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1 Peter 2:11-3:12

Living “Good Lives”

INTRO: A couple of weeks ago we hit the pause button on a series on the letters of Peter. As a way of review, we talked about the man, Peter, formerly known as Simon (hearer), but whose name was changed by Jesus to “Rock.” Peter, the outspoken, “foot-in-mouth” follower of Jesus who was quick to speak out for Jesus when things were good, but when his own neck was on the line, he denied even knowing his Lord. I suspect some of us can relate.

But Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He saw in him the potential to receive and demonstrate the power of God. Peter took the experiences of his life—the good and the bad—and could learn and grow from them. It was then Peter who—even before the apostle Paul—was the foremost evangelist for Jesus, leading 3,000 souls to Christ on Pentecost!

In his first letter, Peter encourages the believers during a time of great persecution and challenged them to remain committed to God even when the culture around them would persuade them otherwise. One of the key passages is found in 1 Peter 1:3-4 : “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, and an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, you have a LIVING HOPE because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whatever we’re facing is temporary, and because of our relationship with Christ, our eternal future is a glorious one!

Peter reminds us that we are being built into a spiritual temple as “living stones.” You and I are the dwelling place of the Almighty! That’s a pretty big deal! It is both a high calling and a high responsibility. We the church are called to live a holy life, getting rid of behaviors such as deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. If we are truly reflecting the nature and character of God, we will be offensive to many who still cling to the world for their identity. Too often, however, the church makes little to no impact because we are too busy trying to look like it ourselves. We dare not offend, for that would be a greater sin than to live lives of holiness.

Peter warns that those who reject Jesus are destined for the fall…destruction. The Good News of Jesus Christ IS good news for those who, by faith, turn from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Good News is BAD NEWS for those who refuse to accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Let me ask: Is the Good News “GOOD” or “BAD” for you? In the words of Tony the Tiger, I pray it is G-R-R-R-E-A-T NEWS!!!!

Affection for Christ is the bottom-line characteristic of true believers. Believing in Him and loving Him are inseparable. In John 16:27 Jesus says, “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed.” Believers have a compelling and surpassing love for Christ.

WE ARE CALLED LIVING STONES BY GOD’S WORD. You have an Identity in Christà A CHOSEN PEOPLE…A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD…A HOLY NATION (Called to reflect the character of God). This is NOT because of anything WE’VE done…it’s all because of God’s favor…his grace. Not only that, Peter goes on to explain who we REALLY are to God.

1.You are acceptable…a chosen people. God LOVES YOU because you are created in His Image.
2.You are Valuable…God’s very own (“peculiar”) possession. It cost God the price of His son, Jesus. That makes you the most valuable thing on the planet!
3.You are Lovable…Once we were not a people, now we are God’s people…once we received no mercy, now we have received God’s mercy. Paul says in Romans, “God showed his great love for us that, while we were yet sinners—enemies with God—Chris died for us.” You are LOVABLE.
4.You are Usable. I like how the NLT puts it “You can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” Jesus talks about us being salt and lightto the world. We are to let our light shine for the whole world to see so that others will be drawn to the light. That’s one of the reasons I keep saying, “Invite others to worship with you.”
Some may be thinking that you don’t know how to show God’s goodness. Do this: take out your bulletin insert called, “Congregational Care Team.” Read it. Look at just SOME of the ways you can show God’s love. There countless others. YOU ARE USABLE IN GOD’S KINGDOM!
Let’s turn our attention to another section of the letter that may arguably one of the most unpopular subjects in all the Bible. In fact, I was tempted to sweep over it to get to other less controversial passages. But I am called to preach the WHOLE word of God. Besides, when we fully understand this passage in light of the letter as a whole—and even the greater work of the New Testament—then God’s Word found in 1 Peter 2:11-3:12 will not only be agreeable, it will be preferable.

After establishing that, by God’s grace, we have salvation and a living hope in the resurrected Jesus, and that we can live lives of holiness, Peter turns to four areas in our lives where we can show God’s holiness.

He begins with this summary statement: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 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.” We are called to live “good lives” among unbelievers so that they really have no other response but to credit God for our good behavior. Then he goes on to flesh that “good life” out over the next 24 verses or so.

He uses the word “submit” to describe the kind of “good life” we should live in relation to our earthly citizenship, our daily labor, our marriage life, and our life as a church. The Greek word here is hupotasso. It comes from two words: hupo, which “under” and tasso, which means “to arrange” or “to set in place.” The word use here means to put myself under or into subjection. I submit. It’s a place of personal will. I CHOOSE to subject myself to a higher authority.

The first and foremost Authority we subject ourselves is the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Word of Almighty God. Without submitting to the reign and rule of God, we can’t or won’t properly sit under the authority of others.

Jesus is our prime example. One of my favorite NT verses is found in Philippians 2:5-11 ESV which reads, 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Not only did Jesus submit himself to the Father in obedience to the point of death on a cross, but before his arrest Jesus humbled himself before his followers by washing their dirty feet. Many of us shrink back when offered the noble opportunity of helping our youth or children’s ministry, let alone washing dirty feet! But Jesus showed us what it means to submit, and that’s what Peter is calling us to do as well.

Listen. If we don’t get this part right, then the subsequent verses we will talk about this morning will not only NOT make sense, they will even offend some of us. That is NOT Peter’s intention. His intention is that we have the mind of Christ…to live according to the Spirit and not according to fleshly desires. It CAN be done, otherwise we would not be encouraged in the Bible to do it!

