Saturday, February 11, 2017

Living Testimonies (1 Peter 2:11-12)

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, NASB95)

Surely, a number of those who would read these words of Peter would be Jews who had fled their homeland because of persecution or for some other reason. Peter began his letter writing to those who were scattered, and his scattered readers included not only Jews, but also Gentiles who had all come to believe in Jesus Christ. He writes to all of them as strangers and aliens, and the reason for this seems that it must rest in the citizenship that they now had as THE PEOPLE OF GOD who had become a HOLY NATION.

As I read the first few words of this verse my mind was drawn to a song written by the country star Jim Reeves who died in a place crash at the age of forty. The song is titled “This World is Not My Home.” The first stanza opens with:

This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Later in the song he added,

Oh lord, you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home Then lord what will I do

Peter’s words here are an answer to this question, knowing that our citizenship is in heaven as we read in Philippians 3:20. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 3:20, NASB95) The first part of the instruction is to “abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Here is the aspect of putting off those things that reflect our previous citizenship when we did not belong to Christ and were slaves to sin and the ruler of this world. We have been adopted into God’s family and we have a new Father. We no longer are to obey the old one.

We are now foreigners, and we are to live like foreigners who don’t do things the way the world does. We are to be inwardly disciplined such that the desires that wage war in us and which mark the world are not the desires that rule our thoughts and actions. We are to abstain, which means to stay away from, to not engage in, or simply to not do. This is not who we are any longer and as such we are not to live as if we were. Recognizing that this is easier said than done, there is much attention given to walking victoriously in regard to the desires of the flesh in the Bible.

Passages such as Galatians 5:16 and 17 give us the answer as to how we are to do this and win. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” (Galatians 5:16–18, NASB95) And the verses that follow give us real examples of the difference, ending with the exhortation in verses 24 and 25, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24–25, NASB95)

On the positive side, we read that we are to keep our “behavior excellent among the Gentiles”. Here the term Gentiles is used most likely not to refer to non-Jews, but the world as a whole. We are to live right before man, and the reason for this that they may be proven wrong in their slander as some observe this, see our good deeds, and turn to Christ receiving the same hope of His return. Sure, there will be those who never cease in their slander until they stand before God, but there will be others who hear the slander and whose hearts are pierced to see that the evil talk does not match our godly walk. For these who see the difference, they will be drawn in and believe. These people will then join with us in having the same hope in Christ’s for His return when we all will be ushered into our eternal home.

How we respond to trials and even being chastised and persecuted says a great deal about where we place our trust. Knowing Christ and having the assurance that everything we endure here is temporary makes all the difference. Paul wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NASB95) We are His ambassadors, and the country in which we serve is not going to make things easy. It is for that reason that we fix our hope even more on who it is that calls us and who it is that will accomplish His will through us.

Consider the words of Paul to Timothy, his beloved child and disciples in the Lord.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:8–14, NASB95) 

No comments: