Category Archives: 1 Peter

1 Peter 2:4-12: The church and the world

How should THE CHURCH relate to THE WORLD? It’s a question we’ve been forced to ask ourselves over the last few years.

It USED TO BE that the church’s values were the same as those of Australian society. (A good percentage of people at least attended church. Most kids went to Sunday School and school Scripture. Churches were the focus of community life. The opinions of Christian leaders were respected. Shops and businesses were closed on Sundays. Abortion was illegal. The majority of weddings were in churches, performed by ministers. Divorce was difficult. Marriage was accepted as being between a man and a woman. Boys were boys and girls were girls.)

But not anymore. We can’t even PRETEND Australia’s a Christian country. It may have a Christian HERITAGE. But today, Australia is THOROUGHLY SECULAR. And Christian opinions aren’t just ignored, they’re widely ridiculed and criticised.

But perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Especially if it means we have to go back to the Bible. And examine WHO WE ARE in God’s eyes. And then HOW HE WANTS US TO LIVE in the world.

How should the church relate to the world? One mistake is to circle the wagons. (Form little communities, cut off from everything). Some denominations do THAT. The OTHER mistake is to just blend in. (To conform our opinions and behaviour to those of the world. To ignore the Bible, to the point we’re indistinguishable from everyone else). And some denominations do THAT.

But, in these verses, Peter would give us a DIFFERENT answer. On the ONE hand, he says, you DON’T belong. You’re fundamentally DIFFERENT. But on the OTHER hand, you DO belong. You belong to GOD. You’ve come to JESUS. And that means you have A WHOLE NEW IDENTITY AND PURPOSE. To live IN the world. To LOVE it. And LIVE GOOD LIVES. And commend Jesus to people. To be IN the world, but not OF it. To be salt and light.

Who you are (4-10)

How should the church relate to the world? Peter begins by looking at WHO THE CHURCH IS, v4-10. And then, in v11-12, he commands WHAT WE SHOULD DO.

We might want to jump STRAIGHT TO ACTION. (WHAT WE SHOULD DO). But it’s only when we get to verse 11 that we find A COMMAND. (Something to DO.) Everything that comes BEFORE that, v4-10, are descriptions about WHO WE ARE.

Because, for Peter, it ALL BEGINS WITH WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT. It begins in the MIND. Remember back in Ch 1 v13? “Prepare your MINDS for action. Be SELF-CONTROLLED. SET YOUR HOPE FULLY on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christian is revealed.”

He says the same thing, over in Ch 4 v7. The end of all things is near. Therefore be CLEAR MINDED AND SELF-CONTROLLED so that you can pray. And only THEN does he goes on to give the practical instructions 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

For Peter, WHO YOU ARE comes before WHAT YOU DO. INTEGRITY before IMPRESSIONS. CHARACTER before CONGRATULATIONS.

It’s something professional FOOTBALL and CRICKET teams are realising with various scandals recently. They now talk about TEAM CULTURE. About PERFORMANCE being secondary to PERSONALITY. Being PART OF A TEAM. Being a decent human being. Being willing to fit in, and learn and share. If a team can get THOSE things right. Then THE RESULTS WILL FOLLOW.

But PERSONALITY before PERFORMANCE was a song Peter was singing long before sports psychologists came up with it. WHO YOU ARE determines WHAT YOU DO.

And he begins by describing the main difference between THE CHURCH and THE WORLD. And it’s all to do with the ATTITUDE TO JESUS. V4, As you come to him, the living stone – rejected by men, but chosen by God.

On the ONE hand, the church is JOINED to Jesus. But on the OTHER hand, the World REJECTS him. To the world, Jesus is a figure for philosophical or historical study. He’s a myth, or harmless and irrelevant, or a lunatic. But we’ve COME to him. V7 says he’s PRECIOUS to us. The world looks at Jesus hanging on the cross. And they see FOOLISH DEFEAT. A disappointed, broken man. But WE look at him, and see a POWERFUL SACRIFICE. God come in flesh, in willing, loving submission to death.

And the image Peter uses/ is Jesus is A LIVING STONE. He’s got a few Old Testament prophecies in mind. From Isaiah 28, Jesus is God’s chosen and precious cornerstone. The foundation of a building. But then Peter adds to that image. When Christians COME to him. (When they TRUST him), v5, THEY’RE LIVING STONES TOO. Because they’re joined to Jesus, THE living stone.

And then, God builds us into a SPIRITUAL HOUSE. Just like a bricklayer builds a wall. So God’s building US. He’s GROWING us and UNITING us. And he’s using Jesus as the foundation stone. The first stone laid – straight and square and strong. And so the REST of the building rises solid and square. Because each other stone is connected to the cornerstone. That’s the CHURCH.

To US, Jesus is A FOUNDATION FOR LIFE. But the world REJECTS him. And Peter finds a couple of Old Testament prophecies for THAT, TOO. V7 quotes Psalm 118, he’s the stone the builders REJECTED. Wrong size or shape or colour or strength. So they throw it in the scrap heap.

And then, v8 quotes Isaiah 8. He’s a stone that causes men to STUMBLE. He’s the rock on the footpath you trip over as you walk along. When people disobey the message they hear about Jesus, when they reject him, they’re tripped up. They miss out. They’re rejected and judged by God.

But we’ve COME to Jesus. We’ve TRUSTED him for our forgiveness and salvation. And that means, v6, in the words of Isa 28, rather than STUMBLING, we’ll NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME. The Christian won’t be DISAPPOINTED. We won’t miss out on what we HOPE FOR. Life might be tough – probably WILL – but God will prove faithful in the end. Despite the way things appear at the moment.

And that’s another difference between the church and the world. God’s attitude to us. God REJECTS those who reject Jesus, the living stone. But look at that what he thinks of HIS CHURCH. It’s a little phrase hidden there at the end of v5.

Verse 5 describes what the purpose of God’s spiritual house is. To be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices

He’s using the LANGUAGE of Israel’s temple system. But what the church does/ looks nothing like temple sacrifices once a day in one place. God’s interested in obedience in ALL OF LIFE. As we read the REST of the letter, we find out what spiritual sacrifices are. It’s not burning candles, or sacrificing animals. What God wants to see is LIVING YOUR LIVES in reverent fear (1:17). It’s ridding yourself of malice and deceit and envy (2:1). It’s abstaining from sinful desires (2:11). It’s submitting to earthly rulers (2:13). It’s slaves submitting to their masters (2:18). And husbands being considerate of their wives (3:7). And then, ch 4 v9, it’s offering hospitality and using whatever gift you have to serve others. And then, in 4:11, the MOTIVATION:

If anyone SERVES, he should do it with the strength God provides, SO THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE PRAISED THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

They’re the spiritual sacrifices offered in this spiritual house.

But did you notice that last little phrase in v5? “Acceptable to God/ through Jesus Christ” Lives lived in grateful obedience of Jesus, done with the motivation that God might be praised through Jesus, are ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. Isn’t that incredible!? He’s PLEASED with them. Not because they’re PERFECT. But they’re acceptable THROUGH Jesus. Because of what JESUS has done.

On the ONE hand, God’s destined the disobedient to stumble over Jesus, v8. But on the OTHER hand, he’s chosen THE CHURCH for something ELSE. V9. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,

God’s chosen them to be a PRIESTHOOD BY ROYAL APPOINTMENT. The king’s own priests. A holy nation who belong to God. They may be scattered all over the place, and from different language and racial groups. But they’re UNITED as GOD’S people.

Each of the descriptions comes from an Old Testament description of ISRAEL. Like back in Exodus 19, God chooses Israel, then brings them out of Egypt to the foot of Mt Sinai. And he says to them, v6. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

The Jews knew EXACTLY who they were, and how they fitted into the world. Chosen by God, a kingdom of priests. Representing God before men, and men before God. And Peter’s point is that these New Testament saints belong together, and belong TO GOD, just as much as the Jews.

And just like God chose ISRAEL for a purpose, he’s chosen THE CHURCH for a purpose, TOO. To be a royal priesthood, who (second half of v9) declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. He’s called us and saved us/ TO LIST HIS VIRTUES. To describe his qualities. To HIGHLIGHT HIS HIGHLIGHTS. We’re to RESPOND to God’s action, with ACTIONS OF OUR OWN. God’s spoken his call to US, we’re to speak our praise about HIM.

That COULD mean declaring it TO GOD HIMSELF. And that’s CERTIANLY in view. That’s what WORSHIP IS.

It could mean declaring his praises TO EACH OTHER. There’s certainly a place for encouraging each other by reminding ourselves of God’s actions. Like we’re doing this morning. Through reading the Bible together, and praying and singing. There is something enormously encouraging and joyful about singing words like these to each other:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light

My chains fell off, my heart was free

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!

But it’s more likely Peter’s thinking of declaring his qualities to those who DON’T know them. Declaring them TO THE WORLD. We’re to declare the praises of the one WHO CALLED US OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS WONDERFUL LIGHT. Who most needs to hear about Someone who can do THAT? Someone who’s in darkness!

Imagine you’re part of a large group of people trapped in a cave. Days go past. You can hear rescuers searching for you. Eventually a small group of you investigate a narrow passage. And rescuers, with the bright lights and strong ropes and confident plans, find you and lead you to safety. Who would you want to list their virtues to? Firstly, to the RESCUERS THEMSELVES CERTAINLY. But who next? Those who’ve been rescued? Or those who were still lost in the dark? It’s obvious, isn’t it? You wouldn’t sit around in freedom outside the cave, talking to each other about how amazing the rescuers are. You’d be yelling back down the tunnel. “Come this way. Here’s the light. Here’s rescue. There’s strong hands, and good gear. And first aid. COME THIS WAY! That’s declaring the praises of those who rescued you out of darkness!

  1. What to do (11-12)

Finally, in v11, we come to the first INSTRUCTION. We’ve seen a description of WHO THE CHURCH IS. Now we’re commanded WHAT TO DO.

11 Dear friends, I URGE you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to ABSTAIN from sinful desires, which 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.

First thing to notice, even in this command, it comes out of a description of who we are. As aliens and strangers. As tourists and immigrants. It’s a summary of everything he’s just said. You DON’T FIT IN. You’re DIFFERENT. (YOU come to Jesus, others REJECT him. You’re a royal priesthood, a holy, chosen nation, called for a special purpose.)

So… BE different. There’s a NEGATIVE command. And a POSITIVE one. First, the NEGATIVE. ABSTAIN FROM SINFUL DESIRES that war against your soul. Abstain has the idea of keeping your distance. If you’re only a tourist, that makes sense.

Last year when we were in Thailand, we visited some local food markets. And while there was delicious food, there was also food we wanted to steer well clear of. All sorts of crunchy insects to eat. Crickets and cockroaches. And various bits of pig you don’t see too often in Australian butchers. And then there were the chillies. I love chillies, but I reckon I’d need to steer clear of THIS MANY chillies. They’d really war against my digestion!

That’s the way we’re to think about sinful desires. The passions of the flesh. For pleasure, and greed, and power. They look attractive. But they DAMAGE your SOUL. They scar it, and wound it. God’s called you instead to be passionate about DIFFERENT things. About declaring the praises of him who called you out of darkness!

That’s the NEGATIVE command. Look at the POSITIVE command in v12. Peter URGES the church to “Live such good lives among the pagans.” Notice firstly, we’re to live AMONG the pagans. It’s literally IN the nations. We’re to be a holy nation IN THE NATIONS. We’re not to separate into a little holy huddle. We’re to go to work in regular jobs. And play regular sport. And go to regular parties. And go on holidays. We need Christian doctors and miners and builders and teachers. Christian lawyers and policemen and zoo keepers. Christian artists and academics and scientists. We’re to live AMONG the world.

But we’re not to BE the world. “Live such GOOD lives”, v12 says. Be DIFFERENT. Be salt and light. In v9 we’re DECLARING the PRAISES. Here we combine those words WITH ACTIONS. They have to go together. Words have no power if our lives don’t back them up. What a tragedy when our non-Christian friends say to the hypocritical Christian, “I can’t hear what you’re saying. Because your LIFE is speaking too loudly a different message.”

A GOOD LIFE is the spiritual sacrifice we offer as royal priests. It’s generosity with our possessions and our time and our compliments. It’s purity in our thoughts and actions. It’s humility and forgiveness and acceptance in all our relationships. It’s honesty and hard work in our worklife. And if we’re living like THAT. When our critics look for a weakness. An inconsistency. A mistake. When they attack us for holding a different opinion to us. Their words won’t have any bite, because they’ll miss the target. And they’ll, grudgingly, admit there’s something DIFFERENT about you.  And you’ll EARN THE RIGHT to speak about the excellencies of the One who called you out of darkness. And who offers the same rescue to THEM.

How should THE CHURCH relate to the WORLD? Not by SEPARATING, and ESCAPING the world. And not by ACCEPTING and WELCOMING its temporary and empty way of life. But by being a HOLY nation as we live IN the nations. By WORD and by DEED offering the spiritual sacrifices of priests by royal appointment, so that the world might see Jesus in us, and glorify God. May it be THAT WAY with US!

1 Peter 5: Glory now or glory then

CT StuddCharles Thomas Studd had everything going for him in this life. His family was wealthy. He received the best education. Schooling at Eton College, and then Trinity College, Cambridge.

And he was a top cricketer. He represented England in 1882 in a test match against Australia. They lost, and the Ashes were born.

In fact, Studd’s name is one of several of that team written on the actual Ashes urn.

He played 5 test matches, including a tour to Australia the following year. Then he graduated from Cambridge later that year, in 1883.

The world was his for the taking. Success, fortune, popularity and influence beckoned.

But in 1884 his brother George, a committed Christian, was seriously ill. And as Charles spent time at his bedside he thought, “Now what is all the popularity of the world worth to George? What is it worth to possess ALL THE RICHES IN THE WORLD, when a man comes to face ETERNITY?”

Charles recommitted himself to Christ shortly after.

When the next cricket season rolled around, he had a choice to make. He wrote, “Formerly I had as much love for cricket as any man could have. But when the Lord Jesus came into my heart I found that I had something infinitely better than cricket. My heart was no longer in the game; I wanted to win souls for the Lord.”

“I KNEW THAT CRICKET WOULD NOT LAST AND HONOUR WOULD NOT LAST AND NOTHING IN THE WORLD WOULD LAST. BUT IT WAS WORTHWHILE LIVING FOR THE WORLD TO COME”

Glory NOW, or glory THEN.

That was the choice Charles Studd was faced with. What matters more? This world – the world we’re STRANGERS in? (Just passing through) Or our TRUE home – with God, for eternity?

And that’s the choice WE ALL face as Christians. Working for acceptance and success and approval and riches IN THIS WORLD. Or saying NO to those things NOW. And working instead for acceptance and success and approval and riches IN GOD’S KINGDOM THEN.

We make that choice a dozen different times each day. As we choose how to spend our money. Whose approval we work for. What we say and don’t say. Whose priorities we work at.

Because it IS a choice of ONE or THE OTHER. You can’t have BOTH. James 4:4 says Love of this world is HATRED towards God.

And 1 John 2:15 says Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, THE LOVE OF THE FATHER IS NOT IN HIM.

Glory NOW, or glory THEN.

And as we come to the end of Peter’s letter, he turns his attention to the church leaders. To ELDERS. And he says they have the same choice. When it comes to how they look after God’s sheep. They can chase after glory NOW. Or they can be motivated, instead, by the rewards and the glory when Jesus appears. Glory THEN.

And it’s so important for church LEADERS because of what the REST of church is going through. And the LEADERS are the ones who make sure they make it.

Have a look at how Ch 4 finishes. How should a Christian deal with suffering? V19

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

(In other words, make a choice. Trust that God’s got it all in control. And live out those priorities.)

And if we jump down to v6-9 in Ch 5, we can see the same theme. How to deal with suffering. V6 Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up. Down to v9 Resist the devil, standing firm in the faith because your brothers everywhere ARE SUFFERING TOO.

And there in the middle, CHURCH LEADERS are addressed.

Unfortunately, the connection isn’t so obvious in the NIV. It misses a “therefore.” Ch 4 ends “those who suffer should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

(Into Ch 5) THEREFORE I appeal to the elders among you, as a fellow elder and witness of CHRIST’S sufferings, BE SHEPHERDS of God’s flock.

God uses CHURCH LEADERS to HELP his people stand firm. To protect his sheep. That’s why Peter has some instructions especially for them. “To the ELDERS among you”.

It’s BECAUSE the sheep are suffering that they need shepherds to keep them safe and strong.

Peter

Firstly, Peter describes himself.

V1.“A FELLOW elder”. Someone who bears the weight of responsibility for his flock, just like they do. He knows the pressures, and the temptations and the struggles of leadership

And he’s “a witness of Christ’s sufferings”. Why mention that? Because it’s the sufferings of Christ that LAY THE PLATFORM – they SET THE PATTERN – for his FOLLOWERS’ sufferings.

All the way through the letter Peter’s point is that Christ’s sufferings give perspective to OUR sufferings. Back in 4:12

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial YOU are suffering, as though something STRANGE were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST,

Or back in v1 of Ch 4

4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude

Or back in Ch 2 v21. (It’s commendable before God to suffer for doing good)

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, LEAVING YOU AN EXAMPLE, THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS.

