1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 3)

Part 3

 The Gospel comes to people under sentence of death

These [who speak evilly of you] shall give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason, then, the Gospel was also preached to those who are now dead so that, they might be judged in the flesh according to men, but live by the spirit according to God.

We should remember that the final judgement is in the hands of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt 7 and 25)

He will acquit the living (those made alive in Christ) i.e. Christians

  • Not because we are better than others,
  • But because he has acted for us – he has made us alive.

Jesus Christ will condemn the dead — those who go on in their rebellion, who reject the mercy now offered by Christ)

  • No one has an excuse – Rom 1
  • It is what all people worked hard to get.
  • It is what justice demands.

Those who keep on rejecting the mercy of Christ try to mess with the message and our heads

  • Judged according men in the flesh .
    Death comes to all people, Christians included. Some in Peter’s day pointed this out in an effort to shake the hope of Christians. ‘Look,’ they’d say, ‘Your friend/Mother/child trusted Jesus, but they still died. Where is the evidence for life that you talk about. What sort of hope is this Christianity!’
  • Alive by the spirit according to God.
    What Peter is pointing out is that reality does not consist only in what we can see here and now. Peter saw Jesus die on the cross, and then saw him alive again three days later. We have the assurance, from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that when Christians die, they go immediately to be with Jesus and have eternal life with him.

The main point here is: The death that comes to all cannot mess with the Christian’s hope.

As we are able, we should tell the message of hope to anyone and everyone, particularly to our enemies. We are to live in light of the message, the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ as there are eternal consequences at stake.

People of hope live in hope

Finally, Peter reminds Christians that their struggle of this life is not forever. The consummation of all things is near.

But the end of all things draws near. Therefore, but sober and watchful in prayer for all, having earnest love for each other, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. Just as each one has received a spiritual gift, serve one another with it as good stewards of the many-sided grace of God. If one speaks, as the oracles of God; if one serves, with the strength God gives so that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever, Amen.

When Peter talks of the end, he is talking about the end of this world-age — from the fall of Adam to the return of Jesus. Peter points Christians to the new heavens and the new earth, where there will be no more sin, or tears, or suffering or death.

In short, he is reminding us that Christians have an eternal hope.  We can live now, and must live now, in the light of that hope.

We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain (it is already kept for us in heaven).

Think like people with hope, Peter says

  • Be sober
    • This is not about being grim or gruff, but
    • Encouragement to  think clearly — don’t be muddle-headed about your hope
    • Be watchful in prayer
      • Pray
      • Pray for things Christ urges us to pray for, namely, the spread of good news, and for the basic needs of people, leaders,  family, friends and enemies)
      • Keep on praying
      • Love one another
      • Forgive one another – love covers a multitude of sin (Peter’s question to Jesus Matt 18 – how many times am I to forgive? Just keep doing it.)
      • Use your abilities to serve
        • Born with abilities – Spirit given (even to non-Christians)
        • Use them to help others
        • The word –
          • Treat with it respect
          • Pass it on as received – no messing with the message
        • Other ways of serving
          • Administrating, cleaning, befriending, feeding, Inviting, and
          • Hospitality, in the context of being pilgrims and strangers in a hostile world.  Sharing without grumbling. This is not talking just about a cup of tea occasionally; these were people in desperate circumstances who needed to help one another in substantial ways.

The purpose in all this is?

  • That our God and Saviour Jesus Christ is to be known, loved, served and respected.
  • That all good is to be attributed to him.
  • That He is to be thanked for it.
  • God is to be praised if you are a Christian, because you are one only because of God’s goodness, not yours.

That is Good News.

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Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13) — Part 1

If Christianity is a contest, we’ve lost already. A reading of Luke 13:1-5 suggests this.

Some who were present with him at that time told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices. In answer, Jesus said to them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans suffered such things because they were more sinful than all [other] Galileans? No, I tell you; rather, unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen [souls] who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them — were they greater debtors than all people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; rather, unless you repent, you all will likewise perish.

I was once told that, ‘All you need to do to keep God happy is live by the 10 Commandments and Sermon on the mount.’

This is easier said than done. Jesus spent a great deal of time showing how far we are from doing ‘all we need to do’. People naturally think, if they think about these matters at all, that there is a hierarchy of goodness, and if you past 50% (or just do better than others) you’ll be ok. That’s where the Galileans come in.

