Stir It Up!

They’re the only two times this particular Greek word is found in the Bible, yet I think it applies to all of Scriptures. It’s Peter’s specific reason for writing his letters but I’d make the case that, when all is said and done, it’s the reason we all should read all of the Bible. To stir it up!

I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, . . . This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, . . .

(2Peter 1:13, 3:1 ESV)

Came across the phrase this morning and remembered that it caught my attention the first time I read it a few days ago. Peter wrote his letters to these believers to stir them up by way of reminder.

A number of translations render the original word as stir up. Others use wake up or stimulate. And Peterson in The Message, never satisfied to use just a few words when many will do, tries to capture the meaning here with “keeping you alert” and holding “your minds in a state of undistracted attention.”

More than just wake up, the original has the sense of arousing fully. Apparently the word can be used in the context of agitating the waves of the sea to rise. The idea of taking something that was inert and rendering it active. Stirring it up, in other words.

And while Peter specifically says he wrote his letters to stir up his readers, isn’t that the purpose of all of Scripture? Shouldn’t that be our aim when we open the pages of holy writ? To be aroused to action by way of remembrance? I’m thinkin’ . . .

My morning readings need to be more than just a check-the-box exercise, they need to exercise me. Exercise my mind, stir my soul, and awaken my spirit. Marking my bible isn’t the end game, having my bible mark me is what I should be seeking. I’m reading not to just accumulate more facts and data but to arouse increased faith and Spirit-enabled determination to serve the kingdom. I read not as a habit that starts my day off right, but I read to be reminded, to be put under remembrance, which then primes the pump for living water to flow from me. You get the idea.

I’m reading the second letter Peter has written so that I would be stirred up by way of reminder. It should be why I read all of Scripture, inspired and preserved by the Spirit of God to renew my mind, transform my life, and stimulate me to service.

Stirred up by God’s grace. Stirred up for God’s glory.


Short thought this morning as my time’s divided between being stirred up and playing with grandkids you have awaken way too early. Quarantine’s over, I’m free to move about the province. On the road the next few days. Gonna keep stirring it up . . . not sure how much time I’ll find to keep writing it down.

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Those Who Are Barely Escaping

Had to laugh at the following meme: “I never thought the comment ‘I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6 foot pole’ would become a national policy, but here we are.” Makes me think about the number of ways our vocabulary has been modified by the season of these past several months (as in, “The buttons on my jeans have started social distancing from each other” — who knew what social distancing was back in January?). And what of the identifiers, “people at risk,” or “high risk groups?” A whole new awareness of factors that sets someone apart as more susceptible to potentially lethal complications of the virus.

This morning I’m noodling on another “high risk group” at risk of succumbing to a different kind of deadly disease, a group most likely to be found in the church. I’m chewing on the dangers faced by those who are barely escaping.

For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

(2Peter 2:18-20 ESV)

Great “proof passage” for those who teach we can be “unsaved.” But, if you tether your anchor to what I consider to be the overwhelming teaching in Scripture that the Son loses none of those who the Father has given Him (Jn. 6:37-40), then you need to noodle on this and interpret it in light of that truth. And I think a clue is found in the phrase, those who are barely escaping. (Full disclosure, that phrase is not found in all translations. Depends on which original texts the translators use. But I’m an ESV reader therefore I try to be an ESV interpreter).

There’s no mystery as to who “they” are who speak “loud boasts of folly”, those who seek to appeal to “sensual passions” and “entice” others to follow them. They are the “false teachers among you” Peter identifies at the beginning of the chapter (2:1). The question really is who are those who have “escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” but again become “entangled in them”? I think it’s those who have barely escaped. And I don’t think they are disciples of Christ.

