Monday, January 29, 2018

Marks Of A Great, Godly Church - 1 Peter 5:1-14

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1 Peter 5:12-14  "Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ."

Introduction: Meet A Great Godly Church

The Apostle Peter wrote two epistles that are placed near the end of the collection of 27 books we call the New Testament. Peter's purpose in writing his short letter was to exhort his readers to "stand firm in the grace of God" (see 1 Peter 5:12). In the final chapter of his letter, we find the blueprints for a great, godly church. In today's post I want to briefly look at what it takes to be a great, godly church. What follows is not exhaustive, but instead summarizes the overall message we find in 1 Peter 5:1-14. What traits or qualities distinguish such a church? 

1. Devoted Pastors.  1 Peter 5:1-4

1 Peter 5:1-2 states - "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness." 

A church that is favored by God will be a church that loves to feed on the word of God.  Peter's commands to pastors is to "shepherd" or "feed the flock" the word of God. This is apropos for Peter, since Jesus, in John 21, had re-commissioned Peter to "feed His sheep" some thirty years prior to Peter's composition of 1 Peter.  Shepherding a church and leadership go hand-in-hand. Such pastors will exercise leadership in four ways:

a. Lead by God's will. 1 Peter 5:1-2a. 

b. Lead with God's passion. 1 Peter 5:2b

c. Lead with God's integrity. 1 Peter 5:3

d. Lead for God's approval. 1 Peter 5:4

As noted already, these words from Peter's pen echo what he heard from Jesus' lips some 30 years prior as recorded in John 21:16 "He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”  

Paul too gives similar instruction to the Ephesian elders to feed the flock as devoted pastors in Acts 20:28.  Why? Devoted pastoral ministry is included in God's design for the church to sanctify the church by the Word (John 17:17; Ephesians 5:26); encourage the church (Hebrews 4:12); enlighten the church by Spirit-empowered preaching and teaching (1 Corinthians 2:10-13) and mature the flock as the Spirit sees fit (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:1-2). No man can do any of these things apart from the Holy Spirit's empowerment and the call of God.

Christians who regularly feed on the Word of God will grow in maturity - knowing good from evil.  God's hand of grace will be on a church that feeds from the scriptures preached and taught by God-called men. But notice a second trait of a church that is a great and godly church...

2. Dependence upon God. 1 Peter 5:5-10

Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:5-7 "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." 

Next to love, humility is the number one trait that demonstrates Christ-likeness (see Philippians 2:1-5).  In the realm of our attitudes and actions, humility is the most royal of virtues as it serves others. Passages such as Philippians 2:1-5 urge us to have this same mindset as was found in Christ Jesus - humility. When I yield myself over to another for the sake of relationship - I am demonstrating the communicable attribute of humility that is germane to God's own nature. A church body that serves others and has within it service to one another is a church that will abound in God's supernatural grace and power. 

To summarize Peter's point on the necessity of dependence on God, we can note the following:

a. Waiting on God. 1 Peter 5:5-6

b. Trusting God. 1 Peter 5:7-8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 6:34

c. Persevering in God. 1 Peter 5:9-10; Jude 1:3; James 1:3-4.

So a church that is a great and Godly church will have devoted pastors and dependence upon Him. But notice thirdly...

3. Determination to Follow the Lord.  1 Peter 5:9-14

1 Peter 5:9-10 states - "But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." 

In 1 Peter 5:9 the NASB renders the opening phrase as "stand firm in your faith". Though the pronoun "your" could very well be implied in the passage, other English translations handle this passage better in bringing out the emphasis of "The Faith". This reference to faith has to do with the objective Christian faith, the "capital 'F'" faith within which my "small 'f'" personal faith in Christ resides. The HCSB renders this passage as: "Resist him and be firm in the faith...", with the KJV and NKJV following suit.  

The emphasis on "The Faith" reminds us of Jude 1:3 "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  

The Christian's personal faith rests in the gifting of faith granted by God in His grace and persists. To summarize Peter's point here, we can note three realizations to keep in mind when exercising determination to follow God as a great, Godly church...

a. Realize, you're not alone. 1 Peter 5:9

b. Realize, you've got a Heavenly home. 1 Peter 5:10-11

c. Realize, you have His favor (i.e. grace) 1 Peter 5:12-14

Closing thoughts:

This brings us to the close of Peter's letter and the chief point for which he wrote it. The whole theme of Peter's first epistle is that of "standing firm in the grace of God." Certainly in the final few verses of Peter's letter we see God's grace weave its way throughout the verses. As Peter closes out this epistle, he urges the churches to which he writes to be great, Godly churches in the following ways...