Galileans, in the minds of your average resident of Judea, were either country hicks or revolutionaries. They were looked down upon by respectable Judeans. A fellow called Nathaniel initially questioned Jesus’ character on this basis: ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’

These particular Galileans were either in the temple making sin-offerings when Pilate took vengeance on them for some crime he thought they had done, OR they were terrorists caught in the act of killing Romans (or Roman sympathisers) and Pilate slaughtered them over the bodies of their own victims.

Were these Galileans worse than all Galileans because this sudden death came upon them? Did they receive a special judgment from God for their evil? Jesus said, ‘No’.

The Lord Jesus says we are all in the same boat as the Galatians; unless we repent, we will all perish.  He repeats this message with an example of his own — those who seem to have been taken in an accident – a tower in Jerusalem fell on them. Were they worse than others? No, they were just like us. Unless we repent, we all will likewise perish.

Jesus did not say this because he was somehow in a bad mood that day, and it was not said because Jesus had little concern for the people he was speaking to. His aim was to use some vivid and real examples to benefit people who were in great need but didn’t know it.

What is a Sinner?

Technically, sin is not doing what God requires of us, and it is also doing what God tells us not to do. The sober reading of the law of God shows us that we don’t do what God says and we do do what he forbids.

But in a more basic way, we are born covenant breakers. Our first parent Adam was made good and could do good, but decided not to.  By this disobedience, he sinned and brought death upon himself and all of us, his children.  David in Ps. 51 says “In sin my mother conceived me.”, meaning that from conception, David was a sinner, and so are all of us.

What is Repentance?:

  •  It is not ‘turning over a new leaf.’
  • Nor is it joining a support group (Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or the local church).
  • It is not acting according to ideas of positive thinking or some pop psychology.

 So what is repentance? It is a change of mind, not a change in behaviour (though true repentance results in changes of behaviour). In particular, is it a change in our opinion about our own basic ‘goodness’ and a change in our attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ.

Continued in Part 2.

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13) — Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

We need to repent. That is, we need to change our thinking.

This means that we need to reconsider our own position, as Jesus had urged his hearers just before the talk about Galileans (Luke 12: 57-59).

Why is it that you do not judge yourselves rightly? As you go with your adversary to the magistrate, you should give every effort to be reconciled to him, least he drag you to the judge and the judge deliver you to the official and the official throws you into prison. I tell you that you will in no way go out from there until you have paid the last cent.

Jesus says that we don’t judge ourselves correctly. we think we can get away with our wrong doing somehow. The passage, however, implies we are in the wrong, and that our Adversary has us in his grip.

In this context, our adversary is not just a fellow we owe money. This is not just practical financial advice. In this story, our Adversary is God.  He is good and we are very wrong. We are on the way to judgment – to the Archon – the chief magistrate.  Jesus says, ‘Take pains to be reconciled,’ If we are not reconciled, we will pay last cent (1/4 of a farthing). The whole penalty will be exacted from us throughout eternity. This situation is not like modern, western courts. We need to see how bad our position really is without Christ. It is just like this: without our Judge as our Saviour, we are without hope in this life or the next.

Jesus tells that we need to see ourselves and our situation as it really is – this is part of what repentance is.

Repentance also means that we need to reconsider who Jesus is, what he has done, and what that means (Luke 12:54-56 – but see also Luke 19:42-44).

And he said to the crowds, ‘Whenever you see a cloud rising from the west, right away you say, ‘Rain is coming.’ And it does. And whenever a south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot.’ And it is. Hypocrites! You understand the face of the earth and sky, but why can’t you understand the times?

Jesus saw that his hearers were good at reading the obvious from the sky and earth.

  • clouds in the west mean rain is coming
  • wind from the south means hot weather is coming

But, those who heard Jesus could not see what was obvious about him. The Old Testament promised that God himself would come and save his people from their sin. Jesus, though obviously a real human being, was also obviously far more. He

  • healed with a word people who had incurable diseases,
  • feed huge crowds from a few scraps of food
  • commanded wind and wave and they obeyed him
  • spoke of himself as judge of the world
  • spoke of himself as the one who would die to save sinners who were otherwise un-saveable.

We too need to see the obvious, but we are reluctant to. From birth we are contrary to our Creator. We sinfully misjudge him. We make war in our minds against him. We need to repent.

