August 30, 2015

Pastor Joe Wittwer

1 Peter—Stand Strong!

1 Peter 2—Live like a Christian  


ILL: Tuesday I was at a doctor appointment.  The doc asked me what I was speaking on today.  I told him 1 Peter 2, and that it’s about living like a Christian.  He said, “Good.  We need more of that.  We have too many Sunday-only Christians—one hour a week.”

I don’t think any of you want to be Sunday-only Christians.  I assume you are here because you want to live with Jesus and for Jesus 24/7.  That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

1 Peter is a circular letter that Peter wrote to Christians in what is modern Turkey.  They were facing persecution for their faith, and Peter wrote to encourage them to stand strong in the midst of suffering.  1 Peter is all about how to live in the midst suffering.  

Matt did a terrific job taking us through chapter 1 last week; today, we’ll consider what God wants to say to us through chapter 2.  Peter ends the first chapter telling them that they have been born again through the living and enduring word of God.  Chapter 2 continues that thought.  Here’s

The Big Idea: You are a walking advertisement for Jesus.  Live like a Christian so others can know Him.

In this chapter and all through this book, Peter is concerned with our witness.  Said another way, he wants us to live in such a way that others will want Jesus.  You are a walking advertisement for Jesus—good or bad.  Make it good!

1. Live like you’re born again.  1-10

Peter is going to tell them to do three things: to clean up, fill up and come to Jesus.  

1 Peter 2

1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

We were taught in Bible College to always ask, “What’s the ‘therefore’ there for?”  “Therefore” connects what preceded it with what comes after.  “Therefore…because of this…do this.”  Therefore—because you are born again—get rid of the bad and crave the good. Peter is saying, “You are born again, therefore, live like it!”  Specifically, he gives us two things to do.

First, clean up: rid yourselves of the bad—all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander.  The words “rid yourselves” translate a Greek word that was used of stripping off dirty clothes.  

ILL: Last week, I got to go backpacking with two buddies in the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon.  We hiked 42 miles in 5 days.  The scenery was spectacular, but the trails were dusty, and by the end of each day, we were covered in dust and sweat.  We’d go to the lake and shed our boots, peel off our dusty socks and strip off our sweating clothes, and clean up in the icy waters of Mirror Lake.  But it felt so good to get clean and put on clean clothes.  You know that feeling—doesn’t it feel good to get clean?  

That’s the picture here—but it’s not clothes, it our old thoughts, words, actions and habits. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander: strip it all off and get rid of it.  This image of stripping off dirty clothes and cleaning up is used in 5 other places in the New Testament, including:

James 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

“Get rid” is this same word—strip off the dirty clothes, all moral filth and evil.  Clean up.

Ephesians 4:22–24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Put off the old, and put on the new.  In the first few centuries of church history, baptismal candidates shed their old clothes, were baptized naked, and then given new clothes to wear—all symbolic of this total change.  What do you think about naked baptisms?  First: clean up.  Get rid of anything evil.

Second, fill up: crave pure spiritual milk.

2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation

Some translations read, “crave the pure milk of the word.”  The word “spiritual” translates the Greek word logikos.  It comes from the word logos, which means “reason” or “word”.  It can mean “reasonable, spiritual, or of the word.”  Because of Peter’s reference to being born again by the living word (logos), some see a reference here to the word of God.  The pure spiritual milk is the Word of God.  We’re to crave God’s word like a newborn baby craves milk.  

ILL: Michael and Sara aren’t getting much sleep these days; Paxton has been keeping them up.  In the middle of the night, he craves milk and he lets you know it.  For him, milk is not optional; it’s a necessity.  He’s desperate!  Michael told me on Tuesday that when they took him in for his two-week check up, he had gained 30% of his original body weight!  The nurse weighed him twice to make sure.  That’s some serious craving!  We’re to have that same desperate hunger for God’s word.  

Do you crave God’s word like a newborn baby craves milk?  Honestly, many of us don’t.  Why not?  Here are two possibilities:

First, notice that Peter says, “get rid of the old, and crave the new.”  If you’re filling up on junk food, you may not be hungry for the good stuff.  If you’re trying to satisfy your spiritual hunger with other things, you may not be hungry for God and His words.  What do you need to get rid of so that you’ll hunger for God?  Then notice:

2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk…3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

You have tasted that the Lord is good.  He’s quoting:

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good.  

