28. Here it is!

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.28: Here it is!

1 Pet 1:9 you ARE RECEIVING the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

This is the awesome conclusion: you can’t see Him but you love Him and believe in Him but you ARE receiving the salvation that Christ has bought for you. Aliens, exiles, scattered? So what, wherever we are (alone or in a crowd) He’s still working on your case so you enter in more and more into the salvation that is now yours. Nothing but nothing (but your own stubborn will) can stop His love and goodness getting to you, redeeming you, restoring you, equipping you, envisioning you and sending you into the most mind-blowing adventure man can conceive – ‘cos it’s all from God! There in those last few words, it is all summed up – it’s all from God!

That is what Peter has been saying:

  • God has chosen us to be changed by the Spirit, called to obey Jesus, having been forgiven and cleansed by his blood.
  • So, now we experience grace and peace in abundance.
  • He has given us a new Spirit-empowered life, full of hope, affirmed through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • The end of it is seen as an unchanging inheritance in heaven waiting for us.
  • While we are waiting for this end product, we are protected by God’s power until the time comes when Jesus will wind it all up at the end.
  • Yes, we, can rejoice even though for a while we suffer difficulties and trials in this fallen world.
  • As we do this it proves the genuineness of our faith which will bring praise to God as Jesus Christ is revealed.
  • We may not be able to see him but we still love him and believe in him, being filled inexpressible and glorious joy as we enter more and more into this salvation.

God’s Plan: from before the creation of the world, to redeem us by the death of His Son, Jesus.

Our Experience: drawn & convicted by the Spirit, brought to repentance, born again, given a new Spirit-empowered life culminating in eternity.

Our Hope: grace and peace for every new day as the Spirit teaches, guides, envisions and equips us to bring glory to God in His kingdom, then a glorious eternity with Him. Purpose, power, presence, peace, provision, protection; it’s all there. This is not a contentless salvation but it is all there in the Old and New Testaments, which brings us to the next series for this coming month as we look at how the Bible can speak to us (if we will read it) and show us more and more of the wonder of what God has for us. 

27. Believers

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.27: Believers

1 Pet 1:8) even though you do not see him now, YOU BELIEVE IN HIM.”

I told yesterday of something that happened to me when I was a very young believer. You might have noted my question: “How can I believe in you if you don’t turn up when I pray?” Note the word believe, but it was all about not being able to see Him and therefore not knowing what He was up to – or not.

But stop and think about what happened when you became a Christian. In the midst of the words and the emotions, I suggest somewhere was the affirmation that Jesus is the Son of God who came and died for your sins. That was a declaration you made in some form back then. Has anything changed since then? No it hasn’t – only that you’ve had time to learn more about Him and have some experiences of Him, but as far as ‘belief’ goes, that was it; you came to a place when your said, “I believe,” and everything followed from that.

As the writer to the Hebrews put it, anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6 Msg) Someone conveyed sufficient to you to convince you a) God was there, b) He was for you, c) Jesus died for you and d) Jesus wanted to enter into a daily relationship with you as both your Saviour and your Lord. There it is: He was there, for you and wanted to carry on being with you and for you – and you believed that without being able to ‘see’ Him. Awesome! Amazing! Wonderful! And those words apply to Him, His work AND what He’s been able to achieve in and though you!

Seeing is believing, the world says. Not so in the kingdom. Believing comes first and seeing follows. When you anchor and declare your faith daily, it’s not wishful thinking, it’s just coming in line with reality – God is, God is here, God is here for me!!!  When you do that it’s like you purge the communication channel to heaven and suddenly, we start seeing and hearing things we’d never seen or heard before, but we need to declare it first (Rom 10:9,10). As I said, it started back when you were born again, and it has carried on every day since. Sometimes we’re hyper-aware of it, other times, not so much, but it’s still true!

Remember this whole series is about ‘foundational resources’, truths of the Bible that we are to let impact and change our lives. When we anchor this particular truth, nothing can move us – I love God because He first loved me (1 Jn 4:10,19). The Bible testifies to that, I believe it and because I believed (past tense) and continue to believe (present tense), the ‘seeing’ part has followed and continues to follow – not every day, but often enough, not Him, but His word, His moving, His activity, for those with eyes to see.  

