About Jesus Steve Sweetman
In An Anti-Christ Culture
Jewish leaders perceived the apostle Peter to be "unlearned and
ignorant". (Acts 4:13 - KJV) I
think we've often misunderstood this perception.
Peter was neither. Just
prior to this accusation he had been a successful businessman.
What he was probably unlearned about were the hypocritical and
confusing details of rabbinical law.
was not unlearned or ignorant in terms of Biblical theology.
In 1 Peter 1: 1 - 2 he uses the words, elect, chosen,
foreknowledge, and sanctification. These
are words and concepts that he understood but theologians have been
arguing over for the last two thousand years.
general consensus among conservative scholars seems to be that Peter
wrote his first letter in
similar anti-Christ culture in which Peter lived is fast becoming the
culture of our day. This,
along with an epidemic of Biblical illiteracy among Christians these
days will make it hard for many to survive what appears to be on an
ominous looking horizon. Let's
see what Peter has to say about surviving a life of suffering in an
1 Peter 1:3 Peter says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ". It's
amazing that Peter could praise God under the daily threat of death.
Note that Peter wasn't praising the pagan gods of his day. He
was praising the God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter understood something many seem to miss today.
Christians don't serve pagan gods, or in our case, a one god fits
all generic god. Christians
serve the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
contended for years that Christians talk too much about God and not
enough about Jesus. This
isn't a matter of semantics. It's
a matter of giving credit to whom credit is due.
God Himself has set Jesus in the center of all things until such
time when Jesus hands all things back to Him. (1 Corinthians 15:25-28)
Like God our Father, we need to place Jesus into the center of
our cultural conversation. If
we fail to do so, as I believe many are doing, people will conclude that
we serve their all-purpose generic god.
Of course, once we introduce Jesus into the conversation, we're
branded as being bigoted, intolerant, and exclusive.
If that's the case, so be it.
It's no big deal. The
big deal is the blurring of the distinction between the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ and the world's generic god caused by the
Biblically illiterate way in which Christians often speak.
idea of God isn't the problem in our anti-Christ world; neither was it
the problem in Peter's anti-Christ world. The
Lord Jesus Christ was, and still is, the problem, and because of Jesus,
Peter was executed. If we
choose to avoid the cultural conflict by leaving Jesus out of the
conversation, we can ignore what Peter says.
If we choose to include Jesus into the cultural conversation, we
better pay attention to Peter's counsel.
He speaks from personal experience.
In case you've just
returned back to earth from another planet and haven't quite noticed the
cultural conflict I've been speaking of, here's a recent example.
I live in
This fall the Liberals
will introduce this new curriculum into parliament again.
They say the conservative outcry is now "of little
significance". Due to
the balance of power in parliament, this legislation may pass this time.
The Liberal government
now has a radio add to promote their new sex curriculum.
You hear young children's voices in the add saying such things
as, "I need to know these things".
"I want to know my choices".
It's obvious they've been coached into what to say.
Such coaching of young innocent children is abhorrent.
The provincial Liberal
Minister of education says that the problem with bullying in schools is
being alleviated with the introduction of co-ed bathrooms.
I used to be a young boy. I
know what young boys will think, say, and act out, when young girls join
them in the bathroom.
So, if you've just
returned to earth from Mars, you'll see some changes down here.
The apostle Peter may have written his letters centuries ago, but
what he says is relevant for today's Christians in conflict with
pastor friend told me that those who are preoccupied with the next life
are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.
I got his point. If
you're always thinking about Heaven, you won't accomplish much on earth.
The apostle Peter might have a bit of an argument with my pastor
friend, especially when one is suffering through pain, poverty, or
persecution. Emphasizing the
reality of the Kingdom of God right now, as my pastor friend does, is
important, but when mixed with a hedonistic instant gratification
mentality, as is the temptation, becomes heretical.
Peter 1:3 says, "In His great mercy Jesus has given us new birth
into a living hope
yourself as one of the suffering souls to whom Peter was writing.
Your neighbour has just been executed for his allegiance to the
Lord Jesus. Your son has
just returned home from prison where his fingernails were ripped out of
his finger tips, and you now suspect that you're next on their hit list.
Those of us today might wonder just where the great mercy of
Jesus is in times like these.
great mercy Peter had the audacity to write about relates to being
"born into a living hope".
In context, this hope is the surety of a resurrected life with
Jesus upon death. The words
"being born into" suggest that this hope isn't a matter of
crossing one's fingers in hopes of a better future.
Combined with the word "living", this hope of life
after death empowers and motivates those stuck in pain, poverty, and
persecution to persevere.
suffering in Peter's day were so convinced of the resurrection of their
mortal bodies that they viewed death as a doorway into a blessed
eternity. For those of us
who probably love this world more than we should, we would do well to be
so convinced as we claw our way through the conflict.