Suffering is exactly how God works out his plans for the Christian. We KNOW that  because that’s how his plans worked out FOR JESUS. They were just the first step on the path to VICTORY. Suffering, humility and obedience FIRST. Vindication, success and glory SECOND.

Which is what Peter describes NEXT. He witnessed Christ’s SUFFERINGS. But he’s also looking forward to sharing in HIS GLORY TO BE REVEALED.

Jesus’ earthly life – his obedience to death – was about choosing glory THEN rather than glory NOW. His FATHER’S praise in the LONG term, rather than MAN’S praise IN THE SHORT TERM.

That’s the pattern leaders are to keep reminding their flock of. As THEY go through suffering now – as they’re tempted to put comfort and riches first, and to take easy ways out.

They’re to remember that Jesus was faced with the same choice. And that he took the LONG view. That he chose GLORY THEN, rather than glory NOW. And so they should TOO.

Elders

With the pattern of Jesus’ example in place. Peter moves onto the leaders themselves (v2). He gives them ONE COMMAND, with a whole series of QUALIFIERS.

Elders are called to do lots of things. The Code Book of the NSW Presbyterian Church says elders are to co-operate with the minister in the oversight and government of the congregation. They’re to visit the aged and sick, to care for the young, to guide and encourage enquirers, to edify and comfort believers, and generally promote the spiritual welfare of the congregation.

But as Peter thinks about what elders are to do. It’s all summed up in ONE COMMAND. SHEPHERD God’s sheep.

Make sure they’re FED – fed from God’s Word. Keep them safe from DANGER. Fight off the wolves. Teach them to discern truth from error. Rescue the sheep who wander off. Bring in all God’s sheep who aren’t part of the flock yet.

That’s what the word PASTOR means. Shepherd.

That job description had been burned into Peter’s brain for 30 years. Ever since Jesus took him aside after his resurrection. (John 21)

“Peter, do you love me?” he asked. “You know I do,” said Peter.

“Then feed my sheep. Take care of them,” said Jesus. Three times to hammer it home.

Shepherd the sheep. That’s what an elder does.

And when you look at the flock, says Peter, don’t forget whose they are. They’re GOD’S flock, not YOURS. You’re just MINDING them, until the CHIEF shepherd appears.

Glory THEN, rather than glory NOW.

And it’s THAT mindset that will show itself in practical ways for elders. That FAITH DECISION will work itself out in all sorts of choices. In ATTITUDES. In MOTIVATIONS. And in BEHAVIOURS.

V2 MOTIVATIONS. Shepherd WILLINGLY, not because you MUST. Be EAGER to serve. Don’t serve the church dragging your feet, grumbling and feeling sorry for yourself. God isn’t glorified by that sort of attitude. And the sheep can certainly tell too!

Be motivated by pleasing GOD, not MAN. Work for HIS expectation, rather than earthly acclaim.

When you’re tempted to give up, or to take the easy option, don’t let HUMAN disappointment influence you. Be motivated by not wanting to disappoint GOD.

And let GOD’S riches motivate you, rather than EARTHLY riches (Not GREEDY FOR MONEY, but eager to serve).

Glory THEN, not glory NOW.

But not just ATTITUDES. V3 – it’s a decision that will show itself in an elder’s BEHAVIOUR. How he TREATS THE SHEEP.

(Shepherd the sheep)…3 not LORDING IT OVER those entrusted to you, but being EXAMPLES to the flock.

When you realise they’re GOD’S sheep, not YOURS. When you realise that Jesus is the CHIEF shepherd, and you’re just the UNDER shepherd. When you realise they’ve only been ENTRUSTED to you – they’re ON LOAN. Then you’ll know your place. That you’re just ONE SMALL worker in God’s huge field.

And you’ll follow the example of your Servant King. Who came to SERVE, rather than to BE served. Who didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself NOTHING. A servant.

And you’ll SERVE, and work WITH, the sheep. Rather than having THEM work for YOU. You’ll be putting THEM first. In humility, you’ll consider them ahead of yourself.

And as you follow Christ’s example, in turn, you’ll set an example for the sheep. You’ll point them to Jesus by DEED as well as by WORD.

All done, because your eyes are fixed on GLORY THEN. V4.

4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

And all of your saying NO to glory NOW will be WORTH IT. Because the glory THEN is just SO MUCH BETTER.

And it’s not just YOU. But all the sheep you’ve brought WITH you. The ones you’ve kept safe and strong and fed until that day. What a day THAT will be – when you can hand back to the CHIEF shepherd those sheep you’ve been responsible for.

I hope all our elders have been listening. Because the stakes are high. And the BAR is high. And the dangers are great. And the REWARDS are HUGE.

But not just them. I hope EVERYONE ELSE is paying attention TOO. So you know what to EXPECT from your elders. And you can gently be pointing them back to commands like THIS if you see them falling short.

And so you know what sort of behaviour and attitudes you’re to imitate. As they LEAD you, you’ll know what to FOLLOW.

But also so you know what to LOOK FOR in a potential elder. Look for the men who are showing those sorts of attitudes and actions. Listen to men LIKE THAT. Follow men LIKE THAT. THEY’RE the ones you want shepherding God’s people.

The rest (5-9)

That’s ELDERS. Then in v5, Peter turns his attention to the REST of the sheep. And, once again, his focus is glory THEN, rather than the glory NOW.

It doesn’t matter WHAT your Christian journey looks like, if you’re following Jesus, it will be about HUMILITY. Humility is about being content when no one recognises or rewards you. Being comfortable with the back of the line rather than the front, with the shadows rather than the spotlight. Because you’re not interested in GLORY NOW.

V5. CLOTHE yourselves with humility. Put it on like a singlet for every occasion. Whatever else you wear. Wear humility underneath your attitudes. Your actions. Your words.

Peter quotes a Proverb. Be humble because GOD OPPOSES THE PROUD but GIVES GRACE to the humble.

That’s the way his kingdom works. God’s woven humility into the fabric of the kingdom. He LOVES a wallflower. A “you first” door opener. A unseen back room cleaner-upper. An early morning pray-er. A meal-cooker. An anonymous cheque-writer.

No one else may notice the humble, but you can be sure GOD does. He REWARDS it. He promises them glory THEN, because they don’t seek it NOW. So be humble.

And, v6, when it comes to persecution and suffering, keep that humble attitude WITH RESPECT TO GOD. Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand. Don’t fight against it. Don’t demand an answer, or a reprieve. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t insist that you know better.

Instead, learn the secret of being content. WHATEVER your circumstances. That’s what FAITH looks like – especially in the midst of SUFFERING. Seek glory THEN – God promises to “lift you up in due time”. In HIS time. At Christ’s return. When all injustices will be restored. All crimes punished. All innocence vindicated.

And I love what v7 says to WORRIERS. Cast all your anxiety on him. ALL of it. Big and small. Short term and long term. Every area.

UNBURDEN yourself. Hand it over to God. He’s got broad shoulders. He can CARRY IT.

If you lie awake at night worrying about how you’re going to solve this or that problem. Then STOP, PRAY ABOUT IT. hand it over to God, and then LEAVE IT WITH HIM. And then sleep the sleep of the unburdened.

And the verse finishes in an UNEXPECTED but wonderful way. Cast all you anxiety on him, because… he answers prayer. Or he can FIX it. Or he’s IN CONTROL?

We might EXPECT it to finish like that. And they’re all TRUE. But instead, it promises. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he CARES FOR YOU.”

He CARES for you. He’s the gentle, compassionate Father who’s correcting you for his GLORY, and for your GOOD. Who’s POWERFUL enough to finish it in an instant. But who DOESN’T. And often we’ll never know why. But, ultimately, there’s great comfort in knowing, simply, that HE CARES FOR YOU.

And when you’ve laid all your burdens at his feet. V8. Play YOUR part. Be sober and on-guard. Don’t get complacent. The devil is REAL, and he’s ACTIVE, and he’s the ENEMY. He’s the roaring lion.

The sheep have shepherds to keep them safe. But the lion is still prowling around looking for a weak link. A sleepy watchman. A complacent, lazy elder.

And if he tries to use PERSECUTION to devour the sheep, then (v9) RESIST him by standing firm in your faith. Which means TRUSTING that God’s mighty hand is pressing on you AT THE MOMENT, but that he CARES for you, And will bring relief in due time.

And as an added comfort, don’t think you’re experiencing something UNUSUAL. It’s exactly what your brothers throughout the world are suffering.

You’re not alone. Your particular battlefield is ONLY ONE SMALL PART of the whole war. Which means you’re doing your bit for the total effort.

God

And there IS an overall plan. There IS a general who can see the big picture. And he’s working out an overall strategy. Here’s the battle plan that brings it all into focus. V10.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Who is he? He’s the God of all grace. Even in the midst of persecution and suffering. He shows grace in SAVING US. He gives us grace to COPE, and promises us GRACE IN THE END.

And he’s CALLED you. You didn’t just stumble into your present situation. It’s exactly where God WANTS you.

And it’s not just calling to SUFFERING. That’s only TEMPORARY. But calling to ETERNAL GLORY IN CHRIST. That’s his ULTIMATE plan. Far better and richer and more real and longer-lasting than glory NOW. All ours because we’re JOINED WITH CHRIST. Who trod that same path BEFORE us.

And in the meantime, as we wait expectantly, he promises to EQUIP US to see that day. HE’LL make us strong, firm and steadfast.

Our strength for the task doesn’t come from ourselves. But from the One who CALLED us. He gives us our INSTRUCTIONS, but then he sends us to the armoury, and personally loads us up with the weapons we’ll need for the fight.

And so (v11) HE’S the one who deserves the power for all eternity.

That’s the perspective to keep as we live as strangers here. To fix our eyes on the battle plan. To concentrate on the glory THEN, rather than getting distracted by the glory NOW.

That was the perspective CT Studd had his whole life. After turning his back on cricketing success, he gave away his substantial inheritance.

Then he served for 10 years in China as a missionary with Hudson Taylor. Then 6 more in India. He wrote, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

Finally in 1910, 52 years old, an age when many men are winding down to retirement, he went to the Sudan and founded the Heart of Africa Mission. He died and was buried in the Belgian Congo 21 years later. No money and almost no possessions to his name. Little glory on earth. But WHAT A GLORY in HEAVEN.

Perhaps his best known quote is this one, and it sums him up well. The FAITH CHOICE of seeking glory THEN, rather than glory NOW.

“If Jesus Christ is God and He died for me, then no sacrifice is too much to make for Him.”

May we live, even JUST A LITTLE, with that attitude!

1 Peter 3:8-22: Giving the right answer

One of the well-known parts of cricket is SLEDGING. Comments and criticisms and jokes designed to put your opponent off. To make him lose his concentration. And the BEST sledging is FUNNY, rather than aggressive. And when it’s said as an answer to an OPPONENT’S sledge, it’s EVEN BETTER. Giving the right ANSWER/ in the RIGHT way/ at the right TIME.

Here’s three of my favourites. James Ormond played for England against Australia in 2001. As he came out to bat, Mark Waugh, the brother of captain, Steve, said, “Look who it is. Mate, what are you doing here? There’s no way you’re good enough to play for England.” Ormond replied: “Maybe not, but at least I’m the best player in my family.”

In a county match in England, Greg Thomas was bowling to Viv Richards, The West Indian champion, and getting a few to whizz past the bat. After Richards played and missed another one, Thomas said: “It’s red, it’s round. Now hit it!” Bad idea! Richards proceeded to hit the next ball out of the ground. Richards said: “You know what it looks like. Now go and get it.”

Daryl Cullinan, the South African player was well known for not playing Shane Warne’s leg spin very well. Shane Warne was known for not being the most athletic player around. The 2 hadn’t played each other in some time so when Cullinan walked out to bat, Warne couldn’t resist heckling him: “I’ve been waiting two years for another chance at you“. Cullinan got him back with a ripper: “Looks like you spent it eating…”

Giving the right ANSWER/ in the RIGHT way/ at the right TIME. And that’s what CHRISTIANS are called to do. (Though not the way those CRICKETERS did). As aliens and strangers in this world. Sometimes, it can be just as aggressive for us as on the cricket field. Often, we’re ridiculed and threatened as Christians.

How do we respond? We’re called to give THE RIGHT ANSWER in the right WAY. Called to respond to anger and evil / with humility and blessing. See it there in v9? Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with BLESSING, because to this you were CALLED so that YOU may inherit a blessing

God’s called us to be DIFFERENT. In particular, with how we SPEAK. Rather than fight fire with fire. Rather than ESCALATE the aggression, we’re to DIFFUSE it. Rather than outdo each other with threats or insults, we’re to answer with BLESSING. To wish them WELL, rather than HARM.

Why? So WE can receive a blessing. From God. And we get a quote from Psalm 34 to prove the point. It’s a WISDOM Psalm. About how to LIVE WELL in God’s world. V10 “Whoever would love life and SEE GOOD DAYS.” If you want life to turn out well. Then, as a general rule, here’s how you should live. You must keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. You must turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Give the right answer, in the right way, at the right time. And you’ll be BLESSED.

But it’s more than just karma. That’s the way lots of people think. “Do good and the universe has a way of returning good to you.” V12. Choose to respond this way BECAUSE GOD’S WATCHING. He HEARS the prayers of the righteous. And he turns away from those who do evil. It’s not KARMA. It’s because of God’s CHARACTER that right living brings blessing. God’s JUST and he’s SOVEREIGN, and so, in GENERAL, the DESERVING receive the BENEFITS. And the wicked receive the punishment.

In general, you obey the law, and you get a peaceful life. V13, Peter asks the rhetorical question 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? No one! Is the expected answer!

Now, at this point you might be thinking. Yeah, but what about when it DOESN’T work like that? There’s PLENTY of times when justice DOESN’T happen. When the wicked go unpunished. And when the good suffer, instead. In fact, when God’s people get punished PRECISELY BECAUSE they’re God’s people. Like in Nigeria, or India, or Pakistan or Burma or North Korea. Where’s God THEN?

Peter’s realistic enough to know that terrible things DO HAPPEN to God’s people. In fact, it’s one of the main themes of the letter. (How to deal with persecution). But TO BEGIN WITH, he’s thinking about the MAJORITY of cases. In general, do good, seek peace. And God will work things out so life goes WELL. But then in v14 he turns to the MINORITY case. 14 But even if you SHOULD suffer for what is right, you are BLESSED.

It’s hard to imagine. Especially when you’re in the middle of suffering. That, somehow, blessing doesn’t just come when things GO WELL. (Like Psalm 34 describes – good days and loving life.) But that there’s blessing when you SUFFER, suffer because you choose to live God’s way.

Peter believes it/ because that’s what he heard JESUS say. The Sermon On The Mount. Mt 5:10.

BLESSED are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. 11 “BLESSED are you when people INSULT you, PERSECUTE you and falsely say all kinds of EVIL against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,

The blessing comes by knowing what KINGDOM you belong to. If this world was all there was, if it was your only reward, you’d be CRAZY to think suffering was blessing. But if you suffered because you were living out God’s kingdom – living with his priorities, following Jesus the persecuted one. Then, in a way, the persecution’s a sign that you must be DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. That your light’s pushing back the darkness. And the darkness is REACTING. Keep a heavenly perspective, says Jesus. Great is your reward in heaven. THAT’S why persecution is blessing.

And Peter joins in the chorus. Second half of v14. Keep a heavenly perspective. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”  15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Physical pain, physical death. That’s the limit of an EARTHLY perspective. The ultimate fear. But the HEAVENLY perspective doesn’t HAVE to fear rejection and pain – even DEATH. Because we’re just TRAVELLERS here. We’re on our way HOME. To somewhere BETTER. GREATER. RICHER. What is there to fear? DEATH? No way! That just gets us home quicker!

Instead, SET APART Christ as Lord. Sanctify him. Treat him as HOLY. As ULTIMATE. As most important. Make HIM your greatest treasure. Your ultimate prize. His approval and acceptance your ultimate reward. That’s how to see persecution as blessing.

That heavenly perspective is something Grant Lock shows. Grant Lock is a very normal Aussie Christian. He’s a farmer from South Australia. Twenty years ago he left this farm to go to Pakistan and later Afghanistan to help them build schools and community infrastructure. He’s been there ever since. And he wrote a book called Shoot Me First. He was describing to Hope 103.2’s Leigh Hatcher where the title came from. He was supervising the rebuilding of a girl’s school in Afghanistan on the border of Pakistan. You may know what they think of girls getting an education in that part of the world! One of his workers ran up to him one day, and said to come quickly. A gang of angry men with beards and guns was at the front gate. Their leader threatened that if Grant didn’t stop his workmen, they’d shoot them. He tried to explain that they were rebuilding the school for THEIR KIDS. That he didn’t get anything out of it. He thought of a girl he’d met the previous day who’d wanted to so much to continue her schooling so she could train to be a doctor. And Grant, somehow, had the courage to say to the mob, “Well, if you’re going to shoot THEM. You’re going to have to shoot me first. It seemed to satisfy the mob. They respect bravado in that part of the world. They gradually dissipated, leaving his team to get on with their building work. The school’s finished and grown to college status.  That’s not fearing what the world fears.

And when you have that attitude, it means you’re EQUIPPED. Equipped to give the right answer, in the right way, at the right time. Which is what Grant was able to do. See it there in the second half of v15. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. If you’ve set apart Christ as Lord, then he’s your number one. You’re working for his glory. He’s foremost on your mind. And that means you’ll be PREPARED. Ready to talk about him whenever there’s an opportunity. If you’ve set apart Christ as Lord, you’ll give the reason for YOUR HOPE. Your CONFIDENT EXPECTATION FOR THE FUTURE. Because you’ve tested and proven Jesus as RELIABLE. And that his promises are sure.