26. Unseen

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.26: Unseen

1 Pet 1:8 Though you have not seen him, YOU LOVE HIM.” 

As a very young Christian, the Lord gave me verse 8 through THREE different preachers on ONE Sunday when I was questioning. Yes, I happened to be in three different services on that particular Sunday with three different preachers and they all launched out with this verse. As the night before I had been, as a very your Christian, in a serious questioning-God-mode ending up saying, “How can I believe in you if you don’t turn up when I pray?” Next day, this verse – three times!

We love God without being able to see Him. We love Jesus without being able to see him – the best we have is Jesus in the Gospels but faith is all about believing without seeing (2 Cor 5:7). It’s perhaps the biggest issue for any person coming to Christ – will I believe without having a flesh and blood God in front of me, and of course the answer has to be, yes. There is no other option. But it does mean that sometimes – usually when I am feeling physically or emotionally down (and they’re often linked) – I wonder if God is still around, or has he disappeared off down the other end of the galaxy.

When I’ve been on the other side of the world from my wife, as I ‘ve had to be more than a few times in my past teaching travels, I still loved her – perhaps even more. I remember being awake in the middle of the night in Singapore once, and suddenly became conscious that if I looked ‘down’ there were thousands of miles of rock between me and her. But did I love her less because I couldn’t see her, because I was thousands of miles away? Definitely not!

So why do believers (including me) waver when God seems distant occasionally? Some have lost sight of Him in the midst of Covid. If that’s you, declare your love afresh, He’s still there! It’s not about whether you can see Him or feel Him or sense Him, it’s about whether you love Him. Now here’s the thing, sometimes, and only sometimes, love is emotional. Most of the time is it simply a rock-solid commitment to the one you love. Coming up to fifty years married in a couple of years, my wife and I would both testify honestly that there are some days when we don’t feel a big emotional buzz, while there are other times when we do and those later times are the minority. But do we love each other? You bet your life we do! How do I know I love God on a bad-emotion day? I just do. I will declare it even if I feel nothing. My loving God is a fact. My emotions may go up and down but His don’t; He’s even more rock-steady in His love for me. After all the Father sent Jesus to die to me and nothing can change that. He’s looking forward to welcoming me in heaven with Him one of these days. Oh yes, I love Him, Peter. 

25. Prove it!

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.25: Prove it!

1 Pet 1:7 “so that THE PROVEN GENUINENESS OF YOUR FAITH… may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  

Have you ever come across that phrase, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck”? Or there’s that one that says, “All that glitters is not gold.” Two views, same result. I wrote yesterday about measuring ‘the real church’ because that is what Peter is saying – REAL faith is seen by its outworking and that includes rejoicing in God in the face of adversity. When we hang in there when we are suffering and praise and thank God, He is glorified and that’s what Jesus wants to happen.

Now one thing I know from listening to other Christians (and myself) is that so often we’re really good at putting ourselves down and so the moment we come to a verse like our starter one above, so many of us start feeling defensiveness. I’ve found the same thing when I’ve done seminars on personal prophecy. If I start by asking, “How many of you regularly hear God?” I get very few responders, but as soon as I start refining the question and giving illustrations of how God might have been speaking to them, it suddenly becomes a small minority who remain in the ‘never’ camp. What I would like to suggest is that actually most of us are much better examples of what it means to be a Christian than we think.

How many of us have been through tough times, say in the past two years? Quite a lot? How many of us are still on our feet? A lot! How many of us have either been in a service singing worship songs, or simply been joining in with worship songs on Zoom or on a CD player or streamed online? A lot. Hold on, are you telling me you’ve been rejoicing in your singing? You know, the rejoicing in the midst of trials that Peter has been talking about? I have to suggest you are demonstrating your faith, because your ungodly next door neighbor hasn’t been singing God’s praises! Let’s check something else. When Jesus returns, are you expecting to get caught up to be with him, or should you die before he returns, are you expecting to come into God’s presence in heaven? I thought so!