Peter 1:5 states, "Through faith you are shielded by God's power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the
think this through. Put
yourself in the shoes of the suffering saints to whom Peter is writing.
You've just witnessed the rape and torture of your neighbor's
wife by ruthless pagan soldiers. A
flash of fear suddenly strikes you as you hear the knock on your door.
Is your wife next? Would
you seriously wonder where God's shield of protection is in such a
lesson to be learned here is that God's shield of protection doesn't
guarantee the protection of our material possessions, including our
material bodies. In the
context in which Peter writes, God's shield protects our saved souls,
our inheritance in Heaven, and all that Jesus has for us when He returns
on that last day.
should know in advance that if we experience suffering due to our
allegiance to the Lord Jesus, we may lose things we now hold dear.
What we won't lose is our salvation and the life to come.
Peter would have agreed with the apostle Paul who put it this
way. "So we fix our
eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is
temporary, and what is unseen is eternal". (2 Corinthians 4:18)
No one can take this unseen world away from the Christian.
Every day it penetrates our lives with the needed strength as we
stand in the center of the conflict.
speaking, I believe today's post modern western church has little clue
concerning the basic Biblical concepts Peter speaks of in his first
letter, and that includes faith. So,
before we see why Christians suffer in an anti-Christ culture, I'll
address the true nature of faith.
the "name it and claim it hyper faith" mentality inflicting
the church, we tend to view faith as being some kind of commodity that
we can get more of. We ask
God for more faith. Many
hyper faith folk stand proudly before the Lord, name what they want from
Him, claim it, claim it again, and keep on claiming it.
They expect, and at times demand, what they claim.
They grasp, pull, and yank, on God's purse strings in boldness,
believing Jesus has no choice but to come through for them.
Such aggressiveness is not Biblical faith.
believe Martin Luther was right when he said that faith is passive
trust. When associated with
Jesus, faith is surrendering our lives to Him.
By its very nature, trust is passive.
If there is any active element to trust, it's when our wills
struggle with surrendering to Jesus.
Beyond this struggle to surrender lies rest in the fact that we
can trust Jesus with whatever we give Him.
4:3 puts it this way. "We
who have believed have entered that rest".
The word "believed", which is another way of saying
"trusted", is associated with the word "rest" in
this verse. Obviously rest
is a passive word. Hebrews
4:11 says that we must "make every effort" to enter this rest.
The word "effort" is clearly an active word.
Thus, it's the effort, the struggle to surrender and enter into
rest that is active. Once we
surrender, we rest, we trust Jesus for whatever comes our way.
follows genuine faith is genuine works, as the apostle James taught.
If we passively trust Jesus, we will actively do good works, free
from struggle. Passive faith
produces active works.
is not something we can get more of, so we shouldn't be asking God for
more faith. Instead, we
should be asking Him to help us trust Him more than we presently do.
There's a big difference between these two concepts, a difference
many don't quite get. Of
course, the way to trust Jesus more is by having Him test our trust.
problem with present day aggressive hyper faith is that when we don't
get what we claim, we often get mad at Jesus.
Worst still, as I've recently seen, we rip up our Bibles and walk
away from Jesus. We
shouldn't be mad at Jesus. We
should be mad at ourselves for not being educated to what Biblical faith
is. We should be upset with
church leaders who seem to care more about inspiring the saints than
we understand the true nature of Biblical faith as being a passive and
confident trust in Jesus, I doubt if we'll survive the cultural conflict
that is standing at our doorstep. Consider
Peter who trusted His life to Jesus even as his life was being taken
from him by Roman soldiers.
1 Peter 1:6 to 8 we see that God allows Christians to suffer in all
kinds of ways in order to refine our faith, test our trust, and prove
our faith to be genuine.
Bible never says that Christians won't suffer.
It actually teaches the reverse to be true.
We suffer along with the rest of fallen humanity in the sense
that the rain falls on both the good and bad. (Matthew 5:45)
Then, Peter tells us that suffering is a means by which God tests
our trust in Him. Beyond
that, Jesus said that the world would hate us because it hated Him.
(John 15:18) The apostle
Paul said that those who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer
persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
you're serious about trusting your life to Jesus, your trust will be
tested through suffering. When
suffering occurs, no matter what kind it is, the choice is ours.
Will we surrender the situation to Jesus or will we split?
If we surrender, our faith is refined and proven genuine.
We then await the next test.
hyper faith folk have told me I have little to no faith because I'm
still legally blind after all these years.
If I had real faith, I'd be healed.
Peter says the opposite is true.
My faith has been proven genuine throughout the years of testing.
I suggest that hyper faith folk who claim little suffering are
those with little to no faith. The
simple fact is that if faith exists it will be tested.
If it doesn't exist, it can't be tested.
