Standing Firm

Standing Firm

1 Peter 4.12-4.19

Our passage today is the reason for the entire letter that Peter writes to the churches dispersed across modern day Turkey. Peter’s purpose for writing is to strengthen the believers who are facing hardship. Peter tells us that there is a positive side hardships (1 Peter 1.6, 7; 2.21-24). Hardships are testing grounds for God to determine your faithfulness. Through trials of many kinds your faith is refined for the purpose of honoring Christ Jesus.

Peter warns us that those who serve God will suffer (1 Peter 4.12,13). Peter explains that when we serve God the Spirit of God fills us and we suffer as Christ Jesus suffered on this earth. We are joined with God in our sufferings through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit possesses us, we will suffer like Christ.

Peter promises that God will help his in times of suffering for his namesake (1 Peter 5.7). Peter explains that the devil who is Christ’s adversary, and now ours because of the Holy Spirit we possess, seeks to cause us suffering (1 Peter 5.8). The devil seeks to discredit your faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s help comes by way of the new birth in our hearts, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are given a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ in and through the Holy Spirit. This new birth comes by way of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and a transformation of our hearts to love God and neighbor. We are no longer simply 100% flesh and blood, we are now given 100% of the Spirit of God who fills our total being.

Now this new birth empowers us to live a holy life style. We become a community of people living for God. No longer are we bound by the world’s ways of thinking and living, we are given a new holy morality and a new ethical thought process. We are given the opportunity to think like God and live like God.

Peter’s overall theme is long suffering in the face of persecution from others (1 Peter 3.8, 3.13-14, 4.1-2, 4.4, 4.14). Peter wants us to know that when we suffer it should only be in the context of having held onto our moral principles and maintained our sense of integrity. Perhaps to suffer because of your beliefs in some ways seems like senseless suffering.

Reason would say that the physician is the decision-maker and research is the answer to our questions about our physical body. But how can we allow a created being – the physician – dictate what our Creator God has established as good and right? Now don’t get me wrong. I believe God gave us reason, but not at the expense of disbelief in God.

John Wesley instructs us to value Scripture above reason, tradition, and experiences in our lives. No longer can we afford to simply listen to the world around us without consulting the Scriptures. If you have not read the Bible all the way through, let today be the day you choose to begin this task.

In our passage today we are charged to hold fast to the preaching of the Good News. We are to stand strong in the face of opposition. We are to hold fast to Scripture when those around us “blaspheme” us because we bear the name of Christ Jesus and hold fast to Orthodox Christianity.

The Greek word blasfhmouvnteß means to slander. The word blasphemy is used 52 times in the New Testament. You may have heard this word and wonder what it means.

According to our contemporary dictionaries, blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God, it is the act of claiming the attributes of God, or irreverence toward something considered sacred. Perhaps a better definition for us today is that blasphemy is an act of great disrespect shown to God by discarding his sacred ideas, by insulting God’s people when they are standing up for their beliefs, or by disregarding God’s things as unholy.

Mark 2:7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 3:28 Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins and all the blasphemies they utter. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 7:22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. Mark 14:64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. Mark 15:29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,

1Pet. 4:4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

2Pet. 2:2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 2Pet. 2:10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

Peter uses this word only once in his letter and it is in verse 4 (1 Peter 4.4). In this context Peter tells us that the people have turned from their old ways of living, and the people they used to associate with are now speaking badly about them. The Christians are living into their moral and ethical beliefs. The Christians are no longer living in their sins. They have changed their ways. And, now those around them are insulting them for this change in behavior.

Jesus mentions a sin that is unforgivable in Matt. 12:31-32 and calls it blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. At the time of this accusation Jesus was ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit — fulfilling the divine plan of God to provide a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). The religious people were attributing this to demonic activity. This is blasphemy.

But Peter teaches us that when we are blasphemed – slandered – for the name of Christ it is because God’s Spirit is resting on you. (1Pet. 4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.) And, now the slander that has insulted you has become a blessing to you and glory to God.

Peter explains to us in the last paragraph of his letter that he wrote to the churches to encourage them to testify to the true grace of God, and to stand fast in it. Peter is asking the hearer to defend the Good News of the Gospel in the face of cultural opposition.

Our Methodist history points out that Methodist preachers were severely beaten and flogged on the frontier because people were converted. Caleb Pedicord – a circuit rider in the early American frontier – received such a severe whipping that he bore scars for the rest of his life. Philip Gatch was tarred and feathered because he converted the wife of a mob leader. Freeborn Garrettson was beat insensibly because of his pacificism in refusing to join the militia. These men were Methodist, and they inspire us today to remain faithful to our Christian heritage.

Today we are faced with the possibility of compromising our beliefs when faced with conflict particularly around our Orthodox Christian beliefs. The question in our everyday lives may be how we handle ourselves when we are faced with questions about our beliefs. How will you defend your Orthodox Christian views in light of a world that values the reasoning process of sociology, psychology, and medicine over religious beliefs?

Can you imagine being arrested and interrogated for your faith? That’s what happened to evangelist Tony Miano earlier this year. Miano is a retired deputy sheriff and former chaplain with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department. Miano was arrested on a London sidewalk because he was preaching that homosexuality is a sin. Apparently, he was with a ministry group called Sports Fan Outreach International. While preaching about immoral living – Miano cited homosexuality as an example of a lifestyle choice that is contrary to biblical teaching.

Even closer to home was an event in Houston, Texas this week. Hernan Castano, who is a pastor in Houston and serves on the Houston Area Council for Hispanic Church Development, was called to account for his beliefs and sharing his beliefs about homosexuality in church. When the new Houston Mayor heard that Pastor Castano was speaking out on his beliefs, the mayor called him to account for his beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. A supena was issued to acquire his sermon.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Idaho for all of 2 days, and two ministers already face jail and fines for declining to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Whether you believe that homosexuality is a sin or not… knowing how to stand up for yourself and your beliefs is important. Peter wants you to be equipped to stand up for your beliefs in relationship to the world around you. When others are sinning, you must choose not to. When you are tempted to disregard a Biblical truth telling yourself that a Biblical truth is irrelevant in your life, think again! Ask yourself, “What would John Wesley say?” Surely he would have respond affirmatively with …sola scriptura (Scripture alone) is the rule for all of life!

John Wesley referred to himself as a man of one book (homo unius libri) and placed Scripture as primary in his decision-making abilities. In this season of our global church cultural development it is essential for all of us to know what the Bible teaches us. Read it for yourself. Know the Word.

As followers of John Wesley we value Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. But Scripture is our first interpretative lens! Imagine for one moment with me that you preferred any of the other three or even all of the other three values in live to interpret the world around you. All three provide significant input into which you and I understand the world. But without Scripture to guide our understanding we would be like a three-legged stool without seat! One leg being tradition – particularly from the first 400 years of church history from which we get our Orthodox Christian beliefs. The second leg might be experience – perhaps our own experience of God in the world around us and inside of our self. The third leg is reason – this is the basic understanding of life as we know it, common sense.

Each component in our lives are valuable to understand God, but none compares to the God-breathed texts of Scripture! And, for that reason alone we must choose to take up our cross daily and read from God’s Word which is in and of itself “make you wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3.15). Let us not forget that what Paul said to young Timothy, “All Scripture is God–breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (1 Timothy 3.16-17).

Be inspired! Read God’s word for yourself! And, may you grow in grace and mercy to love God and neighbor.

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