April 24, 2016
What do you think about the world we live in? It is pretty crazy, isn’t it? There is so much corruption and oppression and brutality and abuse and deceit and pride and arrogance and immorality. We turn on World News Tonight to find out what’s going on and we turn it off as we shake our heads. Do you know what the world needs? I do. The world needs to see more of you and me. You and me hold the only means by which the world can be delivered. And that means you and me need to get out a little more. Do you know what I’m saying?
Right now the only people who can offer deliverance to the world are you, me, and all other committed followers of Jesus Christ. Men and women, the life received in salvation is intended by God to be lived in this world.
I. BE HOPEFUL. 1Pt.1:13
One of Peter’s emphases in v.3-12 has to do with the living hope that is our in Christ. It’s a living hope because Christ is our life and our hope and he lives in us. Because hope has to do with the future, we are looking forward. This is why Peter tells us in v.13 to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us when Christ returns. There is an inheritance waiting for us. It is the completion of the grace extended to us in Jesus Christ.
Those who are born again, live in light of the future. But this is easier said than done. In v.13 there are two pictures or metaphors which help us get an idea of how to do this.
The phrase, “preparing your minds for action,” literally reads, “gird up the loins of your minds.” This phrase has little meaning to us today because we don’t dress like they did in Peter’s day. Back then men would wear a long outer shirt that went down to the ankles. If you had to run it was difficult. So the shirt would be pulled up and tucked into the belt. This became a picture of preparing oneself for action. Using this metaphor, Peter is telling us that we need to be able to think in a certain way so as to fix our minds on the hope, the grace, to be given us when Christ returns.
A second metaphor has to do with being drunk. Someone who is drunk is not in control of their mind or body. Peter tells us that when we are born again to new life in Christ, it is important that we keep our minds clear and focused. It is difficult to set one’s hope on the grace of God to be revealed if our minds are clouded with other things.
Now what is this all about? The world has always been in competition with the grace and mercy of God in salvation. The world offers many compelling alternatives to the life God gives us in Christ. Of course, there is nothing that can surpass life in Christ because life in Christ not only meets our deepest need, it provides the greatest opportunity for living a fulfilling, meaningful life for eternity. The hope of the believer grows brighter. We have so much to look forward to. And yet, the world presents many shiny, attractive alternatives. How can this be? It is because the world is material and physical and appeals to the body and the mind. But all that is of the world is temporal. Peter reminds us in v.7 that even gold is going to perish. Now life in Christ is also material and physical, but it never ends. When we seek to find fulfillment in the world we will never be fully satisfied. The world will give you a good run for your money, until your money runs out. Christ will satisfy you forever.
In eastern religions, your life basically comes to nothing because you are just absorbed into whatever there is and who knows what that really is. In Christ your life has eternal meaning in the eternal kingdom of God. One does not become nothing. One becomes their best self, all that God created us to be through Christ.
So it is important that we not allow the world to cloud our minds so that we are focused only on this world. This world is passing away. I have jury duty on the 25th. I need to call in on the 24th to see if they need me. I’ve got that date on the calendar, in my phone, taped to the wall because I don’t want to forget. In a similar way we must keep our mind focused on the hope of God’s grace that is coming. We must set our hearts and minds on things above because that mindset will help us live for Christ in this world. Christians ought to be the most hopeful people in the world. We have everything to look forward to.
II. BE HOLY. 1:14-16
The idea of being holy begins with the assumption that a person has heard God’s call to salvation in Christ and has responded positively to that call. They have been obedient to the call of God to be saved. What is more, such a person has been born again into the family of God. They are obedient children.
Now one comment before going further. Becoming a child of God takes place when a person responds to the message of the gospel in a heartfelt decision of the will to embrace Christ. We don’t earn life in Christ; we receive life in Christ. Eternal living and forgiveness of sins is a gift that God offers to all who embrace Christ by faith. When a person embraces Christ in this way, God comes to live in that person and begins a work of transformation in that person’s life. It is a transformation that occurs from the inside out. It is a transformation that involves our living a holy life. As our heart is transformed our conduct begins to change.
But it is important to see that this transformation involves our cooperation. Our being transformed into holy people will not take place against our will. This is why it is so important to understand that when a person turns to Christ it involves a surrendering of their will to Christ as their Savior-King.
Before coming to Christ, we were ruled by our self-centered passions and desires. Life was all about satisfying and gratifying ourselves apart from God. This is true even for religious people. There are many religious people who use their religion to affirm and gratify themselves. Peter says, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance. You see, it is still possible to live according to those sinful passions and desires even after we come to Christ, because our bodies are so accustomed to sinful, selfish actions and behaviors. And so as God begins his work of transforming our lives there is quite a battle that ensues. Will we yield and surrender ourselves to the good work of God in us or will we follow our sinful passions and desires?
Peter says, “Hey, you have been adopted into the family of God and so it is important to bear the family resemblance in holy living.” Just as God, our heavenly Father is holy, so we want to be holy. As we offer ourselves to the inner transforming work of God in our hearts, we apply ourselves to holy living in our conduct, so that our conduct begins to reflect the character of Christ. What God is doing on the inside begins to be reflected on the outside.