And NOT FEARING means the words won’t get stuck in your throat. You’ll fear man LESS, and fear God MORE. You’ll give an answer to EVERYONE. No matter HOW powerful or scary. No matter WHAT the situation.

Peter goes on. It’s not enough to just have the right answer at the right time. You’ve got to give it IN THE RIGHT WAY. But do this with GENTLENESS AND RESPECT, 16 keeping A CLEAR CONSCIENCE, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  Our WORDS need to be backed up by our BEHAVIOUR. There needs to be a CONSISTENCY between our MOUTH and our HANDS. We declare a MESSAGE of grace. And so we need to BEHAVE graciously. There’s no point winning the ARGUMENT if you LOSE THE FRIEND.

Listen to this quote from J.I. Packer’s book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

The right to talk intimately to another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be EARNED, and you earn it by CONVINCING him that you are his friend, and really care about him. And therefore the indiscriminate buttonholing, the intrusive barging in to the privacy of other people’s souls, the thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant strangers who are longing to get away – these modes of behaviour, in which strong personalities have sometimes indulged in the name of personal evangelism, should be written off as a TRAVESTY of personal evangelism. IMPERSONAL evangelism would be a better name

Instead, we need gentleness and respect as we speak. Like the way Grant Lock would speak. When he gets the opportunity, he speaks about Jesus. And he does it naturally. Now, both Pakistan and Afghanistan are pretty hostile to Christianity. Christians have been MARTYRED there. I’d be tempted to follow the “gentleness and respect” bit very closely and the “always be prepared” bit LESS so. But locals would ask Grant, “It’s funny. We’re trying hard to leave Afghanistan, and you’re trying hard to STAY. What’s going on?” Grant would reply, “Come and have a cuppa and we’ll tell you why. We’ll tell you who it is who’s CALLED us to come and serve you. And why we’ve been here so long. And why we’re not going anywhere in a hurry.” It’s THAT sort of approach that sees God’s purposes worked out. Gentle and respectful behaviour that EARNS a hearing.

In fact, that’s God’s WILL for you. To respond with godliness to slander and evil. See it there in v17? It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Which seems a funny thing to say. That sometimes, it’s God’s WILL for you to suffer for doing good. So Peter PROVES it by pointing out the ULTIMATE example of God’s will through suffering. V18. JESUS HIMSELF. For Christ DIED for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, And here’s the GOOD God brought out of it TO BRING YOU TO GOD.

One man died. Once. A completely righteous man suffered the unjust punishment of the guilty. So that guilty people – you and I – might be DECLARED INNOCENT. Brought into God’s family. God’s will for Jesus/ meant SUFFERING brought about GOOD. If he did it with Jesus, he can bring good out of YOUR suffering.

And Peter continues. V18. Not only did Jesus DO good. But he GAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER at the right time in the right way. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and PREACHED TO THE SPIRITS IN PRISON 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

Now, these are some of the most difficult verses in the Bible. And I’m not sure EXACTLY what Peter’s thinking about here. But his POINT, I think, is clear. He’s probably thinking about a story from the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch about the sons of God, and the Nephilim, in Genesis 6. They were probably rebellious angels who walked the earth in the time of Noah. 1 Enoch describes them being shut up in a prison for their rebellion, until judgment day WHEN THEIR GUILTY VERDICT IS PROCLAIMED. And it seems like Peter’s saying/ THAT’S JESUS who’s proclaiming that verdict. Either between his death and resurrection. (He travels there to preach to them). Or else he’s proclaiming to them THROUGH his victorious death and resurrection. Either way, he’s giving the right answer at the right time. Proclaiming victory and justice and life to those being judged.

And because God sent the FLOOD to punish their rebellion. And because he SAVED NOAH through the flood. Peter goes on to talk about Noah. And he says that Noah and the flood are AN ILLUSTRATION of how WE’RE saved. (There’s points of similarity between US and NOAH). V20. God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were SAVED THROUGH WATER, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that NOW SAVES YOU ALSO -not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It SAVES you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God saved Noah and his family despite suffering. And he saves people NOW despite suffering. And he saved them through water. Just like God’s NEW covenant people are saved through BAPTISM.

And even at BAPTISM, the Christian has the opportunity to GIVE THE RIGHT ANSWER. That’s probably what the phrase “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” is about. The pledge, or answers to questions, that the Christian would make before he was baptised. Answering who his Saviour was. Answering where his hope was found, and how he intended to live, and in whose strength he’d DO it. And Peter says that THOSE WORDS – that response of submitting to baptism, and your testimony– are what SAVES you. At least from the human side. They’re what gives EXPRESSION to your response to God’s offer of salvation

But no matter how earnest your pledge is, there’s no power in the testimony, or in the baptism, EXCEPT FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. It’s the RESURRECTION that secures your forgiveness, your life, your hope. V23. Because of the resurrection, Jesus has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him

That’s the vision that will enable you to answer insult with BLESSING (with gentleness and respect). That’s what will help you keep a clear conscience. Because one day Jesus will judge everything. All those authorities now over you/ will be made to submit to Jesus. It’s the vision of the exalted, glorious, victorious Jesus that will keep you recognising God’s blessing despite your persecution. Because if he exalted Jesus after his suffering, then he’ll do the same for you. It’s that vision of Jesus that will enable you not to fear what they fear. That will help you set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts. Because he IS number one. He ALONE deserves all honour and glory and worship and power and praise. It’s that vision of Jesus that will MOTIVATE you to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone for the hope you have. Because THAT VISION IS your hope. It’s that vision of Jesus that enables God’s people even to face DEATH. Because they get to experience Jesus SOONER. Which is better by FAR, as Paul would say.

Like the Cambodian church in the 1970’s. It’s estimated that 90% of Cambodian Christians died during the rule of Pol Pot. The book Killing Fields, Living Fields tells the story of a Christian teacher named Haim who lived in a small village on the edge of the jungle. He and his family were arrested by the soldiers, locked up together through the night, praying and comforting each other. The next morning they dug their own grave and were granted a moment to prepare for their death. They knelt down and cried out to God, exhorting those looking on to repent and believe the gospel. BLESSING those who cursed them. Then Haim’s young son lost his nerve. He ran off into the forest in a last-ditch escape attempt.

What would Haim do? What was the right answer to give at a time like this? Haim convinced the soldiers not to go after him and instead, kneeling by his grave, called out to his son, “What comparison, my son, stealing a few more days of life in the wilderness, a fugitive, wretched and alone/ to joining your family here, momentarily around this grave, but soon around the throne of God, free forever in Paradise?” That’s the right answer given at the right time in the right way.

Within a few minutes, Haim’s weeping son walked out of the jungle and rejoined his family. Haim told the soldiers they were now ready to go. The whole family was killed, and buried in the grave they’d dug themselves. And NOW, they ARE blessed. With Christ, pain and suffering over.

That’s a heavenly perspective. That’s not fearing what they fear. That’s setting apart Christ as Lord. Who was resurrected. And who’s gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. Amen.

 

1 Peter 2:13-3:7: How to succeed in life

Show toelf-help books. They’re so popular, because we all want to IMPROVE our LIVES. To live a more SUCCESSFUL life. However we define that.

And the titles of the TOP selling ones tell you the areas MOST people want to be successful in:

Here’s a couple that aim for something FAIRLY SIMPLE

  • How to stop WORRYING and start LIVING
  • How to WIN FRIENDS and INFLUENCE people

This one, by Anthony Robbins, I’m almost too scared to put into practice

 Sounds scary! But it’s certainly on about SUCCESS!

And then there’s THESE two that, I suspect, promise more than they can deliver. But I’m not surprised they’re best-sellers:

  • The 4 hour work week: Sub-title: Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich.
  • The magic of thinking big: Sub-title: Acquire the secrets of success… achieve everything you’ve always wanted

You can see why they sell these books BY THE THOUSANDS. Because everyone wants TO SUCCEED. They want a life that WORKS.

And Christians are no different. God wants us to live A SUCCESSFUL LIFE. A life that WORKS. Which means that it ACHIEVES THE THINGS HE’S DESIGNED for it.

But the message of 1 Peter is that a successful CHRISTIAN life is going to look VERY DIFFERENT from how THE WORLD views success.

Because the Christian is an ALIEN. A TOURIST. Just passing through this life. With different priorities and qualities and goals.

And we can see what that LOOKS LIKE in the key verses in the letter. Chapter 2 v11 and 12.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, AS ALIENS AND STRANGERS IN THE WORLD, to ABSTAIN from sinful desires, which 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.

That’s the description of A SUCCESSFUL LIFE in God’s eyes. It answers the WHO. And the WHAT. And the WHY. All the BIG questions.

WHO are you? Aliens and strangers. Different and holy.

WHAT are you to do? Live such good lives that people will recognise you as different.

WHY? So they’ll glorify God

And as we move into the next verses, the ones we read earlier, we see that GENERAL description / SPELLED OUT. If you like, it’s a little self-help book we could call “How to SUCCEED in life”

But since we’re aliens and strangers, the METHOD OF ACHIEVING success is alien and strange TOO. It’s upside down. It’s full of oxymorons.

You might know what an oxymoron is. It’s a phrase that puts together two ideas that seem contradictory. Actually the word “oxymoron” is an oxymoron. In Greek, it means “sharp- dull.”

Here’s some oxymorons:

The first shall be last

A lumpy smoothie

Deafening silence

Sweet sorrow

How to be a royal priest by submitting to all

And in our little best-selling book, the first oxymoron for succeeding in life is THIS. How to be a royal priest by SUBMITTING TO ALL.

Back up in v9 we saw the description for who we were as Christians. A chosen people, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.

And just in case people got the wrong idea about that. Got the idea that being a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD was about PRIVILEGE and POWER. Peter sets the record straight.

The way to LIVE OUT being a royal priest is there in v13.

13 SUBMIT YOURSELVES for the Lord’s sake to EVERY authority instituted among men: whether to the KING, 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.

Doesn’t matter who the authority is. Big or small. In every area of life. SUBMIT. Do as you’re told. Member of parliament, policeman, parking inspector, librarian, pool lifeguard, traffic controller, or customs officer. Just OBEY.

And do it BECAUSE OF THE LORD. Because you want to serve HIM. He’s your ULTIMATE master. And he sees it all. Not just the ACTION, but your attitudes and thoughts TOO.

He’s your NUMBER ONE Lord. And therefore, you’re to submit to your NUMBER TWO lords.[1]

And as we DO that God works out his purposes. Which you can see in v15. What SUCCESS will look like.

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should SILENCE THE IGNORANT TALK OF FOOLISH MEN.

Submission and doing good is a God-ordained, quiet yet powerful, witness to hardened cynics.

Christians will always have critics. You may never convince people of what you BELIEVE. But you take the wind out of their sails if your BEHAVIOUR is exemplary. If what you believe is ALL they can criticise.

That’s God’s will – that God’s kingdom is extended as his people DO GOOD.

And if you jump down to v18, you can see how God’s will works out for SLAVES. Not surprisingly, they were to submit to their masters TOO. But not just the GOOD ones. The HARSH ones AS WELL. And not just to submit UNWILLINGLY, with a grumbling, resentful attitude, but to obey WITH RESPECT. And to have that attitude BECAUSE THEY WERE SERVING GOD.

In fact, it’s respectfully obeying a HARSH master that will set the CHRISTIAN apart from the rest. God wants to see that sort of DISTINCTIVENESS. There in v19.

19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

God’s IMPRESSED with the Christian who responds in a godly manner to the unjust master. NO ONE ELSE might notice. But GOD does.

(pause) It’s so easy, isn’t it, to complain? To grumble about injustices or what’s not fair? Everyone does it. Almost as a acceptable topic of conversation with colleagues. To sigh about the workload. To roll your eyes knowingly at the unreasonable demands of the boss.

“How’s your week been?” we ask. And we EXPECT the answer, “Super busy!” It’s not necessarily grumbling, but it often does have that tone.

How well are YOU bearing up under injustices? And what’s your ATTITUDE like?

Perhaps you get overlooked AGAIN for the promotion. Because you won’t play the game. Or you’re expected to work back late to cover for someone else not pulling their weight. Or your supervisor takes the credit with his bosses for work YOU’VE DONE.

How well do YOU bear up under the pain of unjust suffering? Do you just cheerfully and patiently get on with it? Quietly and conscientiously doing your job? Is that what you’re KNOWN for?

God LOVES it when you submit WITH ALL RESPECT to your masters! That’s chapter 1 of How to succeed in life.

How to be truly free by being a slave

Next up, HOW TO BE TRULY FREE. It sounds so attractive, doesn’t it? Whether it’s FINANCIAL freedom – like that self-help book “The 4 hour work week: Sub-title: Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich”

Or else MORAL freedom. Wanting to live the way you want, without anyone restricting you. Not bound by expectation or guilt or conventions or rules.

But the Bible teaches that that’s SLAVERY, not freedom. Enslaved to satisfying selfish sinful cravings. Enslaved to keeping up appearances. To the relentless never-ending treadmill of seeking satisfaction in things that can never satisfy. Possessions, or relationships or experiences.

Powerless to break free. Powerless to choose “the good”. Powerless to live our God-given potential. To live with ETERNAL priorities and ETERNAL goals.

And it’s slavery because of its CONSEQUENCES. It’s headed for God’s WRATH. For judgment and hell.

Instead, Christians have been SET FREE. God has MADE US NEW PEOPLE. We’ve been freed from sinful selfishness. And now have God’s power to love and serve and submit. We’ve been freed from the compulsion to give in to the fallen nature. By God’s Spirit, we’re ABLE to choose obedience and godliness. And our actions now have ETERNAL consequences. A whole new world of possibilities opens up for us when God sets us free.

FREED/ to SERVE. The oxymoron is there in v16.

16 Live as FREE men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as SERVANTS of God.

Christian freedom isn’t an excuse to live the way YOU want. It’s not a license to sin. It’s freedom within limits. GOD’S limits. He sets the parameters for our freedom.

Like Thomas the tank engine who’s free to travel anywhere he likes. He’s got a full coal car, and the world’s his to explore. He can go ANYWHERE, as long as he stays on the tracks. There wouldn’t be much freedom if he left the tracks to do his own thing. He’d very quickly grind to a halt in the middle of a muddy field.

But true freedom. The freedom to live out your God-given potential. Only comes as we seek to SERVE God. And here’s what it LOOKS LIKE to live as free men. V17

17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

It’s not very complicated really, is it? It’s like Peter’s version of Jesus’ summary. Love God. Love your neighbour. He says, You’re free to do all sorts of things. In all sorts of ways. In all sorts of places. To be an individual. But the boundaries are THESE.

RESPECT everyone. Treat everyone as EQUAL. Whatever their sex or colour or nationality or intelligence or language. It’s something Christians, at times, have done particularly WELL. In terms of looking after the people everyone else overlooks. Lepers, or beggars or prostitutes or orphans or slaves or the aged or the terminally ill. Showing them the human dignity they DESERVE. Because we’re ALL made in God’s image.

And reserve a special love for THE BELIEVERS – after all, they’re FAMILY. If there’s a decision to be made about PRIORITIES, then THE CHURCH comes first.

And above MANKIND. Fear God. Maintain a healthy respect for his character and his standards. If there’s a choice to be made between pleasing PEOPLE and pleasing GOD. Choose God. Be a God pleaser, not a man pleaser. Work for an audience of ONE, not a CROWD. Jesus made the choice pretty clear. Luke 12:4

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

It’s THAT relationship that determines how you relate in all other relationships.

And then under GOD, honour THE KING. Submit and respect.

They’re the broad brush strokes of how the Christian freedom of slavery to God works out in relationships.

Our NEXT oxymoron is there in Ch 3. And we’ve moved from general principles to the specifics of MARRIAGE.

How to make your man do what you want by saying nothing

First, for the wife. How to make your man do what you want by saying nothing. I think wives would LOVE that. If husbands were so tuned in to their wife’s needs that she DIDN’T EVEN NEED TO ASK.

But Peter’s not thinking about needs in general. He’s thinking of the wife who’s married to a non-Christian. She’s become a Christian, but he’s not. At least, not YET. But it’s what she wants more than ANYTHING.

And Peter’s command goes against the natural inclination. Nagging won’t work. You can’t harass him into the kingdom! Instead, his message is consistent. Just like back in Ch 2 – Choose SUBMISSION, so that he’ll recognise your good deeds and glorify God. Ch 3 v1. He commands

3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

God’s way is to work through a wife’s submission and quiet reliance on him. Through her godly, humble, patient, consistent actions. Down in v4, he commands “a GENTLE and QUIET SPIRIT.

That’s how to make your man do what you want by saying nothing.

How to be beautiful without makeup or a new wardrobe

Next chapter shows WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE. It teaches HOW TO BE BEAUTIFUL WITHOUT MAKEUP OR A NEW WARDROBE.

One of my friends told me quietly a number of years ago that the thing he used to LOVE about his wife, was driving him CRAZY. She always looked GREAT when they went out. Her clothes were always gorgeous, and her hair and the shoes were just right.

But it just used to take SO LONG. And she’d always obsess about it, and change her mind about what she was wearing, or what accessorised it. And they’d always be LATE.

