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Having watched way to much television (it was our babysitter) I have seen numerous concepts of an omnipotent individual, authority, representative of a god, and most have been evil. These characterizations pushed people around at their whim, treating them as disposable puppets. Domineering characters like this are willing to do anything to the people beneath them, for the masses are meaningless to them outside of what they can provide. I am sure that some have not experienced television, yet have tyrannical rulers over them, acting just like that. Not surprising then where we get our views of God, and how he acts, when all we have is nightmarish examples that strip us of hope.
One of the things that jumps to mind as I write, is the background surrounding Noah. Scripture tells us that the world was filled with violence.
Genesis 6:5 AMP The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually.
Genesis 6:13 AMP God said to Noah, I intend to make an end of all flesh, for through men the land is filled with violence; and behold, I will destroy them and the land.
How different is that from where you live?
How does a sane person find any peace in the midst of something like this?
I would not doubt that where many of you live, you are are surrounded by such brutal insanity on a daily basis. The God of heaven and earth, the Father of Jesus Christ is your only hope, and truly our hope is in a form of relief.
Hope is the reason that we live. Without mercy we would have no hope. Some foolishly think that man can bring them hope, but the nature of man is broken and will revert to his lowest condition. This is exactly what we saw in the passages about Noah and the flood. Left to his own devices, mankind resorts to violence and evil, therefore hope is needed, and that brings me back to my journey through Peter's first letter.
1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, (5) who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
The essential aspect of this passage is that we have:
- A new birth
- A living hope
- And it is all because Jesus Christ rose from the dead
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! ”
Eugene Peterson's transliteration of the bible, The Message, opens this passage with: “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! ...”
As I read through scripture I find myself saying something to that effect quite frequently; what a good God you are! I suppose that means nothing to you unless you have an intimate relationship with him. I have struggled with the idea of who God is, and why he would be concerned about me. I suppose a part of the answer to my questioning is that “the whys” have become relatively unimportant merely because his actions have proven his love toward more than anything else. Everyone has failed me, and to base my concepts of God on how others have treated me, is not only unfair, but selfish, for then I am playing the god role, and not doing a very good job of it. Allowing myself to be open and desirous of change, I read, and the more read of Him,I more I learn of him and his nature. Spend time in his word; find out who he is. It is a most amazing, rich, and satisfying journey.
Scripture tells us that the world is blind to the things of God, and think it is foolishness. If Jesus had not fulfilled prophecy then I might agree, but the actuality is that he is real. I have had my doubts, and it is only the act of pondering these details, while looking at scriptures, that Jesus alone fulfilled, did I settle these doubts in my mind.
It is the unsettled doubts that often drive you toward him.
“ .. according to his abundant mercy ..”
Webster's dictionary defines mercy as: “That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves;”.
That is exactly what God did for and toward us. He paid a gruesome price for a world that did not love him, and certainly did not deserve his love. God, overlooked all that rotten potential we have and gave us far better than we deserved.
Romans 5:8 NIV But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Yes, you heard it right. God, gave us better than we deserved. How is that possible when it still feels like my life is going through hell, here on earth? The answer lies primarily in a future hope, an aspect of God's mercy.
Those that understand God's abundant mercy best are those who have experienced it. Jesus said, those that have been forgiven much, love much. The woman caught in adultery came to understand not only mercy, but who mercy was. Mary Magdalene came to understand after having been healed and cleansed from demonic possession, and the thief on the cross next to Jesus came to understand, for he recognized that he was getting what he deserved, and yet Jesus, the spotless lamb being slain, extended mercy to him; and if you are familiar with this scene on the cross, then you know that to the physical eye, nothing changed for that man. Ah, perhaps it is beginning to dawn on you, even though the woman caught in adultery was guilty, and worthy of punishment she gained a pardon from the debt she owed, but life continued to go on, along with it's struggles. Having the insight that there is a reason to continue lies in the knowledge that this is about something ahead of us.
The Wuest translation puts it this way, “God... impelled by His abundant mercy caused us to be born again so that we have a hope which is alive,”.