1. Have devoted pastors. 1 Peter 5:1-4

2. Depend upon God. 1 Peter 5:5-10

3. Determine to follow the Lord. 1 Peter 5:11-14

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Living A Life That Counts - 1 Peter 4:1-19

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1 Peter 4:1-2 "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."


Meaning, value and purpose are among the great methods for demonstrating God's existence. If God does not exist, then discussion about life's ultimate purpose is pointless. On naturalism, all that exists is this physical space-time universe and all of its physical contents. Naturalism espouses that all things were brought about by natural causes. Consequently, on naturalism, the universe is either eternal or was brought into being by self-creating quantum fluctuations. One of the ways to evaluate a worldview is to see if the world around us is what we would expect if such a position were true.  If naturalism is true, then meaning, value and purpose are illusory. 

Yet, we find again and again the desire for a life that counts as ingrained deep inside all of us. Atheism asserts the meaningless of life while urging its devotees to embrace, in the words of 20th century thinker Bertand Russell, "unyielding despair". Russell's own atheism was inconsistent, since he himself got involved in social causes. If there is no meaning and purpose in life, why fight for injustice? So then, naturalism, atheism and any worldview based upon it are disproven. There is a real purpose to life. Living a life that counts is a worthwhile pursuit. The question is: where then do we look to live such a life?

Today’s main point 

Whenever you and I aim to find life’s purpose – the search can only end at one place: the feet of Jesus. The Christian-life counts for eternity by noting the purposes for living it as spelled out in 1 Peter 4.

1. The purpose to fight sin. 1 Peter 4:1-7

Sin means to fall-short, to transgress the law of God. Sin acts like rot in a piece of fruit - it eats away the goodness of the thing. Prior to conversion, the only thing the sinner wants to do is justify sinful thinking, actions and human autonomy against God. After conversion, the principle of the new nature in Jesus Christ begins to take over (see Romans 6:4-14; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Indwelling sin remains, and must be fought (Romans 7; 1 Peter 2:11). Peter's text in 1 Peter 4:1-6 can be outlined in the following way in describing the purpose to fight sin.

a. Fight sin on the inside (the flesh). 

The flesh represents that internal tendency to sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2. “cease” = “restrain oneself”. Rom 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

b. Fight sin on the outside (the world). 1 Peter 4:3-6 

The world is anything to do with the external network dedicated to temptation to sin. The Apostle John notes in 1 John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 

c. Fight Satan (our enemy). 1 Peter 5:8-9

The World is Satan's turf and the flesh is his target. Ephesians 6:11-18 urges the believer to put on the full armor of God so as to withstand the wiles of the evil one and his parasite kingdom. So living a life that counts first entails the fight against sin. 

2. The purpose to pray. 1 Peter 4:7

But now we consider the chief purpose of life and salvation: to know God. Knowing God orbits around the life of prayer. Passages such as Philippians 4:6-7 urge us exercise prayer in everything. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.” We know that in prayer, my mind and my innermost being (i.e - my spirit) are the two contact points in prayer. Proverbs 20:27 “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” 

Prayer is the jumper cable I connect from my spirit to my seat of judgment, the mind. In prayer, we are inviting the indwelling Holy Spirit in our human spirit to illuminate our thinking (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The 16th century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther once noted: 

“The first stone in prayer is that of confidence. Whoever pray must do so while believing God.” 

3. The purpose to express His love. 1 Peter 4:8-11

Truly without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and relationship with Jesus Christ, God's love cannot flow un-constricted. Living a life that counts (i.e the Christian life) involves the purposes of fighting sin and prayer. Now we consider the third main purpose: expressing God's love.  The purpose of the Christian life is to make the sinner into a saint (see 1 Corinthians 1; 1 Peter 2:7-12). The title "saint" refers to one that is set apart from God at salvation to progressively grow in their sanctification. The goal of being a saint of God is to have an uninterrupted walk with God. 

Whenever Christians drift off into directions opposite of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are living outside of their redeemed purpose (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). God ever beckons the believer to live as His vessel by which He can express His love. Such love is brought to the Christian by the Holy Spirit, Who is portrayed by Jesus as a fountain of living water (see John 7:37-39). In thinking on this important purpose of God's love, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

Every believer in Jesus Christ is a dry river-bed apart from Him. To summarize the Apostle Paul, one could have eloquence (rhetoric); prophesy (mystics) and be a martyr. Yet, without (God’s love), a person is a clashing gong, nothing, profitless. We’re dry river-beds without God's great love flowing through us. The Apostle John writes in 1 John 4:16 "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." 

4. The purpose of godliness. 1 Peter 4:12-19

As we close out today's post on living a life that counts, we note once more the purposes we have considered. There is the purpose to fight sin. There is the purpose of prayer. We then considered the purpose of expressing God's love. The final purpose that enables us to see a life worth living is that of godliness. 
1 Timothy 4:8  "for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." Godliness is a pattern of life that aims to be like Jesus in thought, word or deed. (see 1 Peter 2:21-25). 

