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Hazy Copies

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'” Hebrews 8:5

Image result for copy of a copyA copy is never identical to the original. But it is clearer and more accurate than subsequent copies. Meaning, if someone were to make a photocopy, then make a photocopy from that copy and so on, each copy becomes hazier and less accurate than the first.

It’s the same way with our understanding of and patterning after God. We are called to be like Christ [1 John 3:2]. If we are in Christ, our hearts are being built into a living tabernacle, acceptable to God [1 Peter 2:5]. We ourselves are to be a copy of the original.

God made us in His image at the Creation. Christ makes us anew and the Holy Spirit reforms the Father’s image in us, but only if we pattern ourselves after Him.

God is good. While our goodness can never save us, in Christ by faith we do the good works God intended us to do from the Creation [Ephesians 2:10]. Without God, how would even know what good is?

Many, however, accept hand-me-down faith. They attend church from childhood and become a copy of the people in the church. Maybe the pastor is a great man of God. Maybe the choir leader has a great heart for worshiping God. Maybe our teachers genuinely know and love God. Maybe our parents and grandparents are people of true faith. These are all good things. And these people are all good role models.

However, their lives–like ours–ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. They themselves are still in the process of being transformed by the renewing of their minds [Romans 12:2]. Patterning ourselves after any one of them will make us an untrue version of another person rather than a genuine copy of Christ.

God is good and we are the light of His goodness to the world around us. Are you patterning your life after the original through prayer and Bible study? Or are you living as a copy of a copy?



Together for Our Good

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Image result for bound wristsGod is good.

And though He has not pre-planned our lives, being omniscient, He does know what we will face and how we will respond. For many, this understanding is enough to reject God as anything-but-good. Others find this verse in Romans and question how God can make good out of the bad in our lives–why He wouldn’t just start with ensuring that we don’t experience bad to begin with. Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

But with sin jamming up the spiritual rudders of human beings, bumper boats happen all day every day. What I mean is, our lives effect others and their lives effect us. Because of sin, the result can often be tragic. Sometimes these offenses are mishaps of close contact. Other times they are premeditated evils.

Joseph, Israel’s eleventh son, knew this full well. Motivated by sheer jealousy, his brothers beat him up, threw him in a cistern and sold him into slavery. They lied to their father, Israel, to cover up their hateful sin. And they believed the worst was behind them. Until one day, they found themselves standing before the mercy of the brother they had so hatefully mistreated.

But Joseph loved God. And Joseph knew that God had called him to Egypt for a purpose. What his brothers did out of hatred, anger and jealous spite, God worked for the good of Joseph and his father Israel [Genesis 50:20]. Really, for Israel’s entire household.

We can’t often change our circumstances or the people who mistreat us. God doesn’t condone sinful behavior, and everyone will have to answer to Him for their wrongdoings [Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5]. And though He calls people to step into these situations to right them, people don’t always listen or obey.

But that doesn’t nullify God’s goodness. Rather, when we keep our eyes on Him–our help, the author and perfecter of our faith–God reveals His goodness to us in surprising ways [Psalm 121:1; Hebrews 12:2]! He takes the lemons [excuse the cliche] that sin chucks at us and makes, not lemonade, but the most refreshing living water and satisfying bread of life–beyond what we could even imagine–if we allow Him to.

Are you in a difficult circumstance today? Have you come through a tragic past? Do you find it impossible to forgive your parents or other family members for any reason? Remember who your help is. Fix your eyes on God who is working in you to bring about your good despite what the world throws at you. Will you trust in His goodness? Will you let Him do the work He began in you [Philippians 1:6]?


If God Is Good, Then Why Is There Bad in the World?

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

Image result for tearsGod is good. And He is infinitely so. But what is that goodness? What does it consist of or pertain to? How and when does it manifest?

Many cultures have mythologies of gods that are sinister but powerful. The Greek and Roman pantheons were worse than the most corrupt human beings, acting selfishly in all their ways and disposed by whim to mistreat humans it suited their own immoral pleasures. Their character couldn’t have been further from the truth of who God is.

Good is the opposite of evil. God is not bad in anyway [Psalm 92:15]. He is morally upright, but more than that, He is generously kind and loving to all. His infinite goodness is the source of every blessing and joy, the source of our hope and the wellspring of His love and goodwill–mercy and grace–toward humankind.

