As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet 1:14-16
Thus far Peter has emphasized endurance and the testing and purification of our faith for the sake of the hope that lies ahead. Not hope in earthy things but our blessed hope.Titus 2:13.
Now Peter is emphasizing the call to holiness hágios – sacred, pure, morally blameless, consecrated…in the New Testament. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is qodesh to beset apart. The image is to “To cut” as one might cut a vegetable to separate the good parts from the bad.
We speak a lot about the love, power, and presence of God within the charismatic stream. The idea of holiness often gets sidelined. His Holiness is often only mentioned in the context of worship.
Generally, Bible scholars refer to the number of times a word or idea occurs as a measure of thematic emphasis or importance to the author. Obviously, Love is important in the kingdom of God. “Love” in all its degrees and forms is mentioned 506 times in the Bible.
Holiness is mentioned in 595 times.
That said, I have a hypothesis. Love, power, and His presence are all associated with a deep emotional experience. Granted these individual experiences vary and I am not implying that they are purely emotional. Even so, charismatics tend to validate God’s presence according to what they feel.
That feeling is always pleasurable.
Am I wrong?
Holiness on the other hand requires that I look at myself in the reflection of His Holiness. This isn’t as pleasurable provided we are being honest.
That’s because holiness involves conviction and repentance.
Problems arise when we pervert conviction into guilt shame and condemnation. While conviction tells us a course correction is required, guilt shame and condemnation are identity statements. Conviction identifies what needs to be cut.
A mature believer can look at themselves in the mirror of God’s Holiness and say,
“I’m not all that I should be. But thank you Lord that I’m not what I used to be. I am a work in progress”
Mature believers understand that His righteousness is our righteousness because of who He is. We came to Jesus as dead people, by nature appointed to wrath. He loved us in spite of us not because of us. Eph 2:1-5
He loved us because of who He is.
Christianity is not a self-help program for those suffering from low self self-esteem. Christianity is a His help program for those suffering from sin, and an obsession with self.
If we understand holiness in the context of “be holy, for I am holy” then we know that only He can make us holy. It is Jesus that cuts and consecrates. It is Jesus who sanctifies and separates dross from the gold, false faith from genuine faith. It is Jesus who purifies us with fiery trials until all the impurities are burned off and He beholds His pure reflection in us. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices and then let Him have at us. We choose His ways instead of the world’s ways and allow Him to transform us Rom 12:1-2 by the washing of the water of the word.Eph 5:26-27
Sometimes this hurts.
As for understanding the seriousness and intensity of consecration (the process of becoming holy) we may be better served by studying Leviticus 8 and applying these principles to ourselves in the context of Rom 12:1-2 Sometimes our sermons sound like self-promotion. At the end of the day Jesus gave us one instruction regarding self;
Deny- aparnéomai utterly, disown, abstain, to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone, to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.
If that disturbs you, it’s because you have a wrong perspective. I promise you that aparnéomai is the paradoxical path to genuine faith. It will reveal your true identity because it destroys the self-centered feelings of worthlessness, and condemnation that so many are struggling to avoid. In its wake, it leaves freedom, peace, and genuine biblical Hope.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1Pet 1:8-9
Peter is writing in the context of his previous exhortation to endure trials that test the genuineness of our faith. “Tested Faith is genuine faith”. Tested faith is evidence of belief apart from which we can not be saved. Mark 16:16 Some of our most profound experiences with joy arise after we endure the testing of our faith and we behold more clearly and fully that we truly are IN HIM. Eph 2:1-7. It is a clear and present joy that verifies,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Cor 5:17
The joy of encountering the manifest presence of God on the proverbial mount of transfiguration during worship and other encounters is an important part of the Christian walk. Mat 17 The joy of passing the test in the valley is another. God reveals Himself on the mountaintop and we rejoice. Meanwhile, our character is revealed in the valley. Character produces hope. Rom 5:1-11
“…joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” is chará – cheerfulness, calm delight:–gladness, fulness of joy.
In my mind “calm delight” implies a deep fearless, assurance of His salvation that is rooted and grounded in His love despite circumstances. Eph 3:17. This is the eternal perspective that sets our minds on things about not below. Col 3:1-4
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.1 Pet 1:10-12
The Old Testament Maranatha prophecies about Jesus are so very clear in retrospect.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Maranatha 1 Cor 16:22 is usually translated as “Come Lord Jesus”. Yet Maranatha is an Aramaic word with a twofold meaning.
Jesus has come. Jesus is coming.
We walk in joy each day that is rooted in assurance. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,Eph 1:13 This is the first Maranatha, the fulfilled gospel of salvation about which the prophets searched and inquired carefully.
The second part is prophetic and refers to the fulfillment of the Gospel of the Kingdom. …the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,to the praise of his glory.Eph 1:14
We spoke a lot about our full inheritance when we studied the book of Ephesians. As good as the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit is in our lives is now, it is a downpayment- a taste of what is to come when the second half of Maranatha is fulfilled.
