Author Archives: Andy Baker

Different: A Different Faith

I want to continue looking at the 1 Peter today by examining one of the things that makes Christians different from the rest of the world: faith. Everyone in the world has to have some level of faith, even in things they don’t fully understand. I have faith when I get on an airplane that it will take me where I’m going, even though I have only basically no understanding of how airplanes work. Its really easy to have faith in something when things are going your way, but when things are difficult our faith tends to waver. If you’ve had a bad experience on an airplane you’re much less likely to want to fly again. In fact, there are a couple of airlines I won’t fly because I’ve had bad experiences with them. When things get difficult our faith can waver. This is where Christians are called to be different. Even when life is extremely difficult we are called to faithfully trust God. We don’t switch religions like we would switch airlines, but we remain faithful amidst adversity. Why? Why do we keep trusting God even when things seem to be decidedly not going our way? 

You, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   1 Peter 1:5-7

First things first: remember that sin, suffering, death, and the multitude of problems in this world are the result of human sin. God didn’t create this world to be a place of suffering, He created it to be amazing. We’ve messed that all royally up. Yet, despite our mess-up, God came to our rescue. He chose to come to earth as Jesus, suffering and dying as a sacrifice for all our sins. See, God is always focused on the big picture of our lives. God may not take away every difficult you face, but He has already assured that your ETERNITY is perfect. The good news is not that God saves us from all of our trials, but that he saves us from all of our sins. We get up everyday, even in times of extreme difficult, and take joy in the fact that God has already done it all for us. We can never truly fail, we can never truly be rejected, we can never truly die, because we have been given eternal life. Men, get up every morning and rejoice! Rejoice that no matter what difficulties may lay ahead that day the ultimate difficult, death, has already been taken care of for you. That’s a different sort of faith, and it leads to a different and much more joyful life. 

Different

 

Whether or not we want to admit it, the majority of us spend much of our lives trying to fit in. We dress a certain way because it helps us fit in with our friends. We speak a certain way because it helps us fit in with a certain crowd. Our behavior can also vary greatly. At home we try to maintain the image of the loving husband and father, around our buddy’s we cultivate the image of the manly man, at work we’re the model employee to the boss, and the fun loving guy whose not afraid to make fun of the boss when the boss is not around. Yet, are we really meant to be a people who fit in? Are we called to be chameleons, constantly fitting into wherever situation we’re in? The truth is, God has called us to be DIFFERENT then anyone else. He has formed us, equipped us, and commanded us to be different, standing out in this world rather than fitting into it. 

Over the next month we’re going to be looking at the book of 1 Peter. This is a book all about standing out and being different in the world. Peter wrote this letter to churches that were struggling to find their way amidst difficult circumstances. Rome had experienced a great fire that leveled the entire city. The fire had actually been instigated by Emperor Nero, who wanted to rebuild the city in his own image. Needing to blame someone, he decided upon the Christians, who were a new and rapidly growing religious group. He authorized and encouraged an empire wide persecution of Christians. Many Christians were jailed and/or killed, and many churches destroyed. It suddenly became very difficult and dangerous to be a Christian anywhere in the Roman Empire. Many Christians started thinking that perhaps it was just best to temporary fit in with everyone else, and with their lives on the line one could hardly blame them. It was to these persecuted and frightened Christians that Paul was addressing his letter. He says so many amazing things in this letter (which is why I want to look at it over the next month), but I want to leave us with one verse this week.  

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

We are not created, gifted, saved, and called to be like everyone else. The one who created us, gifted us, saved us, and called us wants us to be different. He wants us to be like Him. He wants us to be like Christ. That’s a big ask, but its an important ask. I pray that we are all willing to step out and trust God to help us explore and live lives that our different. 

Ending Friendly Fire

A lot has changed in ministry since the days of Jesus, Peter, and Paul (like the fact I can write in Nicaragua, hit “Publish,” and instantly share it with the world). Here’s one extremely unfortunate constant: the body of Christ continues to fight against itself. The problem has been with the Church since the beginning. The religious leaders did not like what Jesus was teaching, and eventually had him killed for it. Jesus’ own Disciples disagreed with one another, jockeyed for position, and even rebuked Jesus. In the years after the resurrection debates waged over leadership, circumcision, who the gospel should be preached to, worship, etc. When we read the letters of the Apostle Paul we quickly see that he was constantly having to “put out fires” in church after church. And the history of the church does not exactly get better after Bible times! As one of my seminary professors put it, the history of the church can be summed up like this: 2,000 years of humans trying to tear apart what Christ built. 

