Due to coronavirus our services are moving online.  

Links for streamed Sunday 29th March 10.30: 

youtube or Facebook.

Here are materials for families while church is closed.

Services online001

Sun Mar 22 @10:30 - 11:45
Online Service
Sun Mar 29 @10:30 - 11:45
Online Service
Tue Mar 31 @09:00 - 10:00
Online Prayer Meeting: Zoom id 427-652-509
Sun Apr 05 @10:30 - 11:45
Online Service

Welcome to St Thomas'! We are a small, but growing, church in the heart of the Groves area of York. We are committed to reaching out into our local community – serving people who are in need, and above all showing God’s love as best we can. We want to celebrate what God is doing in this wonderful part of His world. 

Although we normally meet together each Sunday at 10.30am, and we hope that people find our gatherings welcoming, family-friendly, and full of God’s presence, because of the coronavirus pandemic we are not able to meet in person but instead are moving online and making other provisions for pastoral support.

If you live in this part of York, you can be assured that we are praying that God will richly bless you and that you will know his love and goodness in your life. 

 

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Daily Readings for Lent

Wed 26th – 1 Peter 1.1-2

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

It’s easy to skip over the ‘greeting’ verses of New Testament letters, moving ahead to see what the real point is. But when we stop to look, these verses contain so much. Despite our differing geography, we can read Peter’s opening words as entirely relevant to all Christians, including us:
We are ‘exiles’ in this world, God’s people sent and scattered all over, but with a true and permanent home with him in heaven
We, too, have been chosen to belong to God, a part of his eternal plan
The Holy Spirit sets us apart as God’s people, and works in our lives to make us more like Him
The purpose of our lives – forgiven and accepted through Jesus’ death – is to follow Christ, to be obedient to him

Are you aware of each of these truths in your life? Could you take a few moments over each, thanking God and praying that you will live in a way that is consistent with who you really are in Christ?

Thu 27th – 1 Peter 1.2b

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Literally, the order of these words in the Greek is: “Grace to you, and peace in abundance”. I wonder if there’s some significance in that. The first thing we need is God’s grace, and flowing from that is peace and wholeness in our lives.

Grace has perhaps become a bit of a jargon word which we struggle to grasp. Maybe we think of it mainly as something you need in order to become a Christian, as in ‘saved by grace’. But really, grace (‘gift’) is “God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own” (Dallas Willard); we don’t deserve it, and without it nothing can be achieved. Forgiveness is a big part of it, of course, but it doesn’t stop there!

If God is graciously at work in our lives, we will come to know more and more of his peace; not just an absence of conflict, but a deep wholeness and contentment. This peace comes, more than anything, from a knowledge that God is in control and can be trusted.

Will you live today in that knowledge? Take a moment to look ahead and talk to God about times when that may be difficult.

Fri 28th – 1 Peter 1.3-4a

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

Peter now begins to praise God for many of his blessings, and it’s as though they tumble out onto the page, full of joy and gratitude. “What a God we have!” as The Message puts it. It all starts with God’s love and goodness to us – his “great mercy”. It’s all a gift, not something we have earned or deserve. It’s a new start, a “new birth”, which we have received through Jesus. Of course this is a gift; no one causes their own birth!

Peter wants us to see that our hope is alive and well, not some wishful thinking. Jesus really was raised from the dead, and if he is alive, so is our future – because when we trust in him, we become his brothers and sisters and we share his inheritance. Everything that is God’s he chooses to share with us as his children.

Are you tempted to have a ‘poverty mindset’? That you’ll never have enough or that joy or peace are always out of your grasp? Remember today that ‘your Father is pleased to give you his kingdom’ (Luke 12.32).

Sat 29th – 1 Peter 1.3-5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Today we see Peter elaborate on this gift, this inheritance we receive as God’s children. It’s not temporary. It’s not like a family fortune that could be frittered away or a vintage car that will fall apart. This is eternal – life in God’s beautiful presence forever.

Maybe we believe that God will keep his side of the bargain, but fear that we will fail and will never receive this wonderful gift. Peter gives reassurance to all who have faith in Jesus: we are “shielded by God’s power” for as long as we need to be. One day God’s rescue will be complete, and until that day he will keep us safe. “The Day is coming,” in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, “when we’ll have it all – life healed and whole.”

