On this stormy day, our ZOOM call about 1 Peter was a welcomed bright spot! During these troubling times in our country, it was good for me to shift focus from all that overwhelms “out there” to what the LORD asks of my own heart.
Today’s passage, 1 Peter 1:13-25, opens with the word “therefore” or “so,” connecting it to last week’s realization that we have received a glorious salvation! Because of the great and precious ransom price that was paid to reclaim us as children of our Father GOD, Peter urges us to honor Him by imitating His heart. Even while enduring trials, maybe especially during difficult times, Peter asks his fellow believers to consider what our Father asks of us – to be and to do. To guard against slipping back into old habits of Godless choices, Peter echoes other New Testament letters in pointing us toward holiness, confidence, faithfulness … to be people who are set apart for GOD, devoted to doing what is right in His eyes, living as strangers in this world but prepared for action, especially when it comes to sincerely loving others.
So, what exactly is the difference between loving someone and “earnestly loving someone from a pure heart?” In a world filled with heart-breaking hate, this was my favorite part of our discussion. Such sweet thoughts flooded our ZOOM space faster than I could scribble them in my notes. But, here are a few worth revisiting:
Genuine affection is not passive, but a conscious choice to love anyway, regardless of any risk of rejection or indifference. As Romans 12:10 says, when we “delight in honoring one another,” it comes from a pure, selfless place that always wants more and better for the one we love. With this level of motivation, we discover a passion that reaches beyond our human inclination. Our efforts are never-ending for someone we truly love. We can never do enough for that person! We find deep joy in pouring ourselves out to honor and serve that special someone. Loving like JESUS does is huge – and powerful! It bears witness of the reality of GOD. Only He can teach us to love like that!
But we also talked about our biggest challenges in meeting GOD’s standard, even when it is presented to us in love, from the heart of a Father. Among other things, it can be particularly difficult to persevere in prayer, faithfully trusting His plan when answers are long in coming, when heaven seems silent. For years. Decades. We can be so easily tempted to slip back into old ways of disbelief or distrust. What rescues us?
Our lesson this week offered a very timely reminder that GOD’s Word, His eternally unchanging truth, has the power to steady us (Psalm 119:9-11, John 17:17). When we plug into the exhaustless reservoir of His Spirit, we find comfort, but also cleansing. As we better understand His heart, ours grows to match His. We more quickly recognize impurities and turn away from them, opening space to receive more of the pure character traits that sanctify us, setting us apart for GOD’s service.
It was so interesting to learn that one definition for “sanctify” is “to beautify.” Maybe, just maybe, as we come to appreciate the heart of GOD as truly beautiful, we increase our capacity to unwaveringly trust His ways, to more accurately reflect that beauty – to re-present our Savior to the cloud of witness that surrounds us (from the angels who watch in wonder to the neighbor down the street).
The conclusion is simple but profound. Obedience to GOD and His ways leads to holiness. Purity. Not diluted or contaminated. Not distracted or discouraged. But a wholehearted devotion to our Father, His Son and our Savior, and His Spirit who beautifies our hearts and leads us confidently toward Home.
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth.
So now you must show sincere LOVE to each other as brothers and sisters.
LOVE each other deeply with all your heart.
1 Peter 1:22 (NLT)
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