Join our Shepherd, Dean Wolf, as he guides us into a Bible study of the people who were transformed because they knew Jesus. Lord willing, our study will begin on Sunday, April 3 and continue through Easter Sunday, April 17.
So far, Dean has focused upon how Jesus transformed the great men of faith: the apostles Peter and Paul. This Easter Sunday, Dean will conclude this series to bring home for us God’s plan to transform all who gaze upon His Son with humble, obedient faith.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
Wherever Jesus went, people had to make decisions about Him. Refusing to believe in His divine nature, most people presumed him to be an everyday human. So, as a regular person, they concluded that He was a liar, making stuff up to deceive His followers. Others thought He was a lunatic who saw Himself as a legend in His own mind. However, for those who believed in Jesus as fully divine and fully Human they could not remain the same; they became transformed.
The Apostle Paul was one of those who was not only transformed himself by an encounter with Jesus; but, he taught others that they, too, could be transformed. This principle is true today, as well. Whomever comes to know Jesus cannot remain the same as they were; they begin the process of transformation into His image.
Jesus transforms people into His image when they couple their faith in Him with obedience. This is a process of growth and maturation as can be seen by men like Peter and Paul who changed over time as they walked with Christ with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Their transformation was a process that began with Jesus’ promise of eternal life.
Dean Wolf will be leading us through this study over the next few weeks, concluding on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022. This lesson focuses upon Peter. The next lesson will look at the life of the apostle Paul.
In the first verse of 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter begins with the greeting: “To those who are elect exiles….” For Christians who may lose their home, their family or their very lives for the sake of Christ it is best to live according to the reality that ‘this world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”
In the end, when Jesus returns to bring everyone before God’s judgement there will be a great many things that will no longer matter to us. Our cars and houses, our jobs and paychecks, our schedules and our plans…none of these things will matter anymore.
In the end, what will really matter? Perhaps Peter’s final words in his final letter can instruct us.
Are you growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”? How horrifying it would be to hear Him say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Know Jesus! There is nothing in this world that is more important than this.
In Peter’s first letter his focus is on strengthening the faith of those followers of Christ who have already begun to suffer persecution from their governments and neighbors. They must stand strong in their faith in the face of losing their possessions, their health and freedoms and, even, their very lives.
When Peter writes his second letter his focus is upon those within the fellowship of Christians who are taking advantage of the love and trust that they share for each other. Lord willing, our lesson will begin by summarizing the internal threats to the early church in 2 Peter chapter 2 in order to sharpen our focus upon chapters 1 and, next Sunday, chapter 3. It is in these chapters (1 and 3) that Peter’s encouraging words about the certainty of our faith are expressed with majestic confidence and assurance.
In troubled times, being certain of the promises of God through His word, Peter’s words offer confirmation of our belief in Christ and hope for the future beyond the grave as he points to a new heaven and a new earth “where righteousness dwells.”
The Apostle Peter encourages the elders of the churches in Asia minor as ‘a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” He tells them to shepherd the flock of God willingly and eagerly, being examples to their people. These leaders, who have been shaped by the suffering example of Christ, guide their younger members to humbly listen to them.
The quality of humility is the universal attitude that is to characterize God’s people; humility towards God and towards one another.
After warning his audience that “The end of all things is at hand,” Peter talks to a persecuted church about rejoicing when sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
When happiness is a person’s goal in life this phrase makes no sense. Living for the present moment we want to do things that make us happy. So, rejoicing in times of suffering sounds insane!
The radical difference is found in Christ and in Christ alone. In Christ, suffering has meaning and purpose! So, Peter says, be prepared to make a defense of why you are joyful in the midst of suffering. Our suffering, like Christ’s suffering, is God’s megaphone to the world!
Peter begins his letter by affirming those known as “the elect exiles of the dispersion…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” Christians are living examples of the unfolding of God’s plan, foreseen by the prophets and guaranteed by the very blood of Jesus Christ.
With chapter 2 Peter turns to those Christ followers to ‘grow up into salvation’ as living stones of God’s spiritual house; priests who are called to be holy. As such, they are called to live consistently with their calling in regard to 1) human institutions and the emperor, 2) slaves their masters, 3) wives and their husbands, and 4) brothers and sisters in Christ as they address each other and their persecutors.
Why? “Because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.”