Today, acknowledge your vulnerability and weakness to God, and thank him for the truth of Psalm 27.1 – “the Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”

MARCH

Sun 1st – 1 Peter 1.6-7

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Peter reminds us that, when we really understand all God is giving us, even during trials we will still rejoice. Today, many people seem to see the avoidance of suffering as one of the main aims of life, but the Biblical view is that our response to our circumstances is much more important than the circumstances themselves. “Grief arises because of many difficulties encountered in this fallen world, but faith looks to the unseen reality beyond this present brief existence, and rejoices.” (Grudem)

Here Peter sets out that there is even a good purpose behind our griefs, since it is only through hard times that our faith can be shown to be real. It’s in these times that we test ourselves to find whether we are in fact ‘believing in God’ or ‘being a Christian’ just because we think it will make life easier, rather than genuinely trusting God as our wise and good creator and saviour, who deserves our worship and obedience.

Genuine faith is worth far more than gold, which still ultimately perishes – whereas the eternal life given by the eternal God will never fade or fail.

Perhaps you are going through a tough time. Ask God to show you, as he showed Paul, that his “grace is all you need” (2 Corinthians 12.9).

Mon 2nd – 1 Peter 1.8

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.

While one reason for us to find joy even in hard times is the promise of eternal life, another is our relationship with Jesus Christ right here, right now. These Christians were in the same boat as us – they had never seen Jesus. But they loved him! This is the kind of friendship with God we are invited to enjoy. I remember when the former Bishop of Selby did confirmations, he would whisper into the ear of each candidate, ‘Jesus is your best friend’. There is nothing you can’t share with him, there is never a time when he isn’t with you.

These Christians also “believe in” Jesus. Those words sound a bit weak to our ears, like believing in the tooth fairy or Father Christmas, some sort of wishful thinking. But this word means to ‘trust’, to be confident in – something solid. In fact, the Greek phrase is ‘trust into’, giving an idea of climbing into the presence and the safety of Jesus, resting secure in him.

Today, try to find ways to express to God your love for him, and to rest in his strong and close presence.

Tues 3rd – 1 Peter 1.8-9

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, as you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

This relationship with Jesus gives rise to overflowing joy – a joy that is ‘glorious’ which implies that it comes from and is filled with God. In Nehemiah, God’s people are told that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”, which points to the importance of joy in giving us the energy to keep going. But it also reminds us that real, powerful joy comes from God and can’t be brought about by circumstances or ‘things’.

The ongoing friendship with Jesus is a beautiful mark that we are on our way to our destination – ultimately our faith, our dependence on him, will lead us to the ‘salvation of our souls’. And it seems that this is something that we are receiving more and more as we go through life trusting in Jesus. We can experience and grasp hold of the blessings of being rescued and given new life by God, until finally everything is made perfect when Jesus returns.

Ask God today for this ‘inexpressible and glorious joy’ to flow in your life.

Wed 4th – 1 Peter 1.10-12

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things!

These verses require more unpacking than we can do here, but what comes through clearly is that our salvation is magnificent! The grace of God which we receive through Jesus Christ is something which the prophets of the Old Testament longed to know more about – but they were “serving us” as they passed on all the Spirit revealed to them, so that we might understand God’s plans and purposes in Christ.

And now the angels are longing to look into our salvation, “for they know that these struggling believers are actually the recipients of God’s greatest blessings, honoured participants in a great drama at the focal point o universal history” (Grudem). Wow!

Here we have the long view of God at work; of the world-changing event of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; and of how privileged we are to have been chosen to be part of it all.

Remember today that you have significance in the eyes of God, and ask him to open your eyes to the part you have to play in his grand design.

Thu 5th – 1 Peter 1.13-16

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Given what astonishing blessings are ours in Christ, Peter encourages us not to sleepwalk through life. It’s so easy to lose sight of what is to come when Jesus returns, and of the real purpose of life with God. Often we drift through our days and weeks and years without stopping to reflect on the purposes of God and on what we’re here for.

But instead we should be “alert and fully sober” – we should have our eyes wide open to what God is doing in his world, and to how we fit in. We should be ready for action. As Peter will go on to say later in his letter, the devil and God’s many enemies are looking always to pull us away from our wonderful saviour. If we are too naïve or too dozy, we can so easily find our lives going in entirely the wrong direction, or missing how God is at work.

