The god Of This World

1 Peter 5:6-9: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

In our scripture text yesterday, Peter encouraged us to humble ourselves before God. Once we realize that we are dependent upon our creator God and we so desperately need him to guide and sustain our life, we can cast all of our anxiety and fears upon him. Why? Scripture tells us it is because God cares for us. He loves each one of us and wants the best for us; he wants to give us His grace. And it is God’s grace that can sustain us through some of life’s darkest times.

In today’s text, Peter urges us to be self-controlled and alert to the many schemes and traps of the devil. Peter wants us to know that the devil is actively at work in our world looking to destroy anyone that he can, especially those who are children of God. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, plainly tells us that Satan is the god of this world: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Satan knows that his time is short and he is out to destroy or to make the Christian an ineffective witness for God. Peter tells us that the devil is like a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” It’s no coincidence that the many wars and terrorist activities around the world are being unleashed by the devil in order to create as much havoc and suffering as he possible can. When you read and hear of Christians being killed simply because they are Christian, you must know and understand that Satan is behind these types of atrocities. Satan is surely at work in Syria and is behind the many terrible deaths and destruction that we are witnessing there and in many other parts of the world. As followers of Christ, we know that Satan already stands defeated. At the second coming of Christ, Satan will be cast out and God will restore the earth to what He intended it to be, as Christ returns in power and glory.

In the meantime, Peter urges us to resist the many temptations that the devil sends our way. He implores us to stand firm in the faith, knowing that other fellow believers are undergoing many of the same kinds of suffering. Resisting the evil one and standing firm in your faith is not always an easy thing to do, but it is the only thing to do if you are a child of God and a follower of Christ. God will reward your firm and steadfast faith if you call upon His name to help you conquer the attacks of the evil one.

“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. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1Peter 5:10-11).

Casting Your Cares Upon God

1 Peter 5: 6-7 (NIV): Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

The first word in this text from 1 Peter, gives believers an important clue as to how they should live out their life of faith, especially during times of anxiety or worry. The Apostle Peter tells us to “humble” ourselves. As we grow and mature in our faith, we should become more humble as we approach God and as we interact with other people.

It’s no coincidence that most of the Christians I look up to are humble people. I don’t know about you, but I greatly prefer being around humble people in life. For me, it’s difficult to be around people who are arrogant, boastful, and completely wrapped up in themselves. So many people today crave attention and they want to be noticed.

Our text reminds us that we are to “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Peter makes it clear that there will be times of suffering and uncertainty that we must endure. And as we undergo these sufferings, and moments of worry and doubt, we can look to God for relief. Why? Because “he cares for you.” We can take to God ALL of our worry and doubt and “cast” it all upon him, because God cares for you! For me, this is one of the most reassuring verses in all of scripture. God cares for and is concerned about you and me.

As you read this, I don’t know what your specific worry or worries might be. Many of you are struggling with health issues and you desperately need to have some worry and anxiety lifted from you. Others may be worried about their children, or other family members, who are going through difficult and challenging times. It could be your job, or lack of a job, that has you worried and afraid. I can’t help but think about and pray for the many refugees, especially those fleeing Syria, who are filled with fear and uncertainty about their future, or if they will even have a future. In times and situations like these, all I know to do is to turn to God and pray for his mercy and his care. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  

 

 

The Greatest Commandment

Mark 12:28-31 (NIV): 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and the teachers of the law were trying to trap Jesus by asking him various “loaded” questions. They were intent on trying to “catch him in his words” in order to turn the tide of public opinion against him. Some Pharisees and Herodians had asked Jesus, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” (Mark 12:14-15). Knowing they were trying to trap him, Jesus replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). The Gospel writer Mark tells us that the people were “amazed” at him and his answer.

Jesus tells us to love God with all of our soul, mind, and strength; that is a commandment that most of us can keep. However, when it comes to loving our “neighbor”; well that’s a different story. It is certainly easier to love those neighbors who are like us. We love those who think like we do, look like we do, and vote like we do. But to love those who look, think, or vote differently; this commandment to “love thy neighbor” is a little more difficult to keep. Most of us would rather ignore this commandment from Jesus, but we do so at great peril. This isn’t a “suggestion” from Jesus, this is a commandment. This is how we should go about our daily lives, loving everyone that we come into contact with. But we so often fail miserably at this! We just can’t let go of old hurts and we refuse to forgive others who we feel have wronged us. We also refuse to love those whom we judge “unworthy” of our love.

