Monday, June 05, 2023

1 Peter 3:11-12

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11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil. ~ 1 Peter 3:11-12

Today, we continue in our study of 1 Peter 3 where the Apostle Peter is giving us strategies from God which will enable us to know intimacy with Him even though we might be going through the worst of times. These two verses come from Psalm 34 where David is so grateful for God's goodness that he invokes others to join him in witnessing and tasting God's abundant love.

In v.11 of today's passage we read, "Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it."

In our last study the Apostle Peter urged us to resist retaliation upon those who inflict their evil on us. And, if we do this, we will increasingly experience the very life of God in and through our lives. We can only do this if we turn away from evil. Now, the verb here, "turn away," means to reject. It's a compound verb which has an intensity about it. It is a positive rejection of what is sinful in the treatment of others. We are to turn away from that, even our persecutors. 

Then the Apostle admonishes us to "search for peace." The word "search" here is the strongest form of seeking in the Greek language. This word is better translated "hunt." And, the word "peace" is another intense word that means "tranquility." It means a constant condition of tranquility which produces permanent joy. This is to be the nature of our living. This admonition literally reads, "Let him hunt with all his might tranquil unity that results in permanent joy." 

In v.12 of today's passage we read, "The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil."

That phrase, "The eyes of the Lord" is a very common Old Testament phrase and it always relates to God's watchfulness over His people for whom He has special concern. The idea is that of God's omniscience and the fact that He is aware of every detail of our lives. God watches us so that He might answer our prayers. The word for prayer here means petition for our needs. Peter is saying choose the way of God's life and our prayer life will soar and we will grow in deep intimacy with Him as we walk with Him daily. This will also result in not being hindered in our walk with the Lord because it is obvious that it is the flesh that stunts us the most in our walk with Him.

When we embrace any form of evil, it is then that "the face of the Lord" is "against" us. When God becomes angry, the Bible always focuses on His face. In Genesis 19:13 we learn regarding Lot and Sodom, "We are about to destroy this place because their outcry has become so great before the face of the Lord." We see this also in Lamentations 4:16 which reads, "The face of the Lord scattered them." This means God sees the wicked with an angry face. 

Disobedience to God's commands brings the anger of God against those who refuse to be defined by Him. In Leviticus 20:3 we read, "I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, the false god, so as to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name." 

God sets His face in condemning fashion against those who reject His truth. In Revelation 6:16 we read, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb." During the days of the Tribulation, after the sixth seal is opened there will be a great earthquake, the sun will turn black, the moon will turn blood red, the stars will fall out of the sky, the heavens will recede like a scroll, and every mountain and island will be removed from its place. In that moment fear will grip all the unsaved upon the earth, and they will cry out for the mountains to fall on their face.

This proves that the mind does something interesting when we experience fear. The brain tries to find the quickest way out of the discomfort. But, the problem is the unsaved on the earth at the end will not be able to escape their court date with the truth. The truth is we were all conceived sinful. And, as a result the penalty for that which separated us from all that is true and good must be paid or we will pay the penalty for our sinfulness for eternity.

In the end, no one will be able to hide from God. No one will escape the horror of the inequity of their sinfulness. No one will be able to capitalize on race or status. And, all who had not received the free payment for their sinful condition will experience such terror as described in today's text. This will happen because they refused to believe in the Lord Jesus and receive His free gift of forgiveness. 

Deceived totally by the devil, the unsaved will reach a point where they will not be able to believe. They will be defined by unbiblical fear to the point that they will be driven away from all that is true and good. They will sadly feel at home with isolated darkness, but, darkness is not a place anyone would consider home. Isolated, and all alone, there will be no one present with the unsaved in eternity. This aloneness will not warrant relationship with anyone, and they will experience an eternity of the closing in of the madness. This is where unbiblical fear leads.

When we resist the flesh, we resist the way that leads to destruction. And, when we love on those who treat us badly, we are possibly going to be those who will be a part of God's rescue of their lives. Who knows, when we get to heaven we may even meet those who treated us badly here on earth and they will say that our response to them made a difference in them coming to the Lord. 

Friday, June 02, 2023

1 Peter 3:9-10

9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say, "If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies." ~ 1 Peter 3:9-10

Today, we return to our study of 1 Peter 3. This first letter of Peter is an epistle with teaching about getting the culture of God into our souls right now. This teaching is about our sanctification, it shows us how we acquire the wisdom of God. Our sanctification is a process whereby God is changing our souls which is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. In this process, God is actively delivering His wisdom into our daily lives. But, we must choose what He has to offer and turn away from what is natural to our fallen natures.

In today's text, Peter continues to identify the tools which will aid us in winning the battle in our souls amid our sufferings. Peter instructs us what we should do when our community is threatened. One of the greatest truths discovered in the Scriptures is: "selflessness leads to joy in life." Of course, the opposite truth is: "selfishness leads to misery in life." We are told in Galatians 6:8 when we feed our flesh which houses the evil desires within us, we entertain destruction. On the other hand, when we feed the Spirit of God who has made our spirits alive to Him, we experience His life or eternal life.

In v.9 of today's passage we read, "Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing." 

Two wrongs do not make a right. When someone says something terrible about or to us, we do well to not retaliate. The word evil here means vile treatment. When we are treated this way by someone, we can rationalize responding to them in like manner. This is a mistake. This is why God implores us to be defined by Him rather than our sinful default mode because our sinful default mode always renders to us some form of death.

The next sentence in this verse reads, "Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you."

Here, the Apostle takes it a step further. We are not only to reject the expression of the flesh upon those who treat us badly, we are not to insult them. The word "insult" here means verbal abuse.  When we do not retaliate either in attitude or in the words we speak, our hearts will be at peace and no root of bitterness will grow up in us.  

