1 PETER 1:13-2:1
Last Thursday morning, while participating in a workshop in Danville, Ellie called me with the disturbing news that our middle son, Tim, had been rushed to the hospital. The initial report was that he was seriously ill, and that the next 12 hours were critical. We flew to Phoenix Thursday afternoon, I returned home last evening, and Ellie has stayed in Scottsdale. The news is good news. The prognosis is positive. He is healing, and will be released in the next few days. God is good-- all the time. Tim was surrounded by prayer, his devoted and wonderful wife, his mother-in-law who flew in from Pasadena, his parents, and phone calls and flowers from his friends.
When a child is in trouble, we drop everything and run to be supportive. I am so grateful for the team ministry we share in our church. Jody, even though she had the flu, stepped in and covered for me. Thank God for Jody. Thank God for Tim's prognosis as we continue to pray for his complete recovery. Thank God for the competent doctors, the caring nurses and the exceptional Scottsdale hospital.
Thank God for the outpouring of his grace and power; therefore... Did you notice the therefore in the Scripture lesson. Therefore, now what? The letter of 1 Peter is such a treasure. I hope you are reading these passages at home. Read them over and over. I am fascinated by the wealth of insight and inspiration in this letter.
As you read, recall the original recipients of Peter's letter. They were not the rich, wealthy, influential, political people of the Roman Empire. They were Christians facing persecution, many of whom were slaves and women, people with no power in those days. In the first ten verses of the letter, Peter tells them how special they are. They may feel like exiles, but they have been chosen, destined and sanctified, sprinkled with his blood. They have been given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have an inheritance waiting them in heaven, an inheritance they are already beginning to receive. Even though they face trials, God is using their trials to purify them, and they rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for they are receiving and experiencing salvation.
Therefore, says Peter. Okay, Christians of Merced, you also are special. You are receiving and experiencing salvation. God has and is blessing each of you in abundant measure. God answers our prayers. God is working in our lives. Therefore... you are different. 1 Peter 1:13-2:1 can be summarized in the phrase, You are Different! Because of what God has done for you and what God is doing with you, you are different. You have been changed and are being changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. You are different from other people. How?
Some Christians, in an attempt to show the world they are different, dress differently. The women wear bonnets and plain, long dresses. The men wear beards and hats. The Amish go even further and drive horses, rather than automobiles. In my youth, born again Christian women wore no makeup or jewelry. Now, thanks to Tammy Faye, some of them outdress models!
How are we different? Perhaps you don't want to be different. You don't want to stand out. You want to fit in with the crowd. I'm sorry, but Christians don't fit! When God starts working in your life, you don't fit anymore. You stand out. If you have been ransomed from futile ways by Jesus, if you've experienced a new birth and are filled with a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy, I'm sorry, but you will stand out, because you are different! In this passage, Peter says we are different in three ways:
1) Because of what God has done for you, and what God is doing with you, you are holy. Vss. 13-16,
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves...Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
Prepare your minds, discipline yourselves, do not be conformed because you are different, you are holy.
You are special. You have been chosen, destined and sanctified, set apart. For what purpose? So you will be happy? No way. If you are happy, praise God for the side effect, for the spin off, because your happiness is not why you are destined. Holiness is your destiny, says Peter, to be holy because God is holy. God's goal is to produce saints, holy saints. God is not a blessing-machine who exists for our benefit. God does not save us out of pity, because God feels sorry for us. God does not heal our bodies or our minds because we are worthy! Jesus saves us because God created us to be holy.
To be holy is to become what you already are in Christ. Don't tolerate any practice that is not in keeping with our holy God. Don't put up with second-best conduct. Don't be satisfied with mediocrity. You are special. You are different. You are holy. Don't let your words, your thoughts, your actions be anything less than what God created you to be. Discipline yourself. Be obedient. Do not be conformed, but live in such a way that those around you will want to conform to you, to your lifestyle, conform to your values, conform to your goals. You are different, live differently! Echo the psalmist, Psalm 49:8, "I delight to do Your will, O my God."