Barely escaping isn’t the sort of language used to describe the believer elsewhere. Born again (Jn. 3:3, 1Pet. 1:3, 1:23), new creation (2Cor. 5:17), given life abundantly (Jn. 10:10), no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), saved to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25) — those are the terms which describe someone who has been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Pet. 2:9) and have been “delivered . . . from the domain of darkness and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

So, who are these barely escaping people? Who is this high risk group who are in our churches? The people at risk who have a knowledge of our Lord and Savior, have escaped the world’s defilements, but are susceptible to being enticed by false teaching and entangled and overcome in sin? I’m thinking they are the people who, while knowing the commandments, and know about Christ, have never actually been converted and have a living relationship with Christ. They’re “Christian” enough to embrace a higher moral standard but have never entered into a real relationship with the Savior. When you ask them about their relationship with Christ they respond with what they do and have few words to describe Who they know. Good morals, but in danger of being corrupted by bad company (1Cor. 15:33).

Having grown up in the church (perhaps a seeker-friendly church) on a diet of “moralistic therapeutic deism,” they know enough to be good and “escape the defilements of the world” but they haven’t been transformed by the gospel. Haven’t been confronted with the darkness of their sin. Haven’t confessed their sin, acknowledged their bankruptcy, and responded to the cross’s atoning work with a whole-hearted desire to live in submission to the Cross-bearer. They’ve escaped the world’s defilement, but they are those who are barely escaping. As such, they’re a high-risk people for false teaching, worldly entanglement, and being overcome by the enemy. And, I fear, many are in the pews beside us on a Sunday morning.

How our churches need to preach the gospel, the full gospel. How we need to pray for those who are barely escaping and call them to full-surrender to Christ. They are our “people at risk.” We need to care for them and call them to the cross.

That they might know the fullness of His grace. That they might walk in faithfulness for His glory.

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Good Bottom-Line Advice from a Miserable Comforter

I think for many years, when I read Job, I didn’t really read, or at least try to listen too closely, to chapters 4 thru 37. Influenced by the big idea that Job’s friends were “miserable comforters,” while Job himself kept stepping over the line before God, I think I tended to mostly skim until the part where God gets in on the conversation — thinking that there wasn’t much to be learned from miserable comforters. But over recent years, I’ve slowed down, paid more attention. If for no other reason than to learn how to avoid giving miserable comfort.

And part of the deal with the counsel Job received from his friends is that, within some of their more insensitive or misinformed advice, there are nuggets of gold to be mined — gems of truth worth chewing on. Such is the case in Eliphaz’s lead-off discourse in Job 4.

Eliphaz is responding to Job’s opening lament cursing the day he was born, wishing he had either been stillborn or had died at birth rather than endure the loss and pain of the recent devastation he’d known. And honestly, it was almost a laugh-out-loud moment when I read Eliphaz’s summary of Job’s situation.

“Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.”

(Job 4:3-6a ESV)

Apparently Job had himself often been in the comforting counselor mode with others. Those with “weak hands,” those who stumbled, those with “feeble knees.” But now, says Eliphaz, shoe’s on the other foot and look at you! You’re weary and impatient. You’re dismayed, disturbed, and anxious. You wish you were dead. What’s wrong with you?

Give your head a shake, Eliphaz! . . . or at least your empathy generator. Loss of all material wealth? The sudden death of ten out of ten grown children? The imploding of your health with the exploding of painful boils? Top it off with a wife who says, “Curse God, and die”? Sounds like a bit more than “weak hands” and “feeble knees” to me.

Thinking that Eliphaz was a little too quick to respond to Job’s pity part by suggesting he knew the appropriate way Job should be viewing and reacting to his current situation. Note to self: don’t assume you know the extent of a person’s suffering. Don’t be too quick to judge them for “over-reacting.” Instead, quick to hear, slow to speak (James 1:19) seems like wise counsel for the would-be counselor. So, strike one for Eliphaz.

But like I said, it doesn’t mean he had nothing of value to say. The encouragement he gives with his very next breath carries a weight of truth that’s worth noodling on, I think.

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”

(Job 4:6b ESV)

Though I react to how Eliphaz low-balls the severity of Job’s suffering, I am thinking his advice here is pretty good.

