Tag Archives: Sovereignty

He is God and We are Not

“And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

“Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.”

Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?— and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.

“Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory! The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.””

(Habakkuk 2:2–20 ESV)

Habakkuk had been questioning God and wanting to know why He seemed to be absent, disconnected & slow in acting in judging the wicked.  God tells Habakkuk (and us) that He will indeed punish all of the wicked in the right time!  God will judge all injustice, but it rarely happens on our timetable.  If it seems slow, wait for it.  Good counsel.  All injustice and sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Christ or at the end of time.  Judah would be judged in 586, but Babylon’s judgement would be another 50 years – in 539.  We don’t normally think in 50 year chunks.  But ultimately, It’s not about them (or us), it’s about Him & His story.

God says that the Babylonians, and specifically their king, are prideful and puffed up; they are relying upon their own strengths, abilities and savvy (sound familiar?).  But the righteous shall live by faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 10:38-39) and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Simple faith in the Almighty is all that is required to be deemed righteous by God and yet it seems to be the hardest thing for man to do – to admit that he can’t do it on his own, to admit that he is some how deficient in and of himself.  Trusting that God is in control and is redeeming all things for His glory is all that is required.  Even in the darkest nights of the soul, there is an abiding trust in God and in his promises.  He is at work, never distant, disconnected or unconcerned – regardless of how you feel.  Walk by trust in the gospel & in God’s promises and not by what feel or think.  Preach these great truths to yourself instead of running through your own feelings and thoughts continually in your mind.  You talk to yourself more than anyone else, what are you saying?  Are they good, noble, right, praiseworthy things or are they toxic, faith killers.

Habakkuk lands on the sweet sovereignty of God, which is the softest of all doctrines to the weary soul.  We know that God sovereignly controls man’s destiny, but we fail to walk in this truth daily.  “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).  A day is coming when God’s glory will be shown perfectly because sin will no longer cast a shadow over it.  Things will not be broken, man will worship Him, lives will glorify Him.

God then points out to Habakkuk that idols are stupid. We craft them and then look to them for direction, meaning and worth. Idols can’t speak, relate, rule or reign. They are nothing but wood with precious metals on top of them. They are not alive or powerful. Our idols are more “sophisticated” today – marriages, children, wealth, fame, approval, relationships – many are good things, but they are created things that cannot direct our lives.  
But the Lord is in His holy temple and His presence commands silence.  What a comparison between powerless, silent inanimate objects and the power and presence of the Almighty.  In His presence there is a palpable sense of power, holiness and glory that renders created things speechless (Isaiah 6:4-5). We rant and rave and shake our fists at God, we accuse Him as if we are sovereign, but there is coming a time when our mouths will be shut and we will know that He is God and we are not! “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7 ESV).

What God reveals to Habakkuk about Himself is that He is God – just like in the book of Job – and seeing that renders a man speechless.  Far too often, we ignorantly careen through life relying on our senses and feelings for direction.  We feel like we have ultimate perspective and understanding – we are limited, finite and ignorant.  The most gracious thing that God can do is to crush us and reveal to us that we are not sovereign.  When we realize this and embrace the truth that He is in control – and that we are not – when we embrace that He is God – and we are not – our hearts worship.  Instead of staying crushed, we are lifted up and God’s power, holiness and justice meets His mercy, grace and glory – and we worship and experience joy.  Lord, please teach us that you are God and we are not.

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Questioning God

“Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever? I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”  (Habakkuk 1:12–2:1 ESV)

Habakkuk’s theology is correct – God is eternal and He has sovereignly chosen the Babylonians for judgement over His people.  But Habakkuk’s head and his heart are disconnected.  He wants to know how an all powerful & good God could allow sin to go on unchecked.  Furthermore, how in the world could a just and holy God use the wickedness of the Babylonians to punish His own people for their disobedience?  Judah was indeed less wicked than the Babylonians, though only slightly!  Have you ever been there?  Have you ever questioned God and despite the fact that you know that He is in control of all things, you can’t seem to figure out why things have turned out the way that they have and where He is in the midst of the darkness?

Habakkuk’s main argument is that God makes all things and the current state of affairs seem as if He is absent from the equation.  This is deistic thinking that resides in all of us that needs to be put to death!  Habakkuk wants to know if God will sit idly by and allow the Babylonians to sweep across the world conquering, subjecting and treating people wickedly?  Where is the justice in that?  In 2:1, Habakkuk throws down a direct challenge to the Almighty.  That’s scary!  He is going to the watchtower to wait and see How God responds to His direct challenge.