How do we apply ourselves to holy living? Well, a good starting place is to look at the life of Jesus to see what his holy life was like. In the Scripture, especially the New Testament, there is much written about holy living. The more our mind and heart is saturated with the word of God, the better able we will be to conform our conduct in holiness. But making strides in holy living will also involve spiritual activities like prayer, worship, giving, serving, fasting, to name a few. We don’t do these activities to earn points with God. We do them to make room for God in our lives as we interact with Him. Dr. Craig Dykstra writes, “The life of Christian faith is the practice of many practices,” not because this is something we accomplish, but because these practices are the “habitations of the Spirit.”
We cannot be holy in our conduct apart from the work of God in our lives. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from Jesus we can live for ourselves and do a lot of damage, but apart from Jesus we cannot be holy. But nor can we be holy without putting forth every effort to obey all that Jesus commanded.
III. BE FEARFUL. 1:17-21
You might be scratching your head here. Be fearful? Is that how God wants us to be in our relationship with him? God is our heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us. We bring our requests to him in prayer. So why should we fear God, our Father?
We fear God because as God he is the Judge. His righteous character sets the standards for righteousness and morality. And just because we enter into his family through Christ does not in any way diminish who he is. He is no less of a judge just because he is our heavenly Father.
When we think about God as Judge, it is very easy to think of God as being mean, that God is a mean judge. But that is not true at all. Peter says that God is an impartial Judge. He is fair. His judgments are right and true. If you had a choice between having a human judge or God as your judge, you would definitely want God. You will always get a fair shake. God is far more gracious and just than you or I could ever be.
But why would Peter emphasize this? I think Peter wants us to see that we must never think that because we are in God’s family he will suspend judgment on our actions. There are believers who sort of have the idea that, “since my sins have been forgiven through Christ, I’m home free. I can pretty much do as I choose because, hey, my sins are forgiven. God loves me.” That kind of thinking is not taught in the Bible. But many a professing Christian has used the forgiveness of Christ as freedom to sin. The writer of Hebrews points out that like any loving parent, God disciplines his children for their good. He employs trials and hardship to help us learn to be obedient to him. So we fear the Lord because He is God and we do not want to be at odds with him.
But we also see that this fear of God is related to the high cost of our salvation. Salvation is free to us because Jesus died and rose again for us. When we realize what our salvation cost Jesus, we do not want to live in a way that shows that we treat his death and resurrection lightly. Yes, we all sin, but when we brazenly sin in the face of God thinking that God will give us a pass, we are trampling underfoot the Son of God and we are not recognizing God for who he is. Men and women do not think that God will just overlook our sin. His love, righteousness, and justice will not allow him to do that. And his love, righteousness and justice should hold us back in the face of temptation and sin.
IV. BE LOVING. 1:22-25
When we think about our salvation in Christ, and come to see how God is working to transform our lives, we gain a new focus in life. We are looking to the future when we will be with Christ. As our hearts are transformed we seek to conform our conduct to that of Jesus Christ, to be holy. Not only that, but we gain a new appreciation for who God is. We humbly fear him and are sobered by Christ’s death and resurrection in our behalf. But in v.22-25 we learn that as God transforms our lives we gain a new love for others, especially those in the Church. Those who are in Christ are children of God and selflessly seek to love one another.
There is nothing in the world like the church. The church is not an organization, although churches need to be organized. Nor is the church just an affiliation, although we affiliate with each other. People in the church are not held together by taking oaths and promising loyalty to each other. We are not held together by paying dues. No. The church is held together by the love that God pours into our hearts as a result of our coming to know Christ. We are born again not through our own feeble efforts, but by the living and abiding word of God, which as Peter reminds us in v.25 is the gospel, the good news about life in Christ.
This matter of loving our brothers and sisters in the church is important and challenging. Loving others is not easy. Even in our earthly families we often struggle to love each other. It seems to me that Peter is saying that love for one another is only really possible when we know Christ and are seeking to live in obedience to him. When we are living in obedience to him, his love is better able to flow through us to others because we will be captivated by God and not ourselves.
So let me ask, do you have love for the brothers and sisters in the church? Many Christians attend church and have little interest in sharing the love of Christ with their brothers and sisters in Christ. We live largely to ourselves and the community of Christ, the church that God has placed us into is often little more than a venue for combined individual worship. We are to love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
So what should we do? Well first you need to know what your life is about. Is it about following Jesus or not? Have you repented of your sins and turned to Jesus in faith to receive new life in his kingdom? And if so, what has come of it? How is your life different? When people at work or in your neighborhood get to know you, is it evident by the way you live and talk that you are a follower of Christ? I’m not even talking about sharing the gospel. What about the way you live? If Christ is your life then should not others see Christ in you as Peter tells us in this passage? The life received in salvation is intended by God to be lived in this world. Amen