Strangers Like Me: A Study of 1 Peter
We continue our series Strangers Like Me today. Who went home and listened to Strangers Like Me? If you did, you could thank me after the service for introducing you to the most excellent Disney song ever created. We kicked off 1 Peter last Sunday looking at Peter’s introductory, section, where we talked about God being the source of our salvation and the significance of our salvation when times of suffering come. We learned that suffering both tests our faith and purifies our faith.
Focus on Grace:
"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." — 1 Peter 1:13
The old cheesy saying that you learn when you are in seminary learning to interpret scripture is that anytime you see a “therefore” in mid-60s scripture, you need to find out what it is there for. So the therefore in v.13 is emphasizing that because of the whole of vv.1-12 you should, therefore, do the following.
You should prepare your minds for action but more literally translated it reads gird up the loins of your mind in the way someone would tuck in their garment when getting ready to do serious work. In other words, Peter is saying you better be mentally prepared to follow after Jesus. And when he uses the term sober-minded, he is not just talking about not getting drunk. New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner explains it this way, “ There is a way of living that becomes dull to the reality of God, the attractions of this world anesthetize that. When people are lulled into such drowsiness, they lose sight of Christ’s future revelation of himself and concentrate only on fulfilling their earthly desires.” This is what Peter is talking about when he says stay sober-minded. You don’t have to be drunk just on alcohol to lose focus on God. The attractions of this world are more enticing than ever before. And so many of the attractions that draw our attention away from Jesus are not bad things, and they don’t have devastating consequences to our lives, and so the lie that we believe is that as long as I am avoiding the “dangerous attractions” of the world than I am ok. How many hours of the day do you spend on your phone, computer, tv, or at work? And even when you are off of those devices, how often does your mind desire to be on them? The Devil desires to keep our minds as busy and distracted as possible from what matters, and those distractions don’t have to be drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography or any other dangerous attraction that even the world admits can be dangerous.
Let’s go back to middle school English class for a minute when you were learning all the different parts of speech and diagramming sentences. Peter begins this verse with two participles. Participles are a form of a verb that modifies a noun — they are verbal adjectives. So when you see participles, they are not the main verb of the sentence. The main verb that Peter uses in this verse is “set.”
Set your hope entirely on what? On grace. Let’s reflect on this question together this morning. What are we setting our hope on? Because if it is anything but God’s grace
- If you are anything like me, it can be challenging to focus on God’s grace. For all of you enneagram people out there, I’m a 3 which is the achiever/performer. Now, this personality has its strengths and its weaknesses. Its advantages are that typically, these people are highly driven, so they work hard, study hard, and are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. But on the flipside, the weakness is that they can believe the lie that they are self-sufficient, they fear failure, and always compare themselves with others. But to set my
hope fullyon God’s grace means that I can’t be self-sufficient, it means that I have to be utterly sufficient on God for my worth, value, and my eternal destination. You see, being an achiever sometimes makes accepting the gift of salvation offered to medifficult because I want to try so hard to make God happy and make him proud of me, and yet setting your mind fully on the grace of God means you let go of achievement and you freely accept it.
"since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy." — 1 Peter 1:16
Peter calls the recipients of his letter obedient children. He is writing to a group of Gentile churches so they don’t have the religious background that the Jewish people would have had. Peter doesn’t give us any indication of what these former passions would have been, but I’m sure they were the same former passions that we as believers in Christ are still tempted do not begin. Just because you become a child of God does not mean that suddenly the former passions disappear from your life. Our hearts are still naturally drawn away from the things of God.
Remember, these Christians are living in exile. And Peter is telling them while they are strangers, it is important that they live as strangers in the holiest way possible. Peter is Don’t miss what Peter is teaching us here. This is not our home. We are also strangers, and yet our conduct as strangers makes a huge impression on the land in which we live. Our behavior is a reflection of the God that we worship. It is not just our reputation that is on the line, but also His. When our conduct does not align with the life of holiness that God calls us to, we are damaging not only our reputation but his as well. Like it or not, fair or unfair, people have a favorable view or an unfavorable view of Jesus based on the conduct of his followers.
It’s possible, and I would even say probable that some people are turned off to the message of Jesus not because of Jesus himself, but because of the way his followers behave. Well, that might seem unfair, that is the reality of where we are as a society. People all around you are looking for reasons not to follow Jesus, and when we ignore the importance of our holiness, we give them a reason to walk away from the Gospel. How many people in my own life have walked away from following after Jesus because of the conduct they see in my own life? Because of my attitude towards a social or political issue that seems to marked by anger and hatred rather than compassion and love. Sure, I have no problem avoiding some of the “bigger sins” that our culture engages in, but what about the sins of my heart. The judgment, pride, and lust that no one has to know about but me. Does my speech build up and encourage other people? Do I avoid all instances of slander and malice regardless of whether I know that individual personally or not?
