1 Kings 18, Amos 4, 1 Peter 4

Today read 1 Kings 18, Amos 4, and 1 Peter 4. This devotional is about 1 Peter 4.

Suffering is a key theme in this book and in this chapter. Persecution was the type of suffering that caused Peter to write these words (vv. 12-16), but he knew that what he taught about suffering applied to any kind of suffering caused by doing what is right (v. 4).

People who are doing what is right suffer and are persecuted for one reason–to silence them. Whenever we witness for Christ, we point out to unbelievers that they are sinners and accountable to God for their sins. Unless the Spirit moves to create repentance, that message of the gospel will be offensive to unbelievers.

It is not just our words of witness that cause conviction, guilt, and retaliation in unbelievers, however. The godly choices we make to live a sober, disciplined life are offensive to unbelievers as well. Verse 3 here in 1 Peter described how pagans live, “in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” Those who live this way due to unbelief “are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (v. 4). That last phrase, “they heap abuse on you,” shows how convicting a godly life is to the unsaved-ungodly. The “heap abuse” to try to silence us, to get us to conform to the undisciplined norm.

Peter discussed persecution at the beginning of this chapter (vv. 1-6) and at the end (vv. 12-18). In between those two paragraphs, he commanded us to serve each other within the church in various ways, reminding us that our service to each other is ultimately done by God through us, for God and for his glory (vv. 7-11).

This section on service is not a digression, however. It is important to the teaching on suffering and persecution because the point of persecution (and any suffering brought on by Satan) is to shut down your witness for Christ and your service for him. If God’s enemies can discourage you, they can stop you from witnessing and from serving the body of Christ.

So what do you do if you feel discouraged by how people treat you as a Christian?

Two things: First, remember that God’s enemies will be held accountable (vv. 5, 17-18). Second, have faith in God. As verse 19 put it, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” That last part, “continue to do good” is so important. Don’t let the insults and discouragements of others stop you from serving the Lord! Part living life by faith is to continue to do what is right even when you don’t want to. What kind of faith would you need if you only served and obeyed God when you felt like it? But if you commit yourself to him and keep serving him when you are discouraged, then you will be living by faith.

Are you feeling some sort of affliction? Let this passage encourage you not to give up–don’t give up trusting Christ, don’t give up serving him, don’t give up living a godly life, and don’t give up testifying of his grace. He is with you in this and whatever you are suffering is happening “according to God’s will” (v. 19). He allowed it and will use it to strengthen and grow you, so don’t give up!

2 Peter 3

Today we reading 2 Peter 3.

In addition to the threat of false teaching, which we read about yesterday, the church must guard against the ridicule of scoffers which we read about today here in 2 Peter 3. These “scoffers will come scoffing” (v. 3b) and questioning us as to why Christ’s promised return has not yet happened (v. 4).

Peter prepared us for the long time that has elapsed since Christ promised his return and today. He reminded us that God is not bound by time as we are (v. 8) and that he is “patient” allowing many people to be saved (v. 9).

Still, when Jesus does return, it will happen suddenly “like a thief” (v. 10a). Burglars do not call ahead or ring the doorbell, so they catch people who are sleeping unprepared. Similarly, Christ will keep his promise and return when the world is blissfully going about its own ways. The end result will be judgment with everything that exists now destroyed (v. 10b).

For those of who believe in Christ’s promised return, how should we prepare? The answer is not to try to figure out the date of his return or to life a kind of spartan lifestyle. The answer is to focus on our faith and discipleship: “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (v. 14b). Do this by learning to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And, as you grow in Christ, put your hope in eternity and set your heart on his coming kingdom. As verse 13 put it, “…in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

This has gotten easier for me as I have gotten older. Part of that is, I think, my own spiritual growth. Part of it, though, is learning how empty the promises of this world are. God has blessed me with a great family, a great church family, good health, and some pretty nice material things. I have a great life and truly enjoy it. But as content and thankful as I feel with what God has given to me, I find myself more and more longing to be with Christ and to live in a kingdom where he rules. To be finally redeemed from my own sinful desires and able to know God purely, experience him fully, and be free of the pain, fear, sorrow, and so on that all of us–even the most blessed–experience in this life.

I hope you are content with what God has given you and that, as you grow in Christ, you find greater joy in your life. But don’t let contentment turn into love for this present world or cause you to crave more material things. All of this stuff is going to burn up; it isn’t worth living for because it can’t satisfy us for long and isn’t an eternal store of value. Look to eternity; invest in that and pray for Christ’s kingdom to come, just as he taught us to do.

1 Peter 4

Today we’re reading 1 Peter 4.

Suffering is a key theme in this book and in this chapter. The suffering that caused Peter to write was persecution (vv. 12-16). Peter knew, however, that what he taught about suffering applied to any kind of suffering caused by doing good, not just persecution (v. 4).

