Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Seeking Life, Love, and Goodness (1 Peter 3:10-12)


One thing I like about the New American Standard translation, besides it accuracy which is paramount, is that it puts Old Testament quotes in small caps. This makes it very easy for me to spot them. And, I like the margin notes and superscript letters because it helps me find where the quote likely originated, which today is from Psalm 34:12-16. “Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” (Psalm 34:12–16, NASB95)

Peter transitions from verse 9 into the quote from Psalm 34 with the simple little conjunction “for.” A conjunction is a word that connects two clauses or sentences. The intended blessing of verse 9 is connected with the conditions of the blessing in verses 10-12. In verse 9 we told that we are called for a blessing and that we are to respond differently than the world responds to evil or harsh speech and actions by returning a blessing in the face of a curse. In Psalm 34 we have the words that distinguish the person who desires the life found in God from those who fly by the seat of their flesh. Simply put, God pays attention to those who seek after Him and who live according to His ways. His face is turned against those who turn their face toward evil. God is pleased with those who seek peace and pursue it. His eyes are turned to those whose seek to live righteous before Him, and He hears their cries in their distress. God is opposed to evil, and He is the ultimate judge of it. These are truths that, as Christians, I think we all probably grasp at some level. But, it is in the moment by moment choosing to apply them that we tend to struggle.

Scripture lays out a consistent model for change toward godly behavior. It is a simple one, and it involves three steps of putting off, having our mind renewed, and putting on. Not one of these is intended to be done in our own strength, but in the constant recognition that God’s Spirit is living and working in us because of the change that occurs when we trust Christ for our salvation. Immediately we became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and it is from then on that we are called to walk as one. In Ephesians 4:17-19 we read about the way we once were before we came to know Christ. It is the way the rest of the world is apart from Him. We read in verses 17 and 18 that they walk in “the futility of their minds” because they are darkened in their understanding and alienated from God. Verse 20 then points to a time of change, which was coming to know Chris. Then comes our call to walk in the way that we have learned Christ, presuming that we have indeed come to know Christ (v. 21). It is from this that we read in verses 22-24, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22–24, NASB95)

Having come to know Christ leading to salvation, we are to continually grow in Christ having been saved. As we hide God’s Word in our hearts, we are to engage in the process of shedding the old ways and putting on the new ways through the power of the Spirit working in us. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16, NASB95) It was with this constant recognition that the apostle Paul walked and served as we read in Colossians 1:29, “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, NASB95)

So, getting back to our passage for today, we read that in recognition of the life that we have in Christ we are to live with the desire for that life lived daily present in our minds. We are to love God and others. Desiring to see good exalted in our days, we are to be examples of God’s goodness to those around us. Practically speaking, if we want to experience life, love, and goodness we are to live as people who are alive, who love unconditionally and who do good. We are not to resort to the ways of the world to get even with the world. All that does is drag us down to the world’s level and distort the image of Christ in us.

This means that we are to not speak words that promote or exalt evil. We are not to lie or deceive others. We are to turn away from all these things. We are to, in the words of Paul, lay them aside. This is not how we learned Christ. This is not who we are in Christ, and we are not to live as if it were. It is not okay. It is not to be our justified response to the evil set before us. We have been made new, and we are to take what we have learned about living as new creations and apply it to our daily lives. We are to put on Christ which means that we are to live the reality of who we are in Christ, just as we have learned about how He walked before us. We are to learn about our God and live in active response to what we know is right and good.

We are to turn away from evil and do good. We are to seek peace and pursue it. God knows everything we face. He knows the condition of the world, and He has perfectly figured out what He is going to do in response. He hears our cries, and He will answer. But, we shouldn’t expect Him to answer if we are unwilling to seek Him and do it His way.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:5–12, NASB95)

Our God is a God of blessing and He delights in it. What He calls us to do is to seek Him, trust Him to work, and walk accordingly as the blessed ones we are, blessings others reflecting that He indeed is good.

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