If you're not tested, it tells me you have little to no faith.
bottom line to genuine trust in Jesus is found in what 3 Jewish men told
the Babylonian king before being thrown into the furnace of fire.
if we are thrown into the blazing
furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue
us from your hand O king. But
even if He does not
we will not serve your gods". (Daniel
3:16-18) These three men
were willing to trust God even if they were incinerated by the fire.
insertion of the word "but" in Daniel 3:18 would suggest doubt
in the minds of the hyper faith crowd.
In my mind it suggests genuine faith.
If we can trust Jesus for whatever might lie beyond the
uncertainty of the word "but', we have genuine faith.
I wouldn't be fooling around with a faulty faith as the fire
storm of cultural conflict crosses our horizon.
was summoned to the office of the administrator.
He couldn't believe his ears.
Being dumbfounded, he was clueless to know how to respond.
They had just let him go after being the nursing home's chaplain
for 18 years. There was
nothing to discuss. The
decision had been made. It
was a privacy issue.
in a prayer meeting of Christian residents in the nursing home he led in
prayer for a sick resident. "It's
a violation of privacy to pray for a person in a public building without
having his permission", they said.
During a chapel service he shared how Jesus had delivered a
resident from alcoholism. Again,
"you can't share how Jesus changed the life of a person in a public
building without having his permission.
It's a privacy issue".
was a volunteer and while assisting a diabetic resident in the nursing
home's coffee shop a cafeteria worker offered the diabetic resident a
sugar laced muffin. "He's
a diabetic", the volunteer was overheard saying.
"He shouldn't eat that muffin".
She was subsequently chastised by the administration.
"You can't divulge such personal information in a public
place without having permission. It's
a privacy issue".
society, led by government, no longer let's us pray for a brother or
share how Jesus can change a life in a public building without having
permission to do so. No
longer can we help a poor old diabetic soul in a public building without
having his permission. All
this in a society where governments spy on our phone records, peaks into
our email and Facebook accounts, and has the ability to watch what we
type on our computers in real time.
This done in the name of national security without our permission
and without our knowledge.
understand the pros and cons concerning the invasion of privacy in the
name of national security. I
know they're not actually listening to our phone conversations without a
warrant, or so we're told. I'm
also aware of the human tendency to take a mile when given an inch.
Government, as important as it is, is taking their mile.
The apostle Peter lived in a society where government went well
beyond a mile, a place where western governments appear to be heading.
For this reason we should pay careful attention to what Peter
tells us concerning submission to government.
about privacy issues, imagine yourself as a Christian in Peter's day.
You're sitting in the privacy of your living room when all of a
sudden your front door is kicked in by Roman soldiers.
You're arrested and literally dragged off to prison.
It's not a matter of spying on phone records. It's
a matter of violating you as a person in the privacy of your own living
this in mind Peter tells you, "Submit yourself for the Lord's sake
to every authority instituted among men: whether to kings
who are sent by Him to punish them who do wrong
2:13) Submitting to the very
government who is out to execute you might be hard to handle.
apostle Paul concurs with Peter for the reason why we should submit to
government. "There is
no authority except that which God has established". (Romans 13:1)
We submit to government because God put your particular
government in its place of authority.
You scratch your head in amazement.
Why would God put these thugs into a position of power?
Peter and Paul tell you that government is to act on God's behalf to
administer justice by punishing evil doers, but what happens when
government becomes the evil doer? Who
administers justice to it? "Vengeance
is mine says the Lord". (Romans 12:19)
The Lord will act on His own behalf by punishing the evil
government that refuses to submit to Him.
parable of the unmerciful servant as recorded in Matthew 18:21 to 35
expresses how this works. After
being relieved of a financial debt he owed his master, an unmerciful
servant encountered a fellow servant who owed him money.
Showing no mercy he demanded immediate repayment as he choked his
fellow servant. So, in anger
the master of the both servants turned this unmerciful servant over to
the jailer to be tortured. (verse 34)
Thus is the fate of an unmerciful government who fails to act in
accordance with its master.
first generation Christians were peace loving people.
They did their best to submit to the authorities as they were
taught, but their ultimate allegiance was to the Lord Jesus Christ, who
their government was to serve. So,
when the Roman government failed to submit to God and demand ungodly
submission from its subjects, Christians had no choice but to
respectfully decline the government's demands.
Instead, they joyfully accepted the consequences of civil
disobedience, which for Peter was death.
Roman world is becoming our world. Christians
are beginning to experience a similar conflict with an anti-Christ
culture. Peter warns us in
advance when he says, "
be not surprised at the painful trial
you are suffering
but rejoice that you are participating in the
suffering of Christ". (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Becoming like Jesus was Peter's ultimate desire, even if it meant
becoming like Jesus in death. We
should consider what participating in Jesus' sufferings mean.
We might also want to practice up on our rejoicing skills.
We'll be expected to use them some day.
