September 20: Faith in Focus

Read 1 Peter 1:13-25

The living hope made all the difference in the way Peter lived. It’s how he could stand up in that temple court and proclaim to the Jews the truth about Jesus Christ. (See Acts 2.) That they had killed Him. That Jesus had conquered death, and the darkness of sin, anyway. This living hope, this new birth, new life, is the only way that Peter could give a crippled beggar complete healing. (See Acts 3.) How he could claim to the paralytic in Lydda Jesus Christ heals you. (See Acts 9:32-35.) Peter had seen and experienced the new life, the rebirth, the living hope, first hand. He new the unknowable abundance of the grace of God. And it made all the difference in the world.

Peter knew the difference this living hope could make in a life. And he knew the catastrophic consequences of taking one’s focus off of that truth. He had experienced it first in his undisturbed gaze. The faith focus that stepped him out of that boat and right onto the water. It wasn’t until he noticed the wind, got distracted by the circumstances, that he started to sink into the natural.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29-30)

That’s why he wrote in this book we call 1 Peter,

Prepare your minds for action . . . set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed (v13).

Because Peter knew that when the people of God place their laser-focus faith in Jesus Christ as the only true and living hope, they start living the unbelievable.

So how’s your focus? Are you distracted or is your mind prepared with laser-focus faith?

brw

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September 19: God’s True Grace

Read I Peter 1:1-12

Peter knew something about the true grace of God. I mean, he really knew it. From the moment he stepped out of the boat and right on top of the water (Matt. 14:25ff) to the moment Jesus took him for a walk on the beach and handed him forgiveness all wrapped up in the form of the greatest gift Peter would ever know (Jn. 21:15-25). Yes, Peter knew this true grace of God. And it changed everything about him. It changed how Peter lived. It’s what made him write this about God,

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope (v3).

Peter knew about the shielding of God’s power through faith because he had experienced it firsthand. His experience with the unbelievable grace of God Himself gave Peter everything he needed to live fully alive for the rest of his days.

You see, after Jesus left this earth, Peter led the charge to spread the news. He went from being a lowly fisherman to a dynamic speaker of truth. He went from catching fish for a living to healing beggars at the temple gate. And Peter knew that there was only one explanation for this crazy transformation. It was the power of God.

He also knew the suffering, the trials and persecution. For, he had not only been a witness to the suffering Jesus endured, he had also been imprisoned and persecuted for sharing the life-giving truth about Jesus Christ. And still, Peter could write

These (trials) have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold . . . may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (v7).

Still, he was able to write about an inexpressible and glorious joy and of receiving the goal of … faith, the salvation of (our) souls (v9).

Of all the disciples that followed Jesus from the beginning, perhaps Peter would be one of the last we would have guessed to write something as shocking as this. The idea that inexpressible and glorious joy is available even in the midst of persecution, heartache, trouble. But Peter knew the renewing and powerful grace of God perhaps better than any of the other disciples. For he had received it from Jesus Christ Himself after personally denying Him at His most needy hour.

Do you know God’s grace that well? And, even more, have you let it change you so drastically?

brw

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September 18: Opening the Door to the Gentiles

Read Acts 9:32-10:48

To Peter, Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19) In other words, Peter was to play a key role in the unfolding plan of God that would propel the gospel expansion in the first century.

As a result, God used Peter on the Day of Pentecost to use his keys to open the door to Jews as he preached Christ in Acts 2. God used him as the holder of the keys to convey the Spirit of God to Samaritans who were despised as half-breed Jews in Acts 8. God used him to heal the lame and bedridden and even to raise a dead woman in Acts 3 and 9.

But there was one key Peter was reluctant to use…one door he refused to open. Clearly, Jews, as the chosen people of God, were the rightful recipients of the gospel. Apparently, Samaritans, with their legacy that extended into Jewish roots, were among the people that God wanted to reach? But Gentiles? The “ethnos?” It’s true, Jesus had used that Greek word in the Great Commission. They were to “make disciples of all ‘ethnos…’” But did the Lord really mean it? His Jewish background had taught him that they were to be avoided. They were the heathen. He was to separate himself from them. And even if Jesus had meant it, somebody else could do it, right?

