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Dudley's Weekly Word: Set Apart to New Obedience (August 23, 2016)
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Set Apart to New Obedience

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
 
1 Peter 1:1-3 (ESV)
     Peter is giving scattered first century believers reason to hope even though they are surrounded by a hostile culture. He establishes for them the truth about who they are and what has happened to them as they embrace the gospel. It is fantastic what has happened to them. It started long before they ever decided to believe. God the Father loved them and chose them to be his own. Foreknowledge means more than knowing the future. It means knowing people. He didn’t just know what was going to happen when they heard the gospel. He chose them to hear the gospel and to be set apart for the purpose of living in obedience to Jesus.
 
     Two perspectives or stages describe people before they are transformed by the power of the gospel. The first stage is doubt or skepticism. People have bought the lie of the Serpent who casts doubt on the goodness of God. At that stage we aren’t sure God really has our best interest in mind. We conclude that we just can’t afford to unconditionally trust him. Therefore,  our lives are characterized by independence from God. The second stage is consciousness of sin. Convinced that God’s way is better, we choose to obey his commands only to discover that we can’t fully align with them.
 
     God has acted decisively to remedy the situation. The Spirit has sanctified us by cleansing us from all unrighteousness. The honor we all lost in Adam’s fall was restored as we were placed in Christ. Our shame was removed as we were made holy by his work. He continues to reveal what that looks like as he convicts, reveals, and empowers us in daily living. The dynamic of sanctification continues in us as we are shown the majesty of Jesus and continue to love him more.
 
     The kind of holiness produced by the Holy Spirit is not a lifestyle of rigid rule-keeping with an acute consciousness of sins committed. It is rather one of a humble awareness of being loved unconditionally. This awareness issues forth in trust and a love returned and passed on. Any “obedience” that does not issue forth from love is more appeasement than the obedience of faith. It might impress others, but not God who has already made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. 
 
     The Spirit also is continuously revealing the sufficiency of Jesus’ shed blood. While we walk in the freedom of God’s love, we are not yet perfected in love and often revert to selfish acts. The Spirit makes us aware that Jesus’ blood covers those sins, too. We do not need to live with a sense of defilement, fretting over our failures. Heaven’s focus is on the blood. Ours should be as well. Of course we respond when the Spirit convicts. Why wouldn’t we? He is working in us to free us from the perverted focus on our behavior by featuring the behavior of our Saving Lord.
 
     Obedience to Jesus is such a gift. We know that God’s way is best, but we couldn’t embrace it fully. God has acted on our behalf to make obedience to Jesus our privilege. We can now obey without being so conscious of our obedience/disobedience. We have found someone greater to capture our attention. 
August 23, 2016
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