Here’s the second reason we may not be craving the word: you have to develop a taste for God’s word.  When you taste the Lord, when you experience Him, you see that He is good.  And when you taste something good, you want more.  

ILL: When I taste mocha almond fudge ice cream, I crave more.  When I taste Laina’s berry crisp, I crave more.   

Have you tasted God’s goodness?  Have you developed a taste for God’s word?  “Taste and see!” and you’ll crave the pure spiritual milk of the word. This is why we do challenges—take a month and read the word every day.  Give God a chance to speak to you and develop a taste for His word.

Finally, notice that when you fill up on the pure spiritual milk of the word, you’ll grow up in your salvation.  God wants you to grow in your knowledge of Him, your experience of Him. You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are.  Following implies movement, change, growth.  Are you growing in your relationship with God?  Are you growing in your knowledge of God, your experience of God?  Don’t settle.  If you’re not growing, it’s time to clean up and fill up.  

Clean up—ask yourself what you need to get rid of.  What moral filth or evil do you need to strip off and throw away?  

ILL: My son Michael recently wrote in his journal this week, “Am I tolerating anything I shouldn’t?”  He went on to write that he’s taken a stand against media that promotes sexual immorality.

Friends, this will limit what you watch!  I like a good movie as much as the next guy.  So I was looking over the movie listings in Friday’s paper.  Movie after movie was rated R and said: “(for strong sexual content, nudity, and drug use).”

What does it say about us when aren’t hungry for God’s word, but want to watch movies that promote evil?

Clean up!  What do you need to get rid of?  Is it malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander?  What do you need to strip off and throw away?  What is holding you back?  Clean up!  Write it down and we’re going to pray over it.

Fill up—get in the Word every day.  Are you craving God’s word like a newborn baby craves milk?  Do you have a taste for God’s word that makes you crave more?  Take the challenge and read it every day with this prayer: “Lord, speak to me.  Give me one thing that I should know or do today.”  If this is what you need to do, write it down, and we’ll pray over it.

Clean up, fill up and then Peter says, you need to keep coming to Jesus.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

“As you come to Him…”  We don’t come to Jesus just once.  We keep coming to Jesus.  Over and over, every day.  

ILL: Do you go to school the first day and then that’s it?  “I’ve gone to school.”  You keep coming so you can learn.

Do you go to the gym once and then that’s it?  “I’ve been to the gym!  Now I’m ripped!”  I wish.  But I keep coming so that I stay healthy.

After you get married, do you go home once and that’s it?  “Been there, done that, check.”  I keep coming home to Laina every day.

In the same way, we keep coming to Jesus every day, over and over.

Every time I open the Word, I come to Jesus.
Every time I pray, I come to Jesus.
Every time I listen for the Spirit’s leading, I come to Jesus.
Every time I come to church, I come to Jesus.
And what happens as we keep coming to Jesus?  We are built together into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, and we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.  Ok, what does that mean?

Peter is using Old Testament imagery here.  In the Old Testament, the temple in Jerusalem was the place of God’s presence.  If you wanted to meet God, you went there.  When Jesus came, He said that He was the temple—if you want to meet God, you come to Jesus.  Now we are the temple—if you want to meet God, He is here in our midst.  The temple is not a place, but a people.  God doesn’t live in a building but in us.  Some people have complained that we don’t call this room a sanctuary.  But that’s because it’s not—y’all are the sanctuary.  Y’all are the temple.  And it’s y’all—all of us together.

We say this all the time: Christianity is a team sport.  We can only do it together. Peter says that Jesus is the Living Stone, the cornerstone on which the whole temple is built.  As we come to Him, we become living stones that are being built together into this temple, this place to meet God.  We are the temple together.  One brick doesn’t make a temple. If someone says, “I don’t go to church, I am the church,” I know what they’re trying to say—they are not just a Christian on Sundays, but all week long.  I get it.  But I also remind them, “You are not the church, but one member of it.  You are one brick, not the whole temple.” We need each other.  No one follows Jesus alone.