Godliness is the goal of the Christian life and explains why Christians often have to undergo hardship (1 Tim 4:12-19; 6:12). Remarkably, Peter's final section of 1 Peter 4:12-19 traces out a pattern that resembles the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

a. Jesus in His temptation. 1 Peter 4:12-13; Hebrews 4:15

b. Jesus in His earthly ministry. 1 Peter 4:14-16; Acts 10:44-48 

c. Jesus to the cross. 1 Peter 4:17-19; Hebrews 12:3

One friend of mine recently told me that we ought to be Jesus with skin on to a watching world. Truly that is a memorable way of keeping in mind the godly life. Living a life that counts entails then these four purposes: fight sin; prayer; express His love and godliness. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread - Reflecting On God's Provision

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Matthew 6:11b "Give us this day our daily bread."

Luke 11:3 "Give us each day our daily bread."

Introduction: A lesson I learned from a spider

When Debi and I first got married, we lived in an upstairs two bedroom apartment. One day she and I were looking out the back window at the back yard. We both were feeling down due to challenging circumstances. We both prayed but found ourselves still struggling on the inside. As we both kept peering out that window, we noticed a little spider making its way between the outside screen and inside window pane. 

The spider, though small, was bigger than the tiny screen holes. We reasoned that the spider had crawled in between the screen and window at an earlier time. As we watched closer, we noticed little tiny gnats flying in through the screen holes. Remarkably, those little gnats would get caught in the little spider's web. As soon as we witnessed this spectacle of the spider and the gnats, a rainbow appeared across the sky. Both my wife and I were reminded of God's promise to Noah (Genesis 9:13) that He would never again destroy the earth by a flood. Moreover, in seeing the spider, we realized that unless the gnats flew in through the screen, the spider would die. It had no way of getting out to fend for its food. The spider was completely at God's mercy to provide food (see Psalm 104:20-24).  

My wife and I were taught a valuable lesson that day concerning God's provision. We learned that His promises are always in the background of every circumstance (see 2 Peter 1:3-4). Secondly, though He may place what we perceive as restrictions into our lives, the "restrictions" are actual "releases" to free one's faith to trust God rather than themselves. 

Suggested reasons for the two renderings of the Lord's prayer

Whenever one reads the two versions of the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, the instructions from Jesus on prayer are given on two different occasions. As any good teacher will oft repeat a lesson or topic throughout the course of their teaching - so it is with our Lord. Although the two versions are similar, they contain distinctions.

The petition on requesting God's provision in Matthew 6:11b reads "give us this day, our daily bread". Luke 11:2 states the same petition in this way: "Give us each day our daily bread." Matthew's version had Jesus emphasizing provisions for today - right now. Luke's version deals with the distribution of God's provision for everyday into the future or for however long the need may be. The former addresses my request to God in meeting my immediate needs. The latter version of the prayer is requesting of God in meeting my needs for the long haul. Matthew's version is focused on the little picture of today. Luke's rendering is dealing with the bigger picture. 

I find the priority of these versions remarkable. Matthew's rendering of "gives us this day our daily bread" represents Jesus teaching this lesson in the earlier part of His ministry. He is preaching his first major sermon. When He arrives on this part of the prayer, the challenge to the believer is whether or not to trust God for today. 

Until I can learn the lesson of trusting God for today, I won't be ready for how much He wants to give to me tomorrow. Luke's version reminds us that each day is going require differing amounts and types of provision. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:21-24

"This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:34  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Thoughts for application: three types of provision

In as much as Jesus uses the term "bread" in His instruction on prayer to refer to request for physical needs, one must not restrict God's provision to the physical realm. Certainly the physical realm is where we begin when considering God's provision (see Philippians 4:19). Physical provision of God covers food (Deuteronomy 8:14-15) and finances (Malachi 3:6-10; Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:19). It is normally  in this first sort of provision that many people conceive of God's provision. 

However, trusting God to provide every need addresses two other areas that are pointed to by the physical realm. The second area has to do with one's emotional needs. Philippians 4:6-7 promises the provision of God's "peace that surpasses all understanding". How often I have found that before the physical provision arrives, God's peace arrives ahead of it. 

Yet, there is one more sort of provision to which physical and emotional provisions point - namely spiritual provisions. Unless our spiritual provisions are met in Christ, physical and emotional provisions will not long satisfy. Whenever Jesus instructs His disciples on prayer in these verses, notice how little space He devotes to petitioning for physical needs - i.e. "daily bread". Jesus devotes the first quarter to one-third of the prayer to the praise of the Heavenly Father. Then, the latter part of the prayer is devoted to protection from temptation and the evil one. 

