July 12, 2020
Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | 1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.—1 Peter 2:11–12
Introduction: You Are Loved
Last week, Pastor Daniel took us on a road trip through the Old Testament to show that in Christ God was making a new nation from the many nations that would fulfill all the promises and purposes spoken of Israel. A people—a nation chosen and purified—to proclaim the excellencies of God. This week, we’re going to build on that idea, but I want to give you a snapshot of the outline of the book so far and situate you to this new section we’re in today.
In 1:1–1:12, Peter was telling the people how they came to be and what promises were theirs. They were elect exiles, born again to a living hope, with an imperishable inheritance, who could rejoice in sufferings because they had the privilege of salvation of Jesus Christ. So, in 1:1–1:12, “Here’s how you got here and here’s what you get as God’s children.”
In 1:13–2:3, there were five commands meant to help lay the basic groundwork to help them become who they are as God’s chosen children. They were to be holy like God, hope fully on Jesus, fear the Father who disciplines them out of love, love one another, and have new taste buds that long for Jesus. 1 Peter 1:13–2:3 was “Here’s how you grow into who you are as God chosen children.”
The text of 1 Peter 2:4–2:10 was meant to bring that all together. Here is what God is making you to be with all of these promises and all of these commands as his chosen children. You’re being made into the temple, a holy priesthood. You are the place where God’s presence dwells—no matter where you are scattered—who is meant to proclaim the excellencies of God to the world in word and in deed: “Here’s your identity and purpose as God’s new people.”
And now, we get to the biggest section of the book in 2:11–4:11 where Peter is going to apply all of that to his readers’ current situation: “In light of all of that, here is how you live in your current culture and circumstances.” He’s now going to prepare them more particularly in all of the different settings they live in—home, culture, government, etc.—to walk as God’s chosen children in a place that will not understand them or accept them. And 2:11–12 is the general summary that will set up more of the particulars we will come to after this week.
So, how will he start this section about living a place where they will be misunderstood, maligned, and even murdered? He reminds them they are loved. He starts this section with “Beloved.” (Don’t we do this when times get hard?) Now, does he mean beloved by him or beloved by God? As I meditated on this all week, I came to realize you cannot separate the two. Is Peter telling them he loves them? Yes. And where is all of that love coming from? From the fact that together they have been caught up into God’s love together. They are children of God together. They are a blood-bought family.
We should not move past this too quickly. This is our deepest identity. We are a new people, a new nation, the new temple, and a holy priesthood because we have been loved by God based on no merit of our own. We are defined by the mercy of God and the love of God. As Peter calls believers into action in the place they live, knowing it will bring them pain and persecution, he wants this word ringing in their ears: Beloved. When the world rejects you, remember you are accepted by God because of Jesus. When the world hates you, remember you are loved by God. When the world abandons you, remember Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. When the suffering seems to great or the cost seems to high—you are loved by God and loved by those who love him. This is meant to settle the souls of believers as they move toward an uncertain future in this life. Because if they are loved by God, then their ultimate future is defined and determined by an all-sovereign One whose affection has landed on them and will never leave them.
As you ponder an uncertain future in this life, as you walk through suffering and pain, as you wrestle with the culture you live in today, don’t forget that your deepest identity, comfort, and sure-footing is that you have been and will be forever loved by God. As Peter sets up the section on being Christians in the culture they lived in, we will see three things: 1) New identity, 2) New enemy, and 3) New itinerary.
I won’t spend a lot of time here because we’ve seen this concept already so often in this book.
Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles.
To be a sojourner is to be one living in a foreign land. To be an exile is to be one who is away from one’s real home. It’s two sides of the same coin. You’re out of place and don’t fit in and long to be where you really belong.
Those who are loved by God have new taste buds that long for the pure milk of Jesus and therefore will find themselves out of place wherever they here on earth. They long for more of Jesus, and therefore they aren’t running after all of the things the world does. They hope in his return and their eternal inheritance so that they don’t need to worry or beat up other people to get their little slice of heaven on earth. They know they are loved by him so they aren’t always seeking the approval of others to make them feel better. They fear God who disciplines and so they live according to his commands that bring them life instead of running after sin that brings death. They love each other like they’ve been loved and therefore they are not like the world that beats each other up over disagreement and divides over the secondary things of this earth.
