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Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.

This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile...”

1 Peter 1:17

Obedience to God is a crucial part of Peter’s letter. “Obedience” comes from the word “harken,” or literally, “to listen to,” meaning not just to hear but “to carry out commands (of someone)” or “to do one’s duty.” The underlying implication in these definitions is that the person acting is ultimately not the one in control. To harken and obey shows that the speaker of the command is in control, not the listener.

Peter has already mentioned obedience in verses 2 and 14, and he will mention obedience again in verses 1:22; 2:13, 18; 3:1, 5, 6; 4:17; and 5:5. Clearly, obedience is an essential mark of the Christian life—and the only voice that is to be harkened to is the Father’s. God, as the Author and Sustainer of life, is the perfect benevolent Law-Giver as his authority and goodness are unparalleled.

Our identities and actions should be infused with a desire to be “children of obedience” to our Heavenly Father. Our former evil desires are to be transformed into a deep longing to express our love for God through obedience. The Old Testament speaks of God’s Law as “a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV). There is goodness and guidance in following the instructions God has for us.

Verse 17 in today’s reading begins with a conditional clause: “If you call on him as Father...” Peter says “If” knowing that his readers do call on God as Father. They have become his children. As such, they now have new responsibilities that come with bearing Christ’s name in the world and being about their Father’s business. The good news is, as God’s children, Peter’s readers, and we, have access to God as Abba Father (Daddy). The way a little child runs to their daddy as a source of love, comfort, and security is the same way we are invited to come to our Father. Though God is the Lord of the Universe, he delights in being our Abba Father!

There is another relationship to God that we must examine—God as our Judge. Because God is a God of justice, he will judge everyone, including his children, in the same impartial manner: “according to each one’s deeds” (v. 17). Every person in all the world will be held to the same standard, and spoiler alert: every single person will fall short of it (see Romans 3:23). The standard that we are held to is the holiness of God, a standard no human could ever meet without divine intervention from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Does being judged by our “deeds” mean that our good works merit salvation? No! Having our actions taken into account does not nullify justification through faith in Christ alone (1:1–3; Ephesians 2:8–10). Rather, it shows the importance of living out true belief and true repentance in Christ—the actions of Christians do matter! We will be recognized in the world by our goodness and holiness, just as you know a tree by its fruit (cf. Matthew 7:16). While our deeds do not earn us salvation or add to it in any way, they are consequential, an outworking of our gratitude, and they will be judged.

Doesn’t fear and judgment turn glad hope into fearful dread? What kind of father requires us to fear him?

First, as noted in Day 5 of Week One, we can expect discipline as children of God (see Hebrews 12:6). Many of us who love our earthly daddies feared disobeying them because discipline would surely follow. In disciplining us, good fathers are not being unkind. They are correcting attitudes and behaviors inconsistent with goodness and growth. With good fathers, respect, love, reverence, discipline, and closeness can all coexist. In a similar way but far more so, awe and reverence must be joined to our love for our great, majestic, powerful Father and Judge.

The “fear” Peter mentions (“reverent fear” in the NIV) is not terror of a malevolent force about to malign us. It is reverent respect and awe due to a benevolent force that, though powerful and mighty beyond comprehension, is for us, desiring us to flourish and causing us to grow. This fear acknowledges God’s greatness; it loves, trusts, serves, honors, and lives for him. It wholly leans on him alone, aware that only he knows best how we can live an abundant life. So this fear is not a fear of God’s discipline. Instead, we are to be overwhelmed and overtaken by his goodness that lies behind all his acts toward us.

The privilege, then, of having God as our Abba Father does not exempt us from being judged by him. The realization that our actions will be judged should spur us on to exude his character and good nature in any and every endeavor. We are to live out our time here in exile in reverent fear of God, acknowledging that he alone is holy and holds the authority to rightly judge sin.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, summarizes Peter’s lesson well:

Dear friends,

...Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

Philippians 2:12–16, NLT

In other words, your Daddy loves you. Keep up his good work, kiddo!

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