Closing thoughts

As we pray for God's provision, the drift of our prayer life ought to invert the typical order people follow in terms of their priorities. Rather than dwelling only on physical needs or perhaps graduating to emotional needs and going no further, the reversing of such order ought to follow. Imagine what happens when an individual or church begins with the spiritual need - a need for closer fellowship with God and deeper acquaintance with scripture. As the spiritual needs are prioritized, the emotional and physical needs are more effectively met. Undoubtedly, human experience drives one from dwelling only on the physical to consideration of one's emotional plight and then spiritual need. Traumatic events will call of course for addressing immediate physical and emotional needs - since such needs can lead one to ponder on the state of their soul. Yet, in the normal courses of one's Christian spiritual life, the order should follow the course of spiritual-->emotional-->physical. Consequently, such an approach prioritizes God, then others and lastly - oneself.  As we can see, God's provision covers all the bases. We only need to trust, wait and look to Him who knows what we need, when we need it.   

Saturday, January 20, 2018

An Introductory Set Of Meditations and Applications On The Doctrine Of The Trinity

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Matthew 6:9 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy."


Whenever we begin to think about God, we can three fundamental concepts: God's being, God's person hood and God's identity. These three inter-related ideas comprise an introductory reflection on the doctrine of the Trinity. In the opening text of today's post, we find Jesus instructing us on the proper way to pray. The appropriate beginning point for prayer and thought about the Christian God is God as Father. If we can grasp how God the Father gives us access to the being, personhood and identity of God - then the doctrine of the Trinity will follow.

A suggested way of beginning to think about the Trinity by starting with the Father

Richard Swinburne, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, has written quite a bit on the doctrine of God and reflection on the doctrine of the Trinity. For Swinburne, beginning with God the Father helps in tracing out one's meditation and think on the Trinity. What are his practical suggestions?

First, we begin by observing the various properties assigned to the being of God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, holiness, love and so forth). Next, we note that the Father is endowed with properties associated with personhood (intellect, emotions and will). Then finally, we have the proper identity of God as Father. 

The identity of this Person as "Father" entails a relationship with another Divine Person sharing the same properties of being while have His own distinct identity. This second Person in relationship with the Father is deemed by scripture as "the Son". According to Swinburne, in order for God to be the greatest conceivable being, He as Father would need to give of Himself to another (the Son) and be willing to have the Son be loved equally and maximally by another Divine Person that shares in the same properties of Deity - namely the Holy Spirit. 

In describing the Trinity, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias notes how Christianity is the only movement that has love coming before life. That is to say, before there was a universe populated by created life, there was the One God existing as the three Persons of the Trinity expressing eternal love to one another.  

Scripture and the historic Nicene Creed begin reflection upon the being, personhood and identity of God by way of the Father

As I think upon God's being, Personality and Identity - I find the Father, in eternal relationship to the Son, eternally pleased in the Holy Spirit's adoration of the Son. Such Divine pleasure spills over into God's call to sinners in the Gospel. Such a thought inclines me to embrace how the Bible talks of God as One in being and three in identity. A few New Testament passages and the opening of the ancient Nicene Creed confirm these observations.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6 writes: 

"Yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him." 

Paul is stating two foundational doctrines that comprise the doctrine of the trinity: monotheism (belief in one God) and the deity of the Son. Clearly the Deity, Personhood and identity of the Father is unquestioned. Attributing the same properties of being to the Son while distinguishing the Son's Personhood and identity from that of the Father gets us a step closer to a full-orbed Trinitarian concept of God.

The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:3 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 

Here we see the Father in relationship to the Son as it pertains to the Son in His total humanity. If we take into account how both apostles begin with God the Father, we can also trace out the Son's dual nature as sharing in the Divine nature with the Father while having uniquely assumed unto His own Person total humanity in His incarnation. It must be recalled that the Son, not the Father, was incarnated in becoming the man Jesus of Nazareth. The Son ever remained God - since as God He cannot cease being such. By way of His incarnation as the man Jesus Christ, we see in history and scripture God incarnate, Immanuel, the Word made flesh (Matthew 1:21-23; John 1:1,14; 1 Timothy 3:16). 

The Nicene Creed begins its beautiful affirmation of the Trinity with the following statement:

"I believe in one God,

the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible."

By starting with the Father, we have the being of God, personhood (the Father) and thus identity. Unlike Western Christendom, which begins with the unity of God and branches out to consider each person of the Trinity; the Eastern Orthodox Christian model of the Trinity prefers starting with the Father. This approach gets us more quickly to the notions we asserted at the beginning of this post: God's being, personhood and identity as introductory avenues into meditating on the Trinity.