He is not only abundant, plentiful, ample, rich, far surpassing your imagination, but his mercy is responsible for our obtaining a second chance at life, and giving us a greater goal, life with him.
Most would admit that God has the ability to show mercy, but what if the Wuest translation is the more correct and God is actually impelled, or moved forward because he is driven by mercy.
Let me give you some examples:
- One of the themes in Peter's first letter is “the day of the Lord”. If you are a student of the bible then you understand immediately what that implies. At first look, there is nothing merciful about this time period, and yet God says that it is his will that none should perish by following Satan as he is thrown into hell.
- The martyred during the time period known as the “day of the Lord” are called saints, an example of God's mercy. Even casual students of the bible comprehend that a snatching away will take place; we certainly want that to happen prior to the “Great Tribulation” that is coming. While those that are not caught up must endure horrific events, as they take a stand for the God. We were taught to condemn these left behind souls. There are many who study scriptures vehemently, they stand in front of the donut shop and hand out their literature, or peddle their bicycles through neighborhoods, not trying to lead you to the savior, but their religion and perhaps a better life style. These people are loved by God no less than the next, and should they take a stand for Christ during the final days on earth (Islam's primary method of dealing with “infidels” is the sword to the neck.) they will in all likelyhood lose their heads.
- God sends his two prophets that proclaim the goodness and mercy of God, while performing signs and wonders (primarily against those that rise against them), in the streets of Jerusalem
- God has an angel fly over the earth preaching the message of salvation to the world. (For those that whine about the gospel not being preached throughout the earth, here is your answer.)
- God leaves His word, which does not pass away, still intact for those remaining.
Joel 2:28 speaks of sons and daughters still receiving his Spirit, another example of God continuing to pour out his mercy.
Joel 2:28-29 NIV "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (29) Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
Many have interpreted this passage in Joel to mean our present day, myself being one. If that is the reality then where are the young prophets that should be walking our streets, declaring peace over them, and bringing about dramatic changes in peoples lives, as they speak God's word over daily situations? You are not going to see this until “the day of the Lord”, because our churches have pushed the power of God to the side, and orchestrated our “so called” worship services to the minutia, so that God barely has time to move. Beside that we have to clear the room to make room for the next service coming in shortly.
It is clear to me that Joel is speaking about a future event. Do not misunderstand, God is moving mightily upon this earth, as we speak, but if we are expecting to see some fantastic move of God across this land, then apparently that will have to be a personal choice that needs to be made; much like Tim Tebow the pro-football player, who makes Jesus Christ a consistent facet of his public life.
How could I know that this pouring out of God's Spirit is not precisely a present day thing? Read the entire second chapter of Joel. The opening verse states: “Let all who live in the land (Israel) tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand-- “, therefore the context of verses 28 and 29 are the time frame considered to be “the day of the Lord.” A time of judgment upon the earth, that most do not define as a time of mercy.
As I sat doing my bible study one recent morning, I found myself looking at passages from the prophet Zechariah. While it tells us:
Zechariah 13:8-9 KJV And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. (9) And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
This is a mixed example of judgment, and mercy, as a portion of his chosen people, who have rejected him, finally acknowledge God, saying, the Lord Jesus is God. The fact that he receives them is mercy in action.
“..he has given us new birth ” NIV
Because of; driven by, impelled by MERCY, he has given us a second chance. All we have to do is receive that life by faith.
The KJV says: “he has begotten us again” What does that mean?
You were already born once, but we only seem to understand the natural and God does not seem to be natural. Now you have the mind frame that Jesus encountered when Nicodemus approached him.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, for fear of the scorn of Jewish leadership, for he was a learned Pharisee, but wanted to believe and understand. Jesus told him that he must be born again, and just like us, Nicodemus did not understand it either. If you merely apply human reason and logic, it makes no sense, and that is what you find Nicodemus struggling with. How does a man re-enter the birth canal to be reborn. You don't; you can't, therefore there must be something else meant by this.
Is there a difference between being born again and a new birth? No, but there is a difference between being birthed by a mother and birthed by God. One, a natural process of the body, but the other, God's action toward us, was entirely voluntary, merely awaiting your acceptance by faith.
