Live As the Redeemed (1 Peter 1:17-21)

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you have been redeemed. That’s a biblical word that means “bought with a price.” In ancient times, redemption meant paying off a debt or buying a slave’s freedom. The price could be expensive, usually a lot of silver or gold. But the cost of redeeming our souls was infinitely higher. Only one thing could pay the astronomical debt of our offenses against God. Only one thing could buy our freedom from slavery to sin. Only the precious blood of God’s own Son Jesus Christ could redeem you and me. An old hymn asks, “What can wash away my sin? What can make me whole again?” It answers: “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” It is only by trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we become the redeemed of God, bought back from the pointless (“aimless”), hopeless life that we live before we know the Lord.

When we remember the precious blood our Jesus shed for us, then Peter’s challenge in today’s passage for us to live “in fear” during this life makes sense. Once we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice for us, we no longer fear God as our Judge and Executioner, but we fear Him as children respect their loving Father. We think about our Father killing His Own Son that we might live and become His adopted sons and daughters. Wow! Our only response to that kind of love can be to bow our knees in humility before that Father, knowing that He deserves our love and worship and obedience. 

The Text (1 Peter 1:17-21)

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Background and Observations

• Most ancient religions had animal or blood sacrifices, and some cultures like the Canaanites, Maya, and Aztecs had human sacrifices. Mankind has always intuitively understood the biblical concept that “without shedding of blood there can be no remission (forgiveness of sin)” (Hebrews 9:22). Unfortunately, these false religions did not point people to the only saving sacrifice, which happened when God offered up His Son Jesus on the cross. Only Jesus was the “spotless” or perfectly sinless Lamb who had the power to pay the penalty for our sins.

• According to verse 20, God planned to send Jesus to die for our sins even before He created the world. God obviously knew that mankind would rebel in the Garden of Eden and need salvation. Yet Adam and Eve were still guilty of their sin and made a real choice to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. God does not require us to understand how His control and planning works together with our choices. He simply calls us to trust and obey the commands that He has revealed to us in His Word.

Questions to Think About

1. Have you ever taken communion / the Lord’s Supper? What did you think about the last time you took or watched communion? Every time the church eats the bread and drinks the “fruit of the vine” (probably grape juice for most of us), it is supposed to help us remember again the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. But you can think about Jesus’ blood that was shed for you at other times, too. We can actually never spend too much time thinking about the precious blood of Christ!

2. If you have accepted Christ, how can thinking about God as your Father rather than your Judge affect how you live?

3. If you have accepted Christ, in what ways was your life “aimless” before you became a Christian?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Be Holy Like Our God (1 Peter 1:13-16)

God is holy. He is perfect, totally without sin. God’s home, heaven, is a holy place. It is made for holy people. The apostle John saw this great truth when God showed him the visions of the end times and eternity that became the book of Revelation. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city,” John wrote. “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:14-15). Our sin, which we all have, makes us unholy and disqualifies us from a place with God in His heaven. When that reality truly sinks into your soul, you tremble in fear and cry out for God to give you mercy and spare you from the judgment that you know you deserve. And because God is also love (1 John 4:8), He promises to save all those who turn to Him in honest confession and repentance; “”for whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

The paragraph you just read describes what happens in a person’s understanding when he or she “gets saved.” As today’s passage shows us, when people truly come to Christ by faith, their lives change. They now hate their sinful ways and thoughts because they have met and now love the Lord, He who is holy and cannot look upon sin. To chase after God is to chase after holiness. If you are not pursuing holiness, then you are not pursuing God. This pursuit is a humble, daily, life-long quest to be like our Lord. We cannot do it in our own strength, but God does not expect us to. We need His power, and He gives it to us when we humbly ask for it. Once you first turn to Jesus Christ in faith, you now have the Holy Spirit living inside you, empowering you to abandon sin and live like Jesus. It is our job to make ourselves available to God by setting our minds on pursing holiness each day through time in His Word and prayer. It is God’s job to use His Spirit in us to transform us into the image of His Son. We won’t ever reach perfection until the Lord calls us home, but we are supposed to keep striving after it. As Jesus said, His disciples must seek to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

The Text (1 Peter 1:13-16)

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Background and Observations

• The holiness that God calls Christians to goes way beyond outer obedience. When we read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we see that Jesus always emphasized that the pursuit of holiness begins with an inner purity of our hearts. You may never have murdered someone, for example, but your hatred, sinful anger, or jealousy toward another person makes you guilty of breaking the sixth commandment in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:21-22). The Sermon on the Mount and similar passages are intended to break our pride and self-sufficiency so that God can then build us up through His grace.