The next phrase in this verse is: "Instead, pay them back with a blessing." The word "blessing" here is the word from which we get our English word "eulogy." We are to respond to such ill treatment with a eulogy. We are to bless them by speaking well of them. As believers in the Lord Jesus, we want as many people as possible to come to know the Lord Jesus before it is too late. One obvious sign that a person needs the Lord Jesus is when they are hostile toward those who follow Him. So, when we are marginalized by someone because of our faith in the Lord Jesus, it should be their desperate need for the gospel that stands out to us. When this happens, we should quietly ask God to bless them, primarily by opening their hearts to Him.

In v.10 of today's passage we read, "For the Scriptures say, 'If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.'"

Here the Apostle Peter directs us back to God's definitions of things as he begins this verse with: "For the Scriptures say." The blessings of God are not all automatic, some are only accessed through our choice of being defined by God. We will be defined by God when we obey God. Even though we can not obey our way into heaven, we do access certain aspects of eternal life right now through our obedience. This happens in the arena of our sanctification which is the changing of our souls by God.

That is why the Apostle writes: "to enjoy eternal life and to see happy days." When we shirk the allurements of the flesh and we allow God to define us, we will access the very life of the Lord Jesus. When He died on the cross, He made it possible for us to access His life in us. And that is what the Scriptures call "eternal life." This is seen through the fact that we choose to speak no evil and speak no lies

In Proverbs 4:23-24 we read these words, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you." 

When we speaking evil and tell lies, we throw open the door for the enemy to create a wedge between us and those who need the Lord in their lives. We push away the deepening of our intimacy with the Lord when we do this. We push away the opportunity to have the culture of God inculcated in us further. In order to guard our tongue, we must first guard our heart. It is of utmost importance that we speak the truth out of a heart that is engaged with the Lord. We must speak wisdom from a heart that is directed by His wisdom. We can only do this as a result of walking with Him daily. This means we must be regular in prayer and the reading of His word.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

1 Peter 3:8

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Finally, all of you should be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble. ~ 1 Peter 3:8

Today, we return to our study of 1 Peter 3 where the Apostle Peter is giving us God's instruction for the solid infrastructure that we need to deal with the difficulties of living life in this fallen world. Brennan Manning once wrote, "Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever."

In today's verse we are given some skills that can get us to the place where we can benefit from the pain and suffering that comes into our lives. In this verse, Peter implores us to live life to the fullest with excitement, integrity, and confidence in the God of the Bible by learning to see the pain and the suffering as a means rather than an end. Very often, I have discovered, my pain serves me in a variety of ways from making sense out of my life and helping others navigate through their difficulties. The key is to allow God the time He needs to use it to bring about His purposes. And, I have found, that if I am patient, I will free myself from much anxiety because I will not worry about the circumstances.

Todays' verse begins with: "Finally, all of you should be in agreement.

Believers in Christ should be so real and authentic that when unbelievers look at us, even when we are suffering, they will desire what we have. Granted, when we are suffering, it's difficult to walk with God because even though we are forgiven and on our way to heaven our default mode continues to be the fallen part of us. Learning to walk with God is hard work but when we do it, it will translate into that which is real in the eyes of those who are not born again.  

To this point in this epistle, the Apostle Peter has been addressing different groups of people who were all dealing with suffering in some form. He now addresses all groups of believers whether suffering or not, encouraging us to broaden our understanding of this most unusual means by which God changes usThe first is the importance of valuing community especially when we are suffering. Community is an absolute necessity when we are hurting the worst. When we are suffering, we are especially tempted to withdraw and fortify ourselves, in order to protect ourselves. When we are in such a place, we must be careful to not let our suffering desensitize us to the hurts and needs of others. The best time to bless others is when we are struggling the most ourselves.

There are a number of things we can do in community in order to find purpose in our suffering. The first is "to be in agreement."  When we are suffering, we need people who can help us think straight. These people make sure that we are being controlled by reason rather than emotion, but m
ost define being in agreement as everybody agreeing with me. That is not what the Apostle was writing about here. When we all think the same, that does not promote unity, it promotes uniformity. There are a litany of disagreements that we as believers in Christ have and should have. We are all fallen humans all gathered together to be in agreement, but that does not mean we have to think alike. Being in agreement is cooperating in the midst of our diversity. 

There are essential beliefs in the Christian faith we must all agree upon. And then, there are the nonessential beliefs. The essentials are the nature of God; the person and work of Jesus Christ, that He is God in human flesh, that He came to this earth to take our place by dying on the cross to pay the penalty that our sin created, that He rose physically from the dead, and that He is coming again. These are some of the essentials in Christianity. As believers in the Lord Jesus, we are in agreement with those beliefs. Secondary issues are non-essential issues and we agree to disagree on the secondary or non-essential issues include things like mode of baptism or when the Lord Jesus will return.

In addition, Peter says we are to be "understanding each other." This literally means we are to be willing to suffer together, to actively enter into one another's sufferings empathetically and compassionately. The Apostle combined two words here. The first is "pathos" which means "to suffer." The second word is "sum" which means "together with." We get our word empathetic from this compound Greek word. It means to suffer with someone.  

When we do this, we will understand the fallenness of the humanity in one another. Being marked by our Savior, who is our empathetic high priest, says the writer of Hebrews, we will share in the feelings of others, joining in their sorrow, and joining in their joy. We will be known not as indifferent to the needs of others, not as their critics, but as sensitive to the pain of the yet fallen.

In addition, we are to be "loving each other as family."  This means we need to love with brotherly love. Here Peter uses the Greek word "philadelphos" which means brotherly love. We get our word Philadelphia from this word. There really are people who are brothers and sisters we can trust, who will accept us and with whom we can feel secure.