People, in all these ways you are proving the genuineness of your faith. Yes, I know that doesn’t make you perfect, I know there are things about which you are very conscious where you are a rubbish Christian sometimes, but that’s not all the time is it? Look at the disciples in the Gospels and they are getting it wrong all the time, and they’ve got Jesus in the flesh with them! I would like to suggest that the genuineness of your faith IS being proved genuine most days, and if it’s every day, excellent, but most days says it is genuine! Praise Him for that!

24. And Yet?

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.24: And yet?

1 Pet 1:6 IN ALL THIS you greatly rejoice.”  

We have been recently considering our eternal destiny, our goal to which this present life leads and, at the same time, the limited nature of our present experience which will be concluded either by our deaths or by Jesus returning. But yesterday we faced the fact that living in this fallen world, we not only have to struggle with things going wrong – illnesses, accidents, natural catastrophes – we also have to cope with other people who may not have the same perspective as we do and in fact may be hostile to us.

So put all these things together and we have Peter’s words, “for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”  i.e. life may be tough. For the Christians to whom he was writing that was undoubtedly true for they were exiles scattered often far from their homeland, and all because of their faith.

But these apostles were not only realists they were faith filled believers because now Peter writes, “in all this,” i.e. in all of these difficult times of trials and testings, “you greatly rejoice.” Now he’s going to give a reason why we do that, which we’ll consider in the next study, but for the moment let’s just consider this part alone.

Wow, rejoicing in the midst of suffering, that is what Peter is teaching. Covid has been separating the sheep from the goats; the sheep are rejoicing and praising God, the goats are grumbling and are downhearted and inward looking. Which are we?  We’ll see some more of the ‘why’ soon but first of all get this fuller picture of the church – opposed by the world and the devil, but triumphant in Christ and so praising and rejoicing.  Perhaps we should measure ‘the real church’ by the amount of praise, thanksgiving and worship that goes on despite adversity.

It’s a challenge isn’t it and it’s the same thing that the apostle James had on his mind when he wrote to the believers “scattered among the nations” (Jas 1:1) and he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (Jas 1:2) If I may refer to what I said in the paragraph above, how have we been coping with the months and years of the Pandemic. For some it has been incredibly hard, either losing loved ones or perhaps suffering the illness badly and maybe still having the effects hanging on with what they call ‘Long Covid’. Others of us have perhaps had an easier ride, just suffering lockdowns and uncertainty, but whatever the level of the ‘trial’ we’ve experienced, how did we cope with it as believers, and how are we coping with it today? With God’s grace? With thanksgiving? With pure joy (James)? With great rejoicing (Peter)? His grace is there available for us; may we be reaching to appropriate it every day.   

23. Grief

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.23: Grief

1 Pet 1:6 now for a little while YOU MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER grief in all kinds of trials.” 

We need to recap where we are because I believe we are treading on holy ground, a teaching that is unique to the Bible that has come to us by the revelation of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, to enable us when we find ourselves exiles, a minority, scattered, no longer having the influence we once had, and increasingly abused by the society around us. Thus it will be until God either comes with Revival or Jesus returns in glory.

There are two sets of verses I find in the book of Revelation that, outside Revival, tell us what we should expect of the world around us in these ‘last days’. The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood.” (Rev 9:20) People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” (Rev 16:11) Despite awful judgments, the Sin of mankind means that many just will not repent and that means two things: first they continue to rebel against God and, second, they will oppose (often violently) His church.

Peter says to the saints of his day, “for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” This is not thing the comfortable church of the West likes to hear, but Peter is writing to a church in the minority, exiles, scattered – and yet still a body with a head who reigns in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2).

Yes, let’s embrace the whole picture which is why we need the comfort we wrote about in a previous series. But ‘trials’ or ‘tests’ are for passing in God’s heart. He wants us to succeed but success is something to do with achievement in the face of having to expend effort. Is this the faith you see in Scripture? It should be. Now try and grasp two separate but linked things. First there is the suffering that comes with ‘all kinds of trials’. Yes, that is the bad-news side of the equation but there is also the fact that we’ve already noted that we are being shielded by God’s power. These things may go on around us, and they may definitely affect us, but the second thing is that God has given us everything we need to meet all our needs in and through Christ (see Phil 4:19). His grace is sufficient, especially in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9), so that in whatever is going on He promises that we can abound in whatever He puts before us (2 Cor 9:8). Perhaps we need to look up, write out, stick on the fridge or notice board and claim afresh every day, these verses, for they are the truth. Hallelujah!