Will you allow me to push pause here and ask you if there are types or groups of people for whom you have no gospel compassion? Are there people that you have written off or separated yourself from? Are there people whose eternal destiny doesn’t even cause a smidgen of concern in your heart? If so, perhaps you need to go back and read Peter’s vision, conclusion, and action.

  • His vision communicated responsibility for those he had avoided.
  • His conclusion was that God shows no partiality…why should he?
  • His action was one of being personally involved in reaching the very people he had written off.

sbk

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September 17: The Temple Beggar

Read Acts 3:1-26

What was it about this particular day that made Peter choose to stop and give the crippled beggar all that he had? I mean, why today? Why now? The Bible says the man was put there every day “to beg from those going into the temple courts (v2).” It also implies that Peter and John went there each afternoon at 3:00 to pray. Put the two facts together, and we can assume that the three men encountered each other daily. So why now?

I wonder if Peter noticed the man before this day. Did he usually give him even a smile? I mean, did Peter and John feel the uncomfortable that so many of us often feel when face-to-face with an I-have-no-idea-how-to-help-this-person-so-I’ll-just-ignore-him kind of situation? You know, like the lady that stands at the entrance to Wal-Mart and holds a sign that says, “Please help.” Or the man you saw last time you were in Cleveland who had no legs and sat begging outside Progressive Field. I tend to think that Peter the man who used to be Simon would have succumbed to the angst of the uncomfortable and probably avoided the beggar altogether. But Peter the Rock who had been changed by Jesus Christ, been given the keys to heaven itself, well he did just the opposite.

The Scripture says that when the man asked for money, Peter and John “looked straight at him.” They got right in his face and gave him the grace of Jesus in the form of dignity. How many times had that man been ignored? I imagine his eyes got used to just staring at the ground, at the feet of those from whom he begged. And that was only the beginning! Peter and John begged the man’s attention and then they gave him what he really needed.

Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (v6).

Peter could have easily tossed some money into the man’s little beggar’s cup on his way in to talk with God. But instead, he gave the man what only Jesus Christ could give him — complete healing for his body. Complete healing for his soul. Only Jesus Christ could have done that for the man. Only Jesus Christ could have made Peter the kind of man that could be used in such a way. That’s what the grace of God does — it heals completely, and it makes us bold. And when we know it like Peter did, we can’t help but give it out.

brw

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September 16: Transformed Into New

Read Acts 1:-2:47

Jesus had promised power for His disciples. It was the kind of power that would make them witnesses not just in their neighborhoods but all over the world.

I read this Scripture, and I wonder, what was it that made Peter stand up that day in Jerusalem? What exactly made him take the lead? Was it his sure place and restored fellowship with the Lord? And what about the fire-tongues that he and all the others saw and everyone around them heard? Why was Peter the one to stand up and proclaim Jesus the loudest? This fisherman from Bethsaida stood up and addressed an entire crowd about Jesus Christ and things of God. A fisherman, mind you, who just weeks earlier wouldn’t even admit his acquaintance with Jesus to a slave girl in a courtyard.

There is only one explanation: it was the power of God at work in Peter.

Yes, the man Jesus called the Rock stepped into his role that day in Jersusalem, the day the Holy Spirit came down. And God Himself enabled Peter to live up to his name. He empowered him to speak the truth about Jesus Christ to people from all over the world. God grew Simon into a rock. Then He used him to display His might. To display His amazing work of forgiveness and strength.

After the Pentecost, Peter spent the rest of his life serving Jesus Christ the Lord. He lived every part of the rest of his days on earth displaying God’s power and proclaiming it as such. Not just with the words he spoke, but he did it with the way he lived. Changed. Jesus transformed Peter into His witness, just like He’d promised.

That same transformation awaits each of us. When we trust Him with our lives and proclaim Jesus Christ as the Lord, He makes us new. Turns us into displays of His mercy and grace. Gives us a new nature. He doesn’t necessarily change our personalities (He certainly didn’t change Peter’s), but rather He solidifies them in His truth, uses them for His glory.

