Dec12MonDecember 12, 2022
Walking with God
Christmas is indeed a wonderful time of year! Especially when you know the Reason for the season personally – even Jesus. Christmas is about the incarnation of God – God came in the flesh… in Jesus the Christ! He came some 2000 years ago and lived His life in the midst of common, rural people - fishermen, farmers and shepherds in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali (Matt 4:12-17). People walked with God! Most did not even know they were doing so. There was however, a group of people God chose to walk with…intimately…known as His disciples. We have been going through the letter of one of God’s closest friends and followers – How awesome is that! First hand account from someone who literally walked with God – Jesus! So, when we read the first letter of Peter to the persecuted churches, while remembering the incarnation of God, even Christmas, it becomes real to us, because the letter Peter writes is filled with real-life experiences and the very teachings of Jesus. Let me say it another way. When you really read the letter and meditate on what is being said, in view that the person writing lived with Jesus, learned from Jesus’ words and actions, and has had several years of implementing and emulating the life and teachings of God himself, the letter has much more impact. Maybe you would like to take a moment and re-read the whole letter – 1st Peter. As you do, try to remember from reading the Gospels how and when Peter might have been influenced by Jesus to write what he writes. I say that because for today, the reading is chapter 5 of 1st Peter. As I was reading and meditating, my mind kept jumping back to the Gospels, where and when Peter must have learned from Jesus how to live as a “Christian”, even a church leader and apostle. Let me show you what I mean
Read 1Peter 5:1-5a (NIV)
Peter calls himself a “witness” to the sufferings of Christ. He is talking to the elders of the churches, and exhorting them on how to be shepherds to the flock. Peter walked with the “Chief Shepherd” (vs. 4). His model for shepherding was Jesus. This reminds me of the time after the resurrection, after Peter had denied Jesus three times, when they are having lunch together on the shore, and Jesus tells Peter, “Tend my lambs.… Shepherd my sheep…. Tend my sheep” (John 21:15-17 NASB). Peter was shepherded by Jesus! His model to follow is Jesus. So, when Peter says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (vs. 2-3), there is no doubt that he is recalling that this is the way Jesus shepherded him. Jesus willingly served and cared for His disciples (Mark 10:41-45). He loved them so much, that He even laid down His life for His sheep. (John 10:1-18). He was indeed a witness to God suffering for the sake of His sheep. Peter witnessed Jesus teaching His sheep; feeding His sheep; healing His sheep; delivering His sheep; saving His sheep; and dying for His sheep. If anyone had learned how to pastor people, it was Peter…he had the best teacher because He walked with God!
Read 1Peter 5:5b-11 (NIV)
Peter tells the church to “clothe yourselves with humility”, “humble yourselves”, “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. Think of the times in the Gospels where Jesus modeled humility. The greatest example is probably when He put on an apron, and took a towel and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:2-17). Peter at first refuses, but then agrees to a full bath (6-10). Peter looking back on the day when God washed his feet, exhorts all in the church to do the same – to serve one another. Then he thinks of all the times, traveling with Jesus that He stopped to help someone in need – to deliver people under demonic oppression; to comfort grieving widows who lost an only child by raising the child from the dead; by detouring to minister to an outcast woman or a rejected tax collector; by stopping to pick up and bless children; to free those under religious bondage by inviting them to experience true life in Him. Some 30 years had passed for Peter by the time he wrote this letter. Thirty years of remembering all the stories, meditating on all the incredible things he saw Jesus say and do. Let us not forget all the demonic encounters he witnessed, when Jesus confronted and cast out the evil tormentors. Peter knew first hand that there was a ferocious lion-like opponent (vs. 8; Matt. 16:23; Luke 22:31). He saw first hand that in the power of Jesus, he could “resist the devil” and he would flee (vs 9; James 4:7). Peter also knew what it was like to suffer for Jesus’ sake, but in the midst of that suffering which would inevitably come, God’s grace was sufficient, and He would provide strength to endure (vs.10). Even if Peter should perish for following Jesus, he knew that a far greater glory awaited him, because he had witnessed Jesus glorified (Matt. 17:2) and raised to life again (John 21).
Peter walked with God. And so do we!!! We also know first hand how Jesus shepherds us, cares for us, carries our burdens, washes us when we get dirty, protects us from the evil one, gives us strength to persevere and press on, etc. etc. etc. We too are walking with our God, day by day, seeing Him move in our lives. For sure we don’t have a tangible, “in the flesh” physical relationship with Jesus, but we do have a relationship built on faith, where we see God continually caring for us. We get great comfort and encouragement from Peter’s eyewitness account of living with Jesus, since his testimony is our assurance that we are not walking in vain. There is a God we walk with that we will one day see face to face. And so, as Christmas is a time remembering that God walked this Earth, we are encouraged that we will walk with Him again one day. As Peter said at the beginning of this letter, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1:8-9). Christmas is a time of anticipation, of JOY looking to the day when we will walk with Him face to face. For now we do so by faith!
Have a great week walking with God!