To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.
Good morning. Last Sunday our sermon text was the beginning verses of First Peter. For the remainder of the summer we’re going to camp out in First Peter and see what the apostle has to say.
If you’d like to follow along in your own Bible, First Peter is near the end. It goes Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Jude, Revelation. If you want to follow along in the bulletin that’s fine too. But I encourage you to pick up your own Bible during the next few weeks and familiarize yourself with First Peter. Write down questions, highlight important verses. Do whatever you do when you sit down to for some quiet time with the Lord.
As the name implies, PETER is the person who wrote this letter. This is the same Peter who was one of the twelve apostles. He traveled with Jesus. He walked on the water, until his doubt caused him to sink. This is the same Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times, but was forgiven and restored. This is the same Peter who ran to the empty tomb on Easter morning. The same Peter who saw Jesus appear in the upper room, with nail-holes still fresh in his hands. The Peter who saw THESE things, is the same one who put this letter down on paper.
Some of the letters in the New Testament are written to one specific church. But not this letter. Peter wrote this letter to a group of churches. Churches that were scattered throughout Asia Minor in the first century AD. These churches were scattered throughout lands that are now located in modern-day Turkey.
Peter wrote this letter because he had heard that the Christians in these lands were facing persecution. Peter wanted to encourage his fellow Christians to keep clinging to Christ, no matter what kind of trials they might be facing.
Peter knew what happened on the cross. He had seen the empty tomb. The Son of God had suffered and died for the sins of the world. And that included the Christians suffering in the east. When Christ returned to gather his people into their final home, then all their pain and heartache would be drown in triumph and joy. Peter wanted to remind his suffering brothers and sisters of this fact.
And this is what he does in chapter one! Peter begins his letter by calling on his brothers and sisters in Christ to rejoice because in Christ they are God’s people. But in today’s verses we’ll see a shift in Peter’s tone. He shifts from the idea of “Rejoice! My fellow Christians!” to the idea of “Let’s sober up here Christians, and take the work of God seriously.”
1 Peter 1:10-19 (NASB)
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
When I say that Peter’s tone changes from “rejoice!” to “sober up”, I don’t mean that the congregations in the east were struggling with alcohol dependency. When Peter tells his fellow Christians to sober up, what he means is that he wants them to pause and take stock. He wants them to recognize that they are PART OF GOD’S PLAN. He wants them to see that they have A PART TO PLAY IN GOD’S PLAN for others. And as Peter sees it, this fact should have A SOBERING EFFECT on Christians.
In this sense “sobering up” means being balanced, not excessive. “Sobering up” means not going too far, as people do when they’re drunk.
I had a friend who once told me that he liked to get drunk with his buddies because people do things they wouldn’t normally do when they’re drunk. They go too far. They say stupid things and do things that are funny to watch.
Here Peter calls on his fellow Christians to have a different attitude. An attitude that seeks balance and godly behavior, not excessive behavior and doing whatever feels good at the moment.
Sobering up doesn’t mean Christians can’t tell jokes, or go to parties, or have fun. But it does mean that everything has a time and a place. It does mean that there are certain jokes a Christian shouldn’t tell. Parties he won’t go to. Behaviors he will not accept or condone. There are limits that define proper behavior. And for the Christ follower God’s Word determines what these limits are.
But let’s back up here for a moment. Before he starts talking about sobering up, Peter reminds his fellow Christians that they are PART OF GOD’S PLAN.
Look at verses 10-12 again. There Peter basically says, “Remember the Old Testament prophets? They wrote about the Savior that God promised to send. And then they studied their own writings to discover what kind of person this Savior would be, and when he would be born. They poured over the prophesies about his suffering, and the prophesies about his subsequent glory. And what they discovered was that they were writing these things down for people who would come later. What the ancient prophets discovered was that THEY WERE WRITING FOR YOU!”
Peter says to the Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor: God was thinking about YOU when he caused the ancient prophets to foretell the Savior’s coming. And not only that, God commissioned people to bring this message right to your doorstep! And not only that, God the Holy Spirit went with his representatives, TO YOU.
And just in case his readers weren’t understanding how amazing this is, Peter adds that ANGELS LONG TO LOOK INTO THESE THINGS. God’s holy angels want to know all about how God is reaching out to sinners and claiming them .
And the same thing has happened here. To us. Jesus is our Savior too. And God has brought us to know and believe that fact. We too are part of God’s plan.
And then comes the “therefore.” This amazing work of God that spans the centuries and touches the lives of people like you and me has a “therefore” attached to it. This “therefore” tells us how to respond to God’s salvation. Look at verse 13 again. Peter writes…
“13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16 NASB).
We are part of God’s plan, and furthermore, WE HAVE A PART TO PLAY IN GOD’S plan as he reaches out to others.
This fact requires us to change our perspective on life. No longer are we simply people who live life to satisfy our own desires. What a childish thought. Now we are people who live to God, to accomplish what he wills.