Next Peter says, "being kind" which is to be tenderhearted. The heart in the ancient world was the seat of emotion. It was where you felt things, which for them, was in their bowels. He is saying that we need to emotionally commit ourselves to one another. We must feel emotionally, not just remain intellectually or theologically, but to feel with another.

Then, Peter says we need to be "humble." This word Peter used here literally means "humble-minded." In 
Philippians 2:3 we read, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself." When we are feeling weak and vulnerable, we need somebody who can identify with us in humility. That helps lower our defenses and then the purposes of God can be realized.

Finally, I have learned, the best time to help others and love on them is when I am struggling. Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Loving on others is God's way of bringing His completeness into our lives. As we encounter our own pain, we discover that if we allow God to inculcate His culture in us and we choose to become more others-minded, we will discover that His way does not only help us to cope with our own pain, it also equips us to discover why we are ultimately on this earth to be a blessing to others.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

1 Peter 3:7

In the same way, you husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way, since they are weaker than you. But show them respect, because God gives them the same blessing he gives you—the grace that gives true life. Do this so that nothing will stop your prayers. ~ 1 Peter 3:7

Today, we return to our study of 1 Peter 3 where the Apostle is giving us teaching on how to benefit from the persecution that we sometimes encounter in this world. Today's verse is addressed to husbands and how we should relate to our wives. All the teaching given in this one verse is predicated upon the husband submitting to the Lord. When God's grace changes our heart, we no longer submit to Him out of fear, we submit to Him due to the impact His grace has had upon us. We go from submission out of fear to submission out of love.

Today's verse begins with: "In the same way." Peter is saying that in the same way as the wives are to embrace the culture of God by submitting to her husband, husbands should submit to God and the role that He has given him. The husband, in part, embraces God's culture by: 1) living with our wives in an understanding way, and by 2) showing our wives respect.

To "live with our wives in an understanding way" means to seek to know our wives in a godly way. God created both man and woman so that we would have a balanced view of who He is. God demonstrates His maleness through man as man yields his will to the commands of God. God also demonstrates His femaleness through the wife as she submits to God by submitting to her husband. 

Since all humans are incompatible due to the Fall, as husbands we are to work hard at understanding the physical, emotional and spiritual nature of their wives. When I counsel a couple who are about to wed, I always begin with a study of the four love languages. Everyone has a different way that they give and receive love. Most often, we try to love others according to our love languages but this is quite shortsighted because they will only feel loved on the basis of us loving them according to their love languages. 

The next phrase in today's verse has been quite abused and misunderstood. The words "since they are weaker than you" 
must be understood in the broader context of this passage. Men and women are different because our brains are different from the other. It is not that men are better than women; it is due to the fact that we are biologically different and as a result God has called us to different roles and responsibilities within the family. A strong society is built upon a strong family. As the families go in a society, so goes the society.

It is commonly known that man has a certain hormone, testosterone, which makes his bone structure grow larger than a woman's so that more fiber and muscle grow around his bones than a woman's. In fact, up to 40% of the man's body, is muscle. A woman's body, in contrast, has 23% muscle. The man's larger bone structure results in him being, on the average, about 10% bigger than a woman. Therefore, the husband is not to take physical advantage of that weakness. Rather, man's function is to protect woman, as the more needy vessel. 

In addition, the husband is expected to listen to his wife, love her, encourage her and support her. The husband is to treat his wife as fine china, not like paper plates. As it has been said, "The wife was not taken from man's head to be above him, she was not taken from his feet to be walked upon by him, but she was taken from his side to be close to him, from under his arm to be protected by him, from near to his heart to be loved by him." 

The fact is our wives do not want more things, they want more of us; they want more of our hearts. And when we are giving our hearts to the Lord and He gives us more of His heart, we will be amazingly equipped to love our wives. As a result, they will have no problem with the idea of submitting to us. The husband is to do all of this so that nothing will stop his prayer life. The key to loving our wives is that we are regularly communicating with God. As the husband gives his heart to God, he will be equipped with the heart of God to love his wife as he ought. When we are arguing with our wives, we will be hindered in our desire to pray or to talk with God. In fact, I always find that if I can get a struggling couple to pray together, their problems will eventually go away. So, as we submit to God and are enabled to love our wives, we will fulfill our God called duty as husbands to fulfill the role and responsibilities that He has called us to. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

1 Peter 3:3-6

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3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. ~ 1 Peter 3:3-6

Today, we return to our study of 1 Peter 3 where the Apostle Peter is addressing wives who had husbands who had yet to receive God’s forgiveness of their sin through the cross of the Lord Jesus. We live in a world which has long rejected the wisdom of God on a given subject, especially the role of a wife in a family. This explains the collapsing of the American way of life as we have known it. In fact, as we look down history this is the pattern throughout the history of mankind. The rejection of God’s truth results in the downfall of civilization.

In v.3 of today’s passage we read, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes."

In the Roman world of the first century, cosmetics were big. The women dyed their hair all kinds of colors.They waved it and they braided it elaborately. But, attention to one’s outward appearance, as the source of meaning or influence, never leads to wholeness or completeness. It is almost, as if, many are trying to deny the existence of the Fall. However, the Apostle Peter was not arguing that a women should not adorn herself outwardly. He was merely arguing that the Christian wife was to not invest more in the outside at the expense of the inside. 

In v.4 of today’s passage we read, "Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

It is wise of the wife to invest in her inner beauty that proceeds from her consistent walk with the Lord. Due to the successes of the feminism movement, women today are more enslaved to the opinions of others about their appearance than they were years ago. Today, we see teens starving themselves to get that right look, adult women undergoing painful surgeries to keep that youthful look, and aging in America appears to be considered a disease. 

The word translated "gentle" in this verse means meek. The word "quiet" means peaceful, calm, and in control. The word "spirit" means disposition. The most beautiful women are those who have a meek, gentle, peaceful, calm, and quiet disposition. This is the inner virtue that a woman is to pursue and that is what wins the heart of a man. And, notice this is "of great worth in the sight of God." 

