Living as Sojourners

We exist as God’s people, as sojourners on the earth.

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A sermon preached on 1 Peter 2:11-17

Listen on podcast here.

Declared and Becoming

Most of our lives are learning how to become and live, with what we already are in our identity.  Take these simple examples:

  • At the age of 18, a boy is now legally identified as a man. And then for the next few decades, this now identified, man, is learning how to live, act, and talk like a man.
  • When you say, ‘I do’ to your spouse, you are legally declared married. And for the next few decades, you also, are learning how to live like a married couple, act within a covenant, and understand what is the life of a married person.

Christianity is also a very peculiar thing: we are declared wholly righteous, completely upright in our legal standing before God with how we lived our lives — as if we never sinned, and always obeyed!

  • But now, that truth is being unfolded into every piece of our lives from how we think, to our life at work, to what we say, to how we treat those around us, etc.
    • This is the Christian life.
    • Legally declared righteous in Christ, but for as long as we live, learning how to live like Christ, how to act under the covenant God has invited us into, and how to represent his Son in the world.

And this is again referred to as the ‘already not yet’ of the gospel.

  • You are already declared righteous and completely free from sin’s penalty in Christ.
  • But now, you are becoming to live and act what you are declared to be (righteous), and slowly becoming free from sin’s power in your life (sanctification).

In this text, Peter has already reminded us of our identity in Christ: a chosen people for his own possession (v.9-10).  And now, we are going to see how are to live, act, and how to demonstrate why we exist as God’s people, as sojourners on the earth.

So, in this text I think Peter draws out three categories that he calls us to:

  1. Personal life
  2. Public life
  3. And, our purpose in life (REPEAT)

Transition: first, Peter is going to instruct us on how we are to operate in our personal life.  The life that is kept between you, and the few people around you.

Personal Life: Cherishing Jesus, Showing Jesus

Pro-Football quarterback from the 1980s, Joe Theismann, has been married 4 times.  During his second marriage, he was allegedly caught having an affair.  And according to the newspaper, he said this, “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.”

  • So, we can conclude that Joe had a desire deep within him to commit adultery against his wife.
    • Yet, he attributes this in a sense to God’s pursuit of Joe’s happiness at the expense of his second to-be-failed marriage.
  • Joe’s understanding of ‘happiness’ was rooted in his own idea of happiness, and out of his own god.
    • The little gods that dwell within us, that we carve and shape to act, look, and sound just like us are often very encouraging of our personal desires.

 Christians often times have a very similar problem: our flesh, our earthly and original desires from inside of us, well up into our minds and corrupt our thinking.

So, in verse 11, Peter again brings us back to our identity and then commissions us.

  • The word ‘beloved’ means ‘dearly loved.’
    • But some biblical Greek scholars translate this word differently for us to truly understand what is being communicated here. They translate it this way:
      • Divinely loved ones…

Christian, you are divinely loved.  Not just in a general sense of ‘God is love’ and he puts up with you.  But in a deep, intimate, Fatherly love towards his children.  You are divinely loved by the Most High.

  • Therefore, you who are divinely loved by God, are ‘urged’ or begged, pleaded with, ‘as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul.

The passions and desires that lie within us that come from our old nature, the old man, the natural and evil inclinations of the natural body, Peter says to abstain from.

  • Keep away from those passions, push them out and away.
    • Why? We abstain from worldly passions by looking towards heavenly delights.
  • And this is so hard! Why?
    • Because most, if not all, earthly desires promise pleasure and satisfaction now, but it will only last for a little while.
    • And heavenly pleasures promise pleasure and satisfaction, ultimately, later, but it will last forever!
  • Obedience to Christ and putting off our worldly desires is really a game of delight.
    • What is more valuable? What is the superior affection of your heart?
      • Psalm 34:8 calls us to taste and see that the Lord is good!
      • The bible wants us to see it, to grasp it, to understand that the Lord truly is good, he is fully satisfying; we abstain from the flesh for greater delights.
    • CS Lewis says that the Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak; and oh, how weak we are. We settle for the weaker, closer option.
      • We are all hungry for something that will last and that which is full — feed on Christ.

 Picture going to the Cut, the #1 rated steakhouse in the country in Beverly Hills, CA.  And being told that you have 17 options of different cuts from all different countries and states.  You are so hungry.  But your steak will take a while after you order it, so instead you walk out down the street and grab a few Nutri-Grain bars from the gas station instead.  You fool!  Wait for the steak!

Christian, we are the divinely loved ones.  We need to trust that the Lord is good in our hearts and minds, and remain obedient in the midst of our ‘war’ within us that rages on for our desires.

  • Wage the war, fight the flesh, and feast on Christ.
    • Jesus is satisfying. Wait on him.  Trust him.

In doing this, those who we see routinely in our personal lives from our inner circle of friends, to family, or to those we see on a regular basis, will serve to glorify God — the Divine Lover of our souls.

