Peter walked with Jesus for more than three years. He observed firsthand the greatest example of being completely set apart to God yet still gaining entrance into the lives of others because of a loving, caring attitude.
Peter also observed how loving, compassionate Jesus responded when misunderstood, attacked, persecuted and ultimately killed.
In this letter, Peter spoke much about persecution. Soon afterward he and other Christians would endure horrible persecution in the final years of Nero’s reign. Peter would later be arrested and ultimately crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero. He was crucified upside down at his own request declaring he was unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.
1 Peter could be called the Job of the New Testament bringing instruction about how we should be strengthened in times of suffering. Believers are encouraged to continue to live well even in painful and seemingly unbearable times. Peter clearly taught that this was the kind of true perseverance God expects from His people.
How do you react when suffering comes? Many crumble at the mere thought of another pain or trial. Others rise to the occasion. Most of us are probably somewhere in between. Peter’s encouragement is perseverance in faith. We are called by God to find strength in the struggle and fight forward while walking in holiness and hope. We carry an eternal perspective this is superior to the temporary nature of problems we face.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. NIV
God calls us to stand in His light while being surrounded by darkness. The darker it gets the brighter we shine if we know who we are, guard our hearts and remain true to His example.
1 Pet 2:21-23 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. NIV
Our 2017 New Year’s Revelation has been LOVE IS MY SOURCE. Love truly is the force God wants to use to define who we are. Love is patient and love is kind. We can be patient and we can be kind even when others are not. Just because somebody doesn’t like you doesn’t mean you have to react with the same hateful attitude. If you do then you’re giving them the power to define who you are. Unless you learn to suffer correctly you will constantly give that power to others over and over!
1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. NIV
The context of this inherited blessing is when you’re being attacked. We all know God can bless us but what most people never realize is that God even uses our enemies to do so.
That friend that betrayed you, coworker trying to make you look bad, person that walked away from you – It’s all part of God’s plan to get you where you’re supposed to be!
We would only know David as a shepherd boy if it weren’t for Goliath. God could have moved on King Saul’s heart to promote David but instead demonstrated for all to see – God blessed David not through friends but through his enemy!
This is why we don’t have to do things to try to make people like us hoping for favors. God can use our critics – He’s God!
STOP LETTING GOLIATH DISCOURAGE YOU! He's not there to defeat you. He's there to promote you.
If you’ve ever restricted a water hose then you know what it does under pressure. Water will begin to shoot everywhere when pressure is applied. When the enemy puts you under pressure you will go further than you ever thought you could go.
There is more in you than you realize! God knows it because He put it there! Don’t grow discouraged! Don’t give up! Gathering to worship helps us live lives that are inspired by God.
You will never be person you can be if pressure, tension & discipline are taken out of your life.
Phil 3:10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him… (AMP)
If our ultimate purpose is to progressively become more intimately acquainted with Jesus then everything happening in our lives becomes a tool to make that happen if we see it correctly.
GP4RL: Focus on Phil 3:10 every day this week.
The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. Don't waste your suffering!
DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR COMMUNITY GROUP LEADERS
1. Share a time when you devoted yourself to accomplishing something substantial or acquiring something expensive.
God has called us to follow the example of Jesus as we live our lives beyond the pursuit of convenience. This requires us to submit to the nature of God allowing the love and the life of Jesus be the demonstration of our lives.
2. If someone who wasn’t a Christian asked you to characterize the Christian life, how would you answer?
3. What does the way most Christians act really communicate about what characterizes the Christian life? In what ways does the world characterize the Christian life?
1 Peter 1:21-22 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. NIV
4. Have you ever had someone befriend you, only to get something from you? In what ways did that relationship hinder sincere love?
5. In 1 Pet 3:8 Peter lists five key qualities every Christian should have. Read this together and name these five characteristics.
6. Peter quoted a passage from Isaiah 40:6-8 that talks about the temporal state of our world compared to the lasting Word of God. What about your life has lasting value?
We are never more like Jesus than when we do something for someone who cannot pay us back. Find someone who you can show love to this week with no strings attached.
MESSAGE BIBLE INTRODUCTIONS:
1 & 2 PETER
Peter's concise confession - "You are the Messiah, the Christ" - focused the faith of the disciples on Jesus as God among us, in person, carrying out the eternal work of salvation. Peter seems to have been a natural leader, commanding the respect of his peers by sheer force of personality. In every listing of Jesus' disciples, Peter's name is invariably first.