Today, ask God to keep you alert and vigilant. Stop and think about why you are where you are asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten you.

Fri 6th – 1 Peter 1.13-16

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

As Peter urges us to be ‘alert’, he reminds us that one consequence of our bond with our loving Father is that we should become like him. More so than today, one of the main ways in which Peter’s original
readers understood family relationships was that children should grow into the likeness of their parents. The heir should have the character of the head of the family.

Here, Peter encourages us to take seriously God’s call to be like him. He is “holy”, which is to say he is “set apart” – and especially this speaks of his purity, his goodness. Now that we are no longer “living in ignorance” about God our Father, we can see what he is like, and we are to become more and more like him. Of course, this is a great challenge since the easiest thing is to be shaped by, to “conform” to the way the world around us thinks and acts.

Ask yourself whether you ‘conform’ to the world in ways that mean you are not growing into your Father’s likeness. Ask him to help you to become more like him. 

Sat 7th – 1 Peter 1.17-21

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were ransomed out of the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

I recommend reading these verses a few times – there’s a lot in there!

Peter reminds us that our loving Father is also the judge of all things, and that our short time as ‘foreigners’ in this world should not be treated lightly. There is an appropriate fear with which we should conduct ourselves before our awesome God.

Partly, this is because of all he has done for us. We have been rescued from an ‘empty’ or meaningless life, and the price which was paid to buy us out of sin and futility was tremendously high. Jesus Christ gave his very life, a sacrifice in our place, the fulfilment of the ‘lambs without blemish’ sacrificed in the Old Testament to make provision for the sins of God’s people.

The same God who is judge of all is also the one prepared to pay the great price to be our saviour – and indeed this was his plan since before the world as created. Given this great love for us, we can put all of our faith and hope in him. We certainly don’t want to respond flippantly to God’s great mercy.

Take time today to thank God for all he has done to bring you forgiveness and new life, and to confess to him those times when you have ignored and dishonoured him.

Sun 8th – 1 Peter 1.22-25

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.

Peter seems here to be saying that the obedience of these Christians was making them ‘pure’ or holy; and that evidence of this holiness was seen in their love for each other. Now they are urged to cultivate this love further, moving from ‘philadelphia’ (love of brothers and sisters) to ‘agape’ (the deepest kind of self-sacrificial love).

This is so important because all of us as Christians have been ‘born again’ to an ‘imperishable’ life – in other words, we’re not going to be able to get away from each other, so we’d better learn to really love!
The contrast between our natural life, which inevitably withers and fades, and the enduring word of the Lord which will never fail is stark. Our new life began as this eternal ‘seed’ took root in our hearts, ‘the word that was preached to you’, and so we can be confident that what we are building our lives upon is entirely dependable and everlasting.

Give thanks today for your brothers and sisters in Christ, asking God to give you increasing love for them.

Mon 9th – 1 Peter 2.1-3

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Here again, the eternal nature of our life with God changes how we are to live. Since we have ‘imperishable’ life, we must continue to grow to be more like the one we live forever to love and worship – we are to get rid of those behaviours that are no longer worthy of who we are.

If we are going to continue to ‘grow up’ in this new life, we will need food. Just as babies crave their mothers’ milk (and get very desperate for it, hence all the crying!), we need spiritual nourishment. And remarkably, this spiritual food seems to be nothing less than God himself: ‘you have tasted that the Lord is good’. By whatever means we feed on the Lord – through reading, studying and meditating on the Bible; through personal prayer; through corporate worship; in taking communion – the amazing thing is that, ultimately, it is Jesus himself we are feeding on. We are filled with his real presence by the Holy Spirit.

Have you tasted that the Lord is good? How might you feast on him more so that you can ‘grow up’?

Tue 10th – 1 Peter 2.4-8

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and,
“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

In today’s verses we see how Jesus divides. He himself said (Matthew 10.21) he would cause family members to turn against one another. Here Peter, who must have witnessed this time and again, speaks of how some are able to see Jesus as God’s chosen one, the one who brings life and who rescues and upholds all who come to him; but others cannot or will not see. They are not merely apathetic, but reject Christ with hostility and are tripped up by their unbelief.