And he could see NOW – after years of marriage – how there were OTHER things that mattered much more. Other things that contributed to TRUE beauty.

And that’s Peter’s point. True beauty. Beauty that LASTS. That COUNTS. Beauty that a husband can appreciate more and more. Beauty that can GROW as the decades of marriage roll by. Is the INNER beauty.

And that’s true whether you’re a wife OR a husband. Whether you’re married or single. Young or old.

It’s the INNER SELF. Your CHARACTER. Your patience, your purity, your goodness, your compassion, your gentleness, your joy, your humility. Your LOVE.

That’s REAL beauty. You can’t jazz it up with a curling iron, or sparkling jewels, or elegantly cut clothes. You can’t disguise any blemishes in your character under layers of makeup.

And what’s more, it’s beauty that LASTS. The ten visible signs of aging have no effect on the INNER person.

There’s an ATTRACTIVENESS. An engaging and appealing quality in people like that. That’s the way to REALLY make your husband sit up and take notice.

And not just your HUSBAND. It’s beauty GOD appreciates. (He says (v3) don’t focus on hair and clothes and jewelry. INSTEAD. V4

Your beauty… should be that of your INNER self, the unfading beauty of A GENTLE AND QUIET SPIRIT, which is of GREAT WORTH IN GOD’S SIGHT.

God LOVES to see gentle and quiet submission. It’s more valuable that the hugest diamond. Because it’s how he works out his purposes.

(pause) And it’s just as important to keep your attention on GOD as you work on your gentle and quiet spirit before YOUR HUSBAND. In v5 and 6 SUBMISSION TO YOUR HUSBAND is connected with PUTTING YOUR HOPE IN GOD.

And there at the end of v6, it’s connected to NOT GIVING WAY TO FEAR.

How do they go together with submission?

When you TRUST GOD to work out his plans in your marriage, you can let go of scheming and plotting. Let go of fear. Let go of having to control. Let go of nagging and pushing. Let go of subtle and not so subtle digs at your husband’s expense.

The gentle and quiet spirit is AN EXPRESSION. A concrete outworking. Of your HOPE in God to work. It’s an expression of a choice NOT TO FEAR.

Wives, how gentle and quiet are YOU? How much are you trusting your situation to God? How much are you NOT FEARING?

Is your first instinct to speak to YOUR HUSBAND about the problems, or to speak to GOD?

GOD is the one who changes hearts. Who opens eyes. Who unblocks ears. Who breathes life into dead hearts. Put your hope in God. Not in your words. Trust God’s METHOD. Submission.

It CAN HAPPEN. It DOES happen.

Let me tell you about Jill Birkmyre. She was a struggling young mum in Cairns in 1976. I was 10. Dad had just been appointed to Cairns Pressie as the assistant minister. And Mum be-friended Jill, who lived across the road, and gave her some practical help coping with a new baby. And Dad helped out with some Bible studies. And Jill ended up being looked after by the whole church.

Jill recently wrote to Dad to thank him for how much they’d influenced her life. Dad couldn’t remember any of it! But let me read you some of the letter.

The following year the Lord brought me out from my miry pit and set me upon the solid Rock of Christ.

 

To this day, I have sought to follow the example that you and Leah set. I have sought to always open my heart and my home to those in need that some may be won to Christ. I have tried to give people sound answers to their questions – be they Christian or otherwise.

 

MY HUSBAND, KEN, A SCOTSMAN, CAME TO THE LORD 17 YEARS LATER.

 

That wasn’t a major part of the letter. But it struck me. 17 years! I don’t know the specifics about how Jill dealt with her husband. But that’s not really the point. Because it was God who did it. And God’s timing was 17 years.

God’s method DOES work. So keep working on your INNER beauty. Keep not giving in to FEAR. Keep putting your hope in God that those you love (husband, children, parents) will be WON OVER WITHOUT WORDS. By the pure and reverent behaviour of your lives.

How to be heard by listening

That’s WIVES. Next, it’s the HUSBAND’S turn. How to be HEARD by LISTENING. Listen to Peter’s command in v7.

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

It’s funny, as we read this verse with modern eyes, the bit that jumps out at us is “Husbands treat your wife AS THE WEAKER PARTNER.” And feminists everywhere protest – WEAKER! WHO’S weaker!? YOU try giving birth!? I am WOMAN – hear me ROAR!

But for Peter’s hearers, the counter-cultural bits. What jumped out at THEM would have been “husbands BE CONSIDERATE of your wife. TREAT HER WITH RESPECT as the weaker partner and as a CO-HEIR in life”

It’s probably PHYSICAL weakness. And the point is, “Just because you CAN impose your will on your wife physically… DON’T!”

Men are to lead their family, with their wife DIFFERENT but EQUAL IN IMPORTANCE. There’s no MALE PRIORITY. Husband and wife are HEIRS TOGETHER. So you’re to treat your wife with thoughtfulness and respect and gentleness. Supporting her. Listening to her. Understanding her.

That would be a HUGELY counter-cultural concept in Greek society of the time. Women had no power, and men ABUSED that powerlessness. But that’s not God’s way.

(pause) And when we listen to our wives like THAT. God HEARS OUR PRAYERS. It’s HOW TO BE HEARD BY LISTENING. See it there right at the end of v7? Treat your wives with consideration and respect, as co-heirs, SO THAT NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS.

 

If you take advantage of the weakness of your wife. If you don’t respect her as a co-heir with you of the gracious gift of life. How can you expect God to hear your prayers? You’re pleading for mercy and help and support from GOD, but you’re not willing to SHOW ANY TO YOUR WIFE!

You switch off when your wife talks, but expect GOD to listen. You’re impatient, but expect GOD to be patient. You keep a record of wrongs, but expect God to forget yours. No wonder there’s a blockage in the communication with God.

Listen to your wife, so you can be heard.

The ultimate oxymoron

And so we come to the LAST oxymoron. The ULTIMATE oxymoron. The one which makes sense of all the others. The one that lifts this advice from mere moralistic rules for living. To something higher and richer.

Because these back-to-front commands WORK because they TUNE our behaviour into the way GOD HIMSELF works.

Because the ultimate oxymoron is JESUS. And all these OTHER ones reflect the way Jesus HIMSELF lived. Look there at v21 of Ch2. Why should we submit?

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.

The One with infinite power, chose to lay it aside. Chose to submit to earthly authorities. Came not to BE served, but to SERVE. The One who was TRULY FREE chose to be a slave.

And so, OUR submission. Our quiet humility. Our thoughtfulness and compassion. Will WORK. (Will be SUCCESSFUL. It will achieve what God intends for it.) BECAUSE GOD DID IT THAT WAY WITH JESUS. He worked out his perfect powerful death-defeating purposes through weak submission. Success through failure. V24.

24 HE HIMSELF BORE OUR SINS IN HIS BODY ON THE TREE, SO THAT WE MIGHT DIE TO SINS AND LIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS; BY HIS WOUNDS YOU HAVE BEEN HEALED.

His DEATH brought us LIFE. His obedience unleashed the power for us to LIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Instead of self-centredness/ to live out contentment and generosity. Instead of self-promotion/ to live out humility and quiet loyalty. Instead of self-interest/ to live out honesty and kindness. Instead of self-assertiveness/ to live out self-denial and industriousness. Instead of rights/ to live out responsibilities.

“But surely submission won’t work!” the world screams!

I’ll finish by letting Scot McKnight answer the accusation with a quote from his commentary.

“But what does “work” actually mean? If by work you mean buying a sportier boat or a newer coat  it may NOT work. But the way of suffering and submission is the divinely intended manner of bringing the greatest victory of God into the world. What really WORKS is what works with GOD. And what works with God… is the cross.” (p178)

 


[1] And that idea helps us, I think, when it comes to the difficult question of submitting to an anti-Christian government. Was it wrong or right for Corrie Ten Boom and her family to disobey the German occupiers by hiding Jews during the WW2?

The question for the Christian should always be, “What will please my NUMBER ONE Lord? And MOST of the time, it will be to submit to human authorities. But I think there’ll be times, like with Corrie Ten Boom, where living for THE LORD’S SAKE will mean REFUSING to submit to human authorities. He’s the Number ONE Lord who deserves our allegiance more than our number two Lord..

You can see ANOTHER phrase that helps us with this question there in v15. “For it’s God’s will that BY DOING GOOD, you should silence the foolish talk of ignorant men.”

In general, as Peter sees it, “submitting” and “doing good” will go together. But when the two CLASH. When submitting means doing EVIL. Then I think it’s valid to quote v15 – God’s will is for you to DO GOOD – even if that means disobedience of authority.

Certainly in Australia, it’s a pretty rare thing. Persecuted Christians in other countries have to make this choice more often than us. Though I wonder whether it will become an issue if same-sex marriage legislation ever makes it through federal parliament. They say religious marriage celebrants will have exemptions from having to perform same-sex marriages. But who knows?

1 Peter 1:1-12: You belong!

Have you ever been in a situation where you FEEL LIKE YOU DON’T BELONG? It happened to me last weekend. My son’s getting married  in a couple of weeks. And last Saturday his fiance had her hen’s party at our place. It was supposed to be in the backyard, but it was raining. So they had it inside. And the house was full of 30 young ladies doing flower arranging, and drinking punch and champagne, laughing and talking. Every space was full.

It was a wonderful afternoon. Everyone had a great time. But I just felt like I didn’t belong. They all had different interests, different ways of doing things to me. Different ways of talking and dressing. So I went out. I hid in my office.

Perhaps you’ve felt like that. But at a much more FUNDAMENTAL level. A more SERIOUS level. You’re the only Christian surrounded by non-Christians. Perhaps in your WORKPLACE. Or among your friends. Or maybe even in your family. Where they THINK differently. Where their PRIORITIES are different. Their morals are different. Their whole ORIENTATION to LIFE. And you feel like you don’t belong.

And you wonder whether it’s worth all the effort trying to be different. What the point of it all is. Whether trying to follow Jesus is just a giant waste of time and energy. And whether it wouldn’t just be easier to blend back in. And conform to what everyone else does and says.

How DO you live as God’s person in a world, where it feels like you don’t belong?

That’s the question the letter of 1 Peter answers. Written to Gentiles scattered all over what’s now Turkey. Now they were Christians, they were called to live a very DIFFERENT sort of life. Just flip over to Ch 4 for a moment. Look there in v3.

3 For you have spent enough time IN THE PAST doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.

Their NEW way of life, just SO DIFFERENT to everyone around them. And they FEEL LIKE THEY DON’T BELONG. So different, it’s like they’re FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY. Like they’re FOREIGNERS.

And Peter’s point in the letter is “That’s what YOU ARE!” You ARE different. So BE different. Look in Ch 2 v11. Perhaps the key verse in the whole letter.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, AS ALIENS AND STRANGERS IN THE WORLD, to ABSTAIN from sinful desires, which 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.

That’s his main point. You DON’T belong to the world. So don’t be surprised when you DON’T FIT IN. In fact, make the MOST of that difference. Claim it. Revel in it. EMBRACE it. Live such GOOD lives, such DISTINCTIVE lives, that people will NOTICE.

To THE WORLD, they’re STRANGERS. Temporary residents. Tourists. And that’s the way Peter addresses them at the start of his letter.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to… STRANGERS in the WORLD.”

On the ONE hand they DON’T belong. But that’s okay. Because, on the OTHER hand, they DO belong. They belong to GOD’S people. This unrelated, spread out assortment of people may not fit in with their neighbours, or their workmates, or their natural families. But they belong to God’s people, just as much as his NATIONAL PEOPLE, ISRAEL. That’s the OTHER description Peter uses in v1. “To God’s ELECT.” Chosen. Special.

It’s an EXTRAORDINARY thing to say. Because God’s elect were THE JEWS. Not GENTILES. Everyone knew THAT. Right back from the time of Moses. Back in Deut 7, God said to ISRAEL

6 For you are a people HOLY to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has CHOSEN / YOU out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be HIS people, his TREASURED POSSESSION. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you

Israel’s CHOSEN. But now Peter says his readers, GENTILES, are part of God’s ELECT TOO. They may not fit into THE WORLD AROUND THEM. But they fit right in with God’s people. God’s ELECTED them.

But that’s not all. Peter continues describing their privileges in v1. They’re SCATTERED throughout Pontus and other places. Doesn’t SOUND like a privilege. But the word’s the technical term for how THE JEWS were scattered after the Assyrian invasion. They were called THE DISPERSION, or THE DIASPORA. Scattered all across the known world.

And, just like ISRAEL was dispersed, these GENTILES are God’s people, DISPERSED all over the place.

But that’s not all. Peter goes on, in v2, to describe who they are/ using a whole collection of phrases HEAVY WITH MEANING for God’s Old Testament people. First, “chosen according to the FOREKNOWLEDGE of God the Father.” Similar to being ELECT. To be KNOWN by God. It’s about choice and purpose and relationship and commitment. All the way back when Israel was in slavery in Egypt. They cried out to God. And Exodus 2:24 says

24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and KNEW them (or was CONCERNED about them, the NIV translates.)

A commitment from God to be in a relationship with them. And that’s the concern and the commitment God had for THESE GENTILES TOO. And FROM ALL ETERNITY- FORE-known by God the Father.

Secondly, they’d been SANCTIFIED by the Spirit. Same word group as HOLY. Set apart. Peter’s thinking about what happened when they FIRST became Christians. The Spirit separated them from their OLD lives. From sin and judgment and impurity.

Just like ISRAEL was called to be HOLY, as God’s people. Deuteronomy 7:6. God said they were to break down altars and idols – to be separate and different, because “you are a people HOLY to the LORD your God. And that’s the GENTILES too.

We’ve seen the FATHER’S work, and the SPIRIT’S work. And we also see the SON’S work. These believers have been chosen and sanctified “for OBEDIENCE to Jesus Christ and SPRINKLING by his blood.”

And obedience and sprinkling with blood are straight from the Old covenant with Israel, TOO. In Exodus 24, God’s given the Ten Commandments, and the people offer burnt offerings. And Moses takes half the blood and sprinkles it on the altar. Then he takes the Book of the Covenant and reads it to the people. And they respond, “We’ll OBEY everything the LORD has said.” Then, v8, Moses then took the blood, SPRINKLED IT ON THE PEOPLE and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” God FORGIVES their SIN, sprinkling them with blood. And makes a covenant with them, and gives them the PRIVILEGE of OBEYING him.

That’s Israel, and Peter’s saying THESE GENTILE CHRISTIANS have got all of that. A covenant with God. Even better – a NEW covenant. Obedience to JESUS and sprinkling by HIS blood. They get to gratefully obey THE RISEN LORD JESUS, whose blood has brought them INTO the covenant.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all working to INCLUDE these Gentile Christians. To SAVE them. And Peter’s point? They DO belong.

Is that a description YOU recognise of YOURSELF? Have YOU been included into God’s people LIKE THAT? Do you feel AT HOME here? If not, TURN to him. TRUST him. Let him SET YOU APART, and WASH YOUR CLEAN. AND MAKE YOU HIS. Perhaps God is speaking to you TODAY. Inviting YOU.

Praise

So, back up in v3, as Peter thinks about all that God’s done. How he’s foreknown and set apart and sprinkled clean. He can’t help but PRAISE God. V3.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

How incredible is God! Not only has he given us new birth. In the PAST. But he’s prepared something FOR THE FUTURE. A LIVING hope. A solid, evidence-affirmed, death-defying hope. Powered by Jesus’ resurrection.

A hope in something beyond this world. Beyond this life. Beyond it in terms of TIME and REACH. (It comes AFTER this life. And it’s OUTSIDE it). But also BEYOND it in terms of offering something GREATER. Something richer and truer and more precious and more long-lasting. Look at v4. Our living hope is

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

That inheritance is our eternity with Jesus. It’s the FUTURE part of our salvation.

But notice, too, that there’s a PRESENT aspect to that inheritance. (We’ve been given new birth in the PAST. We’ve got an inheritance to be revealed in the FUTURE.) And in the present, God SHIELDS us BY HIS POWER, through faith. As we TRUST HIS PROMISES. As we lean on the reliability of his character and his work in the world. Both work together. We TRUST. God SHIELDS. And so God KEEPS us faithful to the end. As we rely on him.

In a moment, we’ll see what we need to be shielded FROM. But for now, notice the description of WHO WE ARE. PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE. (New birth in the past. Shielded through faith in the present. And with a living hope for our FUTURE inheritance.)

So what? Rejoice!

Once that’s in place. Peter, like all good pastors, answers the “SO WHAT?” question. What DIFFERENCE does all this make in how we LIVE? Look there at v6. In this you GREATLY REJOICE,

Not surprising, really, if we’ve caught a little of the vision of what we’ve been given in Jesus. (The JOY of knowing who we are, and where we fit. The joy of knowing God’s cleansing and sanctifying in the PAST, knowing his powerful protection in the PRESENT, and looking forward to our inheritance and salvation in the FUTURE.) But perhaps what IS surprising/ is that joy is to be great DESPITE THEIR PRESENT EXPERIENCES. 6 In this you greatly REJOICE, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer GRIEF in all kinds of TRIALS.

Rejoicing and grief don’t naturally go together. But, somehow, for the Christian, as they go through various trials, they can grieve AND rejoice.

And as we read on, we find THREE REASONS why we can rejoice in the face of grief and trials. Firstly, v7, because the trials test whether your faith is genuine.