Now you can imagine the temptations that could come for a people like this in a foreign land who will be mistreated and maligned for who they are as different and out of place. I see three main temptations that could come.
The first temptation would be to simply meld into the culture and stop standing out. Just go with the flow. It’s so much easier and it’s not all bad, right? Assimilate. We long for this (i.e. politics, groups, church, interests, etc.).
The second temptation would be to withdraw from the culture. Just completely separate yourself and huddle up. The world out there is dirty, right? Avoid. Less work!
The third temptation would be to get angry and combative. Always be ready to fight for your place. You deserve certain things, right? Aggressiveness. (Jesus overturning the tables suddenly becomes our favorite story.)
These temptations of assimilation, avoidance, and aggressiveness would be strong. But, Peter, in calling them as exiles and sojourners in 1Peter 2:11-4:11 is going to call them to something else: Humble, courageous engagement that shines forth the character of Christ and shows an unshakable hope in Christ as they seek to love those around them with wisdom. Karen Jobes says it this way in her commentary on 1 Peter:
Peter conceptualizes the relationship of Christians to society as that of visiting strangers or resident aliens, those who appreciate, respect, and value their host land but nevertheless maintain their own distinct identity within it.
This is our call as citizens of heaven, as children of God. Assimilation, avoidance, and aggressiveness will not shine forth the character of Christ and display a people who have unshakable hope in Christ. We must remember who we are in our primary identity as exiles and sojourners loved by God and waiting for our true home, even as we seek to respect, value, and engage in the temporary place we find ourselves.
So, how will we do that? Well, we first start with our own hearts. Notice, Peter says that as a new people of God, with new taste buds for Jesus, there will be a new enemy.
To abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Notice the seriousness of this call on their lives. These passions are waging a war for their very souls. Do you keep a watch on your soul? Is your eye on your soul for passions of the flesh?
Listen to Peter’s own commentary on these passions of the flesh in chapter 4:2–3:
Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.
Therefore, these passions waging war against their souls are anything opposed to the will of God: Longings for things not in step with Christ (things that contradict him); passions that creep in and replace ultimate passion for Christ (things that take priority over him); things that control how you think and how you act that are not Christ (things that practically shepherd us more than him) Peter says if you let these passions live in your soul, then you will begin to live for them in your actions.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.—Galatians 5:16
Do you see any of this right now? Now, why do I call it a new enemy? I do that because this war that takes place only happens in the heart of Christians. The world is not fighting this enemy.
The world looks at sin as a baby lion that is cute and cuddly and comfortable and forgets that as it grows it will tear them apart. In fact, the mantra of the world right now is “do whatever makes you happy in the moment.” The world does not seek to exalt Christ, and therefore it belittles his beauty and waters down his worth. There is not an awareness of the all-consuming glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we cannot take our cues from the world—looking at what is fashionable in our day to be for or against—but instead must take our cues from the Word. Remember, although we respect and engage the place we are, we maintain our own identity in it. We follow Jesus. We walk in the freedom of glad obedience.
We are called to “to put off our old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (cf. Ephesians 4:22). These deceitful desires seek to ruin our taste buds for Jesus. They seek to make us believe sin is not a big deal. They seek to make us think there is something more satisfying than knowing Jesus and walking in deep, sweet fellowship with him as we obey him. These deceitful desires seek to make us a divided person and people—our minds filled with facts about Christ but those facts cut off from what we love and what we do.
To abstain from the passions of the flesh is to seek full integration. Minds, hearts, and hands fully enthralled with the person and work of Christ and eager to engage others with humble, courageous love that shines forth his character and shows the power of the gospel to save and sanctify. We are prone to think the enemy is somewhere “out there” but the New Testament regularly calls our attention inside of ourselves to look at our own sin-sick soul that is tempted to run back to the deceitful desires that look so good in the moment but only bring death to us and pain to others.