We rarely challenge God directly & out loud like Habakkuk is doing, but aren’t these thoughts swimming around in the back of our minds?  Don’t we question where God is and why He seems absent from certain situations?  We seem to, by nature, gravitate towards believing that God set up the world but now just let’s it mostly run on its own.  Nothing could be further from the truth, He is intimately involved in this world – whether we can see it or not.  He holds all things together (Colossians 1:7 & Hebrews 1:3).  We must battle this unbelief because it never leads us to worship.  This is why when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His word.  Let us lean upon one another to build our belief; let us walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The Sweet Sovereignty of God

““Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!””

(Habakkuk 1:5–11 ESV)

Habakkuk had been complaining to God that He seemed distant, disconnected and slow to respond to the wickedness of the people.  But God responds that He had already been acting – though Habakkuk could not see it.  God is always at work, but we rarely see what He is up to.  That is why we are called to walk by faith (trust) and not by what we can see (2 Corinthians 5:7).  God was bringing the Babylonians to punish His people for their wickedness.  What?  Wicked Babylon will punish God’s wicked people?  That certainly was not the response that Habakkuk was expecting.  Verse 5 is far from a coffee cup or t-shirt verse (“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” ESV).  Habakkuk did not have anywhere to file that – how could a loving and just God use such wicked people – people more wicked than the Jews – to punish them?  This did not fit in Habakkuk’s (or our) belief system.

The next verse (6) tells us that God is raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians).  What?  God is the One who is raising up Babylon?  The sweet sovereignty of God comes into crystal clear focus in this verse.  God sovereignly rules and reigns over the earth – all people (even the most powerful rulers) are His servants.  God guides history, it is not randomly unfolding.  He orchestrates it to accomplish His purposes.  He calls Cyrus His servant (Isaiah 44:28) as He determined to use him to deliver His people.  Indeed, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21 ESV).  God’s answer to Habakkuk:  The Chaldeans (Babylonians) which He calls bitter & hasty are the tool of judgement that HE IS RAISING UP!  God orchestrates all things for His purposes.  He knows their traits and uses them as His tool of judgement.  When you are God you get to do whatever you want and what you do is always good, just and right!  We aren’t God, but we want to accuse & complain as if we were sovereign.

The Babylonians were wicked and had no common decency and in their lust for power and dominance they abused their power and oppressed those under their rule.  They were strong, swift and skilled warriors that could conquer opposing nations before they knew what hit them.  Their violence exceeded that of the Assyrian’s and they had no regard for weaker kings and kingdoms.  God was telling Habakkuk that this was what He was bringing to Judah – His chosen people.  This was His tool of judgement.  He was going to use a wicked people to judge His people for their wickedness.  Only God gets to do that!  We read this story separated by 2500 years in three chapters and it is easy for us to digest.  Sit & think about what God is doing and what that would have done to Habakkuk.

Verse 11 tells us that their strength is their god.  Most nations “depended” upon their superstitions and gods for victory, but the Babylonians were such proficient warriors that they had come to rely upon their strength to overthrow their enemies.  Self-reliance on our strength or abilities (ones that God gave us) makes us glory thieves.  There is nothing that we have that we have not received (1 Corinthians 4:7).  Are smart, successful, compassionate, moral, wealthy, driven, entrepreneurial, patient, technical or __________?  Those are things that God gave you. Don’t be a glory thief (Psalm 18:32).

If you find yourself wrestling with where God is in the midst of a difficult season, preach to yourself that He is never distant, disconnected or slow in acting.  Wrestle through it, but walk by faith and not by what you see and feel.  He is in control, He is working and He is doing good for His children.  In the dark night of the soul, these are the truths that we need to preach to our downcast souls (Pslam 42) and beg God to awaken them!

When God is Silent

“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”(Habakkuk 1:2–4 ESV)

Habakkuk opens this short book asking, “how long shall I cry for help and you don’t hear our cry for deliverance and you not respond?”  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  Wickedness is happening around him and Habakkuk can’t understand why things are turning out this way and where God is in the midst of it.  Habakkuk uses the covenant keeping, personal name for the LORD here indicating that He believes God is not absent, but is struggling with where He is and why He seems to be silent.  Have you ever been there?  I have.  These are times where we have to walk by faith and not by sight – times when we believe the unbelievable (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Simple, but certainly not easy!