7 These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The idea is of gold, that starts off containing impurities. But when you MELT it, the impurities burn off, or float to the top and are skimmed off. Until all you’re left with is the pure, valuable gold. And it’s the same with our faith in God. It’s EVEN MORE valuable. Because it doesn’t perish.

And TRIALS have the effect of PURIFYING our faith. We trust all sorts of things at different times. But God uses TRIALS to burn off all the OTHER things we trust – like money and health and intellect and technology. To show they’re worthless and unreliable. And, in comparison, to prove the reliability of trusting HIM ALONE. And our faith finishes up more SINGLE-MINDED. Because everything else has been found wanting.

And when that happens. And we get to THE END, strong and unbroken. V7. Then it results in praise and glory and honour for Jesus. Because he’s proved utterly reliable.

And that’s the SECOND reason we can greatly rejoice though grieving. Because Jesus will be revealed at the END of it. He’ll be revealed as the One who’s SAVED us, and EQUIPPED us, and USED all the trials to glory and praise to himself.

It’s that LONG-SIGHTEDNESS that helps us endure the GRIEF of the PRESENT. That gives us the PERSPECTIVE to REJOICE in trials. You can see that connection again in v8. A future focus on Jesus’ magnificent revealing fills us with JOY.

8 Though you have not seen him, you LOVE him; and even though you do not see him now, you BELIEVE in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious JOY,

The One who infinitely DESERVES it all, will finally RECEIVE it all. His praise won’t be hidden and partial. It will finally be APPROPRIATE for his wonder and splendour and power and beauty.

And then in v9, a THIRD, connected reason for joy. Because we’re receiving the GOAL of our faith. Our salvation. The PURPOSE of our faith. It’s TARGET.

Our BODIES can endure the trials of the PRESENT / because our SOULS will receive SALVATION in the FUTURE. And so we can GREATLY REJOICE despite grieving.

Charles Simeon was the pastor of Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 54 years. He endured and outlasted terrible persecution and prejudice and isolation and loneliness for decades. And that was from members of his church! In 1831, aged 71, after 49 years, he was asked by a friend how he’d coped for so long. He answered,

“My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory”

Poke your head through the hedge. See what’s ahead clearly. Catch a glimpse of Jesus. Of what HE endured. Of his future glory. Of your future salvation. Of where your TRUE identity lies. And keep trusting him in the middle of your present thorns. The struggles of your separation from loved ones, your chronic pain or illnesses, or your uncertainties. The thorns of your unemployment, your fears, your failures and weaknesses, your mistakes. Keep trusting him in the midst of the ridicule and persecution. The rejection and loneliness.

God is SHIELDING you by his power. He’s TESTING and PURIFYING you. It’s WHO YOU ARE. It’s what you’ve been FOREKNOWN and CHOSEN for. Keep your eyes on Jesus. LOVE him, LONG for him, let him fill you with INEXPRESSIBLE AND GLORIOUS JOY.

You may not belong in this world. But you belong to HIM.

 

1 Peter 4: From King’s Cross to Katoomba

kmcOn the 1st of March next year thousands of men will gather in two very different places for two VERY different events. Katoomba Men’s Convention. And the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Two groups of people. Completely different. With different ATTITUDES. Different OUTLOOKS. Different PRIORITIES. Different LIFESTYLES. Different FASHION styles.

Katoomba compared to King’s Cross.

One group interested in satisfying every selfish desire they can. Looking after Number one. Doing what they feel like whenever they feel like doing it. The other group learning about serving Jesus as number one. About putting OTHERS first. Being good husbands and fathers and friends.

From King’s Cross to Katoomba. Only two hours apart by train. But it’s a trip that represents the life-time journey EACH OF US are on.

This isn’t a sermon about that lifestyle IN PARTICULAR. But only in the sense that it’s a life that IGNORES GOD and what HE says about life, and seeks to satisfy its OWN desires. And that’s somewhere we’ve ALL been.

But at some point, for those of us who are Christians, we jumped on the train from King’s Cross to Katoomba. We walked through the tunnel of self-centredness, climbed the stairs of greed, and hopped off the platform of self-gratification.

And we started up the mountain towards Katoomba. We left King’s Cross. And headed for the KING who DIED on a cross.

And so life NOW is about keeping our eyes on King Jesus who calls us to live by a DIFFERENT set of rules. An upside-down set of rules. Where joy and happiness are found in putting OTHERS first. Freedom is found in SERVING. And true life is found in dying to selfishness each day.

And we’re all at different stations along the way. Some of us are doing pretty well. We’re MILES from King’s Cross. From where we used to be. We hardly miss it at all. It was such an EMPTY life. And unsatisfying. And pointless.

And life now is so much better. Richer. More satisfying. More joyful. Learning to love God. And learning to love his people.

We’re at Blaxland. Or Lawson.

And some of us AREN’T doing so well. It’s a pretty steep climb up the mountain. And we’re struggling to make progress.

Maybe you haven’t been travelling for very long. You’ve still got cravings for the OLD life. The bad habits that are hard to break. And you’ve got withdrawal symptoms.

Or perhaps you’ve been on the trip for YEARS. And for a while you were doing okay. But your wheels are slipping a bit lately. The track’s a bit steep. Things you thought you’d left behind have snuck up on you again.

Or you’ve gone a bit DRY. You’re running low on fuel. It seems like nothing much has changed for ages. The Bible just seems like another book. Your prayers, when you bother to pray, don’t seem to reach any further than the ceiling. You’re doing it tough.

Maybe you only feel like you’re at Macdonaldtown, or Redfern.

Well, it’s to PEOPLE JUST LIKE US Peter’s writing in Ch 4. They’re on the journey from King’s Cross to Katoomba, too. They’ve left King’s Cross behind.

And, UNLIKE most of us, they’re OLD life was just about as bad as you could get. Peter paints a pretty black picture as he thinks back to where they used to be (v3).

But they’ve moved on from that. And Peter wants to encourage them, and US, to KEEP moving. To keep travelling towards Katoomba.

And he does it by giving us TWO MOTIVATIONS. Two reasons to keep moving. Both to do with Jesus. One’s ALREADY HAPPENED. And one’s GOING TO HAPPEN SOON.

1. Motivations to move (1-2; 5-6)

If you like, we’re like those gigantic freight trains. If you live anywhere near the railway line, you can sometimes hear them in the middle of the night. So many carriages, they need engines at the front AND the back. One engine pulling. And another pushing.

Looking back: Christ’s suffering: (1-2)

And the engine that’s AT THE BACK. Is the example of Christ’s suffering. That’s the event that’s already happened. Look at v1.

(1 Pet 4:1-2 NIV)  Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with THE SAME ATTITUDE, because he who has suffered in his body is DONE WITH SIN.

“Think back to what Jesus went through” says Peter. “And take up the same attitude.”

And then he tells us what that attitude is. “He who’s suffered in his body is DONE WITH SIN.” JESUS suffered and died, to put an end to sin. To defeat it. That’s what it said back in Ch 3. Verse 18.

And WE’RE to have that same attitude. Not that we’re to physically die to pay the punishment for sin. But that we’re to use Jesus’ death as the MOTIVATION to also die to OUR sin. To get rid of it. And put it to death.

To have the same attitude as Jesus is to treat OUR SIN as seriously as Jesus did. He took it so seriously, he DIED for it. How seriously do YOU take it?

How radical is the surgery YOU’RE willing to undergo to cut it out of your life? What are you willing to change? To say NO to? To get rid of? Who are you willing to ask to keep you accountable?

What radical surgery will YOU have to be done with sin? Jesus said if you eye causes you to sin – poke it out!

Have the same attitude to your sin as Jesus did. It mattered so much to him, he DIED for it. So be DONE with it!

We’ve left King’s Cross station. And we’re headed to Katoomba. And Jesus’ suffering for us is the engine that pushes us along from behind.

Looking Forward: Christ’s judgment: (5-6)

But Peter’s got ANOTHER motivation for us. And this one’s still coming. It’s the engine that’s pulling us forward. Look forward to CHRIST’S JUDGMENT, he says. That’ll motivate you to keep going. See it there in v5? The day when everyone will have to give account.

Judgment is a WONDERFUL thing if you know you’re INNOCENT. But it’s the EXACT OPPOSITE if you’re guilty.

You have a completely different approach to justice. Depending on whether you’re innocent or guilty. Like when you’ve been pulled over to be breath-tested on the way home from a restaurant.

It’s the difference between knowing you’ve only drunk water all night. And you sit there waiting. Cool as a cucumber. Because you’ve got nothing to worry about.

And when you’ve had a few drinks. And you’re frantically adding up how many hours you were out for. When you had you first drink. When you had the last one. Divided by the number of pieces of pizza you had.

And just like the chance of being breath-tested makes us think twice about having another drink.

So too, the COMING JUDGMENT. It motivates us to make sure we’re on the right side. That we’re not living life for evil human desires. But according to GOD’S desires. That when Jesus appears, we’ll be found doing what pleases him.

It’s the engine that’s pulling us from the front. Dragging us from King’s Cross to Katoomba.

King’s Cross (3-4)

Peter wants us to have the same attitude as Jesus – that is, that we’re DONE WITH SIN. And he’s given us two reasons why we should.

And back in verse 3, he describes what sorts of things his readers used to get up to. All the things that they’re DONE WITH. Look at v3.

(1 Pet 4:3 NIV)  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

It’s a pretty awful picture. Three are to do with sexual sin. That’s certainly the evil human desires of v2.

And then there’s two to do with parties. Drunkenness and carousing. Too much alcohol. And too much wild partying.

And there’s one more on the list. Last on the list, but the worst of all. Because it’s the one that CAUSES all the rest. Or SUMS THEM UP. Detestable Idolatry. Whether it’s actual stone or wooden idols that represent gods. Or whether it’s ANYTHING that replaces God. Anything we desire MORE than God is IDOLATRY.

Physical satisfaction – it’s IDOLATRY. Desiring a full stomach. Another drink. Plenty of sexual partners. Lusting after people or things. And then SATISFYING that lust.

And Peter literally says. “You used to WORK at these things”. Working through the list. Ticking them off. They CONSUMED you. Your energies. Your thoughts. Your attention. You PURSUED them. With as much energy and enthusiasm as an athlete.

And these desires affected every part of your life. Tainted it.

Sin’s like that. Especially SEXUAL sin. You can’t just keep it in one compartment. It’s highly contagious. It infects your WHOLE LIFE.

It affects the way you looked at GOOD things. Like friendship and beauty. Everything degenerates into a craving to satisfy your hunger.

But that’s not the only idol. The idolatry of MATERIALISM is just as contagious. Wanting more and more things. Your eye sees something. And your desire grows. And you have to have it. If someone else has it you’re jealous. It’s an evil desire that affects YOUR ENJOYMENT OF THE GOOD THINGS YOU’VE GOT.

The Apostle Paul said he’d learned an important secret. Not the location of a money tree. Or a treasure chest. “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether I’ve got HEAPS or nothing. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians 4:12 and 13. What a great secret!

Evil human desires. No wonder Peter says they spent enough time in the past doing that stuff. But not any more. They left that station behind.

But their old drinking mates didn’t cope too well. Look at v4.

(1 Pet 4:4 NIV)  They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.

They can’t understand why anyone would want to do anything diffferent. Doesn’t EVERYONE want to get swept along by the wonderful mob mentality of doing whatever feels good? Peter describes it as a “flood of dissipation”. Over the top wild-ness. Out of control degeneracy.

But here’s the thing that’s REALLY strange. The parties and debauchery were supposed to be such good fun. Everyone being everyone else’s best friend.

But it was just EMPTY friendship. A loose connection for as long as the party lasted. Because everyone looks attractive through the bottom of a beer glass.

And as soon as these Christians left that station behind, their old friends turned on them. They ABUSED them. Can’t have been much of a friendship.

It’s because the whole basis for that lifestyle is making YOURSELF feel good. Meeting selfish desires. There’s no room for mutual friendship. Looking out for SOMEONE ELSE.

Well, that’s King’s Cross. That’s the station the Christians in Peter’s time have left behind.

Katoomba (7-11)

But they haven’t made it to Katoomba yet. They’re still on the journey. And so Peter spends some time describing where they’re headed. Encouraging them to push on.

And notice how neither of his two descriptions are INDIVIDUAL ones. Either the BEFORE or the AFTER. He described what they USED TO DO when they got together as non-Christians. And now he describes what they SHOULD be doing when they’re together AS CHRISTIANS. It’s GROUP WORK. Look at v7.

(1 Pet 4:7-9 NIV)  The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. {8} Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. {9} Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

And notice what A CONTRAST it is to the way they USED to live.

Be clear-minded. It’s literally BE SOBER. That’s compared with being DRUNK. And be self-controlled, rather than carousing and getting carried away with wild parties.

And rather than chasing after idols. Be clear-minded and self-controlled so you can PRAY. Focus on God, rather than idols. On the Living God who hears and answers prayers, rather than dead idols who can’t do anything.

Judgment is coming. So pray for yourself. For your old mates. For your fellow Christians. It’s not “Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we die!” But “Be SOBER, SELF-CONTROLLED and PRAY. For tomorrow we die!” That’s a MUCH more useful slogan.

And instead of lusting after someone’s body, or enjoying the dirty thoughts and actions of debauchery. Love each other DEEPLY. That’s the RIGHT expression of love.

Have STRETCHY love. It’s to be DEEP. That is, fervent. Full-on. Without giving up. Love that doesn’t run out. Love with deep pockets.

Yes, love is a command. But there’s to be some FEELING to that as well. Is there a GENUINE WARMTH to your relationships with God’s people?

And as well as being DEEP, love is to SPREAD OUT WIDELY. Love that’s a king-sized doona on a single bed. There’s a quote from Proverbs. Love COVERS OVER a multitude of sins. Deep love OVERLOOKS other’s mistakes. It KEEPS loving even when people don’t ACT as if they deserve love.

And one of the ways of SHOWING that love is to offer hospitality without grumbling. Instead of hosting an orgy, or a swingers party, offer hospitality instead. It’s FAR better. Because it’s focused on OTHER people, rather than yourself.

How good are YOU at offering hospitality? What EXCUSES do you give for NOT inviting people over?

Get creative! You don’t have to have a lovely huge home, or to be the world’s best cook to offer hospitality! My dad’s not much of a cook, so he takes people out to a restaurant.

And there’s a single guy I know in this church who’s invited a family to a park for a picnic. And he provides all the food and drink.

Hospitality is about the motivation, not the menu.

But it’s not just hospitality. In fact, says Peter in v10. Use WHATEVER gift God’s given you to SERVE OTHERS. Do it faithfully. Like a steward who is trusted to do a good job. Make the most of it. Don’t let it waste away.

Are you making the most of the gifts God’s given you? Or have you just put them on the back burner for a little while?

Perhaps your gift is SPEAKING (v11). Do it as if you’re speaking the very words of God. That’s how important speaking can be.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I say the first thing that comes into my head. And often what comes out is hardly worth saying. But if we recognise that we’re speaking the very words of God, that will make us stop and think about what we’re saying. Shoot up a quick arrow prayer before you open your mouth.

Words are POWERFUL. They make a difference. And they can be something that GOD USES for his purposes. To encourage. And comfort. And rebuke. And challenge. And support.

So let’s recognise the effect of the words we say. Let’s ask God to USE what we say to achieve his ends. Let’s speak as if we’re speaking the very words of God.

And that’s ALL of us. Our words don’t have to be A SERMON. It can be a card, or a phone call. It can be over a cup of coffee, or side by side as you push a pram together.

Or maybe your gift is SERVING. Do it with God’s strength.

Don’t run out of oomph half-way through a job. Don’t IGNORE a job, because you don’t think you can do it.

And when you ARE doing it, do it DEPENDING ON GOD. Not in your own strength, or for your own glory. Because when you serve with THAT attitude, it’s NOT God who gets the glory.

Peter says “serve with the strength God provides, SO THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE PRAISED THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. To HIM be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Do it, not so people will notice YOU. But that they’ll notice JESUS. His example of suffering PUSHING you on. The certainty of his coming judgment PULLING you on.

That’s the two portraits. King’s Cross. And Katoomba. How are YOU travelling? How far up the mountain are you?

How deep and stretchy is your LOVE? How faithful and responsible are you at using your gifts? How hospitable are you? And what’s your attitude like as you do it? What’s your speech like? Are you conscious of speaking as if they’re God’s own words?

And how are we doing at those things as a church?

(1 Pet 4:11 NIV)  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5: Leaders who Serve

There are SOME people who love to give advice. Even if they’ve got no right to be dishing it out.

There’s that great scene from the movie, Notting Hill. Hugh Grant plays the book shop owner who meets the world-famous actress, played by Julia Roberts. He ends up asking her to a dinner party with some of his mates.

One of these friends doesn’t recognise her, and starts to make polite conversation. “And what do you do?” “I’m an actress,” she replies.

“How interesting! I used to do a bit of acting myself when I was at University” he says, trying to find some common ground. He laments the lack of money in acting, but when she lets on that she makes MOVIES, he casually asks her how much she made for her last movie. “Eight million dollars” she says nonchalantly.

SOME people love to give advice. Even if they’ve got no right to be dishing it out.

Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end with people like that. A trumped-up waiter in a restaurant who treats you like a piece of dirt. Or your new boss arrives, and thinks he knows everything. Just because he’s got the right pieces of paper. Or knows the right people. And he’s not interested in asking advice. Just bossing you around.

