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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández

14-04-24 - THRIVING IN A WORLD THAT DOESN'T - 1 Peter 1:1-2

Updated: Apr 16

MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM

BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.


Like many during the California gold rush, Levi Strauss, whose name many of you sit on, had high hopes of achieving his fortune in the, ‘there’s gold in them thar hills’ stampede. But the entrepreneur in him also had a strategic plan for paying the bills until his gold extravaganza came in.


He arrived with a load of heavy canvas to sell for tent and wagon covers but as soon as he opened the door for business, his 1st customer, an unimpressed miner, said, You should’ve brought pants


Strauss had no idea what he meant, so the man explained, “There ain't any pants strong enough for the conditions of mining.” Days later, Levi Strauss struck his ‘goldmine’ with his ‘miner’s pants’.  


Opportunity presented.  Opportunity taken.  And the rest is blue jeans history.  


The word ‘opportunity’ is taken from a Latin phrase, “ob portu” – (into port), that describes the critical time when a ship could ride the tide into harbour.  Catch the tide and all was well.  Miss it and the boat was stranded at sea or stuck in the ocean floor.  Opportunity missed. 


I’m not sure about you but I find people like Levi Strauss attractive – those who recognize opportunity and then step out and hang on for the ride.  Unfortunately, most of us tend to watch rather than grab on; we hope rather than pursue.  Instead of ‘opportunity taken’, it is more like ‘opportunity missed’.  Walter Chrysler summed us up well, “The reason so many people never get anywhere in life is because, when opportunity knocks, they are out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers.”


Sadly, this is often true of our Christian experience.  We want our Christian life to be more dynamic.  We wish for our faith to be more courageous.  We hope that joy will regularly characterize our lives, but with apologies for an adjustment made to what humorist Erma Bombeck said, “Wants and wishes are like rocking chairs – they give you something to do but they don’t get you anywhere.”


We may feel good as we rock back and forth, but we remain unchanged and unmoved.  


But what if the Holy Spirit were to breathe into us fire-filled faith that is passionately attractive and   boldly courageous?  What if our rocking chair wishes were cast aside as we step into God breathed opportunities to embrace faith that is transformationally new?   Heh, sounds good and I’m in! 


BUT there’s a catch, and that is that transformation often comes not with ease but with struggle. 


Now there’s something that goes against Western Christianity’s, ‘healthy, wealthy and wise’ teaching -where commitment to following God is only as deep as the degree God adds to my life.  That IF business successful IF opportunity opens or IF my kids are good then, ‘God, I’m all in’. 


But this conditional approach to faith causes us to leave church little different than when we came, living defeated and unchanged.  Because a faith that is ‘just enough Jesus’ may save us, but it isn’t ‘enough Jesus’ to change us. And change us is what God wants to do in your life and mine, to make us like Him. His power not limited by what He can do, but limited by what we believe He will do.


The result is that when life gets hard and situations come with the power to shipwreck, we have little to hold us.  But God’s intent for us is to encounter Jesus – to discover who He is so we can better know who we are so He can live out His strength in us and work His purposes through us.


It’s with this consideration that I want to enter into the Scriptures we will be considering over the coming months in 1 Peter.  Because what Peter lays out before us is anything but rocking chair wants and wishes rather it is a call to a faith that is lived out in times of difficulty and opposition.  In times, little different than the one we are now in. 

Read 1 Pet 1:1,2 



The background for what Peter writes is around 64 AD, during the time of Nero.  He, wanting to refurbish Rome yet being denied the money from the Senate to do so, sets fire to Rome that burns while he does nothing for 6 days. He then blames this catastrophe on Christians. These accusations ignite persecution and execution of Christians that spreads across the Empire. Prior to this, persecution had largely been restricted to Jews who had come to faith, by Jews who considered these new believers traitors to the faith. Soon many Romans also saw these Jesus followers as a moral and economic threat to their way of life – their immorality, their idolatry and their emperor-worship. So the next 3 years 64-67 became the bloodiest years in Christian martyrdom - Christians turned on in horrific ways – some dressed up in animal skins to be set upon and ripped apart by wild dogs, others set afire or crucified, and others coated in pitch then burned as human torches in Nero’s garden.  In response believers tried to flee Roman reach, the ones Peter references in verse 1, into provinces we now know as modern Turkey.  Among those suffering hardship, were also Gentile converts who also had turned from paganism to Christ. 