Yes, the Church has accomplished MANY great things in the name of Christ over the past 2,000 years. I love the Church and the impact it has had, and continues to have. But, my heart also breaks for all the fighting that occurs. I’m guessing I don’t need to offer a detailed explanation about fighting in the church, as you’ve all likely experienced it firsthand. I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have two options in the face of this problem: we can keep complaining about, it or we can start being part of the solution. Paul lays out the basics of the solution:

Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.  Titus 3:2-5, 14

Let me break that down for us into some simple points 

  1. Remember the belief we all share: that Jesus died to save us. That uniting belief is much greater then any disagreement we may have. 
  2. Never speak poorly of others. Correct if you must (with love and respect), but never seek to tear down and cause hurt. 
  3. Love and respect should govern our interactions. We can (and will) disagree on a host of things, but that should never lead us to stop loving others or showing them the respect they deserve as brothers and sisters in Christ 
  4. Remember that we are to do good works and to be fruitful. Stop getting lost in preferences, and always focus on bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom. 

Let us strive to strengthen the Body of Christ so that it can truly be a shining light for God on this earth. 

Be Ready for Every Good Work

As Christians we often see service in terms of what programs and ministries we are involved in. We serve when we volunteer in Sunday School, help on a work project, go on a mission trip, etc. Having served on church staffs for over a decade I am guilty of sometimes thinking that as long as people are plugged into service opportunities then they are adequately serving God. But, if we really think about it, God never envisioned service to be so compartmentalized. When he meticulously formed us and commanded us to bear fruit he did not only have in mind those few opportunities arising in our churches. He had the entirety of our lives in mind. Our jobs, our relationships, our family, our hobbies, our shopping, the true entirety of our lives. God made us to serve so many people in so many ways that no church or ministry could ever program enough opportunities for us to serve! 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. Titus 3:1                               

Look at that first verse: to be ready for every good work. Paul is not saying to be ready for the sign-up sheet to be passed or for your church to offer you an opportunity. He is saying that you need to be ready and willing to serve whenever and however the opportunity arises. This may happen on the golf course when a friend admits he is struggling with his faith. It happens when we notice our neighbor needs home repairs they are incapable of doing. It happens whenever the moods of everyone around us are low or stressed (any trip to Wal-Mart typically fits this). Anytime our abilities and gifts encounter the needs of others is a chance to do good works. We have chances everyday to serve God and make an impact on others. Are we ready for it? 

So, why is it important that we be ready for every good work? Why is it OUR responsibility to be ready to work (instead of pastors, missionaries, church leaders, etc.?). Paul answers this at the end of this letter.                                                                                                        And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14   

Paul reminds us here of a couple of things. First, there are urgent needs all around us that need to be met with the love of Christ. Second, each and every one of us is commanded to bear fruit in our lives. We bear fruit by meeting the needs we encounter with the love of God. Bearing fruit is not insignificant, because when fruit is born it means that lives are being changed and saved. See, serving God isn’t about filling in your time card, but being used to make a true impact on lives for God’s Kingdom.

How to be a Man

Here’s our question for today: what does it really mean to “be a man?” The University of Manitoba conducted a study on what messages advertisers send about what it means to be a man. They found that the majority of advertisements equate manhood to one or more of the following four qualities: 

  • Danger is exciting: real men take risks and lack fear
  • Toughness is important: real men don’t cry or show importance 
  • Violence is manly
  • Having beautiful women (plural) and sex (plural) is important 

Now, I’m not here to say that it’s necessarily bad to take risks, be tough, hunt, or like beautiful women (I’m happily married to one). But, I am here to say that the world has an imperfect understanding of what it truly means to be a man. A really great description of Biblical manhood is found in Titus chapter 2. Here Paul gives instructions to all men, older men, and younger men. 

All Men: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:7-8. In other words, Paul is saying that being a man entails living a life that reflects Christ. When people see us with our family, in our community, in our workplace, etc. they need to see a reflection of God. As men we need to reflect God in our works, our teaching, our integrity, our speech, and more. 

Older Men: I’m smart enough to not categorize anyone as old, but I will say this. If there are people younger then you that look up to you for advice and guidance, then the following advice applies to you. This applies to dads, grandpas, teachers, bosses, etc. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Titus 2:2

Are you modeling those values for those around you? Are you honoring God with a life that is bearing that type of fruit? Being a man entails setting a Godly example in all areas of our life. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are to be living our these values to honor God and positively affect others. 

Younger Men: If you were to ask me I would say this applies to all men who are still in the process of learning and growing, which is actually all of us. While Younger Men seem to get off lightly here, being given only one command, it is an incredibly big, important, and difficult one: Urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Titus 2:6. Put simply, self-control is the ability to resist the temptation to sin, no matter how great that temptation is. Being a man means that we strive to resist all temptations and desires to sin, no matter the difficulty. 

So, to wrap it up, here are three big ways for all of us to “be a man:”

  1. Live a life that reflects Christ 
  2. Set a Godly example in all areas of your life
  3. Resist all temptations to sin 

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