Habakkuk surveys the wickedness, moral bankruptcy & spiritual disconnect and He cannot understand why it seems that the Lord is sitting “idly” by and is not judging the perversity.  This sounds like us – “where are you God, why do you seem to be so absent, why are you slow in acting?”  This is a common theme in the Bible, Peter addresses the same line of thinking when addresses the scoffers that are among them by saying that God is not distant, disconnected & slow in acting (2 Peter 3) God rarely acts on our timetable and yet we feel compelled to accuse Him of being distant & disconnected, as if we were sovereign.

The laws of God are being completely ignored and the people are doing whatever they please.  The law was not impacting their hearts.  This is a familiar refrain:  “everybody did everything that was right in His own eyes.”  Life was hard for the remaining faithful & righteous remnant.  It was easy for Habakkuk to feel alone – like God had abandoned Him.  We find ourselves in the same shoes at times.  All Habakkuk could see were the trees, but God is going to help get his head above the trees so that he can see the forest.  Despite the fact that Israel only occupied the promised land for 530 years, God was still faithful to them and to His plan.  They were slaves for 400 years in Egypt, lived in the land as a combined kingdom for 530 years and then were under the rule of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

Today we can see how God was working out a beautiful plan of rescue for His elect.  And yet when we go through hardships for a day, week, month, year or lifetime we want to cry out to God – “foul, where are you, why are you silent and not acting!”  God never promised us ease, comfort or prosperity – He gives us something far greater:  Himself.  The pain is real, for sure.  But our crying out and accusations must ultimately land in a place that says, “not my will, but yours be done,” because we are not sovereign – He is.  If you find yourself suffering, struggling or hard pressed, cry out to God.  He can handle your questions & accusations.  If you will walk in this and trust that God is indeed sovereign and that He is indeed good (and does good [to you]) then you will find that He is enough regardless of whether deliverance comes.  The most gracious thing that God could do for us is to give us Himself, which is the very thing that He does at the cross.

The Lord is Patient Toward You

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”(2 Peter 3:8–10 ESV)

This is a very controversial passage of scripture around which many arguments have erupted.  This seems to be one of the primary passages that we gravitate towards when we want to place our own freewill at the pinnacle of the bible.  But, before we can come to any conclusions regarding this passage, we need to understand the context of it and what the Apostle was attempting to communicate to His readers.  Far too often, we grab a verse that sounds nice and begin to apply it without ever having a good understanding of the context and the author’s intent.

The first question we need to answer is who the letter is addressed to?  Peter writes this letter from prison in Rome and knows that he will soon be executed for his faith (2 Peter 1:14-15).  The letter was written to Christians (2 Peter 1:1).  In the opening verses of this epistle, Peter affirms that there are no tiers in Christianity. He is an apostle – He walked with Jesus, personally – but, their faith is equal to his (1:1).  There is no varsity squad &  junior varsity squad in Christianity.  Their faith is equal to our faith. Our faith is obtained by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This faith was obtained – we did not possess it on our own. It is a gift that was earned by the righteousness of Christ.  Peter calls Jesus God here which is one of the strongest New Testament arguments for the divinity of Jesus.

Why did Peter write this letter?  Peter is in Rome nearing his imminent execution (1:12-15) so what He covers in this letter is of utmost importance in his mind.  He covers such sweeping themes as God’s grace toward us and it’s centrality in our ongoing sanctification, the pursuit of holiness, the Lord’s patience towards us and He combats false teachers & scoffers who had managed to work their way into the church and were doubting God’s presence & faithfulness.

We want to gravitate towards the part of this passage that says that God “is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (3:9b).  What is truly unbelievable is the preceding part of this verse that says that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you” (3:9a).  That is spectacular!  Don’t run past it!  What we perceive as slowness is really God’s patient mercy.  If I were God, I would have ended it all at Genesis 3 or 6:5-6, so the fact that we have air, gravity, water, a planet to inhabit and enjoy is nothing but His benevolent grace towards His creatures that want nothing to do with Him; we want His blessings & gifts, but don’t really want Him.  All of us – believer & nonbeliever alike – are recipients of His common grace.  If this part does not wow you and cause you to worship the Almighty then you are missing one of Peter’s main points!

