Perhaps no one has had their weaknesses and failures displayed as publicly and prominently as Simon Peter though, in truth, the Bible is unblinkingly honest about everyone. It never slides into sentimentality and that’s a great relief – there’s no hint of the sanctimonious, unworldly definition of holiness that’s often assumed today.
In Peter’s case, he’d learnt the hard way that to be ‘set apart’ to be a disciple of Jesus was a startling adventure of faith and joy, but also a deep and revealing test of character and resolve. For sure Jesus had renamed him ‘the Rock’ at the beginning. But, ever the realist, He also warned Peter, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22: 31-32
Words for the Week
1 Peter 1: 13-25 (The Message)
A Future in God
So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”
Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God…. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God. Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life.
Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.
Neil Postman: Amusing Ourselves to Death
A life full of purpose and hope combined with sacrifice and suffering, is what defined the early church, and, I keep having to remember, is what will define us today. We are set apart is to be different from the world, not divorced from it; to challenge the status quo, not settle for it. “Your new life is not like your old life.” And it will inevitably be contested. In many countries today, violent persecution is plain to see. For us fortunates living in a free democracy, opposition is more insinuating. Here’s an example.
“Put your mind in gear.” Peter begins with a critical area. Maybe more than anywhere, holiness and its impact on health, interweaves in the mind. Our society is particularly obsessed with food these days: recipes that guarantee to make us happy, wholesome and in some cases, well proportioned. The link between what we feed our bodies and our consequent well-being is indisputable. And yet there is a more pervasive issue, largely ignored because it is driven by the media itself: what we feed our mind in an age of digital technology has never been more important.
One writer put his finger on this in a very prophetic way. He compared two secular philosophical novelists: George Orwell, in his novel ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. One was prophesying that government would control our thinking by censorship, the other was suggesting we would end up in a world with no control at all. He summed it up this way: “Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” Ironically, depending on where we look, both seem to have been right, but in the west, Huxley is winning.
The proof of spiritual maturity is not how ‘pure’ you are but awareness of impurity. That very awareness opens the door to grace.
Philip Yancey. What’s so amazing about grace?
What’s so amazing about grace?
I know it’s all too easy to induce guilt over time spent on mobiles or Facebook – the massive capacity we now have for distraction. But we’ve already seen that holiness is not at all about withdrawal, it’s really about freedom, to choose and to discern. We are served a 24/7 message of self interest, at its worst, the malign notion that fulfilment and happiness can be bought without commitment, responsibility or corruption – the basis for pornography.
The Message has this wonderful paraphrase: “don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil” – habits of thought and action that subconsciously subvert our identity and undermine our hope as disciples of Jesus. Instead, Peter writes, Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. Enjoy, instead, a new life, energetic and blazing with holiness in which “you will know the truth (lit. reality) and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31
Jesus summed it up: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9: 23-24 No gloss, no hype. Real life.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26: 3-4
Own it Personally
- Read Luke 5: 1 – 11. Peter’s call began not in a synagogue or a Sunday meeting, but as Jesus stepped into his boat, his ‘Monday morning’. Imagine where Jesus might step into your working world, and invite him to action.
- Jesus invited them to put out into deeper water. These instructions seemed futile and naive to experienced fishermen. Are there any areas of life where you’ve more or less decided that God really can’t or wouldn’t go? If so….
- ‘Deep water’ became a regular experience for Peter. He quickly found himself rubbing shoulders with people he’d previously have avoided – like Matthew. Pray for the church to be a place where everyone is welcome.
- Run a health check on your mind.. ‘So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretence, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.’ 1 Peter 2:1-3 The Message.
Speak it out – Pray and Prophesy
Peter emphasised that Christianity is not me and God. It’s about us. We don’t go to church. We are the church: “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house..” Pray for friends and the community that makes up Woodies, that we will together express the life and power of the Holy Spirit.
The church Jesus formed (set apart) is well described as a group of friends, filled with the Holy Spirit, intent on sharing the good news of a God’s kingdom. Through set backs, suffering and conflict, Peter wants to remind us that this is who we are, and what we are here called to do. Use these verses to pray for Woodies, the leadership, and those who are currently going through difficult times. 1 Peter 2: 9-10.