Reflections on 1 Peter

With our study of 1 Peter quickly coming to a close, we are taking a moment to reflect on what God did among us this Fall, both as individuals and as a church.

Next Sunday (11/24), we’re considering highlighting from the stage a few stories of how God used 1 Peter in the life of our church family this Fall. These might be shared live or recorded and played up on the screens as a way to close out the series and celebrate what God has been up to in our midst.

My question for you: do you have such a story? Think back on this Fall.

– Was your perspective shifted?

– Were you encouraged?

– Were you challenged?

– Did you adjust course in your walk with the Lord?

– Did you find your attitude transformed toward God or neighbor?

If you do have such a story, would you mind sharing with us by this Sunday (11/17) by sending Karen a quick note explaining how God used 1 Peter in your life this Fall? Even if you aren’t excited about sharing from the stage, there may be other ways to encourage one another with these stories… so please do send!


Hospitality: A Concrete Request

There were no questions texted in after this Sunday’s sermon (1 Pet. 4:7-11), but let me share one more thought regarding hospitality and then make a specific request.

When we invite people into a new relationship with Jesus, we are inviting them into a new relationship with sin as well – namely, that they will turn from their sin as they turn to Jesus. However, for some people, the leaving behind of sin is not a very simple process. The process can be particularly tricky to navigate when leaving behind sin requires leaving one’s place of residence.

For someone in this situation, the call to repentance can be a call to homelessness… unless the church intervenes.

What if we were a church in which many of us made our spare beds available temporarily for people in such situations? What if the young woman moving out from her boyfriend’s house, or the same-sex attracted man leaving behind a life of sin, was invited not only into the fullness of life in Christ but also into a loving community among Christians willing to provide a roof over their head for a time?

We are currently looking for members of our North Sub family who have space to show this sort of hospitality. Would you consider reaching out to me (Tim) if you would be willing to be added to a list of people we could contact in situations like the ones described above? If added to this list, you might receive requests to take someone in from anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on their circumstances.

I would love to be able to say to someone, “If you move out in obedience and faith, your North Sub family will find you a place to stay for awhile.” Thank you for considering this practical call to action in light of the command to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9).



Bonus Content from October 20th and 27th

See below for responses to sermon questions from the past two weeks.

 

October 20th – 1 Peter 3:8-22

You said there is no room for counterpunching in the Christian faith. Does that mean that acting in self-defense is off-limits for the Christian?

There is a difference between acting in self-defense and acting in vengeance. The attitude I described in the sermon is the latter: “you hit me, I’ll hit back harder. I’ll make you regret ever messing with me.” The Christian is called to leave vengeance in God’s hands (Rom. 12:19).

As for self-defense, the answer here may not be as obvious as it seems. When it comes to physical attacks, Jesus tells us how to respond, and it doesn’t involve self-defense (Mt. 5:38-39). This may become more biblically complicated when there are complicating factors involved. For example, when there is reason to believe that allowing someone to get away with hurting us will enable them to go on hurting others, we may act in defense of the vulnerable (Ex. 22:2-3). And just as slaves are called to avail themselves of freedom if the opportunity presents itself (1 Cor. 7:21), vulnerable people under attack do well to avail themselves of the opportunity to remove themselves from those situations.

When it comes to verbal attacks, which was the sort of attack pictured in our scripture text, Jesus sometimes spoke in his own defense (Mk. 3:22-30) and sometimes did not (Lk. 23:9). However, as our text reminds us, he never took vengeance into his own hands and never repaid evil for evil.

 

Counterpunching: so what is the proper technique in light of the Gospel to teach my preschooler being bullied, or an adult in an abusive situation?

For the adult in an abusive situation, based on the scriptural reasoning above, it is well within one’s rights to avail oneself of the opportunity to remove himself or herself from the abusive situation and get help. Our legal system provides that opportunity, and the pastors at North Sub can be a resource in helping navigate that process. What’s off limits (based on this passage) is for the abuse victim to be vindictive or seek vengeance for what has been done to him or her.