Ok then, faith in what?
Jesus, responding to the Samaritan woman said:
John 4:10-14 NIV Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (11) "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? (12) Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?" (13) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, (14) but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
As I have looked at this and pondered it, a phrase comes to mind: “you have been washed by the water of the Word.”
Ephesians 5:25-26 KJV ... as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
1 Peter 1:22 ERV You have made yourselves pure by obeying the truth.
(Jesus, the word, told us that he was truth.)
Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
So I asked the question, faith in what? I think it is clear that it is a faith in His actions toward and for us. Because of his word to us, we have been washed; because of the Holy Spirit, we have been renewed, and because of our willingness to follow him and accept his mercy, we have been given the hope of relief.
What were we born into?
.. a lively hope ..
The KJV tells us that we were born again into “a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
1 Peter 1:3 GW Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has given us a new birth because of his great mercy. We have been born into a new life that has a confidence which is alive because Jesus Christ has come back to life.
Jesus died; many saw their hopes dashed on that day. True, many were looking for the wrong thing, as they looked for a military leader that would crush their enemies. Certainly that might give you some relief, but only as long as no one was invading your plot of land.
If you are familiar with scripture then you watched as the disciples lost hope, gave up and went back to fishing, their hope gone. Traumatized by Jesus death, they did not even recognize Jesus as he joined the two of them, on the road to Emmaus. He expounded from the scriptures about who he was, beginning with Moses (the Law) and all the prophets, and yet they did not know him. Read Luke 24:13-31.
If his death looked like a defeat to them, how then does His death, and it's appearance of defeat, change our lives?
God's mercy toward us brought hope! Our lives are changed in every way, both before we receive him and after, even if you did not notice it, and there is truly a future with him in glory.
The law demanded that an unblemished lamb be slain for the sin of the world, he was that lamb. John the baptist, seeing him coming to the river, declared “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
- Christs death was the purchase price for our redemption, the payment made in blood for our sins.
- His death and resurrection brought us new life with the Father. (This is our door of opportunity which we enter through faith in Jesus)
- His death and resurrection gives us assurance that he will raise us up to glory, just as he was. This is predominant in that God, had these actions previously announced, and He followed through. Not quietly, not secretly, but made sure that many saw the result. Do you realize that no one has ever done that; ever. Dear one, I want you to know that this is real. There is a hope and a future. He is real, and though you may not understand it yet, it is happening around, as we speak. Time is short and he is upon us.
If we have believed in Him then we have been born again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
I stop before work to eat and read my bible (it is a passion of mine.) On a recent morning a group of men are there having bible study. Honestly, I have seen them many times and knew one personally. The one I knew has a doctorate in Theology, and will beat you senseless with his degree, so really, I stayed away from then for I thought were all like minded. Can I admit a fault of mine here. The man with the doctorate was not there and these men invited me to sit with them. Not having enough time for an intelligent discussion I declined, but my curiousity asked what they were studying. The response was “the end times”. Now you have my attention, because though not an expert I now have a deep understanding of end times that grows daily. Therefore my response was literally, “all right, I will fight with you”. I did not, and I think to some degree, I was kidding. I really enjoyed hearing several of their heart felt desires. They desire what I desire, and that is for people to get excited about God's word.
Several weeks have gone by and again I was asked to sit with them. This time another man, whom I have seen but not experienced was there. He too had a Doctorate. Life had dealt him a bad hand as a young man. He is a colored man, and experienced prejudice in the southern United States, first hand. In the midst of his talking about the discomfort and continual maltreatment because of race the bottom came out. How am I supposed to perceive God when my image of authority figures is so tarnished?
Well, here I am talking about a lively hope at this point, and it was this Doctor that pressed a point being: Jesus, the living water, means what? Here I have used a translation that calls our hope a lively one, or perhaps another way of stating this would be to say: “a living hope.”
The Doctor, not getting the answer he had hoped for said, “this is clean, clear, untarnished, free flowing water, straight from the source.” I immediately thought of the mountain streams that I have drank from. The water came right out of the mountain side, filtered by the earths natural process, and I have never tasted anything as good. And now here in Peter's letter we are told that we have a hope like this, clear, clean, life giving.