SOME people love to give advice. Even if they’ve got no right to be dishing it out.

In some ways I feel like a bit of a fraud. Officially, I’m Ben’s supervisor while he finishes his training. But the ridiculous thing is that Ben’s been in parish ministry longer than me. Three years to my two.

But here we are. And in a few moments I’ll be asking Ben the questions about eldership. And then declaring that the church recognises him as an elder.

But it’s not like that here in 1 Peter 5. The Apostle Peter gives us some advice on how to be an elder. And compared to all these other examples, this guy is someone who’s EARNED HIS STRIPES. Who’s earned the right to tell us the way things are.

Look there in v1.

(1 Pet 5:1 NIV)  To the elders among you, I appeal as A FELLOW ELDER, A WITNESS OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS and ONE WHO ALSO WILL SHARE IN THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED:

A fellow elder. He’s done the job in the churches. He’s set them up. Worked through the teething problems. Seen them through tough times.

But more importantly, he’s a witness of Christ’s sufferings. He’s been there since the beginning. One of the original disciples. Gone from fisherman/ to pillar of the church.

You see, he’s studied under the Master. The number one Shepherd. There’s noone better for teaching how to live a life that pleases God.

But, interestingly enough, it’s not Jesus’ LEADERSHIP SKILLS that Peter mentions. It’s his SUFFERINGS.

And SUFFERING is one of Peter’s big themes. Because the Christians he was writing to/ were going through a tough time. The church was being persecuted by Rome. People were even being KILLED because of their faith.

And while the world might say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. That’s not Peter’s message. He’s not pointing out Jesus’ AUTHORITY, or his RESURRECTION POWER. He’s not psyching up the leaders/ to go out there and KICK SOME BUTT like Jesus.

He’s reminding them of the SUFFERING that Jesus endured. And his point is/ if it happened to Jesus, don’t expect anything different to happen to you!”

Instead of “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Peter’s motto is “When the going gets tough, the GODLY PERSERVERE.”

And it’s a particularly PERSONAL message for Peter. Because Jesus himself had promised that Peter would suffer. And even that he’d DIE for the cause! Do you remember? John 21 v17.

(John 21:17-19 NIV)  …Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. {18} I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will STRETCH OUT YOUR HANDS, and someone ELSE will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” {19} Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.”

And tradition tells us that Peter was crucified too. But that he asked to be crucified UPSIDE-DOWN because he didn’t deserve to die in the same way as his Saviour.

So why does Peter describe himself in this way? “Witness of Christ’s SUFFERINGS”? Because he’s talking to ELDERS. Leaders of God’s church. And his point is/ “Your leadership should be like that of Jesus – HUMBLE SERVICE”

And that’s what he does in the job description that comes next. The HUMBLE ELDER. SERVE as an OVERSEER. It’s almost a contradiction in terms.

It’s the absolute/ COUNTER-CULTURAL / model of a leader. The rest of the world wants a “go-for-the-throat, take-no-prisoners, “I’m doing this, like it or lump it” type of leader. But there’s no place for that in an elder in the church.

I like the story of the young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” She was honest AND conscientious, so she wrote, “No.” She returned the application, and expected the worst.

To her surprise, a few months later, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders.  We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

This girl was closer to being a Christ-like leader than all the rest who THOUGHT they were leaders.

1. Be a Christ-like shepherd

And the first description Peter uses for the Christian leader is that of a SHEPHERD. It’s there in v2.

(1 Pet 5:2 NIV)  Be SHEPHERDS of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers..”

The shepherd is one of the Bible’s favourite descriptions for the leader of God’s people. God himself is called the Shepherd of Israel in the Psalms. It’s what King David was called. That’s in Psalm 78 among other places.

And it’s what the leaders after him/ were SUPPOSED to do. But they didn’t. And so Jeremiah rebukes the leaders who are to busy looking after themselves.

(Jer 23:1 NIV)  “Woe to the SHEPHERDS who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.

And, of course “shepherd’ was a title Jesus used for himself. John Ch 10 v11.

(John 10:11 NIV)  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

And it’s even here in 1 Peter. A couple of chapters earlier. Ch 2 v22.

(1 Pet 2:25 NIV)  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (that’s Jesus)

And so Peter is saying to elders “Be a Christ-like shepherd. Look after the sheep like Christ did. Sacrifically. Putting THEIR needs before yours.

But don’t think that makes them YOUR flock. Look how Peter goes on. “Be shepherds of GOD’S flock/ that is under your care.

This is God’s church, not Ben’s church. And that’ll keep Ben HUMBLE if things go WELL. If numbers increase. And people are converted. And you have to move to bigger premises. It’ll be easy to think that all the success is due to Ben. But it’s GOD’S church. And any growth is due to HIM.

But remembering it’s God’s church will also COMFORT Ben if things DON’T go well. If people are struggling. And small groups collapse. Or if there’s a split. It’s God’s church, not his. And God knows what he’s doing. And he will grow his church. His way. In his time. And all Ben has to worry about is being a Christ-like shepherd.

2. Have a Christ-like attitude:

And part of what it means to be a Christ-like shepherd / is to have a Christ-like ATTITUDE. That’s what Peter goes on to say next. Look there in the second part of v2.

(1 Pet 5:2 NIV)  serving as overseers–NOT BECAUSE YOU MUST, but BECAUSE YOU ARE WILLING, as God wants you to be; NOT GREEDY FOR MONEY, BUT EAGER TO SERVE;

Don’t do the job of elder unless you WANT to. Be EAGER to do it. Don’t do it because someone thought you’d be good at it. Or because it’s an honour. Or because it helps you get that membership at the Lalor Park Country Club.

And when it comes to the PAID elder. That’s Ben and Mick. They’re not to let MONEY motivate him. They’re not to watch the clock. And do the minimum. Simply because they’re getting paid.

Instead they should be eager to SERVE. It’s the interests of the SHEEP that should excite them. Not the interest of the BANK. People, not money.

Let me ask you, elders. What EXCITES you about your job? What revs you up, and puts fuel in your tank to keep going? My guess is/ it’s SEEING PEOPLE GROWING. Seeing people come to Jesus, and then seeing people become more like him. Seeing the congregation loving each other. Learning together. Growing together. Is that what YOU’RE eager to see?

Serve with a Christ-like attitude. Willingly. Even eagerly. And do it for the sake of the sheep.

3. Have a Christ-like motivation

And while elders aren’t to be greedy for MONEY, Peter DOES say they’re to be motivated by RICHES. Just not THIS WORLD’S riches. Look at v4. The TRUE motivation for the elder. A Christ-like motivation. V4.

(1 Pet 5:4 NIV)  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Elders are to shepherd the sheep in a Christ-like way. Because one day the CHIEF shepherd will appear. And those who’ve been faithful shepherds will receive a rich reward.

That’s a thought that EXCITES me. That MOTIVATES me. I’m hoping to die a rich man. How about you?

4. Be Christ-like sheep

Well, now Peter turns his attention to THE REST of the congregation. He’s given a word to the ELDERS. Now it’s the turn of the YOUNGSTERS. Look at v5.

(1 Pet 5:5 NIV)  Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

A couple of points about translation. Firstly, “youngsters” is probably a better translation than “young men”. That is, young WOMEN as well as young men.

And secondly, they’re not to be submissive to just ANYONE who’s older. The word translated “those who are older” is same as “elders” in v1.

In other words. youngsters are to offer their submission to the elders. The church leaders. Because they’re shepherds under Jesus. Serving for the benefit of the sheep.

And notice that little phrase “in the same way”. The service that the sheep offer the shepherds. Should be just like the service the shepherds offer the sheep.

And if shepherds are acting like Christ, then that should be easy. Because it’s easy to submit and obey and follow men who you respect and love.

And you can see that it’s a two-way street from the second part of v5. “ALL OF YOU, clothe yourselves with humility toward ONE ANOTHER.”

Elders – don’t boss people around. Don’t assume that you know best. Don’t dismiss people who don’t agree with you. Even if you mean well. God will never work out his purposes through ungodly means. The means NEVER justify the ends in God’s church.

And Ben, when you preach, don’t point people to God’s Word, unless you’ve applied it to yourself. Don’t assume a passage has an application for everyone else, but not you. God won’t use that sort of attitude.

Elders, clothe yourselves with humility. Why? V4.

(1 Pet 5:4 NIV)  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

And the rest of you. OFFER your submission to Ben and the elders. It’s a choice you can make. The world says a BIG MAN never gives in on anything. But the TRUE big man offers his submission for love’s sake.

Work WITH the elders, not against them. When you hear a whisper, assume the BEST rather than the worst. These guys want what’s BEST for you.

And yes, sometimes they might make mistakes. Talk to THEM about it. They’d LOVE to be corrected/ if it’s out of love. And for the good of the gospel. Don’t talk to everyone BUT them. Don’t bellyache about the leadership. Don’t cause splits. Don’t make people take sides.

Youngsters, offer your submission to the elders. Clothe yourselves with humility. Why? V6.

(1 Pet 5:6 NIV)  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

And if that seems like a long way away? And the mountains between now and heaven seem too high to climb? Don’t forget this. Whether sheep or shepherd. V7.

(1 Pet 5:7 NIV)  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 1:13-2:3: Craving Milk!

What’s the most gorgeous food or drink you’ve ever tasted?espresso

For me, it’s got to be great coffee. The perfect espresso. The gorgeous aroma of freshly ground coffee as you walk into the coffee shop. And then you walk over to the gleaming, steaming espresso machine. That dispenser of joy. That provider of the elixir of life.

The barista grinds the coffee, and tamps the shot, and loads the handle into the machine. And presses the button. The pump starts, and I wait in expectation… And then it begins! The sweet, rich, strong smell of that creamy, black syrup as it dribbles out of the machine into YOUR cup.

And it’s a feast for the EYES TOO. The contrast between the white cup and the bubbling golden-brown of the coffee crema on the top of the cup.

And the ears. The welcoming sound of the milk steamer hissing and foaming away. It’s makes my taste buds salivate just THINKING about it.

And then you take your first sip. And the gorgeous, rich, complex taste fills your mouth. It’s relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Praise God for coffee!

I don’t know what it is for YOU. Perhaps it’s chocolate, or hot apple pie, or perfect fish and chips.

And Peter’s saying in these verses that we should DESIRE GOD’S WORD the same we do the tastiest food or drink. We’re to CRAVE it / like newborn babies crave milk. 1 Peter 2:2.

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

Have you ever watched a new-born baby breast-feeding? I know it’s a bit rude to watch if it’s not your baby. But it’s an amazing sight. One moment the baby is SCREAMING. There is NO OTHER PURPOSE TO LIFE at this point in time/ than getting that wonderful milk from Mum. That warming, nourishing, comforting, life-giving milk. Newborn babies CRAVE it. And when they finally latch on. They start sucking FURIOUSLY. Like their life depended on it. Their little brow furrows up with concentration and exertion. And then the milk starts to flow. And their whole body relaxes. AAAH. “This is the good stuff. This is what life’s about. This is where I get ALL THAT I NEED.”

Is that what YOU’RE like with God’s Word? Do you LONG for the PURE, undiluted, full-strength words from God? Because life’s not the same without it.

What we need is to regain our spiritual APPETITE. Rediscover how GOOD and NUTRITIOUS God’s Word is.

So what I want to do is show you 5 reasons why we should crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s word. From the SECOND half of the reading.

I want to describe it in detail/ like I did that wonderful cup of coffee. To whet your appetite. To stimulate your senses. And excite your spiritual taste buds.

And when we’ve done that, we’ll go back to look at those FIRST verses. And chew over them for a little while. And see if God can’t do his work in us, through his Word. .

1. The Word that purifies

Firstly, God’s word PURIFIES. Look at v22.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth

It’s talking about when someone becomes a Christian. When they obey the truth they hear. That action has the effect of purifying them. Of washing. Of cleaning. Of separating.

And it’s THE MESSAGE THEY HEAR that makes that happen. It points them to the One who DOES the purifying. And so it’s the WORD that PURIFIES. God’s word. It’s SOAP for the SOUL.

2. The Word that rebirths

Secondly, God’s word REBIRTHS. I’m not sure if that’s a word, or not. But it’s God’s Word that CAUSES US TO BE BORN AGAIN. Look at v23

For you have been BORN AGAIN, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, THROUGH the living and enduring WORD OF GOD.

It’s describing the same event as the CLEANSING. A different picture/ to describe what happens when God accepts us, and makes us one of his children.

When we first become Christians. when we respond to God’s offer of salvation. We’ve already been born ONCE. Physically. But God makes us BRAND NEW PEOPLE. He puts a new heart in us. A clean one. One that DESIRES to follow Jesus instead. And that’s like being BORN AGAIN.

And God does it THROUGH his word. It’s the sword of his Spirit. It might be a word we HEAR. It might be a word we READ. It might be on a recording. Or live. It might be from a sermon, or it might be from mum or dad/ or from a neighbour across the back fence.

But if we hear about God’s offer of forgiveness and acceptance, then it’s GOD’S word. And it makes us born again. Have YOU done that? If you haven’t, why not do something about it today?

3. The Word that lives

But how can just WORDS do something that powerful? (PURIFY someone? Give NEW BIRTH?) Because they’re MORE THAN JUST WORDS. They’re GOD’S words. (The eternal, all-powerful Creator of the Universe). And that makes them LIVING and ENDURING words. That’s what it says in the same verse. Verse 23. the living and enduring word of God.

Firstly. Living. What does it mean that the word of God is LIVING? God’s word has a very different character to, say, MY words. Anything I say just hangs in the air. Limp, listless, lifeless. There’s no POWER in my words. To change people’s minds, or create something.

Hebrews 4:12 says God’s word is ACTIVE. For the word of God is LIVING AND ACTIVE. SHARPER than any double-edged sword, it PENETRATES even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it JUDGES the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

God’s words can HIT you. Holding a bright torch into dark and miserable areas of your life. The thoughts and attitudes and sins that you treasure, and don’t want to let go of. It can CONVICT you of things about yourself that you need to change. It kills things off. And brings other things to life.

And because they’re God’s living words, they ALWAYS ACHIEVE HIS PURPOSES. They’re EFFECTIVE. Isaiah 55:10-11 says As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without WATERING THE EARTH AND MAKING IT BUD AND FLOURISH, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, {11} so is my word that goes out from my mouth (this is God talking): It will not return to me empty, but WILL ACCOMPLISH WHAT I DESIRE AND ACHIEVE THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH I SENT IT.

Because it’s the God of infinite power who SAYS the words, they’ll ALWAYS achieve what he intends. God said “Let there be light” and there was. Jesus said “Be still”. And the wind and the waves were. Or “Wake up” to the dead little girl and she came back to life. And he says to you and me “I love you. Come to me. Repent. Follow me” And we DO.

4. The Word that endures:

(God’s word PURIFIES. It brings REBIRTH. It’s LIVING). And fourthly, it ENDURES. It’s IMPERISHABLE. That’s also in v23.

When I was in primary school, my parents bought the World Book Encyclopedia. Useful for every project and piece of homework. Cost them A SMALL FORTUNE! But every year it got more and more outdated. And they had to keep purchasing the UPDATE volume. With everything that had changed in the previous year. I don’t think school kids today even know what an Encyclopaedia IS.

But God’s Word isn’t like that. It doesn’t go out of date, or out of fashion. It’s never superseded by new technology or updated information. Once true, powerful and relevant. ALWAYS true, powerful and relevant.

His WORD doesn’t change, because GOD doesn’t change. And that means we can TRUST his word. His promises stand. He doesn’t change his mind like us. He isn’t influenced by the latest books, or movies, or philosophies. The reliability of his PROMISES rests on the reliability of GOD HIMSELF.

When Jesus promises he’s preparing a place for us. And that he’ll come back to take us to be with him. We can TRUST it. When he says he gives his sheep eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one can snatch them out of his hand. We can TRUST it. When God promises that all things work together for good for those who love God. We can TRUST it. God’s word ENDURES.

A second aspect to this/ is that the EFFECTS of God’s word are PERMANENT.  WE promise something. And even if we GENUINELY WANT to, there are no guarantees. Because so much of life is out of our control. But when God’s word produces something. It stays done. Until God says otherwise. He created the world by his word. And it’ll stay that way until he says otherwise. If you’re BORN AGAIN, you stay that way. Your sins are forgiven. They can’t be UN forgiven. He can’t UN-love you.  God’s word ENDURES.

  1. The Word that nourishes – produces growth/ change

Fifthly, we see that God’s word NOURISHES. It actually builds up. Strengthens. Brings growth. Look at Ch 2 v2. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, SO THAT BY IT YOU MAY GROW UP IN YOUR SALVATION,

Just like mother’s milk carries everything a baby needs to grow. All the essential fluid, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and anti-bodies. So God’s word carries everything WE need for growth. The full smorgasbord. Right there in one little book. A bowl of encouragement. A plate of enlightenment. A saucer of correction. A jug of fear and reverent awe. A platter of instruction. And a long, deep glass of refreshment.

2 Timothy 3:16 says from infancy you have known THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, which are ABLE TO MAKE YOU WISE FOR SALVATION through faith in Christ Jesus. {16} All Scripture is God-breathed and is USEFUL FOR TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, {17} so that the man of God may be THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.

