Think On These Things

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9 ESV

Paul has challenged the Philippian congregation to make their unity a high priority. He has pleaded with them to see that their behavior lines up with their belief so that the way they live their lives fully complements their calling in Christ. That will require them to work out their salvation, or to put it another way, to put in the necessary effort so that their faith in Christ bears tangible fruit. He has encouraged them to stand firm in the faith – as expressed in the gospel message and made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ. They were to have the same attitude that Christ had, choosing to follow His example of humility, selflessness, obedience, and sacrifice. And, like Paul, they were to find reason to rejoice, even in the face of opposition and oppression. And if they did these things, Paul knew they would shine like bright lights in the darkness surrounding them in Philippi.

But before Paul closes out his letter, he offers one more word of wisdom. As if returning to his earlier admonition that they have the mind of Christ, Paul tells them to “think about these things.” The Greek word he uses is logizomai, and it means “to consider” or “to meditate” on something. But Paul leaves no uncertainty as to what kinds of “things” they are to consider or concentrate their minds upon. He provides them with a very specific list of subjects with which to fill their minds and on which to focus their thoughts and attentions.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:8 NLT

The first item on his list is truth. They were to fill their minds with whatever is true and, therefore, trustworthy. Because Satan is the father of lies, we must constantly be on guard for the subtle falsehoods and deceptive half-truths he attempts to use against us. And since there is no greater truth than the gospel message, Christ-followers must constantly focus their minds on the reality that they were once condemned sinners in need of a Savior. At one time, they had been in debt to God and completely incapable of satisfying His just and holy demands, but He sent His Son to die in their place. And now they stood before Him as pure and holy, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Paul was constantly reminding those under his care to consider the remarkable truth regarding their restored relationship with God.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. – Ephesians 2:1-2 NLT

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) – Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT

Paul adds “whatever is honorable” to the list. That word has to do with anything worthy of veneration because of its character. In a sense, this is truth lived out. It is Christlikeness that shows up in trustworthy conduct.

Next, Paul encourages them to fill their minds with whatever is “right” or just. This has to do with righteousness, but according to God’s terms, not man’s. It carries the idea of living your life so that your way of thinking, feeling, and acting is fully conformed to the will of God.

It makes sense that Paul would follow “right” thoughts with right behavior in the form of moral purity. Sexual sin is fully outside the revealed will of God. And it’s not just the actual act that can get us into trouble. Even our thoughts can leave us impure and guilty before God. It was Jesus who said, “anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NLT). Which is why Paul told the Corinthians:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT

Purity is a high priority for God. He not only expects it, He demands it. He has called us to be holy, just as He is holy. And we must fill our minds with those kinds of things that are pure and undefiled, not contaminated and contrary to His will for us.

The next word on Paul’s list is “lovely.” It is purity lived out so that our conduct remains pleasing and acceptable to God. It was Peter who wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12 ESV). When believers think about the things that bring pleasure to God, they tend to make those things a priority. And, when they do, the world takes notice.

Which brings us to the word, “admirable.” We are to fill our minds with those kinds of things that are worthy of praise. Not self-centered, ego-boosting praise, but praise that reflects on God and His power to transform our lives for the better. So much of what we spend our time thinking about is unworthy of praise. It has no redeeming value or worth. We can end up admiring the wrong people, showering praise on the wrong kind of conduct, and speaking highly of those kinds of things that God finds unworthy.

Throughout his letter, Paul has blended the ideas of belief and behavior. He was overjoyed with the thought of their newfound faith in Christ. But he knew that their spiritual journey was far from over. Which is why he had opened his letter with the words, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). They needed to be in it for the long haul. Their walk with Christ was going to require effort on their part and a commitment to live out their faith in practical, visible ways. They could not afford to stand pat, biding their time until the Lord returned. They had work to do. And they were going to have to work together in order to survive and thrive in the hostile environment in which they found themselves.