People who are doing good suffer and are persecuted for one reason–to silence them. Whenever we witness for Christ, we point out to unbelievers that they are sinners and accountable to God for their sins. Unless the Spirit moves to create repentance, that message of the gospel will be offensive to unbelievers.

It is not just our words of witness that cause conviction, guilt, and retaliation in unbelievers, however. The godly choices we make to live a sober, disciplined life are offensive to unbelievers as well. Verse 3 here in 1 Peter described how pagans live, “in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” Those who live this way due to unbelief “are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (v. 4). That last phrase, “they heap abuse on you,” shows how convicting a godly life is to the unsaved-ungodly. The “heap abuse” to try to silence us, to get us to conform to the undisciplined norm.

Peter discussed persecution at the beginning of this chapter (vv. 1-6) and at the end (vv. 12-18). In between those two paragraphs, he commanded us to serve each other within the church in various ways, reminding us that our service to each other is ultimately done by God through us, for God and for his glory (vv. 7-11). This section on service is not a digression, however. It is important to the teaching on suffering and persecution because the point of persecution (and any suffering brought on by Satan) is to shut down your witness for Christ and your service for him. If God’s enemies can discourage you, they can stop you from witnessing and from serving the body of Christ.

So what do you do if you feel discouraged by how people treat you as a Christian? Two things: First, remember that God’s enemies will be held accountable (vv. 5, 17-18). Second, have faith in God. As verse 19 put it, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” That last part, “continue to do good” is so important. Don’t let the insults and discouragements of others stop you from serving the Lord! Part living life by faith is to continue to do what is right even when you don’t want to. What kind of faith would you need if you only served and obeyed God when you felt like it? But if you commit yourself to him and keep serving him when you are discouraged, then you will be living by faith.

Are you feeling some sort of affliction? Let this passage encourage you not to give up–don’t give up trusting Christ, don’t give up serving him, don’t give up living a godly life, and don’t give up testifying of his grace. He is with you in this and whatever you are suffering is happening “according to God’s will” (v. 19). He allowed it and will use it to strengthen and grow you, so don’t give up!

1 Peter 3

Today’s devotional reading is 1 Peter 3.

Defensiveness is a natural human response to fear. God created us with a self-protecting instinct. When we feel threatened, we become guarded about what we do and say, we get ready to run away or fight, and we look signs of increasing danger. These instincts are to protect us from physical harm but they are triggered when someone tries to harm us with words or with deception. If you’ve been hurt often, you are probably more defensive than you naturally would be and possibly more than others around you are. The same is true if you’ve been (or felt) threatened repeatedly. It is also true in any area of your life where you feel vulnerable. My math skills are abysmal so I feel anxious when I have to make change or do some kind of calculation in front of another person. I’m sensitive to criticism in that area and always feel like I’m being judged, so I can get defensive sometimes. [BTW: being open about my weakness there makes me less feel defensive about it].

Since you and I know that we have weaknesses and vulnerabilities, we should realize that others do as well. When people surprise us by overreacting to something we said or did, we often react with defensiveness. They attack us orally so we hit back with words ourselves. The situation can often escalate from there into a full-blown argument. But if, in the moment, we realize that the other person is feeling defensive because they have a history of feeling attacked or a special sensitivity in that area, we have learned to “be sympathetic” at 1 Peter 3:8, which we read today, commands us to be. That gives us an opportunity to respond with love (v. 8c: “love one another”), to feel compassion for that person’s pain or weakness (v. 8d: “be compassionate”), and to swallow our pride (v. 8e: “be… humble”). That’s the internal process that growing in Christ creates in us.

The outward result of that internal process is stated in verse 9: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” If someone has ever blessed you with compassion, love, and kindness, you know what a blessing that is. How much would our families benefit if we husbands brought that kind of consideration to our wives (v. 7) and if wives realized how attractive submission to their husbands is (v. 5)? It is so much easier to be obedient to those commands when you begin by being sympathetic to what your spouse.

How much would our church benefit if we were humble enough to be sympathetic and compassionate to those around us? How would your workplace improve? Might God use your loving attitude toward others to open doors to witness for Christ (see verses 15-16)?

1 Peter 2

Today’s scheduled reading is 1 Peter 2.

There is so much more to following Christ than an eternity in heaven. That’s important, as we saw in the previous two devotionals, but believing in Christ has immediate affects on our lives today. This chapter describes the sense of purpose that following Jesus gives to us in this life. It begins with the community that we have now in Christ. He is the foundation, the cornerstone, of the new group we are part of (v. 4). When we come to him in faith, he not only saves us but he assembles us and all the other believers “into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood” (v. 5). And why? So that we together will offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Verses 9 and 10 go on to describe the new nation that God is forming through all of us in Christ. We belong to Christ and are part of his people now but for what purpose? So that “you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” When unbelievers interact with us, they should see the greatness of Christ–his love, his mercy, his power to change lives, and more–working in our lives. Part of this, of course, is our moral growth (vv. 11-12a) through the Lord’s work in us. As we move away from sin and toward holiness in our lives, people will “see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (v. 12b). That idea of glorifying God on the day he visits us is another way to talk about evangelism. It is the conviction that our walk with God, our community with one another, and our witness for Jesus will be used by God to bring more people into the fold and that they will be looking for the coming of Christ along with us.