Let’s step into the role He’s called us to.

brw

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September 15: Forgiven and Commissioned

Read John 21:1-25

Peter had followed Christ for three years. As we read yesterday, when the pressure was on, this former fisherman denied knowing Jesus. Three times. After Peter’s denial, Jesus died, rose from the dead, and even appeared to Peter. Still, Peter returned to the boats and the nets. The boats and the nets from which Christ had originally called him. Was this just a one-day outing for old times’ sake? Was this the future that Peter now envisioned for himself after having failed his Lord? I suppose we don’t have enough information to know all of what was going through Peter’s mind.

We do know, however, that our Lord reaffirmed His original call to Peter to leave the fishing nets behind. In His first call, He’d commissioned Simon to “Come, follow (Him) and (to) make (him a) fisher of men” (Matt. 4:19). Now, once again at the shore of the sea, the Lord renewed that call with an assignment. “Feed My lambs. Take care of My sheep. Feed My sheep” (Jn. 21:15-17). The failure was forgiven. Peter was also commissioned to play an important part in the Savior’s plans!

But there is more. Jesus went on to point out that Peter would one day be led to somewhere he did “not want to go.” Although Peter did not know the full details of when, where, and how, he understood the what. He would be led to his own execution. That’s when he raised the question. Referring to John, he asked, “What about him?”

Let’s close with two quick thoughts. First of all, has something from your past caused you to leave the playing field of ministry and intimacy with Christ? Have you retreated to the bleachers where you only observe from a distance? Don’t let your past do that to you! Confess it. Receive God’s forgiveness. Be assured of His forgiveness and desire to continue to use you. He specializes in restoration.

Secondly, when you find yourself in the thick of a difficult situation, there is a natural tendency to pose the “What about him?” question. Put another way, the question reads, “Why not him?” or “Why me?” Rather than majoring on this thought of justice, Jesus wants us to focus on our own faithfulness. Your situation will be different from that of others. It is our responsibility to follow Him faithfully through our own life situations.

sbk

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September 14: Caught in the Dark

Read John 18:1-27

I can picture the darkness of that night in the olive grove. Then later in Caiaphas’ courtyard. The dark of the night that cloaked the betrayal. The dark of Simon Peter’s shame that cloaked his new name. I imagine he fought it as he stood there by that fire, warming himself while the Lord faced his executioners. Fought it like he’d fought the impending suffering of the Messiah.

I wonder at his thoughts that evening. Why had he been wielding a sword? Was his promise to lay down his own life for Jesus foremost in his mind as he struck that soldier’s ear? (See John 13:37-38.) And what about the falling asleep in the Garden thing when Jesus had begged him to keep watch with Him? Did he figure he’d already committed the denial Jesus had told him about earlier? Did he think that would be his biggest failure?

The Bible says Peter wept bitterly when that rooster crowed. As soon as he lied the third time and pretended he didn’t know Jesus, he sobbed like a baby for the shame and the darkness he knew. For the hopelessness he experienced as he watched his Savior be bound. The shame he must have known, realizing he had denied the very One to whom he’d pledged his life. Surely, he must have scorned his new name. Oh, Peter, you are no rock.

I wonder if Peter remembered the other stuff, though. The promises Jesus had made. The hope He’d laid out so clearly. I wonder how long it took for him to realize that the promises Jesus had made were simply truths not yet realized. Like the one about His forever life and His conquering death. And what about the promise that Peter himself would be the one on whom He would build His church? The very one Jesus called the rock, the one on whom He promised to build His church, wilted like a pansy when faced with opposition.

How many times have we ourselves pandered and denied Jesus? How many opportunities have we scorned in order to save our own reputations? How often have we acted just like Peter did that night by the fire?

But Jesus used Peter anyway. He used him to build His church. He used him to bind the enemy, to spread His Gospel, to preach His truth.

He can use you and me, too! That’s good news!

brw

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