About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Living In An Anti-Christ Culture
'Lessons From the Letters Of Peter'





1 – Peter Praises God

2 – Our Co-Ed Culture

3 – Our Living Hope

4 – God's Shield Of Protection

5 – The Fallacy Of Modern Faith

6 – Your Trust Will Be Tested

7 – Privacy Issues

8 – Submission And Authority

9 – Postmodern Christianity

10 – Prepare Your Mind For Action

11 – When Doing Good Becomes Doing Evil

12 – The War Against Your Soul

13 – Judgment Comes To The Church

14 – Suffering Through Sickness

15 – Appeal To Elders

16 – Diabolos On The Prowl

17 – Coming Abuse

18 – In Need Of Eye Salve






The 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. 


Peter 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.


The general consensus among conservative scholars seems to be that Peter wrote his first letter in Rome, around 61 to 64 A. D., during a period when the Roman Emperor Nero violently persecuted Christians in that city.  Christian tradition states that Peter was executed around 68 A D.  We should know that Peter wrote his letters under a daily threat of persecution, imprisonment, and even execution, as did many of his readers.  So, what Peter says is significant for those who are attempting to live in an anti-Christ culture.   


A 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 anti-Christ culture.   



1 - Peter Praises God 


In 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.


I've 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.    


The 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.       



2 - Our Co-Ed Culture


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 Ontario, Canada, where the Liberal party forms the government.  Three years ago they introduced a new sex curriculum into parliament for our schools.  Starting in grade 1, children would learn the true facts about sexuality.  In part, this was to help prevent the bullying of children who view themselves as being neither male nor female in the traditional sense.  The legislation was shelved due to the outcry from conservatives. 


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 culture.  


3 - A Living Hope


My 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.       


1 Peter 1:3 says, "In His great mercy Jesus has given us new birth into a living hope …"  Picture 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.


The 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.    


Those 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.    


4 - God's Shield Of Protection


1 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 last day". 


Again, 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 situation? 


The 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.    


We 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. 



5 - The Fallacy Of Modern Faith


Generally 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.         


With 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.    


I 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.


Hebrews 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.     


What 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.


Faith 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. 


The 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 educating them.    


Unless 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.   



6 - Trust Will Be Tested


In 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. 


The 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) 


If 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.   


Some 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.


The 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.  "O Nebuchadnezzar … 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. 


The 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.  



7 - Privacy Issues


He 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.  


While 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".   


She 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". 


Our 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. 


I 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.             


 8 -Submission To Authority


Talking 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 room.    


With this in mind Peter tells you, "Submit yourself for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to kings … governors … who are sent by Him to punish them who do wrong …" (1Peter 2:13)  Submitting to the very government who is out to execute you might be hard to handle. 


The 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?       


Both 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.     


The 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.  


The 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.


Peter's 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.    



9 – Postmodern Christianity


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 societies.    


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 society. 


Postmodernism has 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 education.       


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.   



10 – Prepare Your Mind For Action


I 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 Peter 3:15)  


Inspired 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 cultural conflict.  



11 – When Doing Good Becomes Doing Evil


The 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.   


In 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". 


Our 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.


Part 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 4:15)  


There 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 Peter 2:21)  


None 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.   



12 – The War Against Our Souls


"Dear 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?        


Imagine 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 and the Roman Empire , he'd choose the empire over you in a heartbeat.  To prevent his prestigious world from plummeting down to the ground, he'd drive you down into the ground before you could say "praise the Lord".


So, 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.   


Christians 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) 


There 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.   


Jesus 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 Hollywood style good life.  In some cases that has worked.  For those of us who are resisting, what comes next is the pressure of unjust persecution.  It has already begun.  It's amazing to me that the Christian life that was once so celebrated in the western world has now become so distasteful.  It's also amazing that there are so many Christians that just don't see this.  If you're not feeling the war against your soul yet, hang in a while.  Your day is coming. 



13 – Judgment Comes To The Church


"Dear 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 family?  


Peter 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.


During 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.  


I 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 Israel by allowing Babylon to overthrow her.  He then judged Babylon for her treatment of Israel by allowing the Medes and Persians to overthrow her.       


It's 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. 


From 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.    


I 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".     


How 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 His mouth.       


We 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 doesn’t 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)



14 – Suffering Through Sickness


The 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.    


One 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. 


The 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. 


The 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 word "punishes". 


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.


The 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)   


The 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.    


I 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. 


It's 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. 



15 – An Appeal To Elders  


Some 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.  


The 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 guard". 


In 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.


In 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.    


What 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 day.


So 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.        


What 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.   


I 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 Jerusalem church.  I also understand that the apostle John, some thirty years after Peter wrote his first letter, "might have been" a lead elder in Ephesus .  These somewhat speculative arguments haven't caused me to rethink my position.   


I 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.    


I 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.        


This 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. 


Many 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 China .  It's better to think of these things now before we get entangled in the conflict.  I suggest we take Peter seriously when he tells us to "prepare our minds for action". (1 Peter 1:13)  We've got some heavy duty action coming our way, but be encouraged, for as painful as it might be, the revival and purification of the saints we see in places like China will be seen in and among us. History has proven that to be true.     



16 – Diabolos On The Prowl


"Be self controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour". (1Peter 5:9)


The 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 throws".  "Diabolos" portrays the devil as one who throws things across our path. 


The 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 2:3)      


As 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.   


The 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. 


The 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. (Revelation 6:1)


As 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)      



17 –  Coming Abuse


"They 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.  


The 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.   


One 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 thought.  


It's 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 Jesus Christ.



19  -  In Need Of Eye Salve


This 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.

If 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

You can also listen to my audio version at:   http://stevesweetman.com/1peteraudio/1peteraudio.htm
If you've missed any of the previous sections to this series you can find them at;


Peter, 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.


In 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".     


When thinking of the end of all things being near, I refer you to the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14 – 22.  Many of us believe this church is prophetic of an apostate church existing at the end of this age.  This church boasted of its wealth and self sufficiency.  It was so self sufficient it had no need for Jesus.  We actually see Jesus standing outside this church looking in.    


Jesus 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?


Throughout 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.        


In 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.   


We're 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.


I 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. 


The 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.   





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