2) You are different, because you are reverent. Vs. 17, "Live in reverent fear." Fear does not mean we are to scare our children or one another with the idea of a god who will get you if you don't watch out. No, but on the other hand, our God is not like Santa Claus either. God is not at our whim, and does not jump at our commands. Vs. 17 reminds us of the "one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds." God and the commandments are not to be treated lightly. Defy God at your own peril. Treat your body badly and it will pay you back. That's judgment. What goes around comes around is judgment.
God is to be held in reverence and fear. The kingdom of God is not a democracy. God is not elected or thrown out of office by popular vote. God does not necessarily govern with the consent of the governed. God is above and beyond anything or anyone that we can think or imagine. When we worship, we approach God with awe. Yes, what a friend we have in Jesus, but also God is the creator and the judge. The One who has power to create and judge is to be revered by those who have been created.
In vs. 17, Peter calls God "Father." Donald Miller, in his commentary, On This Rock, says popular Christianity has
developed an idea of fatherhood which is largely dominated by indulgence, leniency, complacency. God has become for many moderns, if they think of Him at all, a sort of long-whiskered grandfather, past His active days of responsibility, watching His children at play and indulging their sins with the philosophy, "Oh, boys will be boys"
Living in reverent fear acknowledges the supremacy of God, acknowledges a God who makes great demands upon us because God created us to be holy and reverent.
3) You are different because you love one another. Vs. 22, "Love one another deeply from the heart." Peter says "You have genuine mutual love... You have been born anew." 2:1, "Rid yourselves, therefore (there is therefore again), of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander." Love is more than affection. Christian love may not even involve feelings. Christian love is love from the heart that wills the good of the other. Sometimes the call to love involves sacrifice.
The Milwaukee city bus jerked to a stop. It was a cold day. There was snow on the ground. A very pregnant woman hung onto the silver handrail and slowly pulled herself onto the bus. As she fell backward into the seat behind the bus driver, her feet kicked up, and Frank saw that she was in stocking feet.
Kojak (the bus driver had been dubbed "Kojak" by Frank and his school friends because of his bald head) yelled over his shoulder, "Where are your shoes, lady? It ain't more than 10 degrees out there."
"I can't afford shoes," the woman answered. She pulled her fraying coat collar around her neck. Some of the boys at the back exchanged glances and smirked. "I got on the bus just to get my feet warm. If you don't mind, I'll just ride around with you for a bit."
Kojak scratched his bald head and shouted, "Now just tell me how come you can't afford shoes?"
"I got eight kids. They all got shoes. There's not enough left for me. But it's okay, the Lord will take care of me."
Frank looked down at his new Nike basketball shoes. His feet were warm and snug, always had been. And then he looked back at the woman. Her socks were ripped. Her coat, missing buttons, hung open around her stomach, as swollen as a basketball and covered by a smudgy dress. He would probably always be able to afford shoes. She probably never would. Under his seat, he pried the toe of one shoe into the heel of the other and slipped it off. Then the other shoe. He looked around. Nobody had noticed. He would have to walk three blocks in the snow but the cold had never bothered him much.
He walked quickly to the woman, handed her his shoes, and said, "Here, lady, you need these more than I do." He hurried to the door and stepped down, managing to land in a puddle. It didn't matter. He heard the woman exclaim "Look, they fit me just perfect!"
Then he heard Kojak call, "Hey, come back here, kid! What's your name?"
Frank turned around to face Kojak. At the same time, his friends asked where his shoes were.
Frank's face burned in confusion at Kojak, his friends and the woman, "Frank Daily," he said quietly. "My name is Frank Daily."
"Well, Frank," Kojak said, "I've never seen anything like that in the 20 years I've been driving this bus."
The woman was crying. "Thank you, young man," she said. She turned to Kojak. "See, I told you the Lord would take care of me."
"Love one another deeply from the heart," said Peter. Frank loved. Frank did the Lord's work. Frank is different, isn't he.
You also are different. Because of what God has done for you, and is doing with you, you are special. You are different. Therefore, you are holy, reverent, and loving.
1997 Douglas I. Norris
ã 1997 Douglas I. Norris