The Mark Of A True Believer

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I was super excited when I found out that we were going to be studying 1 & 2 Peter together because my hubby just finished preaching through 1 Peter. Since I have a poor memory I am hopeful that this  study will cement into my brain the things I have learned. So let’s dig in, shall we?

What is the the outward sign of a changed heart? What is the true mark of a Christian? Is it passion? A wealth of knowledge? Social action or political involvement? Is it generosity?  While all of these things are good things, they are not the defining marks of a true believer.

Peter teaches us what this mark really is.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
1 Peter 1:22-23

Love! This is the mark of a true believer.

Love - Augustine

Peter knows this is the proof of a changed heart because he heard Jesus say this very thing.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (emphasis added)

So what does it mean to love someone? I think to best understand this we need to first look at the opposite of love which is hate.

Now most of us would say that we are not hateful people. Hate is such a strong word I don’t even like my children using it.  On the surface hate is not something that I feel that I struggle with.  But the painful truth is, I am wrong – and you may be too.

Here are a few characteristics of hate:

  • speaking ill of someone (slander and gossip)
  • not seeking their good
  • wishing harm or misfortune on someone
  • finding secret pleasure when things don’t go well for another
  • unjust anger
  • refusing to forgive
  • ignoring someone
  • indifference toward another’s circumstance

Are any of these found in your life? Ugh, some of these are alive and well in my own heart. And these are not just the rumblings of frustration in a fallen world. They are manifestations of hatred.

“Hate is often more subtle than wrath, and quieter than rage.” – Joe Thorn

Love

Love should be what governs everything we do and say. It is what pushes us to know and obey God’s word and it is the driving force behind us doing good to the people around us. I could give you a succinct definition of love, but that is too easy. I find it even more helpful to answer the question, “What is love?” by looking at 1Cor. 13.

Love is:

  • Patient with others
  • Kind to all
  • It does not want what it doesn’t have
  • It doesn’t brag or think itself superior to others
  • It is not rude
  • It is not irritable
  • It isn’t resentful
  • It does not rejoice at other’s misfortunes or wrongs done to them

Love:

  • Rejoices and pursues truth
  • Bears all things (or puts up with anything)
  • Always believes the best
  • Endures all things
  • Believes God

Peter tells us that these are the virtues that ooze out of loving hearts and into the lives of others. But I get overwhelmed looking at those lists. I am overwhelmed, and sometimes discouraged, because of the hateful ways I see in myself. I don’t love the way I should. I want to, but I fail.

Don’t be discouraged, because this is where the good news of the Gospel speaks words of encouragement and hope to us. Christ not only loves us, but he loved perfectly for us and died for our selfishness and less than perfect love towards others. And through his love we have been gifted with power to change, to love more deeply and to put ourselves last.

We must continue to work at loving others and killing selfishness, not to gain favor with God, but to work out our salvation and to show others that we are new creatures in Christ. But such work is the work of faith, and is ever-dependent on Jesus.

What are some things that we can actually do to practice love?

Here are a few thoughts.

  • Become a good listener; otherwise you won’t know what someone needs, how to pray for, or care for them.
  • Ask forgiveness without explanation or excuses
  • Be generous
  • Include others into your circle of friends, small groups, and Bible studies
  • Put people before your own interests
  • Be willing to sacrifice for others
  • Tell the truth with kindness and wisdom
  • Encourage with the gospel
  • Pray for them

Loving others is not easy. As a matter a fact it is one of the hardest things to do. Sure, loving our friends doesn’t seem to be too hard, but what about the person who is always annoying? The one who knows how to push our buttons? The one who doesn’t care? The one who is malicious? The one who takes us for granted? The family members who are difficult? The strangers who inconvenience us? Or even our fellow Christians who believe differently?

In order to love well we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfector of our love and the example of how to love well.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

Chime in:

What is the hardest part about loving others? And who in your life has shown you the greatest example of love?

 

An Introduction to 1 & 2 Peter

Love God Greatly- Peter Study

I am really looking forward to this new study through 1 & 2 Peter, and am excited that you have decided to join us!

Here is a little background on Peter and the amazing transformation God did in his life.

Originally Peter’s name was Simon, but Jesus changed it to “Cephas” which translated means Peter (Rock) (Jn 1:42).  He was from the city of Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44) and a fisherman by trade (Matt. 4:18).