Modernism is a detailed,
analytical, and structured, approach to reasoning issues through. For
the most part, it has been the approach to life in the western world for
a few centuries. It's the
reason why we enjoy the conveniences of our technological advanced
Postmodernism in many
respects replaces this detailed analytical approach with a more
superficial approach to thinking issues through.
Since much of postmodernism believes that truth varies from place
to place and from person to person, it sees no need to exert any great
effort in the pursuit of truth and thinking issues through.
Postmodernism emphasizes present experience.
Whether the experience is good for us or bad for us; whether it's
right or wrong in the eyes of others; as long as it doesn't hurt anyone,
go for the ultimate experience. This
was the world view of hippies in the 1960's, many of whom are now in
positions of authority in government, law, education, and all parts of
infiltrated many parts of that which we call church.
The Emergent Church Movement is one example.
No longer do so-called postmodern Christians see the Bible as
God's instruction book to pattern their lives after.
They don't view the Bible as a book to educate them about God's
ways, history, or future events. The
Bible is merely an inspirational book, thus negating much of its
content. Experience trumps
truth. Inspiration replaces
In the 1970's I noticed
that the demand for Christian educational books such as works of
theology, history, culture, original languages, and Bible commentaries,
were replaced by testimony books. Now
there's nothing inherently wrong with testimony books, but one can't
grow as a Christian on a steady diet of inspirational testimonies.
A generation of believers has now been raised on testimonies
instead of being educated in Biblical truth.
This postmodern influence has stolen the great doctrines of the
Bible from our hearts and minds. We
prefer to be inspired instead of being educated.
Such inspired ignorance will be of little help when we find
ourselves in conflict with an anti-Christ culture.
believe the apostle Peter spoke to similar humanistic world views in his
day. In 1 Peter 1:13 he
says, "prepare your minds for action". (NIV)
The KJV says, "Gird up the loins of your minds".
I say, "Tie up the lose ends of your thinking processes and
prepare for the coming cultural conflict".
However you say it, Peter was telling his readers to prepare
their brains for action that would rise when they interacted with their
anti-Christ culture. I
believe preparing one's mind includes a Biblically rational approach to
life. The apostle Paul put
it this way in Romans 12:2. "Be
transformed by the renewing of your mind".
Peter's readers needed more than inspiration.
They needed mental preparedness, the capability to explain why
they lived and believed as they did to anti-Christ civil authorities. (1
ignorance, or this so-called Christian Postmodernism, won't cut it when
we stand before our anti-Christ culture in defense of our faith.
I'm not underestimating the Holy Spirit's involvement in these
matters as stated in Mark 13:11, but He can't work with us or through us
if there's nothing in us to work with.
Without a brain that has been transformed and educated in the
Word of the Lord, the Holy Spirit's involvement in our lives is limited.
Peter may have spoken to suffering saints in his day, but he
speaks directly to you and I as well.
Without being educated in Biblical truth, we'll find ourselves
fumbling around like feeble fools when our day of action comes.
Our so-called postmodern Christianity will fail us in the time of
apostle Peter lived in a time and place where in the name of all things
good, bad things were being done to him and his fellow believers.
In the midst of attempting to survive through these bad things,
Peter told his readers to "live such good lives among the pagans
that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good
deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us". (1 Peter 2:12)
Again, Peter's instructions might have been hard to take back
then. Doing good while
others are doing evil to you doesn't come easily to any of us.
1 Peter 2:14 Peter says something else about doing good and doing evil.
He says that government exists "to punish those who do evil
and to commend those who do good".
society, like the Roman society in Peter's day, defines matters of good
and evil differently than Christians.
What is seen as good to Christians isn't necessarily seen as good
to an anti-Christ culture. Christians
define good and evil from a fixed Biblical standpoint.
Our culture defines good and evil from a fluid humanistic
standpoint. Matters of good
and evil vary from place to place, time to time, and person to person.
These differing definitions cause conflict.
of doing good in a Biblical sense is speaking out for what we know to be
Biblical truth, as the first generation Christians did.
Standing up for truth is good.
In fact it's our Biblical mandate. The apostle Paul taught us to
speak this truth, albeit in the most loving way possible. (Ephesians
are a number of issues today where the world defines good and evil
differently than Christians, abortion and gay marriage being two such
issues. The time has come
when our refusal to follow society's lead on these and other issues is
seen as intolerant, bigoted, and evil.
Refusing to perform a same sex wedding ceremony may seem
Biblically good to us, but our anti-Christ culture sees it as evil.
So, as Peter clearly stated, we should be aware of the fact that
government will punish those who they define as doing evil.
That places Christians in a painful predicament.
When our doing good becomes doing evil in the eyes of society, as
it is fast becoming the case, we must follow Peter's instructions.
We don't chicken out and hide our heads in the sands of ignorant
bliss. We boldly stand up
for the Biblical truth. We
love those who oppose us. We
accept the consequences of our refusal to participate.