Our hope is in our own resurrection (so to speak), if we are his. We like to refer to this as the rapture, our being caught up in the air, to be with him. It also conveys the idea of rescue from the “Great Tribulation” that is coming.
I feel that I need to make a point or perhaps a statement. I feel as though all I have ever had to deal with, all my Christian life, is RELIGION, and religious people, doing their best to POLLUTE, that lively hope. Even if it's not that lively, it is still hope. God's mercy bought that for me, and paid for it with his blood. I want so badly to scream this right now. GOD PURCHASED US, TO GIVE US HOPE, NO LESS.
What assurance do we have of this hope?
Peter's second letter speaks of the hope of rescue from impending destruction, and that is certainly coming upon the earth.
Peter gives the examples of Noah and Lot as being delivered, by God, prior to the onslaught of destruction. If you read those stories you will see that salvation came on the edge of the destruction. Peter also stated that the Lord knows how to deliver the righteous out of trials. The righteous would not be your own estimation, but based solely upon a persons relationship with the Father, God.
(You can read about Noah and the earth's destruction in Genesis chapter 6. Lot's saga begins in the 13th chapter of Genesis and jumps to the 19th chapter. The 19th chapter is the one of major interest.)
How can we be resurrected when he comes and we are not dead?
Good point. Paul was responding to concerns about those who had died already, and fears that the resurrection may have already occurred, when he wrote the letter to the Corinthian Church. He assured them that Christ had not returned and they missed it, while also addressing what happens to the dead.
Scripture tells us “that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”, of course that depends upon whether you are His or not. Those who have no relationship with him are merely asleep. King David who wrote much of the Psalms, said “the dead know nothing”. There is the implication of some form of sleep while awaiting a future resurrection, but to what?
And really, when it comes to those “still alive”, it says that we will be caught up (harpazo) to meet in the air, while at the same time changed instantly. That changing process might be like getting a godly overhaul where all your angst, and phobias are removed, leaving a mind free to worship and live, but one thing is clear, this body, in its present state cannot go, therefore these corrupted bodies must be changed, and that will happen in that instant.
But who says you are not dead?
Read (1 Corinthians 15:35-54) The body, sown in corruption is raised in in-corruption. Sown in dishonor – raised in glory; sown in weakness – raised in power; sown a natural body – raised a spiritual body.
So the problem with the body is the corruption that is a part of us. Having read Paul's letter to the Roman Church, I found myself struggling, because the implications are that God remade us. Truth is, that remake is a spiritual one, not physical. As I have heard several times here lately, the percentages are against us, for 10 out 10 people will eventually die. There is no getting around it.
Since Adam's fall in the garden, corruption has been an integral part of our dna, at least that is one way of looking at it. It is not something that you can pray away. Sure, God has given us the tools to live a successful life, while using this body, but you stay out of fellowship for a length of time and watch what happens, you will revert.
We see this in Horticulture as well. We can graft plants in order to obtain some ideal quality, but the potential for the plant to revert is always there. How do you think a rose grower obtains the patent rights on a new form or color? They have to demonstrate several generations of consistency in those plants before they will call the change a new specie. Even if they do, there is an allowed margin of error. It would appear that error is unacceptable with God. Therefore when it comes to his work in us, it is complete and without error.
We know that the “dead” are raised with a spiritual body, just as Jesus was, and apparently in the process of being changed, we will have a spiritual body too.
Wait a minute! Jesus had one of these spiritual bodies, and yet made a fish dinner, relaxed on the beach, and ate it with the guys. Apparently our concepts of God's spiritual world need adjusting.
