Day 329

Know When to Kneel

Wisdom Psalm 133:1,3b
New Testament 1 Peter 4:1–2,7–16,19
Old Testament Ezekiel 47:6,9,12

Introduction

Raniero Cantalamessa is a Capuchin monk. In 1977, he was sent by the Vatican to be an observer at a conference in Kansas City, USA where there were 20,000 Catholics and 20,000 other Christians. On the last day of the conference, after someone had spoken about the tragedy of all the divisions in the body of Christ (the church), 40,000 people knelt in repentance. As Father Raniero looked out, he saw the words ‘JESUS IS LORD’ on a big neon sign over the conference venue. He describes how, at that moment, he caught a glimpse of what Christian unity is all about – 40,000 people kneeling in repentance under the Lordship of Jesus.

He asked ‘a lay Protestant’ to pray for him to experience more of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit filled him. He experienced God’s love for him in a new way. He found himself speaking ‘in a manner like speaking in tongues’. The Bible came alive in a new way. He received a new ministry. In 1980, he was invited by Pope John Paul II to be the preacher to the Papal Household. This is what he has been ever since. In 2020, he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis. Three themes dominate his remarkable ministry: unity, love and the Holy Spirit. They are distinct, but closely linked.

Wisdom

Psalm 133:1,3b

1 How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
3 For there the LORD bestows his blessing…

Commentary

Live together in unity

God blesses ‘unity’ (v.1). I have seen that over and over again. He blesses unity in marriage, families, teams, communities, nations and in the church. When Christians from different churches, traditions and denominations come together in unity, ‘that’s where God commands his blessing’ (v.3, MSG).

The psalmist writes, ‘How wonderful, how beautiful when brothers and sisters get along!’ (v.1, MSG). There is a proverb: ‘weak things united become strong.’ The same is true of people: weak people united become strong.

The psalmist describes this unity as being ‘like precious oil’ (v.2, using an image from Leviticus 8:12). It is like ‘the dew of Hermon’ (Psalm 133:3). Mount Hermon is a vast area. It is usually snow-capped. It rises 10,000 feet above sea level. Its dew is thought to keep the whole land fresh.

These images of oil and dew are images of blessing. Where there is unity, ‘there the Lord bestows his blessing’ (v.3).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you bless unity so much. May there be unity in our church and between the churches around the world.

New Testament

1 Peter 4:1–2,7–16,19

4Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 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.

12 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. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

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

Commentary

Love each other deeply

‘Love each other deeply,’ writes the apostle Peter (v.8a). The Greek word used for ‘deeply’ is the word used for a horse at full gallop. It means ‘stretched out’ and is sometimes translated ‘fervently’.

This kind of love ‘covers a multitude of sins (forgives and disregards the offenses of others)’ (v.8b, AMP). Love forgives faults in others because you know the loving, forgiving grace of God in your own life.

This is key to maintaining good relationships and avoiding falling out with others too easily. You know in your own life how much God loves you and has forgiven your own sins. Be willing to overlook offences and sins in others.

This does not mean that sin does not matter. On the contrary, Peter urges us to be ‘done with sin’ (v.1). Break with the old life of evil human desires and live for the will of God (v.2).

I remember well the reaction of some of my friends when I first encountered Jesus. They were surprised at the change and thought it strange. Peter writes, ‘You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

You are called to live differently: to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray (v.7); above all, to love (v.8), to be hospitable and to use your gifts (vv.9–10). ‘Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully’ (vv.8–9, MSG).

Like the apostle Paul, Peter sets the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the context of love (vv.10–11; also see 1 Corinthians 12–14). The purpose of the gifts is love.

Even if you love fervently, that love will not always be returned. Expect opposition. Do not be surprised by it: ‘When life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process with glory just around the corner’ (1 Peter 4:12–13, MSG).

This is a type of suffering all Christians are called to. Suffering is part of the purifying process. God uses suffering to refine you and get rid of the sin in your life (vv.1–2). Insults are actually a blessing: ‘If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others’ (v.14, MSG).

Although insults are hurtful, all criticism is, ultimately, a blessing. In so far as it is true, it is a blessing because you can learn from it. If it is not true and you are ‘insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed’ (v.14). It is such an honour to be associated with Jesus that even sharing in his suffering is a blessing. Either way, once you grasp this, you should be able to see all criticism, however painful, as a blessing!

Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin (v.15), but suffering for being a Christian is not a cause for shame – it is a cause for rejoicing and praising God (vv.13,16). It should not put you off, rather keep on doing what is good: ‘So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it’ (v.19, MSG). Martin Luther King said, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’

Prayer

Lord, help us to be a community that loves each other deeply, and where love covers over a multitude of sins.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 47:6,9,12

6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river.

9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.

12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. ”

Commentary

Long for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit

When the love of God is poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), the Spirit of God brings abundant life, spiritual growth, increasing fruitfulness and healing to your life.

Ezekiel sees a picture of this when he sees water pouring out from under the temple. It gushes out and becomes a river that is first ankle deep, then knee deep, then waist deep and eventually ‘it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through’ (Ezekiel 47:5, MSG). There are lots of trees on both sides of the river (v.7). Wherever the river flows, the Sea becomes fresh (v.8).

‘Wherever the river flows, life will flourish – great schools of fish – because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds. Fishermen... casting their nets. The sea will teem with fish of all kinds...

‘But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail. Every month they’ll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing’ (vv.8–12, MSG).

Jesus said that these promises of Ezekiel would be fulfilled not in a place, but in a person – Jesus himself (John 7:37–39). Through the Holy Spirit, the streams of living water will flow from you also. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flowing from within’ (v.38).

This river of living water is therefore a picture of the work of the Spirit, who brings life and abundance and blessing to you, and then flows out of you to have a positive impact on others. All the imagery points to life, growth, fruitfulness and healing. It is a picture of the church of Jesus Christ growing and bringing life wherever the river flows.

Ultimately, the river foreshadows and anticipates the new Jerusalem – the city where God lives. The name of the city is, ‘The Lord Is There’ (Ezekiel 48:35). This foreshadows the new heaven and the new earth (see Revelation 22:1–2), which Jesus will bring about when he returns.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the Holy Spirit and the promise that rivers of living water will flow out of my innermost being. Please fill me today with the Holy Spirit so that I may bring life, love, unity and healing wherever I go.

Pippa adds

1 Peter 4:8

‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.’

When the world seems cross, divided, quick to judge or think the worst of each other, pouring love into a situation can begin to turn the tide.

Verse of the Day

1 Peter 4:8

‘Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.’

Thought for the Day

‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’ – Martin Luther King Jr
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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