The preschooler being bullied lacks the developmental capacity to understand the nuances of how allowing bullying is likely to affect others (not just oneself). As such, we do well as parents to teach them concrete strategies – walking away instead of fighting back; using firm, clear words (“no; don’t push me”); finding a teacher to get help. Still, even at early ages, we can start to name the seeds of vengeance and payback that exist in our hearts, pointing them to a different way in Jesus.
 
 

October 27th – 1 Peter 4:1-6

Where does the Bible say that no one has or will reach a sinless life this side of Heaven?

1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Galatians 3:10 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them,’” the first part of which ceases to make sense if there is someone who does abide by all things written in the book of the law. See also 1 Kings 8:46, Proverbs 20:9, and Ecclesiastes 7:20.

 

I was taught from a young age that as newborn Christians, we are still imperfect and will still fall into sin, but that God will forgive us because we have Christ in our life. Is that correct, or did I get the wrong message?

That is correct, and we might even add to it that this is true not only of newborn Christians but of all Christians. “Because we have Christ in our life” is the part we need to be sure we understand rightly. God promises to forgive us not because we prayed a prayer accepting him into our hearts one time, but rather because we have turned from sin and turned to Christ as our Lord and Savior. That turn is accompanied by the replacement of our heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36) and a new status by which we are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:4).



Abuses of Complementarianism

On October 13th, I preached a sermon on 1 Peter 3:1-7 entitled “Marriage in Exile.” The theology underlying that sermon fell in line with the tradition called “complementarianism” to which myself, our church, and our denomination belong.

Complementarianism is the belief that, although men and women are equal before God in essence, value, worth, and dignity, there are distinctions in the roles that men and women are called to play in the home and in the church. This system is often contrasted with egalitarianism, the belief that equality in essence, value, worth, and dignity demands that any roles in the home or church that are available to men must also be available to women.

1 Peter 3:1-7 is a key text for the complementarian position with respect to Christian marriage, because:

  • It grounds role distinctions not in cultural distinctives of Peter’s day but rather in role models from the past whose example Peter wants his readers to follow, despite how uncommon that attitude may have been in his own day (see 3:5).
  • It demonstrates the compatibility of “distinction in roles” (3:1, 6) with “equality in essence” (3:7) by strongly advocating for both within the same passage.

However, the complementarian position has been misused over the centuries, and continues to be misused today. Specifically, Christian men have sometimes used complementarian prooftexts to subjugate, demean, and control women. This is precisely the opposite of how biblical complementarianism calls men to act. Just in 1 Peter 3:7, we see that men are supposed to act with understanding toward their wives, showing honor toward women. Any version of complementarianism that does not honor women and treat them with respect is no complementarianism at all; it is chauvinism.

Unfortunately, in the days following my sermon, the evangelical Christian world was scandalized by an example of just this sort of chauvinism. John MacArthur, a notable and well-respected pastor, was shown in a conference video relentlessly mocking evangelical speaker and author Beth Moore, to the raucous delight of his audience.

My heart has been in pain ever since hearing MacArthur’s ungodly words and the laughter that followed. The problem with his words wasn’t that he expressed disagreement with Moore’s recent practice of occasionally preaching Sunday morning sermons at churches. The problem was the caustic, dishonoring language he used toward a sister in the faith… all in the name of the very complementarianism that denounces such disrespect toward our sisters.

It has troubled me all week wondering, “Would members of our congregation have joined in the laughter if they were present?” Lord, may it never be so.

I don’t have any illusions that everyone at North Sub is 100% “bought in” to a complementarian reading of the Bible. If you are one of those who is on the fence about complementarianism, or who holds to a more egalitarian position, or who just hasn’t thought about it much, I want to make sure you hear this loud and clear: North Sub does not espouse the sort of “complementarianism” seen and heard from John MacArthur and his audience in that recording. In fact, it’s just that sort of behavior that our brand of complementarianism is dedicated to fighting against.

This past summer, my wife Sarah was invited to join the pastors at our former church (Creekside Community Church in Gainesville, Florida) on a podcast episode discussing what it’s like to be a woman in a complementarian church. Sarah was on staff for five years at Creekside, and in this podcast, she recounts some of those experiences. I have benefited greatly from her perspective on these matters, and this podcast is a great example of the wisdom with which she has waded through the challenges of working these matters out in a broken world. I’m passing on the link to this episode to our North Sub family now in the aftermath of recent events, trusting that it will be a blessing to the women and men in our congregation.  

https://www.buzzsprout.com/510781/1760884

Lord, may we, the men and women of North Suburban Church, continue to partner together in unity for the advancement of the gospel.



