Peter continues what Paul began, teaching us that ‘reigniting our hope’ requires coming together with our Christian brothers and sisters. And not merely as a gathering for one hour a week. What they exhort us toward is genuine, mutual love.
If last week’s trio of Christians graces illustrated our unity as a body of Christ sourced and motivated by love, then this week’s gifts show us how to strengthen our faith and hope so that we love with sincerity and fervency. In other words, our love cannot simply claim that we have love for each other. Rather, we must actually love in such a way that it’s visible in all we do. It’s a unity that comes by purification:
“Through [Christ] you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”1 Peter 1:21–22 NRSV
Why We Trust
Peter shows us yet another way faith and hope work in tandem by pointing out that when we give ourselves space to remember God’s work of raising and glorifying Jesus, we find the fuel we need to sustain our belief and hope in God.1 So, whenever we face trials and feel pain, there comes a point when we must choose whether or not we’re going to trust Him.
For me, there was a day that I was, once again, fretting over my sons before the Lord. I wasn’t just concerned; I was spiraling. My anxious words tumbled out, harbored in fear. I finally took a deep enough breath that God got a word in. And boom! He very kindly but pointedly told me my worrying proved I was not trusting Him.
Since that day, I’ve been seeking ways to join God in the work He’s already doing rather than ‘worrying my prayers,’ as JD Walt calls it. I have also been looking to strengthen my trust in the Lord.
Amazingly, what Peter brings up about God raising Jesus from the dead and giving Him glory has helped me to better understand why we can trust God. And it has everything to do with power.
Trusting the Almighty finds its roots in His constancy, His authority – and His power. When God, with His death-defeating domination, resurrected Jesus, sin and death were conquered. That same power brought about a transformation in Jesus that we call glorification. For forty days after stepping out of the tomb, He walked the earth in this glorified state. Then He was taken to heaven where He continues to rule and reign from His throne.
It’s easy to read over the facts of Jesus’ death, resurrection, glorification, and ascension because they’ve become so familiar. But when we read them with eyes of wonder, we allow the awe of the miraculous to overtake us. Sit with it a moment.
Do you feel the power? God brought Jesus’ dead body back to life! But not just as a regular human body like Jesus did for Lazarus, but as a glorified one. Real in the sense that Jesus could be seen, recognized, touched, and even fed. But glorified in the way He was made perfect – just as we will be perfected upon our own resurrection where our bodies will be made whole and no longer held in check by physical restraints, like time and space (Philippians 3:21). Like walls and locked doors (John 20:19).
Peter wants us to know that by believing in Jesus, we. trust. God. And because we trust in God’s holy work of raising and glorifying Jesus, our faith and hope find a solid foundation onto which we can land again and again and again. The power by which God accomplished great works in Christ becomes the reason for our trust in God.
How We Obey
So, if God’s miracles through and in Christ are the why of our faith and hope in Him, then it’s the purification of our souls that becomes the how. Peter minces no words, telling us that it is “obedience to the truth” that purifies us. That little phrase contains some big words.
First, let’s establish what Peter means by ‘the truth.’ One commentator explains that “truth with the definite article is the sum of the contents of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ.”2 Ultimately, Jesus is ‘the Truth.’ ‘The truth’ is also the gospel that led us to making that first choice to believe Christ for our salvation. And, we can think of ‘the truth’ as everything Jesus spoke, lived, and called us to walk in. As such, ‘the truth’ becomes our guide for living, our pattern to imitate.2
Second, let’s unpack what Peter (and Jesus) mean by ‘obedience.’ At its core, ‘obedience’ is to actually do what’s been asked of us. In our Christian walk, God doesn’t ask us to be blind followers or robots who never think for ourselves. Rather, He offers us a mind and a will so we can choose.
Thus, we can make the choices before us – the first one with justifying grace, where we believe ‘the truth.’ Then for the rest of our days we determine to walk with sanctifying grace to trust ‘the truth.’ And ultimately, we decide to obey ‘the truth.’ But there’s no obedience without trust. They work together, just as our three graces do. We trust and obey.3
So, each time our faith and hope come under fire, we get to choose. Will we trust? Will we obey? The process of surrendering our will for God’s – because of our trust in Him and our obedience to Him – repeats itself daily and becomes our means of purification.
Just as gold must be melted so that impurities will rise to the surface and be swept away, our faith and hope must go through the heat to be made pure. This method of refinement takes us through fires that cause us to endure the heat without being consumed4 – and each time we come out shimmering brighter because our graces, trust, and obedience become more and more genuine.5
Picture it. You enter a refining season, enduring the pain of consequences or of living in a fallen world, and choose to trust that God is working for your good. As the days of immersion in His Word and presence go by, you begin to understand what it is He is trying to work out of you. You surrender to His loving hand, allowing His wisdom to draw out the impurity and His grace to remove it. Your will melts and molds into His so that what remains is a less selfish, less fearful, less shame-filled, less prideful kind of faith and hope.
And as the molten gold of your heart and mind and soul cool, love keeps you malleable, able to be further shaped by the love of God and the love of your brothers and sisters.
Hope Rises Because We’re Together
Friends, faith begins at our point of conversion. And faith is meant to be the lifelong process of purification and strengthening so that our hope increases and our love abounds. It’s why Peter points out that the purifying of our faith and hope results in love. And not just any love, but genuine, mutual love for each other.
The deeper work of entering the rhythms of seeking God, reading His Word, getting still with Him, and listening to His voice can, and should, happen in our own quiet times. But they become amplified when we engage in such rhythms with other believers.