The Christian life was not going to be easy. But that didn’t mean it was going to be impossible. They had the gospel message, the resurrection power of the Spirit of God, and one another. They also had the teaching of Paul on which to rely. And he encouraged them to take what he had taught and put it into practice. He challenged them to look at his life and follow his example.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:9 NLT

Paul’s challenge to “think on these things” was more than a mind game. He wasn’t suggesting that they practice some form of positive motivational thinking. He was encouraging them to fill their minds, to concentrate their thoughts on the kinds of things that truly matter. Our thoughts cannot be separated from our actions. We must desire what God desires. We must fill our minds with those things that God finds true, pure, right, just, and worthy of praise. And one of the best ways to do that is by submitting ourselves to the indwelling power of the Spirit of God. In order to have the mind of Christ and to be able to think as He does, we must rely on the Spirit he has placed within us. Which is why Paul told the Galatian believers:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. – Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Behavior and Belief

1 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
    and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
    and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.” Isaiah 56:1-8 ESV

Belief and behavior. Confession and conduct. However you choose to describe them, there are two unseperable parts to man’s relationship with God. The vast majority of the content of the book of Isaiah has been a stinging indictment against the people of Judah for their failure to live as who they claimed to be: The children of God. They were proud of their heritage and quick to brag about their status as the descendants of Abraham. They knew they were God’s chosen people and never tired of letting others know about their preferred status with the Almighty. But the problem was that they didn’t live like it. Their conduct didn’t reflect their confession. And God has already condemned them for their contradictory lifestyle.

“These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” – Isaiah 29:13 NLT

The prophet Jeremiah put it in even more stark terms:

Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts. – Jeremiah 12:2 NLT

Now, in chapter 56, God calls on the people of Judah to dramatically alter the way they behave.

Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed.– Isaiah 56:1 ESV

This sounds very similar to the words written by the prophet Micah.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8 ESV

But how were they supposed to pull this off? They had a lousy track record of keeping justice and doing righteousness and God has made that fact painfully clear. So, what was going to be different? What had changed? Notice what God tells them: “for soon my salvation will come.” He has spent several chapters telling His people that He would one day redeem and restore them. Yes, they were going to suffer because of their sin and rebellion.  They would end up in captivity in Babylon, but God would eventually return them to the land of promise. And, beyond that, God would one day send His servant, the Messiah, to restore them to a right relationship with Himself.

The prophet Ezekiel recorded the promise of God concerning that day:

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” – Ezekiel 36:24-28 ESV

So, what was to motivate their change in behavior? God’s promise of future redemption. Having been told that God had incredible plans in store for them, they were expected to live out their lives in such a way that it reflected their gratitude  for His grace and mercy. The apostle Peter spoke of this very same thing when he wrote:

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:1-16 NLT

The people of God, while waiting on the final fulfillment of the promises of God, are to live their lives in keeping with the commands of God. And they are guaranteed to receive a blessing from God when they do so.

“Blessed are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest
    and keep themselves from doing wrong.” – Isaiah 56:2NLT

Obedience brings blessing. But notice that obedience does not bring salvation. God is not telling the people of Judah that He will redeem and restore them if they they “keep justice and do righteousness.” Their efforts at producing holy behavior are not what will bring God’s salvation. In fact, God will end up saving them in spite of them. But with His promise of their future salvation made known to them, they were to respond in grateful appreciation by willingly pursuing those things that bring glory and honor to God. They were to return the promise of His unmerited favor and their undeserved salvation with an unwavering commitment to do what pleases Him.

And God provides His people with some practical examples of what keeping justice and doing righteousness should look like in their everyday lives. He uses two distinct groups of individuals to drive home His point: Foreigners and eunuchs. In both cases, God seems to be referring to those within these two groups who have aligned themselves with the people of God and become worshipers of Yahweh. But, while these individuals could become followers of Yahweh, they were never really treated as genuine members of the family of God. They were still considered outsiders. A eunuch was not allowed to enter the Temple because He had violated God’s laws as outlined in Deuteronomy 23:1-8. But the Jews had taken things too far and were guilty of treating these two groups of people harshly and unjustly. They ostracized them and looked down on them. Rather than treating them as fellow worshipers of Yahweh, they looked own on them as damaged goods. But God wants His people to see things from His perspective. These foreigners or Gentiles, who sought to worship and honor Him, by obeying His laws and keeping His Sabbath, were to be made welcome in His family.

The day is coming, God reminds His people, when both Jews and Gentiles will worship Him in spirit and truth. The faithful and obedient Gentile will enjoy the same eternal blessings as the faithful and obedient Jew.

