Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings

html transcript

GOD BLESS AMERICA 1 Peter 2:16-17 July 2, 2006 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction Two hundred and thirty years ago this very day the Declaration of Independence was ratified, signed and made ready to present to the Continental Congress two days later. In two days we as a nation will celebrate the passage of that important document. But there is another document that addresses the importance of our independence as Christian Americans, and it might be well if we could review that truth this morning. 1 Peter 2 may seem an unlikely place for a Fourth of July message, but trust me. I want to begin by saying something loud and clear, something I believe you will agree with both as a grateful acknowledgement and as a prayer: GOD BLESS AMERICA! Anyone who wants to score points in a public speech needs to drop in that comment, especially if he is a politician, as it has become almost obligatory for them to end their speeches with, especially since 9/11. But I mean it—and I know you do, too. Let’s do a little Bible study. Look with me at this chapter and let’s get a running start by considering the context of our text. Chapter 2 reviews the way people come to Christ and grow in Him, focusing on Jesus as the precious cornerstone of our faith and the church. Not only is He the cornerstone, He is also the Rock on which unbelievers stumble, as they refuse to believe that God’s plan of salvation for humanity culminates in Him. But you, Peter writes to the Christians in verse 9, you embraced this living Stone, rejected by men but chosen and precious to God. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. In very powerful and stirring terms the apostle describes the awesome truth that Christians are God’s own people, beloved by God and called to a high and holy purpose—to brag on God to others. There is a deliberate contrast here between the people of God who have come to Him by faith and those who have yet refused to do so. Christian, have you considered lately what a glorious privilege to be among the called of God? There is more contrast in verse 10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Those who have come to truly understand the depth of their own sinfulness and unworthiness before God are those who are most excited about this grace of God that makes us His children. Imagine being newly released from a prison compound that had no windows. You’ve been locked up for years, and now, suddenly, because someone interceded for you, you are released. You walk out into the glorious sunshine and you grab the first person you see and emotionally say, “Isn’t that a beautiful sky?” That person looks at you in your wide-eyed enthusiasm over a sky that has looked the same to him for years and concludes you are a lunatic. Reason number 919 for studying your Bible is to keep you fresh and mindful of your privileged position in Christ. Next, Peter describes believers in a peculiar way – he says we are aliens and strangers. Yes, just like you looked when you accosted that man with your thrill about the blue sky, Christians seem just a little weird to people of this world. There is a reason for that—we are not of this world! We’re aliens, strangers. Verse 11 - Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Two things make you alien and strange to this world. First, as a Christian, you are now a person with hope. Paul described unbelievers as people excluded from citizenship…without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ! (Ephesians 2:12-13) It’s like Peter is saying, “I know you are weird to people in this world, because you have hope and a relationship with the living God, but listen, you’re supposed to be different—it’s all part of God’s plan. So keep getting weirder by NOT engaging in the sinful behaviors of the locals of this planet.” Verse 12 – Live such good lives among the pagans (worldlings) 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 behave in ways that demonstrate to others the good work Christ is doing in our lives. Aren’t you glad you live in America? We complain about lots of things, but we live in the greatest nation in the world, hands down. Now listen carefully. This is where God has you, and this is where He wants you to be His representatives, reflecting His character in your behavior. Your attention to this plan of God, and your intentional obedience to the Holy Spirit leading and empowering you to love and serve others—this is God’s plan for your life. Right here, right now. C. S. Lewis wrote, “We can’t love the whole world. But we should remember that God has placed us in a particular community at a particular time. And we’re called to love those around us. Loving them means serving them and being the best of citizens.” It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Peter says by the Holy Spirit that your good deeds will result in worldly people giving praise to God! This will happen “on the day he visits us”—and that can either mean when the Lord orchestrates some great revival or awakening, or something connected with the second coming. The main thing is—these witnesses to our behavior will glorify Him! But that is exactly what Jesus said—He said, Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) So this year on Independence Day, let us pledge to be the best aliens and strangers we can be for His sake, and for His glory. Then, when your good behavior invites the scorn and unfounded accusations of bewildered and often jealous world who don’t know what else to do with Christians but to persecute them—when that happens, they’ll have no real basis for indictment. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Live such good lives that when someone accuses you of doing wrong, no one will believe them.” The plain fact of the matter is this. We are alive and residing in the St. Louis metro-east communities, not by accident, but on purpose—God’s purpose. He has us planted here to be His ambassadors. That’s right—we’re aliens, strangers and we’re also ambassadors of His Kingdom. If that’s so, what exactly do we do when we “ambassadate”? How does one “ambassadorize”? Now we’re closing in on the context of our text—which we’re almost to already (this has all been introduction and contextualizing!) Verse 13 – 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. Did you catch that? We serve God and reflect godly character, glorifying Him among worldlings when we (what?) submit to governmental authority! We shouldn’t be too surprised—this comes up quite regularly in the pages of the New Testament. That list includes the courts, the congress, George W., Rod Blagoyavich, your local mayor and police officers and the IRS. They are God’s appointees (gulp!) to punish wrongdoers and commend rightdoers. And they don’t always do it very well in our opinion—and God knows all about it! If you don’t like our governing authorities, maybe you’d like to trade them for the governing authorities over the Christian to whom Peter was writing. You know, Nero, Vespasian, Domitian – they didn’t mess around with petty mistakes in judgment, they killed anyone they didn’t like, and it didn’t matter if they were family members. Christians were a favorite target of their sadistic rampages. Verse 15 – For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. How do you handle disfavored governors? Obey them with a good attitude—until next April or November when you enter the polling place with a smile on your face and vote the jerk out of office! I am not saying there isn’t a time when the will of the governor and the will of the Lord will clash and nonviolent resistance is in order. Nor would Peter say that—he is, after all the one who said to the local authorities in Jerusalem, Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:19-20) Look, we’ve arrived at our text, all contextualized! Verses 16-17 bring to the church’s attention a short list of exhortations that may not at first seem to go with the flow of living as godly alien ambassadors in a pagan culture, but watch for the connection, and see if the Holy Spirit might bring you some direction, if not conviction, about living for the Lord in a world you’re feeling increasingly more alienated from. The first exhortation is in verse 16 – Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. To catch the drift of this verse you need to see clearly the two contrasting imperatives: live as free men, and live as servants (slaves). There is an important biblical truth that we Christians hold dear to our hearts: namely, that we are free from the law. So, Peter says, Live as free men. But freedom is never to be lived out irresponsibly or flaunted. Try this: tell a circuit judge that you are free from the law, and see what his response is. Take your New Testament to the Supreme Court and see how far you get. Peter tells us there is a way to live responsibly in the freedom we have in Christ, and that does not include disobedience to the law. How are we free if we have to obey the law? We are free within. In the film The Shawshank Redemption the main character, Andy Dufresne, is described as a man who may have been in prison, but inside he was a free man. In Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the law of sin and death. Ironically that freedom is ours only when we make ourselves bondservants of Jesus (the word here for servant of God is the word for slave or indentured servant). Here is a principle that is very hard for worldlings, but very exciting for aliens like us. Once we change our allegiance to Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin and death; we become slaves to Christ. And this is a most fulfilling kind of slavery, because when you offer yourself fully to God as His servant He frees you from yourself. Once you are free from yourself and the pride of life, you are free to submit to authority. Not all pride is bad—but nearly al of it is. If pride were an elephant, maybe one eyelash-worth of it would be okay pride. All the rest has to die. Once pride dies, you are free to serve others, no matter what it takes. What once felt demeaning and distasteful is now not only doable, but even enjoyable. How? You know that you are serving Christ your Savior and Lord when you serve others in His name. You see, when you trust the God who works everything out for your good and who sovereignly leads you, you know you really can’t lose. In Christ we find the strength to live as servants of God and, in that faith, submit ourselves to every authority that God has allowed in our lives. There is a second exhortation in verse 17: Show proper respect to everyone. Once freed of our blinding pride by the grace of God, I find it easy (and thrilling) to submit myself to Him as Lord. That’s just one way that salvation changes us from the inside out. When I begin to see Jesus as the absolute Lord of my life and trust His directions for me, my perception of others is miraculously changed. I no longer see so and so as a bothersome person like I used to, now by God’s grace he is a real person with some real needs that God might use me to meet. The person I used to avoid I no longer need to hide from—I honestly am beginning to see her as someone I could share the good news with. The person who swindled me? The hate that I used to feel for him is drying up—I can feel it going away. And I am now able to see him as a sinner for whom Jesus died—just like myself. You say you’re a Christian and you don’t feel that respect for others? One thing is certain in that case. Draw near to Jesus by spending more time in His Word. Ask Him to help you fall more deeply in love with Him, so you can willingly submit to Him. He will change you (please understand, you will not change yourself; He will change you). As you draw nearer to Him your capacity to show proper respect to everyone else around you will develop. The third exhortation for living as a godly, alien ambassador in a sinful, hostile world is: Love the brotherhood of believers. Before I committed my life to Jesus I was a fairly prejudiced person. Not in a racial or ethnic kind of way, but in the sense that I formed quick opinions about people around me and they were usually not very favorable. For instance, there were people in Charlotte’s church that I really didn’t like. Everything they said or did seemed to confirm my reasons for disliking and mistrusting them. Then I met the Lord—in that church. All of a sudden some of my least favorite people were my brothers and sisters! I reluctantly got to know them better, even the ones who didn’t seem to like me (they’re the ones I distrusted the most). I was actually learning to bear with them as I attended church work days and involved myself in some ministry alongside them. Soon I was teaching the Bible and they were in my class. It wasn’t long before I discovered I truly loved them. Four years later I was their pastor. Through some ups and downs with some of them, and I love them more deeply than before! And it’s all God’s fault! He created this divine capacity in me to love them. Along the way God showed this stubborn saint that it was my own insecurity and ugly attitudes that made me resist getting to know