Paul went on to tell us:
1 Corinthians 15:50 KJV (50) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit in-corruption
A couple of things jump out at me here:
- Obviously heaven is no longer corrupt. Although I did not make it a habit, I listened to a radio program called “the Bible answer man”. He absolutely despised the idea that anyone could assert that heaven had become corrupted. Why then do we have the writer of Hebrews telling us that Jesus, as the high priest, sprinkled his own blood upon the heavenly utensils. That could have only happened as a part of his death and resurrection, and would only be necessary for the process of sanctification. Remember that Moses was given instructions on precisely how to build the traveling temple, while they were in th desert. Corruption was not part of the plan, therefore something had to have changed that.This may help to explain that. Back to Moses again. Israel is running around sinning again, and this time God has sent vipers to correct the errors. Moses cries out to God on behalf of the people and God tells him, not to put a Jesus representation upon the pole, but a bronze copy of the viper. Just about everyone understood that the serpent was representative of Satan. So why did he put the image of Satan up on the pole? Because that is precisely what Jesus became on the cross. “He, who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God.”
- So if corruption cannot inherit the kingdom then the corruption has to be us. Think about this for a moment. Christ died, and Paul tells us in Romans, that his actions forgave our sins, blotting them out; then our sins, though something that we still do, are not the corruption that he is speaking of. It can only be these carcasses that we call bodies, born into a corrupt state, that are in a sense dead. This is a very clear statement then, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”. That has to mean that the body, as we know it must be done away with, or changed. This takes us back to Jesus who pushed his hands at Thomas and said touch me. There is a reality about this we may not understand until we get there.
So then we, who are alive at his return, will be instantly changed into spiritual bodies, rising up to meet him in the air.
There should be a clear distinction here. Because there is such a close relationship between our being caught up to meet him and the “day of the Lord” I feel that people get confused; I know I was. They are two distinct things, happening quite possibly within that same twinkling of the eye.”)
[1 Thessalonians 4:17 KJV (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.]
At this point Jesus does not touch down upon the earth. This occurs seven years later when he comes again in fury, with an army, and brings vengeance upon those that are deliberately against him. It is only then that He will touch down upon the Mount of Olives and it will split in two. This will be his second coming, as far as the nations are concerned.
Zechariah 14:1-4 KJV Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. (2) For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (3) Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (4) And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
We have a hope of life with the Father.
A life in heaven, and finally some peace.
1 Peter 1:4 KJV To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Peter used three words, each beginning with the same letter and ending with the same syllable, to describe in a cumulative fashion this inheritance’s permanence: can never perish (aphtharton), spoil (amianton), or fade (amaranton). This inheritance is as indestructible as God’s Word (cf. 1Pe_1:23, where Peter again used aphtharton). - The Bible Knowledge commentary
Peter seems to have gone out of his way to emphasize how unchangable this inheritance is. I was not kidding when I said that the church is where I got confused about this hope. The hope has to do with, if you have not figured it out, our being caught up to meet him, our rescue from the destruction that is to come, and an eternal life with the Father.
There is no confusion with God, he is explicity clear. Jesus told the disciples, I must go now, but I will be back. Has he done anything that would make you believe that would lie about that. He told them that the Holy Spirit would come as he went, and it did. He will be back for us that remain. He will rescue those that remain from the Great Tribulation. He has prepared a home for us with him, and while we remain here on earth, he is interceding for us on a continual basis.
Peter is not the only one professing this hope, Paul also declares the same theme. John is writing about the results of that hope when he writes about the Revelation of Jesus. To me one the predominant stand outs in Revelation is the beginning of the 4th chapter. While the Church had been the topic of discussion up to this point, suddenly the subject matter changes with the phrase “after these things”.
What things are we potentially talking about? The end of the church age. Not because it is destroyed by going through the Great Tribulation, but because what is to come is a time of judgment, and all judgment has been paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.
God is not going to punish the Son, ever again. Therefore he is not going to punish us, for the Apostle Paul tells us in: 1 Corinthians 1:5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:9, that we, the Church, are in Christ.
Here it is, the Christmas season, and there is a radio commercial that chooses to sell nothing but the Christmas story. I admire that. In their 30 second presentation they declare that the gift of life for us will not be taken back, because it is already paid for.
I wish I could make it a permanent part of our thinking. God has, and will do what he has declared. Our hope is firm and steadfast. God is unchangable and does not lie, therefore it will come. Things are moving so rapidly that I feel strongly compelled to declare that those days we have longed for are upon us. If I look life a fool so be it.
Allow his love to infiltrate you through his word. The same Word that washes you and has set you free.