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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.

We begin today in 1 Peter chapter 2, starting at verse 11. It goes like this:

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 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 2:11-12

Let’s pause here for a minute and dig into this a bit. Peter begins this passage by first of all, reminding us of our identity. He reminds us that we are “temporary residents and foreigners”. We don’t belong to this world – because we belong to God. God adopted us into his family when we accepted Him as our Lord and Saviour. Now, we are his children. We are part of his kingdom. And we’ve talked about this quite a bit already in weeks past.

In fact, in the two verses just before this passage, Peter writes:

…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.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people;

    now you are God’s people.

Once you received no mercy;

    now you have received God’s mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9b-10

God has called us to be citizens of his holy nation. God choose us to belong to Him and to his Kingdom. And notice WHY God choose us….

Verse 9 says that God chose us so that “we can show others the goodness of God.”

That’s really why God has us living here as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ in this world – we are here to show others the goodness of God. 

During our Scripture reading time this morning we read from Matthew 5:14…

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

God’s purpose for us in this world is to show other’s the light of God’s goodness so that they too can praise and honour God. God has set us in this world like a city on a hilltop for all to see or as a lamp on a stand so that it gives light to everyone in the house. That why God has placed us in this world.

So as temporary residents and foreigners, who’s purpose is to shine the light of God’s goodness to the people around us – Peter warns us of two conflicts that we are sure to face. He says in verse 11…

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 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 2:11-12

Peter warns us of two conflicts that every Christian will face – an internal conflict and an external conflict. And I’m not sure if the word ‘conflict’ is the best word for both of these – but it’s the best term that I could come up with and it certainly fits at least the first one.

Peter starts by saying to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

That’s pretty strong language, isn’t it? These worldly desires must be pretty serious stuff for Peter to say they wage war against our very souls! 

So what exactly is Peter talking about here?

Well, Peter is not so much talking about sinful acts per se, as he is about sinful motives and appetites. These worldly desires are those desires or appetites we have by virtue of our fallen human nature. It’s the desire to do things for the purpose of satisfying and pleasing ourselves rather than doing them for the glory of God.

For example, it’s certainly not a sinful act for me to want to preach a good sermon. That is not a sinful act.

But what’s my underlying motive for wanting to preach a good sermon? Do I want to preach a good sermon so that I feel good about myself? So I can take pride in knowing that I’m a skilled and talented preacher? Do I crave the praise of men – “That was a great sermon, pastor!” Is that why I want to preach a good sermon?

Or do I want to preach a good sermon to bring praise and glory to God – even if nobody likes what I have to say?

You see, those are two very different motivations. One motivation is self-serving and it’s all centered around me and the other motivation is Christ-serving and it’s all centered around God.

Jesus talks quite a bit about our motives and how we can do good things for selfish reasons. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus says…

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:1-6

We can do good things for a lot of selfish, self-centred reasons. 

And it’s those selfish, self-centred reasons that Peter is warning us about. Those are the worldly desires that wage war against our souls.

As Christians in our culture today, it’s very easy for us to do a lot of good things but for the wrong reasons. We have to be really careful that we examine our motives for why we do what we do. Whether it’s serving on the church board or volunteering at kids club or even just attending church on a Sunday morning. Why do we do that? Really? It is truly to serve and honour God? Or is there a little bit of selfish motivation too. Maybe a little pride? Maybe to feel important? Maybe just to feel like you’re a good Christian – or at least better than some of those other guys?

Many times our motives are more self-serving than God-serving. And of course, examining our motives is not just for the “Christian” things we do either.  We probably ought to examine our motives for everything we do! 

I know in my life there are often times when I find my self doing things that in themselves may not be good or bad pe se, but they really show that I love the things of this world more than the things of God. My underlying motivation for a lot of things I do is to please myself – rather than to please God.

But John explicitly tells us in 1 John 2:15…

15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

1 John 2:15-17

These are the same worldly desires that Peters warns us about – craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

And what happens, when we chase after those things – when we desire them more than we desire to honour God – that light that we’re trying to shine, dims. We become just like everyone else in the world – we live for all the things world can offer us – rather than living to bring honour to God. That’s precisely the thing that hides our light under a basket.