So Peter calls us to prepare our minds for action. If and athlete is going to perform well in an important game, preparation is key. If a business person is going to succeed in that crucial meeting, he needs to do his homework before the boardroom doors close.
As Christians we need to prepare too. We need to prepare. We need to ready ourselves to be God’s representatives in this world. What if today God were to plop down an unexpected blessing in our lives? Maybe a new job? An inheritance? A person to care for? An opportunity to speak out about Christ’s cross? What will we say? How will we react? We need to be ready for that by constantly communicating with God in prayer. We need to be ready for that by immersing ourselves in God’s Word, at home and together here in Bible Class and Worship.
What if tomorrow brings a challenge? An unexpected death in the family. A friend who reveals an addiction they’re struggling with. A tragedy that impacts our whole community? What will we say? How will we react? Will we react like everyone else, or will we react in a way that draws attention to God, and gives him the glory?
The most crucial part of preparing ourselves for tomorrow is keeping our eyes focused on Christ’s return. When Jesus returns he will be openly revealed to the world. The dead will be raised. The judgment will happen. And every knee will bow to Christ, whether they have loved him in life, or hated him.
Our Savior is coming to bring us final salvation. This is our sure hope. And Peter wants us to keep this before our eyes at all times. We have a future. We have a place in God’s family, because of Jesus.
Peter not only speaks about what to do in order to be ready for tomorrow, he also talks about what we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t just continue on like we have in the past.
The congregations Peter was writing to were made up of both Jewish born Christians, and Gentile born Christians. These Gentiles had grown up in cultures which glorified all sorts of wicked behaviors and worshipped every manner of false gods. It’s the same for us today.
Peter says, don’t be the same as you were before Christ. Be changed. Be renewed. Reject the desires you used to follow after. Shed your old ways when they don’t match up with God’s way.
Through the redemption that came through Christ’s cross, you and I have been called to a new life. We’ve been reborn into God’s family. And God wants us to take on the family resemblance. He wants us to grow in holiness, so that we look more like HIM than like the godless world around us.
But change is scary. And abandoning our old ways is hard. It takes time and effort. It takes brave Christians who will stand beside us and hold us accountable. It takes a heart that knows the forgiveness of Christ, and constantly returns to him for cleansing. Real change requires God power in our lives.
There is great peace and joy in Christ. But there is also seriousness in Christ. Soberness to learn. Self-control and struggle.
And to help us in this struggle, Peter offers two simple teachings. One is a law teaching, meant to terrify our sinful nature and wrestle it into submission. The other is a Gospel teaching, meant to comfort us and strengthen our faith in Jesus. Look at verse 17 again. Peter writes…
“17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;” (1 Peter 1:17 NASB).
This is the law teaching. The law tells us that judgment over our sins is coming. The law tells us that we are sinners who can expect anger from God because of our sins. The law calls us to be serious about our actions, because God is serious about them. The law calls us to live lives of reverent fear toward God. He is holy, and we are not. He is all powerful and just, and we are not.
Peter follows this sobering thought, with a sublimely comforting one. In verse 18 Peter writes…
”…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:17-18 NASB).
It took the suffering and death of God’s own son to save us from the punishment our sins deserved. That’s a serious price.
Because of Christ, our sins have been forgiven. And now our final judgment will be different. On the Last Day, God will look on those who love his Son as being holy, even though our lives are spattered and stained with shameful sins of every kind. God will see us as holy in the end because Christ’s perfection has been laid on us through faith in him. In the end, God’s judgment on the faithful will be “not guilty”—because of Jesus’ blood.
Imagine it like this. The law brings us to the brink of a huge abyss. It shows us that there is no way for us to bridge the gap. And then the Gospel of Christ’s forgiveness holds us safely aloft. Giving us a sure footing on which to cross over to the other side.
The abyss of God’s wrath, is a serious thing to behold. A sobering thing. And the bridge Christ has provided is a serious thing also. A grand and glorious thing. And a thing that when viewed, changes us. The all-covering grace of Christ is why we can’t continue living like we have in the past. Our old ways are foreign to our new identity as his people.
As we continue our sermon series through 1 Peter, I encourage you all to pick up that book in your own time. Get familiar with what the Holy Spirit had Peter write down. This message was written to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor in the first century AD. But it was also written for us.
Prayer: Father in heaven, your prophets wrote for our learning, that we might know your Son by faith. Thank you for preparing a place for us in your great plan. Thank you also for giving us a purpose, and a role to play in your plan of salvation for others. Fill our hearts with joy over the redemption that we have through Christ’s precious blood. Help us to be thoughtful and ready to speak of your greatness to the people we come into contact with. Help us to speak through both our actions, and our words. Give us a sober mind that meditates on your greatness, and a heart full of peace. Let us always dwell in the shadow of Christ’s Cross. Amen.