Lawless People vs. God’s People

Beware! The conflict of lawless people vs. God’s people began in the Garden and continues to this day.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 45-46; 2 Peter 3

9 “Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 45:9

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18

God had a special message for the princes of Israel through the prophet Ezekiel. They were not to abuse their power bringing violence and oppression on the common people. On the contrary, there were to execute justice and righteousness. They were to abide by the same laws as everyone else. There was to be no privileged, royal class in Israel. This applied to worship and to the transfer and ownership of property. Thus, there was to be no exempt class; no lawless people were to be tolerated, not even princes.

The political situation was considerably different for the Church between Ezekiel’s day and Peter’s day. God’s people did not live in their own designated land but were dispersed among the Gentile nations of the world (1 Peter 1:1). They were subject to the ridicule of scoffers who openly doubted that the Lord would fulfill His promise to return. These scoffers conveniently ignored the evidence of God’s power and presence in the Creation and the Flood. This made it easy for them to conclude that the promised “day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly” would never happen.

Peter reassures his readers that the Lord is not time-bound as we are and that He will carry out all His judgment on His schedule. Meanwhile, he charges them not to be carried away with the error of lawless people, these scoffers and others given over to the lust of defiling passion and the despising of authority (2 Peter 2:10).     Instead, they are to focus on growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These two qualities, grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, are bound together. By His grace He has made Himself known to us. By the knowledge of Him we grow in grace, being ever more assured that our faith is not in vain.

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, resisting the instability which can come through the on-going conflict of lawless people vs. God’s people.

 

Shame for Sin

To experience shame for sin is a hopeful sign that repentance and faith in God is still a real possibility.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 43-44; 2 Peter 2

10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.          Ezekiel 43:10-11

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.                                                2 Peter 2:9-10a

God gave Ezekiel an elaborate vision of a new temple. The details go on and on. Ezekiel dutifully records all of the measurements and the layout of this temple. God tells him that he is to describe the temple to the people of Israel so that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. The glory of God was reflected in the temple and it seemed possible that this description would spur some to shame for their sin. At the same time, the temple held a message of hope of salvation. Here in this place of God’s throne provision was made for a sacrifice for sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ was in the temple, if we rightly understand it.

In Peter’s time, there were false prophets and teachers who were completely insensitive to sin. He goes into detail about their deceptions and schemes to lead believers astray. Peter shows how God in the past has brought judgment on those who rebelled against Him: evil angels, the wicked society of Noah’s day, and Lot’s neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah. So God has shown that He is able to rescue the godly, like Noah and Lot, and keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. In view here in particular are those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

If there is anything which describes the mainstream of our society today, it is indulgence “in the lust of defiling passion” and the despising of authority. But is there shame for this kind of sin? Shame is seen not as a good emotion leading to healthy repentance and to seeking God’s forgiveness but rather as a result of poor self-esteem often brought on by a severe religious upbringing.

If this world is trying you, trust Him who knows how to rescue the godly from trials in amazing ways. Pray that God may grant our unbelieving loved ones shame for sin that leads to repentance and faith.

Equality and Calling

The New Covenant brought a wonderful equality and calling in the Church unknown under the Old Covenant, but created a tension we must maintain.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 41-42; 2 Peter 1

14 When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.” Ezekiel 42:14

1Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:1-2

In the new temple of Ezekiel’s vision, provision was made for the priestly functions and the designated places for those functions. Great care had to be taken in the ordering of the ministry. Priests wore holy garments for their service and they were not to leave the Holy Place and mix with the people in those vestments. God was teaching them to respect His holiness and the service being offered to Him.

What a contrast with the New Covenant! Peter identifies himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, but then tells his readers that they “have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours…” That standing is based on “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” No wonder there was equality in the Church of Jesus Christ not known in ancient Israel. The old covenant people observed sacrifices that could, at best, point to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world ((Isaiah 53:4-7; John 1:29-35). All those who believed in Christ were and are on equal standing before God. As the saying goes, “the ground is level at the cross.”