As we close out this post today, it is so vital to correctly understand what we mean when we talk about God. God is Perfect in His being. God's perfection of being means He is, in the words of Anselm of Canterbury of the 11th century, the "Greatest Conceivable Being, apart from which none greater can be conceived". By establishing the fact that God is at least One, true personality, we avoid pagan concepts of deity as impersonal. 21st century secular forms of spirituality either conceive of spirituality as collapsed into the human psyche or portray a universal force devoid of personality. A robust Trinitarian Christian concept of God can ably handle the aggressive atheism and secularism of our day.

As we come to terms with God as Father, we next arrive at thinking of God as a being in a loving, eternally trusting community of Persons (Father, Son, Spirit). This can aid Christians in becoming more God-focused.  The Father urges us to consider His Son, since the Spirit, sent to the church in the Son's name, points believers to focus their worship on the Son (John 14:16-17,23; 16:12-15). These practical considerations can result whenever we give our minds and hearts in more consistent devotion to the Trinity. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How God Takes Failure And Makes Us Useful - A Short Study On Mark

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2 Timothy 4:11 "Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service."


"Failure" is a word no one in American culture likes to consider. The American way of life is designed to avoid failure as much as possible. It is very easy in the minds of many to "write-off" people that, in their eyes, are "failures". Interestingly enough, the Old and New Testaments record many examples of people used by God that were "epic-failures". This is God's intended pattern. The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21:

"Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."

Have you ever felt like a failure? I have. Do you wonder whether or not God can use failures in such a way as to advance His Kingdom? If we're honest, we all have failed and have asked such questions. In today's post we will look at a biographical sketch of the author of the second Gospel in our New Testaments - known simply as "Mark". We will discover how it is that God takes failure and makes the follower of Jesus useful for His glory.

Mark - an unlikely and insignificant figure
Mark's story, like his mentor the Apostle Peter, is a remarkable story of failure and and redemption.  We first meet Mark in Mark 14:51 as an anonymous young man fleeing from the Garden of Gethsemane following Jesus' arrest. Mark's downplaying of himself in his own Gospel gives us insight into a character molded by the turning lathe of humility. 

The only thing we can gather at this point concerns the one statement of the young man as "following Him". How close Mark was following Jesus and disciples is not divulged. 

The testimony of church history tells us how God would end up using Mark. An early church father, Papias of Hierapolis, notes how Mark was an "associate" of the Apostle Peter. Per Papias' testimony in a collection of his writings called "Fragments of Papias":

"Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements."

Mark would record what he heard as the Apostle Peter preached a series of sermons on the life of Jesus to an eager Roman audience. Mark's transcriptions would end up being the Gospel of Mark. That gives us the end result of Mark's life. But how did Mark become useful for God in the manner recorded above?   

Mark: An Initial Success

We must go back some thirty years into the younger years of Mark. John was his first name, although his surname "Mark" ended up being the primary way he was addressed. In Acts 12:12 we see Mark's house being used as a meeting place of the early church. The people were gathered to pray for the release of the Apostle Peter from prison. Per Luke's record in Acts 12, Peter was released by an angel. As he made his way out of the prison, he awoke as it were from a dream or in what he thought was a vision (see Acts 12:10-11). Peter's instinct was to go to Mark's home, where the early church was gathered in prayer on his behalf. As the profile for Mark builds, we find him to be a man that could be trusted.

There is no doubt that Mark became an important component in the life of the early church. Many today would call Mark a "success". However, God often chooses "failures" over "successes" to do His kingdom work. In order for Mark to be used greatly by God and to write the second Gospel bearing his name, he would have to experience failure.

Mark: A man that failed

Mark's ascendancy within the Apostolic circles of the early church came to an abrupt halt when he deserts Paul in Acts 13. Acts 13:13 recounts the event: 

"Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem." 

In Acts 15:38-39 Paul refuses to have Mark accompany him on his missionary journeys:

"But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus."

This turn of events followed from the failure of Mark recorded in Acts 13:13.  Barnabas chooses to take Mark under his wing as a protege. Consequently, with Mark's mentoring received from the Apostle Peter, Barnabas would be used by God to "rebuild" a fallen and failed Mark. 

One of things we learn from failure is that the aftermath can result either in us giving up entirely or learning lessons that rebuild character. Whenever God places people across the path of someone that has failed, the end result can be a more useful person to do God's bidding. Mark had enjoyed success. Now, he failed miserably. Despite such setbacks, Mark was being rebuilt by God through the combined efforts of Barnabas and Peter. God had a purpose in mind with young Mark.

Mark: A Man Useful For God 

It is years later in Colossians 4:10 and later again in 2 Timothy 4:11 that we learn of Paul and Mark having not only been reconciled, but somehow Mark being deemed as "useful".  2 Timothy 4:11 reads: 

"Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service."