Regardless of the level of trial, testing, or suffering, the fear of God — awe-induced reverence of who our God is, and faith-fueled certainty in His sovereign ability to act — should always be our when-all-is-said-and-done confidence. Thus our hope, regardless of circumstance, can be found in continuing to walk in the ways of, and the shadow of, our caring, loving, all-powerful Father. Hard times aren’t the times to waiver from what we’ve known to be true. Suffering isn’t the signal that we should be trying something else, like leaning to our own understanding or taking over the reins and directing our own paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

God is our confidence in the crucible. Remaining faithful to Him who is always faithful is our hope.

Some pretty good bottom-line advice from a miserable comforter, I think.

This too, by God’s grace. This also, for God’s glory.

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They Walked Too

Hovering over the opening verses of John 8 this morning. You know, the ones marked with the note that says “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53 – 8:11.” Never really sure what to do with that. A. Skip them? B. Read them as a somehow less than “real Scripture?” C. Or, believe that God in His providential care of the Scriptures determined the incident they record too important not to be captured at a later date and included for the blessing of readers for the following centuries? I’m going with “C”.

And as I chew on it this morning, it occurs to me that the woman caught in adultery wasn’t the only one who was shown mercy and encountered grace that early morning in the temple courts. Her accusers walked too.

I think she was set up. How else is someone “caught” in adultery? How’d the scribes and Pharisees know to bust down the door of that particular bedroom on that particular morning? And, where was the guy who should of been “caught” in the act too? Come on! Set up written all over it.

For sure Jesus was set up, too. The adulteress’s accusers throw her before Jesus and the crowd He was teaching and remind the “Teacher” of what Moses commanded concerning “such women.” Stone them!

“So what do You say?” This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him.

Yeah, set up number two!

But then Jesus turns the tables.

Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground.

If you’re familiar with the story you know what happens next. One by one they walk away. Jesus is left alone with the woman standing before Him. He asks her where her accusers are, if anyone has condemned her.

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

And we sit back. And marvel at such mercy. Wonder at such love. Experience the awe of such grace. And the woman caught in adultery walks. No condemnation. A new creation in Christ. Free to go . . . into all the world. No longer a slave to sin, never to be “caught” again in hidden, perpetual sin.

But this morning it strikes me she’s not the only “caught in the act” yet free to walk.

Each of her accusers, before Jesus, confess their own sin, in essence, by not picking up a stone. Each of them stand before the Son of God, the Judge of the world, and admit they’re sinners too. And each of them is allowed to walk, as well.

“Neither do I condemn you . . . “

Free to walk away. Free, by God’s grace, to find themselves also at the feet of Jesus — the feet nailed to a cross, an atoning sacrifice for their sins as well. Jesus wasn’t done with them yet. He would die for them. By His Spirit He again would convict them of their sin and call them to believe in Him as their Savior. So, for now, He let’s them walk too.

Wouldn’t it be something if some of those guys, one day, were also caught in the act of confessing their sin, coming to the cross, and knowing also the absence of condemnation before the Christ? I’m thinkin’.

What’s more, imagine a day when, as fellow new creations in Christ, they bow before the throne of God, along with the woman they caught in the act, and they declare the glories of the Lamb together. I can only imagine.

They walked too. Something to chew on . . .

According to God’s grace. All for God’s glory.

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These Qualities

I’m wondering if they couldn’t be considered the poor cousin of the fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Not as many. Not as well known. Have never seen a graphic, or heard even one song about them. While Paul’s list in Galatians are of the Spirit, Peter’s are efforts of the flesh — in a good way! But as I hover over them, I’m wondering if perhaps they don’t deserve a bit more attention. Peter seemed to be think so.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.

(2Peter 2:12-14 ESV)

These qualities . . . a translation unique, it seems, to the ESV — though the ESV has a footnote that it could be translated, as in other versions, as these things. But let’s go with it. Let’s chew on these qualities.

Reference to them is found four times in the opening verses of Peter’s letter, the last one he knew he would write, having been told by His Master that he would be “putting off” his body soon. His final words. Things among the last things he wants Jesus followers to remember after his departure.

These qualities — not as cool a ring to them as The Fruit of the Spirit, for sure. Only seven, not nine (though, doesn’t seven have an intriguing ring to it?). Qualities the people of God were to make every effort to supplement their faith with. Unlike the fruit which was evidence of the Spirit’s working.