The broader context of this verse helps us because it is eschatological in nature. It is titled, “The Day of the Lord Will Surely Come (3:1–13).”  What Peter is combatting is what the scoffers have been saying in the church – that God is distant, disconnected & slow in acting (3:1-7).  There is much connection between Peter’s Jewish eschatological beliefs (see Habakuk 2:3) and the point that He is making here.  The Word Biblical Commentary is quite helpful in interpreting this section of the passage.  It says, “God desires all, without exception, to repent and escape damnation. But (“all”) is clearly limited by (“you”). There is no thought here of the Christian mission”  The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. Here it is for the sake of the repentance of 2 Peter’s Christian readers. No doubt repentance from those sins into which some of them have been enticed by the false teachers (2:14, 18; 3:17) is especially in mind.  We need not suppose that the author put the false teachers themselves entirely beyond possibility of repentance and salvation, but here he addresses his readers, who are distinguished from the false teachers (3:5, 8, 17).”

God takes not delight in the destruction of anyone that bears His image – even the most wicked.  He is connected to them and derives no pleasure in their destruction.  Though we have seen that the “all” in this passage is limited by the “you,” some will still use this passage to argue that it is the will of God that all people on planet earth be saved.  All people are clearly not saved so one of these must be true:
1) God is not able to save all people,
2) Some will not turn to God because their free will prohibits them,
3) Peter (and Paul) are lying, or
4) God has another purpose.

It is interesting that God seems to desire something that does not come to pass. He certainly has the power, so why not fulfill His every desire?  He desired that Adam & Eve would not have sinned and He desires that we walk faithfully to His revealed will.  We rarely walk faithfully, so God does not always fulfill His wants.  Some would say it is because He is is a gentlemen and will not force Himself upon anyone. This sounds nice to my flesh, but is contrary to the overall teaching of the scriptures. God has many desires that are not met (yet) because they all come under his ultimate desire – that He be glorified.  Some would disagree with this and teach that God’s greatest desire is for human free will.  If I’m honest, I like this because it appeals to my sense of control over my destiny, to my ability to choose, to my autonomy and control over my life (kind of sounds like the original sin, doesn’t it!).  But, if I’m intellectually honest – my free will has never been my friend, it has always been my enemy.  I always chose (apart from God’s regenerating my heart) what I saw as best and most beautiful – which was always me, my sin and my way and NEVER GOD.

One of the overarching themes of the scriptures is God’s electing love. God chooses people to shower His affection on – not because they are worthy of it or because they sought it. God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He chose Joseph over his brothers, He chose, David, the prophets, and Moses.  Men did not chose Him, they did not seek Him. God’s glory is most shown by redeeming a rebellious people. He is most glorified when He takes the heart of a dead man and makes it new, when He showers him with His saving love and that man comes alive. He is most glorified when He takes a dead heart of stone and makes it a soft, sensitive heart of flesh.  This is the power for us to love even when the love of others is not reciprocal.

Paul helps us with this in Romans 9:  “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”” (Romans 9:11–26 ESV).

God gets no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11) – indeed there is a sense of sorrow & remorse at the destruction of that which was created in His image.  The problem is that we lack the ability to come to God, apart from Him calling us. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Some will say, “yes, no one can come unless God calls” (Jesus said so over and over in the gospels, especially in John) so God calls some (or all, depending on one’s belief) and those who respond of their own free will are saved.  The problem with this theology is what the rest of the bible teaches; this is man centered, intellectually lazy & theologically shallow.  There are challenges with the sovereignty of God in election and salvation, but by far and away the continuous theme in the scriptures is one of God’s effectual, electing love.  We would rather stop short and avoid asking all of the questions. There are mysteries, for sure, but there are not nearly as many as we’d like to lazily believe.  When we face these mysteries, we must ask Who & what is ultimate?  God’s glory or ours?  If we are the ultimate determining factor in salvation then we are most glorified.

All of history is in the hands of the Lord and it is moving to the climax of Jesus’ return and restoration of all things.  Verse 9 is in response to the scoffer’s accusations in the immediately preceding verses saying that God is absent, disconnected, aloof and slow to act.  Peter says, “no He is delaying because He is patient with you – He is providing an opportunity for more people to respond to the Gospel by faith.”  God is indeed slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6).  God’s patience is a central theme in the Old Testament and indeed it is a central theme in our own lives.  It is beyond me how the perfect holiness of God tolerates the continual rebellion and perversion of His creatures.  This is the definition patience.  Though He is long suffering, He will not tolerate it forever – His wrath will be spilled – and rightfully so!  He is patient, but His patience with sinners will eventually expire and all that there will be is His just wrath and judgement.  In the meantime, His patience are meant to lead you to repentance.  Will you repent & believe?