Of course, this equality is not absolute. There are differences in gifts and calling within the Church. Believers will distinguish themselves by their growth in God. Not everyone will “make every effort to supplement [their] faith with virtue (vs 5).”  Some will be more or less ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ (vs. 8). Some, but not all, are called to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:1-5). There are a variety of gifts given by the Spirit to the members of the Body (1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16;1 Peter 4:10-11). The equality is not of gifts and calling but of standing before God based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Peter models both a respect for the office to which he was called and a respect for all other believers who, like him, stand before God because of Christ alone. In your relationships with fellow believers, be sure to maintain the tension between the equality and calling each of us has.

 

 

A Truly Merry Christmas

Today’s reading: 2 Peter 2:1-1 John 3:10

My selection:  I John 1:7-9

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

My reflections: As we celebrate the birth of the Light of the World, Jesus, (John 8:12) notice some of the benefits of “walking in the light.”

1.  Nearness to God.  God is in the light (vs. 5) so walking in the light results, first of all, in living close to Him.

2.  Cleansing from all sin.  As light reveals sin, so it facilitates confession of sin which results in forgiveness and cleansing from sin.

3.  Fellowship with others. There is no fellowship to compare with the fellowship of those who are walking in the light. Nothing is hidden in the light, including our sin. Yet this makes for relationships which are open and honest, without hypocrisy or facades.

My challenge: As you celebrate the birth of Jesus today, remember He came to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).  If you believe in Him, you will want to live a life that reflects what He has done for you in taking your punishment on the cross and freeing you from the guilt of sin.  Make a conscious effort to walk in the light, because, naturally, we love darkness rather than light (John 3: 19-21).  Walk in the light today, though your flesh resists it.  Hear God’s word. Trust Him. Obey Him.  Confess sin.  Be cleansed by Him.  Enjoy Him and all those who walk with you in the light. May your Christmas be truly merry as you walk in the light and grow nearer to Christ.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 John 3:11-III John 15

 

Saved by Grace; Assured by Fruit

Today’s reading:1 Peter 2:13-2 Peter 1:21

My selection:  2 Peter 1:9-11

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My reflections: As a young Christian, I was taught to trust in the promises of the Bible, that salvation is by grace through faith, for my assurance of salvation.  Yet as I read this passage, it seems clear that while salvation is by grace through faith and not at all based on the character or works of the believer, assurance of salvation comes, at least in part, by a fruitful, changed life that is the result of that salvation.  An unchanged, unfruitful, stagnant believer in Jesus Christ is a contradiction of terms.

In this one paragraph, there is reference to calling and election, God’s choosing those whom He would save and calling them effectually to Himself, and a reference to the need to practice the qualities listed, character traits of one who has been forgiven and given the promises of God to partake of the divine nature.

My challenge: Are you trusting in God’s grace alone for your salvation?  Do you see the necessity of bearing fruit as an evidence of your salvation?  Do not be passive in seeking the Lord, in abiding in Christ, and in bearing the fruit of a redeemed life.  Seek to grow in the virtues of knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  Make your calling and election sure.  A rich entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ awaits you.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Peter 2:1-1 John 3:10

A Chosen Race; A Holy Nation

Today’s reading: James 3:13-1 Peter 2:12

My selection:  1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are 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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

My reflections: Here is a remarkable, even stunning, statement which connects God’s purposes revealed to His people at Mt. Sinai to the Church of Jesus Christ.  Exodus 19:5-6 says:

5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.

It was always God’s plan and purpose to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:3).  Certainly the Israelites were given the Law, the Prophets and the other Old Testament writings.  Their mandate was to be obedient and, thus, fulfill their calling to be a nation of priests and a holy nation.  Only Jesus Christ, the Messiah, perfectly obeyed God’s voice and kept His covenant.  In so doing, Jesus established His Church as the fulfillment of God’s eternal, unchangeable purpose to bless all the families of the earth and to bring together a people for God’s own possession.

This is not “replacement theology,” as some like to disparagingly call it.  This is “fulfillment theology.”  God’s purposes are perfectly fulfilled in Christ.

My challenge: God has only one people, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for the glory of God alone as taught in His Word from beginning to end.  Praise Him for His great wisdom in decreeing this efficiently.  Praise Him for His sovereignty in executing this effectively.  Praise Him, if you are in Christ, for calling you out of darkness into His holy nation by mercy.  Proclaim His excellencies to all who will hear.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 Peter 2:13-2 Peter 1:21