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Be Holy May 3, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 1:13-2:3.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting his readers to:

  • gird up their affections
  • keep watch
  • rest perfectly on the salvation that they will fully receive at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Since they are the children of God, they must separate themselves from the polluted habits that resided in their hearts when their souls were in complete darkness. He quotes from Leviticus 11:44 to drive home this point: since God is set apart from the world, they must also be set apart from the world.

Peter then reminds his readers that since they are the children of God – who will fairly assess all actions, words and thoughts – they should be:

  • mindful that the Earth is not their permanent home
  • reluctant to displease God.

They know that God did not use temporal things – even items that people value most highly – to free them from a life of slavery to sinful habits and vain religious devices. Instead, He caused His perfect Son to suffer for them; He planned this before the beginning of time, and now He has manifested His Son through His incarnation, which has perpetual value for them. Thus, Christ – through His work – has placed Himself between them and the Father, and so they can place their faith in the Father.

Now Peter states that since his readers are being renewed through their obedience to God’s rule of purity, they should genuinely seek the good of others. This stems from the fact that the abiding Gospel message has made them the children of God. He quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8 to drive home this point: while everyone will eventually turn to dust, the Gospel message that they have received is incorruptible.

Since Peter’s readers are the children of God, they must not:

  • wish evil on others
  • be jealous of the goodness of others
  • carry these evils around under better appearances.

Instead, they must act like infants by exhibiting a vehement desire for the Gospel message, which transforms and enlightens them. Peter concludes by reminding them that this vehement desire should be their natural response to God’s kind disposition toward them.

Thoughts: In verse 13 of chapter 1, Peter exhorts his readers to prepare themselves for the Second Coming of Christ. Leighton offers some thoughts on this point:

Therefore it is a day of grace, and all light and blessedness to those who are in Christ, because they will appear with him. If Christ is glorious, they will not be without honor and ashamed. If we were then to be confronted by our secret sins and have them exposed to the view of everyone, who could look forward to that day? This is how all unbelieving people view that day, and so they find it most frightening.

I wonder if many believers – especially Christians who dwell in First World countries – consciously live for the time when Jesus will return to the Earth. Living in a comfortable setting enables us to enjoy the pleasures of life; moreover, we often derive our security and satisfaction from these pleasures. Does this imply that all Christians must relocate to Third World countries in order to properly anticipate the return of Christ? Can we truly live for the Second Coming in a comfortable setting? I find this concept to be quite challenging in that I wonder if I can truly long for the Second Coming if I am not being persecuted or suffering for His Name. I certainly need more wisdom and strength from God as I wrestle with this issue.

In verse 17 of chapter 1, Peter exhorts his readers to live in a way that will not displease God. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

In the great judgment all secret things will be revealed. As all secret things are already open to the eye of this Judge, so they will then be opened to all people and angels.

I wonder if the “secret things” of believers “will be revealed”; was Leighton only thinking of unbelievers? Clearly all believers have entertained sinful thoughts at some point in their lives, as no one is perfect. If the “secret things” of believers “will be revealed,” then their sinful thoughts are “opened to all people and angels” at the Last Judgment. Will a believer experience a temporary sensation of embarrassment and guilt at that time before God declares that the blood of Christ has covered them? Will this revelation determine one’s standing in heaven, i.e. those who have entertained the fewest sinful thoughts will receive the highest places in heaven? I am definitely curious as to how God will answer these questions.

In verse 2 of chapter 2, Peter exhorts his readers to have a burning desire for the Gospel message. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

And because it is natural, it is, second, an earnest desire. This is no cold, indifferent wish. The Greek epipothe sate signifies vehement desire – like a baby who will not be satisfied until it has breast milk, even if you offered it gold and silver. The baby ignores these, for they do not meet its desire, which must be satisfied.

Since I am fairly disciplined, I have no difficulty maintaining my habit of studying God’s Word. Now I wonder how I can reconcile my habit with Peter’s point that we:

  • must consciously seek after God’s Word
  • will feel satisfied after studying God’s Word.

I experience this feeling of satisfaction every now and then, especially after I read a memorable passage or come across an insightful thought by a Bible commentator. It is safe to say that some believers, including mature Christians, experience this feeling of satisfaction more often. Perhaps as I allow the Word to challenge me more often, I will have more of a “vehement desire” for it; putting the Word into practice can be painful, but it often leaves a deep impression on the soul.

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Children of God February 16, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 John 2:28-3:10.

Summary: John begins by stating that everyone who lives righteously has been born of Christ.