We've already noted how church history tells the story of Mark penning his Gospel under Divine inspiration as he listened to the Apostle Peter preaching in Rome. Mark is a supreme trophy of God's grace. God molded Mark to be an aid to the Apostle Peter. In short - Mark became useful for God as a trophy of grace (see all about trophies of grace in Ephesians 3:10). Truly every local church should be God's trophy case full of trophy's of grace who owe their existence and success to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Closing thoughts

God uses failures. We looked today at Mark, the author of the same said Gospel bearing his authorship. As we journeyed through his story, we noted how God took Mark, an initial success, and permitted him to fail. The failure of Mark was used by God to bring in mentors like Barnabas and Peter to shape him into a useful vessel for His service. 

Mark needed rebuilt after his failure. God orchestrated such a rebuilding project - resulting in a man equipped to write one of the 27 books of the New Testament. Four words: success, failure, rebuild and useful. This represents a process we find again and again in scripture and throughout church history. Will you and I submit to God's process? Will we allow Him to take our failures, rebuild what was torn apart and make us useful enough to be used by Him to bless many people? I pray that we will. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Heeding The Call To Christian Humility - 1 Peter 3:1-21

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1 Peter 3:10 "To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing."


Whenever one talks about "God's calling", reference is made to the urgency He places upon our hearts to follow His leading. Salvation is the most important calling, issued forth to sinners (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 3:1). The Christian life following from salvation is a call to walk in a manner worthy of such a calling (see Ephesians 4:1). The calling of God to Christian living is a calling to bear forth spiritual virtues - i.e. "the fruit of the Spirit" (see Galatians 5:22; 2 Peter 1:3-11). One such virtue that brings the believer closest to the character and Person of Christ is that of humility. In today's post we want to explore Peter's exposition on the call to humility in 1 Peter 3:1-21. 

Distinguishing Between Obedience And Humility

Whenever we think about the words "obedience" and "humility", what comes to mind? Obedience is associated with "duty", "allegiance" or "doing what has to be done". Obedience carries with it the sense of moral obligation. Hence, it is every person's moral obligation to heed the Gospel. Whenever one responds in saving faith, they are taking upon themselves a response to the urgency of their souls: believe, repent and be saved from the wrath to come (see Romans 5:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). 

Oftentimes in the Christian life, obedience is that initial step in exercising one's faith in God. In obedience, I know what I "have-to-do". Duty ties my faith to the commands of scripture. 1 John 5:3 states - "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." Therefore we could say that obedience deals in the realm of "have-to's".

Humility differs in kind from obedience. Unlike its cousin obedience, humility emphasizes voluntary action on the part of the one exercising humility. Humility is where I go from "having-to" to "wanting-to". In as much as Jesus did indeed obey the Father in coming to earth as God-incarnate (see Hebrews 10:1-5), His mission was not based only on obedience. The Savior of men did what He did willingly. Jesus acted out of desire - not bare obligation. Humility is where I yield to another out of voluntary desire. 

The truly humble child of God has crossed the threshold of obedience. They recognize God's commanding authority in their life. Humility is desiring to carry out in relationship and submission to others what one has learnt in obedience. Only when one obeys God can they then act in humility.

The Call To Humility In 1 Peter 3

We find Peter continuing on his exhortations to humility in 1 Peter 3:1 that he first wrote about in 1 Peter 2:13-20. The call to humility is urged in the following realms of human experience:

a. Citizenship.      1 Peter 2:13-17
b. Employment.    1 Peter 2:18-20
c. Marriage.          1 Peter 3:1-7
d. Church-life.      1 Peter 3:8-12
e. Suffering.        1 Peter 3:13-18

These areas of humility give a clear picture of what Christ-like humility ought to be. For the Christian in the culture, humility entails remaining faithful to God regardless of the character of governing authorities (see Romans 13). Slave/master relationships correspond to employer/employees arrangements today. How a Christian humbly conducts themselves can speak volumes in a workplace (see Ephesians 6:5-9). 

Church-life that is characterized with mutual humility among the membership testifies to a watching world the mindset of Christ (see Philippians 2:1-5). 

Then we find humility weighing quite heavily in how one faces suffering and its ultimate expression - martyrdom (see 2 Timothy 4:6-8). 

So what about humility within the marriage relationship? Particularly, what does Peter mean (note underlined word) when he states in 1 Peter 3:5-7 "For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."