“I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
    and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. ” – Isaiah 56:7 NLT

But again, it will not be their faithfulness and obedience that brings about God’s favor and future blessings. It will be the result of God’s gracious favor. Paul makes it clear that the future salvation to which God is referring in these verses will be based on the saving grace of God, as made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes–the Jew first and also the Gentile. – Romans 1:16 NLT

God’s redemptive plan is all-inclusive. It will include His chosen people, the Jews, but also the Gentiles. It will include eunuchs, prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, farmers, governors, and former Pharisees.

For the Sovereign Lord,
    who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
I will bring others, too,
    besides my people Israel. – Isaiah 56:8 NLT

So, if God is going to graciously include all in His plan of redemption and future restoration, how much more so should we embrace all those He brings into our lives as our spiritual brothers and sisters? Based on  God’s promise of future salvation, we are to live our lives in such a way that our conduct reflects our convictions. Our behavior should let the world know that we believe all that God has promised to do for us. So, as a result, we willingly and gladly obey His call to “Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Therefore…

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV

Based on all that God has done for them, Peter now gives his readers some specific actions they are to take in response. God has elected them. He has caused them “to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV). He has prepared for them “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4 NLT), that is being kept in heaven for them. On top of that, while they live on this earth, God is protecting them by His power, preserving them until the day of salvation, the final glorification of their bodies. Yes, in the meantime, they are having to endure various trials and troubles that come with life. They are experiencing the persecutions and difficulties that accompany living as a follower of Christ in a fallen world. But even those seemingly negative circumstances have positive consequences, because they test the genuineness of their faith, revealing the increasingly purified nature of that faith. The trials don’t destroy them, they perfect and strengthen them.

So, with all that in mind, Peter starts the next section of this letter with the word, “therefore” – a term on transition. It is the Greek word, dio, which means “consequently” or “with all that in mind.” Everything Peter has said thus far was meant by why of preparation and to provide a foundation on which his readers were to build their lives. All that God has done for them was meant to be a point of comfort and confidence. That’s why Peter says, “prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT). I love the way the King James Version translates this verse: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind.” The words Peter used would have been very familiar to his audience and carried a strong visual image to which they would have easily related. To “gird up the loins” was something they would have done every day of their lives, a normal part of their daily activities, especially anything that required work or quick action. The long outer garments they wore, while comfortable and perfect for the intense heat common to that part of the world, could prove cumbersome when hard labor or quick movements were required. So, they would “gird up their loins” by pulling the lower part between their legs and tucking it into their girdle or belt. This would free their legs and provide them with more mobility and less restriction, making work easier to accomplish. In essence, Peter is telling them to roll up the sleeves of their mind. They were to get ready for action – mentally. They were to be sober-minded. The Greek word Peter uses is nēphō, which conveys the idea of not only remaining free from drunkenness, but maintaining a control over your mental capacities at all times. Paul provides a great explanation of this in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.

15 Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit… – Ephesians 5:15-18 NLT

The obvious antonym to soberness is drunkenness. It is a lack of self-control and an altered state of consciousness that is negatively impacted by an outside influence. When one is drunk, they are out of control. They lack discernment and clear decision-making capabilities. Their reasoning capacities are clouded. Their ability to think clearly is diminished. So, Peter calls for an attitude of sober-mindedness, and he tells them exactly how to do it: “Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT). In other words, they were to keep their minds focused on the incredible reality of their future glorification. Staying sober-minded in this life requires keeping our minds focused on the life to come. This has everything to do with identity. Peter wants them to know that they are citizens of a different kingdom. This world is not their home. Their lives on this planet are not intended to be the end-all, but the means to an end. They are to see themselves as on a journey to somewhere greater and better. That is why they are to “gird up the loins of their mind.” In this life, they have work to do. This is a time for sober-minded effort and focused attention on the job to be done. Remember what Peter has already said: God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:4 ESV). He has an inheritance prepared and preserved for us. This world is NOT our inheritance. This life is not the end of the road, it is a pathway to the life to come. So, we are not to get distracted by the cares of this life or detoured by the troubles that come with life. Peter tells us we “must live as God’s obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). Our allegiance is to Him, not to this world. He is the one we should want to please, because He is the one who has chosen us and prepared an incredible future for us. And, as far as Peter sees it, the worst thing a child of God could do would be to “slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). And yet, that is a daily temptation for each and every one of us. When we take our eyes off the prize, we lose our focus. It becomes all about us again. Which is why Paul said, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT). In essence, Paul is saying that he girds up the loins of his mind so that he can run the face of life unhindered and freed up to get to the finish line unhampered by the cares of this life.