22. Waiting Game

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.22: Waiting Game

1 Pet 1:5 UNTIL the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

We’ve said it many times but we live in a partial kingdom, a kingdom that exists in the midst of ‘the world’, a fallen world, and so it is that sometimes we see glorious things happen, healings take place, there are deliverances, people are born again, lives are straightened out, but at other times life seems like a desert where vagabonds seem to roam unchecked, a word where God seems distant.

I can never emphasis how important it is to understand this, that we live in a fallen world where things go wrong, and sometimes they go wrong for Christians – but God is always there for us in whatever is going on. He is there to redeem us, draw us closer to Him, deeper into the experience of knowing His presence, knowing His peace, knowing His provision and knowing His protection. I have spoken previously of a ‘God-awareness’  which I believe should be part of our experience, not always strong, but always there, to remind us to turn to Him, draw on Him, rely on Him.

But Peter says we have been shielded by God’s power until the time when either Jesus comes in glory to take us all to be with him, or we die and go to be with the Father. The key word is that word ‘until’ which says it’s a waiting game! It’s what we’ve been saying, it’s that same old, ‘kingdom now but not yet’. We’ve got part of the package but there is lots more to come – here on earth and then in eternity with God.

The saints of old caught the vision but never got the whole package (read Heb 11:13-16) This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God.” (Rev 14:12) What are we like on ‘patient endurance’. Oh dear, more grace needed! Waiting – patience – endurance – grace. What a fun package! Embrace it as part of the will of God.

We keep on needing to go over this ground again and again until we fully take it in and are able to live at peace in the light of it. I know believers who have struggled through the months and now years of the Covid Pandemic but they are living in fear, critical of God, the church, and anything spiritual; they are casualties of Covid and that is nothing to do with a physical sickness, it is all about having the reality of your faith being tested, as we’ll see a few verses on, and they haven’t come through well. We’re all, says Peter, in a waiting game, experiencing only part of the package that God has for us, but it is a package that is being tested and proved here on earth today and every day we are alive. Peter understand this and the remaining verses of the passage we are studying is given over to detailing this. Let’s study it carefully.

21. Protected

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.21: Protected

1 Pet 1:4,5 This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are SHIELDED by God’s power.”

If I travel from the UK to France, one way I may do it is by train through the Channel Tunnel, a 50 kilometer tube that shields me from the waters of the English Channel. When astronauts rocket up to the International Space Station and work outside it, they wear space suits with helmets that shield them from the cold and keep within a supply of air. We take for granted these things that shield or protect in differing circumstances or locations. Now Peter is saying that we are being shielded by God so the questions arise, from what and how?

The link in the above verse is to our inheritance in heaven so the implication is that God’s power is provided for us to ensure we reach and obtain that inheritance.   

The fulness of this inheritance we noted yesterday will be experienced in heaven and so for now we only have a limited experience of it. One version says, “you are guarded by the power of God operating through your faith,” and another that we “are being protected and shielded by the power of God through your faith.” When we live by faith, God’s power is available to us, flowing in and through us, and this power actually acts as protection for us and keep us on the path that will eventually take us to our final destination. Hallelujah! Now if you ever look in books on Theology, you usually come across a chapter entitled, “The Perseverance of the Saints”, which is all about the possibility of falling away, but a more positive approach is to consider what Peter is saying here: God’s power – His indwelling Holy Spirit – is there to shield us against the temptations, deceptions and distractions of the enemy that would seek to lure us off the path of righteousness.

The apostle Paul in Romans 8 is absolutely adamant in verses 35 to 39 that nothing but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Now you can turn your back on Him by an act of will but as long as your heart is turned in God’s direction through Christ your eternal destiny is guaranteed. Why? Because God wills it and God works for it. Again as the apostle Paul declared, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) That ‘day of Christ Jesus’ is, as various versions put it, the “day when Jesus Christ returns.”  We’re going to see tomorrow there is a time element in all this, but for the moment be absolutely secure in this truth – God’s power is here today, available for each of us, to shield and protect us to ensure we stay on the path and cannot be knocked off the path where we continue to experience the love and goodness of God through Christ. Hallelujah!

