1 Peter #18 1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG) Mission Critical--Discipline, Situational Awareness, Guard Your Heart


1 Peter #18 1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG)  Mission Critical--Discipline, Situational Awareness, Guard Your Heart

 We know that the congregation that Peter is writing to is experiencing persecution because of their faith.  That sounds like it’s time for a fight.  Stand up and peacefully protest the unjust dealings they were encountering.  How hard would it be for you if someone you had great respect for, someone who may have led you to the Lord and has been mentoring you, not only you but the folks you worship with, how hard would it be when you’re crying for help, for direction and you are told: “submit to the persecution and suffering.” Woah, that’s what God wants, to submit to the persecution and the suffering and the pain, to put up with the slander, and, not to make a stand? That’s exactly what God wants.  Peter has told us to cast all our cares, our anxiety, our concern, and the situation in which we are being persecuted on God because God cares.  To do that takes faith.  Faith is trust that God takes care of His own. One thing you can be sure of, God cares, His great concern for you and yours is eternal life. What happens to you in this life is not as important as what happens in you.  It’s God's great concern that what continues to happen in you is faith that results in obedience and love, for it's your continued fidelity that leads to life eternal.

 Peter tells us that the number one danger a disciple of Jesus faces is not persecution, suffering, pain, or even death, it is denying the faith.  He writes about how to overcome.

 1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG)

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.


That cool head is the discipline you will need to stay on the mission when the pressure to surrender your faith gets intense.  It is mission-critical that you don’t compromise with the culture. The general mission is, to love God, love others, love self, love the earth, make disciples, and teach them everything you have been taught.  The specific mission is God’s unique calling in your life, you’ve been given spiritual gifts to be used for the common good.  To Surrender or compromise is to have your witness and your testimony neutralized.  It's then the enemy, the Devil will pounce. Not to be overly dramatic, but the devil pouncing means the devouring of your soul.


It's not poor performance as a believer, it’s not a failure to obey, it’s not making messes, that lead to devouring, it’s denying the faith.  The devil is going to tempt you to do exactly that by heaping abuse upon you. We call it spiritual warfare. “Physical death can be remedied by spiritual life.  But spiritual death is eternal” (Power, p. 150).  To keep alert is situational awareness. Situational awareness is understanding what is happening around you, and doing your best to take everything into account so that you can make an effective decision. No one and “no thing” can pluck you out of God’s hand but denying the faith can disqualify you from being an overcomer. The temptation to give up in the face of persecution is amazingly strong.


Peter tells us to be on guard.  To guard our hearts.  The Bible refers to your command and control center, the place in which decisions are made, as your heart. Emotions, will, intellect, and mind, are your heart. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life Proverbs 4:23 (NLT).  Daily practice of the 7 habits of a disciple will guard your heart. Setting our mind on things above, “and that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy” (Colossians 3:2 & 5 (MSG).  Be mindful of what you allow to influence your thinking, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 (NIV). Guard your heart by looking at the big picture in God’s call to you.


Consider Job, the accuser's mission, what can I do to get Job to deny his faith?  That’s exactly the devil’s consideration of you.  What can I do to get you to deny your faith?  You overcome the schemes of the devil by self-discipline, situational awareness, and keeping guard of your heart. This is the type of resistance that the devil flees from.  Regardless of what happens, you are rock solid like Job who said “Even though He slay me, I will still trust in God.” This is how one resists the devil.


Another reason to exercise self-discipline, situational awareness, and guarding your heart is that your courage encourages other believers.  Peter reminds these persecuted believers that what they are experiencing is everywhere. The disobedient, the pagan, the foolish, and the devil are adversaries everywhere. We in the West went through an unprecedented time in which the Christian faith was not persecuted.  But in Peter’s day as now in our own, the adversaries seek to destroy even the thought of Christianity. If you want a worldwide glimpse at the persecution of your brothers and sisters in Christ deal with check out The Voice of the Martyrs, easy to remember website: persecution.com. Here in our own backyard Christians are slandered and mocked for their faith, passed over for promotion because we prefer traditional pronouns, labeled fascist because we stand with science on gender issues, we are hated because we believe in the sanctity of life or refuse to condone lifestyles that are determinantal to the health and wellbeing of not only the individual but society itself. No, we are not being fed to the lions yet, but other believers in other countries are. We are to stand firm for as we do we encourage others to do so. We draw strength from solidarity.


The scripture instructs us to face, to embrace, persecution with love.  


John Calvin one of the great reformers of the faith taught that once you believed the gospel and God received you as His own that now saved you would always be saved.  This is true unless you denounce your faith, turning your back on God.


Hebrews 6:4-6 (MSG)

Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven, and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, 5 once they've personally experienced the sheer goodness of God's Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can't start over as if nothing happened. That's impossible. Why, they've re-crucified Jesus! They've repudiated him in public!


You can skip the persecution by hiding your faith or denying Christ, but not only does it put you in eternal jeopardy, but it’s also a body blow for the entire Church. When you love your comfort zone more than Christ the devil will pounce. 


You might recall that Peter did exactly that the night that Jesus was betrayed, denying the Lord three times before dawn.  You may think Jesus forgave him why wouldn’t He forgive the believer who surrenders faith or compromises to avoid persecution and then after the persecution comes returns to fellowship?  What separates Peter in his denial from the Christ follower who denies, is that Peter had not yet experienced that infilling of the Holy Spirit’s resulting in him being justified and sanctified.   Pentecost was still to come.  If you have bent the knee to Jesus, acknowledging that you are a sinner, believing the gospel that Jesus died to set you free from sin and death and reconcile you to the One He called Father, committing yourself to be Jesus’ disciple, then asking God to accept your faith, you have been sealed with the Spirit and the Spirit empowers to keep the faith even amid persecution.


What a great and precious promise we are given. 

1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.


God will restore. That’s a promise to all who surrender their comfort zone to faithfully carry out their calling in a hostile world.


There is also one more perspective given to us about participating in the sufferings of Christ.  The Greek in verse 10 can be understood that because of those sufferings, God will make you solid as a rock and strengthen you, toughening you like steel, enabling you to enter His eternal glory. Experiencing that eternal glory will make all the difficulties, sacrifices, and sufferings worth it.


Here's what you can take home and put into practice. Nothing comes easy. The grace to be self-controlled and alert needs to be activated. That means you have to consciously put it to use.  Maintain your self-discipline, by practicing the 7 habits of a disciple.  Stay alert spiritually means you live in the now, not in the past, not in the future.  Being alert means that you are right with God, right with yourself, and that you are guarding your heart. Staying alert means staying on your mission loving others through God’s calling. Don’t deny the faith, don’t quit your mission, and God Himself will redeem all that you have entrusted to Him as He lifts you into His eternal glory. 


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