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What God Has Called Us To Do

With everything that has been happening in the last couple of weeks, I’ve wondered whether we should continue our study in the book of 1 Peter or if we should re-adjust our focus to something else. And I am still considering that for the weeks ahead, but for this week anyway, I do want to continue in 1 Peter. 

However, as we’ve just finished up chapter 2 last week, our next passage in chapter 3 is Peter’s instructions for how husbands and wives are to relate to one another. And if you’ve looked at this passage, there are some pretty controversial things written there so I want to be careful that I present this passage in a way that is accurate and consistent with what the rest of the Bible says. I don’t want to say things or not say things simply because they don’t fit our modern cultural expectations. So that’s going to take a little bit of extra study on my part.

However, with the craziness of this week, I’m simply haven’t had the time for that extra study, so for today, I want to skip down just a little bit for now to a passage that is a little bit more straight forward – and we’ll come back to this passage later. I want to look today at 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 8 to 12. And this I think is very applicable to all of us – especially in light of all that’s going on in our world over these past weeks.

So let me begin by reading these verses to you: Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 3 starting at verse 8:

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life

    and see many happy days,

keep your tongue from speaking evil

    and your lips from telling lies.

11 Turn away from evil and do good.

    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,

    and his ears are open to their prayers.

But the Lord turns his face

    against those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:8-12

Now again, I’ll remind you why Peter is writing this letter. You’ll recall that Peter addressing Christians who are living in exile – some them literally exiled from their homes because of persecution – But all of them living in exile as Christians in an unbelieving world. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we pledge allegiance to different King and we live under his authority and His rule. 

The values and priorities and practices of those in the kingdom of God are often very different from those in the kingdom of this world. And so these Christians to whom Peter was writing, were living very differently from the people around them. And because of this, many around them began to view these Christians with a great deal of suspicious – as if they were some strange cult or something – and therefore, the Christians at that time began to face increasing hostility.

And I can imagine, that without the support and care of the others in their church family, these Christians would feel very much alone. Some of them were physically alone – without their extended families nearby to support and encourage them. Others may have felt spiritually alone – perhaps being the only Christian in their family or their circle of friends. To these people living in exile – whether physically or relationally – being cared for and loved by their church family was extremely important! And so that’s why Peter writes these words in verse 8.

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Representing Christ in the Workplace

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about two unpleasant things that everybody does, but nobody really likes doing. And no, it’s not death and taxes – although those may be the end result of these two things that we’ve been talking about. We’ve been talking about suffering and submitting:  suffering even when we do what’s right – and submitting to all human authorities that God has placed over us.

Neither of those are things we really enjoy doing – but yet God has called us to do exactly that.

Now if you happen to have missed last week’s message, let me give you a quick recap of some of the main points.

For the last month or so, we’ve been working our way through the book of 1 Peter and one of the big themes of the entire book is that for Christians, this world is no longer home sweet home. As Christians, we have become citizens of a new kingdom – we’ve been transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. And so, as citizens of the Kingdom of God with Jesus as our King, we are now temporary residents and foreigners in this present world.  But we’re not just wandering around through this life aimlessly – waiting to go finally home and be with Jesus. While we’re here, we have a job to do. We are ambassadors for our King. Two weeks ago we read from 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 9 which reads:

“… For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

We were reminded that as God’s people, as His holy nation living in an unbelieving world – our job to show others the goodness of God. We are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth so that others can come to know and love our heavenly Father just like we do.

But in order to do that – in order to be effective salt and light in this world, Peter tells us in verse 12 of that same chapter…

 “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” 1 Peter 2:12

We need to make sure that our lives are so far above reproach that even if we are falsely accused of doing wrong – our honourable behaviour will give evidence to the truth. We want to live such different and upright lives that others can’t help but notice and consider the truth of what we believe and live for.

So having said that, Peter goes on to then give us several examples of what that actually looks like in real life. He started with this passage that we read last week:

13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

1 Peter 2:13-17

And I know for a lot of people, this is a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes we have a real difficult time submitting to our governments the other authorities over us – especially when those in positions of authority are evil and corrupt.

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Honour the King

Today, as we continue our journey through the book of 1 Peter, we come to a passage that probably wasn’t a favourite memory verse for any of Peter’s original readers and it probably isn’t a favourite verse of anyone today – because it’s a passage that talks about how we are to submit to our governments – how we are to honour and respect those in authority over us.

And I don’t think it matters what country you live in, where in history you find yourself, what parties you support or any of that – I think for most people, it is a real challenge to submit to our governments.

I read an article this week that talked about how the United States official seal came into being.

I’m sure you’ve seen this seal before – it was designed back when the original 13 colonies of the United States were declaring their independence from Britain. And on the front side of the seal there is an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and 13 arrows in the other – signifying how they were seeking peace, but they were willing to go to war to defend their liberty.

Then on the flip side of that seal, they have the pyramid with 13 layers and the all-seeing Eye above that – signifying that God was watching over them as they built this new nation.

Well, when they were coming up with these designs, Benjamin Franklin had a different proposal for the reverse side. And I think it perhaps reflects some of our negative views of submitting to government. This is what he wanted to see – imagine this:

Pharaoh sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a sword in his hand, passing through the divided waters of the Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites. Rays from a pillar of fire in the cloud, expressive of the Divine presence and command, beaming on Moses, who stands on the shore and, extending his hand over the sea, causes it to overflow Pharaoh. And the motto: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

That’s the seal and the motto that Benjamin Franklin would have liked to see. The article went on to say how Americans live in a country that was founded on a revolution and in which defiance of government authority is viewed as a basic constitutional right. 