How can we love someone who is a “sinner” or who doesn’t love us in return? We can and must love if we consider the words of the Apostle Paul from the letter to the Romans: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved us in spite of our sin and he sent his one and only Son to die on the cross for our sinfulness. How can we not love other people when we consider the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made, to die for our sins? God didn’t wait for us to clean ourselves up or to start living a more upright life. God didn’t wait for us to change, because he knew that we would never attain a “perfect” life, at least not in this world. Instead, God loved us just as we were – sinners living in a fallen and immoral world.

Jesus spent time with the “sinners” of this world, showing compassion while he healed and taught many people who longed for some mercy. The teacher of the law recognized that loving your neighbor is more important than any sacrifice or offering that you could bring before God. And Jesus replied to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

How far are you from the “kingdom of God?” Are you willing to love others at great risk to your own self? We are all sinners and have fallen short of God’s glory, but loving others can have a great reward for believers. The Apostle Peter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). I don’t know about you, but I have a multitude of sins that need to be covered over. By loving others, you demonstrate your love for God and your willingness to follow Him.

The Parable of the Sower

 

Mark 4:1-8 (NIV)
1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus told his disciples, and the large crowd that gathered around him, the Parable of the Sower. Jesus often spoke in parables to the crowds, however when He was alone with His disciples; he frequently explained the meaning behind the parable. Often it was because the disciples were slow to understand the meaning of the parable.

Jesus is telling us about four types of people and their response when they are exposed to the teachings of Jesus and the word of God. The first group hears about God but they fall prey to Satan and the many other desires of this world. They reject God or fail to take God seriously because they are interested in following other idols. The second group joyfully receives the word and believes in God, but they lack a firm foundation for their faith. So when misfortune or suffering comes their way, they “quickly fall away,” because their faith is weak. In the third group, are those who hear the word but allow the many “worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things to come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” The fourth group, are the ones who “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

We all know people that we could place in these four groups. There are many people who are lost and in desperate need of being exposed to the compassion and the word of God. These are the folks who have totally rejected God and His word and they live a life that is in direct contradiction to all that God stands for. These people don’t even consider or think about God; their minds are on something completely different. They have zero interest in knowing God.

The second group are those who joyfully accept the word of God and even come to believe in Him, accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. And then for various reasons, they fail to become firmly established in their faith. Something else is always more important than growing in their faith. So when trouble or misfortune comes their way, they quickly fall away from the faith. I know people who seemed to be on the right track until trouble suddenly came their way. During this difficult time, they completely fell apart and begin to make bad decisions. Instead of turning to God, they looked to other things to help them deal with their troubles. Drugs, alcohol, adultery, and gambling are but a few of the choices these people made instead of trying to draw closer to God and to rely on Him, instead of these other immoral alternatives.

In the third group, are those who hear the word and come to believe in Christ, but they become somewhat overwhelmed or consumed with their day to day lives. They allow worry to rule their lives or they have a greater desire for wealth, status, or job promotions, than for God. These types of people sit beside you in church, but they fail to bear much, if any, fruit.

And finally, there are those who hear and accept the word of God, profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and go out into the world and make disciples. They bear fruit! Instead of relying on the false sense of security that wealth seemingly provides, these disciples rely on Christ, their Savior. These are followers who have great compassion on other people, especially those people whom society has shunned. These are followers who go out into third world and war-torn countries, facing great danger while spreading the Gospel and compassion of Jesus Christ. These are followers who stand up for those in our society who have no one to speak for them. These are followers who also sit beside you in church and work tirelessly in our communities to care for those less fortunate and to tell them about the Gospel message.

Which category would you fall into? Your answer is between you and God. I have purposely not included Mark 4:13-20, in which Jesus explains this parable. You will have to open up your Bible and read this for yourself. And maybe, you just might continue reading. May God always bless you and reveal himself to you as you read His Holy Word!