This is at least one reason why our lives as Christians will never be a walk in the park. Opposition is inevitable when we are really following the path of Jesus. But the good news vastly outweighs the bad, and in verse five Peter tells us that we are ‘being built’ (by the hand of God) together into a spiritual house. We are not in this alone: following Jesus is not an individual pursuit. Rather we are brought together to create a strong edifice, made sure and stable by Jesus Christ, the life-giving cornerstone.

Pray today that you might stand firm on the rock of Jesus when opposition comes: ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’.

Wed 11th March – 1 Peter 2.9-10

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Here is a beautiful declaration of our identity in Christ. We have been chosen by God; we have been brought into his family, giving us the status of royalty; we are ‘priests’ in the sense that we have access to God himself; we are ‘holy’ – set apart by God for his good purposes. It is remarkable that God sees us as his precious possession, and our calling is “to declare his praises”: that means that we are to worship God, to tell the world how excellent he is!

Peter does not want us to lose sight of how dramatically our fortunes have been changed by what God has done for us. It’s not as thought we were ok on our own, but now Jesus has given us a few little added extras to make life a bit nicer. We were in darkness, and now we live in God’s wonderful light; we had no identity to speak of, and now we are ‘the people of God’; we were deserving of God’s wrath, but now we have received his mercy and are set free.

Reflect on these aspects of who you are in Christ. Take time to enjoy God’s presence for you are his special possession, the apple of his eye (Psalm 17.8).

Thurs 12th – 1 Peter 2.11-12

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

It seems that the high status we have as God’s beloved people – as royalty with access to the King – prepares us to live humble and holy lives before others. Peter will show later that Jesus himself is our example in this. As we read in John 13, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power… so he… began to wash his disciples’ feet.”

Here, we are urged to live ‘good’, or attractive, lives among those who do not know God – and who will often criticize and reject us – in the hope that they may be so impressed by our integrity and love as to turn become worshippers of God. We are like exiles in this world, remember, and so we should not be surprised if we are called to live differently from those around us, and not simply to adopt all the customs of the ‘natives’.

It is when we are confident of our status in Christ that we will be strengthened to live ‘good lives’, distinctive from the people around us. Do you yet know how much God esteems you, his child?

Fri 13th – 1 Peter 2.13-17

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s servants. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.

Continuing the same line of thought, Peter urges us to ‘submit’ to others because we are assured of our value in the eyes of the Lord. The word translated as ‘human authority’ really means ‘creature’, which is perhaps one way in which Peter reminds us that even the most powerful human beings are created by God and subject to him. We need to know this, because often our instinct is to rebel and to try to throw off the shackles of those in authority over us – especially when that authority is being misused. But surely Peter knew this better than most, living under the cruel reign of Nero, by whom he was later executed.

But within this call to ‘submit’ is also a permission to ‘live freely’ and a command to ‘do good’. Within the law, surely we are to advocate for justice (as we read so many times in scripture), and above all to live upright and admirable lives that point to the goodness and love of God, our master.

Do you think that as people look at your life they see something attractive, and something that shines the light of Jesus? Ask for his help in this today, for ‘you are the light of the world’. (Matt 5.14)

Sat 14th – 1 Peter 2.18-21

Servants, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are unjust. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

These are difficult verses! Is Peter suggesting that as Christians we should allow those who would abuse their power over us simply to get away with it? These words sound scandalous to our ears. But perhaps this is akin to the scandal, or stumbling-block, of the cross of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1.21). Jesus’ example is one of unjust suffering, of submitting to cruel people for the sake of God. It seems that we are called to ‘follow in his steps’.

Like 1st Century household servants, if in our lives we are put in a place where we are mistreated, how should we respond? Now, we would hope, there would be ways and means for us to appeal against such treatment – but if we suffer for living those ‘good lives’ we thought about yesterday, Peter urges us to be ‘conscious of God’ in these situations and to continue to live humbly. Partly this is about breaking a cycle of evil and retribution. As Ed Clowney says, those in authority cannot enslave us, because we belong to Christ, and cannot humiliate us, as we humble ourselves willingly.

Perhaps you are struggling at work or with some particular injustice. Ask God to give you grace in dealing with other people, and pray that your attitude may change their hearts.

