September 24: The Hope Worth Staking Your Life Upon

Read 1 Peter 3:13-4:6

“Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (3:14).

Peter writes a lot about living hope. It’s the kind of hope that transforms a mind. Transforms a life. It is hope that’s only found in the One True and Living God. Those who find it live by it. Those who trust Jesus Christ to be the Lord of their lives find it.

“Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master” (3:14, MSG).

The living, breathing hope we have changes everything about the way we live. Because we have set apart Jesus Christ as the Lord, we can have real life. We can live without fear. We can operate from a standpoint that doesn’t worry about what other people think. When we set apart Christ as Lord, our hope shows clearly to everyone. So clearly, in fact, that people who don’t yet have this hope will ask about it.

When we are stayed, securely founded on Jesus Christ as our only hope, our perspective changes so drastically that the way we live can’t not be affected. Our lives can’t help but display it.

Jesus Christ Himself shows us how to live this hope. He suffered. And died. Then, by His resurrection from that death, He provided the living hope in which you and I can now operate freely. Through which you and I can freely live. And this is how — with full confidence in knowing that Jesus Christ is our only hope for real life.

“Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want” (4:1-2, MSG).

Do you live in that hope? Have you let your hope in Jesus Christ penetrate every part of your living so that others see it and have to ask about it?

brw

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

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

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

September 13: The Transfiguration

Read Matthew 17:1-21

Who was Peter? We have seen him as a fisherman turned fisher of men. We have identified him as a man with spiritual insight and confusion, recognizing Jesus as the Christ but not capturing the essential nature of the cross. And today, we observe that he was part of an inner circle that was afforded incredible privileges.

Peter, James, and John were alone with Jesus on some special occasions. They were the only ones there when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter. (See Mk. 5:37.) They were there in Gethsemane, Jesus’ most vulnerable moment. (See Matt. 26:37.) And, of course, they were the only ones with Jesus on the mountain we sometimes call the Mount of Transfiguration.

It was there on the mount that theses three witnessed one of the most magnificent and glorious spectacles to have ever taken place on the earth. Jesus radiated light. His clothes were whiter and brighter than anything ever seen. And in His glory, He was joined by Moses and Elijah. Together they carried on a conversation. Then came the voice of the Father. “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

If you follow Christ, you’ve likely experienced the presence of Christ at some point in powerful, glorious, almost palpable ways. Perhaps it was in the midst of an impossible situation, at a time when you experienced an incredible answer to prayer. Maybe it was during a time of sincere worship, or as you engaged with Him in the study of the Scriptures. We want to savor those mountaintop, unique, inner-circle experiences, don’t we? Peter certainly did. He suggested they build shelters. Perhaps he wanted to put their ministry hats on the shelf and stay in the glorious presence of Christ there on that mountain.

But staying there wasn’t an option. You see, part of the purpose of our encounters with the glorious Christ is to empower us for continued and greater service . . . not taken out of service. If you have encountered Christ in powerful ways, don’t stay there. Allow His glory to propel you to even more fruitful ministry for Him!

sbk

September 12: What Jesus Called Peter

Read Matthew 16:13-28

Jesus called him Simon son of John. It was the name he had before he met Jesus. Before God the Father had revealed the truth about Jesus to this humble fisherman from the town of Bethsaida. Then He called him blessed. It means happy. To be envied.

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah . . .” (v. 17)

That’s when Jesus proclaimed Simon’s new position. He called him Peter, the Rock upon which He Himself would build His church. When Peter spoke the truth of who Jesus really was, who He still is today, God the Son gave him the keys to the very Kingdom of Heaven.

“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (v. 19).

It was a pretty good day for Simon Peter, I imagine. A new name with which he had not only proclaimed the truth of Jesus Christ the Son of God, but also with which he would hold authority in eternity. He got to speak truth about Jesus to Jesus Himself.

Perhaps at the thought of the keys of heaven and the authority which Simon Peter could now claim, he envisioned mighty angels and a beautiful throne. So when he heard Jesus’ talk about suffering at the hands of religious authorities, it did not settle well. Jesus’ words  must have sounded crazy and depressing. They cut to the quik of all that Simon Peter had just gained. For if Jesus had to suffer, then what would Peter have to do?

Maybe that’s why he took Jesus aside and quietly rebuked him. Although he had loved what Jesus had told him just four verses earlier, the things He said now were downright hurtful to a man who’d just gained the whole world. Hurtful, that is, from a self-centered I’m-finally-getting-ahead-in-this-world perspective. So when Jesus heard the self come out of Peter’s words, the old nature that makes people seek the opposite of God’s upside-down ways, He rebuked Peter strongly.

And the man He’d just called blessed was now being called Satan by Jesus Himself.

It’s a picture of what happens when we speak truth from God’s perspective and then let our own sinful view of things taint the picture. One minute, Jesus was giving giving Simon Peter the very keys of heaven, and the next minute he was calling him Satan himself. Let us take heed lest we fall to that self-focus as well.

brw

September 11: Peter’s Story

Read John 1:35-51

The first time Simon met Jesus, he got a new name. The Rock. Jesus met him and saw the man not just for who he was, but for who He would be.

“You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (v. 42).

Simon was from Bethsaida, a fishing town. He had a dad named John (some versions call him Jonah) and a brother named Andrew, who apparently thought the world of him. He’s the one who introduced Peter to Jesus.

That introduction led to the story of a man whose story is unequaled by any other in Scripture. The story of a man who lived by the sea. He probably smelled like fish most days. The story of Peter is more about the One who gave him a new name than it is about Peter. It’s the story of Jesus’ transforming grace.