• The pursuit of holiness begins by “girding up the loins of our minds,” which means firmly setting our minds on the hope we have in Jesus Christ. That’s why we need to read the Bible every day. We need to keep letting God’s Word show us our sinful hearts and our need for God’s mercy and love. We need to keep letting Scripture shape our thoughts rather than our sinful desires and the sinful messages of the world. Our minds control our words and actions. “For as he [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). 

Questions to Think About

1. Do you care about being holy and really chasing after God? If you don’t, today’s devotion should warn you that you are in spiritual danger. Last spring, we brought the message of today’s devotion to our class of 2023, and a bunch of students realized that they didn’t care very much about holiness and that God had a big problem with that. And a bunch of students got saved (31, to be specific). We’ve brought this same message to the class of 2024 since the first day of school, and a bunch of students have gotten saved (33 and counting, to be specific!). My prayer is that if you aren’t following Christ right now, God will get ahold of your heart this year, too.

2. How are you doing with your personal time in God’s Word? Have you ever recognized the connection between your time in God’s Word and your struggle to be holy? D.L. Moody, a famous evangelist from the 19th century, once said, “Sin will keep you from this Book [the Bible] or this Book will keep you from sin.” My prayer is that you will see your battle against sin the way that God does, as a life and death struggle. The call to holiness should motivate us all to stay in the Word and on our knees.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Never Get Over the Gospel! (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Attending or teaching in a Christian school is an incredible spiritual blessing, but it can also put us in incredible spiritual danger. The Christian school environment exposes us to the gospel of Jesus Christ every day. We can freely study and discuss the Bible and Jesus in any class, in the hallways, on the ball field and the court, and in the cafeteria. We can begin every class in prayer. We can gather together for gospel conversations and prayer at lunch or recess. Every week, we get to worship through singing and hearing the Word of God preached in chapel. All of these and more are spiritual blessings that very few Americans are privileged enough to enjoy. Reasons like these are why I believe strongly enough in Christian schooling that I have committed my career and life’s work to it. I firmly believe that Christian schooling and homeschooling are the last, best chances that we have to preserve a remnant of real Christianity in this increasingly godless nation.

But today’s passage reminds us that we must be careful not to take these blessings for granted and become bored with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, the gospel message is simple enough that a child can understand it: (1) We are sinners separated from a holy God by our sins, (2) Our sin made us guilty of God’s judgment and wrath, (3) But God gave us His Own Son Jesus to provide a way of escape and salvation, so that (4) Everyone who trusts in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can receive the free gift of eternal life. But in another sense, there is a bottomless depth to the gospel message that we should never get over. The prophets of the Old Testament searched their own writings to see who this Christ would be and when He would come. The apostles, preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit, look backed to the miracle of God coming in the flesh to suffer and die for them and never ceased to be amazed that such a thing could happen. Even the angels in heaven, who never sinned and never needed to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, marvel still at the glory of God’s plan of salvation. If the apostle Paul after years of Christian life and service could write that he still desired to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,” how much more should we still search out the wonder of the gospel? Let us never get over the miracle of our salvation. We will spend all eternity praising God for it!

The Text (1 Peter 1:10-12)

10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

Background and Observations

• All of God’s saints from the beginning of time have looked to Jesus as their Savior. In the Old Testament, God’s people looked forward to the Redeemer promised them in Genesis 3:15 right after the Fall. Now that Christ has come, God’s people look back to the cross for our salvation. Abel and Abraham and Moses and David are all in heaven right now worshipping the same Jesus as Peter and Paul and John and all of Christ’s true church here on earth.