Sun 15th – 1 Peter 2.22-25

“He [Jesus] committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Following on from yesterday’s verses, today Peter gives us the real rationale. When we read the Gospels, I don’t think any of us would come away thinking of Jesus as weak or humiliated. For all the unjust abuse he received, and even in the face of his cruel and painful death, he remained in control. How? “He entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” He put his life in his Father’s hands, knowing he could trust God completely in every eventuality. God will always judge justly. As Paul writes, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8.28)

And of course, God used Jesus’ submission and trust to bring about something wonderful. His death brings healing to us, the opportunity of a new life of righteousness. Indeed, it bring s a complete turnaround, moving us from ‘going astray’ like helpless sheep back into the care of our great Shepherd.
Our suffering, of course, does not have the same world-changing effect as Jesus’ once for all sacrifice. But can you see any ways in which enduring hardship has had surprising results in your own life?

Mon 16th – 1 Peter 3.1-6

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Continuing on the theme of submission following the example of Jesus, Peter moves on to marriage. First, he speaks to Christian wives, and especially to those married to non-Christians. As in the surrounding verses, he is thinking especially about how the attractive lives of Jesus-followers draw others to him. His reminder is that it is not outward adornment which matters, but inner beauty – ‘a gentle and peaceful spirit’, which are not specifically feminine qualities, since they reflect both the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) and Jesus’ own life (Matthew 11.29).

This submission, though, is first to God. Wives would have been expected to follow their husbands’ religion, and yet here Peter urges them to remain faithful to Jesus Christ. Equally, they may have come under pressure from husbands to prioritize outward appearance so they could be presented as ‘trophy wives’ – but Peter says they should be concerned with that which has ‘worth in God’s sight’. Indeed, it seems that the call to ‘do what is right and not give way to fear’ may be a direct instruction to keep living as Christians even in the face of pressure from pagan husbands.

Your situation may be very different, but are there times when you are tempted to downplay your faith under pressure from those around you? Do you care most of all about what is of worth in God’s eyes?

Tue 17th – 1 Peter 3.7

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with honour as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Peter now addresses husbands, and says they should act “in the same way” – which if course means in submission to God and within their marriages. If wives are to submit, that does not mean husbands are to domineer. Absolutely not. Husbands are to treat their wives ‘considerately’, in other words being thoughtful about their needs; they are to show ‘honour’ to their wives, a word which really means to see them as precious (the same as in 2.7, about the way we see Jesus).

While Peter says that the wife is ‘weaker’, a phrase which jars today, he is probably specifically speaking about her physical weakness, and the emphasis again is on the imperative for the husband to offer protection and love, never using strength to manipulate. It is clear that husband and wife are equal, both ‘heirs… of life’ with God. The warning to husbands who fail to honour their wives is serious – their ‘prayers’, their very access to God himself, will be hindered.

If you are a husband, how do you respond to this direct teaching? If not, are there relationships in which you need to be more considerate of others, to treat them with greater honour?

 

Wed 18th – 1 Peter 3.8-9

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may obtain a blessing.

In these verses, we move back to the general Christian calling – ‘all of you’. Peter tells us that our lives as God’s chosen people are to be marked by a unity in the way we think about things, and by an overall sense of love for one another and considering others’ needs as of utmost importance (and idea repeated through the New Testament).

This new way of life exemplified (and for us empowered) by Jesus is a radically different one. As we trust in God to meet our needs and make things right, we are set free to break the cycle of revenge and hatred that can destroy lives. We are to “repay evil with blessing” – as Jesus said, to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5.44). And if we do this, God does not leave us to fend for ourselves; he blesses us. In the context of the Psalm we’ll look at tomorrow, we can expect that these blessings are not just in the future, but also here and now.

Are there situations in your life where you are facing evil or insults? How will you respond? What will it look like to trust God in these situations?

Thu 19th – 1 Peter 3.10-12

For, “Whoever would love life and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Today we read a quotation from Psalm 34.12-16. Peter does not introduce these verses, but uses them to support what he has been saying about the importance of living a righteous life in the face of difficulty. The context of the Psalm and of Peter’s letter make it very clear that the blessings we receive as we follow God’s path do not take us out of hard situations – it is rather that God blesses us in the midst of the struggle.