Bonus Content from October 13th (1 Peter 3:1-7)

1)  I mentioned in the sermon that early in our marriage, I was in the habit of asking Sarah intentional questions to understand her better. I found an index card with those questions last week while cleaning out boxes, and was convicted regarding the importance of resuming my old practice. You asked for the questions. Here is the full list:
 

What could I do to make you feel more loved and cherished?

How can I best demonstrate my appreciation for you?

To what degree do you feel like I understand your heart?

To what degree do you feel secure with me?

To what degree are you confident in our future direction?

What attribute/practice would you like me to develop/improve?

What attribute/practice would you like me to help you develop in yourself?

What mutual goal would you like to see us accomplish?

 

2)  I addressed it in the sermon and no questions were subsequently asked about it, but the issue of this passage’s applicability in 2019 is a massive one. I argued in the sermon that while we decline to greet each other with kisses (though such a greeting is commanded in four different New Testament letters), we do continue to teach differentiation in roles within a marriage. Why one and not the other? Below is a brief outline of a response.

 

– While the holy kiss may be appropriate in some cultures, in other cultures it may communicate something very different from the  intent of the biblical command. A “hearty handshake” may cause less confusion and thereby communicate affection more effectively in our context. However, the commands regarding role differentiation in marriage are rooted in the creation order itself. In Genesis 1-2, before sin ever entered the world, Adam was given a task and then given a helper to come alongside him in that task.

– When Peter gives the reason for his teaching on marriage, he appeals not to cultural conventions and apologetic sensitivity but rather to Sarah and the holy women of God in the past. His argument is that the women of his day should return to the way the women in the past adorned themselves and submitted to their husbands. As a particular culture moves further in the anti-submission, outward-adornment direction Peter saw it moving in his own day, it seems that his instructions (rather than being negated) only become more important.

– Some say that to have role distinctions inherently involves inequality. In other words, “equal in essence but distinct in roles” is a logical impossibility, like “separate but equal” was in the 1950s (“separate but equal is inherently unequal”). Some even suggest that Paul eventually realized this, and they point to Galatians 3:28 as a late development in Paul’s thought – that as he progressed, he realized that role distinctions between male and female were dissolved in Christ. “No male or female in Christ,” then, becomes an overarching truth that trumps specific commands given to believers in particular locales. Here in 1 Peter 3:1-7, however, we see that Peter clearly saw no contradiction between being equal in essence/value/worth and being distinct in roles/authority. In the same passage in which he affirms equal essence/value/worth (3:7), he reiterates distinction in role (3:1).



Bonus Content from October 6th (1 Peter 2:11-25)

There was one sermon question texted in:
 
Good morning. I understand from the sermon yesterday that Jesus is our example in enduring suffering. However, is there a place to not honor the government or authorities? Some examples I thought of include Rosa Parks, Bonhoeffer and the Valkyrie plot. Would God approve that they were standing up to injustice, or were they guilty of not submitting to authorities?
 
It’s a great question. Thanks for asking.
 
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of our God’s throne (Psalm 89:14) and God wants justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). Therefore, when justice and righteousness are at stake, Christians can stand up against the perpetrators, including government authorities. However, before jumping into conclusion and action, consider the following:
1. Pray, pray, pray.
2. Seek God’s counsel.
3. Seek Godly counsel from your pastor, mentor, trusted friend etc.
4. Reflect on the motivation/intention and the redemptive action of the two Hebrew midwives against the king of Egypt, Moses against Pharaoh, Esther against the king, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego against king Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel against king Darius, Paul against Roman Government.
5. Check your motivation/intention.
6. Work out a redemptive action plan (For example: “Let all that you do be done in love for the glory of God”)
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.” (Psalm 89:14)
“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24).
 
-Ebenezer Perinbaraj


Living Hope > North Shore Hope

 
Sunday’s Big Idea from 1 Peter 1:3-12 was this: “Let’s drink in the good news until it wells up in joyful praise.”
 