We are not only a temple but we are a priesthood.  The role of a priest is to be a bridge between people and God.  A priest offers sacrifices to God on behalf of the people; in a moment we’ll see what sacrifice we offer.

Peter is going to quote some Old Testament Scripture about Jesus, the Living Stone.

6 For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and precious cornerstone,

and the one who trusts in him

will never be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16)

7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone,” (Psalm 118:22)

8 and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble

and a rock that makes them fall.” (Isaiah 8:14)

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

Jesus quoted some of these same verses about Himself; He claimed to be the cornerstone, the one the builders had rejected, and the rock that causes people to stumble and fall.  

Jesus is the issue.  Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the whole temple of God is built and depends.  We either come to Jesus and are built into God’s temple and become His priests, or we reject Jesus, stumble and fall because of Him.  Jesus is either precious to us or rejected by us.  Jesus made Himself the issue, and Peter continues this thought.  It’s all about Jesus.

Some stumble over Jesus, but Peter writes:

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Look again at verse 9: “you are…that you may.”  Peter starts with who they are in Christ, which leads to what they do.  Peter is using OT scripture that described Israel and applying it to the church.

You are:

A chosen people.  
A royal priesthood.
A holy nation.
God’s special possession.
That you may: declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

This is the spiritual sacrifice that we offer: the sacrifice of praise to God.  To whom do we declare God’s praises?  To Him, to each other, and to anyone and everyone.  “Let me tell you what God has done for me.”  I’ve got to move on, but I hope you’ll take some time to meditate on verse 9 this week.  

Live like you’re born again. In the second half of this chapter, Peter tells us to live like we’re foreigners and exiles.

2. Live like you’re foreigners and exiles.  11-25

The big idea: live in such a way that your life recommends Jesus to others!

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The word “foreigners” translates the Greek word paroikos, which means “foreigner, alien; someone who is living in a place that is not one’s home.  The word is used of the Israelites who were foreigners for 400 years in Egypt.  They were never at home there—they were always foreigners.  

The word “exiles” translates the Greek word parepidemos, which means “sojourner, resident alien; one who stays for awhile in a strange or foreign place.”  The word was used by the Greeks of civil servants who distinguished themselves for exemplary conduct while on international duty.  Think of a US ambassador—here is Caroline Kennedy, our ambassador to Japan.  She lives in Tokyo and works at the US Embassy there, but she is a “foreigner and exile”.  She is a US citizen living abroad, serving as an ambassador for our country and our president, hopefully living in a way that represents us well.

Peter uses these two words of us as Christians.  We are temporary residents here.  This world is not our home.  When I was in high school, we sang a chorus that said, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”  While the chorus was a little corny, the idea is biblical and we could benefit from remembering that we’re strangers here.  We’re ambassadors whose true citizenship is in heaven.  Paul wrote:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven.

We’re citizens of heaven; we’re temporary residents here.  It’s easy for us to start treating this as our home, to pile up wealth and comforts and pleasures as though this is all there is.   But Jesus warned against this.

Matthew 6:19–21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Friends, if this life is all there is, then by all means, be your own selfish pig!  “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  But if Jesus is right, if we’re here for a short time, and heaven is forever, then it changes the way we live here and now.

This is what Peter emphasizes: that it changes the way we live.  Some people might mistakenly take Peter’s words to mean that we check out of the world, that we withdraw.  If we do that, we become, as some have said, “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.”  But that’s not how Peter treats it.  He wants us to get clear about our citizenship, our true home, not so we can withdraw from the world, but so we can engage it and change it!  An ambassador doesn’t go to a foreign country to hide out and withdraw, but to engage and represent his leader and country.  In the same way, Peter calls us to represent Jesus well.  Represent!  So how do we do that?

First, he tells us to “to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”  He returns to the clean up theme.  You need to clean up your act if you’re doing things that don’t represent Jesus.  Then he says:

12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Live such good lives that people will see your good deeds and glorify God!  Represent Jesus well!  You’re His ambassador.  Peter is echoing something Jesus said to him:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

This is what it means to live as foreigners and exiles.  It doesn’t mean that we withdraw and hide.  It means that we live such good lives that we represent Jesus well, that people are drawn to Him and will glorify Him.