In that same passage that talks about us being the light of the world, Jesus says in Matthew 5:13…

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” Matthew 5:13

I don’t want to be a worthless Christian. I don’t want to lose my saltiness. I don’t want my own selfishness to dim my light. But far too often, that’s exactly what I allow to happen.

I don’t know about you, but I find Peter’s warning to be very convicting in my life. I have to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against my very soul. God has called me to be a lighthouse – to my family, to my neighbors, to our community. And if I allow my light to grow dim through my own self-centeredness, how will these people see the goodness of God and come to a saving knowledge of Him?

And it’s for that exact reason, that Peter continues with his warning in verse 12. He says…

12 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

This is the external conflict that I was talking about. As follower of Jesus, God has promised us conflict… (not health, wealth, and prosperity) but hardships, persecution, and trials. Because we do not belong to this world, Jesus Himself promised us “In this world, you will have trouble.”

To go back to that same passage we read in Matthew 5 – verse 11 says…

11 “God blesses you when (not “if” but “when”) people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. Matthew 5:11-12

Being mocked, being persecuted, being lied about, being falsely accused is nothing new for Christians. Unfortunately, that’s part of the package. But there is a silver lining to all the trials we face. This is actually a great opportunity for us to shine our light all the brighter. Peter says..

12 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

People are always watching us. If your light is shining at all, people will take note that you’re a Christian and they will watch you like a hawk to see how you live. And chances are, again, if your light is shining at all, you will face persecution of some sort. But how you react, how you continue to live in the face of that persecution, will make all the difference to how those people view your God and your Christianity.

If you blow up, if you stress out, if you seek revenge, if you fight back – that’s exactly what everyone else in the world does! When you react like that, they can see that you’re no different than the Buddhist, the atheist, the muslim, the whoever….  Your God makes no difference.

But when, in the face of persecution and trials, you continue to be humble, when you continue to love those who wrong you, when you continue to do right, when you continue to have joy and peace, when you continue trust God to vindicate you – that’s different! That’s weird!

People will notice.

And Peter says that those people – even the people that are the ones who are persecuting you and accusing you of doing wrong – those people will see your honourable behaviour and they will give honour to God when he judges the world.

And that’s maybe that’s also a point I should emphasize. They will give honour to God (not necessarily today), but when God judges the world.

It would be really nice if Peter said “When people see your honourable behaviour, they will see the error of their ways, they will stop persecuting you, and they will turn to God for forgiveness and salvation.” That would be awesome if that’s what Peter said. But that’s not what Peter said.

Peter says they will give honour to God when he judges the world.

Now it is possible that some people may turn to God through your Godly life and testimony – and that’s certainly the hope. I think that’s what Peter is aiming for. That would certainly bring much glory and honour to God! And I think that is probably one of the main purposes for why we want to live honourable lives – to win others for Christ. We should always strive to live in such a way that because of our lives, the unbelieving people around us will be more inclined to believe the truth of the gospel we preach.

But that may not always be the case. There may be times when our persecutors simply continue to persecute us – and they may never turn to God for salvation.

However, even if they don’t, at the end of time, when God judges the world, Peter says these people will give glory to God for your honourable behaviour. When they stand before God they will be forced to acknowledge the light of God’s goodness in you and in your life.

Either way, whether they reject Christ or accept Him in this life – God will be glorified when we let our lights shine for him.

And next week, as we finish up chapter 2 and then as we go through chapter 3, Peter goes on to give us some really practical examples of how we do this in real life.

The next two chapters are really all about how we let our light shine, how we live honourable, God-glorifying lives in a variety of situations. He talks about who we shine our light for those unbelievers in authority over us – how we we can shine our light to unbelieving bosses, how we can shine our light to an unbelieving husband or wife, how we can shine our light to unbelieving neighbours and friends….

There’s just a whole pile of good stuff in there, so I look forward to sharing that with you in the weeks ahead.

But to close today, I just want to leave you with these few verses that we read earlier. I don’t think I can say it any better than Jesus did…

13 “You [and that includes you people of the Penhold Church of Hope] are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16

 

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