In v.5-6 of today's passage we read, "5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."

In the book of Genesis, Abraham was called to trust God’s promises on a journey of faith. And, Sarah most often, followed her husband. Sarah's life was shaped by her husband's calling. And, in the end Sarah trusted God to mold Abraham. Women who do this discover that their confidence in God is the antidote to all of their fears. And, the fact is, this is true for us all. As we come to the place that we allow God to define us and direct our ways, life turns out so much better.

The word "lord" is a term of respect. It is also a term that Sarah chose in reference to Abraham. Abraham did not demand that Sarah call him "lord." This word communicates that although they had disagreements, Sarah's disagreement was communicated with respect. Sarah and Abraham's marriage was far from perfect because Abraham was known to make some pretty bad decisions like let's go to Egypt due to the drought or hide your identity from the leader of Egypt. In light of all of this, to her credit, Sarah went along with Abraham's decisions. 

A Christian wife who has an unsaved husband might be afraid to totally submit to him for fear of where it might lead her, but God instructs her to be respectful and bend her will to the leading of her husband. This just merely underscores the old saying: "The way you catch him will be the way you keep him." The way in which a woman attracts a man will be the way she keeps his attention. She is not to be frightened because when we have bent our will to the will of God, the blessing of God always follows. This is how a wife wins her unsaved husband without a word and this is how she is guaranteed God's blessing upon her relationship with her husband.

Monday, May 29, 2023

1 Peter 3:1-2

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1 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. ~ 1 Peter 3:1-2

Today, we transition into 1 Peter 3 where the Apostle Peter wrote this letter to persecuted Christians in order to encourage them on how to live in the midst of persecution. Peter encouraged them to elevate themselves and to live out of being defined by Christ alone. 
Peter continued to address every element of society in order to show us how the culture of God works and benefits all that are involved. Today, he encourages wives to be defined by the culture of God and to invest in the eternal.
The Apostle Peter wrote these words in 64 A.D., at a time when the Roman culture treated women as if they were less than human. This, of course, resulted in the crumbling of the Roman society. The Roman culture gave women virtually no rights at all. And, we know that a healthy society is based upon healthy families wherein everyone fulfills the roles that God has defined in His word.

In v.1 of today's passage we read, "Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives."

The Apostle Peter wrote these words to the wives who were married to unbelieving husbands. He counseled the wives with the hope that they would be poised to introduce their husband's to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. These women believed in the teachings of the God of the Bible, and as a result, they knew that incompatibility with a spouse did not justify divorce. These women needed wisdom to most effectively witness to their husbands.

The best way for the believing wife to win the unbelieving husband to faith in the Lord is the topic here. Therefore, Peter highlights a life of purity and reverence expressed in a submissive attitude that honors their husbands who had the role as the head of the family. Submission is the wife's response to her husband's role to love his wife and to provide leadership for his family. The real submission that is taking place here is submission to God which is revealed in the wife's submission to her husband.

We access God's wisdom as we submit to Him. Submission does not infer some kind of moral inferiority or intellectual inferiority or spiritual inferiority. Just like the previous examples, if we have a government leader and we have a citizen, and the citizen submits to the government leader, that doesn't make the government leader superior or a better person than the citizen. In fact, in many cases the citizen is far superior to the government leader. But we need to submit to keep order in that society or in the workplace. 

The phrase, “they may be won over without words” is key to understanding what God is telling us here. The apostle is warning wives of unsaved husbands to not preach at their husbands, but to live lives that are defined by God. This statement underscores the idea that we speak the loudest messages through our lives rather than through our lips.

At the core of all godly women, cemented in their souls, is an enduring and faithful hope in God. It is from the security of this hope that wives fear nothing that is frightening, even submission to husbands who do not follow the Lord. These godly women adorn their souls with a combination of humility and courage that even believers cannot explain.

In v.2 of today's passage we read, "when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

Notice the word "see" is used here. This is of great importance because we communicate best through how we live our lives rather than what we say with our lips. They say that more is caught than taught. This makes sense in light of the fact that 55% of what we communicate comes through the non-verbal while 37% comes through the tone with which we speak. That leaves 8% which is the amount we communicate through our words.
The word "purity" describes an inner beauty and the fact that she does not flirt with other men. The wife with this "purity" is faithful to her husband in body and in heart because her heart was first won by the Lord. As a result, the wife who loves the Lord keeps herself pure; she is a one man woman who understands the utter importance of submitting to the Lord first which enables her to submit to her husband. 

The word "reverence" spring boards out of the believing wife's awe of and submission to God. It describes a respect toward her husband, respect that is humble, not arrogant and hard. She will be able to do this because she is careful to be defined by God. Wives are to show their husband, not by preaching at them or guilt-tripping them, but to show them that Christ is the most important person in their lives. 

There is a principle here that is not only applicable to wives, it is applicable to us all. In order to best impact another to become a believer in Christ, we must let our faith in the Lord so permeate our being that they would be positioned to be won by Him. This passage is calling for radical and uncompromising discipleship that shows a husband the true importance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of the believing wife.

Friday, May 26, 2023

1 Peter 2:21-25

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21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ~ 1 Peter 2:21-25

Today, we conclude our study of 1 Peter 2 where we have been reminded of the many blessings that God had granted the believer who encounters severe trials in this sin-sick world. The purpose of our pain and suffering is to first of all know the Lord in an increasingly intimate way. When we find ourselves on that road, it is then that we become more effective road signs in the lives of those who know not our God. The purpose of a road sign is to communicate, and our purpose is to tell others about how good the Lord is and how He is delivering our lives from the power of sin.

