Peter wrote his first letter to Christians who were suffering. He was reminding them that their first importance was to live every day as if it were their last, living to please the Lord. His reminder to not repay evil for evil led into his plea to suffer for righteousness’ sake. If we should suffer, he argued, don’t suffer because you deserve it. Rather, suffer for the sake of being righteous.
Then Peter quotes from Psalm 34, saying, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12 ESV).
Loving life and prayer. According to Peter, these are the bedrock of staying pure and maintaining righteousness. Peter is clear: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (vs. 14). This sets an example for the unrighteous, and they will notice the goodness. That’s also why Peter says to always be prepared to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we have. Loving life and praying are essential ingredients for the successful propulsion of Christianity in this world!
Many Christians around the world are celebrating Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting to reflect upon Jesus’ 40 days he spent in the wilderness. This always happens leading up to Easter Sunday. Whether we celebrate Lent or not, it’s important for Christians to understand, reflect upon, and practice denying self. Denying self was one of the core practices Jesus gave for people to be followers of him. He said that anyone would would be his disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Paul understood what it meant to deny himself for the sake of Christ. The letter to the Philippians was possibly the last words penned by Paul before he died. Many believe that Paul knew his end was near when he wrote the letter. Paul said that, prior to becoming a Christian, his righteousness under the law was blameless. But he considered it all a loss for the sake of Christ.
Paul went on: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order than I may gain Christ and be found in him. . . ” (Philippians 3:7, 8 ESV). The word for rubbish was a harsh slang term in Greek that literally would translate to “crap” (or really, a slang word harsher than that). The word is intentionally offensive, and it’s only used here in the entire Bible. Paul uses it to drive his point home that everything we think we value is actually all crap. Our righteousness doesn’t come from the law or flesh, but fully depends on our faith. Everything else does not matter!
Paul made an appeal to the church in Corinth to be reconciled to God: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV). Paul prefaces this by saying that this ministry was given by God himself: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (vs. 18).
Paul says that in Christ God was reconciling the world to him, not counting their sins against them. This is certainly not a human mindset, as we all struggle not to hold sins against others. But God has the power to not hold our sins against us, thereby reconciling us back to him. Paul says that anyone in Christ is a new creation where the old has passed away.
This is the very reason God sent his son to Earth. Christ came to reconcile us to God “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (vs. 21). Paul implores the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain. Paul is not even hinting at cheap grace. The grace of God comes at a very steep cost. It cost Christ his life. Therefore, we are urged to live according to this grace that we receive when we put Christ on in baptism.
In the gospel of Luke Jesus had just given a very lengthy rebuke of the pharisees and lawyers. He was addressing their hypocrisy for essentially putting on a show and requiring all kinds of things from the common people while they themselves didn’t follow their own rules.
After a crowd pressed in on them to the point that people were being trampled, Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:1-3 ESV).
In other words, people will recognize hypocrisy. Whatever is happening in the dark reveals where your heart is. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus is telling people to be the same wherever they are. He gives this message to his disciples because it was especially important for them to model consistent, moral behavior. There is a reckoning that is happening among religious leaders who privately are harsh and abusive but publicly look squeaky clean. Jesus was warning his disciples to remain holy at all times for the sake of the kingdom.
The Israelites cried out to God and he heard their groaning. Therefore, God led them out of Egypt and freed them from horrific slavery and oppression. For forty long years they wandered in the wilderness. God promised that they would soon enter into the fertile region of Canaan, a land rich with milk and honey.
But lest the people think that the land was a reward for their good behavior, God reminded them that it was because of the wickedness of the other people that God was driving them out. “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me into possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deuteronomy 9:4 ESV).
This is a strong reminder that we should be careful not to tout our righteousness and say that God is blessing us because of our faithfulness. Rather, God blesses because of His righteousness. He protects the vulnerable and drives out the wicked. This certainly is good news for people who are facing troubles in their lives. God will lift people out of the mire of poverty and oppression because he is righteous.
When we hear the word “blessing,” we often think of rewards. Think about it. What is the context of “blessing” that is used over and over again? Typically we talk about rewards, and most often we use it in the context of our rewards. What we don’t hear very often is blessings being placed in the context of righteousness and repentance.
In Isaiah, Israel will bless other people by displaying righteousness and calling people to repentance: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV).
Israel is kept by God, who holds their hand. They do not walk this path alone. God does not abandon His people or leave them stranded on some vacant island. Rather, God walks with His people, hand-in-hand, to instruct them in how to live as children of light. He gives them as a covenant for the people, to open the eyes of the blind and to call people out of the darkness of the prison of sin.
Through God, this is how we bless people still today. We free the oppressed. We give to the needy. We sit with the broken. We teach them to do right by our righteousness. We call them to repentance in the name of Christ. Transformed lives are the beauty of blessing!
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There are many passages in the Bible about reaping what you sow. Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for what one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Let us not grow weary of doing good. Why does Paul even have to say that? Isn’t it common sense that we should do good. The reason Paul reminds the Galatians not to grow weary in doing good is because it can be exhausting doing good. Helping others, being patient, exercising control, forgiving people who hurt us, it all can wear us down.
This is all the more reason why it’s important to be reminded that what we sow now is what we will reap later. Everything we do now has future implications, both good and bad. The Bible is full of references to helping the poor and giving to those in need–of not racking up debt for selfish gain. We must sow a harvest in love and generosity.
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