ILL: Several years ago, a neighbor stopped me in the parking lot of Costco.  He said, “I’ve been watching so-and-so (a mutual neighbor who goes to Life Center).  He and his family are doing life better than me.  I want what he has.”  He came to Jesus because he saw people “living such good lives.”  

That’s what it means to live as foreigners and exiles.  It means we remember that we are Christ’s ambassadors, that everything we do represents Him who sent us, and we want to represent Him well.  Represent!  William Barclay wrote:

Whether we like it or not, every Christian is an advertisement for Christianity; by his life he either commends it to others or makes them think less of it. The strongest missionary force in the world is a Christian life.

Let’s represent Jesus well!  Peter concludes this section with some advice for everyone, and for slaves in particular.  

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Here’s a fascinating irony: as resident aliens we’re to “submit for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.”  Peter specifically names the emperor and governors.  The emperor at this time was Nero, famous for persecuting Christians.  Why would Peter give this direction?

The Christians were a tiny minority in the Roman Empire and were in mortal danger.  Peter wanted to assure the Christians—and Rome—that they were not a political threat, that they were good citizens, even though their primary allegiance wasn’t to Rome but to God.  This theme runs through almost all the Christian literature of the first century.  For example, in the book of Acts, Dr. Luke tells of Christians arrested and tried and always shows them being vindicated in court.  Luke was demonstrating that Christians were not a threat to the state, but were good citizens.  Paul does the same thing in Romans 13, where he instructs the Roman Christians to “submit to the governing authorities.”  So Peter wants his readers and Rome to know that they are good citizens.

Here is a paradox: our citizenship is in heaven, but we’re to be good citizens of whatever state in which we live.  Our situation is considerably different than Peter’s audience.  For us, living in a democracy or constitutional republic, good citizenship means not only obedience to the laws of the land, but intelligent participation in the political process.  We have the privilege of living in the greatest country on earth, one where the government is “of the people, for the people, and by the people.”  We can affect and change the laws if we believe they are wrong.  I think if Peter were writing directly to us today, he would tell us not only to submit to authority, but would call us to intelligent participation in the political process to affect positive change.  I want to underscore the word “intelligent”.  Most political conversation today is done in sound bites and is laced with inflammatory rhetoric.  Let’s be smarter than that.  Let’s read up on the issues and candidates.  Let’s demand thoughtful answers that indicate knowledge of both sides of an issue.  Let’s vote—and let’s be informed voters, intelligent voters who understand the issues.  I’m not saying it’s easy—the issues are often complex.  But if we’re going to be good citizens, we’ve got to do the hard work of educating ourselves and then speaking, acting, and voting intelligently.

Peter moves from the general command to submit to authority to specifically addressing slaves.

18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,

and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The first question is why did Peter tell slaves to submit to their masters.  Earlier, he said we’re to live as free people.  Why doesn’t he tell the slaves to revolt?  Why didn’t the early Christians lead a revolution to free the slaves?

It is estimated that there were as many as 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire.  They did all the work—not just manual labor, for they were the artisans, craftsmen, doctors, and teachers too.  The entire social and economic order was built on slavery.  When slaves did revolt, Rome responded by mercilessly crushing the revolution.  For example, in the Third Servile War in 73-72 BC, Spartacus led a slave rebellion that was crushed by Roman troops.  6000 survivors of the revolutionary forces were captured and crucified.  For the tiny Christian movement to try to overthrow slavery at that time would have been suicidal.  

Instead, the first Christians took a more indirect and subversive approach.  They taught that the old distinctions—male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile—no longer mattered before God.  We are all one in Christ.  Master and slave were now brothers in Christ.  This is how completely they turned the social order on its head: there were churches where a slave was the pastor, and his master was a member of the congregation who submitted to his slave as his pastor!  

Over time, the leaven of the gospel continued working in society, culminating in the abolition movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the end of institutionalized slavery in western societies.  Some critics of Christianity have accused the NT writers of getting it wrong on slavery.  To the contrary, they took the only course open to them at the time, and the gospel sowed the seeds of slavery’s ultimate demise.  Jesus is the great equalizer.  In Christ, we’re all one.