He created for all our needs and faithfully provides for them, though we are unfaithful about cultivating our relationship with Him [Matthew 5:45] and though we fail to thank Him for His faithful beneficence.

He keeps His creation in motion, patiently waiting for more of mankind to turn and recognize Him as God [Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:9].

He hears our prayers and provides us with His Spirit to overcome just as He did. Because He is good, we can have peace [John 16:33], joyful strength [Nehemiah 8:10], hope in Him [Isaiah 40:31] and contentment waiting for our heavenly home [Matthew 11:29 & 10:24]. Because He is good, He strengthens us in our present circumstances [1 Peter 5:10-11]. Because He is good, He made a way to reconcile with us so that we could spend eternity with Him [John 3:16].

But our present circumstances are exactly the rub for so many who choose to walk away from belief in God. They shake their fist at heaven and ask, If God is good, then why is there bad in the world?

God is infinitely good. But His adversary, the devil, is full of every kind of evil intent toward us. Satan is angry that he will never attain heaven and angry at human beings that we can be redeemed. And he does everything he can, in his limited power of deception, to keep as many of us from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 5:8].

God is infinitely good, but we, His Creation, are sinful and therefore predisposed to love self and thereby wrong others in pursuit of self [Matthew 7:12 & 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28 & 16:31].

As believers, we must realize that we were redeemed to be a light of God’s goodness to this world, just the way He intended us to be from the Creation [Matthew 5:14-16].

Does God’s goodness flow through your life to others? Do others understand that God is good because they see His good work in your life [1 Peter 2:12]?


Omnipresence vs. Pantheism: A Heart in Search of Eternity

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

hand tree branch light white photography sunlight morning leaf flower spring green autumn arm season close up raise photograph stretch emotionGod is omnipresent, that is, He is everywhere present. There is nowhere that we can go out of His presence, nowhere we can hide from Him.

Many other cultures, having the seed of eternity in their heart [Ecclesiastes 3:11], vaguely remembered this truth about God, but re-presented the idea through pantheism.

Pantheism comes from Greek word roots that translate everything is a god. The trees are each a god, or at least a manifestation of His physical presence. The rocks are gods. The water is god. The air we breathe. The ground we trod. Sun and moon and stars. All is god. And god is all.

Except that it isn’t so.

As we have already seen, God is distinct from His Creation. While He is omnipresent–ever here with all of us–He is also transcendent, or equally separate from everything His hands have made. Created things are not God, and God is not in any way created. While all things hold together in Him, He Himself has no need of sustenance from His creation.

Not only so, but the Creation is meant to draw our understanding back to God the Creator [Romans 1:20]. It groans under the strain of sin, longing for the return of our Savior just as we ought [Romans 8:19-23]. And if we refuse to acknowledge God and praise Him, then the Creation will do it for us [Luke 19:40].

Here it is so important to remember that God loves the pantheist, just as He loves you and me. And that the pantheist has a heart seeking after eternity, a heart waiting for the good news of Jesus Christ, but lost in a half-truth. Satan is happy to keep them spinning in their partial-understanding, but God is not willing that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9].

Are you ready to give an answer for the hope that you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]? Can you be a light to the pantheists of this world?


From The Student Question Board: Why Did God Make Us if He Knew We Would Make Bad Choices and Be in Distress All Our Lives?

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10-11

Image result for jewel eyeSince God is, always will be and always has been omniscient, He knew perfectly well that Adam and Eve would choose to disobey in the garden. He knew that their choice would usher sin into His perfectly created world [Romans 5:12]. And He knew that in the broken sinful world, we would have trouble [John 16:33].

So why did God bother creating us at all?

Because He also knew that He would love us without fail [John 3:16]. Because He also knew that He would send His Son Jesus to redeem His fallen Creation [Genesis 3:15]. And because He also knew that love comes only by choice.

And He desires our love just as He desires to lavish His love on us.

God considers us the apple of His eye [Psalm 17:8; Zechariah 2:8]. This term of endearment more literally equates us to the pupil of the eye. The pupil allows light to enter so that the eye can perceive. When God calls us the light and salt of the world, it is a double entendre–that is, it has two meanings! We are light and salt to the lost around us, but we are also a light of joy and the salt of good pleasure to our Creator God.