And Peter gives us a powerful admonition that can either leave us feeling debilitated or exhilarated.

15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16 NLT

These verses have long intimated believers. They sound so impossible. How in the world am I to be holy like God is holy? What was Peter thinking? The answer is really quite simple. He was letting his readers know that, having been chosen by God, they were to live lives that reflected their new relationship with God. They were His children, so they should act like it. They had been “set apart” by God, which is what holiness means, so they lives should reflect a change in behavior. In fact, the word Peter uses is anastrophē, which means “manner of life.” Their set-apartness by God was to be all-encompassing. It was not just spiritual, but physical as well. It was to influence their entire life – from their actions to their attitudes. They belonged to God, so they were to act like it. But the key was keeping their focus on the reality of that calling. It has a future-orientation. It is our life-to-come that should influence our life in the here-and-now. As Paul said, he kept his mind focused on the finish line, not the particular part of the race course on which he currently found himself. Mile ten of a marathon is NOT the finish line. Being in first place at the halfway point of a race does not make you a winner. Standing at the halfway point of a race, admiring how far you have come, will only keep you from getting where it is you need to go. That’s why Paul said, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize.”

We are on our way to somewhere else. We are passing through this place, with our eyes focused on our true destination. That is why, in the very next chapter of this letter, Peter will remind his readers of this very fact, using very stark terms to explain their new status in this world.

I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. – 1 Peter 2:11 NLT

The danger we all face is the tendency to become comfortable in this world. When we find ourselves wanting to make this world our home, we stop running the race set before us. We start taking in the sights along the way, and forget that the finish line is the goal. We start making success in this life our destination. We end up making comfort our goal. We turn the various “mile markers” of life into the finish life of our life, convincing ourselves of having “arrived” and contenting ourselves with all that we have accomplished. But there is no prize for getting halfway to the goal. There are no true blessings that come with only partially running the race.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NLT

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Doing Right The Right Way.

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men. – 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 ESV

Paul was unashamedly and boldly asking the Corinthians to participate in a fund-raising effort that would be used to alleviate the suffering of the Hebrew Christians living in Judea. Ongoing persecution and the lingering effects of a recent famine had left them in dire circumstances, and Paul was doing all that he could to raise support from all the churches in Macedonia, Achaia, Asia Minor and Galatia. And the church in Corinth was to be no exception. He wants them to know the joy of participating in the gracious support of their fellow believers, even those whom they had never met. Paul was not commanding the Corinthians to give, because he did not want them to do so out of compulsion or with any sense of regret. But he was unapologetically claiming that their giving would be in keeping with the example of Christ Himself.  Paul reminds them, “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9b NLT).

Paul knows that he is doing the right thing. But he has a strong desire to do it in the right way. He is fully aware that everything he does is analyzed and critiqued by his enemies. And while he wasn’t one prone to wasting time worrying about what men thought about him, he did worry about the potential damage his actions might do to the name and cause of Christ. That’s why he was taking special care to handle the collection of the funds in way that was above board and free from accusation by his enemies. He was sending Titus to collect whatever gift the Corinthians were able to provide. They knew Titus and had built a solid relationship with him. But Paul was also sending another individual, “the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel” (2 Corinthians 8:18 ESV). We do not know who this brother was, but evidently the Corinthians knew exactly who Paul was talking about. He was well-known and well-respected. He had a reputation for trustworthiness, and Paul indicates that he had “been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us” (2 Corinthians 8:19 ESV).

Paul wasn’t taking any changes. He knew that his efforts to raise funds for the Hebrew Christians provided a perfect opportunity for his enemies to accuse him of everything from extortion and greed to larceny and abuse of power. In the end, what Paul was most concerned about was the name of Christ. He did not want to do anything that might damage the reputation of His Savior or detract from the cause of the gospel. So he took extra precautions to ensure that his efforts were blameless and free from any hint of impropriety.