We understand that the resulting suffering is a calling from God,
so we're thankful to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Saviour. (1
of us likes thinking about these things. I
would rather be raptured away to heaven before any hint of this stuff
reaches our doorstep, but it's a bit late for that now.
It's already at our door, fumbling around with the door handle.
There's no use ignoring it and pretending it's not there.
Ignoring the reality of the world around us is not only
unscriptural, it's spiritual suicide.
We won't be able to hide behind our blissful ignorance when the
anti-Christ culture crashes through the Christian cocoon some of us are
hiding in. Take Peter's
words seriously and prepare yourself for the coming conflict.
friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain
from sinful desires, which war against your soul". (1 Peter 2:11)
One might wonder why Peter needed to remind his readers who were
suffering through unjust persecution to abstain from sinful desires.
You'd think their situation would drive them into the presence of
Jesus where such desires would fade away into obscurity.
Obviously this wasn't the case.
You also might wonder what kind of sinful desires Peter had in
mind. Were these desires
immoral desires, greed, dishonesty, or other such sins?
you are the wife of a prominent and well respected Roman lawyer back in
Peter's day. Your husband is
highly esteemed as he is often seen frequenting Caesar's palace. Knowing
very well that Caesar is wiping Christians off the face of his empire,
you switch your allegiance from Caesar to Jesus.
Now think this through. Your
decision would put your dearly beloved husband in one very awkward and
precarious predicament. He'd
be tainted with what he'd view as your stupidity.
You can bet that when the time came for him to choose between you
if you were that wife, would you be tempted to get back at your husband
by committing adultery with the guy next door?
I doubt it. Would you
be tempted to steel a sword and slice your husband's head off while he
was asleep? Well, that might
cross your mind, but I can't see you doing that either.
You'd probably be tempted to drop Jesus and cave into the
anti-Christ culture that's stressing you out.
At least then you could return to a normal Roman existence and
live in relative peace, free from persecution.
in Peter's day were in a real battle, a war against their souls. The
apostle Paul viewed this as spiritual war. (Ephesians 6:12)
That's why he encouraged Timothy to "fight the good fight of
faith". (1Timothy 6:12)
are all sorts of things warring against our souls these days.
It's all around us. We
can't avoid it. If we don't
experience the conflict, it means we've caved into the cultural advances
attacking our souls. As the
conflict heats up, and as we see some of our brothers and sisters in
Jesus fall by the wayside, the temptation to give up on Jesus will
become progressively more tempting.
has called us out of the world and now the world wants us back.
That's why Peter says that we're aliens and strangers on this
planet. The world around us
is trying its best to lure us back by tempting us with the
friends, do not be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering as
though something strange were happening to you
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God, and
if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey
the gospel of God". (1 Peter 4:12-17)
What does Peter mean when he speaks of God judging His own
understood that painful suffering from an anti-Christ culture was a form
of divine judgment on God's people, and in this case, the church.
He told his readers not to think of this as being strange.
As severe as this suffering was, it was something God does from
time to time. Judgment is
meant to purify God's family; separate the sheep from the goats, the
wheat from the weeds.
the process of painful suffering, the believer's trust in Jesus is
tested. If the suffering
saint survives the test, he's strengthened and remains a vital part in a
purified church. If he fails
the test, he joins the ranks of those "who do not obey the gospel
of God". His judgment
will end up being much more severe.
believe it's a Biblical principle that before God judges any culture, He
first judges His people who live in that culture.
An example would be when God judged
clear to me that judgment is coming to the western world, and eventually
to the whole world. It's
also clear to me that before these judgments are fully realized, God
will judge the church by allowing us to suffer at the hands of an
anti-Christ culture. Then,
God will judge the anti-Christ culture for its treatment of us.
my vantage point, we as the church are in desperate need of
purification. I'm amazed at
how that which is called church, including Evangelicals, has so quickly
departed from Biblical truth. If
judgment was needed for the church in Peter's day, I suggest it's needed
more now than it was needed back then.
believe the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14 22 is prophetic of
an apostate fallen church that is seen at the end of this age.
Jesus describes this church this way.
"You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need
a thing'. But you do not
realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked".
(Revelation 3:17) Assuming
we're nearing the end of the age, and even if we aren't, today's church
in my thinking is becoming this Laodicean style church. Whatever
the case, as Revelation 3:16 says, Jesus will vomit lukewarm Laodicean
style church goers out of His mouth if they don't repent".
does Jesus vomit a big chunk of the church out of His mouth?
I believe that painful suffering from an anti-Christ culture is
an act of divine judgment that causes the expulsion of unrepentant
Laodicean style church goers out of the church.
This expulsion might be how Jesus vomits the unrepentant out of
should be prepared, not only for God to judge our anti-Christ culture,
but also for Him to judge our progressively more anti-Christ church.