Peter The Fisherman

Certain jobs attract certain personalities, and this seemed to be true of the fishermen in the 1st century. These guys were manly men, a bit gruff, often unkempt, and known for their use of vulgar language. Being a fisherman was not for the weak or the faint of heart. This job was very physically demanding and could be dangerous and scary if a storm caught you off guard. Fishermen were known for their loud personalities and maybe this is why Peter’s business partners (Lk. 5:10), James and John, were referred to as the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17).

But Jesus is powerful. When he called Peter, Peter was willing to walk away from all of it.

Peter’s Family

We read in Matthew that Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14). This tells us he was a married man.  What I find to be so neat is that his wife accompanied him on some of his missionary journeys (1 Cor. 9:5). We don’t know her name or anything else about her, but I’m looking forward to chatting with her when we meet in heaven.

Peter’s New Life

Peter’s life with Christ became radically different. While Jesus loved all of his disciples, he had a special connection with the three rough fishermen: Peter, James, and John.  They were the only three who saw Jesus raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37), and they were the only three who saw the shekinah glory at the transfiguration (Matt. 17). Peter and John were the ones tasked with preparing the last meal Jesus would have with his disciples (Lk. 22:8), and it was Peter who experienced walking on water (Matt. 14:28-29).

On the outside Peter may have seemed like this awesome Christian. He was passionate, zealous, and bold. He was the first to recognize Jesus for who he really was, namely, the Son of God (Matt 16:16-17). He was called the “Rock,” after all.

But if you could have seen what he was like on the inside you who have seen a man who struggled with fear, doubt, and other weaknesses. We catch glimpses of this throughout the gospels. Peter’s fear caused him to deny Jesus three times (Matt. 26:33, 70-74), and his weakness resulted in him falling asleep multiples times when Jesus asked him to pray.

Peter went through a lot before he became this pillar of a Christian (Gal. 2:9) that we think of when we hear his name.

He struggled, was remolded by Jesus, and filled with grace.

Peter is one of the easiest Apostles for us to connect with because he did not have it all together. He knew what it felt like to fail, to be down and to have questions. He messed up, stuck his foot in his mouth (Matt. 16:22,23), and acted rashly (Jn 18:10). Peter experienced persecution, imprisonment, and torture. But he also knew how to rejoice in the midst of these trying and difficult circumstances (Acts 5:41).

Peter’s Writings

In 1 and 2 Peter he writes to encourages us in our faith during the hard times we face. He specifically wrote to Christians who were experiencing persecution and alienation, even in their own hometowns, because of their faith.  He talks to us about faith, obedience, and patience when life is hard. He shows us that through Christ we can stand up under anything.

Through his love and power Christ transformed this once prideful and boisterous man into an obedient, faith filled, humble servant of the church. Jesus predicted that Peter would be crucified for his faith (Jn. 21:18-19). Tradition says that when the time came Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified like his Lord and Savior, but there is no scriptural or historical proof of this.

While transformation is never easy, it is possible. It is possible through the power of Christ at work in us, just as Christ worked amazingly in the life of Peter. Through Peter we see that Christ can forgive unfaithfulness and overcome any weaknesses.  We, too, can become Christians anchored in Christ, strong in our suffering, and passionate in our faith.

The letters of Peter will encourage us in this quest.

Looking forward to starting our new study with you TOMORROW!

 

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

 

 

Join us…TOMORROW!!!
Peter

Are You Willing To Tell Others?

LoveGodGreatly

 

Are you familiar with Penn & Teller? They are two men who have been around for many years putting on magic shows. Penn Jillette is an outspoken atheist. After one of his shows a businessman came up to him and spoke very kindly about his show. He then told him that he had a Bible that he would like to give him. Penn was impressed with the fact that this man looked him straight in the eyes, was sincere in his words and not embarrassed to hand him that little Bible.  Later on Penn reflected on the incident in a youtube video and said this:

“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe there is a heaven and hell and that people could be going to hell … and you don’t think it ‘s worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward – then how much do you have to hate someone to not proselytize them? How much to do have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

In Matthew 28 we are charged to go out into all the world and make disciples. We are to take the good news which we have heard and received and share it with those who are still lost. For some that may means becoming  missionaries in some remote place on earth, but for most of us that means being a light to the community around us and sharing the good news of Christ crucified in the towns and neighborhood we live in right now. Penn is right, if we are not willing to share our message with others what does that say about our love for them?

Our Message

The message we are to share is really the same message we need to hear ourselves, right? Jesus died for sinners so we could be free! Free of the condemnation of sin, free of the power of sin and, someday, free of the presence of sin.

Sin is a curse on all of us, but there is salvation to be found through Jesus our substitute and our advocate. This is our good news!