The life that is described is one of integrity, speaking only the truth; one of goodness, avoiding doing the wrong thing; one of peace and peace-making. God notices our lives and acts accordingly. He hears the prayers of those who are seeking his ways, but not of the hypocrites. We can’t hide our hearts from God, and so we are much better off sharing our thoughts and struggles, our successes and joys with him openly and honestly.

Is there anything you have wanted to hide from God? Anything you have felt you didn’t want to admit to him? Take time to be honest before him today.

Fri 20th – 1 Peter 3.13-16

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The theme of these verses is very similar to what has gone before: being prepared to face opposition for living in obedience to God, remembering that Jesus Christ is our master. Peter’s expectation is again that such a lifestyle will draw others to Jesus, and here he speaks about how we should respond to those who are intrigued by our distinctiveness.

Some will ask why we live as we do, and we need to be ready to answer. We are not just ‘good people’, we are not to have some sort of false modesty, we are to speak about the “hope that we have”. ‘I don’t live in fear’, we might say, ‘because I know that I am a citizen of heaven’, or ‘because I know the joy that comes from being in God’s presence’, or ‘because I am precious to God and know he will take care of me’. We’re not to do this in a pushy or arrogant way, but gently and respectfully, always hoping to bring others into a knowledge of Jesus’ love.

Have a think today about how you might express ‘the reason for the hope you have’ if someone asks you. Are you living in such a way that someone might?

Sat 21st – 1 Peter 3.17-18

For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also died once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Clearly, Peter’s first readers were undergoing serious suffering for their faith, ‘for doing good’. He reminds them again that this same thing happened to no less than the Lord himself. Jesus was righteous, he had done no wrong, and yet he died.

Here is the heart of the gospel: Christ suffered ‘for sins’ (ie, to deal with our sins); because he was pure and righteous, the real fulfilment of the symbolic lambs in the Old Testament sacrificial rituals, he could take our sins upon himself and die on our behalf (‘for the unrighteous’). The ultimate purpose of all of this was that we might be brought to God – we had been separated from him by our sin, and so as Jesus took that sin upon himself (see 2.24), we were set free and able to be united with our loving Father. Jesus’ resurrection was ‘in the Spirit’, an eternal life into which we are invited as his brothers and sisters.

Take time to reflect on what God in Jesus has done for you. Without him you would be lost, but now eternal life is yours.

Sun 22nd – 1 Peter 3.19-22

After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the appeal for a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

What?! I’m not here going to get into possible meanings of the imprisoned spirits, etc. But the crux of what Peter is saying is to encourage us in our salvation. Just as God kept safe those in the ark, so we are brought up from the waters of baptism into new life. It’s not the outward action of being baptized that saves us, but what it represents: turning to God and appealing for forgiveness (a ‘clear conscience’).

Rising out of the waters of baptism is itself a picture of Jesus’ rising from death and ascending into heaven, where he now reigns mightily with his Father. He has authority over all other powers, and this should bring us great encouragement. Especially as we go through hard times and face opposition for our faith, we can be confident that a) this is not all some arbitrary and cruel twist of fate, and b) that our salvation is in the safest of hands.

Do you often think of Jesus as the almighty ruler over all the powers of earth and heaven? Take time to meditate on that today.

Mon 23rd March – 1 Peter 4.1-2

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

My goodness, a lot has happened since last I wrote one of these reflections! Everything now, of course, will be coloured by our new situation. Here Peter continues his theme of suffering for doing good, and in our current time that may for us mean asking how we can continue to do the right thing whatever the personal cost might be.

As ever, Peter reminds us of Jesus’ example of suffering and encourages us to have ‘the same attitude’. That seems to mean the attitude of doing the right thing rather than trying to avoid pain. When he says that ‘whoever suffers in the body is done with sin’, he implies that this attitude shows we are now putting obedience to God above selfish desires and personal comfort. Sin and selfishness no longer control those who follow Christ, but rather God’s will; we have made a ‘clear break from sin’ (Grudem).

As we respond to this pandemic, what does it mean for us to ‘do the right thing’? For one thing, it means acting responsibly, self-isolating in spite of all the pain that may cause. It means thinking and praying about how we can love our neighbours in these strangest of circumstances. It means continuing to pray and worship as the people of God rather than giving up hope.

How can you have ‘the same attitude’ as Jesus Christ as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic?