Peter describes those he writes to as aliens and scattered ones.  Don’t skip over that description because in them we have the context for everything Peter is about to say AND we have important context for what God would have to say to us today.  


Think of it - everything that once defined these Christ followers, changed in an instant. Homes and possessions abandoned.  Friendships obliterated.  The businessman’s holdings from a lifetime of sweat – now taken by others. The fashionista wife who everyone admired – just a ‘dress on her back’ refugee - kids in tow.  The young person who had life by the tail – just another beggar on the street.  They were Christians on the run for their lives.  


Scattered.  Displaced.  Lives turned upside down as the world they knew turned against them. 


Such a hard place to be – and nothing they could have anticipated.   And into that place God speaks what they needed to:  


1 UNDERSTAND AND EMBRACE: WHO YOU ARE


Despite the storms, despite life’s unexpected turns, despite conditions being far different than what they might have hoped for or expected, God speaks essential truth about who they are that is critical if they are to live above the things that are threatening to push them under. 


What they needed to know, is no different than what you and I need to know.  Because without this knowledge, it is impossible to stay upright in a world that threatens to turn us upside down.  It’s in this uncertainty and trouble that Peter reminds, Be centered upon WHO YOU ARE – not centered as words said as some mantra but centered in God given words to anchor our hearts.  His truths that we are meditate on.  As Ps 119:11 reminds, Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.


Get that right and everything changes.  In these places, Peter reminds, ‘You are God’s CHOSEN BY THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD.  He elaborates in 1 Peter 2:9-10  “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.  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.”    


CHOSEN – back in the day, I remember lineups as teams were selected.  If you weren’t the one doing the choosing, you prayed that your name wouldn’t be left to the last or relegated to the, ‘you can take ‘him’ category. Sorry for any memory pain. No, God chose you – not as last person in the draft, when no others were left.  No, He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Eph 1:4 .


But chosen for what?  I played a lot of baseball when young and one of the ways you compensated for a weakness in your lineup was to bury the less skilled where it would have least impact. Usually that was in right field because most of the time when hits went to the outfield, they went to center or left.  As a pitcher, if a hit went to right, I looked up and asked for heavenly intervention.


But here’s the thing – with God, there’s no right field.  We aren’t chosen by Him to hide us where we will do the least harm.  No, He has chosen us to do what we can only uniquely do.  In God’s economy, His right field is where He performs His best – independent of attributes we think are essentials – like personality or education or skill.  That He has chosen us to show Jesus to those friends, to that neighbour or to that co-worker.  Do we always do it well? - hardly.  Do we mess up? - more often than we care to admit.  But amazingly God knew that when He chose me.  That I was His person despite my foul ups.


And yet in this concept of Chosen, there is also mystery.  God telling us that, Whosoever will, may come & that He’s not willing for any to perish & I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me Rev 22:17, 2 Pet 3:9, Rev 3:20.  That is to say, God extends His invitation to everyone.  So chosen - yes, and given the freedom to choose – yes.  In this a mystery - that He chooses and yet we choose?  And we, uncomfortable with mystery, trying to define with certainty what God doesn’t instead of leaving   final word with God of Whom it is said, How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord or who became His counsellor? Rom 11:33-35 


Peter’s use of the word ‘alien’ goes beyond being displaced and in truth, directs us to where we truly are placed, a sojourner and a “people of God’s own possession”.   Ultimately, a people belonging to another place, visitors here in a place that is not our home. The old song captures it well, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from  heaven's open door, and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.”  The theology isn’t 100% airtight but it’s close. 


But as aliens, our living is to be ‘here and now’ not passively waiting for another time.  Living as God’s ambassadors; as God’s light bearers in a lost and hurting world. His people in tough times.  His people, standing firm. His people, loving well. The opportunity before us living as believers.


