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Wednesday
Mar132013

Christ Died Once, The Just For The Unjust - I Peter 3:16-18

As the inspired apostle continues to exhort us to live in the world distinctly as Christians regardless of persecution, he now encourages us to recognize the will of God and to walk the pilgrim path with a good conscience if we do suffer for the Faith.  As we confess Christ in the world by word and life, a good conscience, that is, a Christ-centered knowledge and hearty trust, gives the believer great confidence to not compromise.  Peter would have us continue to witness and live as those who have nothing to hide and no shame to run from.  If the world accuses us, let it be because of our good conversation [lifestyle].  If we are to suffer, let it be because of our witness to Christ as the only Lord and Savior.

This is the condition that the apostle lays out:  if it is God's will that we suffer, it is better to suffer for well doing than for evil doing, but either way, it is God's will.  The Apostle Paul knew he suffered for righteousness' sake and that gave him a holy boldness to stand before the greatest of the civil powers on earth at that time.  Likewise, let us suffer for righteousness' sake even as our Savior suffered rather than suffering as an evil doer.  That is, let suffering be Christ-centered.

In verse 18, the text says that the Savior suffered once.  Positively, it means that He did, in fact, die for sins.  If you are in Christ you are freed from the guilt of sins.  Negatively, it means that it is never to be repeated or augmented.  If you are in Christ, His sacrifice was sufficient and the life you now live ought to be one of thankful obedience, not servile striving to earn what He has graciously offered.  He also suffered for sins vicariously and All of His obedience, all of His suffering is imputed to true believers graciously through faith.  "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."  (II Cor 5:21)  Yet, in all of this glorious truth and as we praise the one sacrifice for sins, it is all for nothing without the last phrase of our text.  Christ died once, the just for the unjust, but He was also quickened – made alive – by the Holy Spirit.

All of this glorious truth should give you confidence regardless of suffering.  And it should give you confidence in living the truth in the world because your trust and confidence is entirely in the person and work of the only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died once, the just for the unjust.

All For Him,

Pastor Schlegel

Wednesday
Feb202013

The Eyes And Ears Of The Lord - I Peter 3:10-12

During a particularly difficult time in the life of David, he composed a Psalm (34) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to express his trust in the Lord's care for him and His promises.  The apostle Peter, also under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quotes this Psalm in the midst of his exhortations to us as we, like David, pass our days in hostile territory with trust and hope that the eyes and ears of the Lord are over us and attuned to us.  But first, the apostle speaks of our tongues and lips.

First, we need to realize that Peter still has not changed subjects.  The immediate context began in chapter 2, verse 11.  The subject is still pilgrimage.  The subject is still the relationship to authority.  The subject is still your testimony in this fallen world.  If you want to have life and good days in that context, Peter has some instruction for you.  His first instruction, surprisingly, has to do with what you say.  He says to refrain from evil speaking and lying in particular.  This is where the quote from Psalm 34 begins.  The tongue has an enormous capacity for evil and Peter rightly warns us to refrain from the evil it can perpetuate.  Rather, we are to do good.  At fist, this doesn't seem so bad.  But remember the broader context.  The broader context is the example of the persecution of David by King Saul.  David could have started a violent revolution and seized what was his by the wrong means, but he waited and pursued peace.  David shunned the evil even though it was very tempting.  David shunned the evil even when his own soldiers encouraged him to take matters in his own hand.  But David would not dare to do evil so that good may come even though there was great personal cost, for he knew that the eyes and the ears of the Lord were upon him.

The text says that, "...the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers...."  We know that David was convinced that the Lord would deliver him because he said as much to Saul.  (I Sam. 24:12-15)  If you are as confident in God's immediate and careful overseeing and directing of your affairs as David was, you can confidently shun evil and pursue good and peace.  The text also tells us who the Lord sees and hears:  the righteous.  The Lord's care and concern for His own people is distinct from that of the creation generally and the wicked particularly.  It is not that the Lord does not see the wicked.  Quite the contrary.  But the Lord knows you have needs, pains and wants.  He knows that the pilgrim way can be a hard one.  But you are told that He sees and hears your cries.

The wicked, on the other hand, are before the face of the Lord, but not for peace and fellowship.  The face of the Lord is against them.  (v. 12b)  Peter stops quoting the Psalm at this point.  In fact, he breaks off in the middle of the sentence.  The rest of the sentence reveals what is means for the face of the Lord to b e against the wicked:  It reads, "…to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth."  This is a repeat of what God has long said both to the nations and to His own people as a warning.

The kingdom was established under David and David's son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And those who have placed their trust in Him, will inherit all that has been promised though for a little while we may suffer.  And even if we do, we have the great promise that the eyes and ears of the Lord are open to our prayers.

All For Him,

Pastor Schlegel

Wednesday
Jan162013

Following In The Footsteps Of The Savior - I Peter 2:18-25

I Peter 2:21 exhorts us that we should follow in the footsteps of the Savior.  The question is, what does following in the footsteps of the Savior look like?  Are we left on our own to determine what this means?  In the providence of God, the context of this exhortation tells us what this means.  It is to live a life of service even when it is hard to do so.

In verses 18 through 20, the context is the employee/employer relationship.  The Scriptures admit that there may be crooked and unfair employers or any other human exercise of authority.  But the Christian is to endure the unfair or harsh treatment because it is "acceptable with God."  Is it acceptable to you?  One may ask, though, why should we endure grief that is not of our own making.  The answer to that question is found in verses 21 and 22.