In verse 12, this is how we ‘keep our conduct among the Gentiles’ honorable.  When we constantly and consistently choose Christ instead of the fleeting passions that arise from within that all people have, we show that Jesus is more valuable.

  • If we hope to demonstrate that Jesus is good, that he is to be pursued, and that he is worth forsaking all things for — it must be done by abstaining from sin within us and enjoying the commandments of God.
    • The QB, Joe Theismann, followed the nature of his will. He desired to sin again and again in his marriages, and therefore, he is ‘spoken against [by] evildoers.’ (v.12)
      • And it is proven true that he is a fool, to be ashamed!
    • Friends, let that not be true of us. Let those who speak evil against us be put to shame by our good and love for God.
      • May the worth of Christ be so clear that our reputation is cleared just by the knowledge of our person.

Commentators widely agree, as well as this same language also being used in Luke 19, that the ‘day of visitation’ here in verse 12 is in reference to God’s saving work in a sinner or the day when Jesus returns.  Either way, your living matters to God and is seen by outsiders.

  • Christian, the way you live your life can be a means used by God to open the heart of an unbeliever.
    • Your good deeds, your faithful living points to a greater reality.
    • Of course, the gospel is news that must be spoken; but the truthfulness of your belief in it and the value you give it is often seen by Gentiles, unbelievers.
  • How you live your life matters.
  1. So, our personal lives as Christians are where we wage war for the worth of Christ so that our lives might display and show that Jesus truly is glorious.

Transition: next, Peter takes us to how we are to act and live in our public lives.  How to live as a person in the city, state, and country God has placed you in; a broader understanding of how to live for and in, the public.

Public Life: Submission for the Authority

Remembering the context of this letter to the scattered Christians, Peter writes this as they are under the power and rule of the emperor Nero.  The cruel dictator who constructed a 100-foot-tall bronze statue of himself, blamed the whole of Christianity as being responsible for the Great Rome Fire which lasted for 9 days.  So, the persecution of Christians began.

  • From sewing animal skins into their flesh to be fed to lions as sport, or to be soaked in oil, crucified, and set on fire to be burn as a light during his evening parties, Nero was ruthless.

Now while we have that in mind, go to verses 13-14.  Peter calls these Christians to live in ‘subjection’ to every human institution, and he even mentions the emperor and high authorities.

  • Now place yourself as if this was happening to you now.
    • Christians that you know and have maybe even worshipped with, have been take from their houses and fed to lions for sport — and then Pastor Peter tells you to submit, to live well under these wicked rulers?
    • Who does he think he is?

But, notice the reasoning.  It is not for the good of the people, the welfare of the city, or because we approve of all that is happening.  Christian, as a divinely loved one, you are doing this ‘for the Lord’s sake!’

  • Paul echo’s this command in his letter to the church in Rome; Romans 13:1 calls us to be subject to the governing authorities because they are ‘from God’ and ‘by God.’
    • Even Nero, though he was wicked and cruel, was instituted and placed by God’s will and decision.

How does that affect our view of the government now?  One practical implication is that it reminds us that God’s rule and high purposes are being accomplished, even when there are evil and poor leaders.

  • We submit not to them ultimately, but to the Authority of authorities — King Jesus is king over all earthly powers, kings, rulers, and nations.
    • And we trust him.
  • Of course, we don’t know God’s purposes in installing Nero and I don’t think we are meant to.
    • But, what can be argued from history and the Scriptures I think is that persecution doesn’t stop the spread of the gospel — it only serves to uphold and spread it quicker.
      • Nero served God’s purpose to get the gospel out of Rome and from city to city, country to country.
    • The blood of our fellow brothers and sisters is the seed of the church today.

Daniel 2 tells us that God changes kings and rulers just as he changes time and seasons; and in Mark 12, Jesus is asked if we are to obey the government and pay taxes to them.

  • Jesus answers in this way, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
    • Pay your taxes, wear your seatbelt, and don’t park in front of fire hydrants. But your worship, your joy, and all of your affections are to God — you belong to him, not to the government, ultimately.
      • You are a sojourner here, a citizen in heaven.

Verse 14 tells us that the government is generally here for the good of the city to uphold justice, to punish the criminals, and to praise those who do good.  They are here for our good!  Honor your government, give them the respect that they ask — God has sent them here for our good.

From your boss at work, to teachers, to your city mayor, and to the president, we submit and walk the line of those above us.

  • However, if and when this happens in our country, when the government’s demands go against the Scriptures — we break the government’s laws to preserve and uphold the law of God.
    • Such as the book of Daniel: the Jews in Babylonian captivity were all told to bow and worship a golden statue by the king, and three young men refused.
      • Why? Because their worship is to God and God alone.

In and through it all, whether good or bad government, God is accomplishing his purposes.  We are to trust him, to give what is required of us in general to the government, and when these things conflict we give our ultimate allegiance to the God of the universe.

  • All of our submission to authority is for the sake of the Authority, King Jesus.

