Here's the series of questions from the last Shoveletter I'm continuing on:
hey Jim, why work, enter relationships, invest money, buy things, eat or do anything God wants to make fall apart so you wont rely on those things for life? I heard again that God is gonna try to keep things crumbling in your life so you wont ever be enamored with them...is this the truth? What do you think? Are we then supposed to only think about heaven all day long so that we never rely on anything? Is the only way we grow through constant trial? Should we turn into a scared wreck if you think God will take your job from you? Do you ever worry over these things? Taking your family away or some weird thing? Adam
There is something else to consider regarding many of the trials that come our way in this world, and this is what Peter had described in his letter: That which is brought upon those in Christ by a world that is totally hostile to his life within. Check out the following where Peter refers to this sharing in "the sufferings of Christ":
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:12-14
The testing Peter cited is not an individually-designed program to crumble one's personal world to get his reliance off material things but is instead the squeeze put upon him by a world filled with hatred toward the miraculous life of Christ within. Peter defined this "fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing" by specifically contrasting it to the suffering caused by breaking laws:
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1 Peter 4:15-16
Before moving on it will help if I comment on that opening phrase as it easily fudges Peter's simple message. There are no corresponding Greek words in the text for the NASB's "Make sure". Nor are there words for "if", "however", "let" or "deserve" as in these various translations: "If you suffer, it should not be as..." (NIV); "If you suffer, however, it must not be for..." (NLT); "But let none of you suffer as..." (KJV); "But you deserve to suffer if you are..." (CEV) I'm not suggesting that adding words to make Greek make sense in English is unwarranted, but we can't hang our hats on these translational aids.
You see, somehow, the wording has managed to frame this verse as being an instruction instead of as a living contrast that pulls the whole thing together. Consider an earlier verse,
In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you 1 Peter 4:4
The point is that something had really happened to them because of what had been put in them so that they had experienced a bad-mouthing that just didn't compute. In other words, by making this statement Peter was not trying to tell them to keep these things from happening but was building upon the reality that was IN these believers in contrast to what they HAD been before Christ. He had done this for a REAL reason: to bring their current sufferings into a true perspective.
Let's face it, how we recognize what's coming at us affects our perceptions, and therefore, our responses. The compounded confusion of our contemporary Christian culture only makes a convincing testimony to this fact. How so? Our religious world teaches a Christian lifestyle comprised of looking for sin and living in shame ... which reduces Christ, our life to nothing more than a doctrine, not a reality.
And what is the compounding of this confusion? It's inevitable conclusion that the legal habit of looking for sin and living in shame will demand that we judge ourselves according to the same fleshly viewpoint that found sin in JESUS. Don't you remember how often the self-righteous converged upon Jesus in order to find FAULT? This is what the self-justified ALWAYS do. When Jesus demanded of the Pharisees, "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?", he no doubt contrasted himself against those who are convicted by law, but he also established the pattern by which those made righteous by God would be judged by those who try to make themselves righteous.
My point in all this is to say that if you don't recognize the living distinction that demands that Christ REALLY removed you from what you used to be you aren't going to recognize what Peter was saying. Instead, you are going to fall into a confusion that makes it sound Biblical to judge your life according to fleshly appearances. Such a disorientation leaves you with no other option than to follow up on the sin you see in yourself and around you according to the same principles by which you discovered it in the first place! What if the sin that triggers the merry-go-round is the same kind of sin they saw in Jesus? You know, it might just give the evil one great pleasure watching us go through all our religious mumbo-jumbo as we try to rid ourselves of this sin ... not knowing that the thing we're religiously trying--and of course, failing--to get out of ourselves is the life of Jesus! Whoa!
You see, having been brought into union with Christ caused us to inherit a double-sided desirable/undesirable benefit: we're seen and treated just as he was by the world in which we live. If he was viewed as the worst kind of sinner - even though the very power of God flowed through him - we shouldn't be surprised to find a similar judgment against us. Peter contrasted a deserved suffering against an undeserved suffering, and these people knew what it was to suffer as one defined by evil deeds, making them understandably surprised at the negative reactions for being a Christ-clone. In other words, it makes sense to catch hell for hurting others, but not for living as one made alive in Christ.
...but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1 Peter 4:16
Being called a Christian most likely began as an offensive term (in Antioch, when Peter was there, by the way) by those who desired to openly shame, or malign, these believers. But the shame imagined by the fleshly mind is entirely bogus, so that we have no business being ashamed by it. Instead, the very name by which the world would despise us is a name by which we can revel in God.
Of course, as there's more self-righteousness, institutionalism, or elitism expressed through the contemporary designation, Christian, we might want to think twice before claiming glory to God when somebody calls us something that expresses little more than a religious distinction. Oh it may represent a certain disdain, but I'm not inclined to see it as an insult toward the real God ... merely as a criticism against the institutionalized one.
It's not that the world isn't treating believers the same as before, it's just that we're going to hear it expressed in terminology that SOUNDS as offensive as that term once did. What descriptive word or phrase has been thrown at you to ridicule your connection to the one who was viewed as being weak and foolish by a world - including the religious world - that speaks of its own strength and abilities? Now, take that designation and glorify God in it, because the shame the world sees in you is none other than Christ himself.
To be continued: Trials Without a Cause.