But Peter makes some pretty serious claims about these qualities.

  1. The increasing realities of these qualities in a Christian’s life will keep them from “from being ineffective or unfruitful” (1:8).
  2. To not give attention to these qualities is to be nearsighted, “so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (1:9). Pursuit of these qualities seems to come part and parcel with an appropriate appreciation of the gift of salvation.
  3. As mentioned yesterday, practicing these qualities is a recipe for success — true spiritual-and-not-of-this-world success — in the Christian’s life. For “in this way (aka by these qualities) there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:10-11). These qualities open the door for an unashamed, victorious entrance into the eternal kingdom. Hmmm . . . not a bad deal. Maybe I should be more familiar with these qualities.

So, while they may not be the better known nine; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, these super seven are probably worth being familiar with, as well — even to the point of making every effort to integrate them with our faith.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. These qualities.

Probably worth noodling on more. Definitely worthy pursuing. More could be written on each of them. Interesting to chew on the overlap between Peter’s qualities and the Spirit’s fruit. Maybe someone should come up with a song or graphic or something.

For now, Peter’s reminded me of these qualities. Something he wanted to do. Mission accomplished.

By God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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On My Face, Set On My Feet, Ready to be Fruitful

Beholding the glory of God has a way of putting you facedown in worship in silence. The Spirit of God can then pick you up, set you on your feet, and prepare you to hear what God is saying. That’s one of the big ideas I’m chewing on as I read the opening chapters of Ezekiel this morning. Encountered it twice in my reading, first in Ezekiel 1:28-2:2 and then again in Ezekiel 3.

So I arose and went out into the valley, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face. But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and He spoke with me . . .

(Ezekiel 3:23-24 ESV)

Brought something James writes to mind. Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

(James 4:10 MSG)

And in kind of an unexpected way, it set me up for Peter’s opening words in his second letter.

Glory-induced worship is a prerequisite for a glory-giving walk. Bowing before God in awe of who He is and what He’s done, is the catalyst for standing before God ready to be who we are called to be and willing to do what we are called to do. Encountering His glory has a way of getting us going.

And make no mistake about it, we are to get going. Though saved by faith we are saved for works. While saved by grace alone through faith alone — “and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8) — I was reminded this morning that we are saved to “make every effort to supplement your faith.”

Peter begins his second letter with the stuff that should fuel the flames of worship. A reminder that we’ve had an encounter of the divine kind with the One who has called us “to His own glory and excellence.” That “His divine power” has infused us — all of us! — with everything we need for life and godliness. Everything we need to partake of “the divine nature.” All the tools necessary to escape “from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” Possible — yes, practically possible — because “He has granted to us His precious and very great promises.” (2Pet. 1:3-4). If that don’t put us facedown, not sure what will.

But then . . . on your feet! And this is where the Spirit’s enabling comes in.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith . . .

(2Peter 1:5a ESV)

Yup, you read that right. Saved by faith alone that we might add to our faith (NIV). Redeemed only by the work of Jesus on the cross, but redeemed so that we might make every effort to build on that work. Bowed down by awe through a fresh encounter with who He is and what He’s done, set on our feet by the Spirit determined to fertilize our faith with what’s needed for fruitfulness.

Ready to give it our all! Ready to add to our faith: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2Pet. 1:6-7).

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Therefore, brothers [and sisters], be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

(2Peter 1:8, 10 ESV)

Never fall (Trip up from time to time? Sure. But fall? Never). Who doesn’t want that? Confirming our calling? Demonstrating it’s the real-meal deal? Sign me up!

So, here’s the promise to claim, the divine dynamic to test and prove: keep on keepin’ on supplementing your faith with the right stuff and you won’t be ineffective, you won’t be unfruitful, you will never fall.

How are we going to do that? By beholding His glory and going facedown. By daily engaging with the Spirit who sets us on our feet, ready and willing to hear His voice, able to do His will.

On my face. Set on my feet. Adding to my faith. Promised to be fruitful.

By His grace. For His glory.