I recently spoke with a friend about her small group that gathers not for social hour or even Bible study, but to enter the flames of purification together as they talk about challenges to their faith, victories in their journeys, and sins that trip them up.6 She was confessing to me her frustration about their lack of depth. Even after months of meeting, their conversations still felt a bit shallow.
And it occurred to me that just as each of us, individually, require much cleansing and shaping, so do we collectively. Just as each of us must trust God in this process of being purified, so must we trust each other. And all of it – the believing and the trusting and the going deeper – take time. Each person needs to feel the genuineness of love from the others. All of us require an enduring hope for what will be.
So, we start with asking for holy discernment about who we’re to go deeper with. We take bold steps to invite others to join us in this ‘banding’ together.6 We step out in faith to be the one to share vulnerably and to ask loving questions. However slow the transformation may seem, we trust God, and we trust His process.
Loving one another deeply at its purest is ‘banding’ together, but this kind of love can also look like forgiveness or helpfulness or extra grace. Loving from the heart may be visiting someone in the hospital or taking them to the doctor. It could be offering them a place to stay or giving them your car. Or even being the one who receives such love. No matter the shape love takes, all it requires is a trusting and obedient heart so that we can keep choosing God’s way every day!
In whatever form this kind of ‘brotherly love’ shows itself, our hope rises because we know we don’t walk this life alone. Love that is patient and kind keeps us strong in every season because those seasons are shared. Love that is not self-seeking and keeps no records of wrongs has a pulling-together power that nothing can separate. Unifying love like this remains. Forever and ever, it remains.
Heavenly Father, it’s so much harder to actually trust You than to simply say we do. Yet we desire to trust You with every struggle, every concern, every hurt. So, each time we find ourselves worrying, we confess that our trust in You has wavered. We ask that the power in You that raised Jesus from the dead do a work in us – that of strengthening and purifying our faith in You. Lord Jesus, You demonstrated this kind of trust in the Father on the night You bowed in Gethsemane and asked for the cup of such excruciating pain to be passed from You. Like us, You had a choice in the matter. And You showed us how to align our will with the Father’s so that we can do the same. We can choose to trust and obey Him. Holy Spirit, You are that purifying power that dwells within us. Jesus shows us what we need to do, and You give the ability to do it – not in our own strength but in yours. That same power can make us wise and bold and brave as we step into relationships with other believers. We ask for your leading hand to guide us into those holy friendships that burn with purifying glory. We ask for your love to unify us so that every prayer, every truth, and every hope binds us together in Jesus’ name. And, we ask for grace to sustain us as we work together to love one another with genuine affection so that every season of refinement can be amplified and multiplied through the Body of Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
(inspired by 1 Peter 1:21-22; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 1:18-20; Matthew 26:36-46; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; Ephesians 4:3,12; 2 Corinthians 6:1)
Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
- 1 – Biblehub.com commentaries on 1 Peter 1:21–22, specifically the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.
- 2 – Biblehub.com commentaries on 1 Peter 1:22, specifically MacLaren’s Expositions.
- 3 – It always amazes me how often the words ‘trust’ and ‘obey’ arrive together. And, of course, every time they do, I start humming the hymn by the same title. The lyrics of “Trust and Obey” were penned by the Rev. J. H. Sammis, a Presbyterian minister, in 1886. I love how this particular stanza fits today’s topic:
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go
Never fear, only trust and obey
- 4 – Like the burning bush in Exodus 3!
- 5 – Gold and the way it’s refined has fascinated me for years. In fact, I did a deep dive into my research on it, thinking this post might be shaped by the refining process because so much of what gold must go through to be purifies mirrors our own refining process. But. For now, this will have to do. 😉
- 6 – The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, developed a method of discipleship with three layers: the Society, the Class Meeting, and the Band — and they descend respectively in size so that the smallest, the ‘band,’ is about 3-5 people who take the deepest dive — though all three are necessary and good. Seedbed.com offers more information and resources if you have further questions or interest about the ‘band’ — their Discipleship Bands website, explanatory videos, and an app (for Apple and for Android).
- The song, “Refiner” from Maverick City Music captures the heart of what Peter is trying to teach us about God’s purifying fires. You can look up their song on Spotify and follow along with the lyrics to get the full effect. Honestly, it’s a great prayer — “I wanna be tried by fire. Purified. You take whatever you desire. Lord, here’s my life.” I include a version of “Refiner” on our Flames of Faith, Hope, and Love playlist from the Prestonwood Choir. I like their take on it — plus it wasn’t twelve minutes. LOL
- Well! Did you get it? Did you receive our first ever The Abiding Life Newsletter? If not, you can subscribe here. It’ll hit your inbox the first week of each month, packed full of behind the scenes tidbits, sources for inspiration, and other exclusive info that I hope will help us engage more fully in this abiding life we seek. And, if you’d like to receive the first newsletter, just email me and I’ll get it to you.
- On Wednesdays I’ve begun posting 5-7 minute teaching videos on my Facebook Author Page and Instagram (@shelleylinnjohnson).
- Rhythms — Well, it’s safe to say we’ve entered the holiday season, which is such a mixed bag of emotions, stress, and blessings! I know it seems impossible to find time for our rhythm of stillness, but if we neglect it, we’ll feel the lack of awareness of God’s presence with us throughout our days. Getting still doesn’t have to be fancy or formal. It can look like pushing pause long enough to refocus our hearts and minds and souls on the One who has everything we need, who IS everything we need. Here’s a prayer that JD Walt has been inviting his readers into every morning — it’s easy to adopt as your own. Don’t forget to breathe! XOXO
Jesus, I belong to You.
I lift my heart to You.
I set my mind on You.
I fix my eyes on You.
I offer my body to You as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to You.
We’re praying in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!