Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people; those that would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

In my last three blog-posts, I dug into the Book Of Micah and looked into God’s judgment of Israel some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  And as we enter the upcoming Christmas season we should all look at ourselves closer as the Church in our communities of who we are representing in Christ Jesus.

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

[17]  For it is a time of judgment, to begin with, God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  [New International Version – NIV]

This passage of scripture seemed to me at first reading a little strange.  And as a student of the Bible, I looked in my commentaries to see what theologians had to say about this verse and I was surprised at how they addressed this verse.  This is why context is so valuable when studying God’s word regarding any Bible’s verses.

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

[13]  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

[14]  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[15]  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even a meddler.

[16]  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

[17]  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

[18]  And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

[19]  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter is obviously talking to those born again Jews that would have to go through suffering for their faith.

The church in Jerusalem was already under heavy persecution and would suffer even worse before it was over.

Verse 14 tells us that to be happy–to have joy in the suffering for the cause of Christ, is knowing that in your persecution God is glorified!

Peter also wants us to know that the Christian life is hard enough without coming under God’s hand of discipline.  That’s why he says in verse 15, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler.”  It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people.  Those who would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

One day God will take unto Himself a Bride to be without spot or blemish.

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

“For the time has come that judgment must begin at the House of God”  verse 17.

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

“For behold, I am beginning to work evil in the city which is called by My Name, and shall you go unpunished?  You shall not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

“You have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

“Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  (Revelation 2:5)

  • The Church at Pergamum:

“Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  (Revelation 2:16)

  • The Church at Thyatira:

“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead.  Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  (Revelation 2:22-23)

  • The Church at Sardis:

In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  (Revelation 3:3 – Amplified Bible)

  • The Church at Laodicea:

“So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”  (Revelation 3:16 – AMP)

Purification is always done for a purpose–a reason for discipline.

  • Ephesus – Lost their first love.
  • Pergamum – Teaching false doctrine.
  • Thyatira – Condoning immorality.
  • Sardis – They were spiritually dead.
  • Laodicea – They had become apathetic.

The Bible tells us, the church, that we are the light of the world.

In the case of each church mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the light had gone out.  They were no longer a lighthouse for the lost souls and shed no light at all to those around them.

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

[8]  If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

God cannot and will not tolerate unconfessed sin in the life of the believers–His children.

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

Godly discipline is to refine us (vs. 11) –

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”  (NIV).

  • Godly discipline to reestablish us (vs. 11)
  • Godly discipline to reaffirm His love to us (vs. 6) “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”  

God’s discipline sifts out contamination (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) –

  • The Church cannot condone SIN (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) –

[1]  IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, an impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father’s wife.

[2]  And you are proud and arrogant!  And you ought rather mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

  • The Church must not compromise scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) –

[1]  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a stand.

[2]  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  • The Church should confront the SINNER (Mathew 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:2, 5, 13).

QUESTION:  Why Does JUDGMENT Begin At The House of God?

I hope this brief study helps you understand, as it did for me, why God wants His church to be holy and pure.  I’m afraid that if the church won’t stand up and be the church, that God’s judgment is going to fall on her.

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

Let me mention again.  God will not and can not tolerate sin in the lives of His children.  Oh, that we the Church might walk worthy of our calling.

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  “Where Judgment Begins” by Michael Goodwin – sermon on July 20, 2005.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted.

Stupidity Is Not A Virtue

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF DANIEL

One of the worst things about the English language is that too often we don’t really know how to use our own words.  DATA, for instance, is plural.  There’s no such thing as one data point.  Or, take the word CORPORATE.  When you see that word I suspect you’re thinking of Microsoft or Amazon as examples (I live in Washington State).  Well, originally it just used to mean any task undertaken together.  You know, lots of people corporately coming together for a single purpose.  It used to be that the *opposite* of corporate was an idiot–literally a solitary single person who didn’t go for the BENEFITS of being part of the group.  It used to be that AN IDIOT was just somebody who stuck to himself–in a peculiar way.

“Oh, oh.  I know where you’re going,” you might be thinking.

But I’ll tell you the word that’s been messed up the most and that’s the word ‘CHURCH’.  Christians aren’t idiots.  We know that a church is a group of people–it’s a CORPORATE GATHERING of the body of Christ.

But let’s face it: when you think of THE CHURCH, you’re probably thinking of a building.  The truth is, it’s so easy to think of THE CHURCH as a building because it’s easier for THE CHURCH to be a place more than a way of life.  We can visualize a place and identify with it better.  It’s safer when it’s a building we go to once a week more so than AN ATTITUDE which defines our lives.

Well, that might be what we think, but it’s too limited.  At times, I fear we may be in danger of losing our CORPORATE notion of CHURCH.  I believe the fellowship I’ve been gathering with for the past 5 years has a better understanding of CHURCH as a people, but we can always do better.  We do a pretty good job of carrying for each other, praying for one another in times of need.  But even we have friends and neighbors and colleagues that NEED us as well.  Too many isolated people are imprisoned voluntarily in the cells of their own homes when what simply they need most is companionship and friendship of a God-breathed individual more interested in serving God than himself.

Our God is a CORPORATE God.

Not in the sense of the way of doing things according to some rules laid down, but in the sense of togetherness that He desires for us.

WE WORSHIP HIM IN COMMUNITY.

It’s a community centered on Jesus to be sure, but it’s not, as we suppose, just a ‘Jesus and me‘ thing.