Question: What if I drank in the good news during the sermon, but it didn’t really “well up in joyful praise” within me?
 
One possibility is that the sermon just wasn’t that good. 🙂
 
Another possibility (one I’m exploring in my own heart) is this: what if there’s a lesser hope – call it “North Shore Hope” – that insulates us from feeling the need for the Living Hope Peter expounds in 1 Peter 1:3-12?

 

North Shore Hope
 
It’s no accident that the parts of the Bible that most heavily mention “hope” tend to be parts of the Bible written to people who are suffering. It’s also no accident that the churches that sing, read, and preach most about “hope” tend to be churches where people are experiencing hardship. We poignantly feel the need for hope when we are driven to desperation by external pressures.
 
Here on the North Shore, we do experience suffering. However, our hardships here are nowhere near as frequent or acute as they are in most other places in the world. Few of us are wondering where our next meals are coming from; few of us are worrying about protecting our kids from violence in the streets; none of us are worrying about being imprisoned tonight for our Christian faith.
 
On one hand, what a blessing! On the other hand, our relative comfort is one of the main difficulties of gospel ministry here on the North Shore. Because of our comfort, many of us (and I put myself in this camp from time to time!) don’t really feel a tremendous need for hope. After all, how much more is there to hope for when we’re already on our way to achieving so many of our dreams? Sure, we face annoyances here and there, but while many in the rest of the world would do just about anything for a nice house in a safe neighborhood with a couple of cars, a white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog… we’ve achieved it! We’ve attained (or are on our way to attaining) “North Shore Hope.” We’re making great family memories on our summer vacations, we’re providing an excellent education for our children, and our financial advisors have helped us craft a solid plan to ensure stable income in retirement. That’s North Shore Hope.

 

Effects of North Shore Hope on the Believer
 
When I wake up in the morning filled with North Shore Hope, I don’t open my Bible in desperation. I open it out of duty.
 
Of course, it’s okay to read the Word out of duty – a dutiful reading of the Word is better than no reading of the Word! However, a duty-driven reading of the Word is unlikely to result in a “welling up of joyful praise” within me, whereas a desperation-driven reading of the Word might more naturally lend itself to a deep, personal connection with the Living Hope I read about in Scripture.
 
In summary, here’s how this deadly progression works (at least in my life):
  • I allow myself to become full of North Shore Hope…
  • so there’s little desperation in me…
  • so I don’t come to the Word looking for hope…
  • so even when I read about hope in the Word, it doesn’t connect with my soul.

 

What to Do When Inoculated by North Shore Hope
 
Like a vaccine inoculates a person against a virus by giving a small dose of that virus, North Shore Hope acts the same way (except that it works against our good, not for our good). North Shore Hope gives us a small dose of hope – just enough that when Living Hope is held out to us, we’re inoculated against it.
 
When we find ourselves inoculated against Living Hope by the lesser substitute of North Shore Hope, it’s not always easy to regain our desperation for the real deal. We pray for that desperation, we immerse ourselves in God’s Word in hopes of regaining it, and we speak the truth to ourselves in order to stop being deceived. But sometimes, none of that seems to work.
 
When I’ve been in that place – numb to Living Hope because I feel “filled” by lesser hopes – God has often used one of two things to pull me out of that dangerous place.
 
  • Observing Christians who live distinctly. When I spend time around Christians who have found a way to be free from North Shore Hope, I find many aspects of their lives surprising, even jarringly so. Their lives (as exiles!) challenge me and give me an embodied picture of what it might look like to live a life captivated by Living Hope.
  • Because North Shore Hope is actually only powerful enough to sustain us when everything is going reasonably well, it inevitably masks large holes in our lives. We might be depressed (but refusing to admit it). Or we might be scared to die. Or we might be terrified that we’re messing up our kids. So when hard times come, the life we’ve built around North Shore Hope tends to collapse as that so-called Hope shows itself to be fleeting.
 