Still, I wonder what went through the mind of Isaiah as he wrote the script for the first part of Maranatha 700 years before it took place. Isaiah 53 Did David know he was quoting Jesus nearly 2500 years before He was crucified?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?Psalm 22:1
There are at least 350 prophetic references to Jesus in the Old Testament that connect perfectly now that we have the whole canon of scripture. We can rest in the assurance that the Gospel of the Kingdom will be fulfilled because we now see the intricacy of the fulfilled promise of the Gospel of Salvation.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.Mat 13:16-17
1 Peter is framed in the context of our faith being tested and found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Pet 1:7 As I said there is a unique experience of joy that attends our passing the test in the valley. Similarly the joy we experience in the valley here is but a taste of the joy that is to come when our tested and genuine faith is found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Let’s face it. Most of life is lived apart from the mountaintop experiences that so many covet and roam from conference to conference in search of the Shekinah Glory. However, there are times when we may feel we are drowning in grief and suffering. We may wonder if God has abandoned us. We can take comfort in the fact that even Jesus had the experience of feeling abandoned by the Father. He wasn’t of course. It is for this reason that Paul instructed us to …rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.Rom 12:12 We rejoice in hopewhile waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.Titus 2:13, Mat 24:29-31.
We rejoice in the reality that Jesus has come and experience joy because He is here directing our paths. Prov 3:5-8. We also rejoice in the fact that Jesus is coming...for the he Joy of the Lord is our strength.Neh 8:10 The prophetic nature of Maranatha joy is even more poignant if you understand the eschatological significance of the Feast of Booths. And while many do their best to imagine streets paved with gold and eternal life devoid of pain and tears, what lies ahead is beyond our wildest dreams.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 1:3-7
Trial or Temptation (KJV) is peirasmósthe temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus from his divine errand – the trial of man‘s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy – adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one‘s character, faith, holiness.
The books of First and Second Peter deal heavily with the reality of and the correct response to trials. Still, it can be hard for us to imagine let alone identify with the persecution Peter faced in a devolving Roman society under Nero who burned Rome and blamed it on Christians to justifiy impaling them on poles and burning them as candles to light the streets of Rome. Peter was eventually crucified. Perhaps a better comparison for us today would be the exiles in Asia Minor who in comparison were harassed more than persecuted at the time Peter wrote. Did they understand that Peter’s exhortation would apply more fully in twenty years when Domitian reigned?
The best way I can comprehend Peter’s word is to consider that at nearly the exact same time that we survived our landslide in Honduras, people to whom we had ministered during Harvest School in a village near Palma Mozambique were beheaded by Jihadist rebels.
Our relatively minor trial ended in a little more than a day. Meanwhile, several pastors trained by IRIS Global continued to see their villages burned and their wives and children killed before their eyes. Yet testimonies continue to pour out from Mozambique showing that grief-stricken as they were these men remained unshakable in their faith.
Most of us can’t imagine facing a trial like that.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,for they loved not their lives even unto death.Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”Rev 12:11-12
Maybe it’s because I am a former Marine trained to think “If this, then this.” Maybe it’s because God called me to be a watchman on the wall. But I think we should be aware of the devils schemesEph 6:11 contemplate potential faith-testing scenarios, count the costLuke 14:28-29, and do all to standEph 6:13.
As I wrote in Watchman on the Wall the world’s economic elite recently coined the term “Polycrisis” to describe the overall status of our world in 2023. According to them the growing frequency and intensity of crises are proverbial red flags that should capture our attention and spur us to action. However, the psychology and theology driving the current global leadership, are in my view the true proverbial “canary in the coal mine”.
For example while Vladimir Putin is generally portrayed as a villain by western media, I believe he has correctly assessed the overall satanic cultural trajectory of the West.
And it is Satanic
Ironically Putin recently required Christianity to be taught in every Russian college and university. But don’t defect just yet. The Russian Orthodox Church leadership believes that Russia is the New Testament Israel. This is an age-old heresy called supersessionism.
It follows that Putin views the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as the parable of the sheep and goats Mat 25:31-46 played out in real-time. Russians are the sheep. NATO countries are the goats. Putin has stated that he would not hesitate to push the nuclear launch button and destroy all of humankind if Russian sovereignty “faced a genuine existential threat”.“There is no point in the existence of life on Earth without Russia.” Putin advisor Alexander Dugin euphemistically known as “Putin’s Brain” says a nuclear war between Russia and NATO while admittedly unwinnable for either side is nevertheless inevitable. Dugin and Putin both regard its eventuality as a sovereign act of God and a final separation between the sheep and goats where “Russians go to heaven as martyrs.”
“All NATO members will go to hell.“
If that isn’t a rock solid argument for the Acts 17:11 approach to God then I don’t know what is.
In addition to horrific exegeis, we have the shear insanity of resident Biden poking the Russian bear in the eye by sending F-16s.
Biden is also sending cluster bombs previously deemed illegal by the USA to kill Russians in Ukraine. Statistically, cluster bombs kill more civilians than soldiers. Meanwhile, Biden’s alleged neocon opponents like Senator Lindsey Graham are heralding the deaths of Russians as “the best money we’ve spent.”