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While Doing Good

A quick thought this morning from Peter’s concluding exhortation to those who were going through a season of suffering.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

(1Peter 4:19 ESV)

While doing good . . . That’s the phrase that caught my attention this morning as I wrapped up the fourth chapter of Peter’s first letter.

These believers were suffering because . . . well, because they were believers. Thus, Peter says, they were not to be surprised at the fiery trials that were testing them because they were sharing in Christ’s sufferings. That, in fact, they should be encouraged, even in their sufferings, because just as Christ’s suffering brought God glory (Jn. 17:4), so too their sufferings would eventually culminate in rejoicing when “His glory is revealed” (4:12-131). Therefore, Peter says, they were suffering according to God’s will. I get it. And, therefore again, they needed to “entrust their souls” to their faithful Creator.” I get that too.

But while they were to keep on enduring the season, and to keep on trusting the Creator, they were also to keep on doing good. That’s a little less intuitive.

Peter just assumed that hard times didn’t mean a timeout. That carrying an extra load didn’t preclude running the race. In fact, to keep on doing good, even while times were not so good, would in fact serve to actuate their calling as “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” (1Pet. 4:9).

I get the temptation to want to sit it out when it’s hard to gut it out. To take a pass when there’s pressure. To try and reclaim some margin by retreating from the mission.

But Peter’s exhortation assumes that we double down on trusting our souls to our faithful Creator even as we double down on doing good. On being salt and light in a world in much need of salt and light. To be available to alleviate suffering even as we deal with suffering. To continue to esteem others better than ourselves (Php. 2:3-4) when everything in us just wants to look out for ourselves.

Doing good as a response to suffering is only reasonable as we have the mind of Christ (Php. 2:5-8). Only possible as we rely solely on the enabling power of the Spirit. Only desirable as we see it fulfilling our calling as ambassadors of the kingdom.

Only possible by the grace of God. Only desirable for the glory of God.

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Bless

Short thought this morning . . early morning grandkids have a way of cutting into your “be still and know” time . . . Love it!

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

(1Peter 3:8-9 ESV)

What? Commands to obey. Context? A people under tremendous pressure, enduring difficult times. So why these commands in this context? ‘Cause pressure cookers have a way of making us want to let off steam. Or, as my kids used to put it, “Dad, you’re getting crabby!”

There’s something about difficult circumstances that drains the patience tank. Something about suffering that can lead to snapping at one another. Something about the crucible that causes us to be critical. So, addressing these children of God who are trying to figure out how to do life together as “exiles of the Dispersion,” Peter reminds them that when times are tough it’s best done in community and so, making the effort to maintain community is vital.

“All of you”, Peter writes. Not just those he’s already addressed — servant, wives, and husbands. Not just the most spiritual or the least spiritual. Not just those in leadership. But everyone.

Peter says, in effect, You’re all going to experience the propensity to be crabby as this season drags on. You’re all going to experience the temptation to turn on a brother or be short with a sister. You’re all going to have thoughts about going it alone as the persecution increases. Instead, all of you, double down on doing it together.

. . . have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. . . . bless, for to this you were called . . .

If we’ve been called to Christ, then we’ve been called to His body. If we’ve been called to be children of God, then we’ve been called to be the family of God. And so, when the going gets tough, and the temptation to be crabby intensifies, if we’ve been called to be blessed, then we in turn must bless.

I’ve said it before, this season is an opportunity for the church to build spiritual muscle. Might some of that muscle be the muscle of unity as we sympathetically, tenderly, and lovingly humble ourselves before one another and, for one another. Might some of that muscle be to bless our brothers, to serve our sisters, to build up the family.

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Gracious Thing

Hovering over the word of God this morning in quarantine north of the border. I think it’s been at least ten months since I’ve been up to my daughter’s house, over seven months since I last saw my oldest grandchildren in person — our before COVID normal was to see one another every 6 to 8 weeks. The closed border has been one of the “hard things” about this season. If not for Facetime and Zoom, it would have been much, much harder. In the overall scheme of things though, this “hard thing” really isn’t all that hard.

