Peter’s Call To Holiness & Readiness

There is widespread agreement that Mark’s gospel is based principally on Peter’s inspired recollection of his relationships with Jesus & the other 11 witnesses.

After Jesus returned to heaven, Peter was his witness primarily among the Jews.  However, he was also used by God to welcome Gentiles into God’s family, when he was led by the Holy Spirit to share the good news about Jesus with Cornelius.  Peter played a leading role in the church in Jerusalem.  Later, Peter served briefly alongside Paul in the Galatian region of Turkey.  Several 2nd & 3rd century Christian leaders record that that Peter eventually served as head of the church in Rome for 15-25 years.  Beyond all this, little is known of his travels as a missionary.

In any case, we do have two letters that Peter wrote to believers, dated between 60 & 65 AD.  The first was written to encourage Christians under the threat of violent persecution in various places in Turkey (327).  Peter intended that this letter would be shared with numerous Christian churches in that part of the world.

He begins by reminding the churches that Jesus has given us the hope of a far better life in heaven.  When suffering here on earth is endured in this hope, it actually strengthens our faith.  The secret of enduring is to focus on walking in holiness, not to focus on our suffering.

And the best way to walk in holiness is to love one another.  Love covers a multitude of sins – our sins & the sins of others.

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Peter refers to church members as living stones, whom God is using to build a spiritual temple here on earth.  Since we have been chosen by God for this, we need to let God use us for this; we need to cooperate with God.  Jesus is our best example of  such cooperation with God.

Following the example of Jesus, Christians are called to submit to human authority, even if it involves suffering.  Similarly, wives are called to submit quietly to their husbands, believing that God can use this example to win their husbands’ hearts.  At the same time, Peter admonishes husbands to remember always that their wives are equally loved by God; they are fellow heirs of God’s grace.

Peter then encourages the believers always to be ready to tell others why we follow Jesus.

We never know when those opportunities will arise.  When we live for God instead of for ourselves, it catches people’s attention.  And this often leads to opportunities to tell others about all that Jesus has done for us.

God, please help me to love holiness & readiness.

(327) 1 Peter 1-3

More From James’ Letter To Christian Friends

James made several more points in his letter to Christian friends who had been dispersed from Jerusalem to many different places (326).

  • Anytime we have an opportunity to counsel another person from the inspired scriptures, we must take great care to let the Spirit of God control what we say, how we say it & when we say it. Listen before speaking; love before judging.

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  • We need always to remember that prayer is not giving orders; prayer is reporting for duty. Listen to God!
  • As we draw near to God, he draws near to us. Whenever we find ourselves involved in any ungodly thoughts or actions, we simply need to stop.  It’s not complicated.  Just stop it!  And God will draw near.

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  • Whenever we find ourselves judging other people, we need to remember that God says, in effect: “You love ‘em, & I’ll judge ‘em.”
  • It’s OK to make plans, as long as we let God have the final say about those plans. (This is especially true for rich people, who are often tempted to think they have the means to implement any plans they may make.)
  • Be patient in waiting for Jesus to come back to the earth. Be prepared for Jesus to come back to the earth.
  • God hears the prayers of all who faithfully follow Jesus. Conversely, if we have not surrendered our lives to the absolute control of the Holy Spirit, God does not hear our prayers.

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James concludes by reminding us that we all can help God redeem backsliding sisters & brothers in Christ, by pointing them back to Jesus.  Always remember that God always wants to use us in this way.

God, please help me to love Your wisdom for every part of my life.

(326) James 3-5

Servants of Jesus: Luke & James

At this time, about 30 years after Jesus had returned to heaven from earth, Luke recorded his testimony of the good news of Jesus, which recounts key events in the life and ministry of Jesus on the earth (324).  Luke seems to have consulted many sources in preparing this testimony — including Peter, Paul & Mary.

Luke later recorded the acts of the Holy Spirit working through the apostles to spread the good news about Jesus into southwestern Asia & southern Europe.  He may also have served as pastor of the Philippian church for a time.

The inspired scriptures indicate that James was a close relative of Jesus.  Like most people, James didn’t realize that Jesus was the son of God until after he had been raised from death.  Then, James believed & became a strong witness for Jesus.  Eventually, he became a prominent leader of the Jerusalem church.