The rest of the chapter applies this specifically to our relationship to the government (vv. 13-16), our relationship with other people in general (v. 17), and how those who were slaves related to their slave-owners (vv. 18-25). It is amazing to think that following Christ can bring purpose to a person’s life even when that person is owned as a slave by someone else. Thankfully, none of us lives in that kind of bondage! But, if they can find purpose as slave owners through faith in Christ, how much more should we who know Christ as free men and women live lives of purpose for Jesus.

Do think much about your reason for living? As you go about your work, live in your neighborhood, and talk with others around you, does your faith show? God has embedded you as his agent in your workplace, your family, our community, and more. What will he do for us if we remember our purpose and live in ways that glorify him?

1 Peter 1

Today we’re reading 1 Peter 1.

In yesterday’s devotional, I wrote about the importance of looking forward with anticipation to Christ’s coming and his kingdom. In today’s reading, we’re in a different book written by a different apostle, but the same theme emerged. In Christ we have been promised “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (v. 4a). This promise isn’t stored somewhere here on earth and it isn’t dependent on Equifax to protect it. Instead, it is “kept in heaven for you” (v. 4b).

Recall that this chapter was written, through the Holy Spirit, by Peter. Jesus told him that “Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). What did that mean? Just as sifting (winnowing) separates the wheat from the chaff, Satan wanted to use trials to separate Peter and the other apostles from Jesus. He wanted to remove their eternal life by breaking their bond with the Lord. That did not happen because Jesus prayed “for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32a). Then he told Peter, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32b). In concert with that command, Peter wrote here in 1 Peter 1:5 that we “through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Why is it that no one who trusts in Christ will ever be lost? Why is your eternity secure in Christ even if you feel like your faith is far from perfect? Satan wants to separate you from your salvation; that’s why he brings trials into your life (vv. 6-7). But he can’t separate you from Christ because you are “shielded by God’s power” (v. 5a). Instead of shaking you loose from Jesus, God allows those trials in your life to prove the “genuineness of your faith” (v. 7a) for his glory (v. 7c) but he will shield you as you go through those trials by his power.

Are you facing something hard in your life now? Cling to Christ and his promises, even if you are feeling less than confident. He will shield your faith by God’s power and, after a time of suffering, you will be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

[In case you aren’t aware of what happened with Equifax: https://www.wired.com/story/equifax-breach-no-excuse/]

Numbers 23, Psalms 64–65, Isaiah 13, 1 Peter 1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 23, Psalms 64–65, Isaiah 13, 1 Peter 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Peter 1.

Holiness is hard work. Not being declared holy—that hard work God did for us in Christ. When Jesus lived a perfect life and died as a sacrifice for sinners, he did everything that was necessary for God to declare us holy (see verse 2). Now that we have been called to be his children, he calls us to become holy like he is; as we read today in 1 Peter 1:15-16: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Becoming holy in real life is where the hard work of the Christian life lies. We have what we need—the Holy Spirit within us, the Word of God, the community of other believers, but we also have significant opposition from our own sin nature, the world around us and the devil. As you’ve lived the Christian life and grown in Christ, you experienced the frustrating, painful struggle to do right when it would be so easy to do wrong. So how do we cope with the tug-of-war between what God calls us to become and what we often want to remain? Verse 13: “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” It is thinking about the future that God has promised us in Christ that pulls us toward holiness. When we desire to sin, we need to remember what God has taught us in his word—that sin is pleasurable, but that pleasure is temporary and costs far too much while God is glorious and those who live by faith in him will be rewarded with great joy and glory when Jesus comes. That’s why Peter, after telling us in verse 13 to “set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” follows that with verse 14: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Yes, the evil desires we had before we knew Christ remain but when we think forward to the life Christ promises us, it empowers us to live obediently to God instead of obeying (“conforming”) to those evil desires within.

What are you grappling with right now? What sinful urges inject evil thoughts into your mind when you least expect it? What sin are you toying with or being tempted by? Do you know anyone who has succumbed to this sin? Did it make them happy? Did it cause them or anyone else pain? What would your heavenly father think if you surrendered to the desire that Christ died to free you from? How much will that sin matter to you when you see Jesus and are welcomed into his kingdom? These questions clarify the lies that sin and temptation tell us. They offer us pleasure, they promise us freedom, they lure us into rationalizing the act and they ignore or downplay the painful consequences that sin will bring into our lives. So, knowing what Christ has done for us and has promised us, “sober up” (v. 13a) and think about your sin, your desire, your temptations from Christ’s eternal viewpoint. That is where you will find the strength to choose holiness over sin, faith over unbelief.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.