As we have looked at Jesus living there are a number of questions that arise. Firstly; is this normal? After all Jesus is the Son of God on a very specific mission so are we to live like this? And secondly what about when we face opposition, how are we to react to hostility and aggression?
The pattern of authentic evangelistic living we have seen in Jesus is not to be unique to Jesus we glimpsed that with Levi and the disciples as after they were called they engaged in telling others about Jesus and as we read the epistles and Acts we see that it is to be normal Christian living, normal discipleship.
Do you remember the definition of an evangelistic lifestyle we started off with: ‘Where a disciple of Jesus authentically lives out his or her developing, maturing discipleship in the context of, connected with, and engaged in the world around him or her.’ It is normal Christian living.
We see it clearly in 1 Peter as Peter writes to encourage ostracised and alienated believers that they are God’s chosen and privileged people, the new Israel, living for God’s purpose: “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”(9) They are experiencing rejection and hardship just as Jesus did because they are not citizens of the world but aliens, exiles, foreigners living differently. From 2:11-4:11 he practically applies that as he teaches them what that different living will look like in different areas of life. He begins by establishing the principle in v11-12 before fleshing that principle out in relation to government, work, and marriage.
1. The Principle: Exiles fight sin, replace sin, and call sinners
How does Peter describe the believers he is writing to? “foreigners and exiles” In the context of their day that meant someone who was not a citizen of the place in which they lived. Citizenship mattered, if you were a citizen you had rights and privileges, you shared in that societies practices and values. If you were a foreigner you didn’t have those rights, you didn’t share those practices and values and you were viewed and treated with suspicion.
One of the big themes in 1 Peter is that as believers they are different and what makes them different is that they are God’s elect, chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit and sprinkled with Christ’s blood. The Kingdom of God is where they have their citizenship but for now they live scattered in a world where they are foreigners and exiles – against the backdrop of the world they will stand out.
Peter writes in the rest of the letter about what that non-world kingdom citizenship means in terms of the way believers live; they are to think, respond and act differently to the world around them. They abstain from sinful desires, they don’t let appetites rule them, they submit to authority, live out God’s pattern of marriage, dress differently, love their wives differently, respond to suffering differently, love each other deeply, offer hospitality to one another, serve one another, resist the devil and so on. Why? Because they are different; they are God’s people living in a fallen world but they are not of the fallen world.
Discipleship is living out the reality of our Kingdom citizenship on earth now.
Disciples are not to be chameleons, they are not to blend in they are to stand out in society.
a. Fight sin(11)- What does Peter urge them to do? “abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul”. The language is deliberately confrontational. Keep away from sin, why? Because sin wars against your soul. You are part of a battle, you will be tempted to sin, to give in to your desires, to play with sin, to fondle it, don’t! Fight sin.
We tend automatically to think of this as an individual thing – that is the way society moulds us; I am to fight sin. We don’t think of it as a group instruction. But Peter is writing to churches, to the people of God, to living stones being built together into God’s new temple where he is, to “Dear friends”. This instruction is to the new people of God – fight sin.
If you had to think of an image to sum up church or CU what would it be? Here the image is of a fight club where sin is the enemy, or it’s of a barracks or training camp where soldiers are given weapons training and equipped to do battle with the enemy. As God’s people we are to be equipping one another to fight sin.
Live counter culturally, there are loads of areas where we can stand out but here are a few:
- Drunkenness – don’t do it.
- Pornography – cut it out. It damages you, it degrades your future wife or husband (ladies don’t think this is just a guy thing), and it will mortgage your sex life in marriage.
- Sexual immorality (Porneia any sexual activity outside of marriage) – stop. Don’t be prudish about sex – the bible has lots to say about sex, about its design, its wonder and how amazing it is in marriage. Look at God’s plan and refuse to accept the twisted half truth the world peddles.
- Greed – be generous with what you have, determine what you give not with a calculator but by looking at the cross. It may not be a problem now but establish principles now so when you have money you are not ensnared by it.