In the early church, his influence was enormous and acknowledged by all. By virtue of his position, he was easily the most powerful figure in the Christian community. And his energetic preaching, ardent prayer, bold healing, and wise direction confirmed the trust placed in him.
The way Peter handled himself in that position of power is even more impressive than the power itself. He stayed out of the center, didn't "wield" power, maintained a scrupulous subordination to Jesus. Given his charismatic personality and well-deserved position at the head, he could easily have taken over, using the prominence of his association with Jesus to promote himself. That he didn't do it, given the frequency with which spiritual leaders do exactly that, is impressive. Peter is a breath of fresh air.
The two letters Peter wrote exhibit the qualities of Jesus that the Holy Spirit shaped in him: a readiness to embrace suffering rather than prestige, a wisdom developed from experience and not imposed from a book, a humility that lacked nothing in vigor or imagination. From what we know of the early stories of Peter, he had in him all the makings of a bully. That he didn't become a bully (and religious bullies are the worst kind) but rather the boldly confident and humbly self-effacing servant of Jesus Christ that we discern in these letters, is a compelling witness to what he himself describes as "a brand-new life, with everything to live for.
1 Peter: Who wrote the book?
The first word of this epistle, Peter, identifies the author, who called himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1). He wrote this letter to a group of Christians scattered throughout the northern areas of Asia Minor, where he may have previously preached the gospel.
Peter wrote to a group of people that probably included both Jews and Gentiles. The apostle addressed the letter’s recipients as “aliens” (1:1), a word indicating that Peter was speaking not just to Jews or just to Gentiles but to Christians who were living their lives in such a way that they would have stood out as aliens among the surrounding culture.
Where are we?
In this letter, Peter spoke much about persecution, which anticipated the persecution he and other Christians would endure in the final years of Nero’s reign. At the time he wrote, Peter had not yet been arrested, an event that would lead to his martyrdom around AD 66–68. First Peter 5:13 indicates that Peter sent greetings from the local church—calling it “Babylon”—but it’s most likely that the apostle was writing in a common metaphor there. He used the name of the ancient Mesopotamian city as a stand-in for Rome, the modern city that, like Babylon, gave itself over to idol worship and false gods. While the fact is not recorded in the Bible, Peter has long been thought to have spent his final years serving the church in Rome. Based on the numerous references to suffering and persecution in this letter, Peter likely wrote in AD 64, just as the persecution of Christians under Nero was ramping up.
Why is First Peter so important?
First Peter focuses on the importance of believers bearing up under unjust suffering yet continuing to live well (1 Peter 2:20). In this way, 1 Peter might be called the Job of the New Testament, providing encouragement for the true believer to continue on in the way that Jesus has laid out for all His followers. The endurance Peter called these believers to is similar to Job’s, a man who suffered despite his righteousness. Peter maintained that this was the kind of true perseverance that God expects from His people.
What's the big idea?
Living in close proximity to Jesus Christ for more than three years had provided the apostle Peter the best possible example of what it looked like to live in holiness amid a hostile world. More than any other man who walked the earth, Jesus modeled that lifestyle. Peter therefore pointed his readers in the best possible direction, to Jesus Himself. The apostle called Christians to “sanctify Christ as Lord” in their hearts, that believers might live and act as Jesus desires during their short time here on earth (1 Peter 3:14–18). This would include submission to authority—even unjust authority—in the government, in the home, and in the workplace. Jesus becomes the focal point for ordering one’s life in the midst of trials and tribulations. By rooting their perseverance in the person and work of Christ, believers can always cling to hope in the midst of suffering.
How do I apply this?
Unjust or unforeseen suffering is one of the great problems that grips the hearts of people today. We struggle with frustration, anger, and uncertainty when trials strange and unexpected land on our doorsteps. Too often in those most difficult moments of our lives, confusion reigns while contentment wanes; questions arise while prayer subsides.
How do you react when suffering comes? Many crumble at the mere thought of another pain or trial. Others rise to the occasion. Most of us are probably somewhere in between. Peter’s encouragement to his Christian readers is one of perseverance in faith. It isn’t enough for us to simply get up every morning and trudge through each day; neither is it advisable to paste a smile on our faces and ignore troubles. Instead, the lesson of 1 Peter is to push through the troubles, recognizing their temporary presence in our lives while walking in holiness and hope as people of faith.
So press on! It is in the darkest times that our collective light shines brightest.