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My Armor 32: How Do We Get To Heaven?

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As I recently read 1 Peter 2, I realized Peter’s main point is this: Buck up, Cowboy! Figure it out! And just like I discovered in James’ epistle, there are things both in James and in Peter’s letters that are hard to hear, but very important for each of us to come face-to-face with. Here’s what I mean:

So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs. (1 Peter 2:1)

That is some challenging stuff! Most, if not all of us, have talked about people behind their backs… I know I have! Knowing this, Peter just says, “Hey! Knock it off!”

Now that you realize how kind the Lord has been to you, put away all evil, deception, envy, and fraud. Long to grow up into the fullness of your salvation; cry for this as a baby cries for his milk. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

Imagine a baby crying for his milk because he needs that milk in order to survive! That’s what Peter is talking about here!

As the Scriptures express it, “See, I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious Cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in him.” (1 Peter 2:6)

Notice that he doesn’t say, “God might sometimes disappoint those who trust in Him.” No, the Scripture is very clear that God will NEVER disappoint those who trust in Him! Now, I know… trust is a hard thing. Think about a relationship where somebody cheated on their spouse. Think about how hard it is to reconcile that relationship after the break of trust. Fear sets in. Anger flares.

And, in my summation, anger is not a real emotion. Anger is something we project that actually masks three VERY real emotions: pain, sadness, and fear. So, next time you find yourself angry, ask yourself, “What am I really feeling? What is it that I am either hurt by, sad about or fearful about?”

In 1 Peter, he also writes about letting your testimony be known, because your story is important. You may not see the full value of the story of the relationship between you and Jesus, but as Peter writes…

Yes, he is very precious to you who believe; and to those who reject him, well—“The same Stone that was rejected by the builders has become the Cornerstone, the most honored and important part of the building.” And the Scriptures also say, “He is the Stone that some will stumble over, and the Rock that will make them fall.” They will stumble because they will not listen to God’s Word nor obey it, and so this punishment must follow—that they will fall.  (1 Peter 2:7-8)

I find that so interesting – that Christ, Himself, can make people stumble. And, I have fallen. I have fallen so badly at times that I felt like the lady in the Life Alert commercials… “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

But, check out Peter’s encouraging words:

But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself (1 Peter 2:9)

Did you know that?

If you are a Christian… a Believer… a Christ-follower… you have been chosen by God! The ninth chapter of Romans talks more about this, and it’s one of my favorite chapters of the Bible! Before you were even born, God knew you and He chose you. Now, there are some who believe that God looked down the corridors of time and saw that you were going to do be good, so He chose you.

But I don’t believe that.

I believe that, as we read in Romans 9, God did this not because of our own good works – in fact, if it were a result of our own good works, it wouldn’t be free… AND IT IS FREE.

Peter continues…

…you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (2 Peter 2:9)

So spread it! Share your story!! Now, I’m not talking about becoming one of those people who stand outside of Van Halen concerts with signs and sandwich boards shouting that everyone who enters the concert will burn in hell. I’m talking about simply telling people why you have the faith that you have and be able to share your story, without embarrassment, about your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Don’t be weird. Infiltrate, don’t isolate. Don’t be scary like “sandwich board” guy.

Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it. (1 Peter 2:10)

That’s the story I’m talking about. That’s what you should be letting people know about.

Dear brothers, you are only visitors here. Since your real home is in heaven, I beg you to keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls. (1 Peter 2:11)

Now, a lot of people might read this verse and glaze over it. And, part of the reason we often glaze over parts of the Bible is because we don’t want it to sink in. This is the heart of conviction.

So, what is Peter talking about here when he says “the evil pleasures of this world”? Porn. Sex outside of marriage. Substance abuse. Everything that is considered “evil pleasures”. You know what these are.

Be careful how you behave among your unsaved neighbors; for then, even if they are suspicious of you and talk against you, they will end up praising God for your good works when Christ returns. (1 Peter 2:12)

This might be the hardest part of the whole chapter!

It’s so easy to just slip back into the bad habits and bad behaviors that you once enjoyed. But, the key is to turn the volume up on the Holy Spirit so that that’s what you hear and pay attention to instead of the temptations that you are surrounded with.

Image: Spinal Tap Prod

Image: Spinal Tap Prod

But how do you turn up the volume on the Holy Spirit?

  1. Prayer
  2. Read God’s Word
  3. Spend time quietly meditating and listening to God
  4. Be obedient to God
  5. Spend time with other Christians

When you start to find yourself bombarded by troublesome thoughts, pray and ask God to change your thoughts from thinking about the temptations, fear, or sinful thoughts and instead about God and what it’s going to be like when you are with Him in heaven. Believe it or not, and I can say this from experience, this really does work!

 For the Lord’s sake, obey every law of your government: those of the king as head of the state, 14 and those of the king’s officers, for he has sent them to punish all who do wrong, and to honor those who do right.

15 It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who foolishly condemn the Gospel without knowing what it can do for them, having never experienced its power.16 You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong. Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times. (1 Peter 2:13-16)

This part is really hard for many Christians today. And it’s crucial to our lives. We don’t go to heaven because we do good stuff. Nor do we go to hell because we do bad stuff.

When Jesus died on the cross, He took on all the sins of mankind then, before then, now, and in the future… and with it, He took on God’s punishment for those sins. Think about just the sins that you have committed in your own life. He paid for those… and for those of everyone else as well.

So, when I say, “you can’t behave good enough for heaven nor bad enough for hell”, what I mean is that Jesus paid the price for your sins… there’s nothing left for you to “pay” or do. In this same vein, there is no need for you to continually confess and say you’re sorry for the same sin over and over again, like so many people do.

Even what might be considered the “worst” sins: you’ve killed someone; you’ve had several abortions; you’ve robbed a bank; embezzled; stole from your parents… whatever it might be, once you have chosen to allow Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life and you repent of your sins, you are forgiven. It’s done.

If you continue to beat yourself up over something that you have confessed and repented for already, it’s like walking up to the foot of the cross, looking up at Jesus, with His hands and feet nailed to the cross with a crown of thorns piercing His head, as He bleeds, sweats, and suffocates, and saying to Him, “I’m sorry… that’s just not going to cut it for what I’ve done.”

Show respect for everyone. Love Christians everywhere. Fear God and honor the government.

18 Servants, you must respect your masters and do whatever they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are tough and cruel. 19 Praise the Lord if you are punished for doing right! 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong; but if you do right and suffer for it, and are patient beneath the blows, God is well pleased.

21 This suffering is all part of the work God has given you. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps: 22 He never sinned, never told a lie, 23 never answered back when insulted; when he suffered he did not threaten to get even; he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours! 25 Like sheep you wandered away from God, but now you have returned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls who keeps you safe from all attacks. (1 Peter 2:17-25)

That’s the second chapter of 1 Peter. No matter how many times I read it, I’m convicted as if it’s my first time reading it.

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