SCRIPTURE  Daniel 2:14-30

In my study this week and at first thought, I noticed a missing detail, but it is a detail that shows up time and time again centered on RELATIONSHIP. Think about the RELATIONSHIP that Daniel has with Arioch, the king’s captain.  Think about the RELATIONSHIP Daniel has with his young friends.  See how it is these relationships ultimately bring Daniel closer in relationship to God.

Well, okay, Arioch’s job was perhaps to bring Daniel a bit closer to God than Daniel was expecting, but I noticed here, how Daniel was able to talk with him so freely.  Clearly, Daniel and Arioch had a pre-existing RELATIONSHIP, so string that together that Daniel could ask Arioch to risk not only his job but his neck, in delaying the king’s order.  That doesn’t happen by accident.  I sure that they must have spent time together.  There’s nothing to suggest that Arioch could have cared a lick about Daniel’s god.  But he CARED about Daniel.  And through RELATIONSHIP he could learn to appreciate his god, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so true.  We are often the only Bible our friends will ever read.

STUPIDITY ON DISPLAY!

One cold and rainy day while visiting my brother and his family in Texas, we had all decided to venture out to the family property, the Ranch, and see all the progress that had been made.  After arrival, we reluctantly got out the vehicles into the inclement weather, shivering, but trying to stay enthusiastic.  My dad, my wife, and my sister-in-law’s sister decided it was wiser to remain in the car.  My dad was in the front seat while the girls were in the back seat, unnoticed by dad.

After seeing the family out in the cold and wet elements he shouted, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid not noticing the ladies in the back seat grinning, knowing that he had no idea they were there..  My wife still muses at the event.

I noticed in this passage of Scripture the only STUPIDITY on display is the one who is acting by himself?

I mean, why is the KING so furious that he wants to kill off the entire government?  WHY?  Because he is acting foolhardy and alone.

This isn’t CORPORATE unless perhaps if you were a big accounting firm.  Corporate acts are slow and deliberate because they benefit from counsel.

More importantly, I specifically noticed the FELLOWSHIP of the believers present: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They all came together to PRAY.

It just so happened the Word came to Daniel.  That’s a group in total HUMILITY to God and to each other.  I doubt they cared which one of them actually heard from God directly.  They were simply living out the commandments.

GOD IS COMMUNITY.

They didn’t go to Temple (Church) together–Temple was over 800 miles away, and it was in ruins.  They simply came together out of common LOVE for an uncommon God who had supernaturally reached out to them and chose them for His kingdom.  I’m sure sometimes they wondered about their ‘chosen people’ status. But they knew if they were going to be FAITHFUL, they needed each other.

Today, we’d call that an Accountability Group:  A group of people comes together for the sake of the GOSPEL.

They come together in HUMILITY…COMMON LOVE for God and for one another.  They extend that LOVE to the world around them and they lift each other up.  When one is hurting, they extend God’s love.  When one of them is missing, they’re there.  And when one of them is REJOICING, they’re each lifted up in praise.

Christians are called to be a COMMUNITY of Christ-like believers that realize as great as our individuality is, our CORPORATE presence is in the WORSHIP of our King is even greater than ourselves.

As Christians, we are CALLED to overcome the world (1 John 5:5).  We do that precisely by being greater in LOVE, COMPASSION, and FRIENDSHIP.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘They will know that we are Christians by our…doctrines, or our theology–even our potlucks.’  No, the world recognizes how we love one another, how we visit one another, and how we care for each other.

THE PRINCIPLE laid down in Daniel is CORPORATE WORSHIP–with Mishael, Hananiah, and Azariah.

It is a PRINCIPLE I see all across the Bible.  For every great hero in the Bible, there’s a companion:

  • Adam had Eve
  • Moses had Mirian
  • Aaron and Joshua
  • Joshua had Caleb
  • David had Jonathan
  • Ester had Mordecai
  • Paul had Barnabas, even Jesus had Peter.

When the Lord said that it was not good for man to live alone, I think He meant more than just males and more than just marriage.

Daniel had Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego.

In Daniel 1, Daniel was already in close communion with these fellows.  In Daniel 3, you are probably familiar with the fiery furnace story.  These three are never mentioned except in COMMUNITY with one another.  Daniel is chock full of stores of integrity and courage in the face of dire circumstances–standing up when everyone else bows to the culture.

How did they do it?  They did it together!

How would you have liked to be a part of that small group?  I’m sure they had their squabbles and disagreements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Shadrack thought Abednego was always late for the prayer group, and I wouldn’t be surprised that perhaps Meshach needed to shower more often.  I’m sure that each of them was an individual who was great in his own right–after all, you don’t get to be princes by being a wallflower.

But it’s a testament to their sense of CORPORATE LOVE for God that we don’t know anything about of these guys except as part of a group.

These men were all great, but they were all equal before God.  You cannot acknowledge God’s complete, scale-altering greatness, not see that any comparison to your fellow man is but petty foolishness.  That would be stupidity!

After praying corporately, Daniel is given the answer to the secret of the king’s dream.

[19]  Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of Heaven.

[20]  Daniel answered, Blessed, be the name of God forever and ever!  Doe WISDOM and MIGHT are His!

[21]  He changes the times and the seasons;  He removes kings and sets up kings.  He gives WISDOM to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding! 

I certainly don’t find stupidity in those who are blessed by God with “WISDOM” and “KNOWLEDGE” and “UNDERSTANDING”, do you?

We are all beings created for FELLOWSHIP with God and others.

WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER!

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CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search, advanced settings.

Dictionary:  Webster’s Online Dictionary.

Bible used:  Amplified Bible (AMP).