Peter doesn’t start off this letter with what the readers can do to fix their situation. He gives them a reminder of what Jesus has done for them, and a picture of hope for the future … for something beautiful. Because he knows that’s what’s going to transform them. That’s what’s going to sustain them.
Questions for Discussion
- Why does the gospel seem to flourish the most during times of persecution?
- How does knowing who the author is of 1 Peter change our reading?
- How does knowing what the audience of 1 Peter is dealing with change our reading?
- What is the theme Peter is trying to communicate in 1 Peter 1:1-12?
- In what sense are all of us “elect exiles?” How is this letter relevant to us in 2016?
- What does it mean to be “born again to a living hope” (1:3)?
- How should this knowledge affect your priorities? More specifically, what priorities do you need to change?
- What difficult circumstances are you facing today? How does 1 Peter 1:6-9 apply to your situation?
What I’ve done to this point in my teaching, has been considered topical preaching. We had a few topics we wanted to lay out to express the culture of Refuge, so you could make a decision if you wanted this place and these people to be your full-time-church-family.
Last week, many individuals and families made that commitment. If you would like to do that, you can go online to Refuge.Church/Partner. Or for those who prefer, we now have a paper version in the lobby. We also signed that canvas as Charter Partners … and we’ll leave that out for the next few weeks, for anyone who did NOT get a chance to sign.
We may from time-to-time, continue to do some topical teaching, as God leads. But the majority of the time, in keeping with our desire to be a Church that goes deep into God’s word, our teaching style at Refuge would be what’s called expository style, which is simply working through books of the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter.
For the next several weeks, we’ll be working our way through the book of 1 Peter. Which should lead us up to the Christmas season. We may do some special Christmas teaching in the month of December, and then the plan today, is in 2017, we begin to work our way through the Gospel of Mark working towards an Easter celebration; just to give you some idea/direction we are heading in. You can plant that in flexcrete.
As we work through 1 Peter as a Church, I encourage you to read the entire book (it’s only 5-chapters) in full each week. If you have a small group, or you want to start one, this might be a great time to do so, and just gather together to discuss what we talk about in here, in more detail. Address the tough questions. I’ll even start putting a list of “questions for further discussion” on the website, when I post the audio and notes from the sermon each week.
OK — One of the BIG over-arching themes in 1 Peter is the concept of being strangers, living in a foreign land. Exiles. Pilgrims. Travelers. Refugees. That this world is not our permanent home, that we’re just sort of camping here temporarily.
Have you ever been homesick? Maybe as a kid, you went away to summer camp? I stumbled onto these letters from summer camp this week from some homesick kids…
“Dear Mimi, I miss you so much. I loved your London card you sent. It’s so cute. I can’t believe in two days we leave and get to see you. It is sad and happy at the same time. I’ve got to go plunge a toilet. Bye. Love McRay”
“Dear mom and dad, I love everything about this camp … except the campers. Love, Sarina”
“Dear mom, I’m the least liked in the hole cabin; our counselor is mean and he yells at me most. I miss you and I want to go home. Bye now, David XOXOXOXO”
“Day 5 of camp is a lot better. The rash on my penis is gone, and now I can run. My friends hate when I say eggs, so I’m trying to stop saying it. Love, Josh”
“Take me home mommy, take me home daddy, take me home mommy, take me home daddy. Etc …”
“Hi … I’m stuck HELL and they won’t let me call for you to pick me up. So when you get this pick me up.”
“Dear home, I love you and I am feeling a little homesick. Signed, little girl literally puking houses out of her mouth”
Maybe that wasn’t you. Maybe you loved playing games like Two-Buck-Chuck (drink a half gallon of milk without vomiting, win two bucks). Strobe-Light-Volleyball.
But if we’re honest, I think we all got a little homesick at summer camp. I’ve experienced Homesickness as an adult. Show of hands, how many have been on a short term mission trip?
I’ve lost count to how many I’ve been a part of, but at least 10, and most of them to the Dominican Republic. Sometimes I’d go to the DR by myself and lead times, and sometimes I’d take my family. When my family wasn’t there, I’d be homesick for them. And even if they were with me, we’d all still get homesick.
If you’ve ever been on one of these trips, you know how about the 4-days of beans and rice, the conversations quickly turn to Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
I asked my kids this week the things they where homesick for when we when were in the DR. They said … warm showers, air-conditioning, electricity that worked all day, and a comfortable bed.
For my wife, (most easily grosses out person) I know hers without asking … in the DR, the plumbing is not so good … you can’t flush the TP, so you just sort of wipe & fold and put it in a waste basket next to the toilet. (I’m totally selling you to go with us next summer right?)
For me, I’d get homesick from not being able to communicate in my own language, because, you know … I like to talk.
But as we tell our kids anytime they go to summer camp, or I tell our mission team members when we go to serve in a foreign country. It’s OK to be a little homesick. Just go. Have fun. Do good work. Let your light shine. You’re not there very long, so make the most of your time.
