Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pilgrims in a Fallen World: Gospel Centered Living I Peter 2:21-25

Pilgrims in a Fallen World: Gospel Centered Living
I Peter 2:21-25
Introduction: I started thinking about the theme of our current series in I Peter in November of 2015, as we looked on the Sunday of Thanksgiving week at Psalm 84.  The Psalmist writes in verses 5-8 of the promise of strength for the journey,
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.  6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools.  7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion.  8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
The Lord is our strength, and even when we go through a desert place, a valley, a place of tears, we can dig a well, and go “from strength to strength.”  In other words we can not only survive, we can thrive, we can grow stronger through times of trial.  Peter is writing to pilgrims, to “exiles” scattered among the nations, and encouraging them (and us!) to persevere and to stay “on mission” despite the trials they are encountering.  In this section of his letter, he has been urging his readers to submit to the authorities that God has placed in their lives.  Government authorities, the workplace, he’ll talk next about the family. He emphasizes that there is a motivation to accept authorities, despite that fact that we may not be treated fairly.  1) God is sovereign, he is the ultimate authority, and He has arranged the circumstances of our life. Jesus said “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” We can trust him. 2) We are pilgrims, passing through the world, we are here for just a little while, but we were created for eternity.  3) Because we are in a fallen world we should expect trials, hardship, even injustice to touch our lives, but we can be encouraged because like another apostle said, “The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us.”  The best is yet to come!  Today we’ll be reminded that, 4) Jesus is our example. Jesus, the perfect and sinless Son of God suffered, and in his suffering accomplished God’s good purpose.  As pilgrims in a fallen world, we shouldn’t be surprised by suffering...
The Maine* Idea:  As we follow Jesus, we may suffer for His sake, and for the sake of winning others through the message of the Cross.
I. A Pattern to Follow: As Christ suffered unjustly for our sins, we may be called to suffer unjustly (21,22).
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 
       Jesus never promised the Christian Life would be easy (21). Just this week I was listening to a sermon by Alistair Begg in a series he has been doing on evangelism.  I was driving so I couldn’t take notes but something he said really struck me. After presenting the gospel, after calling someone to recognize their sin and to put their trust in Jesus and his finished work, he said we should make it as difficult as possible for them to believe!  His point was that too often we make it sound easy, and we don’t call them to count the cost. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Let go and let God.” That is all true if said in the proper context, but it is only part of the question. Jesus said, “If anyone would be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me...”  Not many of us reflect deeply on what He is saying there, because the “cross” doesn’t impact us in the same way that it would those in the first century, in a world under Roman oppression. The cross was an instrument of torture and death. It was a totaling humiliating public execution.
       Notice first of all that he says, “...Christ suffered for you...” This anticipates what will come in vv.24,25. He is our substitute; He suffered for our benefit, in our place. I read this week the story of a young boy who was consistently late coming home from school...
...He always got distracted playing with his friends and almost never got there when he should have. His parents warned him that he must be home on time that afternoon or there would be consequences. Nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing.
     At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father's full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed.
     The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then used that as an opportunity to teach his son about grace. He quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. He had given his word, there had to be consequences. But he took the consequences on himself. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I've known what God is like by what my father did that night.”
Peter is talking about suffering and He is talking about substitution. Think about what that says, about what it means to you personally, “Christ suffered for YOU.” For your benefit, and as the passage will make clear, in your place.  He knew you from before the foundation of the world. Including your sin, your rebellion. And He loved you, and sent the Son to die for you.  The hymn writer seems overwhelmed by the thought of it when he asked,
Was it for crimes that I have done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown, love beyond degree!
That moment, that truth, is the supreme demonstration of love. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!  With that truth sinking in, consider the rest of v.21, “...leaving you an example, that you might follow in his steps...” How can we follow Him? He was the perfect, sinless Son. He sacrificed His life so that all who trust in Him could have life.
       The call to be his disciple is a call to follow Him. That is literally what disciples did in the time of Jesus.  They would follow their teacher around and listen to him and ask questions and learn.  A Christian is called to be a follower of Jesus.  We touched on this concept in our “vision statement,”
“We envision a community of Christ followers, rooted in the Word, treasuring God as supremely valuable, and proclaiming the riches of His grace to the world.”
The more we know Him, the more we will love Him, the more we will treasure Him. Then it will be our joy to point others to Him.  The disciples were commissioned to bring the message of His grace to the world.  You might think, “What difference can I make?” You too are called to be a world changer – starting with your household, your oikos, those people that you know and rub shoulders with on a regular basis. Their good is more important than your convenience.
       He was perfectly sinless yet He suffered (22).   We shouldn’t miss the implication of this. He was sinless, we are not. He was perfect, we fall short. We suffer, often because of our own choices, sometimes because we live in a fallen world. Not all hardship and suffering is because of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  When I would do something that caused me trouble growing up my dad would say, “If you’re gonna be dumb you gotta be tough!” [I would not recommend that as a way to build self-esteem in your kids!] Sometimes we reap the consequences of our own sinful choices.  Other times we may experience hardship just because we live in a fallen world.  God told Adam after the fall that the ground would start to bring forth thorns and thistles, and that they would eat of its fruit only by the sweat of their brow. He said life would be hard.  Believers in Jesus are not exempt from that. As we follow Him, we may suffer for His sake, and for the sake of winning others through the message of the Cross.
II. A Call to Patient Endurance: Jesus endured suffering, and steadfastly trusted in the Father (23).
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly...
       As Peter holds up Jesus as an example, he points to His patient endurance, His steadfast trust in the Father’s plan.  The writer to the Hebrews lifted up Jesus as our example and motivation in Hebrews 12:2-3,   
...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Are you feeling weary, ready to “lose heart”?  Consider Jesus, the sinless and perfect Son of God, came into the world, and not only did He suffer, but He came in order to suffer unjustly, so that ultimately, by faith in Him, we might receive grace rather than justice.  The word Peter uses in I Peter 2:23 has the idea of “delivering himself” or “handing himself over” into the hands of the Father. He did not speak in his own defense. He entrusted himself to the will of God.  He knew the plan, devised in eternity within the Godhead. And though He knew what it meant for himself, though in the Garden he would pray that if it was possible the cup would pass from him, He trusted that God’s plan and God’s way is the best way. And so, as Isaiah spoke of the Servant 700 years earlier,
 “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth...” (Isa 53:7).
Remember the context. Peter is telling his readers that they too may not be treated fairly in this world. That shouldn’t surprise us. We live in a fallen world. Since Adam and Eve sinned this good creation has been twisted and darkened by the Fall. We may suffer injustice, at work, in the market place, at the hands of government, even at home. Exercise your rights, fine, but that is not the first priority.  God’s glory, God’s mission, must be our first priority. We have been left here, in the world on assignment. We have to love God enough to seek His glory above anything. And we need to seek his glory by loving our neighbors enough so that the most important thing for us is to seek to point them to Jesus. Do you remember one of the Sunday school classes that we had on “evangelism,” one writer said that God’s glory is both “the fuel” and “the fruit” of evangelism.  Our heart’s desire should be to see His fame spread through the world, one person, and one household at a time.  Paul was talking about the perseverance of believers, living as pilgrims in a fallen world when he said in his second letter to the Corinthians, grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  5:1 For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling... (2 Corinthians 4:15-5:2a).
The Christian life is not a promise of health and prosperity in this life. In fact, you can pretty much count on the fact that you will suffer hardships and injustice in the world. Sometimes, because we are pilgrims, because we are on a mission to share Christ with the people we rub shoulders with, we will suffer rejection or persecution because we follow Him.  Jesus did say after all, “ the world you will have tribulation...” But that doesn’t define us, and it shouldn’t paralyze us. Why? Because of the second part of that verse, “...but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world! (John 16:33).  As we follow Jesus, we may suffer for His sake, and for the sake of winning others through the message of the Cross.

III. A Message to Proclaim: Through His substitutionary sacrifice we have been reconciled to God (24,25). That is the Gospel, the Message He has called us to  proclaim to the world!
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
       It’s pretty clear that Peter’s mind is on Isaiah 53 once again. The prophet wrote in 53:4-6...
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
 First note that He has borne our sins, or as Isaiah said, “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows... He was crushed for our iniquities... the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all...”  How many ways can the prophet say that He was sinless, and that He suffered for us and became our substitute? Do we sometimes suffer wrongly? Does injustice seem to prevail?  We are sinners living in a fallen world! Jesus was sinless, perfect, yet willingly, he took our sins “ His body on the tree...”  The language here is intentional and powerful.  Peter chose his words carefully so that his readers would think of the Old Testament, not only of the Servant from Isaiah 53 who would bear our sins as our substitute, but also of Deuteronomy 21:22-23,  
22"And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.”  
What kind of crime is punishable by death in God’s sight? Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is death...”!  Jesus took our sins in His body on the tree... He was cursed by the Father... for us, in our place. The language of blessing and cursing in the Bible is the language of life and death, of salvation and judgement. He was scourged so that we could be healed.  He became a curse so that we could receive blessing, he died so that we could have life.
What is God saying to me in this passage? As we follow Jesus, we may suffer for His sake, and for the sake of winning others through the message of the Cross. 

What would God have me to do in response to this passageOur stated purpose as a church is “to know God, and to make Him known.” We grow in our knowledge of God, as we read and study the Bible, as we memorize Scripture, and as we sit under the teaching and preaching of the Word, as we spend time in prayer, and meditating on the Word, and as we worship. We make Him known, indirectly through ministries we support, like our missionaries, but primarily through our own witness, first of all to our OIKOS, our extended household. The church’s mission is to proclaim the gospel to the world. Your mission is to use your gifts for the edification of others, and to be His witness to those around you, the people God has intentionally and strategically placed in your life. Write down their names. Experts tell us you will have on average between 8 and 15 people that come to mind pretty quickly, people that you know, and that know you, and that you see on a regular basis.  After you write down their names, begin praying for them daily.  As a pilgrim in a fallen world we will experience suffering, sometimes unjustly. Be encouraged by the patient endurance of Jesus, who suffered for you. Find hope in the Gospel of His grace. Pray for opportunities to share the message of His grace with those in your sphere of influence.         AMEN.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pilgrims in a Fallen World: Got an Attitude? I Peter 2:18-21

Pilgrims in a Fallen World: Got an Attitude?
I Peter 2:18-21
Introduction: I remember a scene that I am not proud of because it reveals something about my character before I put my trust in Christ. I had worked at a landfill doing various jobs since I was 17. They knew me in those years before I trusted Christ. I left there for another “day job” for a couple of years. After I got saved I wanted to work a steady shift so that I could start taking college classes at night and I wanted to work fulltime at the dump.  I went in and talked to the foreman and he said he would talk to the boss. A couple of days later I dropped back in, to see if I got the job, and the foreman said they had talked about it, but the boss said “Steve’s got an attitude!” I answered, “You know, that is really true. I did have an attitude problem. But you know, I’ve become a Christian, I can promise that if you give me the job I’ll always give you my best.” And they did. And so did I. I learned early in my Christian life that my work was an act of worship, it was one more way to express my obedience to the Lord, and it was a testimony to my employer and to the other men I worked with. I wasn’t a perfect employee, but I was certainly different than I was before. God had given me an “attitude adjustment”! I had been changed by the grace of God. This text invites us to let God “adjust our attitude” at work.
       We have to say something about how passages like this one have been abused by some in Western History. African Americans will read texts like this and ask about those who misused the Bible to defend slavery in our history.  The Bible is clear that all humans, regardless of race or ethnicity, are created equal, all of us bear the image of God.  The abusive and humiliating practice of slavery in American history is a sad chapter in our history and a testimony to human depravity.  Slavery in the first century, in the Roman world of the New Testament, was essentially the working class, and could also include teachers and tutors, accountants, doctors, and even ship captains. And this is important: it had nothing to do with race. It was something that most servants, by the age of 30 or so, could expect to be freed from (if they desired it).  If you want to know the attitude of the apostles toward slavery consider what Paul meant when he said that in Christ “...there is neither slave nor free...” but we are all “one.”  Think about what he told his friend Philemon, to receive the runaway Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.
         I don’t think we are stretching the application too far to say that in our economy, and in our culture, the question this text addresses concerns our attitude toward our employer, our supervisor, or our foreman. The person or people that we answer to in our day to day employment.  It is a practical question: What is your attitude?
The Maine Idea:  Submit to the authorities God has placed over you... including your employer, for the sake of the Gospel, for the glory of God.
I. Be Respectful: As followers of Jesus we should respect the authority of our employer or supervisor (18).
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 
       Peter is talking about submitting to authority of the sake of the Gospel in this section of his letter. As pilgrims in a fallen world, our rights, or what we are “entitled to” are not our first priority. Because we are in this world, on assignment, because we know God has a sure future planned for us and a present mission that He has entrusted to us, we want to keep the main thing the main thing. We want to prioritize lifting up the name of Jesus and pointing the people to whom we are sent to Him.  That is why we are here right? Think about it, what is the one thing you can do now that you can’t do better in heaven? Worship? The second after your get there you’ll be worshipping at the throne, with a pure heart in His presence. Fellowship? We’ll be together, unaffected by the flesh or by jealousy or sin. Our love for one another will be perfect and pure.  Prayer? Our prayer will be with right motives and a right heart. Study the Bible? We will know fully, even as we are fully known. Witness to the unsaved…? That is why He left us in the world! To bring the message of his grace to the world! We can’t share the gospel with unsaved people in heaven! That mission will have been completed. God was in Christ reconciling sinners to himself. He has committed to us a ministry of reconciliation.
       So we respect government authority, and pray for those who maintain order. And we respect those we work for, and fulfill our obligations to them, cheerfully, and thankfully, so we can feed our families, and also so we can be a witness in the workplace. Now I know that quite a few of you are self-employed. If you have a problem with your boss you’ve got even bigger problems!  But think about it this way, the jobs you do are guided by a contract, either written or verbal. Are you striving, with a good attitude, to do a job that honors your word, that gives your best?  Students, let’s apply it to our attitude to your teachers and administrators at school (further down Peter will talk about our responsibilities in the family). There is something here for each of us.
       Peter addresses “servants,” the word “oiketes” is derived from the word oikos, “house” or “household”. Though most English translations say “servants” or “slaves,” it is probably better to translate “household servants” or “domestic helpers.” The word only appears a few times in the New Testament, one being in Acts 10. After Cornelius received the vision and a word from the angel, he sent two of his “household servants,” along with a devout soldier, to get Peter. They were men who he trusted, who worked within his “household.”  Remember before Abraham had a son, “Eliezer of Damascus,” a household servant, was his heir? The idea is similar here.
       The household servants are called to “be subject” to their masters. It’s the same word that was used in v.13 for submitting to every authority God has allowed over us, including government. It will be used of wives submitting to their husbands (3:1) and of those who are younger submitting to their elders (5:5).  The idea seems to be recognizing and respecting the authority of their position. Remember in the military sense it speaks to falling in line behind our leader.
       Peter speaks to the household servants, and calls them to properly respect and submit to the authority of the head of the house, “with all fear” (“respect” in the ESV). It may be that he means respect for the “master,” that is certainly implied in the context. It could be He is referring to the previous verse, “...fear God...” The two ideas seem to go together: our reverence for God should lead us to respect those that He has allowed to have authority over us, including our boss.  In fact, we see in the New Testament the idea that whatever we do, we should do it “as unto the Lord.”  That will help our attitude!  
       Do you feel your job is important, or do you just think of it as a pay check? Bill Hybels in his book, The Christian in the Marketplace, says,
"Dignity is available to every person in every legitimate profession. The farmer who plows the straight furrow, the accountant whose books balance, the trucker who backs a 40’ rig into a narrow loading dock, the teacher who delivers a well-prepared lesson, the carpenter who crafts a piece of furniture, the secretary who types the paper accurately, the mother who tends to her children faithfully... all experience dignity as they commit themselves to their labors. A lot of our self-worth comes from our jobs." 
Whatever we do, we do our best, for the Lord. Remember 1 Peter 2:12, 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…” (cf. I Tim 6:1,2). The respect we show enhances our witness, and cuts an excuse that someone might use not to believe. And so we honor Him by submitting to the authorities He has placed over us... including our employer, for the sake of the Gospel, for the glory of God. First, be respectful, secondly…
II. Be Gracious: We should model grace by respecting their authority not only when they are kind and gentle, but even when we are treated unfairly (19,20).
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  20 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
        We see some literary devises, in addition to the vocabulary used in the Bible, that serves to emphasize or highlight aspects of what the biblical writers are saying. One of those is repetition.  In verses 19 and 20 the writer begins and ends with the same phrase, “...this is a gracious thing...”  We could even translate the phrase more succinctly, “...this is grace...”  Peter has talked already about the gracious salvation we have received. We were not a people, but now, by His election and grace, we are HIS people. That is undeserved favor. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us!  That is Grace:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. 
       We live in an age where people feel “entitled.”  I remember the scene in one of my favorite movies, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie’s little sister is dictating to him her “Christmas list.”  After a while she says, “Why don’t you make it easy on yourself and just send cash. Tens and twenties would be nice.” When Charlie objects, she says “I only want my fair share! I only want what I have coming to me!”  That thinking seems to be pretty pervasive today. [And so “go fund me” pages pop up for almost anything!]  Do you want what you have coming to you? Really?  The wages of sin is death. That is what we deserve. But Jesus died, he took our sins, so that we could get what we don’t deserve, to live forever in relationship with God.  That is what you have received if you know Him! 
       Now think about this in relation to your boss. You have contracted to work for someone. You should do your best to cheerfully and respectfully carry out your job, regardless of what you think of your boss.   They may not be fair. They may not be likeable. But you do your job, you do as unto the Lord.   You are free to look for another job, if you give proper notice. That is part of your contract. But while you are there, you do your best, whether or not you feel your boss deserves respect, you show it. That is not always easy. But it is gracious. And it may give someone an opportunity to see in you the attitude of Jesus.  Peter is saying here, that as recipients of grace, we can and should be gracious. We respect our employer, because we appreciate (or should!) having a job and being able to feed and care for our family. And it allows us to live so that we can do our part in God’s mission in the world. Peter says, “Submit to the authorities God has placed over you... including your employer, for the sake of the Gospel, for the glory of God.” So be respectful, be gracious, and thirdly…
III. Be Faithful: Because Jesus is our model, we seek to reflect the “mind of Christ” in our work (21).
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
       There was a book that was written by Charles Sheldon, originally published in 1896, that in various editions through the years has sold over 30 million copies. It is entitled, “In His Steps,” with the subtitle, “What would Jesus do?”  In the book a pastor challenged His congregation to ask themselves the question in every situation and every decision in life, “What would Jesus Do?” (you can get a kindle edition for free on Amazon).  Do you remember seeing the “WWJD?” bracelets? [For a while when we were in Brazil I started driving very aggressively, like most of the people in the city.  Finally I put on a little sticker in my car in the corner of the windshield, HWJD, “How would Jesus Drive?” Then I thought, no, that doesn’t work, if He lived in Sao Paulo he would probably take the bus!”]  This verse is calling us to faithfulness, by following “In His Steps.” It starts in our heart, with our attitude, because our attitude will guide our actions. Got an attitude?  How about having the attitude of Jesus?  Paul invited the Philippians to think like Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8,
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
        Think for a minute about what Peter said and about what Paul is saying in this passage. Jesus suffered for us. He chose to come into this world as a suffering servant. The next verses in I Peter will allude to Isaiah 53, the great prophecy of a servant who, though without sin, would willing take our iniquity and the wages of our sin upon himself, so that we could be reconciled to God. Was Jesus treated fairly? Did He get what he was entitled to? He took the punishment that we deserved so that we could be reconciled with the Creator of the universe, the Holy and Just King, the Almighty and awesome God.  Thank God we didn’t get what we deserve! He is our example. Your willingness to do your best at your job is one way that you are His witness where He has placed you. Your attitude can give an opportunity to give a reason for the hope that is in you. 
        Remember the theme of I Peter as we have considered it: “Pilgrim living in a Fallen World.” Because we live in a fallen world, we can expect the effects of sin and human rebellion to impact us all the time. God chose to leave us in the world for a purpose, to carry out His mission, to proclaim the gospel to those to whom we are sent. Our attitude is guided by our desire that God be glorified through the carrying out of His mission in the world. 
       NT scholar I. Howard Marshall said in his commentary on this passage that
“...our conduct ought to be consistent with the obligations we assume in our relationship to [our employer] and [our] job... Our conduct ought to be determined by that relationship, not by what we think of the personal traits of the employer. When we disregard our relational contract with its obligations, we do disservice to the gospel... If we suffer as a result of our obligations, such suffering is both commendable and Christian; it is not unchristian to suffer!”
What is God saying to me in this passage?  Submit to the authorities God has placed over you... including your employer, for the sake of the Gospel, for the glory of God.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? We’ve talked a lot about becoming more “outwardly focused” as a church. One key mission field is right where you work. Along with your family, those are the people God has put on the “front burner” of your life. Think of your job as a calling, for this moment in your life. You are placed somewhere by God on purpose, for a purpose. The people that you work with, the supervisor(s) that you answer to, are, at least for now, on a front burner of your life. You interact with them for quite a few hours a day.  [Mary Ann and I were married during my senior year of Bible college. The last semester I took 21 credits (not a good idea!). I had one professor for 14 of those hours!  He had my undivided attention for more hours during that last semester than did my wife! Hopefully you will not make that mistake!
       If you’re a student, your teacher deserves your respect. If you are self employed you need to treat your customers or clients with respect. If you have an employer, a foreman, or a supervisor, regardless of their personality or temperament, for your part, you give them the respect that their position merits. Do your job cheerfully. As a recipient of grace, you are to extend grace, for the sake of the gospel, for the glory of God.  
       For years Gordon MacDonald rode the same bus daily from his home to his church in New York City. One day the bus driver complained to MacDonald: “You’ve got it a lot better than me. You have an interesting job and travel different places. I just drive this bus up and down the same streets every day.” MacDonald told the bus driver his job could be a Christian ministry too. “Every day, when you first get on this bus, before anyone else gets on, dedicate this bus to God for that day. Declare it to be a sanctuary for God for that day. Consecrate it to God’s glory, and then act like it is a place where God dwells.” Several weeks later MacDonald returned from a trip and saw the bus driver. “You’ve transformed my life,” the man said. “I’ve been doing what you said every day, and it has made me see my job in an entirely new perspective.”

       Got an attitude? As a boy my dad would give me an “attitude adjustment” from time to time. I needed it! In due time, God adjusted my attitude. Be patient, He isn’t finished with me yet! If you have experienced God’s grace in your life, if you have put your trust in Jesus, allow him to renew your mind and adjust your attitude, for the sake of the Gospel, and for the glory of God.  AMEN.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pilgrim Priorities I Peter 4:7-11

[I am jumping ahead to this passage this week, but will return to our "context' in I Peter next week, SN.]
Pilgrim Priorities
I Peter 4:7-11
Introduction: During our time as missionaries, in the midst of learning Portuguese and adapting to Brazilian culture, I was also trying to finish my doctoral dissertation.  At one point, as it was finally taking shape, it was necessary for us to come to the US for several weeks so that I could research a couple of points in a Theological library.  Sometime during that visit, I began to experience heart palpitations, and eventually needed to make an appointment with a cardiologist to get checked out.  Thankfully, it turned out not to be serious, and could be controlled with medication. I think it is good for all of us to get an occasional heart exam.  I am not talking about going to a cardiologist, but rather about allowing the light of the word of God to penetrate our defenses, and expose the need of our heart. The Proverb says, “Above everything, guard your heart, your whole life depends on it...” (Prov 4:23).
       I decided to jump ahead to this text in our study of I Peter, since I read it as the basis of our devotional before our quarterly meeting on Wednesday and could only touch the surface in those few minutes. I want to spend some time digging into this passage with you all, because God is challenging me through His Word, challenging me to examine my heart, and I hope, as you listen, He will challenge you as well. I am learning. I want to be teachable. And I want to be faithful. I know that is what you want as well if you know Him. This text is a good reminder to consider our priorities, and to examine our actions and our hearts in the light of God’s word. We are still in I Peter, and we’ve been focusing for a few months on the idea of “Pilgrim living in a fallen world.” How does our heavenly citizenship impact our priorities and our actions, and how does it mold our hearts?
       For an American living in a third world country, life is not all bad. During our time in Brazil no matter how “at home” we felt, we were still foreigners. We were there legally, eventually we had permanent resident status, but we were always Americans. Just as there is a huge difference between going to a country for a couple of weeks on a short term mission trip, and moving there to live and to minister for the long term, (most) career missionaries are still Americans, you are never a “native,” you still have a blue passport, and you can still come home whenever they decide it is time. 
       In my experience at least, most Brazilians like Americans. Like the people in many parts of the world, they view America as a land of opportunity and abundance. They want to know about America, they want to learn some English if they can. Many would love to come here, if not for themselves, for their children. Like a missionary, we are resident aliens. We know that in the deepest, most important sense, this is not home.  Do we live in such a way, and speak in such a way, that people around us are curious about the place we call “home”? Does the fact that we are citizens of Heaven, and only sojourners in this fallen world, impact our priorities and our actions?
The Maine* Idea: The task is urgent and the time is short. We need to check our hearts and stay engaged in God’s mission, for the glory of God.
We’ll focus on that truth from four “pilgrim perspectives”:
I. Be focused on prayer (7).
II. Be fervent in love (8).
III. Be freely hospitable [I forced that a little to keep the alliteration going!] (9).
IV. Be faithful in service: Use your gifts for the good of the church and for the glory of God (10,11).
I. Be focused on prayer: As the culmination of God’s plan approaches we need, all the more, to diligently seek Him (7).
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled [be in your right mind] and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
       The picture is almost a cliché of the long haired, bearded fanatic in the street, wearing a sandwich board, and crying out, “Repent, the end is near!” Here, Peter is writing, and saying that this story is coming to a culmination.  Do you doubt it? Nice, France; Turkey; Dallas... The depth of human depravity is revealed everyday around us. Here is a News Flash: Everything is not going to continue like it now is. In other words, you are not going to live forever in your fallen state. That is good news! Whether we die and go to be with the Lord, and whether He returns in our lifetime, we have a future to look forward to, and it will be sooner than you think. We are citizens of heaven. Now.  We are already a part of the New Creation. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance in Christ.  
       “...have a clear mind and be sober...” The phrase “clear mind” in my translation of the word, is rendered “serious” in the NKJV, which doesn’t seem to get at the idea. It’s a word that only appears a few times in the New Testament, twice in the gospels it refers to Gaderene demoniac after he was healed by the Lord...
“And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid...” (Mark 5:15).
Paul uses the same word when he says to the Corinthians, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you...” (2 Cor 5:13). I don’t think the question is about mental illness in Peter’s context, but it is a call to be aware of what you are saying and doing, to act rationally, thoughtfully.  Sometimes circumstances can seem to overwhelm reason.  I saw a cartoon this week that one of you posted on Facebook that said, “My desire to be well informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” It seems that way at times! But Peter is saying the time is short, we need to keep our heads, and as the psalmist said, lift our eyes to the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. We need to take seriously the importance of praying to the King of Creation.  The task is urgent and the time is short. We need to check our hearts and stay engaged in God’s mission, for the glory of God.
II. Be Fervant in Love: Love for one another will allow us, the objects of God’s love and grace, to be gracious toward each other (8).
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
        “Above all...” The NLT says, “Most important of all... As we are evaluating our priorities, as we are considering the urgency of the hour, we are to “keep loving one another earnestly.  The call is to continuing, deep, earnest love for one another.  That, according to Peter, should be a top priority for believers. We give our different reports of the church in worship service attendance and Sunday school attendance and offerings and contacts made. Wouldn’t it be something if we had a measurement or a chart that would say this week we were up in abounding love. I got on the scale a few weeks ago and the scale said, “One at a time please!” Not really. But I did scare myself enough that I decided to ramp up my exercise and I set a modest goal to lose a pound a week. I downloaded an app and started keeping track. They give a nice chart to show your goal, and where you are in relation to your goal. So far so good! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could measure our love so easily? “We have increased by seventy percent in love over last week.” What if we could measure love?  It would tell us so much, because that is the key. Paul told the Philippians that he prayed for them to “abound more and more” in love (Phil 1:9). That is what Peter calls us to here.
       How important it is when people come and visit us, just how much they sense this aspect of abounding love.  Maybe we cannot measure love tangibly, but people know when there is a true fellowship of love. Got love? Yes. If you know Jesus you do. “He who does not love does not know God for God is love.” But our love can grow cold. So Peter says, “Keep loving one another fervently, [earnestly, deeply].”  Why is it so important? Because “Love covers a multitude of sins.” That means we can be gracious and forgiving. Not taking offense, not allowing a root of bitterness to grow. We need to extend grace, because we need grace.
The task is urgent and the time is short. We need to check our hearts and stay engaged in God’s mission, for the glory of God.

III. Be Freely hospitable: The “one another’s” of the New Testament start with our heart attitude, including ungrudging hospitality (9).
9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
       Hospitality implies welcoming people into your home, sharing your time and space with others. Does this seem almost out of place here, among these other exhortations? At its heart, it's a matter of the heart. We certainly have seen consistent demonstrations of hospitality in our church family. The early church did it, they were breaking bread together from house to house, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.  And that is the idea here, “ungrudging hospitality.” I have to say God gave me the right wife to bring this into balance in my life.  Mary Ann loves to have people in the house. All the time. Now don’t get me wrong. I love people. And I love to have them in the house. But not all the time!  Pray for me, I need it!  We have families in our church who are freely hospitable. A few of you have even had people live with you for an extended period. Many host missionaries and visitors regularly. Some love to have people over for meals, or host Bible studies or prayer meetings. Our “Church on the Go!” meetings this summer are an opportunity to extend hospitality, for a few hours, to a group of folks that you may have never had in your house. It provides a context where we can interact and get to know each other better, and encourage one another.
       Ronald Reagan said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” That speaks to our responsibility to shepherd our family, but also, through hospitality, to reach out to our friends and neighbors, our oikos, the people in our close sphere of influence, and to show them Christ in our life and through our testimony.  The task is urgent and the time is short. We need to check our hearts and stay engaged in God’s mission, for the glory of God.
IV. Be Faithful in service: Use your gifts for the good of the body and for the glory of God.  Each of us has a spiritual gift(s) to use for the good of the body, and we are required to be a good steward of the gift (10,11).
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied [manifold, multi-faceted] grace:  11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
       First of all, notice that “...each has received a gift...” You may or may not feel that you know what your spiritual gift(s) is (are). After 30 years in ministry I was challenged in this last year to re-consider what my gift and calling is.  It was not fun, at times it was painful, but in the end I know it was for my good and for the good of the church. I know that first of all I am a pastor/teacher, (and secondarily I have gifts of encouragement and discernment) not because I want to be or because I chose it. I would not have honestly. I am what I am by the grace of God.  But a church is composed of many members. Each of us has gifts, and each of is called to use those gifts “to serve one another.” Christianity is not a spectator sport, and the church is not a social club. We are a supernatural entity, brought together by God to carry out his mission in the world.
       Notice Peter speaks of the “manifold  grace of God.” The idea is “multi-faceted.” This points to the ‘diversity of gifts’ that God has given in the church. I don’t believe that we have an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament. It refers to any supernatural endowment that God has given us to build up the church and carry out His mission. For example, I don’t believe there is a “gift of encouragement” listed in the Bible. In fact we all are called to “encourage one another.” But I think when we look at the life of Barnabas, we see an example of someone who was empowered to encourage others. I know on our missionary team when we first went to Brazil we had a single woman who we called “our Barnabas.” She was constantly encouraging us and others on the team. I believe she had a gift. Likewise we are all called to give, to support the ministries of the church, but some have a special “gift of giving” in that God has enabled them to earn at a high level and to give generously to His work. John Piper says don’t stress yourself trying to name your spiritual gifts. Look for opportunities to serve in the church. What you find to do, and find fulfillment in doing, will begin to reveal your gifts to you and to others.     A good steward uses responsibly what God has entrusted to him. Rick Warren wrote a poem that states the idea,
“God gave me a gift, not for me but for you, and God gave you a gift, not for you but for me.
If you don’t use your gift, you’re depriving me; if I don’t use my gift, I’m robbing you.”
Maybe not a literary masterpiece, but this is God’s design for the church! He could have made each of us independent agents to bring the Gospel into the world. But instead He made the church. None of us is complete. But all of us are important. WE NEED EACH OTHER.
      Donald Grey Barnhouse [who was the pastor of 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from over 30 years, and a pastor to C. Everett Koop for 20 of those years, and also for a time to our own Jon South!] told the story of two students who graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficiency of each was compensated for by the other. After their graduation, they planned to practice law together. That is a picture of us. No believer is complete by himself, we are to minister to one another, as a family. Peter says you’ve been given a gift, “use it to serve one another,” not in our own strength, but “by the strength that God supplies...”