Of course, this is not a call to seek out suffering. Suffering will come when it comes. Instead, it’s a reminder to fight against North Shore Hope with all our might – by prayer, time in the Word, and intentionally observing Christians who live as though the North Shore isn’t their Home – so that when suffering inevitably comes, we will be prepared to endure it by clinging to the Living Hope on which we have already built our lives.

 

Helping Others Find Living Hope
 
One final piece of this Living Hope discussion.
 
To the extent that we have built our lives on a Living Hope, we find ourselves yearning to help others break free of lesser hopes to find what we’ve found in Christ. As such, we find ourselves burdened for our neighbors who don’t yet know the Lord. They don’t see any need for the Living Hope we have, because they’ve bought into the lie of North Shore Hope hook, line, and sinker.
 
How do we help them feel a need for the Hope we have in Christ when they don’t really feel a need for much of anything? Perhaps in the same two ways listed above:

 

  • Letting them see us live distinctly. We must not be so distinct that we can’t grill out with our neighbors, or go to the beach with them, or watch baseball with them! However, there should be aspects of our lives that make our neighbors wonder, “Why are they so different? Why don’t they seem to need what I think I need in order to be happy? Why don’t they seem to be worried about the things I’m worried about?” This distinctiveness can gnaw at people and drive them to reflection on what’s missing in their own lives.
  • Being prepared to minister to them in their suffering. Eventually, North Shore Hope will fail them. We know for a fact that it will! They will reach a desperation point with their teenage kids, or their spouse will leave them, or someone they love will be a victim of a terrible tragedy. All the comfort, freedom, success, security, and possessions in the world will not be enough to sustain them in that moment of suffering. They will experience something they rarely feel – desperation – and in that moment, they might finally recognize that what they need most is the Living Hope they’ve seen lived out in us.

 

Will we be prepared in that moment (1 Pet. 3:15)?
 
We will only be prepared if we have first done the work of making sure that we ourselves are being sustained by Living Hope instead of by a cheap imitation.


Bonus Content from August 18th (Psalm 137)

The following questions were submitted after the Aug 18 sermon.
 
If we are only meant to find home in the fact that God will bring us home, why would God bother to put us on Earth? Why would we continue to live? Are we not meant to work to bring God’s kingdom here?
 
Having our affections set on heaven does not preclude our responsibility in this present time and present world. The apostle Paul himself felt this acutely. In Phil 1:23-25, he says, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” Paul recognizes that it would be better for him to be executed at the hand of Caesar, for death would bring him into the presence of Christ. But the time of Paul’s death is not of his choosing; it is God’s prerogative. It is not his choice to make; it is God’s. Therefore, Paul will live with abandon in the present for as long as God sees fit for him to be on this earth. Even though the entire orientation of Paul’s life is towards the eschatological future, he nevertheless works tirelessly to proclaim the kingdom of God. So should we. Moreover, we should also not remove ourselves from society and form our own holy huddle. After all, Jeremiah counseled the exiles to seek the welfare of the city in which they are exiles (Jer 29:7). So, we engage society and its culture. We try to redeem it for God’s purposes as far as possible, but we do it while recognizing that our true belonging and identity lies in heaven and with God. 
 
If the world is ultimately not our home, what does that mean ecologically? Does that eliminate our need to care for the planet, because ultimately we should want it to crumble? If the world was created by God, are we not praising God by caring for it and the life in it?

I make a distinction between world and earth. In saying that this world is not our home, I am saying that this world order or this age cannot ultimately be the basis of our hope, identity, and value system. After all, “the world and its desires” are passing away (1 John 2:18). Similarly, Paul notes that “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). We, nevertheless, have a responsibility to be stewards of creation and the physical earth.

Should we not care about the wrong [done] to all people in the world, not just those who are related to us, or who are Christians? Should we not want justice for all people, regardless of faith, location, heritage, or creed?

Absolutely. The apostle said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:10). We should seek justice and welfare for all people. Nonetheless, since we can’t do everything and we can’t meet every need, Paul tells us that priority should be given to members within the church (both local and global). They are, after all, our brothers and sisters in the faith.

This is not a question, but I would encourage the language of victim to be switched to survivor. Victim implies defeat, and loneliness. Survivor is empowering and allows healing and growth.
 
The organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) notes that people frequently ask whether they should use the term “victim” or “survivor.” They note that both terms are applicable depending on the context. They prefer to use “victim” to refer to someone who has recently been the victim of sexual abuse; or discussing aspects of the criminal justice system. They use the term “survivor” to refer to someone who has undergone the recovery process (see https://www.rainn.org/articles/key-terms-and-phrases). Others, however, prefer just to use the term “victim,” arguing that the word “merely signifies one of the roles in a crime or mishap.” The word need not and should not connote defeat. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-our-way/201608/why-i-prefer-victim-survivor. In summary, perhaps, it would have been better for me to say, “Through the psalms of lament and imprecation, the one who has suffered sexual abuse is able to move from being a victim to a survivor.”

The following is rephrased as it is the combination of two comments: Survivors of sexual assault are not just women. The use of “she” within the sermon can be diminishing to men who have experienced sexual assault.

Thank you for the above comment. You are certainly right that men can suffer sexual assault; so can children. My use of the pronoun “she” is not mean to disparage the suffering of men who have encountered sexual assault. Rather, it is the recognition that females bear the brunt of it all. According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 91% of victims of reported sexual assault are female; 9% are male. The percentage is thus heavily stacked against females. See https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf

How do we work on not being angry like Jonah when God forgave the people of Nineveh?

Let me rephrase the question as follows: How do we work on not being angry towards people (who have done evil again us) when they repent and receive forgiveness from God? This is a difficult question and it cannot be adequately answered in a few lines. One way to work on our anger is to remind ourselves that we are to forgive just as God in Christ forgave us (Eph 4:32). “The idea is not simply that we have been forgiven, and therefore we ought to forgive, but that God himself, in Christ, has forgiven us, and therefore our debt is incalculable. No matter how much wretched evil has been done against us, it is little compared with the offense we have thrown in the face of God. Yet God in Christ has forgiven us. If we know anything of the release of this forgiveness, if we have glimpsed anything of the magnitude of the debt we owe to God, our forgiveness of others will not seem to be such a large leap” (D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places [Wheaton: Crossway, 2002], 80-81). I am not saying that it is easy to forgive and to let go of our bitterness; nor am I saying that it can be done quickly. Nevertheless, extending grace, forgiving others, and letting go of our bitterness towards those who have done us wrong is part of what it means to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we all taste the wonder and depth of God’s grace in our own lives, so that we might in turn extend grace towards others.


Bonus Content from August 11th (Psalm 87)

We received one question after Sunday’s sermon. I answer that question below and provide further detail on another portion of the sermon.
 
As Christians, we love all people, including immigrants. However, all must enter the country legally. Family or not, God set government in place to enforce laws for all people. Would you agree here?
 
The question fascinates me because it reminds me of the times Jesus interacted with people who sought to divert conversation from their own issues to point the finger at someone else’s issues. One example: “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Lk. 12:13). How does Jesus respond? He doesn’t wade into the issue about what the speaker’s brother was doing wrong; instead, warns the speaker himself (who may very well have been correct in assessing his brother’s fault!) to be on guard against his own covetousness.
 
Perhaps we can learn a lesson from that here. Obeying governmental authorities was nowhere in our text this week (though it will show up when we preach 1 Peter 2:13-25 this Fall). However, embracing the multi-nationality of Zion was demanded by this week’s text, so that was the call to action from the pulpit. If I hear God’s Word say, “embrace even Christian immigrants as brothers and sisters,” and my mind immediately goes to, “but they aren’t obeying the law!” I am in danger of doing what the man did in Luke 12:13. My neighbor’s sin ought not be my first concern; my first concern must be whether I am meeting my own obligation (in this case, an obligation of love for brothers and sisters of other ethnicities and nations of origin).
 
To answer the question of whether I agree that all immigrants must enter the country legally because God set government in place to enforce laws for all people, I would say this: “Yes, just as all people must obey the speed limit because God set government in place to enforce laws for all people.”
 
Have I ever broken the speed limit? Yes.
 
Do I believe that speeding is sin that requires repentance? Yes.
 
Will I nevertheless break the speed limit next week (with a clear conscience before God!) if my wife goes into labor and I need to get to the hospital in a hurry? Yes.
 