About 30 years after Jesus had returned to heaven, James wrote this letter of encouragement & instruction to Jewish Christians who had been dispersed from Judea to many foreign lands (325).  Some students of the inspired scriptures believe that James wrote his letter 20 years earlier, before the Jerusalem Council.  Either way, it’s likely that this letter was circulated among Christian churches in many different places.

James fills his letter with practical insights for Christian living, including the following:

  • God allows troubles to come our way – primarily to make us stronger & to help us grow up as Christians. But we must choose to let God make us better (& not bitter) through the troubles he allows in our lives.

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  • Faith — that God will answer with perfect wisdom — is the key to asking for & receiving godly wisdom. When we ask without faith, we remain without wisdom.
  • When temptation to sin rises from within, consider life above — which God promises in love.
  • We should desire only those gifts that God wants for us, never those things that we want only for ourselves. For example, we should hide the gift of God’s word in our hearts, so it can be the engine that drives our lives.
  • It’s not enough to hear or even to memorize God’s teachings from the inspired scriptures. It’s equally essential to do what God teaches.  Faith without obedience is meaningless & worthless.  (Conversely, obedience without faith is equally meaningless & worthless.)

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  • We are called to love, freely & completely, anyone else who also loves Jesus, freely & completely – without any partiality as to sex, race, nationality, age, occupation, income, residence, denomination or anything else.

God, please help me to love freely & completely.

(324) Luke’s testimony of Jesus is incorporated into previous posts on this site.

(325) James 1-2

Paul’s Letter To One Colossian Friend

Paul’s other letter from Rome to Colosse was intended for one specific friend – Philemon (323). It was sent by the same messengers — Tychicus & Onesimus — who carried the letter for the Colossian church body.

Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, in Colosse.  Apparently, Onesimus had stolen something from Philemon before he ran away.

Eventually, Onesimus found his way to Paul, in Rome.  There, in that miraculous & marvelous way in which God can redeem the heart of any sinner, Onesimus had become a believer & had surrendered his life to Jesus.  Now, as he was about to leave Rome to go back to Colosse, Paul gave him this letter for Philemon.

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Paul’s opening prayer tells us that this letter is going to give us a very specific example of what living in the Spirit of Christ is like.  It’s going to be a call to Christian action on the part of Philemon.  Accordingly, Paul then appeals to Philemon to be merciful to Onesimus, who is no longer a slave but is now their Christian brother.

Paul backs up his appeal with his personal promise to repay Philemon anything he is owed on account of Onesimus.

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Effectively, Paul lays aside his rights for the benefit of his brother Onesimus – which is a great illustration of what Jesus has done for every sinner who has believed.

Subsequent church records indicate that Onesimus may eventually have gone on to become the leader of the church at Ephesus (after Timothy).

Onesimus may also be the person who first collected all of Paul’s letters — to assure they were preserved for future generations of Christians.

Thank you, Onesimus.  Thank you, Paul.  Thank you, Jesus.

God, please help me to love surrendering my rights to You.

(323) Philemon

Paul Instructs Colossian Friends

Next, Paul turns to the false teachings that were beginning to infect the church at Colosse (322).  He was concerned with religious rituals, or what we might call today denominational distinctives.  These may sound good at first, but if we cannot trace them back to the ministry & teachings of Jesus, then they’re only going to divide the body of Christ & lead us astray.

Paul first addresses the Judaizers – the folks who taught that a Gentile had to become a good Jew before he could become a good Christian, specifically by being physically circumcised.  In Paul’s view, this was Jewish rule-bondage at its worst.  We have a better, spiritual circumcision in Jesus; Jesus is all we need.

Then Paul addresses the pre-Gnostics — people who insisted on compliance with various religious rituals which had never been taught by Jesus.  Essentially, the pre-Gnostics claimed that Jesus had given them private revelations about the necessity of certain rituals — revelations that normal everyday Christians were too immature to receive.

Paul replied that such rules & rituals may seem godly, especially when they require strong commitment.  But Paul insisted that they offer no help in overcoming sin; nothing that we can do ourselves will overcome our sin.  For that, Jesus is all we need.