20. Receivers

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.20: Receivers

1 Pet 1:4 into AN INHERITANCE that can never perish, spoil or fade.”

Sometimes I think we can lose perspective when we are meditating on part verses so I want to recap what Peter is saying: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Pet 1:3,4) So our experience was that we were ‘born again’ by the work of the Holy Spirit and we found that our new life was one that looked forward all the time into what God wanted to make us and what He wanted to lead us to be doing throughout the remaining years of our life here on earth.

But this looking forward goes beyond our years on earth, it takes us into our eternity with God that follows on after death. We wouldn’t have realized it before we came to Christ but in fact we received a package for the future, God heart, God’s will for us, that He knew would be the very best for us. Part of it, as we’ve just noted, is for the here and now, and part of it is for our eternity with God. We might call this our inheritance, something that Christ left us as a result of his death on the Cross on our behalf. And that’s what Peter is now referring to.

An inheritance is simply what we receive from another when they die; it is what they leave to us. One definition speaks of ‘entitlements, privileges, rights, and obligations upon the death of an individual’, and that encapsulates well what Jesus has left us – the rights to be called children of God, the privilege of receiving the power and revelation (teaching and guidance) of the Holy Spirit and the entitlement to a place with God in eternity. The only obligation on us is that we believe this and allow Him to bring us into the place where we experience the reality of each of these things.

Now one aspect of all this which is vitally important is that an inheritance is something we receive but we don’t earn it or deserve it and mostly what we receive is not something to which we have contributed. It is the life, property etc. that the person who died achieved, it is what they earned and now they are leaving it to us in their will. Sometimes the beneficiary doesn’t even know what is in the will, doesn’t know the extent of the property, the belongings, the bank accounts etc. that this person is leaving. It is a gift from them to us, and so it is with Christ, it is not something we can work to achieve, we just have to receive it. The application of all this must be that we see ourselves simply as beneficiaries who are grateful and glad receivers. Today is a gift from God, today His Spirit living within me is His gift to enable me to live out this day. All this is part of our inheritance. Thank Him for it. 

19. The Reason

‘Foundational Resources’ Meditations No.19: The Reason

1 Pet 1:3 a living hope through the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Can we trust hope? In the Covid examples I gave two studies back we saw some who have hoped it was all merely the control of men but who found they ended up in a ward on a ventilator – dashed hopes! The world is full of people who put their hope in something that proves not to be up to the job. There is that famous verse, Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” (Prov 13:12) or as one version puts it so simply, “It is sad when you don’t get what you hoped for.”

Talking with some people recently has left me wondering has Covid left many people bereft of hope? If that is so, I would suggest it is because the spiritual side of their lives have been found wanting. I have said it again and again in these days, that unless we maintain a strong ‘God-awareness’ in our everyday lives, we will find we just don’t have the resources to ride this present wave of the Pandemic.

We have to speak out as Job did, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15). The psalmist wrote, “the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.” (Psa 33:18) and once chided himself, “Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” (Psa 42:5,11, 43:5) Hope here means wait patiently and trust in Him, trust that He will come through for you.

Now Peter in the passage we are considering says we can have this living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Seeing the bigger picture, we have this living hope for three reasons: first, He has said we have a glorious future and that creates hope (Future).  Second, the Spirit within us witnesses to it (Present). Third, the fact of the resurrection of Jesus (Past) shows us that death is not the end with God, we have an ETERNAL destiny guaranteed by the Spirit (Eph 1:13,14).

Jesus resurrection is well evidenced (1 Cor 15:5-8) and his life within us is similarly well evidenced. All of this strengthens that ‘living hope’ that we said yesterday, stirs fresh energy for today. Our hope – that confident assurance we have from God, comes because we trust what He says today because of all that He has done ‘yesterday’. In Deuteronomy, when Moses was encouraging his people on the Plains of Moab before they entered the Promised Land and before he left them for his eternal destiny, his speeches are littered with references to what God HAD done for them with exhortations never to forget these things. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, does this by Jesus saying remember what I did, and remember it regularly. What he did was made unique by the resurrection. Men have died for others but no other was raised from the dead. This is what confirms the hope we have in him.