Fight sin – be a community which is fighting sin.
b. Replace sin(12) – But notice that they aren’t just to not sin but they are to replace it, what are they to put in its place? “Live such good lives”. The gospel is to change who they are and how they live, to overflow and that overflow is expressed in good living – not good by the world’s standards but pleasing to God – righteous, being holy as God is holy, being God’s ambassadors in exile.
Now this really matters, because often we simply approach sin with the radical extraction method – we take Jesus instructions in the Sermon on the Mount to gouge out our eye if it causes us to sin and we think we will just cut it out of our lives, we are to just stop doing it, but it leaves a vacuum. Peter says that we are to replace the sin we fight with something good, or pleasing to God, in fact when you read the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety that’s also what Jesus is saying – don’t stop at just cutting sin out replace it with pleasing God.
Turn back to 1:13 “Therefore with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” Changing our thinking is the place to start – what are we to think about? the hope we have, we are to focus on the cross, our salvation and the glorious future that is ours in Jesus, that one day we will have no battle with sin, and we will be with God forever. Take the things you are struggling with to God in prayer and look again at what he has given us.
Understand that we are freed from sin in Christ and given a new heart and God’s spirit so that sin is no longer an inevitability for us. And overflowing from the grace we have experienced is grace shown to others because God is our greatest treasure.
How do you replace pornography, or drunkenness, or Sexual immorality or greed? Begin by calling it what it is – it is sin. But also see it for what it is – it is putting you as your greatest treasure. Your wants, your reputation, your popularity, your desire, your gratification. We sin because we make ourselves our greatest treasure, we can fight and replace sin when God is our greatest treasure.
What is the arena is which they do that? “among the pagans” It is not good living in church but in the hostile world, where it is most distinctive. Believers are not to cut themselves off from the world in order to achieve holiness, they are to be set apart, to be holy in the world, to be different in the midst of the battle. And our unbelieving friends around us are to see the fight we are engaged in, to see us changing.
c. Call sinners(12) – You can imagine these believers looking up at each other and saying ‘But if we do that we will get even more flak that we are getting at the moment!’ And Peter acknowledges that, they will criticise and slander you but some will see the change, the affect the gospel has, and will repent and put their faith in God. Some sinners will be saved as you live the gospel.
Maybe you are thinking yes but the guys on my corridor would just rip me if I lived like that, or you don’t know the hostility I face from friends and family. Peter knew the hostility these believers were facing. It wasn’t overt physical persecution, it was being ostracised, it was name calling, it was exclusion, and it was discrimination and suspicion. In short it was exactly what we face and we meet it by fighting sin, replacing sin and calling sinners – be a disciple not a chameleon.
5 mins fill out concentric circles diagram. Talk through the diagram
Your friends are those who will see you fight sin, replace sin and call sinners most intensely. How many non-believing friends see that? If there aren’t many then you are not “Living such good lives among the pagans”. The answer isn’t to pick 5 people to get to know, the answer is to go back to the gospel to see God’s passion or people understanding of sin and grasp of grace and pray for him to change your heart. We are to love people not engage in projects.
So practically how do we build friendships?
• Be in the community you are in don’t hide from it.(you may need to be instrumental in forming a community, your house mates, sports teams, seminar groups)
• Identify community key gateways (pub, bar...)
• Develop community habits (use local shop, join local gym and say hi to those people)
• Serve your community (how can your CU/small group serve your hall or university)
• Serve individuals (stop to help people, be generous with your money)
• Change your diary (avoid Christian rabbit warren) be deliberate
• Join a club where people will be
• Get other Christians to introduce you to their friends
• Walk places and be ready to say hi and smile to people
• Make use of meal times – people talk over food!!!
• Don’t take an iPod or listen to music on public transport
• Live out your faith openly, don’t keep it private!
Do you see the principle: Fight Sin, Replace Sin, Call Sinners, that is basic discipleship, it is normal Christian living and it is to be lived out among the pagans.
But you may say I’m not strong enough, I will fall. That’s why these are community instructions – Christians are not lone rangers, you are part of a church, part of a CU, part of a small group. That is your support network, that is who is to keep you accountable, who you can pray with, who can challenge you.
Fight sin, replace sin, call sinners.