Our Method

Have you heard the expression, “preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words”? It has been attributed to Francis of Assisi, but he actually never said it. It is not found in any of his writings, nor do his disciples or biographers attribute these words to him.

I understand the sentiment of that saying. Basically our lives should point to Jesus in such a way that we shouldn’t need to use words. But this it is only partially true. Yes we are called to be a light among a dark people and others should see that there is something different about us by looking at the way we live and the things we say.  But the gospel message is a verbal message.

Jesus spent a lot of time preaching and teaching. All of his miracles were accompanied by words. He is called “the Word” (John 1). And Paul reminds us in Romans 10:14 that a person cannot come to find salvation apart from hearing the word.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

Personally I wish words were not necessary. I feel uncomfortable around people unless they are my good friends. The thought of going up to a stranger and starting a conversation about their need for salvation gives me anxiety. Thankfully that is not the only way to preach the word. A more effective way to share our love for Jesus is through relationships. But these friendships need to be genuine and truthful. People can tell if they are truly loved or if they are simply a project.

Our Confidence

I don’t feel like I am very good with words, especially not when I am face to face with someone. But that is okay. Our confidence should not be in our ability to explain the gospel perfectly (though we should always be working on that) or whether or not we have been persuasive enough.

Our confidence must be in God.

We must be faithful in obedience and then we must trust that the Spirit will use our words to work in the heart of the person we are speaking to as He sees fit. We must sow the seeds in love and let God work.

Remember that God is with us always! He has promised this to us and his immutability and truthfulness ensure that those promises are kept.

Make most of the relationships God places in your life. Live in such a way that will make others take notice and ask question, but also be willing to share the good news of Christ’s sacrifice with words.

Let’s be women who are not ashamed of the gospel but who are so in love with our Saviour that we cannot keep his beautiful message to ourselves.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

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{Announcing our upcoming spring study…1st & 2nd Peter!}

How, as followers of Christ, can we stand strong in a world filled with persecution, hardships, suffering, division and false-teaching?

God’s Word has the answers! The books of 1 & 2 Peter address these very issues – not only identifying them as real and present dangers – but also practically empowering and equipping weary believers to rise up, suffer well, and press on because of the hope that lives within us! Are you feeling the weight of the world? Have you endured suffering at length with no end in sight? Do you feel more and more like an alien in a foreign land?

Then find HOPE with us as we dive into {1 & 2 Peter}, our brand NEW #LoveGodGreatly 8-week online Bible study!

“As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones are being built up…” ~ 1 Peter 2:4-5

Don’t miss this opportunity to grow and be encouraged in your faith as we study God’s Word TOGETHER! Grab some friends and join us starting March 23rd… it wouldn’t be the same without YOU!

The End Is Near So What Should We Do?

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 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
I Peter 7-11

If you were told that the world was ending next week, how would you spend the next 7 days?

I think we would probably cancel all our appointments, not go to work, pull the kids out of school and spend time with our families. We would surround ourselves with the people we love most. Well, at least that is what I would want to do.

The passage for today is a strange little passage in that Peter begins it by saying “the end of all things is near.” While we don’t know when the end will come, it does come nearer every day, doesn’t it, and so we ought to ask, what should I be doing if the end is near?

Peter has the answer. He tells us to love one another earnestly (or deeply). We are to do that by showing hospitality and using our gifts to serve others. This is the part that goes against our nature. The end is near and we are to spend it serving and loving others? We tend to be a selfish people who think about self preservation and self care first. But Peters is telling us to go against our natural inclinations and to show hospitality.

To the persecuted

During the persecution of the early church many believers were left with nothing but their lives. Some had to flee their homes and even their countries. If fellow believers did not take them in and share generously with them they would have been destitute.

We are seeing a lot of awful and terrifying acts of persecution against Christians these days. We may not have some of these persecuted people knocking on our door, just yet, but we need to be ready in our minds to selflessly and joyfully come to the aid of those who have lost everything because of their faith. Persecutions doesn’t just come through extremist groups, but even family, bosses and friends can prosecute someone for their faith. Are we ready to step up and help?

To the neighbor

Hospitality means “love for stranger” and all of us are surrounded by strangers.  The people God places in our life are the people we are to love and serve. Whether it means having people into our home to share a meal or whether it means using our gifts to show love and compassion at a soup kitchen. There is no shortage of opportunities and people who need kind words, warms smiles and help.

Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and the wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed.
– Kevin DeYoung

To our fellow believers in Christ

We should make a special effort to love fellow Christians. These are our spiritual brothers and sisters, fellow heirs of the kingdom of God. If we are going to spend eternity together we should get to know one another. We can do this by hosting a Bible study or having people over for a potluck or game night. There are many ways in which we can build relationships and make people feel welcomed and loved.

