In this sermon Pastor Lani speaks about living lives as Christians that win over non-believers.
I’m excited for what’s been happening in church life. Haberfield is slowly growing, it seems each week someone new comes to join us. We also have baptisms coming up next week which I’m excited to do for one of our YA. Which I would love to encourage you, if you or anyone you know that wants to get baptised. I love baptisms because it’s all about dying to your old self/and symbolically dying with Christ and coming alive in Christ and with him. He paid sin’s penalty, so for us the power of sin is broken. He was righteousness imputed, which has imparted righteousness to us. Jesus was justified through the fulfilment of the law and now we are being sanctified to live out our lives like him. This really speaks into what we’re going to look at today in 1 Peter 2:11-12 which is about living good lives among unbelievers. These two verses carry so much power that ultimately impact our spiritual upkeep/sanctification, and just as importantly the salvation of those around us. These verses explain how our godly living will reflect God himself to those around us wherever we might be.
“Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honourable behaviour, and they will give honour to God when he judges the world.”
Even though verse 11 reiterates the opening verses in 1 Peter that we are foreigners and exiles in this world, it really connects back to verse 9 by giving us the reason why we are foreigners. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” It explains why we are to live as we do, and the resulting effect on the unbelieving world in which we live.
The purpose of this is to represent God (as his ambassadors) and to reflect his character and message to an unsaved world so that they may know him. A key to this is for us to live godly lives by abstaining from and resisting worldly desires, as some versions say, desires of the flesh. We immediately think of sexual sin but it refers to any strong desire that is inconsistent with godly character and behaviour. These things wage war against our spiritual well-being. They hinder our relationship with God and deter spiritual growth.
If we don’t abstain from the things that war against our souls we may find an acceptance from some things in the world, we start to justify our behaviour which can be seen by others as hypocritical and could drive people away from God because we say we believe one thing but do another. Now, we know we are not perfect, but by the power of the word and Spirit we try to live godly lives, as part of our sanctification.
If you saw these warning signs what would you do?
(Show “shark sighted, enter water at own risk” sign). Some of you probably would still go in…but maybe if you saw these ones, you’d think again. (Show Cairns crocodile sign). They’re there to protect us. We need to take note of them because we could get severely injured or worse.
Likewise, we must take heed to what Peter is warning us about because it’s for our own protection, and we could do damage to ourselves and those around us through wrongful action.
This passage pretty much speaks for itself. But I want to focus on 3 things. Firstly:
- As God’s chosen people we are foreigners in this world and therefore should not live like the world does.
Just as the previous verses in this chapter say, we now have a new identity in Christ, which means we are citizens of heaven, and we are called to live according to the ways of Jesus. This isn’t an easy task because as Peter describes, the worldly desires are waging war against our souls, that’s pretty strong imagery. If we look at Ephesians 6:12 it talks about this spiritual realm which our souls are at war with and that we are to put on the full spiritual armour. It says,“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
There has long been this spiritual contention between fully living for God, and living in the world that opposes Him. Peter is saying, even if you dabble in those desires that aren’t from God, you will do damage because of the consequences that sin has. What’s that saying? “If you play with fire, you will get burnt.”
If we look at the text, the worldly desires back then would have been paganism, polygamous worship, sexual immorality etc, and this was condoned by the government and deemed as normal, making it quite the battle to remain holy. In the OT there were many times that God’s people ended up offering sacrifices to other gods because that’s what the majority of people were doing around them.
So today, I wonder if we can fall into worldly desires that can be very obvious or slightly more hidden. The love of money, coveting, jealousy or lust. When Jesus says “even if you look at another woman lustfully, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart”. Jesus calls us to a greater level of self-awareness, as it’s not just about our actions, but the state of our heart.
1 Corinthians 10:13 “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are being tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Thank God he will show us a way out of temptation, and thank God we have the help of his word and Holy Spirit to empower us to remain steadfast in Christ and allow the fruit of self-control to take root in our lives.
We’ve been going through the fruits of the Spirit at youth, and the other week they were looking at patience and self-control. They did an exercise that would test their ability to practise these fruits which was- if they could hold off from eating their one piece of chocolate until the end of the night, they would be given more chocolate as a reward. So each person was given chocolate, and even before the full explanation of activity, some of them had already eaten the chocolate. But, after they found out the reward of a greater portion if they resisted the temptation to eat it, they waited, practising patience and self-control until the end.
Likewise, we can see this metaphorically that we need to keep in mind that we are here but for a moment, because there is a greater destination and reward that awaits us in heaven. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we will be able to get through the temptations of this world that wage war against our souls. Remember Ephesians 6…Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”
So that’s the first element that speaks to our spiritual upkeep and sanctification, and the next point moves into remaining steadfast in the way you live, especially among unbelievers.
2. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours.
This is another caution here, Peter is saying “be careful” to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Who here knows that you can become a product of your environment?
It’s very true that the attitudes and behaviours of who we spend our time with can rub off on us and we find ourselves doing similar things. I remember when I was little and my mum wouldn’t let me hang out with certain friends or have sleepovers at their place because she could see that they were disobedient, swore, or started smoking and she didn’t want me to partake in that.
Likewise, if we surround ourselves with people who are well mannered, are in motion towards a great destination then we too are more inclined to be well mannered and in motion towards a great destination. Jim Rhon (an entrepreneur and motivational speaker like Anthony Robins) said ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’
Yet we live in a world where Christians only make up 31 percent. So, we’re not the majority, and we cannot always control who we’re surrounded by. This means that for our unbelieving neighbours that make up 69 percent of the population we will hopefully be remaining in our call to live properly amongst them.
You know just this past week I was up at the Christian Surfers camp in Scotts Head, and the local community has a very distinct, Australian accent and because we had international friends join us it was even more noticeable. After just 4 days, I found myself saying things like, “just chuck ‘em”, and “Na, don’t matter”. I didn’t know myself, my mum raised me to answer the phone like a receptionist “Hello, may I ask who’s calling please?” She would be appalled if she heard me.
I know we can be like that too when some might be gossiping and you just find yourself in a situation that if you part-take is not honouring God and stepping back into the world. See when you become one with Christ you’re now His ambassador, God’s very representatives here on earth as 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us.
This caution calls for believers to remain steadfast in their faith amongst a people of the world that is ever changing and opposing God. Steadfast means to be fixed, or firm in a direction, unwavering. The word for steadfast in the original Hebrew is chesed, and it refers to God’s devout loving kindness, mercy and faithfulness at the very core of his character and actions.
As God’s image bearers do we reflect that same loving kindness, mercy and faithfulness in a faithless world?
3. Through your honourable behaviour God will be glorified and honoured.
The last part of this passage is so powerful, Peter writes, even if your unbelieving neighbours accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honourable behaviour, and they will give honour to God when he judges the world.
The notion of doing wrong here speaks to the ways in which our world no longer accepts the Christian morals as being right, but instead views it as being very backwards and closed minded. Yet through our behaviour, in being examples of Christ they will be able to taste and see God in us and will give honour to Him.
Looking back on our stats of being one third of the population following Jesus, and if living in Christ is living in the light, and living in the world is living in darkness, then our light should be standing out wherever we are. A light really is only made visible amongst the darkness. Just as Matthew 5:13-16 says “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world- like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
I love this quote from Dietrich Bonhoffer, who was a German theologian and pastor, and was one of the most influential Protestant thinkers of the twentieth century. You should read some of his books they’re incredible. He was well known for opposing Adolf Hitler in his euthanasia schemes and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He continued to be a voice for the oppressed and advocated that every life matters because of his Christian belief that everyone is made in the image of God and therefore has inherent value. You didn’t see many Germans standing up for the Jewish people during this time, and if there were it was very much under the radar. He was accused of being associated with a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and thrown into prison. Whilst in prison he wrote a book called ‘Letters and Papers from Prison’. I love that his faith is strong, and rather than blaming God for his imprisonment, he found it worthwhile to continue in writing insights on Christianity and encourage others to not give up no matter what is happening around you. In this book he says, “Your life as a Christian should make nonbelievers question their disbelief in God.”
He considered it even more significant to live out his Christian life in a society that was doing the exact opposite. He was thrown in prison in 1943, and he was executed in 1945 in Nazi campgrounds. Yet, his theological writings have impacted generations and will strengthen you in your faith and call you into living a life that is worthy of praise to God.
I wonder how our behaviour impacts those around us who don’t yet know Christ?
Example of my friend Em coming to know Jesus through being surrounded by Christian friends.
I love this scripture in 1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen me; if you love one another, I abide in you and my love is perfected in you.
Let’s live a life that reflects the love, mercy, kindness, justice, and forgiveness of God so that our unbelieving neighbours might come to know Him and give glory to God.
Verse 12 ends by saying “when he judges the world” other versions say “on the day of visitation”. This can be taken two ways. Firstly, what will unbelievers say when the Lord returns and they stand in judgement. Will they say that the Christians they have encountered have been a positive influence or a negative one? Or the alternate version would mean that at any time in an unbelievers’ life God can manifest his presence. The unbeliever may be going through some difficult situation and God turns up. Will they be encouraged to believe because of the lifestyle of the Christians they know or will they reject his presence because of them? Them being you and me.