The New Living Version of Col 3:17 captures it well, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a REPRESENTATIVE of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”   


So a CHOSEN people yes but also a:


ROYAL priesthood.  Royal tells me that His people are designed for a kingdom.  It’s a kingdom we get hints of now – but far more than that, it’s a kingdom that we are promised for all eternity.  In some ways, this seems like some fairy tale adventure.  And in actual truth, it is.  I think that’s why we are drawn to stories of heroes and kingdoms; that deep in our being there is a childlike hope that there must be more than what we currently know.  That there must be a place where good does overcome evil and where ‘happily ever after’ IS more than a phrase.  Where light does overcome darkness and where joy isn’t overtaken by pain.  


The good news - there IS and God’s purpose from the beginning of time has been to take us there - to His Kingdom – a kingdom of priests where we have unrestricted, wide open access into God’s presence. A Kingdom that as children of the King, we have designed for us as God’s own possession. 


So, what Peter is saying is this – yes, you are a scattered people. Yes, you are an alien, ‘out of place’ people. But don’t understand these in ways that stop you from being who you’re meant to be.


For now, scattered but NOT forgotten.  Scattered but NOT abandoned.  Things are not out of control.  They are actually occurring “according to the foreknowledge of God.” God weaving, allowing, designing, and yes, thwarting, to accomplish His purposes.  Sometimes scattering us to accomplish His purposes in places and ways we would never have chosen.  Sometimes allowing the hard places, the, ‘this make no sense’ places.  Like what He did with Joseph – thrown in a pit where he overhears murderous plots, then released, only to soon find himself unjustly imprisoned.  Then there’s a Jonah trapped in the terrifying underwater darkness of a fish or Elijah – triumphant deliverer cowering as a defeated, depressed man who wanted to die. Tough, seemingly forgotten places that God allowed, in the same way these persecuted and scattered people experienced. 


Satan bringing suffering and persecution that he uses to destroy.  God taking that suffering to scatter His message of love to DEPLOY and DISPLAY.  Putting His resources in places where His Name will be made known.     


As a chosen people; a royal people and:


3rd   a ‘blood marked people’, :2 “sprinkled with His blood”.


Sprinkled by Jesus Christ. In Exodus 24:6-8, after God’s people made a commitment to the covenant, Moses “sprinkled blood on them.” Here’s the idea. The blood had to be applied for the covenant to be sealed. Likewise, the blood that Jesus shed on the cross has to be applied to your life personally through faith. Hebrews 12:24 refers to our redemption as coming through, “the blood of sprinkling.”  Heb 9:19-28.


But the reference to His blood doesn’t just convey that we are a redeemed people. It is also tells us that we are a people upon whom God has placed immense value - not because we are valuable but because we are valued.  The blood of Christ’s love bestowed on us, allowing us to be Children of the King – chosen and loved by God – who, because of God’s mercy, have been called out of darkness into His glorious light 1 Pet 2:9. 


Because of that, I have direct access to the King.  I can go to God.  I can ask of God.  I can unashamedly feel welcomed into His presence.  NOT ‘one day’ but NOW.  Putting on our identity now and in that identity seizing the opportunity God puts before us, living according to how He sees us.  Walking demonstrations of His mercy, walking demonstrations of His light, walking demonstrations of His peace in world that is broken and dark.     Light bearers.  Hope givers.  Christ walkers.


Because that’s who you and I are.   So with our identity in place, there is more!  


2 UNDERSTAND AND EMBRACE:  WHAT YOU HAVE


For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassing great power is from God and not from us 2 Cor 4:6,7


I want you to notice that these verses say that God puts His treasure, the treasure of new life in the Lord Jesus Christ, in earthen vessels. In other words, His treasure in plain, ordinary things - into peanut butter jars.  Into plain, ordinary us.  Cracked.  Broken.  Imperfect.  Not the deserving.  Not the beautiful.  Not the powerful.  Just peanut butter jars like you and me.  Earthen vessels that are intended to show the treasure we contain.   We aren’t better.  We aren’t greater.  We aren’t wiser. 


But what we contain sure is!!