As those with a new identity who are fighting off a new enemy, we have a new itinerary. We have new purpose and new goals in sight.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.—1 Peter 2:12
Peter knew that his original audience would be misunderstood and maligned. Their new tastes and their new King as a new people would lead them to fight the passions that the world loved and would always be out of step with the ultimate purposes and goals of the place they lived. And this happened back then. They didn’t go with their cultures values, and they were seen as a bunch of crazy people who were messing with society:
A historian named Tacitus described Christianity as “a dangerous superstition” and Christians as “a race detested for their evil practices” (Annals 44).
Isn’t this true today? When the world calls what God calls good, evil—we don’t go along with it. When the world calls good what God calls evil—we don’t go along with it. So, we’re seen as unloving and uncaring people who are foolish and outdated. How should we respond? With self-giving, costly love for each other and the world that shows the beauty of Jesus.
So, Peter calls his audience to beautiful conduct. That’s the word we see there for honorable. In fact, it is the same word we see when it says, “good deeds.” Do beautiful things so that as people see your beautiful deeds they will not be able to maintain their claims. What is Peter calling them to? Listen to how it is said just three verses later:
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.—1 Peter 2:15
But, ultimately we don’t do this to simply put people to silence. We do this so that people will open their mouths to glorify God.
So, as Christians who don’t give in to assimilation, avoidance, or aggressiveness, but who instead live in this humble, courageous, Christ-centered, counter-cultural way, we expect to be belittled, and we pray that God will be seen as beautiful. We expect to be persecuted, but we pray that perhaps God will be praised. This is not an us vs. them moment. This is an us for them moment. Why? Because we remember what the difference between us and them is: mercy.
Once we had not received mercy, now we have received mercy. That’s the difference. The mercy of God is the theme of our lives. We were born again “according to his great mercy.” That root flowers into the fruit of lives that want to show the beauty of our King that bought our mercy. We know we won’t be perfect, but oh how we long for people to see glimpses of his self-giving love and righteousness and humility and obedience to God in us. We don’t thumb our noses at people not like us. We pray for those who persecute us.
A day of visitation is coming. This could mean the day when God visits people with conviction and saves them. That shows up in Acts a few times. Or it could have the Old Testament backdrop of the day God returns to judge the world—I lean that way. Either way, Peter is saying to live in such a way that lines up so that the world will see the beauty of Jesus through us whether they call it beautiful right now or not—that part is not up to us. God does the work.
We have new identities. We fight a new enemy. And then we live with this new itinerary: Living every moment for the glory of our King.
Application: You Are Light
This whole passage reminds us of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
What’s the goal? That others would give glory to God. We are loved by God and he has loved us so that we will be light.
The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.—John 12:35–36
We are called to sons and daughters of light because we have seen the light. We have believed in the light. We know where we are going. We have our new itinerary. We are called to beautiful conduct because the world is watching, and we want to show the beauty of our King to them. What are some ways we can do this? Well, we will see a bunch in the coming weeks—that’s what this section is about, but let me give a few thoughts that could be summed up with the phrase, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
As the world says Christians are unloving and uncaring, love and care for people. Love your neighbors well. Be on the lookout for who you can love wherever you are. It’s time for us to view our homes and workplaces as massively important in shining the light of Christ. You are where you are to be light.
As the world says Christians are unwelcoming, show hospitality. Invite people not like you into your homes.
As the world says Christians don’t care about the marginalized – let’s go to the poor, the orphan, the immigrant, and the widow with love. Let’s sit with the down and out and tell them there’s a Savior who will bind up their wounds and save them from their sins.
As the world says Christians are ignorant and unwilling to learn, be the best listener to those who aren’t like you. Respect them and then point them to the hope they need in Jesus.
As the world says Christians are hypocrites, tell them we are! And that’s why we so desperately need Jesus. We are not saints here to show our superiority, we are sinners saved by grace, completely needy beggars calling others to come with us and find true food and true drink.
We don’t assimilate—we follow Jesus. We don’t avoid—we engage with the love and hope of Jesus. We don’t get aggressive and angry—we humbly commend the beauty of Jesus.
We remember that we are loved. We fight our sins. We live for the glory of our King and we seek to shine the glories of God to the world as we point them to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Introduction: You are Loved
Application: You are Light