In what sense is Peter referring to the wife being "weaker"? The form of the underlying Greek noun that translates "weaker" is a comparative term. The only other time this particular form of the noun occurs is in 1 Corinthians 12:22. In that text, the Apostle Paul describes the spiritual gifts operating in Christ's church as parts of a physical body. He describes how parts of the body that are not as physically strong retaining their importance from how they are supported by others. If one reads carefully the context of 1 Corinthians 12, physically weaker parts of the body do not imply diminished importance. Although a person's eye is physically weaker than one's arm, yet, if the eye is damaged - the averse affects are worse than injury done to an arm. 

The sentiments expressed by Paul can aid us in understanding Peter's words. Although most husbands are physically stronger than their wives, as commentator Robert Leighton notes: the choice of term used here by the apostle is intentional to remind the husband that he too is weak. There is nothing at all to glean here about the wife being morally, spiritually or intellectually inferior to the husband. If for anything, wives often excel their husbands in moral, spiritual and intellectual areas. Any Christian husband worth his salt ought to recognize that his life is greatly improved because of his wife. Her humility or submission is voluntary. If both spouses are Christian people, both are on equal par with respect to being fellow heirs of life.  

Christian marriage ultimately pictures what we find to be the case between Christ and the church (see Ephesians 5:22-33). Although the church is to humble herself under the Lord Jesus Christ, yet, Christ has in His incarnation chosen to present unto Himself a chosen group of people that have equal access to all the blessings of God as "joint-heirs" in Christ (see Romans 8:17). Christian Husbands and wives too, though different, are of equal value in God's sight morally and spiritually.

The call to humility takes all of these various areas of life and places them between the bookends of 1 Peter 2:21-25 and 1 Peter 3:18-21 (the texts that feature Christ, His character and His work). Christ is the beginning and end of humility (see Philippians 2:5-11). 

Heeding the call to humility takes my "have-to's" and turns them into "want-to's"

Peter reinforces his exhortation on humility with 1 Peter 3:8-17. Peter's quotation of Psalm 34 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 gives us a source for better applying this section on the call to humility. Psalm 34 is all about the blessings that come with humbling oneself under God's guidance and wisdom. Psalm 34:8 in particular speaks of how "blessed is the one that takes refuge in Him". When my "have-to's" have been transformed into the "want-to's" of humility, I will "taste and see that the Lord is good" (see Psalm 34:8). The humble-minded believer finds courage to yield to God in the face of opposition once they have "set Christ apart in their hearts, ready to give an answer" (1 Peter 3:15). 

Closing thoughts

As we go down the homestretch of 1 Peter 3, we arrive at 1 Peter 3:18-21. Without a doubt the statements made about Christ are both rich and challenging to interpret. One detail worth mentioning centers on God working in the life of Noah. Noah is featured as a man that humbled himself under God's mighty hand whilst the Spirit of Christ worked through his pleadings to his generation to believe, repent and be saved from pending wrath. The take-away here is that the humility that is most effective is that of Christ's humility working through a heart that has humbled itself to Him. Noah did that - and we ought to as well. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tips On Praying According To The Will Of God

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Matthew 6:10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven."


There is only one subject Jesus' disciples requested him to teach: prayer. Think about all of the lessons they could had requested: "Lord, teach us three steps to casting out a demon" or "Lord, show us how to find a coin in a fish's mouth" (see miracle in Matthew 17:27). As Jesus taught them this model prayer (found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11), the one trait of effective prayer taught by Jesus had to do with praying by the will of God. 

What is God's will, why it matters in prayer

God’s will is His divine intention by which He plans and executes. God achieves the general and specific ends of His will through the means of creatures, events and prayer. Prayer is included by God in His will. The will of God acts as the rudder of prayer. Jesus urges us to pray according to the will of God. As the late Dr. Adrian Rogers notes in his book: "What Every Christian Ought To Know":

"Let's think about the will of God for your life. Your great desire ought to be to know the will of God. Your great delight will be to do His will. Your great danger is to refuse His will. Nothing is right for you if it is not His will."

Let’s note some important distinctions of God’s will that can aid us to greater effectiveness in prayer. 

1. God's Ultimate Will. 

For starters, whenever we contemplate Jesus' instructions on "thy will be done" in Matthew 6:10, this deals with God's ultimate or Sovereign will. I picture God's overall, ultimate will like an umbrella. All things in heaven and on earth unfold under His overall purposes and plans. Great passages such as Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:35; Romans 11:36 and Ephesians 1:11 define this all surpassing, all encompassing breadth, depth and height of God's will. We could say that God's ultimate will includes and upholds prayer.

2. God's Unrevealed will

So what then lies underneath the "umbrella" of God's ultimate will? Passages such as Deuteronomy 29:29; Matt. 24:36; Mark 6:48; Phil. 4:6-7 describe what is called "God's unrevealed will". God's unrevealed will is simply what God has not made known, and which is known only to Himself. This is where I learn to trust God. In prayer, I realize that I don't know everything, which is why one comes to God in the first place.

