We are in week four of a walk-through of 1 Peter. We chose this Book for study because it is a Letter from Peter to 1st Century Christians who had fled to five Roman Provinces in Asia Minor (Turkey). After fleeing persecution found themselves in a society which strongly rejected their faith and lifestyles in Christ, with social and cultural persecution quickly apparent there as well and growing rapidly around them. This Letter was written to encourage the Christians living there as misfits and rejects in society and to teach them who they truly are in Christ; What their real mission is in their times of trouble, and to keep their eyes on the big picture—the soon coming Messiah.
Remember as we read this Letter, the Christians were living in Roman Provinces; the government was harsh, controlling and morally depraved; the culture was completely pagan, worldly and so liberal in beliefs and practices which powerfully contributed to their decline as a nation from the inside. To illustrate how we, as a Nation, are quickly beginning to imitate this environment: NEWSWEEK August 5, 2020; WASHINGTON TIMES June 5, 2018. When major, secular news publications even adamantly admit these changes, we can no longer disregard them as paranoia. And as quickly as we have seen this Nation decline in its acceptance of Religious Freedoms and increase in its moral depravity, I strongly believe these changes are going to come with even increasing speed and intensity in the months and years to come. At this point our Study of Peter's Letter, Peter now shifts his focus towards teaching his brothers and sisters in Christ details of how they should live and conduct themselves in the middle of their morally fallen culture—never could words be more relevant.
We pick up just after Peter reminds them they are The Temple of God, His Royal Priests in this world, His special, chosen people here to proclaim His praises to the world. 1 Peter 2:11: He emphatically begs them to stay away from the enticements of sin around them since they are Pilgrims and not part of this world; because many of them are freshly saved from this mindset and they are surrounded and saturated by things that promote pride, selfishness, and pleasure seeking over God's Way of truly loving others above self; of sacrificially living for others rather than simply seeking their own way; of avoiding sexually indulgent and inappropriate lifestyles that focus on selfish desires over cherishing another and becoming one as God intended. Peter says these things are literally "War against the soul," because these things actually alter the way we look at everything—self, others, life and God. They alter the worth we place on everything and they alter everything our souls can find contentment and peace in verses a life of anxiety and dissatisfaction. The effects of these sins will quite literally prevent us from grasping God's heart and will—changing who we are at the core. Even when you are walking and thinking righteously these things war against the soul. Seeing others hurt and destroy and hate and disrespect around you can cause constant grief and anxiety, when you know the joy and goodness in God's ways and you see society self-destructing around you. 1 Peter 2:7-8: and yet many professing Christians still purposefully indulge the ways of the world. Peter begs us to resist, knowing it destroys our thought process, our relationship with God and others, and our joy in living. We too, are swamped by this way of thinking, and have to consciously resist with passion. Be different, be holy, no matter how you stand out. Peter gives another powerful reason to remain separated from the sins of the world: 1 Peter 2:12: Peter says that many who may openly attack and ridicule your faith may be changed as they see your honest, deep love for even them and your real love for God, and the sanity and value in God's ways to the point your steadfast life may actually convert them. When we indulge in our sins as Christians, we hurt our very souls, we hurt loved ones, we hurt God, and we literally hurt those unsaved around us. Therefore, Peter begs them to resist.
Peter starts the next section with the word, "Therefore," connecting it, once again with the previous thought. In this case, the previous thought of living virtuous and honest lives before a lost world: 1 Peter 2:13-17. This section of our Study today could not possibly have come at a more Sovereign time in our lives than this Sunday. A time when a Nation divided, has been told who their new Administration will be, what the course and mindset of the Nation will take for years to come. A course and a mindset passionately rejected by almost half the country. An Administration seen by many as mainly atheistic in it's core beliefs, bringing threat to religious rights and many of God's values. How are we to Biblically respond if we do not agree with our Administration? What should our allegiance be? If we disagree with this Administration, do we bitterly proclaim, "He's not my President," and break friendships and relationships with those who don't share our views? Peter knew the Christians receiving his Letter were under a morally rotten, God-rejecting, even hostile and persecuting government—and his answer to how they were to responded was to be in full submission to our government (as long as we are not disobedient to, or denying God). Not in sarcasm, disrespect, bitterness or hatred, but in the due honor and loyalty owed.