This takes sacrifice. I’m not really thinking about physical things as much as I am thinking about time. We tend to be quite stingy with our time and it is hard for us to give up our evenings or weekends. If we don’t we will miss out on blessing others and being blessed. We should also trust that God will give us the rest that we need.

To our Family

Sadly this can be the hardest group of people for us to show hospitality to. Do your children love being at home and want to bring their friends over or would they rather be somewhere else?  Does your husband look forward to coming home after a long day at work or does he dread it a bit. How do we love our family? Do we do it grudgingly, with lots of sighs, internal feelings of annoyance and thoughts like “what about me”?

Here is something to think about. How much we love Jesus comes out in the way we care and treat others.

In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about the day of judgement where he will separate the sheep from the goats. And he says to the sheep,

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,”
Matthew 25:35

He calls himself a stranger in need of care and hospitality, but his followers are confused because they don’t remember seeing him in this way. He explains to them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40

Life is not about material belonging, life experiences or “me time”. It is about people. God is all about relationships and we should be too.

Freely you have received, freely give.
Matthew 10:8

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

Made For Love And Good Works

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A few days ago I felt blah and unmotivated. I was frustrated by all the imperfections I saw in my life.

The following day a friend of mine at church came up to me and started sharing about her week. We were experiencing the same feelings but instead of wallowing together in our misery she started sharing with me some scriptures she had been meditating on. We started brainstorming together about how we could get out of our funk and fight against the temptation to complain.

I had lost my focus and God sent this friend to me to help me take my eyes off of myself and place them back where they belonged, namely on Christ.

In our passage the author of Hebrews want us to get practical. We are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

First we need to figure out what he means by love and good works.

Love

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 22:37-39

Love is affectionate devotion. We are to have it for God first, and then others. Thankfully God doesn’t just issue a cold command. He shows us the way.

The best way to learn this kind of love is to look to Jesus. His love for us is selfless, it does not expect anything in return, it is kind and gentle, sacrificial and unconditional. This is how christians should love each other. We must cultivate real affection for each other and devotion for one another’s good. This is especially true for those who are in your church, community group,Bible studies, family and neighborhood. Love seeks, serves, and sacrifices in joy for what it reflects (the glory of God) and what it does (blesses another).

Love is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude (1 Cor. 13).  This love comes out in the way we talk to our friends, comment online and act towards those who hurt or frustrate us. If a friend shares an area of sin, then we must love them like Christ loves them and we must come alongside them and say, “what you are doing is sin, but I love you and am here to pray for you and help you in any way I can.” Love corrects. It saves the weak, it does not ignore or exploit them.

Good Works

Good works are actions and words that flow from faith and a heart that loves. The Apostle Paul talks about good works quite a bit and actually uses this phrase 6 times in the book of Titus alone.

Good works is how we obey God, imitate Jesus, honor fellow believers, care for our neighbors, and how we shine light into a godless society.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

The christian life is one shared with others and a large part of it is finding ways to inspire each other to follow Christ, practically, in love and good works.

Here are some practical ways we can stir each other up to love and good deed.

1. By getting to know fellow Christians

You are an important part of the body of Christ. You have been given talents and gifts that are to be used for the benefit of others. Getting to know people takes time but it will make your life so much more rich and it will enrich the life of others.

2. By sharing what you are learning

I am always so encouraged when I hear my fiends share what they are studying, learning and reading. It is sometimes the kick in the pants I need to get back to God’s word and other times it excites me to share with them the things that I am learning.

3. By Praying

Never underestimate the power of prayer. God uses it to work wondrous things in the lives of his people. It is easy to say “I will pray for you” and then forget all about it. It might be better to pray for someone first and then tell them that you did.  It is encouraging to know that someone has thought of you and prayed for you.

4. By example

Our lives should be such as men may safely copy. – C. H. Spurgeon

It means taking the high road, forgiving others when they sin against you (and they will), practicing hospitality and speaking kindly of others. It is handling disappointment in a godly way,  visiting someone in the hospital, taking a meal to someone, or babysitting for a worn out mom who desperately needs a date with her husband.

My friends, life is not to be lived alone. We will end up discouraged, worn out, weak and maybe even headed down a wrong path (sometimes without even realizing it). We need each other. We need to learn together and laugh together, we need encouragement and sometimes correction. We need to be loved by others and we need to be reminded of the ultimate love we have in Jesus.

Looking to Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

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