THOROUGHLY equipped. Fully grown. Well nourished. And it all happens through God’s Word.

Well, that’s five good reasons to CRAVE the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. THAT BOOK in your hands is a dangerous, delightful, powerful, beautiful, attractive, nutritious BANQUET. Have I excited your appetite yet? Tickled the taste buds? Take the taste test! That’s what Peter says. Chapter 2 v3. “Grow up into your salvation now that you have TASTED THAT THE LORD IS GOOD.

Because we don’t just crave a taste for a BOOK. We crave a taste of the BOOK, because that’s where we meet THE LORD OF THE BOOK. It’s not the sweet poetry of the WORDS that attracts us, but the sweet goodness and love and acceptance/ of the One who lovingly WHISPERS them to us. The One who didn’t keep to himself, and leave us guessing about what he’s like, and how to live. He went to the trouble of TELLING us. And then PRESERVING those words IN A BOOK. “Here’s what I’m like. Here’s what I’ve done for you. Here’s what pleases me.”

Take the taste test challenge. Taste the Lord, in his word, and as you live for him, and you’ll find that he’s GOOD.

Since, therefore, because

Well, I’ve told you what the Word’s LIKE, and what it DOES. But I haven’t actually LET IT LOOSE. So let’s spend a few minutes looking at the verses before these ones. And see if God can actively NOURISH AND CLEANSE AND GIVE LIFE through his words.

Peter uses a bit of a formula for HOW God’s word builds up his readers. Firstly, he describes WHO THEY ARE NOW. In the PRESENT. (Since) Then, he describes WHO THEY SHOULD BE. In the FUTURE. (Therefore) And thirdly, he gives them REASONS WHY. (Because).

“Since, therefore, because.” See if you can recognize them with me.

Firstly, have a look at v13. “Therefore prepare your minds for action” We’re actually starting halfway through the cycle. That’s the “Here’s where you’re going” We need to go back a few verses to find out the “Here’s where you are”

All the way back in v3, Peter’s PRAISING God because he’s given us NEW BIRTH, into a LOVING HOPE through Jesus’ resurrection. And into an imperishable inheritance.

And down in v8, we’re filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, because we’re receiving SALVATION when Jesus is revealed. That’s the “here’s where you are”. The “since”. Salvation, hope, inheritance, joy.

Next we get to verse 13. BECAUSE of that, here’s what you need to do.

THEREFORE, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope FULLY on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

First things first. Get your MIND right, and the actions will follow. Prepare your MINDS for action. It’s literally “gird up the loins of your minds”. Like a soldier before he goes into battle. He tucks his long shirt into his belt so he doesn’t trip over it. Get your MINDS ready.

Do it by being SELF-CONTROLLED. It’s the word for being SOBER. Keep your wits about you. Make the DECISION that whatever comes your way/ YOU control your reaction to it. No excuses. It’s not circumstances that control you. But the other way around.

How can your thinking be THAT one-tracked? Peter continues. You do it by SETTING YOUR HOPE FULLY on what Jesus has in store for you. The inheritance he’s preparing. That’s what we set our hope on.

And the FLIP SIDE of that. DON’T desire the things you’ve left behind. Verse 14. Don’t conform to THE EVIL DESIRES YOU USED TO HAVE. Lusting after this thing and that thing. Thinking it will make you happy, or fulfilled.

It’s all there in YOUR MIND. Your thoughts, desires, motivations. The battle to live differently, as God’s person, begins IN YOUR MIND.

Once the MIND’S right, the actions FOLLOW, v15. Don’t CONFORM to the old desires. Mould your behavior into a different shape. V15. Be holy like your heavenly Father is holy. That’s the clincher. The “here’s why you should”. Because the Father is holy, the children should be too. There should be a family resemblance.

And Peter repeats the same pattern. Verse 17. Here’s where you are. (Since). One day, your heavenly father will JUDGE YOU JUSTLY. It’s a fact.

THEREFORE. (Here’s the second step). Live in reverent fear. It’s obvious really. If he SEES everything, and he’s going to judge you JUSTLY. Then RESPECT him in the way you live. Don’t presume that just because he’s your FATHER, you’ll get away with things.

And then v18. Here’s WHY YOU SHOULD. Because you were bought for a huge price. Nothing like silver or gold. But with the precious blood of Christ. That’s how precious your holiness is to God. Value your holiness as much as GOD does.

And the THIRD cycle. Verse 22. Here’s where you are. Now that you’re purified, and love the brothers.

Then, here’s where you’re going – Do it even more. Do it DEEPLY – without limit, from the heart. And do it SINCERELY. No faking it. No ulterior motives. No hidden agenda. (Helping someone just to help yourself.)

Why should you? V23. Because you’ve been born again by the LIVING ENDURING word of God. (Words that are POWERFUL. That DO THEIR STUFF.) So ALLOW them to WORK.

And finally, the fourth cycle. V25. Here’s where you are. THIS is the word that was preached to you. Imperishable. Enduring. Eternal.

Chapter 2 v 1. Therefore. Here’s where you’re going. Let it WORK. Get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t measure up to the word. (That doesn’t last. That withers and fades.) Get rid of it. The word literally means “cast it off”. Imagine you’re in a hot air balloon. It’s losing altitude too quickly. You’re going to crash into the ocean. So you start throwing overboard everything that’s not important. All the things that are weighing you down. Because when you land/ it’s only the CRUCIAL things that matter. Get rid of all that ballast/ Peter says. Things like malice, and deceit, and hypocrisy, and envy, and slander.

As far as lists of sins go. It’s not a really awful one. It could have been much worse. In fact, on the surface, it’s quite a PRESENTABLE list. The sort of list you can keep doing while still presenting a respectable Christian face to the world. In fact. It’s the sort of list you might even have brought to church this morning. The sort of list that can rear its ugly head when you’re comparing achievements, or sharing prayer points, or even just chatting about the weather. Chuck out of the balloon/ malice. Deceit. Hypocrisy. Envy. And slander of every kind. And crave pure spiritual milk. God’s word. Fill up on him. And empty yourself of all the rubbish that weighs you down.

And Peter’s final point. Here’s why you should. You’ve tasted that THE LORD IS GOOD. Life with God IS WONDERFUL. Don’t fall for the trap that there’s anything that tastes better.

Take the taste test. Crave pure spiritual milk. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

 

1 Peter 5:8-11 Restored and made strong, firm and steadfast

My son Lachlan was about two. He’d fallen from the top of a slippery slide, and had a gash in his mouth that needed a few stitches. At the medical centre, he was completely hysterical. I’m not even sure it was much to do with his mouth actually hurting. More to do with not knowing what was going on, and what was going to happen. More concerned with being the centre of attention, with a whole bunch of adults looking at him with frowns on their faces.

We had to try and hold him still while the doctor put a pain-killing needle in the gash, and then stitched it up. But he squirmed around so hard, it was like trying to grab a fish jumping around in the bottom of the boat. In the end we wrapped him in a sheet, and three adults had to almost sit on him to keep him still.

And all the time, with his eyes wide with fear, I was saying to him. “It will be alright. Daddy’s here. Daddy loves you. It will all be over soon. It’s going to hurt a little bit, but it’s going to make you better again. And then it won’t hurt any more. Daddy’s here. It’ll be over soon.”

I’m sure those of you who are parents have had similar experiences. Trying to reassure your kids that, despite appearances, the pain was actually for their good. And that it would be over soon.

And that’s what the letter of 1 Peter is. It’s God’s soothing comfort to his suffering children. The gentle whisper of our heavenly Father, “It’ll be alright. I’m here. I love you. It hurts now, but it will be over soon, and then you’ll be fixed up.”

The book of 1 Peter is all about SUFFERING AND PERSECUTION. About how God’s ultimately behind it. Bringing HIS purposes to pass. And about how we’re to live in RESPONSE to that truth. Like right back in ch 1. Verse 3 talks about the new life we have in Jesus. The inheritance we’ve been given. And then, v6.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now FOR A LITTLE WHILE you may have had to suffer grief IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS.

And then we catch a glimpse of God’s purposes BEHIND the trials.

7 These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-MAY BE PROVED GENUINE and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Just like fire purifies gold, trials can PURIFY our faith. Make it stronger. Burn off everything else we trust in, until only God remains. A short period of PAIN for long-term GAIN.

And as we keep reading, we see more of both God’s PURPOSES in suffering, and what our RESPONSE should be. Like 2:12

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.

Your RESPONSE to persecution testifies about God’s character, and leads to people recognising him. All part of God’s plan.

And, in case you think you didn’t sign up for this when you decided to follow Jesus, think again says Peter.

21 To this you were CALLED, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Don’t be surprised, because it’s there in the job description. More of the same through chapters 3 and 4. About showing our trust in God by the way we respond to insult and hurt. About following Jesus’ example.

Jump down to ch 4 v19. Summing it all up.

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will SHOULD COMMIT THEMSELVES TO THEIR FAITHFUL CREATOR and CONTINUE TO DO GOOD.

That’s the response to suffering in a nutshell. Commit yourself to God. Trust that he knows what he’s doing. That he’s in control, and working all things for good. And SHOW that, by continuing to do good. By living as normal. As if there WAS no suffering.

A command

And so we come to ch 5, and Peter’s concluding remarks. And, in particular, the two paragraphs we’re looking at today. The first a COMMAND, and the second a PROMISE. From v8. The COMMAND.

8 Be SELF-CONTROLLED AND ALERT. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Suffering: The devil’s roar

And in the context of all that Peter’s just been saying, it’s easy to see what he means by the devil prowling around like a roaring lion. He’s talking about SUFFERING.

Suffering and persecution are the devil’s roar. The OBVIOUS ways he works. (Sometimes he’s A SNAKE – subtle and deceptive. Weaving lies into half-truths. Lulling them into a false sense of security. Encouraging them to think he doesn’t exist.)

But that’s not what Peter’s talking about here. Here, Satan’s like A ROARING LION. Big and noisy and scary. He roams around inflicting all sorts of PAIN on people, roaring at them. You can see that connection between the devil and suffering in v9. We’re to resist THE DEVIL because our brothers around the world are experiencing the SAME KIND OF SUFFERING.

It might be government legislation, forbidding Christians meeting together. Or to register their children’s birth as Christian – like in Iraq. It might be discrimination in the workplace, like in Pakistan, or Egypt, where Christians are banned from promotion, or working in government jobs. Or tribal violence like in Sudan. It might be the burning of Bibles, the rape of women, the imprisonment of pastors.

All ways Satan ROARS at Christians. He wants them to SUFFER.

But that’s ALL the suffering is. The devil’s ROAR. Can a LION’S roar hurt you? No! It can SCARE you, but it can’t hurt you. It’s not the ROAR you have to worry about, but THE TEETH!

The Aussie soccer team in South Africa stayed on a game reserve. And they could, apparently, hear lions roaring from the safety of their rooms at night. Were they safe? Of course! Were they scared by the noise? Perhaps! But that’s ALL that could happen.

The roar might be DEAFENING – the lion right outside their window. But as long as they STAYED INSIDE. As long as they checked the locks and the windows, they were SAFE.

And it’s the same with Satan’s suffering. It’s only A ROAR. It can only SCARE you, but it can’t, ultimately, HURT you.

The worst that Satan can do, is KILL YOU. Which sounds like a funny thing to say. But from the perspective of eternity, it ISN’T much. It’s only a roar.

YESTERDAY, somewhere in the world, people probably died simply for being Christians. But TODAY they’re with Christ, and pain and suffering’s ended. UNHURT. Which is better by far. Listen to what Jesus promises to the believers in Smyrna. Revelation 2:10.

10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, EVEN TO THE POINT OF DEATH, and I will give you the crown of life.

Suffering’s only a roar. Even when it leads to DEATH. Satan can’t ultimately HURT you with it.

The devouring lion

He ROARS through suffering, but what Satan WANTS to do. And what’s worse by far. Even worse that DEATH. Is to KEEP you from receiving the crown of life. It’s there in v7. He’s the devouring lion. Looking for someone to GOBBLE UP. Someone to drag away into the eternal destruction HE’S headed for.

He’s searching out someone to give up on Jesus. Who’ll decide it’s all too hard. Who’ll turn away from him in despair, or anger, disappointment, or pain.

I want to stop for a moment and consider the question of who CAUSES the suffering? Is it the devil, or is it God? A few minutes ago I said Satan brings suffering to drag down Christians. And that’s TRUE.

But I ALSO said God USES suffering to refine your faith. (That’s 1 Peter 1:6-7).

And then in 4:19 we read that those who suffer ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL, should commit themselves to him. Suffering is God’s will!

So, does Satan cause it, or God? Well, the answer is … YES. In a sense, they BOTH do. We see it like that in the life of Job. Satan ASKS PERMISSION of God to test Job with suffering. Satan wants to DESTROY him, God has DIFFERENT plans.

And we see it most clearly in the death of Jesus. It was SATAN who entered Judas, persuading him to betray Jesus. Satan wanted Jesus DEAD. But so did God. For totally different reasons. He worked through the evil choices of Satan, and humans, so that his good purposes were brought about. He’d planned it like that from eternity, and then brought it to pass. Acts 2:23 puts it like this (Peter’s preaching to the Jerusalem crowd)

23 Jesus was handed over to you BY GOD’S SET PURPOSE AND FOREKNOWLEDGE; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

And it’s the same thing with the suffering Christian’s experience. Satan brings it about to DEVOUR Christians and crush them. GOD brings it about to discipline and train and purify and correct us. He brings it about to bring glory to himself.

Be alert, resist him, standing firm in the faith

That’s the THEORY. What about where the rubber meets the road?

To make sure GOD’S purposes are brought about through the trials, we need to follow his COMMAND. And trust his PROMISE. THOSE WHO TRULY BELONG TO GOD WILL FOLLOW WHAT HE SAYS, AND STAND ON HIS PROMISE. AND SATAN’S PLANS WILL BE FRUSTRATED. All he’ll be able to do is ROAR at you.

So let’s look first at the COMMAND. The trick to not letting the lion DEVOUR you, is there in v8. “Be self-controlled and alert”. Be AWARE of Satan’s prowling. Of his roaring. And then, v9, RESIST him, standing firm in the FAITH. Ephesians 6 says it’s the shield of FAITH that extinguishes the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Suffering and persecution ROAR in your ear, “God doesn’t love you. He’s abandoned you. This suffering’s too big for God. He can’t handle it. You deserve better. It’s not fair. God has no plan – no purpose. He wants to crush you, not keep you.”

But the shield of faith clings, instead, to God’s promises. And puts out those flaming arrows. Promises like those in v10 and 11 that we’ll get to in a moment. Faith clings to promises, despite the lion’s roar, and enables us to declare

“God loves me. He’s called me, rescued me, and made me his friend when I used to be his enemy.

He’s got an eternal inheritance prepared for me.

He’s disciplining me because he loves me – because I’m his child.

He’s refining my faith, making it more pure.

He’s working all things for good because he’s got a plan and a purpose.”

The eyes of faith see the future with long-sightedness. They see THE BIG PICTURE. Faith says, with Paul in 2 Cor 4:17-18, “These trials are only momentary troubles. They’re achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Faith sees suffering simply as following the Master. Faith takes seriously Jesus’ words, Jn 15:18

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. … you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

And faith sees YOUR suffering from a world-wide perspective. You’re NOT alone. You’re NOT the first. And you won’t be the last. In fact, there’s a worldwide brotherhood of those going through exactly the same things says v9. Following after Jesus. Suffering for his name. Brothers in arms. There’s strength in numbers. Strength to resist. To stand firm in the faith.

2. A promise

That’s God’s COMMAND to deal with the devil’s roar. Then he gives us a PROMISE. V10.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Satan might seem like the lion who roars around. It might seem like he rules the jungle. But there’s ANOTHER king of the Jungle. God. HE’S the king of the jungle.

He’s the GOD OF ALL GRACE. The whole letter of 1 Peter paints the huge panorama, in broad brushstrokes, of all the gifts God’s LAVISHED on us. And that’s the BIG picture. The CONTEXT we should place these few short, trials in. Look at 1:3 for example

1:3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you,

He’s the God of all grace.

And part of that grace is that he CALLED US FOR A PURPOSE. To an eternal glory. He’s got AN END GAME in mind. It’s all part of the plan. Despite what things look like at the moment.

V10. The end game is about GLORY, in contrast to SUFFERING. About appreciating GOD’S glory, recognising his goodness, understanding completely his love and power and grace and mercy and goodness and holiness and justice. And REJOICING in that. In a way that’s DIFFICULT when you’re in the middle of suffering.

And the end game’s about US being part of that glory too, in contrast to suffering. Romans 8:18 talks about glory being revealed IN US. About glorified bodies. About pain and tears and mourning and brokenness being destroyed. That’s our destiny. That’s God’s promise!

(The end game’s about GLORY in contrast to suffering). And, also in v10, the end game’s about ETERNITY, in contrast to a LITTLE WHILE. We’re so short-sighted. A flu that lasts for A WEEK seems like an age. Persecution that lasts for a year, or sickness that lasts for a decade, or suffering that lasts for the rest of your life seems like FOREVER. But only ETERNITY is forever. And everything else is a blink of an eye in comparison. That’s God’s promise.

And what’s more, the God of all grace, who’s given so much, with that eternal view in mind, WILL HIMSELF RESTORE YOU. Yes, he commands YOU to be self-controlled and alert. He commands YOU to resist the devil, standing firm in the faith.