3. God's permissive will

The next division subsumed under God's ultimate will is what theologians call God's "permissive will". Passages such as Genesis 50:20; Deuteronomy 8:15-17; Acts 14:16; James 4:15 feature God's will of permission. Dr. Adrian Rogers describes God's permissive will accordingly:

"God in His sovereignty has granted to man a free will that he may disobey God". 

The permission of God in matters pertaining to free moral agents isn't a bare "whatever goes, goes". God tolerates details He may or may not condone to work forth His will in His creatures. In the realm of prayer, God's permissive will tests me in my obedience & waiting upon Him.

4. God's revealed will

The third great sub-section of God's ultimate will is what is referred to as God's "revealed will". Simply put, God's revealed will involves the words of the Old and New Testaments. Passages such as Deuteronomy 29:29; Amos 3:7; Romans 15:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 describe God's intentions of making known His will to His people. What God has made known in His Word for our benefit, obedience and fellowship with Him is what we mean by the term "revealed will". This represents the area of responsibility that I ought to know, obey and apply. Whenever one combines verses of the Bible with their prayer-life, clarity results. 

Closing thoughts:

We looked today at important distinctions in God's will. Jesus instructed His disciples and us to pray: "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". We know that God's delights to guide His people by His will and desires for them to pray by it (see Psalm 32:8; Psalm 37:23). We considered several distinctions in God's will that can aid in thinking more forthrightly about praying by the will of God. Might we apply what we learned to our prayer lives for His glory and honor. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Heeding The Call To Follow The Lord - A Meditation Upon 1 Peter 2:21-25

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1 Peter 2:21 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls."


Whenever a person senses the calling of God upon their life - things are never the same ever again. Whenever God's calling (in salvation or area of service) comes, urgency ties together the circumstances, people and one's own interior state of heart. Whenever God places His Divine urgency upon your life to act - we call such an urgency: “God’s calling”. 

Such a description befits the description of Christian salvation and the life that follows from it. The call to  the Christian life includes activities and attitudes that cannot be done apart from Jesus Christ. In this post, we will consider how trusting God and entrusting oneself to Him are central to heeding the call to follow Him. 

Called to follow Jesus. 1 Peter 2:21-25

Peter's first epistle has incredible theological statements about Jesus Christ sprinkled throughout its contents (see 1 Peter 1:18; 2:21-25; 3:18-21; 4:1 and 5:4). We read in 1 Peter 2:21 of how the Christian life is a calling to follow in the steps of Jesus. I'm certain Peter never forgot the first time Jesus came to Him and commanded: "follow me" (see Matthew 4:19; John 1:41-43). 1 Peter 2:21-25 summarizes how Jesus provided an example of following the will of the Father by both trusting and entrusting Himself to His authority. As we observe Jesus' willingness to follow, we in turn can see the need to follow Him.

a. Trusting God begins the journey of heeding the call to follow. 1 Peter 2:21

When we begin to follow God, we begin by trust. One of the simplest definitions of faith is that of trust. The 11th century theologian Anselm of Canterbury describes the Christian-life as being about - "faith seeking understanding". Whenever a person trusts God - they do so without possessing a comprehensive understanding of where they're heading or the consequences. Much like the little child in the backseat on a trip, we travel through this life. The Gospel calls sinners to looking to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 17:3). 1 John 2:5-6 reminds us: "but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."

b. Entrusting one's soul to God represents continuation of heeding the call to follow. 1 Peter 2:22-25

We read in 1 Peter 2:22-24 "who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." Whenever we heed the call to follow the Lord in the Christian life, we must not only take that first step of trust - but also continue to "entrust" our lives to Him. The Greek verb translated "entrust" is the same word used elsewhere in the New Testament that speaks of something being "handed over" to the care of others (see 1 Corinthians 11:23; 15:1-3). Jesus literally "handed-over" the reins of his life to the Father. This daily, moment-by-moment resolve involves deciding between "trusting God" versus "trusting oneself". Jesus alone did this perfectly. 

Each time we exercise trust in God, we are building a track record of "entrusting God". The idea of "entrusting one's soul" is equivalent to the idea of "faithfulness". Much like the odometer in a car that measures how many miles the car has been driven, "faithfulness" or "entrusting" describes how long and often one has said "I trust God" rather than "I trust myself more than God".  

Peter closes this section by noting in 1 Peter 2:25 "For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." This describes what ought to be the current state of the Christian. We are ever turning, looking and giving our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. Such thoughts reminds us of Psalm 23 or Psalm 121, which both describe the believer as a sheep looking to the Great Shepherd of their souls. Would we heed the call the follow Jesus by trusting and entrusting our souls to Him.