In v.21 of today's passage we read, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Suffering is beneficial to our spiritual growth. In fact, nothing purifies us like suffering, like a goldsmith who heats up the gold and pours the hot golden metal from vessel to vessel and the impurities rise to the top. Suffering keeps us focused upon that which is substantive and eternal. This is why Peter directs his hearers attention back to the One who chose the role of the servant. 

Like the Lord Jesus, we all experience various forms of suffering because we live in a fallen world. Christ's suffering was different than ours, but His suffering informs ours because He has, through His death and resurrection, overcome sin and death. Entering into a personal relationship with Him, interacting with Him every day through His word in every day occurrences, we discover His definition of all things. And He shares the answers with us because He is the answer.

In v.22-23 of today's passage we read, "'22 He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

Our suffering even fits in with God's plan of redemption because He uses it to call us back to Himself from the clutches of sin and death. Through even our suffering, God wants to use us to call out others from all nations a people called out for His namesake. He wants us to do this as willing servants, understanding that we may suffer unjustly in the process.

The emphasis, in this passage,is not on our suffering. No, the emphasis here is on His suffering, which is the message of the cross. Through the cross God reminds us that His Son took on flesh and blood so that He could go to the cross once and for all in order to deal a final death blow to sin and death. What He did while hanging on the cross provides those willing enough to believe in Him to be able to resist being defined by the fallen things and beliefs of this world. 

In v.24-25 of today's passage we read, "24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

The Lord Jesus Christ, who is God, descended to this lost and damned world in order to defang sin and its impact upon us. Sin is departing from any definition that God has given us upon any subject in existence. When we are defined by anything other than God's definitions, we will find ourselves departing from His definition of it. Of course, as believers in Christ who have received His free gift of forgiveness through His work on the cross, we do not fear not being forgiven of our sin, past, present or future. We are forgiven in Christ. Period. However, we will want to walk in the truth and to be defined by the truth. When we walk in the truth we are being sanctified or delivered from the power of sin. You see, this truth alters everything, it allows us to transcend, even above our pain and suffering.

Submitting to those in authority over us is a reflection of the fact that we have a Savior whom we are following because we have entered into a personal relationship with Him. He never sinned with His words or His actions. Not that we could ever save ourselves, but we're brought back once again to looking to Him as our example and following His example. This means that we do not allow sin to define us. This means we let go of vengeance and we submit to being defined by the Lord. We will know that we are being defined by Him when we are walking in His truth. 

Philip Yancey once said it best when he wrote, 
"To some, the image of a pale body glimmering on a dark night whispers of defeat. What good is a God who does not control his Son's suffering? But another sound can be heard: the shout of a God crying out to human beings, 'I LOVE YOU.' Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to - because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice. Any discussion of how pain and suffering fit into God's scheme ultimately leads back to the cross."

Thursday, May 25, 2023

1 Peter 2:18-20

Click here for the 1 Peter 2:18-20 PODCAST

18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. ~ 1 Peter 2:18-20

Today, we continue our study of 1 Peter 2 where the Apostle has been helping us to deal with the pressures of living in a fallen world by directing our attention to our sovereign God and His culture. The thrust of today's passage is living life in such a way that others take note of our allegiance to the truth of God and to the God of the truth.

In v.18 of today's passage we read, "Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."

There are two types of fear found in the scriptures. The first is the type of fear which causes us to run and hide from God. This type of fear was demonstrated by Adam and Eve just after they refused to obey the command of God not to take of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. This type of fear is most often a product of our poor choices with reference to God's definition of things.

In this passage, we discover the second type of fear. It is an respectful awe of God which produces in us a trust in His sovereign control in this world. This fear is most often a product of being reminded that we desperately need God. It is this respectful awe that causes us to be defined by His thoughts, His ways, and, His culture.

The word the Apostle uses in v.18 for "slaves" renders a meaning that is not consistent with what we normally think of when we think of slaves. The word "servants" here, oiketeia in the Greek, is the word for household slaves. In the first century culture in that part of the world most of the slaves served some home owner in some way. And these first-century slaves were generally well-treated. Today's equivalent is more like an employee who applied for a job and got it.

Trusting the Lord produces in us a confidence in Him
that He will bring lasting good out of the temporary discomfort that a boss can bring into our livesGrowth often includes pain. It is often through our pain and suffering that God reveals Himself to us most. Pain has a way of opening up our hearts to a deeper relationship with whomever, especially with God.

In Matthew 16:24, the Lord Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." This teaching is not about us getting into heaven, it is about heaven getting into us now. This is not justification teaching, it is sanctification teaching. This teaching is what sets the believer in Christ apart in this dark and fallen world. This teaching is all about the wisdom of God which the fear of the Lord is its ignition. 

In v.19-20 of today's passage we read, "19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God."

The recipients of this letter were servants who had been beaten by their masters. They were those who were given unreasonable tasks. And, they did not have union representatives. They did not have human resource departments. They did not have government agencies to appeal their case. They could not bring a civil lawsuit against an employer. They were slaves to a master and life was harsh, but Peter reminded them of the truth to be careful to be defined by the truth. 

The truthful reminder here is: If we take it patiently for the conscience sake before the Lord, God loves that. Like Daniel of old, the believer in Christ, when accused wrongfully by others, we are to continue to be defined by the truth. We are to be like Joseph who was accused of doing things wrong. He was put in prison on a couple different occasions by the lies of other people. He did nothing wrong. In fact, at the end of all that Joseph said, "You meant it for evil, God meant it for good." This is the angle for the one being defined by the truth.

In James 1:2-4 we read, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

According to Nehemiah 8:10, God's joy is our strength. And, most often, we only realize His joy when life is at its worse and we are forced to look to Him for help. We can not manufacture this fruit of God's presence in our lives, it comes as a gift as we venture into life choosing to be defined by Him. When we choose to rejoice in God rather than in our circumstances, we are positioned to experience His joy. And with His joy comes strength to face life's challenges. His joy grants us strength to serve God and others, and strength to obey His Word. It's not easy to trust God during difficult times, but choosing to rejoice in His involvement in our lives gives us the strength we need to get through the trials with joy.