But, on our own, we CAN’T do it. On our own, we’re broken, weak, shaky, and wavering.

But God’s promise is that HE HIMSELF will restore you, after you’ve suffered a little while, and make you strong, firm, steadfast.

“Restore” is a lovely word. It’s about MENDING – like fishing nets. It’s like buffing something up. Silverware, or an old car’s paintwork. Bringing out the shine that was always there, but that had been dulled and hidden underneath layers of grime from a hard life.

And God’s promise is to bring us through that short period of pollution and grime. And restore us to the glory he designed us for. Restored body, restored mind, restored emotions and relationships.

And instead of being weak, broken, and wavering. He’ll make us strong, firm and steadfast.

That might be IN THIS LIFE. He might bring us through a period of despair, or sickness, or unemployment, or aching loneliness. It might take days, or weeks, or even YEARS. And bring us into a restored EARTHLY experience of his goodness.

And actually USE those experiences to DO it. To discipline us. To refine our faith. Like fire purifying gold. USE that stuff as the INSTRUMENT that actually CARVES OUT strength, firmness and steadfastness in our lives. James 1:2-4 puts it like this

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

And yet for SOME of God’s children, they DON’T see any of that restoration in this life. They LOSE THEIR LIVES still experiencing the suffering they endured. Some people in our congregations will NEVER experience, in THIS life, the restoration we pray for. They’ll go to glory still suffering the pain they endured for years.

And around the world, TODAY, our brothers are killed because they remain loyal to Jesus.

Does that mean God’s promise for them has FAILED?

(slow) Of course not! For them, their restoration is MORE complete, their suffering MORE relieved. Their experience of God’s grace and glory MORE real. Because God has made them strong, firm and steadfast FOR ETERNITY. Secure with him.

For them, the promise of Jesus in Revelation 2:10 we read earlier rings true:

10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

God is ABLE to do it. He WILL do it. HE is faithful and true. And so, we echo the words of Peter there in v11. “To him belongs THE POWER for ever and ever.”

1 Peter 3:1-7: What God says about true beauty & respect

reality-tv-logoReality TV. It’s everywhere you look. The Bachelor, My Kitchen Rules, Master Chef, Renovation Rescue, Bondi Rescue, Border Patrol, Australian Idol, Australia’s Got Talent, Survivor, Outback Truckers. And that’s just some of the AUSTRALIAN shows! A camera crew follows around ordinary Australians. Filming, then showing it to everyone. Can you imagine people watching everything you do? Hearing everything you say. Under the spotlight from the time you get up in the morning until you hit the pillow at night? The Bondi lifeguards seem to LOVE it. But lots of others can’t handle the pressure. Everyone seeing your tears and your failures, your successes and celebrations? Your weaknesses, your embarrassing moments? Your unguarded moments as well as the ones you WANT people to see?

That’s reality TV, but it’s also THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. 1 Peter says Christians are STRANGERS in the world. Immigrants. Foreigners. We’re ON SHOW to the world. They’re watching everything we say and do.  And God’s called us OUT of the world for A PURPOSE. V11 of Ch 2. Dear friends, I urge you, as ALIENS AND STRANGERS in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which 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 non-Christians we spend our lives with are WATCHING US. Just WAITING for us to SLIP UP. To find some inconsistency, or hypocrisy that’ll undermine our declaration. And so we’re to LIVE SUCH GOOD LIVES that they’ll be forced to recognise something attractive about our lifestyle. Something that SUPPORTS our testimony.

And THEN he gets a bit more specific. What do those good deeds LOOK LIKE? V13. SUBMIT yourselves FOR THE LORD’S SAKE to every authority instituted among men:

Because you serve Jesus, freely offer your submission to any authority God’s put over you. For example:Kings and governors (v13-14) Or slaves, submit to masters, (v18) Or, jump down to ch 3 v1 (today’s passage). “Wives, IN THE SAME WAY, be submissive to your husbands.”

Do you see what the “in the same way” is talking about? A wife’s decision to submit is part of her obedience to Jesus. “For the Lord’s sake” (2:13).  And the purpose is the same as all the other examples (2:12) to “live such good lives among the pagans, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify God.”

That’s the context for this passage about husbands and wives. In particular, Peter’s thinking about the situation of a woman who’s become a Christian after she’s married. But her husband ISN’T. She’s been called out of darkness into light. HE’S still in the darkness. What’s it mean for HER to live as God’s woman in HER MARRIAGE? And the main point / is that ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS. BEING is more important than SAYING.

Which is important in EVERY area of your life. But it’s CRUCIAL when it comes to your HOME life. Because how you live is PERFECTLY CLEAR to those you live with. You can’t play a part for long at home. Living a consistent Christian life is HARDEST among your family. They know what you’re REALLY like. It’s like being permanently on show. A 24-7 reality TV episode. Your every move watched and recorded.

And so Peter says, v1, Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over WITHOUT WORDS by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

When you live with someone all the time words quickly become HOLLOW if there’s no action to back them up. And I’ve heard this from some of the men in our church who have unbelieving wives. They’ve learned this lesson. When they first came to Christ, they spoke A LOT to their wives about Jesus. But now they’ve worked out that the BEST way they can preach Christ is to LIVE HIM OUT. And PRAY. Because only GOD can change a heart. You can’t NAG someone into the kingdom. They need to build up a solid foundation of considerate, thoughtful, loving, serving ACTIONS/ so that their WORDS can be heard.

What submission ISN’T

And for the believing WIFE, those actions are focussed on BEING SUBMISSIVE. We talked a little last week about submission. Submission in marriage has got a bad reputation for all sorts of reasons. But I want to suggest that, rather than disempowering women, it actually EMPOWERS them. And empowers JESUS. That it’s part of God’s plan for the worldwide recognition of his power. Peter says “Offer your submission deliberately, intentionally, purposefully. It’s REVOLUTIONARY submission because it’s purpose is to transform society. To change it from GODLESS/ to one that gives praise to God. Let me show you, firstly, 5 things that submission ISN’T.

  1. submitting to men in general. First, biblical submission doesn’t mean submitting to MEN IN GENERAL. V1 says “Wives, offer your submission to ONE’S OWN husband.” It’s not about a sexist, oppressive rule for the whole society that ALL WOMEN must submit to ALL MEN. Just your husband.
  2. agreeing with everything your husband says Second, submitting DOESN’T mean agreeing with EVERYTHING your husband says. It CAN’T mean that because the situation Peter’s thinking of is a wife who became a Christian after she was married. Her husband’s heard about Jesus TOO, and he’s not a believer. She’s CHOOSING to disagree with her husband. And Peter’s ENCOURAGING that. Whatever Christian submission means, it DOESN’T mean that the wife will agree with her husband in his unbelief. Her husband has said ONE THING, Jesus has said ANOTHER. And the Christian wife puts Jesus FIRST. Because her submission is FOR THE LORD’S SAKE.
  3. avoiding trying to convince your husband Third, submission DOESN’T mean you should stop trying to CONVINCE your husband. That’s two negatives, so let me put it in the positive. Whatever submission is/ it still tries to CONVINCE THE HUSBAND HE’S WRONG.

Peter’s whole strategy in the wife’s quiet, reverent submission is that the husband might be WON OVER (end of v1). Convicted. Converted. His mind CHANGED. That he changes his opinion about Jesus to agree with wife. So, whatever submission is, it can’t mean never trying to change your husband in things that matter.

  1. getting your personal spiritual strength primarily from your husband Fourth, submission doesn’t mean a wife gets her spiritual strength primarily from her husband. A godly husband SHOULD lead and strengthen and build up and nurture his wife. But if he’s NOT providing that, it doesn’t mean a submitting Christian wife is without hope.

Peter’s assumption is that the wife will develop strength and character and hope not FROM her husband, but FOR her husband. Independent of him. Like Sarah (v5), that she might put her HOPE IN GOD, trusting that her husband will JOIN HER in that. Lean on GOD for spiritual strength if your husband won’t help.

5, acting out of fear And fifthly, submission doesn’t mean a wife acts OUT OF FEAR. The last part of v6 says that wives who follow the example of Sarah are her daughters if they do what’s right, and DON’T GIVE WAY TO FEAR. In other words, submission is FREE. Not forced by fear. Fear of physical harm from their husband, or ridicule, or fear of the future, or some other consequence. Submission that God wants is freely given, not forcibly taken.

The opposite of FEAR, at least in THIS context, is HOPE. The Christian woman DOESN’T fear, but HOPES in God (v5). She trusts that his plans are being worked out as she’s obedient. ESPECIALLY his plans to SAVE HER HUSBAND.  And when she HOPES, she’s able to move beyond fear, to freedom. The Christian woman is FREE. Free to submit to her husband.

What submission is

So, if that’s what submission ISN’T. What IS it?

  1. Part of a larger submission The first point is one we’ve already made. A wife’s submission is simply part of the LARGER submission that ALL Christians are to give to those in authority. Remember back in 2:13? Submit yourselves FOR THE LORD’S SAKE to every authority. And then we get in 3:1 Wives, IN THE SAME WAY, submit to your husbands. Wives SHOW THEIR SUBMISSION TO JESUS by the way they submit to their husbands.

In this situation it’s largely irrelevant whether the husband DESERVES submission. What matters is that JESUS deserves the wife’s submission, and she SHOWS that loyalty by submitting to her husband. Even if he’s NOT saved.

1.    Inner beauty

And, as we read on, we get a description of the ATTRACTIVENESS of that submission. And it’s all about INNER BEAUTY. It’s all about ATTITUDE. Submission that’s FORCED, or RESENTFUL, or BITTER isn’t serving Jesus. It’s not furthering his cause.

V2 talks about a life that’s pure and reverent and respectful. That’s the sort of person who’s MOST attractive. V3. Your beauty should not come from OUTWARD adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your INNER SELF, the unfading beauty of A GENTLE AND QUIET SPIRIT, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

And this is great advice for ALL OF US. Male or female. Single or married. With a Christian spouse or a NON-Christian spouse. What matters most is the INNER SELF. Your CHARACTER. Your patience, your purity, your goodness, your compassion, your gentleness, your joy, your humility. Your LOVE. That’s REAL beauty. You can’t jazz it up with a curling iron, or sparkling jewels, or designer clothes. You can’t disguise any blemishes in your character under layers of makeup. There’s an ATTRACTIVENESS. An engaging and appealing quality in people like that. That’s the way to REALLY make your husband sit up and take notice.

And what’s more, it’s beauty that LASTS. The ten visible signs of aging have no effect on the INNER person. In fact, THAT sort of beauty often INCREASES with age. We get MORE patient and gentle and humble and compassionate as we get older. Focus on THAT sort of beauty.

And it’s good advice for SINGLES TOO. (Singles who WANT to be married). If you want to be noticed by someone who’s WORTH marrying, work on THOSE things. On INNER beauty. Christlikeness. A pretty face, or an attractive physique, or flattering clothes might get you noticed FIRST. But the person who DOES notice you/ may not be the sort of person worth spending your LIFE with.

And turn it around. Be LOOKING OUT for those things in OTHER PEOPLE. You’ll have to be INTENTIONAL about it. Because they’re not always OBVIOUS. And people who HAVE inner beauty like that don’t always make a big deal about it. So you might have to look a little harder for them. Someone out the back of the church kitchen doing the washing up. Or at the back of the queue. Or still living at home because they care for their aged parents. Or they’re the ones who are humble, or patient, or contented enough not to make themselves OBVIOUS.

Another of Peter’s beauty tips is there in v5. The gentle and quiet spirit in v4 shows their HOPE IN GOD. V5. For this is the way the holy women of the past who PUT THEIR HOPE IN GOD used to make themselves beautiful.

When you trust God to work out his plans in your marriage, you can let go of scheming and plotting. Let go of nagging and pushing. Let go of subtle, and not so subtle, digs at your husband’s expense. The gentle and quiet spirit is AN EXPRESSION of your faith in God. A concrete outworking of how much you place your hope in GOD to work. Wives, how gentle and quiet are YOU? How much are you trusting your situation to God?  Is your first instinct to speak to YOUR HUSBAND about the problems, or to speak to GOD?

GOD is the one who changes hearts. Who opens eyes. Who unblocks ears. Who breathes life into dead hearts. Put your hope in God. Not in your words. And God’s METHOD is there in v1. A method that SHOWS that it’s God who saves and convinces. If any of your husbands do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. And it CAN HAPPEN. It DOES happen.

On display

But it’s not all about impressive PEOPLE with your inner beauty. Even if you’re single and content. Work on inner beauty because GOD is watching. And HE notices.  In fact, the best way to be on display to THE WORLD is to remember you’re on display BEFORE GOD. To perform for an audience of ONE. Have a look at the end of v4. At the end of Peter’s beauty tips he says, “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, WHICH IS OF GREAT WORTH IN GOD’S SIGHT.”

God looks at THE INSIDE. That’s the beauty that counts. All sorts of things we can DO. Activity and energy. Dressing up and looking impressive. Stuff that gets us NOTICED. But what turns GOD’S head is beauty of the INNER person. A gentle and quiet spirit is worth more to God than the largest diamond.

Humanly speaking, no one notices wall flowers. The people who take a back seat. Who prefer the sidelines, rather than the limelight. Who are content with who they are, rather than how many “Likes” they get for their latest post. Who GIVE compliments, rather than go FISHING for them. Nobody notices wall flowers. But God finds them IRRESISTIBLE. So work on THAT beauty routine.

The Husband before God

But it’s not just WIVES who are on display before God. Husbands are TOO. Peter turns his attention to THEM in v7. And notice the familiar phrase? 7 Husbands, IN THE SAME WAY be considerate as you live with your wives.

That goes back to 2:13. “Submit yourselves FOR THE LORD’S SAKE, to every authority.” Just like a Christian WIFE works out her obedience to Jesus in her relationships, so too does the Christian HUSBAND. It looks DIFFERENT, but it’s still imitating Jesus, and done for his honour. Be considerate. Treat them with RESPECT as the WEAKER PARTNER

Be GENTLE. She’s like a fine crystal wine glass, not a plastic coffee mug. Don’t treat your wife the way you treat your mates. Don’t TALK to her the same way. Don’t assume you can be THOUGHTLESS. Your words and your actions, or LACK of them, can affect her DEEPLY.

In what sense is the wife the WEAKER partner? It’s probably PHYSICAL weakness. Just because you CAN impose your will on your wife physically… DON’T! Treat her with thoughtfulness and respect. That would be a HUGELY counter-cultural concept in Greek society of the time. Women had no power, and men ABUSED that powerlessness. But that’s not the submission husbands are to offer.

Peter goes on to give two reasons why husbands should treat their wives this way.

First, because husband and wife are HEIRS TOGETHER. Even though the husband is called to LEAD the family, that doesn’t make him MORE IMPORTANT before God. It’s not men first, and women SECOND. It says “Treat them with respect as the weaker partner and “HEIRS TOGETHER WITH YOU OF THE GRACIOUS GIFT OF LIFE”. Before God, male and female are EQUAL. Different, but EQUAL. Co-heirs. Do everything to bring her WITH you. To encourage her to live out NOW that future identity as an heir of God’s rich inheritance.

And the second reason is there right at the end of v7. Treat your wives with consideration and respect, as co-heirs, SO THAT NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS. GOD’S WATCHING.

If you take advantage of the weakness of your wife. If you refuse to lead as you should. If you don’t respect her as a co-heir with you of the gracious gift of life. How can you expect God to hear your prayers? You’re pleading for mercy and help and support from GOD, but you’re not willing to SHOW ANY TO YOUR WIFE! No wonder there’s a blockage in the communication with God.

You switch off when your wife talks, but expect God to listen. You’re impatient, but expect God to be patient. You keep a record of wrongs, but expect God to forget yours. God is watching your behaviour towards your wife. And what he THINKS about it/ is reflected in how your prayers are answered. So, whether husband or wife, your most important spectator is GOD. It’s HIS opinion that matters most. And being concerned with THAT is what will make you effective in impacting the non-Christians around you.

Conclusion

I’ve said before that God’s method DOES WORK. The quiet, gentle faithful behaviour of a Christian wife is EFFECTIVE. It just might TAKE TIME. Let me finish by telling you about Jill Birkmyre. She was a struggling young mum in Cairns in 1974. I was 8. Dad had just been appointed to Cairns Presbyterian as the assistant minister. And Mum be-friended Jill, who lived across the road, and gave her some practical help coping with a new baby. And Dad helped out with some Bible studies. And Jill ended up being looked after by the whole church.

When mum died 10 years ago, Jill found out, and wrote to Dad to thank him for how much they’d influenced her life. Let me read you some of her letter. The following year the Lord brought me out from my miry pit and set me upon the solid Rock of Christ.  To this day, I have sought to follow the example that you and Leah set. I have sought to always open my heart and my home to those in need that some may be won to Christ. I have tried to give people sound answers to their questions be they Christian or otherwise.

My Husband, Ken, a Scotsman came to the Lord 17 years later.

That wasn’t a major part of the letter. But it struck me. 17 years! I don’t know the specifics about how Jill dealt with her husband. But that’s not really the point. Because it was God who did it. And God’s timing was 17 years.

God’s method DOES work. So keep working on your INNER beauty. Keep putting your hope in God that those you love (husband, children, parents) will be WON OVER WITHOUT WORDS. By the pure and reverent behaviour of your lives.