• Redemption is possible for men and women, but not for angels. The fallen angels who rebelled against God were condemned to eternal judgment and cannot be saved by Christ’s blood. The angels who did not fall do not need to be saved. Surely these servants of our God are amazed that Adam’s fallen race could be brought back from death to life by faith in Christ’s sacrifice.

Questions to Think About

1. When was the last time that you shared the gospel with someone? That you prayed for someone to be saved? Intentional evangelism will fan afresh your love for Christ and others.

2. When was the last time that you thanked God for your own salvation? Have you ever thought about what your life would be like without Christ? Sometimes we need to stop and be amazed again at God’s grace in our lives.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Faith Through the Fire (1 Peter 1:6-9)

Can Christians experience joy and grief at the same time? Is there a purpose to the trials that you are facing right now? God answers both of these questions with a mighty “yes” in today’s passage. We do not always understand what the Father is doing and why. But in the hard times, His desire and plan for us is always that we look to Jesus and live.

We may not be facing the same sorrows and sufferings as the early church. I don’t know what makes your heart heavy right now. I don’t know what troubles or hardships you are facing in school, on your team, or at home. But God knows, and He has a purpose for your pain. Like the believers who first read this New Testament letter, we rejoice even when we grieve and struggle because our God is refining us for His heaven. Through the burdens and trials, we can rejoice because we know our Lord is purifying our faith. In the midst of the spiritual furnace, we cling tighter still to Jesus. Our love for sin and the things of this world burns off like dross away from the gold. We have not seen Jesus in the flesh, yet through faith we see and love our Savior more each day. As Hebrews 12:1-2, reminds us, we “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” so that we may “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

The Text (1 Peter 1:6-9)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Background and Observations

• In the original Greek in which 1 Peter was written, the root word for “trials” in verse 6 is actually the same as the root for “tested” in verse 7. The idea is that our faith as Christians is tested by tests just like the purity of gold is tested by fire. The trials or tests that God allows us to face will remove the spiritual junk from our lives and show us that our faith in Christ is real.

• The “salvation of your souls” (verse 9) that comes by your faith in Christ has past, present, and future meanings. You “were saved” when you first trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, meaning that you were “justified” or made right in God’s eyes. All the sins you ever committed or will commit were totally forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. But now as you grow in faith and godliness, you are “being saved” or “sanctified” (made holy) more each day. When God finally calls you home to heaven, you “will be saved” or “glorified” as He finishes your salvation forever, destroying the last of the sin that remains in you.

• Our salvation through faith brings glory to God. We rejoice in the middle of our trials not just because of the spiritual growth they bring, but because God is honored when we praise Him even when life is hard. It shows the world that we don’t just love God for the earthly blessings He gives us. We love God because of who He is: all powerful, all wise, and all good. He gave us Jesus, His only Son, and He is greater than anything else this world can offer.

Questions to Think About

1. What are your griefs and trials right now? How does today’s Scripture encourage you in the middle of your suffering?

2. Is there any “dross” or junk in your life that God might be trying to burn off of you right now? Confession or acknowledgement of our sin is a good thing. However, God wants us to move on from confession to “repentance,” or change. Repentance is hating our sin the way that God does, loving Him and His ways more than our sin, and then turning away from our sin to live for Him. Repentance can be hard, but it is God’s way for us to grow in holiness to be more like Him. Repentance brings joy as we learn to walk in the new life that God has given us through Christ.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Parable of the Father’s Love (Luke 15:11-32)

Yesterday we heard a fantastic chapel message from Pastor Jurls about the story of the prodigal (runaway) son. But as we learned during the sermon, this parable is not really about the younger son who ran away. Neither is it about the older son who stayed behind. The real point of the story is the love and grace of the Father for His children. Read it again and think about what Jesus is saying to you.

The Text (Luke 15:11-32)

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

Questions to Think About

1. Have you ever felt like the younger son in this story? What is God’s message to us when we feel like the younger son?

2. Have you ever felt like the older son? What is God’s message to the older sons?

3. Have you ever felt like the father in the story? What do you think this story might say to the fathers waiting for their children to find the love and grace of God?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel