July 27, 2014

Why Live A Godly Life? - July 27, 2014

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“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.” –Karl Rahner

How does that quote strike you? As Christians ourselves we might get a bit defensive about such a bold statement as this. The number one cause of atheism is Christians? Surely the godless teaching in our secular colleges and universities plays a role in making atheists, right? What about the inherent sinful nature in every human being that ever seeks to deny God’s existence and authority? Surely that plays a role in making atheists too.  Wouldn’t those things be candidates for the number one cause of atheism in the world today?

Whatever your feelings about Mr. Rahner’s statement, he has a point. And the point is this, the life of a Christian says something to the world.

2 Corinthians 5:15 says,

“He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NKJV).

The number one reason why the Son of God became human and died on the cross was to win forgiveness for sinners. Full forgiveness. Complete forgiveness for every sin we’ve ever committed, and every sin we will ever commit. The Bible calls this GRACE. God’s free gift of release from sin’s eternal consequences.

And this grace is so all-encompassing, EVERY SIN, that sometimes people stop right there. We forget that the second reason the Son of God died on the cross for us, was so that we should live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again.

The Christian life begins with faith in Christ. Faith that he really did wipe every one of our sins off the board with his divine sacrifice given in our place on the cross. And the Christian life continues from there. We aren’t raptured away the moment we come to believe in Christ. And why? Because God has work for his redeemed people to do on this broken world. And that work is a life lived in joyful service to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today we continue our study of Peter’s first letter. As we’ve already stated, the apostle Peter wrote this letter to Christians living in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) in the first century AD. Peter had heard that these Christians were being persecuted for their faith, and Peter wanted to encourage them in the faith.

Again, these Christians weren’t being persecuted because of their political views, or for their ethnic heritage. They were being persecuted for their trust in Jesus as the God-Man, and Savior of the world.

It would have been easy for them to just tuck Jesus away in their back pocket. Avoid the persecution by lying low. Not speaking about Christ. Not living Christ’s way. Perhaps they were tempted to just live like they always had lived, while holding their faith in Christ in the back of their minds.

In our reading for today, Peter calls his fellow Christians to beware the temptation of hollow, words-only-Christianity. For a life of sin is poison to the Christian faith. The sin in our lives wages war against our souls. Unless we reject the sins that pop up in our lives on an ongoing basis, and come to Christ for cleansing, our faith will wane, and wither, and die.

Peter calls his fellow Christians to cherish the light of Christ’s forgiveness, and to walk in this light with godly actions.

Why should I live a godly life? First of all, because God is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3 (NASB)

1Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
You remember the Ten Commandments right? Maybe you memorized them in Catechism class years ago. Or recently. But do you remember what God told the Israelite right before he gave them those rules for living? He said,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 2:2 NKJV).

The nation of Israel had just got done suffering 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God heard their cries to him and delivered them out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He reminds them of this fact right before giving them the Ten Commandments because he wants them to understand that these aren’t just rules for the sake of rules. These commandments were meant to bring blessing into the lives of the Israelites when they kept them.

Peter says, hey guys, you know that God is good right? You’ve tasted his goodness. He gave you his own Son to suffer in your place! He’s forgiven your sins completely. You’ve got a future in heaven waiting for you now. So put aside all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. God’s leading you to do this so that you will be blessed through this change.

Instead of pursuing life as they had always lived it, in these sinful ways, the Christians of Asia Minor were to turn to the pure milk of God’s Word instead, so that they would “grow in respect to their salvation.”

As they rejected sinful ways and attitudes, and continued to trust in God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ, their grip on salvation would grow stronger. Their faith would mature.

Why live a godly life? Because God is good. And eternal blessings surround the path he leads a person down.
And Peter continues.

Why live a godly life? Because Jesus is the chosen Cornerstone of God’s church.

1 Peter 2:4-8 (NASB)

4And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For this is contained in Scripture:
Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
7This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,
8 and,
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
If you’ve ever seen a stone archway you might have noticed that it had a unique stone at the top. Where the two stone arches meet in the middle there is often “keystone” which is shaped differently than the rest. It’s special shape applies the proper pressure to each side, holding the weighty structure up.

In ancient masonry, cornerstones like this were critical. While the most important stone in the arch was the keystone, the most important stone in the building was the chief cornerstone. It was the stone that set the lines for the rest of the building, making sure everything was straight and in place. Solid and stable.

Now you can imagine what a mess the builders would be in if they haphazardly discarded the chief cornerstone. Since the rest of the building was designed around this stone, the whole building plan wouldn’t make any sense without it!

This is what happened to the Jews. God had chosen the nation of Israel for the special purpose of bringing his eternal Son into the human race. God’s Son would be born a Jew.

But when the Son of God arrived, and carried out God’s plan to redeem sinners from their sins, the Jews, for the most part, didn’t accept him as the Messiah. They rejected the one individual that the whole Old Testament existed to point to! They discarded the Chief Cornerstone of God’s building!