In verse 15, Peter tells us that this is part of the revealed will of God for us.  That by our obedience to the earthly powers, the name of Christ is not slandered nor is his church.

  • Think about the parallel here: if we say we are of Christ whom we cannot now see, how does that reflect if Christians reject the government whom they can see?
    • The will of God is that we are not imprisoned or slandered for our breaking of the civil laws.
    • Christians who steal and cut corners, and are then imprisoned for it, are a strong disservice to the glory of God.

So, God’s will is that we submit to the government when they do not conflict with the revealed will and law of God in the Scriptures.

  • The conduct of our lives is to be commendable and worthy of applause.
    • We should be on time for work, we shouldn’t be the one who shoots our mouth off at our waiter when they get something wrong.
    • Christians should be the ones that have a flavor of their life that is attractive and points to the kindness and love of Jesus that he demonstrated as he walked.
  1. So, our public lives are to reflect the life of Jesus. We are to live for the welfare of the city, submit to the governing authorities over us, and ultimately, we are under the hand and authority of the Almighty.

Transition: now, Peter is going to reflect on the purpose of this life.  The reason why we fight against our flesh, the reason why we submit to the government, is all for a grand design crafted by God.

The Purpose in Life: The Greatness of God

I think maybe a cheesy but helpful illustration is that of the classic movie scene where the good parents give their children more responsibility and freedom in life.  So, as they leave for vacation or a two-day trip, they give the kids pizza money and the rule of the house.

  • Yet, the kids of course invite their friends over and throw a huge party, making their parents to look foolish and dumb for giving their kids freedom.
    • The point of this freedom from the parents to the kids was meant to show to love of the parents and would result in others praising the parents.
  • But instead, the kids abused this freedom as a cover-up for their own plans and made a mockery of their parents.

Maybe this will make sense of what God has done for you, Christian.  As a Christian, you are currently the freest person on the planet.

  • Every unbeliever in the world would claim the same identity; but they are enslaved to their own desires. Their will is not free, it is enslaved to their evil hearts and natural desires — promising only death and hell.
    • Ephesians 2 reminds us that prior to our rescue by Christ we were dead in our sins to God, we lived and followed the way of the world and under the influence of the ways of Satan, and giving into all of our passions of our flesh.
      • This is no freedom, only deathly enslavement.
    • Unbelievers don’t rule, sin rules them.
  • But now, in Christ God has made you alive! Ephesians 2 again tells us that God made us alive to see, love, and come to Christ.

Christian, you are free from the rule of your evil heart desires, you are free from the leading of the devil, and you are finally able to choose life and reject sin because of God’s mercy towards you to cause you to be born again.

  • God has freed you to also see him as supreme over all powers, to wage war with your sin, and to know the will of God.

And all of this was done for you as a gift from God, not so that you would abuse this freedom, and show God to be foolish, but to use it as a means of pointing to the goodness of God.

In verse 16, Peter charges us to live as people who are free but not in such a way that we use this freedom as ‘a cover-up for evil.’

  • Christian, God saved you to make much of him — not to abuse grace.
    • Servants of God are free — they are free to delight and serve God.

And ironically, the Greek word for ‘servant’ actually means ‘slave.’  You are slaves to the one who you obey.  In obedience to the will of the flesh and the schemes of the devil, we inherit God’s wrath, hell, and condemnation.

  • Yet, in slavery to God we inherit eternal life and free in regard to doing what is good and righteous.
    • Romans 6:22 says that we ‘have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and in its end, eternal life.
    • What a beautiful, gracious slavery! Enslavement to God leads to the freest life, eternal life, and to enjoy the goodness and happiness in God.
      • Slavery not as a begrudging fear of God. Slavery to God implies not that we are pushed around and bullied, but that of our wills.
    • The Christian’s will is now freed from sin, and renewed to a good Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
      • Our new desire of our wills is life, obedience to Christ, and the ability to now see sin for what it is and to abstain from it as beloved ones of God.

In the mercy of God, he has set us free from slavery to sin to be slaves of Christ.  And what a freedom this slavery brings!

As we close, notice Peter’s main thrust of this passage:

  • 11 – beloved (divinely loved ones), sojourners on earth.
  • 12 – that God would be glorified.
  • 13 – for the Lord’s sake.
  • 14 – the governments sent by God.
  • 15 – this is the will of God.
  • 16 – living as servants of God.
  • 17 – fear God.

The main purpose in all of those verses, is God.  He is the grand design, the purpose of our sojourning.  That God would be seen, glorified, thought of, marveled at, enjoyed, and treasured as we wander about on the earth.

  • From our personal desires and sinful passions that flare up, to how we act around those who aren’t in Christ, to how we live under our bosses, authorities, to why we do good works, and to how we love and serve those around us.
    • The purpose of all of our life is to live as slaves of God to point to the worth of God.

I want to close with a short parable Jesus tells in Luke 17:7-10.

  • So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’
    • Our duty is to be live as sojourners for the Lord’s sake, and as his servants.
      • It was only our duty.

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