Tue 24th – 1 Peter 4.3-4

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not run with them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

It seems that at least some of Peter’s readers had converted from paganism, with its wild lifestyle. For us, we may have had a wide variety of experiences before we came to know Jesus. But whether we were mixed up with orgies and debauchery, were governed by chasing after wealth and comfort, or were filled with self-righteous moralism – whatever may have been our leading light – we should no longer wish to return to that. Maybe some of those temptations to do the easy thing are ramped up in a time of crisis such as this: the call on us is to keep going with Jesus.

If we are able to continue to ‘run the race’ with Jesus, rather than ‘running with’ those who are governed by selfish desires, we will find that people don’t like it. Some will ‘heap abuse’ on us. This is interesting, as Peter has told us in the previous chapter that our good deeds will sometimes lead others to ask questions of why we live as we do. People will respond in various ways (just as they did to Jesus), but we are not to be governed by what other people will think of us, but we are to live the new lives we have been chosen for.

Think about how different people have responded when you have lived distinctively as a Christian. Could you pray now for some of those people?

Wed 25th – 1 Peter 4.5-6

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that though they are judged in the body as people, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
In today’s verses, we are reminded again of one motive to keep going in the face of ‘abuse’ or opposition as Christians: Jesus is the judge! Whether we are still alive when the Judge of all returns to his world, or whether we have already died, makes no difference. Peter seems to be saying that, because the good news has been preached, those who have responded – even though they have died physically (being ‘judged in the body as people’) – will live in the spiritual realm beyond their physical death. This is the will of God.

Jesus did not come to save us from physical death. As he said to Martha (John 11.25), ‘those who believe in me will live, even though they die.’ Will be raised again to a new body, to be sure, but in the spirit we will never die.

This truth is so important as we face death on a huge scale. First, there will be judgement which no one will evade – it is Jesus who is the judge of all, and how we need to share his good news of rescue with others before it is too late. Second, we have nothing to fear in death. Some of us may die physically of coronavirus – yes, it really could happen. But if we belong to Jesus, we will not die spiritually. Indeed, we will never die. That must make all the difference.

Reflect on the fact that you will ‘meet your maker’ one day. How does it make you feel? You might like to use Revelation 1.12-18 as an encouragement.

Thu 26th – 1 Peter 4.7-9

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

We rarely think about the ‘end of all things’, though perhaps in this time of global crisis we do more so. Peter knew that all the ‘main events’ that had needed to happen in God’s great plan of salvation have now happened. Jesus could return at any time; we should live with the mindset that we are in the ‘last days’. So, what will that mean?

First, we are urged to be ‘alert’ and ‘sober’ – awake to the reality of what is happening. This will enable us to pray, and to pray effectively. Second, we are called again to love. That our love should be ‘deep’ literally means that it should ‘stretch out’. Our love should be strong and flexible enough to reach all those we live among, and stretchy enough to ‘cover over’ one another’s sins and offences: forgiveness is a crucial part of love.

This love and hospitality is given to ‘each other’ (those in the church) not because God intends us to be exclusive, but because our love for each other shines out to the world with the light of Christ. And now, in this time, we must be creative – pray for the inspiration of the Spirit – to know how we can continue to be loving and hospitable in a time of non-contact.

Pray today for wisdom to know how to love others without leaving our houses!

Fri 27th – 1 Peter 4.10-11

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter now elaborates on the ways in which we might ‘love each other deeply’, and makes clear that it is the gifts we receive from God which enable us to serve. ‘Each of you’ makes clear that all Christians are given grace, while ‘in its various forms’ reminds us that the way God works in each of us is unique and different.
Peter then seems to divide these ‘gifts’ into two broad categories – speaking and serving. If we speak (presumably not just formal preaching, but any God-centred speech), we should take this task seriously, as though we are speaking God’s words. Maybe this is because often we are speaking God’s words, as God’s grace flows in us!

And if we serve, we should do it in God’s strength. In other words, even if you think you can serve refreshments or pick up someone’s shopping in your own strength, you mustn’t. You must ask God for his help and strength in everything, so that he will get the praise that he deserves – which is just as it should be, since without his sustaining power we can, in truth, do nothing at all.

Are you aware of ‘God’s grace in its various forms’ in your life? Ask God to help you today to ‘steward’ (to use wisely) that grace in blessing others, especially at this time.