Entrust your soul to a faithful Creator

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)

When the Christian suffers (not for his own ignorance), he should entrust himself to the sovereign Ruler of the universe who allows nothing to happen that has not first been filtered through His fingers.  The sovereignty of God provides absolute reassurance to the suffering servant.  God will vindicate those who are His.  Your identity is in Christ and your inheritance is in heaven.

Our identity is in Christ and our inheritance is in glory

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:1–5 ESV)

Since Jesus suffered, so too should we expect to suffer.  We should “arm ourselves with this way of thinking.”  We should expect suffering – we should not go looking for it, but when it comes our way we should not be surprised.  When suffering comes, we must remember that our identity is in Christ and our inheritance is in glory.  We must remember that this world is broken and that one day God is going to make all things right; He is going to make all things new (Revelation 21:5)

Peter says, “for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” which represents either Jesus as our sacrificial sin offering, our new “dead to sin” nature that Paul discusses in Romans 6:1-11 or the fact that suffering has a way of killing sin at its root.  All of these are true and regardless of how this is interpreted, Peter points us to abandon our fleshly, human passions and embrace the will of the Lord – which for this audience was suffering.  If God is really sovereign, as Peter emphatically says in 3:22, then suffering must be part of His grander plan.  Though we rarely see the reason during trials, and often times don’t after the trial (remember Job?), we must trust in His goodness & sovereignty and set our hearts toward heaven.  We are exiles, sojourners, aliens & strangers – this is not our home.  Our home and inheritance is in glory.

The believer that finds his identity in Christ & inheritance in heaven will readily abandon fleshly acts of debauchery.  This will surprise those around them who participate in these acts and they will likely malign believers for not participating.  This world is all that they have so they need to get everything that they can!  All people will have to give an account for what they have said and done.  All sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Jesus Christ or by the sinner himself.  Justice will be served.  This enables the saint to persevere when he suffers injustices.  So set your eyes upon Christ, trust in His sovereign goodness and know that you have an inheritance waiting that is grander than you could ever imagine.

Remember

“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:7–10 ESV)

Glory & honor is for those who are built upon the Cornerstone; it is not for those who reject the Cornerstone.  Jesus is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to unbelievers & especially to the Jews:  “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14 ESV).  But, God is an obstacle that people cannot overcome!  They stumble because they disobey – as they were destined to do.  Unless God regenerates the heart, we all walk in disobedience and blindness.  Peter sounds like Paul here in Ephesians 1:11 (“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”).  God works all things according to the counsel of His will.  The disobedience of unbelievers is due to their own disbelief & it is their responsibility.  This is not intended to foster fatalism, but to encourage the heart of true believers. Nothing catches God off guard; God has never said, “I didn’t see that one coming, what should I do now.”  So those who were persecuting Peter’s readers and pressing against them unjustly – those who were the source of their suffering will one day see ultimate justice.  One day, all sin will be justly paid for – either by the blood of Christ or by the sinner himself; justice will be served.

We don’t stumble about like blind men; we see the Cornerstone for who He is.  We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.  This is not because we chose God, but because He chose us.  He called us out of darkness and into His glorious light.  He’s the One that calls; He’s the One that saves, not us!  And why does He redeem us?  He saves us to glorify Him (proclaiming the excellency of Him who has called us).  We were nobody’s and now we are somebody because we are His children.  We had no mercy, now we have profound mercy.  Praise God!  Hosea speaks this way regarding Israel (Hosea 1:6, 9, 10; 2:23), but the church is the fulfillment of these prophecies – we are now a people – according to His sovereign grace.

Regardless of the situation that is currently staring you in the face, regardless of the persecution and injustice that you are facing, there is cause for rejoicing.  Don’t ignore the difficulty and pain and pretend that it does not exist; Christianity is not about producing cold, emotionless Stoics!  But remember that this is not your true home – you are a sojourner, an exile.  Remember that you have an inheritance that is far greater than anything that the world has ever seen.  Remember that you are a beloved, chosen child.  Remember that this life is short and momentary.  Remember that God’s approval and affection for you has nothing to do with how faithful that you are, but rather how Faithful Jesus was.  Remember…

Joy mingled grief

“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. 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.” (1 Peter 1:3–9 ESV)

Peter is writing to the elect exiles of the dispersion (v1).  We are exiles in a foreign land that long for our true home.  Our hearts cry out with all of creation for the day when all things will be made new; redemption has happened – restoration is sure.  Just as Israel was God’s chosen people, now, Christians are God’s chosen people – His elect inheritance according to His sovereign choosing.