others, let alone like them and interact with them. That is precisely what this command is talking about. Our getting over prejudices, fear. How do we do it? Pray, draw near to the Lord, and out of sheer obedience, reach out and love others. You will not regret trying—even if a few of them let you down or hurt you. You will be walking in the joy and strength of the Lord. You will have died to yourself—and you can’t really hurt a dead person. Let me pause just a moment here to say that if there is someone in the body of Christ, here or in another church family, from whom you are estranged, you’ve just been instructed to make it right. And it doesn’t matter if you say, But I really, really don’t like that person! Fix it—out of obedience to Christ, His Spirit and His Word. Step out in faith and in His strength, take a risk and launch out into deeper waters of Christian fellowship. You will not regret it; you’ll actually love it; the other person will be edified; Christ will be glorified; and nobody loses but the devil who wanted to keep you alienated. Incidentally, if there is bitterness or unforgiveness involved, this word to you just moved up from an exhortation to a five-alarm emergency. Bitterness and unforgiveness will suck the life right out of your spirit. And you are aiding and abetting the devil in his malevolent schemes in the other person’s life by delaying that needed healing. Very simply, if you are a Christian and you are harboring bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart, you can’t do anything more wrong or counterproductive in your life. Fix it by drawing near to Christ, praying for strength and the ability to forgive. He will give it to you. You get healed they get healed, God will gets done, the worldlings take notice and they glorify God. Everybody wins but the poor old devil. The forth exhortation for godly, alien ambassadors in a sinful world is simply to Fear God. Like the surrounding verbs in this short list, this word is in a present progressive tense which actually translates as keep on fearing God. All our ability to respect others and be submissive to authority is predicated on our first maintaining healthy respect for God. The fifth exhortation for godly, alien ambassadors living in a sinful and hostile world is: Honor the king. Something was going on politically-socially among the believers who were the recipients of this letter. Most Bible scholars agree that it was the very beginning of the ruthless persecution of Christians by Roman authorities. It was only happening in some areas, but apparently where Peter’s readers were living. So he repeats this apostolic command. It shows up in verses 13 and 14, here in 17 and in more veiled ways in chapters 3 and 4. These believers are beginning to get a taste of persecution and Peter prophesies it’s going to get worse. Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves (get prepared) with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. (4:1) and if you suffer (when you suffer) as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (4:16). With all this suffering and persecution in mind, Peter tells the Christians to honor the king, using exactly the same word he used earlier when he urged them to “show respect” to everyone. Bottom line, you simply cannot please the Lord your Savior when you are rebellious against authority. That is a singular, certifying evidence that you are filled with pride and there is something inside you that has not yet died that needs to die for you to move on spiritually. How do you honor the king when you don’t yet want to? Draw near to the Lord through prayer and His Word, and let Him conquer this demon. He will do it. It is His will that you be delivered from such pride and move on to more of the image of Christ. In "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", C. S. Lewis tells of how a young boy named Eustace becomes a dragon—a very unhappy dragon at that. Eustace steals a gold armband and puts it on, only to find that his greed turns him into a dragon. And the armband is excruciatingly tight on his dragon foot. One night, in the midst of his pain and frustration, Eustace encounters a huge lion who tells the boy to follow it to a high mountain well. Eustace longs to bathe his aching foot in the cool water, but the lion tells him he must undress first. It seems silly to Eustace because dragons don't wear clothes, but then he remembers that dragons, like snakes, cast their skins. So Eustace scratches his skin, and the scales begin falling off—and soon his whole skin peels away. But when he puts his foot in the water, he sees that it is just as rough and scaly as before. He continues scratching at the second dragon skin and realizes there is yet another underneath. Finally the lion says, "You will have to let me undress you." Eustace is afraid of the lion's claws but desperate to get in the water. The first tear is painfully deep as the lion begins to peel away the skin. Surely death will follow, Eustace believes. With the gnarled mess of dragon skin now cut away, the lion holds Eustace and throws him into the water. Initially, the water stings, but soon it is perfectly delicious. Eustace swims without pain, for he's a boy again. There is no power in us that can break us free from the sin and pride that has us enslaved. Only Jesus can truly, fully deliver us. Once He does, we move joyfully into the kingdom behaviors: submitting to authority, living as free men and bondservants to Christ, respecting everyone properly, loving the brotherhood, fearing God and honoring the king. the waters of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. How is all this related to a patriotic, 4th of July theme? Easy. One by one, people come to Christ, their lives are changed, their behaviors change, others see and glorify God and soon the whole atmosphere of the culture begins to change. Jesus said that the kingdom is like a little leaven in a lump of dough. You work just that tiny amount into the big ball of dough and soon it quietly, subversively, mysteriously infiltrates the entire lump. Such is the kingdom, quietly, relentlessly at work in a few strange, godly aliens who are currently living in a sinful, often hostile world. Work to win one person to that kind of a kingdom and that one will touch others who will likewise enter the kingdom. “I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her democratic congress and in her matchless constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” --Alexis deTocqueville, French historian   [Back to Top]    
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more