Without Christ, the faith of the Jewish nation fell apart. If Jesus isn’t the Savior, who is? All the prophecies pointed to him. Who else could take his place? What were they to do about their sins? God was very clear in the Old Testament that there was to be a judgment one day, and that the only escape from it for sinful mankind would be a Savior. If it wasn’t Jesus, how could they stand before God? Where was the relief from guilt and sin that God promised? Where were they to go from here?

The picture presented by Peter here is easy to imagine. Peter quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah calling Jesus a “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”—to the Jews.

It was as if they were building the temple in Jerusalem, but refused to use the Chief Cornerstone sent to them from the quarry. There it lay, pushed to the side. And as they ran back and forth trying to figure it all out, they’d stumble across this stone repeatedly. If you’ve ever slammed your toe into a rock you know how frustrating this would be.

Peter writes…

“for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed” (1 Peter 2:8b NASB).

Now, I want to take just a moment to clear up a little confusion in the text here. The translation that we’re using is the New American Standard Bible translation. And we’re using it for our study because it is usually one of the most trustworthy English translations around. But for some reason the translators made a regrettable addition to their translation in this verse. The Greek text simply doesn’t include the word “doom”. They italicized the word so that readers would know that it wasn’t found in the Greek here.

The problem with supplying the word “doom” here is that it could be understood to mean that God appointed the Jews to the doom of unbelief. But Scripture makes it clear that God doesn’t predestine anyone to hell. As it says in First Timothy 2:4, God desires all people to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved through faith in Christ.

So, without the word “doom”, what is God saying here? Simply that those who are disobedient to the word, those who reject the promise of salvation in Christ, they’re doing to stumble. And we’re back to the picture of builders tripping over the most important stone in the building project.

Peter contrasts the confusion of the Messiah rejecting Jews with the solid position of believers. Those in Asia Minor who were coming to Christ by faith were being taken by God as living stones, and placed on the Chief Cornerstone. The precious Cornerstone that God had chosen and sent to redeem mankind from sin.

And on this Cornerstone these redeemed sinners were being built up as a part of God’s own spiritual house. His own spiritual temple. The Church of God’s believers.

And Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16, those who believe in Him will not be disappointed. On the foundation of God’s Chosen Savior, these believers would be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to God. Offerings of thanks and praise that were acceptable to God because those offerings are covered by Christ’s perfect offering of himself on the cross.

Why live a godly life? Because Jesus is the Chosen Cornerstone of God. And on him we are secure. On him we are made new.
Peter now moves away from the picture of stumbling apart from Christ.

1 Peter 2:9-12 (NASB)

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Maybe we’ve gotten a little lost at this point. Remember, Peter is addressing Christians in Asian Minor who were suffering persecution because of their faith in Christ. People who were tempted to pocket their Christianity and live like everyone else to avoid conflict and strife from the unbelieving world.

To that idea Peter says, Why live a godly life? Because you’ve received mercy from God.

Many of the believers in Asia Minor had grown up in pagan cities. Cities where pagan temple priests resided over their followers, telling them that the only way to God was through THEM. Bring your sacrifices here, and let the priests offer them for you.

But Christ had come to them through the Gospel message of sins forgiven through his cross. Christ had spoken to them and told them the truth: there is only ONE priest who can stand before the almighty. The very Son of God. And he has offered the ONE sacrifice that God would accept for mankind’s freedom and cleansing—his own sinless suffering and death. And NOW they were HIS priests. Called out of the darkness of pagan unbelief and worthless sacrifices to offer their lives as a living thank offering to the God who had redeemed them.

They had received God’s mercy. His free grace in Christ. They could stand before God without a human priest, for their High Priest had cleansed them forever.

And so Peter urges them to live as they truly were now. He urges them to live as aliens and strangers in this world of sin. He says don’t feed your sinful desires any longer, even if this means persecution from your neighbors. The sins that would gain you freedom from their ridicule would be poison to their faith.

Instead Peter says, put up with their persecution. And live your lives to God. Don’t worry about settling the score, returning the volley of gossip, or returning the insult. Repay evil with good instead. And one day, your persevering in Christ’s faith may cause your neighbors to see the light. And they may feel the forgiveness and renewal that comes through faith in God’s chosen Messiah. Even your persecutors may turn to Christ before the day he returns to judge the world.

Why live a godly life? Because you’ve receive mercy from God, and through you they may receive the same gift from God.
“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.” –Karl Rahner

Christians, however that quote strikes us, we have to admit that Christ calls us to both proclaim his grace with our mouths, and also by how we live our lives.

But before we close today I want to make one thing very clear. Living a godly life doesn’t mean we Christians are going to be perfect. When Martin Luther wrote his ninety-five theses the first one was this…

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” (Martin Luther).

For sinners redeemed by Christ, a godly life isn’t one that is devoid of sin, as if that could ever happen. It is a life of repentance. A life of continually putting aside the malice, the deceit, the hypocrisy, then envy, and the slander that flow from our sinner’s hearts.

Christians are sinners. Every day we live is filled with sins. But instead of embracing these sins, we reject them in sorrow, and bring them to our great God and Savior for cleansing. And we receive that cleaning because of Christ’s cross.

That’s the life that Peter called his poor persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ to embrace. That’s the life that Christ calls us to embrace today also.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus.

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