       Whatever our gift is we should use it whole heartedly, in God’s strength, for God’s glory  (11).  Bill Bright spoke to our call to be steward of all our life:
“God has placed in our trust a measure of time, a unique set of talents, and sufficient resources to carry out His will for each of our lives. Our task as faithful stewards is to manage those blessings in order to bring the maximum glory to His name.”
What is God saying to me in this passage? The task is urgent and the time is short. We need to check our hearts and stay engaged in God’s mission, for the glory of God. So, be focused on prayer, fervent in love, freely hospitable, and faithful in service. Not for the approval of men, but for the glory of God.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? God’s glory is where this passage ends and it’s where we should start. Is His glory of first importance to you? Then we need to love one another enough that if we have something against a brother or sister, we will seek them out, and talk it through, with a view toward reconciliation. Do you sense the urgency of our mission? Could it be that you have been “attending” church, but feel like you have nothing to contribute, no way to serve?  God has a plan, and it includes you. What about joining us for “Church on the Go!”? [This week we’ll meet at the Murphy’s] I believe there are still opportunities on the list to host, or to lead worship, or give the devotional. What about helping with our babies in nursery, or our children or our teens?  We need “inter-generational” ministry in the church.  VBS is coming up the first week of August, we could always use helpers!  And is there someone with children who you can invite?  Every year we have kids who put their trust in Jesus. Maybe, looking ahead to the fall, you would be interested in participating in a “Dare to Care” type ministry or in having a part in one of our “ministry teams” like welcoming or visiting?  Do you remember “Car Care” that we did a couple of years back? It was mentioned at a recent leadership meeting as something we’d like to do this fall.  

       If you know Jesus, know this: God chose you, and He has gifted you. As long as He has you in this world, there is work for you to do. It may be that only you can be a witness to someone in your sphere of influence.  Be a good steward of the gift He has given you, of the time He has given you, and of the opportunities He has set before you, for the good of the church, and for the glory of God.  AMEN.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pilgrims in a Fallen World: On Respecting Police and Kings I Peter 2:13-17

Following Jesus in a Fallen World
I Peter 2:13-17
Introduction: This week we saw someone who decided that his answer to cases of apparent injustice that were revealed through media reports, that intentional violence against police in Dallas would be a valid response. So twelve policemen were shot, five of them killed. My father was a policeman in New Jersey during the riots in the mid 1960s. As a young boy I remember him going on duty, to help preserve order and keep the peace in the midst of protests. And I remember being afraid if he would come home that night. He was not perfect in what he did on the job. But he was my dad.  Where fallen humans like us are asked to put on a uniform and preserve order there will always be isolated cases of prejudice and injustice, and even cases of people becoming frustrated and losing their temper, maybe even some abusing their authority. And those things need to be investigated and addressed. But violence against the police is a step toward anarchy. Where would we be without the “thin blue line” between us and the criminal element?  Every time these guys put on a uniform, every time they walk up to the window of a car or investigate a complaint in a home or a place of business they put their lives on the line — for us. They deserve our support and our respect, and as Christians, they deserve our prayers…
       In an election year with perhaps less than exciting options before us we may wish we had more options! Even so we can find comfort in remembering we are pilgrims and exiles, and we know and are known by the King of kings! He knows your name! He knows your every thought! Last week in our “God and Country Day” service, Carroll Conley reminded us from I Timothy 2:1-4 of our obligation to pray for those who are in authority over us. That seems like the Christian thing to do!  Today, “just by chance,” as we return to our study in I Peter, we are reminded further of our obligation to government.  Not only are we to pray for those in authority, but we are to respect and submit to them as well.  This section in I Peter will deal with some sticky issues, and a dominant part of that is submission to those in authority. He starts talking about the king and governors, he will talk about respecting our supervisors and employers in the workplace, he will talk about line of authority in the family, and he will even talk about the authority that God delegates to leaders in the church.  The point is that we recognize God as the ultimate authority, and our conduct “among the gentiles” will lay a foundation for our witness and for the mission of God.
The Maine* Idea: Voluntarily acknowledge and accept every authority God has put in your life... including government.
I. Believers are to respect and submit to government authorities for the sake of the Lord (13,14).
13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 
       The call to “be subject” or to “submit yourselves” to all human authorities has its roots in the idea that God has delegated authority to certain people and institutions to maintain order and to make it possible for Christians to carry out His mission in the world. It  is a military expression (hupotassōliterally meaning “to arrange in formation under the commander.” (MacArthur,  First Peter).  As armies have a line of command, so God has ordained government to bring order in society (see Rom 13:3,4). I remember Dr. Dobson telling the story of a stubborn little boy who finally gave in and sat down at the table. Then he announced, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing on the inside!” With my dad I wouldn’t have been able to sit after that!  Peter is talking about submission that is not the result of compulsion, but stems from the recognition that God is in control, and that no one has authority unless He allows it.
       Remember that as we have been reading I Peter, at least three times the apostle already has reminded his readers that they are exiles, sojourners, and pilgrims in this world. How then are they (and we) to live?  Remember the previous verses,
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  12 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… (I Peter 2:11,12).
600 years earlier, the prophet Jeremiah was writing to the nation that would soon be swept into exile. This is how he told them they should live during their time in exile in Babylon (Jer 29:4-14):
4 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. "For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart,  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile... (Jer 29:4-14).