Now that I’ve set the stage by reminding us what submission is, let’s look to God’s Word for the specific areas of submission we are called to live.

Human Government. “Submit yourselves FOR THE LORD’S SAKE to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (vs. 13-14)

It’s right here that many of us push back. “You mean we have to do what the government says? We have to obey the laws? We have to pay ALL those taxes?” Well…yes. The only caveat is of course doing or saying anything contrary to the authority of Scripture. And even then we can act in a manner that is not subversive or rebellious. Remember the story of Daniel and his three friends when they refused to eat the king’s meat. The disobeyed the law, but the way they did it proved that they honored the king and respected the authorities.

Why do we submit to governmental authorities? FOR THE LORD’S SAKE. It is our witness to a pagan world that we are concerned about, remember? We are behaving according to the will of God and are servants of God.

Human Employment. “Slaves submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also those who are harsh.” (vs. 18) The institution of slavery was very much alive and well in the Roman Empire. Some slaves who found freedom in Christ thought that they were now guaranteed freedom in every other sense of the word. Paul addressed this problem in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 when he tells everyone to remain in the situation they were in when called to follow Jesus. Of course, he said, if you can become free, do so. But it’s not about our earthly station, it’s about our heavenly one.
The application of God’s Word here pertains to how we live a “good life” in the market place. We are to submit ourselves to those who hire us to do a job. It’s not about how they treat us—although I HOPE they treat us fairly and kindly—it’s about how we represent God when we do the work assigned to us. In another place, God’s Word says this, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)

This is hard to hear, but God’s Word instructs us to not lash back if we are treated unfairly by an unbelieving employer or coworker, but to “take it” even though we are not in the wrong. Peter wants us to see that Jesus did no wrong and yet suffered at the hands of angry men. I told you this would be unpopular. Remember, our “good life” should reflect our “God life.”

The Home. Okay, it gets tougher now. Peter turns our “good life” behavior to the home. He deals with submission and respect on the part of both wives and husbands. More is written about wives and we could speculate as to why. Could it be that this newfound faith in Christ seemed to come to women faster than men, leaving many households unequally yoked?
Here’s God’s Word through Peter : “Wives, in the same way [meaning, in the same way as slaves/employees submit themselves to the authority of masters/employers], 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, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (vs.3:1-2)

God is calling for an inner purity, beauty, and reverence that is contagious. We all know people like that don’t we? I’m reminded of a dear woman named Gene Turner, who passed away this past Friday. She had a certain godly character that was hard to miss. Her husband, Hudson, was very rough around the edges, but I think Gene’s “good life” she lived before him helped Hudson to see the Jesus who saved him.

Maybe you’re unequally yoked. Maybe you’re here by yourself because your husband doesn’t want anything to do with church. He claims he doesn’t need “organized religion” to believe in God, and he would be right. But you haven’t seen in him the godly character that tells you and the world that he belongs to Jesus. What do you do?

God’s Word instructs you to be Christ to him for the Lord’s sake. [Here we go again with hard teaching. I’m sorry.] But let me say that if you are in an abusive relationship, it is NOT God’s will that you be hurt physically or emotionally. There is help…there is hope. Beyond that, we are instructed to stick it out in hopes to win them to the Lord.

Now lets turn our attention to husbands : “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.” (vs. 7)

Let’s deal with the land mine first. The “weaker partner” (or weaker vessel) is bound to raise the blood pressure of a not just a few women in the room. That Greek word, asthenés, has to do with lacking strength. Not weak minded, but gentle-spirited. Tender, as in, “more easily hurt by viscous words.”

That is NOT to say that wives or somehow “less” of a person than husbands! In fact, because of the biblical relationship as heirs WITH husbands of salvation in Christ, men are to be considerate as we live in this beautiful covenant God has given us. We are to show respect. Here’s how Paul puts it in Ephesians 5:25a, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.” That’s sacrificial love…selfless love.

Peter’s exhortation comes with a promise. If we show our wives the respect they deserve and need, then our prayers will not be hindered. We can’t treat our wives poorly and expect God to be pleased with us enough to answer our prayers. ‘Nuff Said?

The Church. Finally, and quickly, we are called to live the “good life” within the church. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” It may seem blatantly obvious, but we are called to love each other. What may NOT be obvious is that we are called to do so in a submissive way. In Romans 12:9-10, Paul writes this: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what it good. Be devoted to one other in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
So many people have a mindset about churches, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, we should be asking, “What’s in it FROM me?” What have I given of myself to make the kingdom of God all it can be? Again, I point back to the Congregational Care Team or Hospitality Team. We should have dozens of people willing to do “something” to make life a little better for another participant of Byhalia UMC. It’s a mark of humility to give of our time and resources for someone else. Humility is not thinking “less” of yourself…humility is thinking of yourself LESS.

CONCLUSION. Wow! We packed a lot in this morning. I’m sorry that God’s Word is not always what we want to hear or what is popular. But it’s what we need to hear and apply. Peter is saying that because we have this living hope in a resurrected Jesus…because we are the living stones (the temple of God) and are a royal priesthood, we show it by living “good lives” that sit under the authority of governments, of employers, of personal relationships, and within the church. Why? So that a lost and hurting world can see what the reign and rule of God on earth is supposed to look like. BECAUSE we love God and because we love who Jesus loves, we show it by the way we treat one another.