I wonder what Simon thought of his new name. The one Jesus gave him. Did he try it on for size the first time he heard it? My name is Cephas. Rock. Did he like rocks? I mean, surely he had encountered them at various times. Perhaps he’d mistakenly caught stones, thinking they were fish. Maybe his boat had nearly crashed into one at some point in his career. What images emerged when Jesus called him by that name? Did he realize the he would eventually grow into it? Did the hearing of it alone give him a confidence such as he had never known? Or did he think Jesus was mistaken? Surely not I. A rock? 

The Bible doesn’t tell us what he thought that day. But it has a lot to say about the truth of his new name. The truth of what Jesus called him. I believe it took Peter some time to see himself as such. No doubt it took time for him to catch Jesus’ vision for him. But by the time he died, Simon Peter’s life was a clear testament to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. His life bore clear witness to the fact of Jesus’ transforming work in one man’s life. And it all started with a new name for the man who followed Jesus.

brw

May 7: The Morning Star

Read 2 Peter 1:1-21

“I am…the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)

If you are up before dawn on a clear morning and you look to the east, you may see the “morning star.” Actually, it is the planet Venus…technically not a star. You see, from our earthbound perspective, Venus, as the second planet out, does not wander too far from the sun. On many early mornings, then, Venus is visible for the sunrise. It serves as a reminder that the night is coming to a close and that the sun is about to rise.

Jesus intentionally chose the “Morning Star” title in reference to Himself. As the “Morning Star,” He is a light in a darkened world. He represents the dawn of a new day. His second coming will bring with it the end of sin, suffering, and Satan’s influence. We look forward to that day. But, while the hope is future, the promise is real. In that regard, the Morning Star is already visible through the assurances of His return.

Until the actual day of His return, however, Peter reminds us that our attention should be riveted on the truths about Christ as prophesied through the Old Testament prophets and as realized in the gospel accounts. Peter himself had heard and been eyewitness to the majesty of Christ at the transfiguration. And until He returns, we must give attention to the Scripture. Here is how Peter drives home the importance of our devotion to biblical truth:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (vv. 20, 21)

While we wait for the Morning Star’s second appearance, we can rest in the fact that the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are much more than the attempt of men to write about spiritual things. In reality, the Spirit of God directed these authors in what they recorded. The result, then, was infallible information and instruction that is essential for us to understand as we anticipate the Morning Star’s second appearance!

sbk

November 11: Dont. Ever. Forget.

Read 2 Peter 3:10-18

Peter knew the dire consequences of letting his guard down. Did he write from experience when he told the believers of his day to keep growing, to stay firm, to stay on your guard? I have to wonder if Peter felt so strongly about growing in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ because he knew firsthand what happens when you let that faith grow even a little bit lukewarm. He knew what could happen when he himself let his guard down that night before the rooster crowed.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (v18).

The certainty with which Peter writes these letters astounds me. This fisherman turned man-fisher was himself a testimony to the transforming power of Almighty God. He had learned some things about resting on his laurels regarding his side of the relationship with Jesus Christ. He knew what it was like to get lazy in his faith. And he knew the grave consequences of such laziness. The shame he lived with those few days between his “No I don’t know him” and Jesus’, “Peter, feed my sheep.” Yes, Peter had been given a direct charge from God Himself regarding His people. “Feed my lambs.” Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

And that gut-wrenching question Jesus asked post-cross “Peter, do you love me?” Peter knew all too well what it felt like to have to answer that question with words. To have the Lord of his life, his very best friend, ask those four words in earnest and not just assume the positive answer. Of course, I love you, Lord! Peter would say. And, Jesus, in His all-knowing, full-of-grace gentleness gave Peter direction full of forgiveness and grace for how to go on now.  Now that Jesus had rendered sin and shame powerless.

Certainly, that was not lost on Peter as he wrote these letters to his fellow Christ-followers. Keep growing. Keep at it. This grace you’ve been given, don’t forget its amazing. Don’t lose its incredible. Keep it at the forefront. And don’t. Ever. Forget. Don’t even for a second think that God has forgotten or that He will not follow through on His promise. Don’t let the long wait for His return fool you into thinking it won’t happen. Rather, live holy. Keep growing.

The message is for us, just as clearly as it was for the believers of Peter’s day. Keep growing in this grace. Keep knowing Him more, seeking Him fully. And don’t. Ever. Forget. The promise is for us, too.

brw

November 10: What Took You So Long?

Read 2 Peter 3:1-18

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“What took you so long?” You have probably voiced those exact words at some point in time. Your expectations were that the person would have shown up long before his/her actual arrival. But, the person didn’t come…and didn’t come…and didn’t come. In fact, you may have begun to doubt whether he/she was coming at all. The person promised, but where is he/she?

Have you ever had similar thoughts about the coming of Jesus? Peter reminds us in this chapter that there will be last day cynics who will cast doubt on the Second Coming of Christ. If you are not careful, you may buy into their rationale. It has been a long time and He still hasn’t come. In fact, it seems like life in this world just continues to roll on the way it always has. But that is faulty thinking. Just as God interrupted the “never changing” flow of time in the past with the flood, so too He will interrupt it with destruction during the tribulation and transformation afterward. And in the midst of that, Jesus will return!

God is One who keeps His promises. Although you might have expected the return of Jesus by now, keep in mind that His patient delay is allowing more and more people to come to Him in repentant faith (vv. 9, 15).

So what should you do while you wait patiently? Peter says, “…make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.” Live a life of purity in anticipation of His coming. But, you should also participate in His plan of reaching as many as possible. Share the message of Christ sensitively, boldly, and clearly with others. Jesus will indeed one day return, and you and others you reach will be so glad you did!

sbk