Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Purified Souls

The Roman emperor Nero rose to power in 54 AD and reigned until 68 AD. Nero has been tagged as the first persecutor of Christians. After the Great Fire of Rome, Nero started his assault on Christians. He would gather them together, tie them to a light post, dip them it pitch, set them on fire, and use them as lanterns in his gardens. It is believed that Nero was the one who killed both the apostles Peter and Paul of the New Testament.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to live in this time frame. Yet it is in this setting that Peter writes his epistles to the scattered Christians. In 1 Peter 1:7, he talks to them about the trial of their faith. In verse 13, he challenges them to “gird up the loins of your mind” and continues to speak of their obedience, redemption, and faith. Then Apostle Peter makes an astounding statement that has resonated in hearts for years.

In verse 21, he says, “Seeing that ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” The word “soul” speaks of a man’s mind, will, and emotion. This is where I just got floored. Think back to the time and situation that they are in. Nero is burning Christians and using them as lanterns to light up his gardens.

That means someone’s daddy, someone’s mommy, someone’s child, someone’s grandparent has been tortured for sport by Nero, and Apostle Peter says that in the midst of all this chaos and hurt… I see that you have purified your souls [mind, will, and emotions] in obeying the truth through the Spirit. Peter acknowledges something in these Christians that has already happened in the midst of all of this ("seeing ye have") in regard to the purifying of their mind, will and emotions. Even though they were in the trial of their faith, even though they were living the “manifold temptations,” even though their family members were being killed… their mind, will, and emotions were cleansed. Can you imagine... no hatred, vindictiveness, anger or malice... but purified minds?

“Seeing ye have…” --We cannot save ourselves. This is not talking about salvation, but sanctification. They had to choose to “gird up the loins of [their] mind.” They had to choose to yield to the Spirit in the midst of the fiery trial. And they had done it!

May I suggest to you that it is possible to live the difference? It is possible in the midst of heartache, turmoil, manifold temptations, and in the trial of our faith… to live the difference… to obey the truth through the Spirit. As I yield to the Spirit, He then lives, through me, the Person that He already is. “…yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me…” (Galatians 2:20).

Friday, October 28, 2011


I'm not sure, but I can imagine that there are many people who struggle with the transition between living down the person that people perceive them to be, impressions they have left on others, or maybe just living down the person they once were in comparison to the person they are today.

Before Paul was saved, his name was Saul, and Saul was not known for being a light-footed person. As a young man, it interested him to watch a man by the name of Stephen being stoned to death. As he grew and was educated in Jewish law, he became a zealot, and with fierce passion, he persecuted Christians. Saul was making a name for himself. As always, in such a situation, there is much more assumed about a man than is actually true. No doubt Paul was charged with things of which he was not guilty, because of the way he had portrayed himself.

Interestingly, in Acts 9, Jesus had taken note of something in Saul that no one else seemed to notice. Jesus noticed that Saul was "kicking against the pricks" and that was not an enjoyable time for Saul. I would call this conviction. You see, beneath the surface of what appeared to be a hard, calloused man was a man in turmoil, with a desire to do right, but expressing it all the wrong ways.

In a way, I can relate to Saul. I too have had a desire to do right, yet have expressed myself in many wrong ways. I too have left impressions on people that have caused them to doubt my sincerity, as the disciples did with Saul after his conversion. I too struggle at times in the transition between who I've been and who I am, the impression I've left and the individual I've become.

There is really nothing you can do to change people's minds and force them to believe you. I've come to the conclusion that just like Saul/Paul, the only thing that you can do is live the difference. When people assume that you're the difference. When people assume you're the difference. When people assume you're the difference.

In time, just as with Paul, the Lord will establish you, and there will be no doubt that you've been with Jesus.