When I find out that a Christian brother or sister has broken the speed limit, do I believe it in any way mitigates my responsibility to love that person? No.
 
If the government announced next week, “Hidden cameras have been keeping record all speeders on all roads for the last 20 years, and those 20 years of accumulated tickets will be arriving in the mail next week,” do I think that would be just? That’s an important question for us all to consider.
 
 
Where does the Old Testament talk about the new birth?
 
In John 3:10, Jesus seems to think that as a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus should have understood what he meant when he talked about being “born again” or being “born of the Spirit.” But how was Nicodemus supposed to know about this?
 
I suggested in Sunday’s sermon that it’s hard to read the pieces about being “born in Zion” in Psalm 87 in any other way besides some sort of second birth. While more cautious about Psalm 87, here is a good article that lays out some of the Old Testament passages that point to the theme.


Bonus Content from July 28th (Psalm 76)

Although no questions were raised after Sunday’s sermon, here are a few additional thoughts from Psalm 76.
.

1.  That our God is “known” in Zion is a reason to prioritize church attendance.

In this series, we’ve been summarizing the biblical references to Zion using this explanation: Zion is God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s presence.
 
Psalm 76:2 presents Zion as God’s dwelling place. Of course, we noted that, in a sense, God lives everywhere! However, He doesn’t live everywhere in precisely the same way as He lives in Zion. Zion is His special dwelling place, in part because that’s where He has made Himself known.
 
So where is Zion today? To answer that question, we ask, “Where do God’s people gather in God’s place to enjoy God’s presence?” And a primary answer to that question is in the church, a local gathering of believers assembled under the lordship of Christ.
 
As such, the one who wants to know God does well to prioritize attendance in such gathered assembly. Of course, God can be known in other ways (just as He could be known outside Jerusalem’s walls 3000 years ago!). However, He doesn’t make Himself known everywhere in precisely the same way as He does in His church (Mt. 18:20).
 
2.  God will get His praise, whether we willingly give it or not.
 
Psalm 76:10 is notoriously difficult to translate and interpret. There are basically two possibilities: that the wrath of man is what brings praise to God, or that God’s wrath toward man is what brings praise to God. Either way, the point may be similar. After all, if God is exercising His wrath toward humanity, it is because humanity has rebelled against Him. In either case, this much is clear: (1) Humans rebel against God. (2) God responds in wrath. (3) That wrath results in praise to Him.
 
There are at least two important implications of this.
 
First, nothing will stop God from getting praise. Didn’t Jesus say as much – that the rocks would cry out if human praise was silenced (Lk. 19:40)? Our choice, then, is whether our lives will result in praise to God willingly or unwillingly.
 
Second, on the last day when God carries out judgment against those who have rejected Him, we who belong to Him will rise up together and praise Him for this demonstration of His justice. It may be hard to imagine ourselves praising God one day for pouring out His wrath on some of those who were close to us on earth, but when we are made new, our sin-free selves will respond to God’s holy wrath in the only way fitting: by praising Him wholeheartedly.
 
3.  Fight praise with praise; fight fear with fear.
 
Toward the end of the sermon, we noted that our sinful, finite selves will praise and fear many things even this week. We’ll praise new seasons of shows and our neighbor’s new riding lawn mower and spectacular performances by athletes. We’ll fear that we haven’t saved enough for retirement and that our kids are going off the rails and that property taxes keep going up. But when it comes down to it, there’s really one who’s deserving of our ultimate praise and fear.
 
The way to fight disordered praise is not to beat ourselves up for praising the wrong things, but rather to ramp up our praise for the one who’s really deserving. Similarly, the way to fight disordered fear is not to try to eliminate all fear from our lives, but rather to ramp up our fear for the one who is rightly feared.
 
This approach helps to avoid a self-driven, effort-focused program of growth (which will inevitably be unsuccessful). If I’m finding other things more praiseworthy than God, what I need most is not to stop that behavior; it’s to get a bigger view of God that will allow me to see Him as He truly is (Job 42:5-6). If I’m finding other things more fearsome than God, what I need most is not to act bravely; it’s to foster an appropriate fear of God that will outweigh those other fears (1 Pet. 1:17).