Before each mission trip, we usually have a few planning meetings. Things to pack. How to act/behave while you’re in a foreign country. The thing I say most before we leave is “don’t forget your passport”.
Once we get done with flying, and through security, and into our final resting place, I’d normally collect the passports. Which I know feels a little strange to some at first … but I don’t want to risk anyone losing their passport. Because a passport, that’s your identity when you travel. It tells others that you are a citizen of the United States.
I also always remind the mission teams to stick with the group. When you are in a foreign country that you aren’t familiar with, it’s not really a good idea to wander off by yourself. You don’t know the language. You don’t know the safe places. I usually keep an extra close eye on the wanderers in the group …
My first ever mission trip was to Kenya, Africa … and while told not to go off on our own, I started feeling comfortable … and began exploring. I was homesick, and so was trying to make my way to an internet café so I could email Karen, and took a few wrong turns, and got totally lost, and I kind of stuck out, and had people yelling things at me, that though I didn’t understand the language … but I don’t think they were yelling … hey American, we love you.
While trying to find my way back to the place we were staying, I witnessed a car vs pedestrian crash … a riot ensued, and the man driving the car was pulled out of his car and, let’s just say, some street justice took place. Don’t lose your passport & Stick with your group!
This imagery of being homesick and strangers visiting a foreign land, is what Peter is teaching. That we are foreigners. That this world is not our permanent home. That it’s OK to be homesick.
These concepts are especially relevant to us; As a new church; As an American culture that is undergoing a major cultural shift in how Christians are viewed by society; As we come to the end of a long political season, that can’t end soon enough. Karen said she can’t wait for Facebook to go back to people posting puppies & cats.
And don’t worry. I’m not going to get into politics, or recommend who you should vote for, or express my own political opinions (opinions & armpits). If you go to our website, it says we are a church that is neither Republican or Democrat, Liberal nor Conservative … we are refugees living in a foreign land; which we’ve stolen directly from Peter’s teaching.
And so let’s go there now …
1 Peter 1:1 (NLT)
This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
There is a lot to unpack in just this opening sentence.
We start with this is a letter; a letter that was written 2000 years ago … in GREEK. Now, I’m guessing there aren’t many of us in the room that read Greek, so we’re using a translation from the original language. I did learn the Greek alphabet in the Fraternity, because, you know, that’s super helpful in my daily life. (Alpha, Beta, etc.)
Tonight we’re using the NLT translation of the Bible. There are several in this room, who are new to church; and others who are just lazy, and never given much thought to the seemingly endless translations of the bible … so want to educate a little, so we can be better students of the Bible.
I think nearly all translations of the bible have value. I had Tyler make this little chart to help you understand …
On the left hand side, you see the more FORMAL translations of scripture. King James (or as I call it, the Shakespeare edition) is the most formal, meaning a word-by-word translation.
A great study bible, and the one I personally use when doing deep study, is the ESV (English Standard Version) because it gives me the closest translation of each word, uses our modern language, not King James English.
On the right hand side, you see the more functional translations of the Bible. These translations are more thought-by-thought translations, making them very readable.
The Message version, that you see on the far right, isn’t a translation, it’s a paraphrase, in language and words (even some slang) we use today, but it’s great for a fresh perspective on the text.
I’ll often teach using the NLT translation, because it’s one of the newest translations, and is based on very recent scholarship. It’s a thought-for-thought translation, which also makes it very readable.
OK, so this 2000-year-old letter that we’re studying and learning from tonight, it says it was written by Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
We’ve talked about Peter a little bit and so you may be somewhat familiar with his story …
Peter was not only an apostle of Jesus, but he was in the inner-circle of 3 (with James & John). And so throughout this letter, we’ll see the words of Jesus re-stated. He arguably spent more time with Jesus than anybody else.
- Jesus poured into him. Jesus taught him.
- He was a simple fisherman // Married
- Eventually become a preacher, leader, miracle worker, prophet, and letter writer.
- Oh, and he was a misfit like us …
One of the more celebrated statements of Peter comes in Matthew 16 …
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
But just a few verses later in that same chapter … Jesus is telling his disciples that he will soon go to Jerusalem, and suffer, and be killed … and pushy Peter takes Jesus aside, and chastises him. To which Jesus turns to Peter and says:
23 Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.
So in one breath, Peter gets it, better than anyone else. And in the next he’s being called Satan.
That’s Peter. Impulsive. Brash. Bold, but flawed. A serious case of open-mouth-insert-foot-disease. That’s why he’s one of my favorite people in the bible. I can relate to Peter.
He’s bold enough to step out to try to walk on the water when Jesus calls … only to sink. He falls asleep when Jesus tells him to keep watch. He cuts off a man’s ear. (Great Halloween costume // mistaken for Van Gogh)
In one breath Peter tells Jesus, Lord I will never deny you; and in the next he denies Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times.