I know some of you may not appreciate my last statement, but if
you think about it, knowing what's going on in the world of church these
days, you might agree with me. A
good chunk of what we call church doesnt even believe in the Deity of
Christ. I'd call that an
anti-Christ church. Just remember, when the suffering begins, rejoice
that you are following in the suffering steps of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 4:13)
specific type of suffering the apostle Peter was addressing in his first
letter was persecution from an anti-Christ culture.
We can expect the same as time goes on, but in the mean time,
from time to time we all suffer in various other ways.
I believe Peter's wisdom and counsel can benefit us in the midst
of any kind of suffering we're experiencing.
particular type of suffering that hits us all is sickness.
The apostle Paul addresses sickness in 1 Corinthians 11:29-32.
He said, "Many among you are week and sick
when we are
judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be
condemned with the world". I
understand that Paul is addressing sickness in this passage as it
relates to one particular situation, but nonetheless, he does say that
this sickness should be thought of as God's discipline.
writer of Hebrews speaks of God's
discipline as well. "My
son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart
when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He
punishes everyone He accepts as sons.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is training you as sons.
For what son is not disciplined by His father?
If you are not disciplined (and everyone goes through
discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons".
(Hebrews 12:5-10) This is
one Bible passage that doesn't get much press in our hyper faith
prosperity gospel Christianity these days.
writer of Hebrews tells us that suffering through hardship can be a form
of discipline from our heavenly Father.
That would include sickness.
The Greek word "paideoo" is translated as
"discipline" in this passage.
"Paideoo" means "to instruct".
There are many ways in which we as Christians can be instructed,
but the specific kind of instruction here is directly related to the
Greek word "mastigoo" is translated as "punishes" in
the NIV. I prefer the KJV's
translation because it better reflects the meaning of "mastigoo".
The KJV translates "mastigoo" as "scourges".
The noun form of this Greek word means "a whip". The
verb form means "to whip", thus the reason why I like the
KJV's translation. Pilate
had Jesus "flogged" prior to His execution. (John 19:1)
The word "flogged" in the NIV, or "scourged"
in the KJV, is translated from "mastigoo".
Thus, the discipline or instruction spoken of here in Hebrews is
not a classroom type of instruction.
It's a whipping.
writer of Hebrews tells us "not to lose heart" during the
disciplining process, but to endure to the end.
This tells us that instructive punishment can be painful at
times, something Peter himself said in 1 Peter 4:12.
The author of Hebrews also says that "no discipline seems
pleasant at the time, but painful. Later
on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those
who are trained by it". (Hebrews 12:11)
reason for God's discipline is simple.
We are his beloved children, and as children, one way in which He
trains us is through instructive discipline.
know some people take this message of discipline to an extreme.
They'd be the first to tell you that God is punishing you with
sickness because you've been a bad believer.
Despite this abuse, we can't rule out that suffering, whether it
is sickness or anything else, might be a form of instructive punishment.
clear that not all suffering, not all sickness, is God's discipline.
We get sick from time to time because we live in a sick fallen
world. We get sick because
of our own bad choices. I
hate to say it, but some of us get sick because we're getting older.
Even the apostle Paul, a man of great faith, said that
"outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being
renewed". (2 Corinthians 4:16) There
are many reasons why people, including Christians, suffer with sickness
and other hardships. Whatever
the reason, when we do suffer, we should seriously seek Jesus to see why
we are suffering and what we can learn.
Instructive punishment is meant to teach us something.
What that something is, is important to know.
I admit, finding the reason why is easier said than done, and
maybe at time we'll never know the reason. Whether
we are suffering from an anti-Christ culture, from God's discipline,
from living in a sick fallen world, or from growing old, Peter's first
letter gives us much good counsel on how to survive suffering and
eventually benefit from it. It's
worth our time and effort to read, study, and then apply Peter's counsel
to our lives.
of you will disagree with what I'm about to say and that's fine.
Just know that my position on this issue isn't a result of any
negative experiences, but from my understanding of the New Testament.
Greek word "presbyteros" is translated as "elder" in
most of our English Bibles. "Presbyteros"
means an "older man". The
Greek word "poimain" is translated as "shepherd" or
"pastor" in our English Bibles. "Poimain" means
"to care for as a shepherd cares for his sheep grazing in the
field". The Greek word
"episkopos" is translated as "overseer" or
"bishop" in our English Bibles.
"Episkopos" means "to watch over or to
1 Peter 5:1 the apostle Peter makes an appeal to the elders
(presbyteros). In verse 2 he
tells these elders to be shepherds (poimain) of God's flock and to serve
as overseers (episkopos). Note
that all three of these Greek words refer to the same ministry.
If you take into consideration Acts 20:17 - 18 and Titus 1:5 - 7,
you'll also note that all five of the above English words translated
from these three Greek words refer to the same ministry.