Repentance is a gift of God, whereby, out of a sense and hatred of our sin, we turn from our in-born rebellion against God and see the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as our only hope.

We each have been given time to repent, but how much time? (Luke 13: 6-9)

Fig tree parable

The owner of a vineyard has a fig tree that produces no fruit after 3 years. This was the usual time for a fig trees to do so. The general wisdom was that fig trees that fail to fruit after 3 years are duds.

The owner decides to uproot the fig tree and throw it away. ‘Why should it deplete the ground of nutrients for no good reason?’

The gardener says, ‘Give me a year to fertilise it and improve its drainage. Let’s see what happens. If it produces no fruit at the end of the year, then we’ll take it out.’

We have time now to repent. Don’t waste the opportunity.

  •  We have already failed in Adam. We can’t fix the situation ourselves.
  • Repent while there is time. Christ has come, lived, died and risen again, to save sinners.
  • This message has come to us. While there is life there is hope.
  • Don’t assume that the opportunity to repent will be long-lasting.

Make every effort to be reconciled to your offended Creator. This means that we must

  • understand who Jesus Christ is, what he had done, and what that means, and then
  • trust ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Why is death certain, and what can be done?

People from all sorts of cultures fear death. Some say death is normal, and we should just get over it. But if death is simply a natural thing, why is it a terror to us? An ancient book, the Bible, tells us why.

The God who made everything, also made human beings to live forever. But this life was conditional. The first man, Adam, was told that the world was his to enjoy, all of it, except the fruit of one tree. That tree was not for him. Leave it alone, God said, and you will have life to the full. Adam and his wife decided not to be content with all that God had given; they took bad advice from a rebel creature and they stole the fruit. God pronounced the sentence of death upon them. But Adam’s situation was unique. He didn’t act for himself alone, but he represented all his future children as well. His act condemned not only himself, but all human beings who would descend from him in the normal way. Each child of Adam willingly follows Adam in his rebellion. Death is a terror because it is the judgment of our creator against our rebellion.

Even though Adam’s act was inexcusable and brought disaster into God’s good world, the news wasn’t all bad. The God whom they had offended, the one against whom they had rebelled, promised Adam and Eve one way of escape. God himself would eventually come as a human being to put right what Adam had done wrong. This one is known to the world as Jesus Christ.  Why is Jesus Christ our only hope? The Bible calls Jesus the second Adam, because he was the second person in all history who made a real difference to the human condition. By Adam’s disobedience, death came to all people. By Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, life comes to those who trust him.

Jesus’ life was one of love; love toward his God, and love toward his enemies (people like us). Jesus lived an obedient life; a substitute life to replace our bad lives. He did this as a human being. He was born a human being, yet the Bible says that God himself is his father. Jesus is the Son of God. As God, his good life can be donated to us. His good life is accepted as a replacement for our bad lives when we trust him.

Jesus’ death was also a substitute. Rebels against God deserve to die and undergo everlasting judgment, because — left to ourselves — we would and could never stop rebelling. We love our bad ways, even though they will bring us to a bad end. But Jesus died once for rebels, to take death in their place. Jesus was not personally bad, so the only way he could die was if God regarded him as a substitute. Jesus died as a sin-bearer, but the sins he bore were the sins of other people, people like us. Because he is human, he could die; because he is God, that death can be accepted as the death of sinners who trust him.

Jesus really died but he didn’t stay dead. When Jesus came back to life, it showed that Jesus is truly good. Death could not hold him, because he wasn’t personally bad. The resurrection of Jesus means at least two things. First, he will never die again, and second, those who trust him will be raised to endless life too — because his death finished the punishment that their sins deserve. The Bible tells us that those who trust Jesus are regarded by God to be as sinless as Jesus. The reason people die is because of sin. So those who do trust Jesus, are deemed to be ‘sinless’ and are given an endless life just like Jesus.

The Bible says that a judgment is coming. At that judgment every human life will be compared to the righteous life of Jesus Christ. Those who fall short of that high standard will be condemned. We all personally fall short of that standard; we don’t even maintain the low standards we set ourselves. Our only hope is to have our Judge as our Saviour – to receive his goodness as a gift, by faith. We can know that we have everlasting life simply because of who Jesus is and what he has done.  The Bible says that, if we trust Jesus, we will be saved.