• The Explore the Bible lesson for Sept. 11 focuses on 1 Peter 1:13-15.
When we read the words of the Apostle Peter in what became epistles of the New Testament, it’s vital to remember who wrote them. This is the same man who once denied Jesus—not once, but three times during his crucifixion.
One reason it’s important to remember that is because the same Jesus whom Peter once denied returned to reveal his risen self to the traitor. Jesus’ physical presence was more than just a witness to the resurrection all believers will know in Christ. It was a personal reminder, and therefore a witness to all who would follow, that the Lord’s calling on our lives to be holy transcends our personal failures. In other words, our sin does not cancel grace or the call of grace on our lives.
Decades after his betrayal, Peter had indeed become a witness to the faith on which Jesus would build his church—the very bedrock of faith in God’s redemptive power in Christ. It’s virtually impossible to fail to see that when we consider a one-time traitor was redeemed and transformed into one of the most powerful witnesses of faith in all of Christian history.
Disciplined in the ways of Christ
On that basis, Peter challenges all believers to remember we are called to be holy. That doesn’t mean we practice being good enough to become like Jesus. It means we surrender ourselves to the call of God on us and the standard of holiness exhibited in Christ.
The call to be holy is a call to genuine “discipline.” The word, “discipline” and “disciple” come from the same linguistic root. To be a disciple of Jesus means to discipline ourselves in the ways of Christ.
Practicing that discipline means, among other things, a constant self-examination. Are there any parts of our lives, either in behavior or thought, that do not bear witness to the fact that we are God’s children? If so, in what ways are we seeking to become more like our Creator and Redeemer?
We cannot become holy on our own, and this Scripture in no way argues otherwise. However, we must learn to participate with God by disciplining ourselves according to the witness of the life of Jesus.
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Come clean with ourselves
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the recovery process begins with a person making a fearless moral inventory. It’s a brutal discipline but one essential to coming clean with one’s character and failures and shortcomings. Unless we come clean with ourselves, it’s impossible for us to come completely clean with God and with others called to share this journey with us.
Such a moral inventory is an ongoing process. It’s not a once-in-a-lifetime discipline but a way of taking each step in life. In time, daily discipline will result in daily living that honors God. No matter how we put it, faith that issues in changed thinking and behavior demands daily practice.
Watching the Olympic athletes, it sometimes boggles the mind to think that most of them have been practicing for their entire lives for that one brief moment in time when they’re put to the test. What we see in their performance is the result of daily discipline that took decades.
We should not grow impatient with ourselves when we fail. St. John Chrysostom (349 A.D.–407 A.D.) said, “Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”
Faith and hope
This is the theme to which these verses in the text return over and over. Count the number of times the words “faith” and “hope” occur.
It’s one thing to desire holiness or to feel guilty for failing holiness. Peter, from his own experience with Christ blessing him after his denial, was exhorting a life of disciplined holiness. He was not using threats of doom or patronizing condemnation or even parental scolding as the tools by which to motivate the early church.
Peter continually returned to the themes of faith and hope as the true motivations for striving for holiness. People are not motivated to try for spiritual holiness by being placed in a moral straightjacket. They are motivated from within or they are not motivated at all.
It is our hope in Christ’s love for us and the resurrection that is ours in Christ that calls us forward.
Where we find identity
A recent story in the news tells of a 4-year-old girl who was rescued by the authorities from abusive parents. When she was asked her name, she said it was “idiot.” Her tiny body bore the scars of constant abuse by parents who are now in jail.
The little girl had been called an idiot so long that she genuinely believed that to be her name before she even knew its meaning.
It’s worth taking the time to see how many times the gospels and the epistles of the earliest disciples of Jesus referred to Jesus’ followers as “children of God.” Jesus himself made such a promise in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9).
When I was about the age of the little girl who thought her name was idiot, I lost something that belonged to my father. I felt horrible and didn’t know what might happen to me when he found out.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my father taking me in his arms and holding me close and telling me he loved me—despite my failure. I had the courage to face my father in my failures because I knew his love couldn’t be bought with my behavior, only accepted by faith.
We have hope because we are loved as who we are and what we are called—“children of God.”
Glen Schmucker is a hospice and pediatric hospital chaplain in Fort Worth.