Christianity does not abolish the social differences that are evident among us, but it introduces a new way of dealing with those differences. God's solution to mankind's differences comes out of our new relationship with Him. In turn, we are given a new way to navigate our fallenness wherein trust in God  is inculcated and the end result is the introduction of God's culture into our very lives.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

1 Peter 2:16-17

Click here for the 1 Peter 2:16-17 PODCAST

16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. ~ 1 Peter 2:16-17

Today, we continue our study of 1 Peter 2 where Peter has been instructing us on God's culture regarding how we should respond to human authority. We are what defines us. When God defines us, we will treat others, no matter who they are or what they do, with the greatest of respect. This does not mean that we are to mindlessly tolerate any behavior that is sinful. But every single person deserves to be honored because everyone has been made by God in His image.

Having believed that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, Christians have decided to be defined by God. So, when He tells us to submit to the authority structure in our lives, we follow suit. And, the result is freedom, real freedom. This freedom is the ability to live in concert to what God created us to do, to live according to His specifications regarding life.

In v.16 of today's passage we read, "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves."

These words do not jive with the previous words of Peter admonishing us to submit to human authority. That is until we are being defined by God. While most people think of freedom and submission as opposites, biblically speaking, if we submit to God, we will give up our freedoms. And, as a result, we will gain a greater freedom of being defined more and more to God, to the One who designed us. True living is living according to our Maker's design of us.

In the movie Braveheart, the most free man in the movie was William Wallace, even though he was apprehended, imprisoned and exterminated by the King of England. He was most free because he was not in bondage to the things of this world like the "noblemen" in that movie. And, as a result these "noblemen" were culpable of the crime of rape and thievery that was being exacted upon Scotland and her women by the English and King Longshanks. The "noblemen" were defined by the wealth, status and land of this world, whereas Wallace was content whatever his circumstances.

The most free people in the world are those who have learned to be defined by God and are therefore the most content. This is what the Apostle meant here when we wrote, "
live as God’s slaves." This makes all of the sense in this world since God has the blueprint to our souls. God has seen fit for us to see our way out of darkness into His liberating light. We have passed from death to light but we still find ourselves at times being defined by the darkness. Even that serves us because it is His light that continues to liberate us into the life the Lord Jesus died to give us.

In addition, there are times when we must go back into the darkness, not that we are defined by the darkness, but for the sake of others because there are people trapped in there. And, as free people who live by God's values, we submit freely, not cowering before human authorities, but gladly obeying our one true King, the God of the Bible. This is true living, true freedom because it is being lived with eternities values in view.

Our whole disposition of freedom and joy and fearlessness and radical otherness is rooted in our belonging to God and being defined by Him. The key to this paradox is God. As a result of entering into a personal relationship with Him, we are learning to be more and more defined by Him and when this happens, we will experience more and more of His freedom. Out of His leading, we fear no man and we live for the truth.

In v.17 of today's passage we read, "Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor."

There is a progression in these verses. First, give to all humans respect and honor. Then, there is a brotherly love that is to be given all other believers in Christ. Then, there is a special respect appropriate only for God. We are not slaves of men, and so we do not fear men. We give them honor. And we love other believers in Christ, but we ultimately bow to God's absolute authority. In so doing we honor others, even the emperor. This honor is the proper respect that everyone deserves because we all bare the image of God in our souls.

When we get to this place, this place which is counter-cultural to this world, we will be able to authoritatively say with the late Mike Yaconelli, "Freedom in Christ means I am free from everyone else’s definition of freedom for me. Because I am free in Christ, when it comes to my relationship with Him, He is the only one I answer to. Because I am free in Christ, I am free from other people’s concern that I might not use my freedom well."

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

1 Peter 2:13-15

Click here for the 1 Peter 2:13-15 Podcast

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. ~ 1 Peter 2:13-15

Today, we return to our study of 1 Peter where the Apostle is providing for us many basic principles that invite the culture of God into our everyday existence. Today's emphasis is that we submit to the governing authorities whom God has placed over us. From the very beginning these principles have been given to us by God, and, He gave these principles with the ultimate motivation that man would be in submission to His authority.

In v.13-14 of today's passage we read, "13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right."

At issue here is how Christians should relate to the human authority that are over us who have derived their authority from God. At the time of the writing of this epistle, the King over the world was Nero who came to power when he was 16 years old. When he was 17, he poisoned a friend. At age 18, he plotted to kill his mother. Three times he failed at this; then he had his mother assassinated. Following the fire that destroyed a great part of the city of Rome, he persecuted the Christians unmercifully. Then his own Senate rebelled against him, but he forced many of them to kill themselves. His own armies turned against him and he subsequently fled for his life because the Senate of the Roman Empire condemned him to death. Following 14 years as Emperor, Nero took his own life at the young age of 31 years.

But, Peter says, we are to "submit to the Emperor!" God places men and women in power frequently for reasons we cannot understand, but we have to trust Him with His overall plan. The word "submit" means to arrange in orderly fashion a group of soldiers under the ranking of their commanding officers. This is a military term with a military use; however, it is used here and elsewhere in a nonmilitary sense. It speaks of voluntarily cooperating or even helping somebody carry a load. In other words, we, as believers in Christ are never to be known to be subversive troublemakers, but as model citizens.

When the Lord Jesus came to this earth and when the New Testament was written, the culture was politically corrupt. The world was filled with tyrants. When Peter wrote these words, there was not a democracy in Rome. People were not free; they didn't get to vote. There was no free speech. It was an autocracy. The king made the rules and everybody had to abide by them. This is the context into which Peter wrote these words. And, even if the government is evil, we are to do the right thing and silence the ignorance of foolish people. We must do what God has defined to be the right thing, even if we do not like who is ruling over us.