Hard is what “the elect exiles of the Dispersion” were experiencing, those who Peter wrote to. Persecuted for their faith, driven from their homes, doing most of life in a mostly hostile environment. Now that’s a hard season. But then, add to all that “hard” being a servant of an unjust master and that’s hard upon hard, that’s just piling on! So, it’s Peter’s words to a person in that situation during that season that causes me to pause this morning and consider a gracious thing.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

(1Peter 2:18-20 ESV)

Charis. Grace. That’s the word translated here in the ESV as a gracious thing. The NIV and the NKJV translate it commendable. The NASB says that such behavior will find grace with God. The CSB says it brings favor. Chew on it for a bit, and they all reflect a facet of grace’s beauty in hard situations during hard seasons.

First, for a servant to respect an unjust master is the very definition of grace, extending unmerited favor. It is literally a gracious thing. And even in their season of suffering, Peter was encouraging believers — all believers, regardless of their lot in life — to reflect the grace they had experienced. To respect others, not because they necessarily deserved it, but because while they were themselves still sinners Christ died for them (Rom. 5:8). When times are tough, and tensions are high, it’s a good time for a gracious thing.

But in addition to grace being a thing to be shown, in extending grace there’s a dynamic to be known. It’s the “I no longer live but Christ lives in me” dynamic (Gal. 2:20). The desire and ability to do a gracious thing when there’s no natural reason to want to, or natural ability to be able to, is the demonstrable proof that we really are “a new creation in Christ” (2Cor. 5:17).

So, we do a gracious thing, we experience a gracious thing, and God is pleased with a gracious thing. He delights in His children becoming more and more like His Son. He leverages our grace as a magnifying glass for His grace. He mixes our best efforts with His Holy Spirit and, through every day acts of grace, seeks to draw even unjust masters to Himself.

Hard times? Yeah, to varying degrees. But great times for a gracious thing.

Because of grace. For His glory.

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Good Lives Matter

As followers of Christ we all want to do the will of God. The hard part often is knowing what His will is. To be sure, there are clear commands to obey in Scripture, “thus saith the Lord” types of injunctions, that we’d do well to heed. But there’s also a wide range of choices we face for which there is no prescriptive direction and for which we need to rely more on principle-based discernment. That’s why in Romans Paul emphasizes the need to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” It’s the key to discerning the will of God, to figuring out the “good and acceptable and perfect” course of action (Rom. 12:2).

But, without everything laid out in a simple “what to do in case of” book, a lot of energy can be spent on trying to figure out the will of God. And that’s why, to be honest, it’s kind of refreshing whenever you come across a “this is the will of God” passage in Scripture. Encountered one this morning.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

(1Peter 2:15-16 ESV)

Context? Persecuted people in a hostile land. Sojourners and exiles (1Pet. 2:11) just trying to get through the day, yet wanting to make a difference in their world as “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” (1Pet. 2:9).

Get through another day swimming upstream, yet have an impact for eternity. How ya’ gonna do that?

Well, this is the will of God — do good. Be a “well-doer.” Benefit others. Even when the going is tough. Even when the environment is hostile. Even when it means being subject to human institutions which aren’t exactly God-friendly (1Pet. 2:13).

I accept the critique that the “lifestyle evangelism” movement of decades ago perhaps minimized the importance of the spoken gospel as it emphasized the need for living out the gospel. That preaching the gospel with our lives, and maybe “if necessary using words,” left us with too many believers unprepared to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope” within us (1Pet. 3:15). Having lost sight, perhaps, that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

But having accepted that critique, and aware of such caution, I’m reminded this morning, however, that good lives matter when it comes to making the good news known.

Belief without behavior is hollow. Conviction without character is inconsistent. Faith apart from works is dead (Ja. 2:26).

This is the will of God: do good! Silence the critics with holiness.

Walk as Jesus walked, as servants of God, in the Power with which He walked, the power of the abiding Spirit, and it will mute the noise and provide a space for the gospel to be heard as well as seen.

This is the will of God. Simple! Yeah, but not easy. Yet possible because “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20a).

Good lives matter. Let’s do good.

By His grace. For His glory.

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