They are to build houses and have children and plant gardens, they are to make it their home while they are there.  We were not exiled to Brazil when we went there as missionaries. But we were foreigners, resident aliens. It did put us in an odd position, especially after our first five year term. We owned no property in the US (or Brazil).  We always lived in church or mission owned housing!  By the time we came on our first furlough, Sarah said something like, “I don’t want to leave home!” For her, home was where we lived, not where we were returning. We asked ourselves that question a few times over the years, and Mary Ann always determined to make a “home” wherever we were. We are thankful that now “home” is in Boothbay! Jeremiah told his countrymen that they were not only to make a home, but notice v.7 again,  
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
As we heard last week from Carroll Conley as he shared from I Timothy 2:1-4, they were to pray for those in authority, they were also to seek the good of the country to which God had sent them! Yes, we are citizens of heaven, we are pilgrims, but this country is our home (for now!) and we are called to pray for our leaders and seek the welfare of this place.  Remember, God is in control, He is sovereign, the Lord of history.  As Paul said in Rom 13:1,  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…” So we should voluntarily acknowledge and accept every authority God has put in your life... including government.
II. Being a good and respectful citizen is one way that we silence accusers and give a good witness (15).
15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
       Verse 15 begins with the phrase, “For this is the will of God…” That should get our attention! We all want to know God’s will and do God’s will if we are His children. We want to obey Father, not because we are afraid He will hurt us if we don’t, but because we know our rebellion will hurt Him.  Remember this passage immediately follows verse 12 where we read,
12 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.
This is one more way that our conduct among the nations is revealed to be honorable, one of the “good deeds” that characterize us, and so “silence the ignorance of foolish people” and ultimately bring glory to God.  Paul gave similar instruction to Titus as to how he was to admonish the believers in Crete to live:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,  2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another (Titus 3:1-3).
Fallen humanity rebels against authority. That is our sinful nature. As new creatures in Christ we are to respect authority, including government authority.  Peter would one day be put to death by Nero, the emperor, yet here he is saying the submitting to kings and governors is one way that we silence the ignorance of foolish people. This is the will of God.
       Like some of you I’ve felt a little discouraged at times at how the primary process has gone in this presidential election year. It could be worse!  This week a former classmate at WTS who recently returned to Australia after about 30 years in the US voted for the first time in his country of birth after so many years.  He posted last week about his voting options included 121 candidates to choose between in last week’s senate election! Nothing as boring as our two party system for the aussies! Some options included: the Pirate Party, the Australian Cyclists Party, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, the Family First Party, the Secular Party of Australia, the Australian Christians Party, the Rise Up Australia Party, the Australian Sex/Marijuana Party, the Mature Australia Party, the Animal Justice Party, the Renewable Energy Party, the voluntary euthanasia party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts party, the Non-custodial parents party, and the upgrade Democracy party!  Our choices are a lot more limited. But be comforted that God is in control. Be informed. Vote as wisely and prayerfully as you can. And respect (and pray for) those in authority.  That’s the Maine Idea: Voluntarily acknowledge and accept every authority God has put in your life... including government.
III. We are free, not to do whatever we wish, but to serve God by serving others (16).
 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
       Freedom is something we cherish. The New Hampshire state motto says, “Live free or die!” In Maine it’s “the way life should be!” And if we are in Christ we are free, just as the Lord said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you are free indeed!”  How has Christ made us free?  First of all, we are no longer slaves of sin,
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Rom 6:6).
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2).
Related to that idea, we are no longer slaves to Satan…
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (I Jn 4:4).
His point is that we are no longer in bondage to sin, we are not slaves of Satan or in bondage to our fallen nature.  We are free. Not free to sin, God forbid. We are free to live in a way that brings glory to God. We are free to obey, free to choose righteousness. Freedom is not license to sin. We are free to serve God, by serving others. And so we are to voluntarily acknowledge and accept every authority God has put in your life... including government.
IV. Respect for human authorities flows from our reverence for God, the ultimate authority (17).
       Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
     Peter makes a general, overarching statement first: “honor everyone.” Respect each person, recognize they too are created in God’s image, however hard it might be to see. They have value. Yes, ALL LIVES MATTER.  Humans are unique, and all human life is precious.  Our Declaration of Independence agrees that “All men [all humans] are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…” Race, nationality, social standing, income, people are people. They deserve respect.
       “…love the brotherhood…”  What is true of our attitude toward all people, takes on a deeper, more personal element among believers in Jesus. It stems from the Lord’s own words in John 13:34-35,  
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Peter has called his readers to this already in 1 Peter 1:22, Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart…”
John speaks about it repeatedly in his first letter, for example in 1 John 4:7-12,   
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
We are to honor all, love the brethren, and thirdly “…fear God…” We’ve spoken enough about that that we needn’t dwell here. God is God, our creator, the all-powerful, awesome, infinite King of the Universe. We are His creatures; once lost and in darkness but now brought near by the blood of Christ. We tremble when we grasp that, but not because we are afraid, rather because, by His grace, we are His (I Jn 3:1). As Peter said a few verses back, in 1 Peter 2:9-10,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession… Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy…”
          So it is proper for us to “fear God.” Paul put it this way to the Philippians...

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world... (Philippians 2:12-15).
And He, the Lord of the universe, the absolute authority to whom we owe everything, has delegated authorities in the world, and He calls us to “…honor the emperor…”  Carroll reminded us last week of who the emperor was from the mid-50s to the mid-60s A.D., Nero. Whatever authority he has, it is because God has allowed it. So honor the emperor.
What is God saying to me in this passage? Voluntarily acknowledge and accept every authority God has put in your life... including government.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage?  We’ve seen a change in our country since 9/11 and more people, when they see a veteran or active duty military, they will thank them for their service. That is respectful and good, and a few veterans have told me it means a lot to them. The law enforcement officers need to be reminded too that we are thankful for what they do to keep order, and to keep us safe. We respect them and should be highly appreciative. Show it, and say it if you agree. God gave us government, let’s respect the authorities He has established.     AMEN.