The governors are sent by God to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. And, when we submit to those in authority over us, we do so for the Lord's sake. We do this in order to honor God. He is honored when we obey Him or live according to His culture and in so doing we are found to be the stabilizers in our society. 

The Apostle Peter also wrote "governors, who are sent by him." God appointed the king, and the king appointed the governors. They had two functions: "to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." Rulers are chosen by God to punish wrong-doers, to provide order to society, and to reward those who do good. And yes, there are many illustrations of civil disobedience in the Bible. The Bible records times when civil disobedience was deemed necessary. But, civil obedience should be the default position of Christian citizens.

In Exodus 1:17, the Jewish midwives refused to abort the male children as Pharoah commanded. In Daniel 3:16-18, the three Hebrew boys refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. In Daniel 6:10, Daniel openly prayed to God in violation of Darius’ edict. The authorities commanded the Apostles to stop preaching the gospel. In Acts 4:20 we read, "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Also, in Acts 5:29 we read, "We must obey God rather than men."  

In v.15 of today's passage we read, "For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people."

It is the will of God that we honor the human authority He has placed over us. One of the best witnesses to this lost world is to be a good citizen, because the way people often view God is by looking at Him through His people. One of the greatest apologetic for the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way we live our lives. The central message of the gospel is redemption. And, the purpose of our submission is to honor God through our righteous treatment of others, even those who treat us badly. 

We do well to do the will of God in order to "silence the ignorant talk of foolish people." The word "silence" is to gag, to muzzle. This word literally means "to stop their mouths so they can say nothing." So, it is the will of God that we honor the human authority over us, and, when we do so, we gag the critics of God's culture. 

The word "ignorance" means the willful, hostile rejection of the truth. Those who criticize Christianity, they do it out of willful hostility. They do this because they do not want God to rule over them. The word "foolish" means senseless or lacking reason. This word describes someone who lacks mental sanity. The "ignorant" are those who are reckless in their thinking because they are willful rejecters of the truth. These are those who will hopefully be reached to believe in the God of the Bible in a rather different way. And, this is where we are best used by God as road signs in their lives pointing them to Him through our civil obedience.

Monday, May 22, 2023

1 Peter 2:11-12

Click here for the Podcast of 1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12

Today, we continue our study of 1 Peter 2 where the Apostle Peter is giving us a reminder that our success as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is anchored in the sovereignty and the immutability of God Himself. It is in this context that Peter now challenges our faith in the all-sufficiency of our God. He does this by addressing of daily choices and whether we are being defined by God.

We are trichotomous beings, which means we have three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Our souls are also made of three parts: our mind, our will, and our emotions. There is a big difference between our justification and our sanctification. It is only on the basis of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and that He paid the penalty for our sin, that we are justified. This is what made us right before God whereas before our sin was atoned for we were the enemies of God.

Our sanctification, on the other hand, is different. Whereas our justification gets us into heaven, it is our sanctification that gets heaven into us now. Sanctification is the acquisition of God's wisdom which is what enables us to live the lives the Lord Jesus died to give us now.

In today’s passage, the Apostle Peter reminds us that we have two options to choose from to invest our souls on any given day: the way of the Lord or the way of this world. And, choosing the Lord's way of thinking will determine if we are wise or not.

In v.11 of today’s passage we read, "Dear friends, I warn you as 'temporary residents and foreigners' to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls."

Here, Peter reminds of who we are and what we are up against before he issues us a command. Peter addresses with us three designations that must inform the way we look at God, ourselves, and this world if we are to experience the life the Lord Jesus died to give us. The first is “Dear friends” which is a word Peter loved. He used it eight times in his two letters. Eight times he used it to remind us that "God loves us." Someone once said, "The shape of true love isn't a diamond. It's a cross." This quote echoes the words of the Lord Jesus when He said, "Greater love has no man than to lay down His life for His friends." It is this kind of love that we can truly invest our beings in.

The second designation Peter used to describe us is "temporary residents" which literally means "alongside the house." The reason Peter uses this designation is because you and I live alongside a people who make this world their home. This world is not our home, it's their home. We are just passing through this world for the time being. We must see ourselves as having been placed alongside unbelievers who make this world their home.

The third designation Peter uses of those who have entered into a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is "foreigners." This word describes someone who is a traveler, a visitor, somebody who stops by temporarily but is on the move. We are loved by God and we are foreigners passing through this foreign land. Peter is merely reminding us that we don't belong here. "We are in this world but not of this world." 

In addition to reminding us of our identity, Peter reminds us of the worldly desires or lusts that wage war against our souls. And, the lure of those worldly desires is always short lived, due to the fact that they are of this world and not of God’s eternal kingdom. These lusts survive only in the context of the decaying.

Our biggest struggles are most often discovered inside of us. The Apostle Peter reminds us to "keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls." The word "war" describes not a single battle or a skirmish here or there, but a long-term military campaign being executed against us on a daily basis. This word "war" described how the Romans fought and conquered their foes. They would set up a village, a town, a city, around another city they wished to conquer for weeks, months, and even years. It was a long-term military campaign. All of the allurements afforded to us by this fallen world that produce desires within us, they are like an army of terrorists that want to subdue and enslave us. Therefore, we must be vigilant to not allow these to define us. This is why we must be reminded often that we are "loved of God, temporary residents and foreigners" in this fallen world.

But Peter’s greater concern in our text for today is what happens to our unbelieving neighbors who are watching how we live out our lives. How we live before our unbelieving neighbors makes a world of a difference with regard to whether they believe in the Lord Jesus or not. Of course, at the end of the day, they decide whether to trust in the Lord or not, but we have an influence on that decision.