All Christians are "called" to service, but it is not the "keep a stiff upper lip" kind of service.  It is the kind of service that was lived by the prime example of service.  That pattern is that while we are called with a marvelous calling in the promise and hope of a glorious eternity, for the here and now, we are also called to humble and patient service of both God and our fellow man.  That is, we are called to be just like the Savior; following His example.  Arguing from the greater to the lesser says, if the totally innocent Son of God, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."  (Hebrews 12:2, 3)

Of course, the greatest act of service that the Savior performed was His sacrificial life and death for us.  He was reviled.  They said, "He has a demon", "He is crazy", "He is a drunk", "He is a deceiver", "He makes Himself equal with God", "He hangs out with low-lifes".  But the text says, when He was reviled, He did not revile back.  He was made to suffer.  They tried to stone Him.  They brought false witnesses against Him.  He was declared innocent, but was punished anyway.  He was abused and tortured.  He was executed, not like a common criminal, but like an uncommon criminal and with a death reserved for the worst of the worst.  And yet, though He was threatened, did not promise vengeance or seek to "get even."

Your salvation depended upon the trust that the Son had in the Father.  Your salvation depended on the humility of the Savior.  Your salvation depended upon the obedience of the Savior.  Your salvation depended upon the willingness of the Savior to take upon Himself the form of a servant.  And He did these things so that we can have the same hope and trust in our Heavenly Father.  The example of Christ in His sacrificial life and patient suffering is an example of how we ought to live in every part of life because we, like the Savior, are confident in the Father's judgment, righteousness and care for us.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has walked on this earth in a manner which purchased redemption for lost sinners.  He shed His innocent blood that we might be saved.  And having placed trust in the blood of Christ for our redemption, how can we not place our trust in God in every time and place?

All For Him,

Pastor Schlegel

Wednesday
Jan092013

Waiting For The Consolation Of Israel - Romans 8:18-23

Earnest expectation was part of the life of God's people in the Old Testament.  The faithful ones were looking for the promised consolation and that promise was finally fulfilled in the incarnation of the Savior.  Even though the Savior has come and has won the victory, the waiting of the people of God continues today.  They looked for His coming and we also look for His coming.

In Romans 8:13-23, the Apostle Paul places the expectation of Christians today within the context of "suffering".  He does this, not to discourage us, but to encourage us.  He admits that the Christian life is lived waiting for the fulfillment of the promise and in a fallen world.  But even though these things are true, the current state of suffering is as nothing compared to the glory that awaits us, and will be revealed in us and in the material creation.  Yes, even the material creation waits for the fulfillment of the promise with an earnest expectation, or literally, with an outstretched head.  But why does the material creation also wait?

The apostle tells us that the material creation was made subject to "vanity" because of the Fall of Adam and his children.  That is, the material creation is also affected by sin and corruption.  So, the material creation waits for that day when its bondage will also be broken and it will be delivered.  When we observe the material creation, we find in it a testimony to the corruption of humankind.  It is twisted and perverse because it was cursed for the sake of Adam.  (Genesis 3:17-19)

So the material creation groans and we (Christians) groan waiting for the redemption.  The redemption accomplished by the Savior in His life, death and resurrection is a complete redemption.  But, until the Last Day, we witness while we wait; we serve while we suffer; and we hope in the promised consolation.  We walk in the footsteps of our father Abraham.  "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:8 – 10)

All For Him,

Pastor Schlegel

Wednesday
Dec052012

Waiting For The Consolation Of Israel - Genesis 49:8-12

The modern cultural celebrations of Christmas can easily dull our senses. Our spiritual senses can be dulled to the biblical record of intense longing on the part of God's people for the advent of the promised Messiah-King.  For thousands of years, the faithful waited and waited for the fulfillment of the promise and had to be consoled with the knowledge that God is faithful and would bring about the advent of the Savior.  "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."  (Heb. 11:13)  That longing anticipation is seen in the effectual blessings which our spiritual father Jacob pronounced on his sons and upon Judah in particular.

First, Jacob prophesies that the son of Judah would be victorious over his enemies.  Jacob bypasses the older sons and gives to Judah the place of preeminence.  At the time of the blessing, there was no kingdom of Israel.  So the promise is also an expression of great hope and confidence that the Lord would bless Jacob's family.  In the history of the nation of Israel, the tribe of Judah was often at the forefront of the defense of the nation.  But it is also true that some of Judah's most bitter enemies were the other tribes of Israel.  This was ultimately fulfilled in the Great Son of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Savior was rejected of men and despised especially by those of Israel.  All the promises made through your father Jacob are fulfilled in the coming of Christ as a baby in Bethlehem, and even though He was despised and rejected of men and put to death, the Savior, the couching lion, will be roused to victoriously defend his realm -  he will be king indeed.
 
Second, Jacob prophesies that the tribe of Judah would be the royal tribe - until Shiloh comes.  That is, Judah would be the royal tribe for a limited time.  So the question is, who or what is Shiloh?  Shiloh is the one who, when Judah's reign and preeminence comes to an end, replaces that rule with His own rule.  And the rule of that one will be a reign of peace and tranquility.  Or as the prophet Isaiah says, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."  (Isaiah 9:6)  What a glorious thing this is!  The dying patriarch expresses a deep hope for the future and the confidence that the longing for the promised Messiah-King will be realized.

Third, Jacob prophesies that the son of Judah will prosper.  The prosperity will not be an ordinary prosperity, but an extraordinary prosperity.  This is shown in the illustrations of agricultural super-abundance.  Tying donkeys to choice vines and washing clothes in wine is Jacob's way of expressing the kind of abundance that could only happen when the promise of Isaiah is fulfilled:  "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price...Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."  (55:1, 3)

So with the eyes of faith, see the glorious prosperity and reign of your Savior-King in the past, in the future and right now at this very moment.  His advent was the fulfillment of the longing of God's people and He provides everything you need - especially for your redemption from sin.

All For Him,

Pastor Schlegel