Peter’s teachings were likely the primary source for Mark’s gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Written to a persecuted church, therefore, Mark’s account lends itself to examine the apostle Peter’s writings towards the end of his life, known today in our Bibles as first and second Peter. After concluding our study of the gospel of Mark with the abrupt ending of Mark 16:8 we are left with the question, “Do you believe?” If, indeed, Mark was writing to a persecuted church then this urgent plea insists upon an answer because it will be severely tested very soon under Emperor Nero’s reign.
It was during this time that Peter was likely executed as Jesus had been, by crucifixion. So, Peter’s letters take on special significance for encouraging us all to stand strong in our living hope in Christ.
This is especially true after considering Dean’s summary of Peter’s role while he was with Christ and, as Peter approached the end of his own life, as he appealed to those early Christians to prepare for persecution for their faith.
Preparing for our study in First and Second Peter, we are reminded of the importance of living out our Christian lives every day. This is especially true when our faith is challenged, even to the point of being persecuted.
Dean summarizes Peter’s role while he was with Christ. As Peter approached the end of his own life, as he appealed to those early Christians to prepare for persecution for their faith. His encouragements and example speak to us today as we strive to stand strong in the Lord Jesus Christ.
They say that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” In Ephesians 5:1 Paul encourages his readers to “be imitators of God.”
In our study of the first 3 chapters of Ephesians over the last few weeks we have covered the first half of the book. Paul tells us that by God’s power, strength and might Jesus was raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand (Eph. 1:18-21). More than that, God also made us “alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6, NASB).
Simply stated, Paul is telling us “Sit down and listen while I tell you what God has done for you!” Chapters 1 through 3 are an incredible review of God’s divine plan from before the beginning of time. Center stage: Christ and the church (Eph. 3:20-21).
Sitting down and resting in what God has done for us in Christ is so important!
Currently we are in the midst of chapters 4 and 5 of Ephesians. Here Paul places a great emphasis upon how we walk all day, every day. In fact, Paul literally uses a word we literally translated as “walk” to describe our lives once we have been seated in God’s throne room. He contrasts between the way we once walked, in the futility of our minds (Eph. 4:17), and the new way we walk, renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4:23-24). Likewise, on Sunday mornings, we will spend time on more practical application.
It is in this context that Paul encourages us all to be ‘imitators of God.’ This truly is the sincerest form of flattery plus a few other things like honor, glory and praise. In his book, Just Like Jesus (1998) Max Lucado gives a great illustration of what this looks like. He asks a simple question: “What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule?” Essentially, He lives your life with His heart. Would anyone notice a change?
This intriguing question is a great focus point for personal meditation, confession, and repentance. But, more than that, it is a great tool for contemplating the changes that need to occur in our lives. That’s one reason I love the subtitle of Lucado’s book: “God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be Just Like Jesus.”
Ephesians 1-3 keep us from falling into despair when we contemplate fulfilling the challenges Paul places before us in chapters 4-6. Learning to imitate God is an overwhelming task that is greater than we are.
Of course, God knew that.
This is why He sent His Son, “while we were yet sinners.”
Lord willing, by December, we will be concluding our study in Ephesians. We will be talking about how God’s actions (ch. 1-3) have changed believer’s daily lives (chapters 4-6:9). These people are now ready to make a stand and pray!
Speaking to His people through the prophet Jeremiah, God asks a simple question:
“Have you no respect for me? Why don’t you tremble in my presence?”
God’s people, Israel, had messed up terribly, trying to make it through life without God. Because of this they were suffering heavily and God was warning them that there was more to come.
And so, God tells them,
“I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set.”
– Jeremiah 5:22 (NLT)
God’s point was that no matter how badly the storms may become He is still in control. He sets the boundaries of the winds and waves, providing a shoreline of safety to those who will seek Him.
In life we all struggle with wanting to do things our own way instead of surrendering ourselves to God’s ways. Then, when the storms of life visit us we find ourselves making poor choices under pressure that often make our situations even worse than they were before.
But God is still in control.
So, when we find ourselves in the middle of life’s storms, bobbing up and down in its currents and rip tides, taking on water, we look for the safety of land. And standing on the shoreline, calling us to safety is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Isn’t that what church is supposed to be? A place to safely gather with others who struggle with life’s storms. A place to rest in the promises of a God who is in control and has provided just what we need to make it. A place where life makes sense and is filled with meaning and purpose in spite of all of our mistakes.
This is the meaning behind our name: Shoreline. Here, Jesus stands, arms open wide, welcoming God’s children home.