CHRISTIAN LIVING IN THE CHURCH FAMILY

[Supplement to 1st Peter]                 1 PETER 3:8-22
As the Christian family functions in the home, so does the Church family; and as submission is necessary in the home, submission is also a requirement in the Church family, and specific standards of relationships are necessary. The Bible, on which we must base our standards, never uses the language of option or suggestion when speaking to our submission in Church family relationships! Love is a command of our Lord Jesus Christ .
SUBMISSION TO EACH OTHER IN LOVE: (vs. 8-9; cf 1 Jn.4:7-12; Rom. 5:5>) A child of God must exhibit the characteristic of love; “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that stands when all else has fallen.” <1 Cor. 13:7-8 J.B.Phillips>; “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” <Rom.12:9-10 (NIV)>. Love is the key to dealing with the different types of people and cultures in the Church, and must be the number one trait in a Christian fellowship, because love overlooks all things. As the Law is summed up in love , all Christian relationships must be fulfilled in love. God’s love must be reflected in every area of our Church family relationships.
THE EVIDENCE OF LOVE: (1) In Unity of mind: “live in harmony” – “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” <Phil. 2:12-5 (NIV)>. Christians may differ on how things should be done, but we must agree on what should be done and why. Unity does not mean uniformity, it means co-operation in the midst of diversity. (2) In Compassion:be sympathetic”.:8>. There is a necessity to sympathize with each other, sharing not only the joys but the trials. “Our main job is to give ’em the gospel . Get ’em saved!  Don’t get sidetracked by their pain and problems. It’s conversion we’re really interested in, not compassion.  Once they’re born again and get into the Word, all those other things will solve themselves. When did we depart from the biblical model?  When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy?(from”Come Before Winter” by Charles Swindoll  page 406-407) . Because we are of the same spiritual familylove as brothers” . (3) In Pity or tenderness of heart “be compassionate” . This was definitely not a quality of the Romans, and neither is it a quality of society in general today. It is, however, the Christian message and should be the quality of each and every believer. We are deluged with so much hardship and difficulty of people in the world today, and it is easy for us to become insulated and have no pity on those who are suffering. We need to cultivate compassion and actively show our concern.

THE SPIRITUAL LAW OF RETURNS . Peter wrote to Christians who were already experiencing personal persecution for doing God’s will, and was warning them of greater persecution ahead, and of their need to express love for their enemies. Christians then, and now, can live life on one of three levels: (1)Returning evil for good – the satanic level. (2)Returning good for good and evil for evil – the humanistic level. (3)Returning good for evil – the Divine level. In love for our enemies: an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the basis for justice, but Christians must operate on the basis of mercy, for this is the way God deals with us. We must love each other, and love our enemies. In the enjoyment of life: this is an act of the will, an attitude of faith that sees the best in every situation. The news of impending difficulties and devastation should not cause the believer any concern, because a “bad day” for the world can be a “good day” for the Christian, if we meet certain conditions. We can decide to endure life and make it a burden, we can escape life, or “give up” as if we are running from a battle; but we can enjoy life because we know that God is in control. In the control of our tongue: Peter knew the consequences of hasty speech, and we should also be aware of the consequences. There is no place for lies in the life of a believer. We must be careful of what we say and how we say it. Inconsiderate and un-unselfish comments can be just as devastating in the Church as they can be in the home. In doing good and hating evil: we should avoid sin because we despise and loathe it, and we must shun sin because we hate it. God expects His children to do only what is good, because the sin we commit always returns to haunt us. In seeking and pursuing peace: this does not mean “peace at any price”. Righteousness must always be the basis for peace. . We must exercise moderation as we relate to each other; otherwise we create problems by desiring to have our own way. We must strive for peace for it is difficult and does not come automatically . Our enemies may try to take advantage of us but God is in control and He only can defeat our enemies . Life for the Christian is not one that is free from trouble and strife, but one in which we can experience God’s help and blessing in all of life’s problems and trials .
