on?

Verse 13 begins with "therefore". Whenever you see that word, always ask this question: What is the therefore, there for? It's a little play on words that helps me remember everything is connected. One danger of blogging about chunks of Scripture is my tendency to isolate it and treat it like its own entity, when that is entirely wrong because Peter is writing a letter, possibly all in one sitting, that is a unified whole. Peter's appeal here is that, because of all the prophets prophesied about and because this has been fulfilled in Christ, we need to be sober minded and ready for action, living for Jesus. Our hope is to be set on something interesting, namely the grace that will come to us at the revelation of Jesus. This is speaking of a future grace that we have not yet received. That is not to say we haven't already received grace, because we most certainly do every day, but Peter is reminding us the God is not done dispensing grace and when Christ comes fully revealed as King of all creation, his children will receive even greater grace. Beautiful.

Something comes up in this passage a couple of times that I think is worth focusing on. Peter talks about our "former ignorance" in verse 14 and then refers to the "futile ways inherited from your forefathers" in verse 18. The call is to not live like you once lived, before you knew God, before you knew what Christ had done for you, before you had received grace and been filled with a living hope. Notice though that Peter does not deny the pull of the former passions, but simply call us not to be conformed to them any longer. Christianity does not deny the existence of evil nor does it pretend that all Christians have some experience of immediately being released from addiction, temptation, or past sins. Some of those sins are simply ignorant people not knowing how to live, and some of them are the sins of our forefathers (dad, mom, grandparents... anyone influential in our lives in my opinion). We all have these things - ways that we see ourselves being just like what we hated in our parents, former passions and addictions that still haunt us and that we still pursue. But Peter does not simply say that being a Christian means gritting it out and becoming moralistic in order to stop these things, he gives us hope once again based on the character of God and the work of Christ.

Peter calls Christians to avoid these former ways of life based on God's character. He refers to God in verse 17 as both Father and Judge. We are his children (verse 14) and he is our true Father. We have inherited sins, addictions, and so much more from our parents but God becomes our Father through Jesus Christ his Son. We are adopted into this family of God, born again to a new Father, thus being able to leave behind passions and sins of our fathers. This is not an excuse to distance ourselves from our parents, but it is an encouragement to know that you once belonged to a lineage that was carnal and ignorant, but now have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and your identity at its core has been altered to now belong to God as Father. But God is also Judge - he will judge the living and the dead and we are included in that. Now is not the time to get into all the judgment stuff (nor am I adequate yet at explaining it), but Christians will be judged by God their Father, albeit in a different way than non-Christians. Just think of it! Your Father is your Judge! Does that not take some of the edge off of this whole "I'll be judged" thing? You step up to the judgment seat, and who is judging you but your Heavenly Father who sent his Son to die so that you might live, who has already forgiven you and who is there to talk about your life with Him... not your life previously without him. Amazing.

Lastly, the great news is that you and I are ransomed from the futile ways of our forefathers, which I see as another way of describing our passions of former ignorance as well. We were ignorant of God's ways, blinded to His goodness and maybe even denying his existence - certainly denying his authority! Yet we were ransomed, which is an illustration of being released from slavery. Perhaps one of the most dangerous and deadly things about sin is that we don't realize we are slaves to it. We get so comfortable in it at times that we forget, or perhaps never knew, that we are enslaved to passions of our own and passions/sins of our family lineage as well. Yet Christ gave his life, like the lamb of the old covenant, in our place and for our sins. He is the Lamb of God, perfect and without sin, who paid the price (thus ransoming us from slavery to sin) so that we might be free to know and love Him. What a wonderful Savior. So the call is not to "try real had not to sin anymore like your daddy did" but it is to "live in the new life with your Heavenly Father who ransomed you through the blood of his Son to live with a living hope, set on the grace of God". This is our motivation for obedience as children, because we have a Father in Heaven who has accomplished all that we couldn't so we could belong to Him.

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