We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift. We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable. – 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 NLT

It was Jesus who said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV). Peter echoed these words when he wrote, “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:12 NLT). As believers, we are to do what is right. But it is just as important that we do right in the right way. We must always consider the outcome of our actions. It is essential that we keep in mind that our conduct is always being analyzed by the lost around us. We are ambassadors for Christ and all that we do in this life is done on His behalf. We speak and act on His part. And even our right actions, if not done in the right way, can produce the wrong results and bring harm to the name of Christ. We cannot live with the attitude, “Who cares what they think?” Our conduct has consequences. Our actions speak volumes. Our every word and deed are potential testimonies that will reflect either positively or negatively on the cause of Christ. What we do matters, but how we do it does as well.

Paul was unashamed to ask the Corinthians for money, but he was unwilling to do it in a way that might damage his reputation, hinder his ministry, or bring shame to the name of Christ. “We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God” (2 Corinthians 8:20-21 MSG). That is how we are to live. That is the attitude we must maintain. Our mission matters. So does our methodology. We must always strive to do the right thing, the godly thing, in the right way – blamelessly and above reproach.

 

Without A Word.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. – 1 Peter 3:1-6 ESV

Peter now takes his message of submission into the inner sanctum of the home. And for us, as modern-day Christians, this message can have a certain archaic and painfully old-fashioned ring to it. But we must keep what Peter has written on this within the context of his letter and social setting of the day in which he wrote. First of all, the fact that Peter addressed women at all is not something we should miss. In the culture of his day, women often were considered inferior. They were expected to follow the religion of their husbands and were given little say in the matter. And yet, here is Peter addressing women who had placed their faith in Christ. He is speaking to them as a separate group and addressing their specific situation, providing them with insight into how they were supposed to live as believers when their husbands were not. He knew that they were going against the cultural norms of their day. Rather than worship the false gods of their husbands, these women had placed their faith in Christ and now found themselves in a delicate, if not dangerous, place.

It is important that we recognize that Peter is primarily addressing women who are married to unbelievers. His admonition to submit is applicable to all Christian women, whether their husbands are believers or not, but he seems to be putting a special emphasis on wives whose husbands do not share their faith. He says, “wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1-2 ESV). The idea of submission has a certain distasteful to many. And while we may not particularly like Peter’s command to submit to those in authority over us when it comes to the government or even the workplace, the idea of wives having to submit to their husbands has a particularly unattractive appeal to many today. But it is important to note that when Peter uses the Greek word hypotasso (“to submit”) he is speaking about a willing coming under another as part of God’s willed order. It has nothing to do with worth or value. It is not an admission of superiority or inferiority (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “hypotasso,” by Gerhard Delling, 8 (1972):44). It has everything to do with God’s divine plan and His children’s conduct and character. Ultimately, all of us are required to submit to someone and we are to see our submission as unto the Lord. Each of us answers to Him. God has ordained an order and a structure to the universe. And while the idea of wives having to be subject to their husbands may rub us the wrong way, it is important to remember that God has a method to His seeming madness.

When we live in this world according to God’s will, submitting to His plan for our lives, it not only pleases Him, but it gives living proof of the change that has taken place within us because of the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. To expect a believing wife to submit to her unbelieving husband seems unfair and potentially stifling to her faith. But God says that her conduct could have a redemptive aspect to it. Christlike behavior can be a powerful force within our relationships. How we act as Christians can have a major influence on the lost with whom we come in contact. So Peter gives these women some insights into how their behavior can have a saving influence on their husbands. And he goes straight to the heart of the matter: “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4 ESV). Peter’s concern seems to be that women who had discovered their newfound freedom in Christ would allow their behavior to push their unbelieving husbands away from the faith. Believers must never forget that their salvation is not to be viewed in an individualistic way. The good news we have embraced is meant to be shared. Our faith is meant to be lived out among the lost. We are to be salt and light – agents of change and ministers of reconciliation, calling people to be made right with God. That is why the apostle Paul calls on believers to remain as they were when called by God.  “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 7:12-13 ESV). Our godly influence over the lost in our lives is a big part of God’s plan for our lives.