He delights in us [Psalm 147:11 & 149:4]!

Remember His love when you are worried or wearied by the troubles of life [John 16:33]. Remember that everything comes to pass in its season [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]. And remember that the season of human life is just a disappearing mist or a fading flower in the expanse of eternity [Psalm 103:15; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24].

These troubles have not come to stay, but if we stay the course we will find abundant life in this life and eternal peace and rest in the New Creation [John 10:10; Revelation 21:1-4].

Do you know who God created you to be? Are you living as the apple of His eye? Do you delight in your Creator as He delights in you?


Omniscience vs. Predestination–Part 2

“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed one.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your word with great boldness.” Acts 4:24-28

Image result for tack on mapFaith without free will is no faith at all. Love without free will is no love at all. And God desires both from the joyful submission of our free will to Him.

Here after Peter and John were released from prison, they prayed with fellow believers. And they acknowledged that, from the beginning, God knew exactly at which point in human chronology He would send Jesus. God sent His Son when the Roman-centric world would swallow up His chosen people, Israel, and both cultures would converge to crucify Him.

Because it was all a part of His plan to redeem His Creation.

Though–being all-knowing–He knew who would carry this out, God didn’t choose to villainize or destine people or force anyone to do the job. Everyone who denied, denounced and destroyed Jesus’ physical body did so of their own free will. Just as everyone who comes to Christ also does so of their own free will.

Faith is absolute certainty in what we hope for but cannot see. But it must stem from the free will of our intellect, for without faith it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6]. So if God chooses who will have this faith and who will not, then it is no longer faith. It is coercion.

Love, by necessity, is a choice. No one can force someone else to truly love them. But each person comes to love another purely as an expression of their own free will. We each choose whom we desire and how to demonstrate that affection. So if God chooses who will love Him and who will not, then it is no longer love. It is coercion.

But God is self-sufficient–He needs no one. God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11]. He sent His to die on the cross for whosoever would believe in Him [John 3:16] and He doesn’t want anyone to choose to perish in the lake of fire [2 Peter 3:9].

And even knowing what we will choose, He still acts mercifully with all of us. Indiscriminate of our ultimate decision to accept or deny Him. He still loves each and every one of us. He still lets us choose for ourselves whom we will serve [Joshua 24:15].

Whom have you chosen?


From The Student Question Board: How Many Sins Are Too Many? Is There a Specific Number of Sins that Will Disqualify You From Heaven?

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:20b

Image result for infinite loveGod is infinite. In every way. He is not bounded in by anything.

In the long war between God and Satan, God is patient, not wanting any human being–who are the apple of His eye [aka the central object of His affection]–to perish [Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:8; 2 Peter 3:9].

Yet in the midst of God’s infinite patience, sin increases. Every minutia of sin manifests and grows. Arrogance, abusiveness, disobedience and ungratefulness increases [2 Timothy 3:2]. Exchanging God for self increases [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Wickedness, evil, greed and depravity increases [Romans 1:29].

But God’s grace is boundless.

There is no amount of sin that can disqualify you from God’s love. And if by grace through faith you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are forgiven. Period.

That’s fantastic news! Because we all sin every day, we all fall short of the glory of God in every way [Romans 3:23].

But there is a caution.

If we can’t out-sin God’s grace, then why not just keep on sinning and asking for forgiveness? Paul wrote to the Roman Christians who were struggling with this very question. The answer? By no means! In other words–absolutely not!

As forgiven believers, we died to sin just as Christ died for our sins. And we live in God’s freedom. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace, [Romans 6:12-14].

It’s like quitting smoking because you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, getting healed, and then continuing to smoke. Smoking destroys our health, just like sin destroys our spirit man. People who have been healed from cancer, are best advised to live a healthier life so that the cancer doesn’t move back into their bodies. And Christians are called to come out of the culture we live in and be Godly so that the destruction of sin doesn’t move back into our lives [2 Corinthians 6:17].

God’s mercy is infinite, just as all of Him is infinite. Sin is limited by human imagination, ability and longevity [or lack thereof]. Choose this day which one will shape your eternity. Finite sin, with even more limited moments of pleasure that lead to death and rejecting God, therefore bringing eternal condemnation [James 1:14-15]? Or infinite mercy, with abundant life now and forevermore [John 3:16]?