The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. Psalm 11:5
If you look deep enough everything about the conflict in Ukraine amounts to sheer madness. The only logical conclusion is that contemporary Mathusians want billions of us dead. That said, the obliteration of planet Earth does not fit with the current Biblical prophetic timeline. A lot has to happen before Isaiah 34:4 comes into play and we get a new heaven and new earth. Rev 21:1-3 Again, I’m not trying to get you to build a bunker in your back yard. Rather, given our tendency toward complacency and apathy in the prosperous first world I think contemplating our response to one of many potential crises is a great way to identify with and understand the plight of Peter’s audience in Asia Minor. For example, I can imagine a Nero-eqsue scenario whereby the insane actions of Uniparty Neocons and supersessionist Russians posing as Christians become fuel for Satan’s minions on Earth. What a great way to justify the mass persecution of believers everywhere. Imagine blaming the followers of Jesus for a limited nuclear war instead of a mere fire. Similar to today I imagine some of Peter’s exile audience would have taken Peter’s exhortation to heart while others would have dismissed it in favor of hearing sweeter things.Isa 30:9-13 .
Speaking of Nero, Domitian, and now Biden, if we look at the history of church persecution in the context of today we find a direct correlation with the devolution of the social-moral fabric in the society in which the persecution occurred. Rom 1:18-32
Again, my hope is that in facing the very real potential of enduring our own trials, we will align our hearts with the current trials of a rapidly growing number of persecuted believers in the world today and learn from them.
Some know that we ran a home church in conjunction with our prison and inmate reintegration ministry in Hawaii. During that time we partnered with The True Light Church in Lahore Pakistan. We built a website for them and began raising money to print Bibles in Urudu and rescue families from Brick Kiln slavery.
As our Pakistani brothers, Pastor Tariq and Ammir said from the beginning, “We don’t care if they cut our heads, we will serve the Lord.”Rev 12:11. They’ve been true to their word through the years. A few of the True Light Church Pastors were severely beaten while preaching the gospel in Talaban-controlled areas along the Afghan border.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the recent Koran burning in Sweden.
As I write, the Pakistani body of Christ is suffering the consequences of this incredibly stupid act. It is being used as fuel to justify the persecution of Christians all over the Muslim world. Ammir told us today that Muslims are protesting and burning churches all over Pakistan.
As we would expect, The True Light church is planning a revival meeting in response.
A lot of Americans are angry about the uncontrolled illegal immigration at our border. Many are terrified of hordes of proverbial invading Huns coming to destroy our sacred and prosperous North American way of life. What many Americans fail to understand is that Latin American Society in general is deeply Christian and traditional especially when it comes to topics like gender, marriage, and family values. The people storming our border are told by the media in their respective countries that they have a free pass into the USA if they can get there. While there are always a few bad apples in every bunch the majority of these people just hope to make ten dollars an hour instead of ten dollars per day. I’m telling you this because it begs the question as we study 1 Peter; are we identifying with the contemporary exiles in our daily life? Lev 24:14
Are we numbered among the persecuted or the persecutors?
Our friend Karen from Honduras has been slowly making her way to the US border for the last six months. It’s a hard and incredibly dangerous journey, especially for a single woman. At one point she was kidnapped by Los Zetas but somehow managed to escape. She is a God-fearing woman with no desire or intention to cross the border illegally. That would have been safer and easier albeit more expensive. Her family could conceivably have paid a coyote, (a cartel-controlled human trafficker) to escort her safely to her final destination in the US. But Karen is trusting God.
Based on our conversations, her faith is well on its way to being found more precious than gold.
Karen is very special to us. She was the person of peace, Luke 10:5 whom we met when we moved to the mountains of Honduras at the beginning of 2020. She located the house in which we lived, introduced us to the community, and showed us the mountain trails between villages. We slept in her church when the landslide hit. Her family dug a few of our possessions out of the mud and Karen hand-washed the mud out of some of Cathy’s clothes. Then her sister provided another house for us to continue our Honduras mission for over a year before God called us to Greeneville TN.
Many believers in the first world recoil at the idea that God would allow let alone intend that His children should suffer. Yet scripture is abundantly clear that He has and does. Isa 53:10, Mat 10:24-25 Not because He hates us, but because He loves us. Rom 8:29 Granted these soulish flesh tents in which we reside for seventy or eighty years of eternity abhor the idea. Yet as we’ve said, God will have a bride “without spot or wrinkle”.Our faith will be tested. James 1:2-4 It will be proven genuine, and found to be more precious than gold tested by fire. Or it will be burned off as dross. 1 Cor 3:12-16
I find it poignant that gold does not burn. When it is purified the goldsmith subjects it to fire. Only the impurities and dross are burned. The goldsmith knows the gold is sufficiently purified when he can see his own reflection in it. Likewise, God will know we are purified when He sees His reflection in us.
While we can never be fully prepared in the natural when faced with the trials of our faith, it is worth learning about how others have endured their own. How have you, or will you respond when faced with a trial of your faith? Christian families in places like Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan are asking themselves these exact questions every day.