It is because of God’s great mercy that we have been born again (see also Ephesians 2:4-5).  He is the one that has caused this in us.  We now have a living hope, one that will not fail us!  We have been raised from death to life!  This living hope is our inheritance.  What we will one day inherit will not spoil or be spent.  Our inheritance will not be exhausted and it is guarded by the Creator Himself!  This inheritance language conjures up in one’s mind the OT saint’s inheritance of the Promised Land (Num. 32:19; Deut. 2:12; 12:9; 25:19; 26:1; Josh. 11:23; Ps. 105:11) which is really a picture of our return to Eden – the new heaven & new earth.

Our inheritance is secure, nothing can destroy it – quite different than our lives today!  We toil at making life secure, safe & comfortable, only to have things tarnish & break.  Our hope is that one day, all sad things will be made untrue – all things will be made new.  It is God’s power that guards not just our inheritance, but our faith as well.  God is guarding our faith and salvation.  What a relief that it once again does not depend upon me and my faithfulness, but upon God’s.  God will guard us by His sovereign power; He will sustain our faith until the end of time.

We rejoice in God’s mercy towards us.  We rejoice that there is a living hope – our inheritance.  We rejoice, despite the trying difficulties of the trials that we are facing.  These are real & pressing, but when they are COMPARED with the glory that is to come, they become light & momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).  This is joy mingled with grief.  Real, difficult, toil, but hopeful joy that one day this will all be made new and that He is bringing us in to the true Promised Land.

Our suffering is “necessary.”  Regardless of the flavor of the trials that you face, it has been filtered through the loving, sovereign hands of the Almighty and He deems them “necessary.”  Even though we can’t always see the purpose of our suffering (Job’s reason for his trials were never revealed to Him), we have to trust our good & sovereign Father!  They are necessary to develop our faith, which will not fail us at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trials & suffering produce an enduring faith in us.  Father, help us to see your glory and set our minds on the things that are to come so that we can see our current sufferings as “light & momentary.”

Being okay with your smallness

““You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sick— the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath— all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’” (Deuteronomy 29:16–28 ESV)

Beware lest just one person’s heart turns away and chases other gods and idols.  Apparently, idolatry is contagious.  Pride & hardness of heart will lead a person to the point at which he (or she) says, ““I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.” (Deuteronomy 29:19 ESV).  WOW, what arrogance & pride; I’ll walk in disobedience because I am the master of my own fate, master of my own soul.  God’s response to this outright rebellion is wrath.  He will not sit idly by, while His chosen people mock Him openly!  This is rooted in the justice, holiness & jealousy of God.  He has rights on their souls (and ours) and He had been profoundly merciful & gracious towards His people (and towards us), but there is a point at which He exacts justice because He will not allow His people to tread on His holiness.  Mass destruction of the land will ensue because of the people’s rebellion and their neighbors will want to know why God did such a thing.  The answer:  ““It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 29:25 ESV).  The Christian is safe from these curses because a Substitute obeyed perfectly on our behalf. 

What is ironic is that they had no relationship with these false gods, and yet they chased after them thinking that they would produce soul satisfaction (v25-26).  God is completely involved with His people – He cares & is connected, He is not some distant deity!  He is close!  And yet, created gods which are no gods at all, hold power in the hearts of the people.  God, protect us from chasing created gods thinking that they will satisfy our souls!

Verses 24-28 anticipates the people’s rebellion & idolatry as they break the first commandment and chase after other gods!  Chapter 28 weighed blessings & curses, but now it seems apparent that the author anticipates the people’s rebellion because “the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4 ESV).  These are strong words that show us that apart from God’s divine intervention, we will not be able to obey.  Yes, unless the Spirit regenerates the motivations of your heart, you will not be able to believe & obey.  This is no white knuckled effort, this is dependent grace that glorifies God.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV).  God has some secrets that He has chosen not to reveal to us and we are going to have to be okay with that.  We are going to have to trust that He is faithful, good & sovereign.  We are going to have to admit that we aren’t unlimited in our understanding & perspective.  This means that even when I don’t fully understand, I’m called to obey.  This is not mechanical obedience; my obedience is rooted in a relationship of trust, not in trying to earn God’s approval because it has already been earned.  I must walk by faith & not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) because my eyes always fail me, for there is a way that seems right to me, but it really leads to death (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25).  Lord, help me to recognize my limitedness and help me to walk in joyful obedience, trusting in your goodness & grace.