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Archive for August, 2011

As American Christians, we’re not accustomed to suffering—at least not the kind of suffering we hear Christians are undergoing in other parts of the world that are hostile to the Christian faith.  Nevertheless, 1 Peter was written to Christians in Asia Minor who were in potential danger of experiencing suffering because of their allegiance to Christ.  Contrary to what we may think, because 1 Peter was written around AD 62/63 before Nero’s systematic persecution of Christians, it seems that the Christians in Asia Minor to whom Peter wrote were facing the potential of social persecution similar to what we Western Christians might face today from unbelieving citizens—in our homes, schools, workplaces, from government, etc.  How are we to prepare ourselves for such potential Christian suffering?

In saying that because Christ suffered that we are to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking, Peter reminds us that we are to arm ourselves much like military personnel might prepare themselves for battle by equipping themselves with the proper weapons for military action.  So then, how do we prepare our minds for righteous suffering?  How do we arm ourselves with the right way of thinking about righteous suffering regardless of the extent of persecution?  We preach truth to ourselves.  Here are some of the truths that Peter reminds us in 1 Peter are at our disposal:

1.  We have been called to righteous suffering (2:21).

2.  Therefore, we should not be surprised when we suffer for righteousness (4:12). 

3.  Righteous suffering is not a sign of God’s disfavor (2:20).

4.  Righteous suffering exposes what or whom we are trusting (1:6-7).

5.  The road marked with righteous suffering is the road that leads to ultimate blessing, but the evil way leads to judgment (3:3:8-17; 4:14).

6.  The road marked with righteous suffering is the road that leads to vindication, victory and glory (3:18-22).

7.  The road marked with righteous suffering is the road to holiness now (4:1-6).

Let us meditate on these truths in order to prepare our minds for action, so that when we do suffer for righteousness’ sake we are not taken off-guard.

Categories : Church, Missions, Sermons
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Aug
08

Cultivating a Culture of Peace

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The gospel is a gospel of peace.  It declares that since the time of Adam’s sin we have been born into this world as God’s enemy: hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21) against God (Romans 8:7).  The most holy God had every right to declare the differences between Him and us irreconcilable.  Yet, in His wisdom and love God chose to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).  By judging our sin at the cross of Christ, Holy God is able to reconcile to Himself us who receive Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by faith.

Through Christ, we who have been reconciled to God have also been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  As ministers of reconciliation, we proclaim this gospel of reconciliation to the world in order that all peoples may be reconciled to God through the death of Christ.  But our ministry of reconciliation does not end there, for we must continue living in the light of the reconciling work of Christ.  Consequently, we must live our lives reconciled to one another.

Even though we Christians have been reconciled to God through Christ, far too many professing Christians still live in conflict with others.  Such conflict is manifested in marriages, homes, workplaces, even church relationships.  Unfortunately, many of us address such conflicts according to worldly wisdom rather than heavenly wisdom.  This is why Christians have as many divorces as non-Christians, why they stop talking to fellow Christians, why they leave churches over conflict, and why churches even split over conflict.

What kind of Christian testimony do we offer this world if we are reconciled to God through Christ but fail to be reconciled to one another?  One of the most powerful witnesses we can provide our community is the witness of reconciled relationships that flow from being reconciled to God.  If we are to live in such an atmosphere, then we must cultivate a culture of peace.  According to Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, a culture of peace is a culture where “people are eager and able to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships in a way that clearly reflects the love and power of Jesus Christ” (291).  If we are to cultivate such a culture of peace, then we must have a biblical strategy for resolving conflict.  Sande offers the following counsel (the four “G’s”):

Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Our entire lives must be motivated by a desire to glorify God.  Get the log out of your eye (Matthew 7:5).  We must first look at our own hearts in order to discern our contributions to conflicts.  Gently restore (Galatians 6:1).  The Bible gives us clear instruction in approaching those with whom we have conflict.  Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24).  Once we have addressed conflict, we must be willing to restore relationships.

Let us strive to cultivate a culture of peace in our churches.  May we be about God’s glory, and address conflict biblically by first looking at our own hearts, then approaching one another with the goal of reconciled relationships that give evidence to the fact that we are a people reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

Categories : Church
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