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After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder or pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy…
Hence we learn that we must not pass too harsh judgement upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head, Christ, who ‘was bruised for us’ (Isa. 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him.
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 5.
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world…Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both…He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.
…because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ…we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise.
…Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it is so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deed, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together-the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954), 27-29.
May Richard Sibbes words give you renewed strength to run as it did for me,
So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have such a gracious Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is his own.
…Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavours. But when, with faithful endeavour, we come short of what we would be, and short of what others are, then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, and that sincerity and truth, as we said before, with endeavour of growth, is our perfection.
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 51-52.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)
God does not have a only one means of exhorting us in live in obedience. He is not a one string banjo which only has one cord to harp on.
You can, however, hear different people try to reduce it down to one. They will do it either in their practice or in their teachings. One will say, “Just preach the gospel of justification.” Others will say, “Work hard to follow the example of Christ.” The list can go on.
Now, such statements are true in part. That is why they can profit an individual. One person has been crushed by their guilt for most of their Christian life. When they hear about living in light of the gospel they start to live in joyous freedom and see so much sanctification in their life. Another never knew the sustaining grace of Christ until they were pushed outside their comfort zone to be obedient in a particular area. They pushed themselves and witnessed power and grace sustaining them.
Now, what these people might be tempted to do is to take their individual experience with the sanctifying work of the Spirit and make it the standard by which all must walk with God. They take the part and make it the whole. So the only thing people need is to know justification by faith alone or to be pushed hard to live out their faith.
But what this section of 1 Peter 2 reminds us is that there are multiple ways that God exhorts us in our pilgrimage as believers to live obediently.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
- Here we see the example of Christ given. Christ lived His perfect life “so that” we could strive to walk as He walked. Believers are to be looking to the life of Christ to give instruction as to how they are to live and thus move to live it.
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
- The person of Christ is given as the One we are to look upon in our warfare. Peter does not tell them to look within themselves to find the courage to obey. To the complete contrary, he tells them, and us, to look away from ourselves and fix our eyes up the Christ who went before us. The person of Christ is who we are to look upon so that His beauty can encourage us to endure as we follow after Him.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
- Here we are told to behold the power that is ours over sin because of Christ. His death to sin means that we are dead to sin. His resurrected life raises us up to live a life of righteousness. The wounds which killed His body bring life to both our souls and bodies making us capable to live for Him. We are, thus, given the greatest healing possible! No sin will have dominion over us! Resurrection power is at the believer’s disposal.
“For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
- Finally, in this passage, we are told to remember what God has done for us. To the persecuted believers Peter is writing to he directs the attention to what God has done for them. They were straying but now have be brought back. The Lord is their Sheperd and Overseer. They are now counted as members of God’s flock who are being watched over by the Lord Himself. They are not forgotten, pointless commodities. The Shepherd will not lose one of His sheep. Look at all the Shepherd has gone through to bring them under His care (vs. 21-24)!
Thus we see that the ways the Lord brings sanctifying truth to His people are multiple. We could even find more by exploring others texts in 1 Peter (or the whole bible). We can even see the truths crisscrossing over the above texts. There is not one phrase, one truth that is the silver bullet to press believers on in their sanctification. As this text demonstrates the truths are multiple.
This means for us that we should be as multifaceted as the bible is when we exhort believers to be like Christ. We are in the dominion of grace in Christ. But that grace may take the form of gentle gospel reminding comforts or it may be the hard confrontation of warning. Truth, wisdom, and love are to guide us as we seek to apply biblical truth to individual lives and circumstances.