This examination of our holiness should take us back to our first point today. We MUST focus on grace because if we’re honest with one another we can’t live up to the holiness that God requires of us. So we live in grace knowing that, even when we fall short, our God loves us and forgives us.
Live in Reverence:
"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
Peter tells the churches to conduct themselves with fear during the time of their exile. Scholars debate whether this is a terrifying type of fear or a reverent fear. More than likely, Peter is talking about a kind of reverence that he wants these believers to have while they are in exile.
He reminds them what they were ransomed from, and what they ransomed with. They were ransomed from an empty way of life that had been inherited from previous generations. Some of us here came to faith in Jesus Christ because of generations in our family were also believers in Jesus Christ. So we grew up hearing the stories about Jesus from our grandparents and our parents. But these followers of Jesus were living an empty life their parents and grandparents did not worship Jesus, but rather the pagan gods of that day. They were ransomed from slavery to the false gods and ransomed by the blood of the one true God. The sacrifices made in the Old Testament had to be a sacrifice for the one giving it. Therefore, God asked the people to bring a sheep, oxen, or lamb that was without blemish because it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice if the Israelites just brought the weakest and sickest animal.
They were ransomed from slavery to freedom in Christ. Now this is the opposite of what the world tells people about Christianity. I’m sure you have had someone reject the message of Christianity because they think that Christianity means being ransomed from freedom to slavery. They believe that following after Jesus means they have to give up everything that they love to do in order to follow after someone who is going to control their life. I’m convinced that a major factor for people rejecting the message of Jesus today has nothing to do with his teaching but rather a loss of control. A loss of getting to live life the way that they want to live it, but the problem with that mentality is they are not aware that they are en
But God, in his plan, knew that Jesus would have come to earth and live among humanity. Before the world was even created, God knew that Jesus would come into the world so that those Peter is writing to could have a relationship with Jesus and that the rest of humanity moving forward could as well.
- Remember when I gave you the illustration of the fish a few weeks ago. A fish is freer, technically, if it is not restricted to water, but it’s also less free when out of water because it can’t breathe. Freedom is not the absence of constraint on our choices. If you own a sailboat and are gliding effortlessly on the water and then decide in your freedom to take the sailboat to shallow water, the boat will be ruined. You get the best form of freedom when you are willing to submit to certain realities.
The Gospel Endures:
"for 'All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the LORD remains forever.” And this is the good news that was preached to you.'" — 1 Peter 1:24
While you are in exile, love another with a sincere brotherly love. When you live in a place that is not your home, anything that is familiar becomes a comfort to you. We need to surround ourselves with other believers who can pray for us, encourage us, and hold us accountable when you fail.
There is a segment of the church that has no problem surrounding themselves with other believers in fact their entire life is comprised of going from one Christian event to the next but the problem with that type of lifestyle is you are never in any environment where someone would need to hear the Gospel message of Jesus. But that is just one extreme. There is another extreme of people in the church who show up on Sundays for worship and have no desire to connect with anyone in the body because they already have all of the friends they need and they don’t have time for anymore. Both of those extremes are unbiblical. If everyone you know is a Christian or if the only people you ever hang out with are Christians than you are not missional like Jesus commands us. But if you are attempting to live the Christian life in complete isolation from the body of Christ through a church than you are ignoring the majority of New Testament teaching that is written to individuals in local communities of faith across the Roman empire. You must have one foot fully invested in the life of the church, and one foot fully invested in the life of the world in which you live, work, and play.
As these believers are experiencing persecution and suffering, everything that Peter has explained to them about salvation in Jesus Christ will not fade away. Peter quotes Isaiah 40 here when the Israelites were in exile at the hands of the Babylonian empire, and even though
So for us today as we live in exiles away from our home there will be world powers that we wish didn’t exist, laws set into motion that go against our beliefs as followers of Christ, natural disasters that will destroy our homes and places of work, popular teachers will come and go with their messages of happiness, health, and wealth. People will predict the end of the world and the next stock market collapse and all of these events and people will fade into history not remembered again after a few generations. And yet, Jesus will remain on his throne. So when the cancer diagnosis comes, or a love one dies in a tragic car accident, or you feel like God is distant. Remember that the word of the Lord the message of Jesus Christ will endure forever.
- I take great care of my yard. I cut it every 4-5 days during the summer. I fertilize it when I am supposed to; I edge, I weed eat, I daydream about it. I drove home from work about 10 days and out of nowhere there developed these patchy dead spots of grass. I was devastated. I take great pride in my yard. My initial response was weeping and mourning, which turned to anger, which turned into this conspiracy theory that my neighbors are poisoning my yard because mine looks so much better than and they are jealous. But every winter, my grass, and flowers die regardless of how much time and energy I put into it. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his church will endure to the end regardless. And we can rest peacefully in our exile knowing that.