They're not separate and distinct ministries.
Peter's day a body of men called elders (presbyteros) served Jesus by
caring for (poimain) and watching over (episkopos) His people.
As we've just seen, these men could have been called, shepherds,
pastors, bishops, or overseers, because all five words are in reference
to the same ministry.
I see here in 1Peter 5 and elsewhere in the New Testament looks very
little like what I see in that which we call church today.
For example, a bishop in most denominations is someone in charge
of a number of churches in a geographical area.
A bishop in New Testament terms was just one equal member in a
local body of elders. Generally
speaking, pastoring today is a one man ministry in a local congregation.
In Peter's day pastoring was carried out by a body of equal
elders. The term
"senior pastor" was unknown back then.
In today's ecclesiastical world a pastor and an elder are
traditionally two different and distinct ministries; not so in Peter's
I ask. "Should we
pattern church after New Testament thinking or are we free to pattern
church in a way we think best fits our time and culture"?
I think this is an important, but little asked question. I
believe we should pattern church, and every other aspect of our lives,
after what we read in the Bible. That's
one reason why we have the Bible.
we see in 1 Peter 5 is commonly called "plurality of elders".
This means that a body of elders, leads, cares for, guards, and
serves, the local community of God's people.
One man, a pastor as we call him, along with a hierarchical
ecclesiasticalism, isn't the New Testament pattern.
know the argument against what I'm saying.
Times have changed since Peter's day and church needs to change
with the times. I also know
the argument against plurality of elders. I
understand that many believe the book of Acts "seems to imply"
that James "might have been" a one man leader in the
know our ecclesiastical structures do lots of good.
I understand that pragmatic argument, but it's important to
understand that Christian practice shouldn't be based on pragmatism.
That is to say, just because something works doesn't make it
right. Christians aren't
pragmatic. We're Biblical.
see a day coming when our church structures will experience
unprecedented pressure from an anti-Christ culture.
Congregations will be forced to pay property taxes.
They will lose their charitable tax status and will be unable to
issue tax receipts for donations. Reading
Romans 1:24 - 28 from a pulpit will be considered a hate crime.
Failing to perform same sex weddings will incur expensive legal
costs. Some of us have
already incurred financial loss for our stand on same sex marriage.
brings me to the reason why Peter appealed to the local elders.
Christians were suffering under oppressive persecution.
They needed all the help, care, oversight, support, and
direction, from an older and wiser body of men.
The western church hasn't experienced anything like this, but
eventually we will. When
that day comes, we'll have to choose between an anti-Christ state
sponsored church, or, as we've seen elsewhere, "go
underground". When we
go underground, Peter's understanding of church will have to be ours.
won't fully grasp what I'm saying. We're
so entrenched in what we've been used to that we fail to understand what
the Bible says. Our western
church is heading towards the same cultural conflict that has been
normal Christianity in places like
self controlled and alert. Your
enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone
to devour". (1Peter 5:9)
Greek word "diabolos" is translated into English as
"devil" in this verse. "Diabolos"
is comprised of; "dia" meaning "over, across, or
through", and, "bolos" meaning "one who
portrays the devil as one who throws things across our path.
devil is pitching all sorts of things our way these days to distract us
from our task at hand. He
doesn't need a relief pitcher to take his place in the 8th
inning of this age. He's got
enough pitches left in him to keep him going to the bitter end.
His plan for the 9th inning is not only to strike us
out but to get as many Christians as possible to defect to his dugout. Maybe
that's what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote about a
"falling away" prior to the return of Jesus. (2 Thessalonians
our culture becomes more anti-Christ than it presently is, satanic
forces are warming up in the bullpen. We
can expect anything and everything to be thrown at us, and unlike
baseball, what is thrown comes from all directions and from multiple
sources. Demons are
positioned at every conceivable spot on the field, and just to let you
know, they have a very narrow strike zone.
They're aiming right at our heads.
That's why Peter tells us to be alert and self controlled.
Our heads need to be both Holy Spirit led and Biblically sound as
we approach the 9th inning of this age.
prerequisite to being alert is to have sufficient Biblical knowledge
which will enable us to interpret and understand the significance of
what's being thrown our way. This
takes some serious Holy Spirit inspired Biblical education on our part.
devil may be out to get us but that doesn't mean we need to fear him.
Jesus tells us to fear no one but God who is able to destroy both
body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
As a matter of fact, the satanically inspired anti-Christ can't
rise to power without God's permission.
Only when one of the four living creatures tells him to
"come", is he permitted to appear on the world scene.
the 9th inning of this age approaches, be alert to satanic
fastballs thrown our way, but don't be disheartened.
It may not look like it now, but as the old saying goes,
"we've got the game in the bag". The
bottom of the 9th belongs to Jesus.
The earth will shake as He comes out of His dug out and goes nose
to nose with the devil. The
satanic forces will disintegrate in defeat.