Much of what Peter says in these verses sounds out of touch with real life. It is counter-cultural and seems to go against the grain of societal expectations. But much of what God expects of us is revolutionary in nature. It is intended to set us apart and requires us to live differently than those around us. It is our ability to do good in the midst of the bad that surrounds us that gets the attention of the lost. Our joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the middle of the storm, contentment with little, hope in spite of heartache, and our ability to love when treated in unloving ways, that sets us apart.

Paul gives us each some wise words to consider. “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches” (1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV). How does God want to use you right where you are? Who has He placed in your life so that you might have a godly influence over them? Ultimately, our submission to God will lead us to submit to all those with whom we come in contact. We will gladly come under another in order that we might win them over to Christ by our actions.

 

You Shall Be Holy.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV

As we wait for the revelation of Jesus Christ and the redemption of our bodies, we have a responsibility, a duty. We have been born again to a living hope through faith in Jesus Christ. We have received the Holy Spirit of God as a permanent resident in our lives. He acts as a kind of down-payment or “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:14 ESV). Paul also says that God has “put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22 ESV). We have been justified, deemed righteous by God, because of the atoning blood of Jesus. We stand before Him, free fr0m any condemnation, and as His adopted children, heirs to the incredible inheritance He has in store for us.

So in the meantime, we are to live like what we are. We have been set apart by God, consecrated for His use. We are “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us whom he has called” (Romans 9:23-24 ESV). Paul tells us, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV). In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV). This was the same point Peter was trying to make. While his readers were waiting for their future glorification, they were having to endure suffering and persecution because of their faith. So Peter felt compelled to remind them of who they were and how there were to live. In other words, he was calling them to live lives of holiness – as those who had been set apart by God and for God.

Peter calls upon an Old Testament passage to remind his readers of their responsibility. It is found in the book of Leviticus. It reads, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 ESV). The Hebrew word translated “consecrate” is the word qadash and it means “to set apart as sacred, consecrate, dedicate” (“Hebrew Lexicon :: H6942 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). They were to live as who they were – those who belonged to God. He had redeemed and rescued them out of slavery. He was leading them to a land of abundance and blessing. They were His people and He was their God. But they were to live their lives in a distinctively different manner than all the nations surrounding them. The passage in Leviticus goes on to say, “You shall not defile yourselves…” (Leviticus 11:44 ESV). Moses used the Hebrew word, tame’ which means “to defile oneself, be defiled” (“Hebrew Lexicon :: H2930 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). They were to remain qadash (set apart) by not tame’ (defiling) themselves.

So when Peter uses this passage, he is reminding his readers that they are already holy or set apart by God. But their choice of actions can result in their own defilement. That is why Peter wrote, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15 ESV). So Peter told them to prepare their minds for action. Dr. Thomas Constable gives some helpful insight into just what Peter was trying to say. “He said in effect, Now that you have focused your thinking positively you need to roll up your sleeves mentally, pull yourselves together, and adopt some attitudes that will affect your activities” (Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes of 1 Peter, 2008 Edition). In other words, their holy standing was to show up in their every conduct. This was going to require that they be “sober-minded” or calm and collected. They would need to be thoughtful and circumspect in their decision-making. They would need to be careful and discerning in their conduct. Peter calls them to live as “obedient children” refusing to go back to living like they used to live. Peter told them, “Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT).

Holy living takes effort. It doesn’t come naturally for us as human beings. Because of the fall, we have been polluted by sin and, even as Christian, we still retain our sin nature. Paul tells us, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17 NLT). His point is that, if we attempt to live holy lives in our own strength, in our flesh, we will fail. But if we rely upon the Holy Spirit within us, we can live in such a way that our lives reflect the true nature of who we are: children of God. But Peter provides us with one more thing we must do: “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 ESV). Our current spiritual health is totally reliant on our future hope. If we do not constantly remind ourselves of what God has prepared for us in the future, we will have difficulty understanding or enduring the difficulties that come in this life. Holy living requires that we see ourselves as holy people, set apart by God for His use. We belong to Him. We are His children and our actions and attitudes in this life should reflect our belief that He has promised us a rich inheritance in the next life.