HONOR CHRIST AS LORD OF YOUR LIFE ; “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (NIV). Make an inner commitment to Christ: the message Peter is attempting to get across here is that “the fear of the Lord conquers every other fear”, do not fear what unbelievers fear, or do not fear their threats .  Peter could have been thinking of an incident recorded by Isaiah : the message to king Ahaz of the kingdom of Judah, as he was preparing for the invasion of the Assyrian armies. Isaiah’s message was to prepare for battle, not by making ungodly alliances with the kings of Samaria and Syria, but by trusting in the Lord who would be a “sanctuary” or a protection against his enemies. As Christians, we are faced with many a crisis that would tempt us to succumb to our “fears” and make wrong decisions. Peter is saying to us “sanctify the Christ as Lord” of our lives, then we need not fear “what they fear”, whether it be man or circumstances. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” <3:15 (NIV)>.
When Christ is Lord of our lives each crisis becomes an opportunity for witness; we do not apologize for who we are and what we are, we present a defense for our faith. Every Christian should be able to present a defense for the hope that he or she has in Christ, especially in a perceived hopeless situation, and such a defense must be given with respect and not with arrogance. We must also be sure that our lives reflect our defense and bear in mind – this is a defense not an argument, present an account of what we believe and why we believe it. When Christ is Lord of our lives we turn everything over to Him, living only to please Him, the only fear that we should have is that of displeasing Him. When Christ is Lord, He removes the fear of what our enemies can or will do to us, and we should be satisfied with nothing less than doing the will of God in our lives. “..keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” <3:16-17 (NIV)>. Maintain a clear conscience: our conscience is the internal judge that speaks to us, either approving or accusing our thoughts and actions, and conscience depends on knowledge, knowledge of God’s Word. A good conscience fortifies the believer with courage in times of trial and opposition, because of the knowledge of being right with God and men. A good conscience gives inner peace that enables us to face outward battles, and removes the fear of what others may know or say about us, or do to us. “A sensitive conscience produces careful Christians who are conscientious, dependable and usable in the kingdom of God. An insensitive conscience produces careless saints, the weakening influence in the Church today!” (God’s Answers to Man’s questions; page 241) . Conscience alone is not the test of right or wrong! Conscience is a safe guide only when the Holy Spirit through the Word of God is the teacher! Christians in Peter’s day, or in today’s society, are going to be accused and lied about because our personal standards are based upon the Scriptures and are totally different to standards adhered to in our society. As a rule we do not create the problems – we reveal them. Any believer that moves into an unbeliever’s world immediately becomes target for all the problems in an unbelieving society. Examples: Joseph, Daniel, and Our Lord Jesus Christ. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” <2 Tim.3:12 (NIV)>. To maintain a good conscience we must deal with sin in our lives immediately by confessing it and seeking God’s forgiveness. We must also spend quality time in the Word of God, because the Word of God cleanses us and keeps us close to Him. A strong conscience is the result of obedience based on the knowledge of God’s Word and creates a strong Christian witness, providing strength in times of persecution and trial.
THE PLEDGE OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE . The chapter concludes with a discussion on baptism and what it means. Peter states that “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous” to bring us to God. God waited patiently while Noah built the ark, and the eight people in the ark were saved as they were brought through the water. The water, signifying their death burial and resurrection with Christ, did not remove the dirt of sin from their bodies, but was “the pledge of a good conscience toward God”. This is where we must begin – with a good conscience toward God! A good conscience to God will reflect a good conscience to each other in the Church family. As times of persecution and difficulty approach, the Christian church must cultivate God’s love, and demonstrate God’s love to every member of the Church family. Honour Christ as Lord of our lives. Submission to Christ is the key to submission to each other in the Home and in the Church family. Our Lord Jesus arose from the dead and is now seated at God’s right hand — “with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him”; are you in that company who submit to Him as Lord?
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