As in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasizes that we must submit to the rule of our spirit rather than the rule of our flesh.  This is the key to our life in Christ.  This is how the new self overcomes the old self.  This is how we are able to live as models of compassion, humility, kindness, forgiveness & love.

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If Christ is our life, as Paul claims, how is that supposed to look in everyday life?  As in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul briefly tells the Colossians of the differences that Jesus wants to make in marriage, in parenting, and in the workplace.

Then Paul concludes by encouraging the Colossian believers to rely on God in every aspect of their lives, especially in their service for Jesus.  Pray about everything, Paul counsels; be guided by the Holy Spirit in everything.  After all, that’s what Jesus did.

God, please help me to love living in Christ.

(322) Colossians 2:16-4:18

Paul Encourages Colossian Friends

The church in the Turkish city of Colosse seems to have been planted by Epaphras, a dedicated co-worker of Paul.  Perhaps Paul had earlier sent Epaphras to Colosse from Ephesus, about 100 miles away.  But at the time of this letter, Epaphras was in Rome, with Paul.

Paul wrote two letters from prison in Rome to Colosse – one for the entire church there, and one for a specific member of the Colossian church.

In many regards, Paul’s letter to the Colossians was, like his letter to the Ephesians, intended for their general instruction, revelation & encouragement.  But this letter was also aimed at countering false teaching in the Colossian church.

Paul begins by thanking God for the believers in Colosse (321) — especially for their faith, love & hope:

  • Faith was the key to beginning & sustaining their relationships with God.
  • Love for God’s people is how they were showing their love for God.
  • Hope kept them focused on heaven & the life with God to come.

Then Paul offers an extended proclamation of the supremacy of Jesus.

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  • Jesus shares, with the Father & the Holy Spirit, the everlasting nature of God. He has always existed, and He always will.
  • Jesus created the universe from nothing.
  • Jesus walked on this earth, as a man, for a brief time, but then He returned to heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father in everlasting glory.
  • Jesus holds together everything in all creation.
  • Jesus is the head of the church, the body of Christ, displaying God’s glory on earth.
  • Jesus is the leader of all who will rise from the dead.
  • Jesus is the only way for men to find peace with God.

Paul was happy to share in the sufferings of Christ.  Once we have received the spirit of Christ & the hope of glory, and once our daily life is filled with serving Jesus, then suffering or even dying is no longer such a big deal.

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God, please help me to love suffering with Jesus.

(321) Colossians 1:1-2:15

Paul Encourages Philippian Friends

Paul had planted the first Christian church in Europe in the town of Philippi, in the region of northeastern Greece known as Macedonia.  Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is very upbeat & encouraging, despite his being confined in a Roman minimum security prison (320). How could this be?

  • First, Paul affirms his belief that God never takes a day off. In the lives of individual believers & in the life of the church, God continues faithfully to use every circumstance — even Paul’s imprisonment — for his divine purposes, .
  • Second, Paul can no longer imagine his life apart from Jesus. Whether he lives or dies, whether he is on earth or in heaven, Paul is totally OK with whatever God wants to do with him, just as Jesus was.

Paul portrays the “mind of Christ” as thinking of others before thinking of ourselves.

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In essence, this is what Jesus did when he gave up the independent use of his divine powers for three decades, in order to live on the earth as a man among men.  Jesus is our best model for humbly surrendering ourselves to God.

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Ultimately, Paul continues, all people — living & dead — will acknowledge Jesus as God. Until that day, our part as believers is to shine brightly for God in this dark world.  No matter how great the darkness becomes, the Holy Spirit gives believers greater power to continue shining brightly.  With Jesus, we can do anything.

Paul testifies that he has forsaken all in this world in order to devote himself completely to serving Jesus.  He keeps his eyes fixed on the heavenly prize of life that will continue beyond his physical death.

From this eternal perspective, Paul exhorts the Philippians to rejoice as well, in every circumstance.  This can only be done by referring everything to Jesus.  Pray about everything, seek the mind of Christ about everything, Paul says.

Focus on the positive things that God is doing in the world, instead of focusing on the negative things that the world inflicts on itself.

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But, even in negative circumstances, Paul asserts that he has learned how to be content, always by relying on Jesus.  With Jesus, we can do anything.

God, please help me to love leaning on Jesus.

(320) Philippians 1-4