John then states that God the Father has benevolently declared believers to be His children; since the world does not know Him, though, it treats believers with ridicule and contempt. Although believers are surrounded by miseries, they know that when Christ is revealed in the power of His kingdom, they will share the divine glory – as they will see Him as a friend. This hope leads them straight to Christ, who is a perfect pattern of purity.

Now John asserts that everyone who wholeheartedly runs into evil transgresses the divine law. Yet Christ was sent by God the Father to destroy the reigning power of sin; indeed, there is no room for sin wherever Christ diffuses His efficacious grace. Moreover, those who are made one with Christ do not consent to sin; those who consent to sin lack the knowledge of Christ.

John then notes that everyone who is conformed to Christ will manifest their new life by their good works. On the other hand, everyone who is conformed to the devil – who has been an apostate since the creation of the world – will manifest their servitude to him by their perverse deeds. Yet Christ came to take away sins; thus, all of God’s children lead righteous and holy lives, as the Holy Spirit has a sovereign presence in them. The hearts of God’s children are effectually governed by the Holy Spirit; thus, they follow His guidance. John concludes by stating that God’s children will fear Him from the heart and walk in His commands, as they are endued with benevolence and humanity.

Thoughts: In this passage, John describes the attributes of a child of God. This reminds me of a recent sermon by one of our pastors. During that sermon, he showed a slide with two images; one depicted a father leading his child on a walk along a beach, and the other depicted the Sun. He then asked the congregation to determine the image that served as the best approximation of their conception of God. After giving this some thought, I concluded that the image of the Sun was the best approximation of my conception of God. In particular, I have a strong sense of God’s power and majesty as revealed by His creation. I can also sense God’s power as revealed by His guiding me through various difficulties over the years. Yet I rarely sense that I am one of God’s children. For me, it is simpler to think of God as my Lord than to view Him as my Father. Now I should note that our above-mentioned pastor exhorted us to view God as being both powerful and fatherly; this sounds like a worthy – albeit difficult – goal to pursue.

In verse 9, John states that if the Holy Spirit dwells in a person, then they will not continue to sin. Calvin offers some challenging thoughts on this point:

Here, the apostle ascends higher, for he plainly declares that the hearts of the godly are so effectually governed by the Spirit of God that through an inflexible disposition they follow his guidance…Moreover, it is easy to refute the absurd argument of the Sophists that the will is taken away from us. They are wrong because the will is a natural power. But nature is corrupted; so the will only has depraved inclinations. Hence God’s Spirit has to renew it in order that it may begin to be good.

I am quite eager to meet Calvin in the next life so that I can discuss free will with him. Now it certainly seems that if believers are led by “an inflexible disposition,” then they do not have free will; this viewpoint would align with that of the Sophists, which Calvin belittles. If the will is renewed by the Holy Spirit, does it retain the power to make choices that contravene His desires? Attempting to resolve this apparent paradox has been a can of worms for me since I began pondering this issue as an undergraduate. I certainly hope that God will explain the relationship between free will and predestination to me at some point…

Children and Parents May 25, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Ephesians 6:1-4.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting children to obey their parents – as this:

  • is the will of Christ
  • stems from the nature of the parent-child relationship.

He bolsters this point by quoting from Deuteronomy 5:16, which is:

  • the most important commandment in terms of their social responsibilities
  • connected with a promise of prosperity in this life.

Paul concludes by exhorting parents to not excite sinful feelings in their children; instead, they should instruct and discipline them according to the teaching and authority of Christ.

Thoughts: In verse 4, we see that Paul exhorts parents to educate their children according to the teachings of Christ. Hodge offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

Where this means is neglected or any other substituted for it, the result must be disastrous failure. The moral and religious element of our nature is just as essential and as universal as the intellectual. Religion, therefore, is as necessary to the development of the mind as knowledge. And as Christianity is the only true religion, and God in Christ the only true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Now when I first read this, I was taken aback by Hodge’s warning of “disastrous failure.” I have several non-believing friends who are well-adjusted members of our society. Moreover, their parents are generally nonbelievers. How, then, could Hodge deem their upbringing to be a “disastrous failure?” Perhaps my friends’ parents, by teaching them the difference between right and wrong, were implicitly inculcating in them the Judeo-Christian system of ethics. Also, when Hodge is referring to “profitable education,” perhaps he is considering its eternal benefits and consequences; in that case, the upbringing provided by unbelieving parents would be ultimately unsuccessful in terms of bringing their children nearer to salvation.