Loud shouts of ecstatic joy will be heard in the heavenly stands
shouting, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our
Lord and of His Christ". (Revelation 11:15)
think it strange that you don't plunge with them into the same flood of
dissipation, and they will heap abuse on you". (1 Peter 4:4)
Peter wasn't telling his readers something they didn't already
know. Along with being seen
as strange, abuse was heaped on them from the anti-Christ culture in
which they lived.
word "dissipation" means excessive, and in context, the
excessiveness is an addiction to immorality and idolatry.
The word "plunge" is descriptive of how eager an
anti-Christ culture is to dive into their excessiveness. As
in Peter's day, our western world is diving whole heartedly into a
cesspool of immorality and idolatry, and they not only think we're
strange for not taking the plunge with them, but they're beginning to
heap abuse on us as well.
example of this is our refusal to plunge into pride.
Pride parades have evolved from a simple march for equality to an
erotic public celebration of all things sexual.
No longer are we just seen as strange for not taking the plunge
into pride, but as my email account proves, we're being verbally abused.
Proverbs 16:18 is ironic when thinking of these things.
It says; "pride goes before destruction". It
makes one wonder if this proverb means more than what we've always
important to know that our conflict isn't with our human opponents but
with demons. (Ephesians 6:10-19) With
this understanding, we demonstrate Biblical love to our abusers without
compromising the truth of Scripture.
In the midst of it all we stand firm in our faith in the Lord
will end my series on "Living In An Anti-Christ Culture" based
on the apostle Peter's first letter.
Much more could be said, but I've got to stop somewhere.
you're interested in learning more about 1 Peter, you can read my verse
by verse commentary on 1 Peter at; http://stevesweetman.com/commentarylist.htm
can also listen to my audio version at:
and those to whom he wrote, were suffering immensely from the Roman
anti-Christ culture in which they lived.
Peter's words were meant to encourage believers and instruct them
in how to live in an anti-Christ culture.
I believe our western world is heading head long into a similar
cultural environment. That
means Peter's instructions are relevant for us as we contemplate how to
maneuver our way through the coming conflict.
or around 67 A D Peter wrote that "the end of all things is
near". (1 Peter 4:7) Here
we are in the 21st century and all things still exist.
How do we reconcile this apparent discrepancy?
I believe the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write these words,
not only for his readers, but for all generations of readers, including
our generation. So, what the
Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write, He tells us to believe. That is,
"The end of all things is near".
thinking of the end of all things being near, I refer you to the
viewed this church much differently than how it viewed itself.
He thought the Laodicean church was wretched, pitiful, poor,
blind, naked, and in desperate need of eye salve for their blind eyes.
Why would Jesus zero in on their blindness?
Biblical history we see that from time to time God blinds the eyes of
those who claim to be His. Here's
how it works. If we're bent
on going our own way, Jesus will let us go.
Romans 1:24 puts it this way.
God hands us over to the sin of our choice.
In the handing over process our spiritual eyes become blind to
all things godly. It's clear
to me that God handed the Laodiceans over to their lust for wealth and
self sufficiency. In the
process they became spiritually blinded to current events and how they
fit into God's plans for the end of this age.
Mark 13:33 Jesus told us to watch and pray for the time of the end is
near. In context, watching
means to pay attention to current events and how they relate to the
return of Jesus. You can't
effectively watch if you are spiritually blind.
That's why the Laodicean church needed eye salve. Their eyes
needed to be opened to how current events fit into God's plans for the
end of this age.
obviously closer to the end than Peter was.
This Laodicean church might well exist today.
If we hide ourselves in the darkness of a Laodicean style
Christianity, we might as well be blind.
Things are happening around us on a daily basis that needs to be
understood in light of Biblical prophecy.
I believe too much of what we call church is spiritually blind to
these things. The Laodicean
spirit that lusts for wealth and self sufficiency that infects church
these days inhibits folk from understanding the signs of our times.
wish we'd all have a deep love for the Word of the Lord because it's a
real "eye opener". At
the same time I think there should be a warning label printed on every
Bible. It could read;
"WARNING if taken seriously the message of this book will
create conflict in your life".
If the Biblical message is properly understood and applied to our
lives, it won't just open our eyes, it will bring us into conflict with
the anti-Christ culture in which we live.
It will also bring us into conflict with the Laodicean style
church that exists around us. Beyond
that, it will bring us into conflict with our own human nature, which
opposes all things godly. The
message of conflict resulting from obeying the Word of the Lord might
not have been the message we heard in past Evangelical altar calls, but
it's Biblical reality.
application of Biblical truth to our lives certainly creates a measure
of conflict. On the other
hand, it's the source of inspiration,
encouragement, and instruction. As
painful as the coming conflict will be, it will result in a church that
pleases Jesus, and pleasing Jesus is what we should all want.