In v.12 of today’s passage we read, "Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world."

Peter renders our witness to unbelievers as far more powerful than their ill-treatment of us. The example of the Lord Jesus is quite helpful here. When we render blessing to those who intentionally harm us, a power is unleashed in and through us that changes the world. It is a reverberating power that begins within us and it organically sends seismic messages that our neighbors can not ignore. This is the same power that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and it is also the same power that changed our unbelieving hearts.

Peter writes, "...they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world."

Our wise choices that are in concert with God's definitions of things will always have an influence on our unbelieving neighbors. When we determine to be authentic before the lost who are watching us live out our lives, they will be the more likely to ask us about the hope that lives in us. Then, we will find that it is more likely that the very ones who accused us wrongly will see that in reality we were not in error, and they will more likely trust in the Lord and will glorify Him "when He judges the world."

Daily, the sovereign God is giving us a story with Himself, including the good and the bad moments of life. It is so important for us to trust the Lord in the midst of even the most unwanted and most the difficult moments of our lives. We must not run from the deepening that God desires to impart to us through those most unwanted of moments. It is through these most unwanted of moments that we get to know Him best. It is also through these most unwanted of moments that we learn the most authentically and they always give us the most authentic context to deliver the gospel to a lost and dying world. It is these stories that resound the best with those who know not our Lord and are perhaps looking for that which is most substantive. When we share the gospel couched in these stories with our unsaved neighbors, it makes it more likely that they would believe and subsequently honor God when He judges this world in the end. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

1 Peter 2:10

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  ~ 1 Peter 2:10

Today, we return to our study of 1 Peter 2 where the Apostle Peter is doing for us what the Lord Jesus did for him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after Peter had denied knowing the Lord Jesus on the morning of His crucifixion. He is showing to us the compassion and mercy of God.

In the first part of today's verse we read, "Once you were not a people."

After the Fall of man, mankind had no identity as a people or we had no identity as the people of God. Before we came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we were under the domain of Satan himself. We had been hijacked out of the family of our Creator. In fact, we never had a chance to be defined by none other than the evil one. That is until the Lord Jesus came to earth to be our Savior. But, while we were under the authority of the devil, we were complete nobodies, we were the slaves of the enemy.

In the second part of today's verse we read, "... but now you are the people of God."

The Apostle Peter reached way back into the Old Testament to the book of the prophet Hosea to provide an apt description of the lost condition of all who have not a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so He alluded to Hosea 1 where God said, "I will call those who were not My people My people and she who was not My beloved, beloved." 

God has always been available to those humble and honest enough to recognize their utter need of Him. God had always reached out to wayward man beginning in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve rebelled against Him. And, God has made it possible for anyone to enter into a permanent and secure relationship with Him through His Son's satisfying sacrifice on the cross. Having believed in the Lord Jesus we now have been given meaning and purpose through and by the One who suffered separation from God, so that we could be included in God's family. 

The word Peter uses for "people" is used 142 times in the New Testament. By using this word, Peter is helping us to see the contrast between our aimless lives previously and our purpose filled lives at the present. As the people of God now, we have been blessed with a new desire that the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 3:8 which reads, "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ."

In the third part of today's verse we read, "... once you had not received mercy."

At the center of this contrast is the mercy of God. This word communicates that we were down and out, finished, with nothing of value left to offer. We were at best hopeless with an awful future in hell awaiting us. Then the mercy of God entered the ring through the Lord Jesus Christ. This character quality of God enabled Him to give to His Son what we deserved. Of course, God did that when the Lord Jesus hung on the cross so many years ago. When hanging on the cross, the Lord Jesus purchased the mercy of God on the behalf of all who would believe on Him as our Savior.

In the last part of today's verse we read, "... but now you have received mercy."

Having trusted in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, we all share this story with God. The word translated "mercy" in this verse means "to have pity for" or "to show compassion towards." Mercy is God making the choice to withhold from guilty and vile sinners the just punishment of our sin. But, through believing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have accessed God's mercy. It is God's mercy that makes it a possibility for us to be included by Him into His family. And, we will spent our eternities understanding His great mercy for us.

There is an Old Testament story which illustrates God's mercy well. Hosea was a prophet. One day, God told Hosea his bachelor days were up. The problem with the wedding announcement was it came with a dreadful prophecy.
Hosea's wife would break his heart. Aware of Gomer's promiscuous reputation, Hosea humbled himself in obedience to the Lord. As a godly man, he surely had different hopes for marriage, hopes of pursuing a lover who would share not only his heart but also his faith and convictions.

After they were wed and they had a few children, Hosea began to hear awful rumors. And his heart began to break. His wife, Gomer, was prostituting herself to the men of the city. Hosea couldn't even be sure the children she bore were his. And, then came the final blow. Gomer's wanderings had drawn her into the most embarrassing arena of prostitution. Then, God told Hosea to do the unthinkable, to go redeem his wife. 

What is of great note in this story is when Hosea finally gave into the idea of going through the humiliation to buy his wife out of prostitution, he didn't have enough money. He needed 30 pieces of silver and he only had 15. Out of desperation, Hosea emptied his cupboards of all of his barley flour and purchased his wife. Hosea's frustrating lack was strategic because when Gomer saw the great lengths that her husband went to to buy her back, her heart was won over. In fact, after she was purchased by her husband, Gomer never ran around on Hosea again.

Hosea and Gomer's story is also our story. When we, like Gomer, were enslaved, God sent His Son to this earth in order to buy us back. God gave His most precious Son to redeem us out of our prostitution. He freed us out of our chains of ignorance, discontent, selfishness and fear. Even after we, by our very nature, had thrown God's love away, the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us. And, the more we learn of His great love for us, the more our hearts will be won to Him.