And based on what I see in politics today, I think many Americans and many Canadians and many Albertans would quickly adopt that same proposed motto. “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God!”

But you know, as you read through 1 Peter, I’m not sure that Peter would agree with that statement. But I’ll let you be the judge of that yourself as we go through this passage together this morning.

And of course, my purpose today is certainly not to speak into politics, but rather, my purpose is to share with you an accurate understanding of God’s Word and how He wants us to live as strangers and foreigners in this world. And I think we’ll see that the application for this passage has a far greater reach than just politics – so I’ll leave the specific applications up to you and you can come to your own conclusions.

Our passage today begins in 1 Peter chapter 2, starting at verse 13. It goes like this:

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Let Your Light Shine

There is an old formula for public speaking that has been used by preachers & speech-givers for centuries. It’s a formula that was believed to be first used by Aristotle, more recently it was promoted by Dale Carnegie (the guy who wrote “How to win friends and influence people”) and it’s been used by many pastors over the years in preparing their Sunday sermons.

And it’s pretty simple formula. There’s just three simple parts to it. Anyone can use this formula… If you ever have to write a speech or anything like that, just remember these three steps. It goes like this: And I’ll quote it directly from an ol’ southern preacher. I think he says it best. He says:

“First I tell ’em what I’m about to tell ’em, 

Second I tell ’em with all my might what I said I’d tell ’em, 

And third, lest they forget, I tell ‘em what I told ’em.”

It’s a pretty simply but effective formula for communication. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And it seems that maybe Peter was following that formula when he wrote the book of 1 Peter.

We’re about half-way through 1 Peter chapter two today and as I was preparing for this message, it all seemed very familiar. Much of what Peter has to say in this part of chapter two, he’s already said in some very similar ways back in chapter 1.

So it would seem that this is obviously a very important point that Peter is trying to get across to his readers since he’s repeating it several times.

You’ll recall that the over-arching theme of 1 Peter is how to live as followers of King Jesus in world that does not recognize or acknowledge his kingdom. As Christians, we are citizens of one kingdom while living in another. In that sense, all Christians are very much refugees – we are living in a world that is no longer our home – and we’re living in a world that thinks our practices and our beliefs and our values are very strange to say the least. 

And quite often, throughout history we’ve seen Christians being persecuted for these differences. Because we do not belong – because we pledge allegiance to another king – many Christians have been mistreated, marginalized, looked-down upon, and sometimes even physically attacked or put to death. We see the worst of this happening in parts of our world today. Even here in Canada – while we may not yet face physical persecution at this point, there is an increasing hostility towards our Christian beliefs and values.

But this is exactly the situation that Peter is addressing this letter. How should Christians live in a world that is hostile towards their Christianity?

And Peter has already begun to answer that question in chapter 1, but he’s going to fill it out with a little more detail in the verses ahead.

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Cravings

What are some of the strangest foods that you crave? What odd acquired tastes do you have? Are there things that you absolutely love – but everyone else thinks you’re crazy for eating that stuff? What strange foods do you crave?

Isn’t it strange how we can grow love certain foods that other people couldn’t imagine eating – let alone enjoy eating! But yet, somehow, somewhere along the line, for some reason, we grew to love it! Maybe at some point, we tried it for the first time, then we tried it again, then we tried it again, and before too long, we decided that we really like it! And now, we crave that food! We seek it out! It’s like we’ve trained our tastebuds to love that food!

And I was just wondering this week, I wonder if you could do that with any food? Can you train your tastebuds to love any food – even a food that you maybe hate right now? For example, I really don’t care for mustard at all – but I wonder if I had a taste of mustard every week for a year – would I grow to enjoy mustard? Would I even grow to crave mustard? I don’t know – maybe!

But most of you know how adventurous I am with food, so of course, this is not an experiment that I would ever try – but if one of you want to try it, I’d sure be interested in hearing your results.

But I bring all this up because in our passage today, Peter talks a little bit about our cravings. Not our cravings for coffee or mustard or hot peppers or anything like that, but our cravings for something much more significant.

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Living In Love

Today we are getting back into the book of 1 Peter. We took a bit of a break from Peter last week, as Mike brought us a message from the book of John, but today we’re getting back at it and my goal for today is to finish up this first chapter so that we can start chapter 2 next week. But in case you’ve missed the last couple messages from Peter, let me give you just a quick recap.

In this letter, Peter is writing to Christians who were really going through some really difficult times. At that time and in that part of the world, being a Christian was really not a popular thing. There were social consequences, (if not physical consequences) for pledging allegiance to King Jesus.

And we don’t know specifically what kind of trials these folks were going through, but we do know that it’s not too long after writing this letter that Peter himself is put to death for his faith. So it’s not hard to imagine some of the challenges and struggles some of these Christians might have been experiencing.

And so Peter is writing this letter with two purposes in mind. First of all, He writes to encourage those Christians as they experience these hardships and difficulties. He reminds them of the hope and the joy they have in Jesus. Peter talks about the priceless inheritance that they have to look forward to – and how they are dearly loved by God – chosen by Him to receive endless joy in his presence forever. And so that’s how Peter starts off this letter – with that encouragement.

But his second purpose for this letter is to instruct them on how live in this world until they receive their promised salvation in full. Peter mentions frequently how they are exiles or foreigners or temporary residents – and perhaps some of Peter’s original audience were literally exiled from their homeland because of persecution, but certainly every Christian both then and today – no matter where we are in the world – we understand that this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven – and thus we are all exiles and foreigners.

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