Was Daniel under a King who was not only pagan, but had actually destroyed his home and took him by force? Yes. But he served his king so well, he became a high ranking official. Was Jesus Himself not under the pagan government of Rome? Did He start a Righteous rebellion? Hate the Rome loving population? The early apostles were jailed, beaten and mistreated by their government—did they hate the leaders who imprisoned them? Or did they respect and minister to them even then?
And God even says to do this, "For His sake,”—why? Daniel 4:17; Daniel 2:20-21; John 19:10-11; Romans 13:1-2. The answer is this: every person who ever rises to power, does so by the appointment of God, placed there in His Sovereignty, for His purposes, (so, we have to say, "Praise be to My God" at the end of any election) because they are exactly what He deems is necessary—whether it is because of a nation's own selfish desires and passions (Saul as King of Israel); whether for Judgment and Correction (Nebuchadnezzar); “... sent by him for the punishment of evildoers..." (1 Peter 2:14); or whether by faithfulness to Him in blessing and glory, "...and for the praise of those who do good." (1 Peter 2:14). We, as Christians, are not called to chaos, hate and rebellion. We have seen first-hand where that takes any culture recently. Are we to take our turn in rebellion because we don't get our way too? Does that show a love for anyone? Or just for those who are beneficial for our desires? We are called to servitude, care and love for all around us, brother, friend or foe. Our ultimate goal is to show even more compassion and care to those who may misunderstand and persecute us, who may not know Christ. Because as Christians with the heart of God, we should be more concerned with showing them the truth and love of Christ, than with our own comfort or acceptance. Therefore, we give respect, honor and submission where due. Keeping order, showing genuine care and interest, and most of all, trusting God's plan and purpose in the circumstances. We show genuine care and concern even for those who oppose us, because they are simply misled sinners just like us. And we have a goal much higher than political parties or governmental structures. We must recognize that not one heart will ever be won to Christ through laws of the land, but through our attitude and love shown towards others, and our willingness to share God's Truth with them. Our attitudes will actually have much more power and truth behind them when we are in a government or society which should incite anger or rejection from us. As this very passage says, "This will put to silence the ignorance (lack of knowledge) of foolish men," (1 Peter 2:15) as they finally see our true intent. So yes, be angry; yes, fight! But be angry at, and fight against the enemy who has misled God's people; who has divided men in hate; who has disrupted God's Kingdom on this earth. He is the one to be hated and fought with all malice. 1 Peter 2:16-17 (maliciousness/vice): this verse simply, powerfully says just because you are God's child living in an ungodly society isn’t an excuse to be free from submission. Do not use the actions of an ungodly society or government as an excuse or cloak for your own heart's hatred and sin in retaliation. In other words, your heart already has hidden selfishness and hate. If that is what comes out when you are squeezed. Rather than a desire to love, reach and save the broken and ignorant of God's truth. Don't use your circumstances to cover your own hate and then make it seem righteous and justified.
In a quick, memorable recap, here is how to S.H.O.W. Christ to an ungodly society: S- Stand fast against the sins of a fallen society that tempt you. Be Holy so that you can be intimate with a Holy God, and show Him to others. H- Hold the Line unapologetically for Christ. Live for Christ, love Christ, worship Christ. And where that costs you socially, or legally, it is what it is. Glory in your chance to show Him and the world, your love. O- Obey and give honor to whatever government you are under in every way you are not instructed to dishonor or disavow God. It is your government, ordained by God Himself for His reasons to suit the times and people. To obey and honor them, is to obey and honor God. W- Win the lost. Let your genuine care for those opposed to us show. Never stop loving and reaching out to those who behave spitefully. Increase, if anything. In doing so, God says your actions may silence those who are ignorant of Him and make them see that God's love must be real.
Right now, in our current situation, we have the golden opportunity like never before in the history of this country to show God we will trust and obey His words to show men we will love and care for them no matter their reaction. Trying days are ahead, but rejoice in the knowledge that God is in control. We are right where He wants us, with the government He ordained, and we have His power and blessing to accomplish things much more important than any trials that may come our way.
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