1 Peter 2:11-20 We spend an hour a week in church on Sunday hearing the Word of God and receiving Holy Communion and being among God’s people. If we stay for Bible class that’s an extra hour and during Lent and Advent there is another hour.
Basically, we spend an hour or two a week here in church, listening to and studying God’s Word, enjoying the fellowship of our fellow Christians—and then it’s out into the world for the other 167 hours of the week. This is where the real spiritual battle to live as servants of God takes place. The Bible says:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
The challenge of being Christians in the world begins in our own heart and how we see ourselves. The Bible says that we are “sojourners and exiles”. In other words, this world is not our true home—we are citizens of another place—we are simply passing through to our true home with God in heaven.
And so then, as sojourners and exiles we are to embody the values of our true home (which is God’s kingdom) and our rightful King (who is Jesus).
But the truth of the matter is, we are attracted to values of this unbelieving world and we are constantly tempted to follow in its ways and so our life in the world is a battle we have to wage every moment between the person that we are in Christ-- and our flesh.
The Bible says that we are to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Abstaining from what we want does not come naturally to us and most of us don’t have a lot of practice doing it. There is some new toy that we want and so we get it. We eat until we groan in pain. We sleep in rather than exercise.
And because we never tell ourselves “no” in the small things--we have little ability to say “no” when it really matters—when our flesh is tempting us to sin.
The struggle to live as servants of God begins is in our Old Adam and too many Christians have given up and given in when it comes to saying “no” to their flesh.
This is no small thing. The Bible calls it a war and that is exactly what it is! There will be a victor and there will be a loser. Either your passions will win out and drag you body and soul into the fires of hell-- or the Christian in you will win out and you will go to heaven and be raised on the last day.
Those are the only two possible outcomes of the spiritual battle each of us face within our hearts and out in the world and against the devil to live as servants of God and so we are called upon by God to abstain from the temptations of the flesh for the sake of our eternal salvation—but also for the sake of those around us. The Bible says:
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.
The battle that we must wage against our own sinful flesh has eternal consequences not only for us—but also for unbelievers around us.
In other words, when we walk out of this place on Sunday we have a solemn responsibility to live as Christian people so that those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior can come to know him BY how we live our lives in their presence.
You and I both know that, from Sunday to Sunday, we don’t really have all that many opportunities to speak about Christ.
Now, we have many, many more than we actually make use of! But most of our interactions with others don’t provide us with many opportunities to talk about our faith. And yet we have limitless opportunities to live out our faith in our daily lives.
When we are kind to the people who serve us in the various stores around town—when we are patient with our co-workers—when we are helpful to our teachers—when we are generous to those in need—there is a powerful witness to Jesus whom we serve.
And that matters! There are plenty of people in our world today who are ready to think the worst about Christians and believe the worst about Christians—plenty of people who reject our values and who doubt our core beliefs.
We can talk to them—we can try to answer their arguments—we can be advocates for our rights as Christians in the public square (and there is value in all of these!) but there is one thing that is absolutely unassailable in making the case for Christ—and that is the power of a sincere, genuine Christian life.
The Bible says that you are to live in such a way that people see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. This means that on the day of our Lord’s return, there will be people going to heaven who give glory to God because they saw how we lived our lives—learned about what we believe and why-- and came to faith in Jesus.
That is the high calling of the Christian life—that in our daily lives we reflect Jesus so that others can see him in us. That is certainly to be true in our lives as citizens in this nation. The Bible says:
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
There are any number of governmental entities and individuals that have a claim upon our lives as citizens and so we pay our taxes and serve on juries and obey the speed limit.
As Christian citizens we are free to advocate for less government and fewer regulations and lower taxes, but when it comes to the laws that are on the books and the government officials who enforce them--the Bible says that we are to be subject to them.
God expects us to do good rather than evil for our nation and its government and our fellow citizens because that has a positive effect on those around us—silencing their complaints and concerns about having Christians as fellow citizens because of how we live our lives. The Bible says: Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
There is an honor due to everyone given their place in life. To the young woman who checks us out at HEB it is common courtesy. To the tradesmen who does work for us there is there prompt payment of their bill. To doctors who care for us and educators who instruct our children there is appreciation. Honoring everyone means that treat others as we would like to be treated.
Our attitude towards our fellow Christians goes beyond that. The Bible says that we are to love the brotherhood—that is, our fellow Christians and especially the members of our own congregation. It is a shameful, sinful thing when Christians despise and mistreat their fellow Christians for we are brothers and sisters in God’s family.
And when it comes to our relationship with God, the Bible says that we are to fear him. It’s an interesting word that the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to use when it comes to what we are to render to God.
In other places, the Bible talks about loving God and trusting God and obeying God-- but here the Holy Spirit says that we are to fear God. And so we should!
That is because these are words are written to us with the expectation that we will obey them. They are not left to our own discretion. They are not optional for the Christian.
God expects us to recognize those places in our life where we have fallen, repent of them immediately and receive the forgiveness of Jesus and then begin to amend our lives by following his will for his servants that we find in his word today. The Bible says:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
It is easy when reading through these words to simply see them as a list of rules that we are to follow that govern our conduct in the workplace and in the nation and in the church. And they are indeed commands of God and God expects our obedience!
But there’s more to it than that. These words about love and respect and obedience are words about Jesus and how he lived his life: doing good to those who mistreated him—enduring sorrows while suffering unjustly—dying for our sins.
Jesus’ life of love and obedience and respect did not earn him worldly success and great fame and wealth—his life of love and obedience led him to the cross—and it will lead to hardship for us too. But it also the only road that leads to eternal life.
That is why the Bible says that it is a gracious thing in the sight of God when we suffer for doing good and endure because that kind of life identifies us with Christ and his life.
And so we live our lives here on earth as Jesus lived his life—as servants of God—speaking our Father’s words and doing our Father’s will and walking in the steps of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.