Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

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Suffer Like Jesus, 27 September 2015

Suffer Like Jesus
Series: What In The World Is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
1 Peter 2:11-25

Series Overview:
God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

Big Idea: Suffer like Jesus…God is watching.

Introduction

This morning we continue our series on 1 Peter, “What In The World Is Going On?” This short letter to the early, suffering church is a powerful message not only to an ancient people but is increasing relevant to modern Christians as we face persecution. We may never face the horrors of ISIS victims, but nevertheless we can—and perhaps should—feel in the minority as followers of Jesus in a world consumed with money, sex and power. The theme of this book may well be called hope and grace in the midst of suffering. In the first three weeks we looked at hope, holiness, and harmony.

As we continue our series on 1 Peter, our text for today reminds us about
time. Time is a fascinating dimension to life. We often struggle to be fully present in the moment, instead reminiscing about the past or dreaming about the future.

Patience is related to the future. We want things now. Last Sunday we sang about waiting on the LORD, something I struggle to do, knowing that God’s timing is never late but rarely early. If only He would answer my prayers instantly like a genie in a lamp, yet Daddy knows best and can be trusted, even His timing. Perhaps in hindsight you’re glad God waited to answer a prayer.

One of the most common expressions among children is,
“It’s not fair!” Did I say children?! Adults say it all the time, too! The great theological Bill Gates said, “Life is not fair. Get used to it.” We live in a broken, sinful world where injustices are all around us. Often the best we can hope for is some sort of restitution or reconciliation through a judge or jury.

But what if you knew justice would prevail? What if you could be certain all wrongs would be righted, all perpetrators would be punished, and all suffering would be rewarded?

It all brings fairness and time into question. Our scripture today is full of encouragement from Peter to those suffering, reminding them their present suffering is not the end. There is more to their story. Judgment Day is coming, a day of reckoning, a day in which many will rejoice while others suffer the consequences of their unrighteousness.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. (2:11)

Last week we read Peter’s instruction to get rid of sin. Throughout every day we make decisions to follow the world or Jesus. These exiles—like us—are in the midst of a war between good and evil, between God and satan. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. D.L. Moody once said, “I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than with any man I know.” Never confuse people as being the enemy. The real enemy is satan.

We were sinners but we’ve become adopted children of God. We are strangers/sojourners/pilgrims, resident aliens with citizenship in heaven. That’s immensely important. Foreigners and exiles approach life differently than citizens. Peter’s friends were literally exiles; we are not.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (2:12)

Have you ever been punished for doing the right thing? Have you ever been despised by cheaters for being honest? Have you ever been mocked for studying by those who failed the test? Often our greatest critics are merely envious.

I’ve seen this frequently with pastors. Thanks to the internet, everyone can have their own platform for sharing their opinion with the world. I’m truly sick and tired of hearing people trash pastors of large churches that are often doing more for the kingdom of God than their sorry whining will ever do. Sure, there are heretics that preach harmful things, but I’ve heard people attack some of the most respected people and I have to wonder if they’re just envious.

Good deeds are a witness to the world. We need words and deeds in shining the light of Jesus into our dark world.

Peter continues…

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (2:13-15)

This is a fascinating passage. It’s easy to think of our government but remember the context. Nero was coming to the throne in Rome as the new emperor. Life was hard for followers of Jesus. Peter’s not saying dishonor God, but he seems to be saying obey the law, submit to authority.

Daniel and his friends disobeyed the law but did so in a way that honored the king and respected authority (Daniel 1). They held their convictions and glorified God in the process. In Acts 4-5, Peter and his colleagues refused to stop preaching as commanded, yet they showed respect to their leaders in the process.

Note the last sentence. Again we see actions speak louder than words, in this case our good actions silencing—literally muzzle—fools.

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (2:16-17)

We have freedom. We have liberty—far more than Peter’s audience—but we must not abuse our freedoms. We are free but we’re God’s servants. God’s slaves. When we call God LORD we are declaring ourselves to be under His authority. We are to use our freedom to help, serve, and bless others as Nehemiah did restoring the Jerusalem walls.

He says to show “proper respect to everyone.” I wish more Christians would follow this simple instruction, especially during these political campaigns. How we submit to authority is a part of our witness to the world. Going 85 miles an hour on the expressway with a “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker sends the wrong message.

He reiterates the command to love the family of believers. Note the context of authority. One way we love one another is by submitting to the authority of godly leaders in the church.