This tells me that my purpose is to live this life out, not in some holy, unattractive guise but in attraction that connects and cares.  That loves and relates.  Even in times when life is tough.  Taking the lid off our peanut butter containers so people can get a sniff, then a taste of what we possess because if we don’t, they’ll continue to think of Christians as judgmental and condemning.  And yes, we need to remember to take the lid off for our own benefit to remember that when we bottle up and store our faith, keeping it to ourselves, what was meant to spread, becomes rancid. 


That’s because this treasure is, The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ 2 Cor 5:7.  What he is saying is that God’s glory is revealed in Jesus.  And God’s choice to make that revelation known is us.  First in us, then through us, Jesus showing us God’s glory.  In other words, we cannot know the glory of God apart from Jesus.  


Among the things this verse teaches is this, it’s impossible to understand things about God from the outside looking in.  We can make observations about Him.  We can have impressions.  We can speak theological truth but even our best imaginings fall short.  It’s like someone living in the desert and being told of the ocean.  He can imagine it - the power of the surf and the roar of the tide BUT until he sees the ocean’s expanse and plunges in and feels the tug of the tide, the best he can bring are impressions not experience.  But even his experiences of riding on the swells fall short.  Discovery has only begun.  


And so it is with God.  People can tell you their stories, some dramatic, some quiet, but as compelling as those stories may be, they are their stories not yours.  Because knowing God is not a second-hand experience.  It can only be known by personal faith - stepping in the truth of what Jesus says, that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.”


-  Living in a Christian home won’t  do it for you  - Having a Christian spouse won’t do it for you.

- Going to a Christian school won’t do it for you - Attending a Christ believing church won’t do it for you  

 

Paul likens the Christian life as stepping from a place of overwhelming darkness into incredible light.  By faith believing that Jesus is the only answer for our sin and that He is the only way to know God.  And when we enter into that, God putting His Spirit inside us. 

 

The Spirit of Christ in us a - ‘scattered, alien, displaced people’ – who He calls immensely loved, immensely valued.  No doubt God could have designed better, more glorious, more attractive containers than us.  But He DIDN’T.  Instead, we by God’s plan and by God’s design are the ones He intended for His Spirit to dwell.   

 

That means, God calls us to truly know who WE ARE – chosen, royal, immensely valued; and to know WHAT WE HAVE – the very glory of God in us, so you: 


3       UNDERSTAND AND EMBRACE: THE MARKS OF IDENTITY YOU WEAR

Living as representatives of the King in the opportunities given us.  During times that oppress. During times that confuse. During times that oppose. During times that tempt with a different morality.  Standing firm in who we are and what we possess and living as we’ve been called to live. Not Jesus and the sin we hold onto.  Not a worship song on Sunday after compromised morality on Saturday night.  Not a relationship held onto, that God calls sin.  But choosing Who it is we live for and living in light of that.



Choosing to live as God calls us to live will not always be easy.  There’ll be times we’ll be called upon to stand against the tide, when the pressure to go along with what others believe and how others act, will be intense. And some of that pressure won’t just come from outside the church, it will come from within. Times when you will need to decide and declare for Whom it is you live.  


James Garland, president of Hiram College, before becoming President of the US tells of a father who came asking about the curriculum his son needed to take. Garland began outlining the courses only to be interrupted, “Mr. Garland, that is far too much for the degree he would get.  Couldn’t you make it easier?”


To which Garland responded, “Yes, I suppose I could but then I’m reminded, that when God wants to build a strong oak tree, He takes a 100 years.  But He only takes 3 months to make a squash.  Which do you want your son to be?    


For some of you, this is a high tide morning.  God’s, ob portu – into port invitation and your opportunity to understand and embrace His appointment with you by the foreknowledge of God.  That despite the road on which you are now walking and the difficulties now faced; you are CHOSEN; you are ROYAL – designed for His Kingdom; you are a PRIEST with an every moment invitation to be with Him and you are BLOOD MARKED – highly valued and deeply loved. 


Knowing that, will you keep believing voices of ‘less than’?  Keep believing lies of not loved, not worthy, not valued.  Will you keep hanging on to your rights, your way - OR will you hear His voice and bow, stepping into, ‘Who He has called you to be and how He has called you to live’.         


Ob portu?  Don’t miss what God is bringing you this morning. 







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