Sat 28th – 1 Peter 4.12-14

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

While these verses refer especially to suffering because we are living as Christians, they still have a wider application about our response to any suffering. In these times, that seems highly relevant. As we see the havoc caused by the coronavirus, we need not be surprised ‘as though something strange were happening’. Really? Whyever not?

Several reasons are mentioned: first, any suffering that comes our way can be used to ‘test’ and ‘refine’ (the idea behind ‘fiery ordeal’) us. God wants to purify us and, as we all know, going through times of suffering can bring us near to him and throw us onto his love. Second, when we suffer, we are following the path of our suffering saviour – how can we be his if we never suffer? – and if we are sharing in Jesus’ experience, we can only be thankful and joyful. Third, our suffering lifts our eyes to the future joy of Jesus’ return. And fourth, ‘the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us’ as we suffer.

This final blessing of God’s presence with us is specifically linked to being ‘insulted’ because we are Christians – but we do not go out of our way to be insulted. Our calling is to live obediently to Jesus, and in doing so his Spirit will rest upon us. As we respond to the suffering around us now, our desire is to bless God and not to curse him, which many will suggest we should do.

Will you allow these challenging and sorrowful times to refine you and to throw you into God’s arms, or will you turn against him? 

Sun 29th – 1 Peter 4.15-19

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Clearly there is nothing good about suffering for doing the wrong thing. But when we suffer, as Peter has repeatedly told us, for our Christian faith we should even praise God that we are identified with him. For if we are his, though we may receive opposition from some, we receive far more blessing from God himself.

Peter is in no doubt that what we go through in our lives is no accident. He links suffering to ‘judgement’, but for those of us in ‘God’s household’ this is a discipline which is intended to refine us, just as gold is refined in the fire. The danger, however, is for those who ‘do not obey the gospel of God’. In saying how ‘hard’ salvation is, Peter implies that the price Jesus has paid to bring us to God (see 3.18) was tremendously high – those who reject this salvation surely have no hope.

And so, for those who ‘suffer according to God’s will’ – and we have to accept that our current crisis is not outside of his will – the encouragement is to continue to be devoted to trusting the one who has created this world and who remains our wise sovereign.

Pray today for those you know who are suffering more than you are – that they might trust God through it all.

 

Mon 30th March – 1 Peter 5.1-4

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 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. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

For some of you reading, you will have a position of pastoral responsibility in the church; for others, less so. But it’s important for all of us to hear these words. If ever we are in a position of ‘shepherding’ others, here is how we should do it: not out of grudging duty, not trying to get anything out of it for ourselves, not abusing the power we have been given; instead we are to love the people under our care, to serve them, and to set a good example. If Jesus came ‘not to be serve, but to serve’, then how much more should we have that attitude.

When we are under the guidance and care of others, we should hold our leaders to this teaching. If we see evidence of people acting selfishly, living inappropriately, in it for themselves, we need to challenge them about that. And we should pray for our leaders that they will indeed be motivated by a love of others and a desire for God’s glory. We should be, since an eternal ‘crown of glory’ awaits all those of us who serve the Chief Shepherd.

Pray for your leaders, and for those you lead, today.

Tue 31st March – 1 Peter 5.1-4

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 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. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Today, I’d like to pick up simply on Peter’s assertion that he was ‘a witness of Christ’s sufferings’. There are numerous places in the New Testament when the writers remind us that that knew Jesus, that they saw him suffer, and that they witnessed his resurrection. One of the reasons they emphasize this is that so-called ‘gnostics’ were an influential group – those who tried to deny the humanity of Jesus, and to argue that only spiritual things matter.

But, in fact, Jesus’ humanity and his suffering matter greatly. God cares about our bodily existence; this is not some trap from which one day we will finally escape, floating forevermore like a cloud. There is a big tendency today in our ‘rich’ church to try to avoid suffering, to suggest that God wants us to find the key to being on some ‘higher plane’ where everything is sweetness and light. But we worship a God who not only ‘became flesh’ but who even suffered and died in the flesh. Our lives in the body are able to point to the God who created this world, especially as we follow in Christ’s steps and put love for God and neighbour above the desire for personal comfort.

Does it help you to know, as we go through this pandemic, that God embraced humanity in Christ, even dying a painful and shameful death for our sake?