He says fear—or have awe for—God. Give honor to the emperor, the king, the president. The office is to be honored even if you disagree with their politics. No matter your dislike for a politician, they are created with dignity, value and worth in the image of God. Pray for them. The verbs literally mean to keep loving, keep fearing, keep honoring…constantly. This is no mere suggestion. The book of Romans says…

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

This all echoes Solomon’s wisdom:

Fear the Lord and the king, my son…(Proverbs 24:21)

I admit this can be tricky. Not every nation has a church and state separation. Facebook is abuzz with Christians supporting and opposing Kim Davis for her decisions as a county clerk in Kentucky. What do you do when the law and the Word of God are in conflict?

Perhaps one word to consider is power. Jesus did not come to overthrow the government of His day, though many hoped He would. As He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the people shouted, “Hosanna!” which means “Save us now!” He will exercise His power when He returns, but He modeled for us a servant’s posture. Whenever I see pride or self-serving power exerted I get nervous in a hurry!

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (2:18-21)

First century slavery was different than the horror of slavery in the USA up to our Civil War. It was generally a temporary condition that included possibly one-third of the population. Many chose to be slaves for a season in order to become full Roman citizens. Peter’s words regarding obedience as slaves may have been partially so they could be set free. Powerful masters had powerful slaves, so for some, it was a valuable position. Some slaves were doctors, teachers, and even sea-captains.

It wasn’t necessary an easy life, however. Some slaves were both physically abused and made sexually available to their masters. Scott Bartchy writes,

“Central features that distinguish 1st century slavery from that later practiced in the New World are the following: racial factors played no role; education was greatly encouraged (some slaves were better educated than their owners) and enhanced a slave’s value; many slaves carried out sensitive and highly responsible social functions; slaves could own property (including other slaves!); their religious and cultural traditions were the same as those of the freeborn; no laws prohibited public assembly of slaves; and (perhaps above all) the majority of urban and domestic slaves could legitimately anticipate being emancipated by the age of 30.”

Submit. Not a popular word in our culture, or perhaps any. None of us truly understand the life of a slave. Some liken their boss to a slave master. No matter your job, our nation affords us all certain freedoms unimaginable to those in other places and/or other times in history. We can’t fully appreciate the weight of Peter’s words except to say do the right thing, even if you’re not rewarded for it…now. Someday you will receive your reward.

Work as unto the LORD. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae…

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Submit to the authority of your boss. When wronged, it’s human nature to want to fight, but we are to submit and let God fight. This doesn’t mean be a doormat or tolerate abuse, but it does mean remember God is watching.

Jesus understands. Jesus suffered. Not only did He suffer for doing good, He did it to both set an example for us and to sacrifice for us. He died for you and for me. He served through suffering.

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (2:22)

He lived a perfect life, yet He was executed, wrongfully accused. He suffered the ultimate suffering for doing good. He lived the cruciform life, shaped by the cross.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,”
but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (2:23-25)

Peter quotes Isaiah 53. It’s such a paradox that we have been healed by His wounds, His suffering.

Jesus’ life set an example for us.
Jesus’ death was a sacrifice for us.
Jesus is now our Shepherd and will return soon.

So What?

This passage is loaded with application possibilities. I say possibilities because the relationship between us and government can be tricky. Civil disobedience may be justified, but we must respect our leaders. Enduring a difficult job and serving wholeheartedly may be God’s desire and a great witness to others. Demonstrating kindness, generosity, humility, honesty, and loyalty when we don’t “feel” like it represents God well. We are to not only do the right thing, we are often to do the right things in the midst of suffering. A cruciform understanding of the Christian life—the way of self-denial and of suffering as demonstrated by Jesus—is a radical proclamation to our world.

“The way of suffering is the divinely intended manner of bringing the greatest victory of God into the world.” - Scot McKnight

There’s a famous poem that was written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, a version of Dr. Kent Keith’s
Paradoxical Commandments:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
           
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
           
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
           
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
           
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
        
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
        
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

Life is hard. Injustice happens. We suffer. But there’s more to the story. God is watching. He will right all wrongs someday. It’s gonna be worth it someday.

“Life isn’t fair.” For the follower of Jesus, this is actually good news. You don’t want what you deserve! We all deserve eternal separation from God for our sins. It’s only grace that allows us forgiveness. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins and make us white as snow. Only Christ’s broken body can mend our broken relationship with our heavenly Father. Praise God life isn’t fair!

The world is watching us. So is the Good Shepherd. Hallelujah!

In the end, it's going to be
Worth It All.

Credits

Some ideas from

Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren

Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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