And yet through it all, Jesus is forming Peter as a leader. He restores Peter when he falls. Even after Peter’s greatest failure of denial, Jesus continues teaching him, extending grace.
One of my favorite sections of scripture comes near the end of the Gospel of John. Jesus has been resurrected, he’s appeared to the disciples. Peter is out fishing with some of the disciples, they aren’t catching anything (sounds like every fishing experience I have). They hear a man on the shore, taunting them … “have you caught anything”? The man says …” throw their nets on the right-hand-side of the boat”, they do, and catch so many fish that they couldn’t haul it in. John realizes it’s Jesus. And Peter, the ready-shoot-aim guy that he is, jumps out of the boat and swims 100 yards to shore to be with Jesus, who has a breakfast of fish & bread waiting.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
Shortly after this, Jesus ascends back to Heaven, the Spirit comes upon Peter at Pentecost, and in Acts 2, he preaches that amazing sermon that gave birth to the Church. And now, we’re reading a letter written 30 years later, and Peter is still feeding Jesus’ sheep.
It would be easy to read and study this letter, and think, well, this guy Peter, he doesn’t know MY story. He doesn’t know the junk I’m dealing with. He doesn’t know how hard my life is.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure he does. This letter isn’t something he wrote, then headed back to his house in Hills to relax and sip Mai Tai’s while the early Christians suffered.
He wrote this letter, likely in hiding, after experiencing years of persecution … and only a short time later is executed on a cross, upside down at his request, because he didn’t think he was worthy to be crucified like Jesus.
Peter is a walking illustration that becoming a Christian doesn’t make our lives all rainbows and unicorns. Doesn’t exempt us from problems. In fact, it may compound them … But Peter never stopped loving Jesus. He never stopped feeding his sheep, because he knew his identity, and now he’s reminding others of theirs …
This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ …
I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
That’s modern-day Turkey. I know you knew that, but I just wanted to tell you.
NLT says God’s chosen people, living in a foreign land
NIV gives us a more direct translation when it says:
God’s ELECT EXILES who are scattered…
Peter is writing to Christians who are experiencing persecution. He may be using the term exile literally. The persecution of Christians was escalating, as believers were forced out of Rome, to re-settle in other places …
Roman Emperor Nero was in power at this time, and was an absolute psychopath. Think Hitler on steroids. Nero wanted to rebuild Rome, so he set it on fire causing most of the city to burn. To be sure he didn’t take the fall for starting the fire, he blamed the Christians, who were already beginning to be viewed with suspicion and a threat to the Roman Empire, because they talked a lot about a “new kingdom” and a “new king.”
History tells us that Nero would would put Christian Women and Children into the coliseum for sport to be torn apart by lions. He impaled followers on stakes and burned them as human torches to light up his decadent parties.
So Peter may be using the term literally. But most commentaries agree that he certainly is using it figuratively; as a people whose true home is in Heaven, who are living as ELECT (God’s chosen people) EXILES (who have no home)
That’s an oxymoron. They seem to contradict. Like “clearly confused” or “jumbo shrimp” or “diet ice cream”
But Peter throughout this letter will come back to this concept: “elect exiles”. In fact, I would even argue that we could summarize the entire theme of the letter with just those two words.
Peter’s saying … “You are at the same time the most hated and looked down upon in all of the world, and yet the richest and most blessed because you belong to God.”
So if someone is mocking you because of your faith, it’s OK, because you belong to God.
If you’re fired from your job. If you’re a kid who isn’t allowed at the cool table. Or adult. If you’re gossiped about. It’s OK, you belong in Heaven. (and the weird table is a lot more fun)
If you’re being stereotyped, marginalized, vilified. It’s OK and to be expected. This world is not our home.
If your favorite politician doesn’t win the upcoming election, it’s OK. The early Christians flourished in a totally corrupt Roman government, with a psychopath dictator.
In fact, the kingdom of God, over history, has advanced the most when Christians are not the majority. The gospel flourishes most, when Christians have little to no “worldly” power. It’s hard to communicate the culture of Jesus … love, grace, forgiveness, serving, sacrifice, generosity … when you’re also carrying the mantel of power.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t champion the causes we see in scripture, using all political means available … but we have to remember that this world is and will always be broken, until Jesus comes back. (democracy, monarchy, dictatorship … we’ll mess it up)
Even if you’re being truly persecuted for your faith; not common here, but is in other parts of the world … jailed, beaten, tortured, killed … Peter is saying Keep hope, we’re only camped out here a little while …
The people Peter is writing this letter to, they are struggling. They’ve given up more to follow Jesus than most of us will ever know. Persecution is escalating. They’re discouraged. They’re tired.
And they get this letter in the mail. It’s from Peter. The apostle. I’m not sure how letters came back then, pretty sure it didn’t come FedEx, but it came …
And I want you to imagine the excitement that fills the air, as they gather the church to hear this letter read …
What’s he going to say? How’s he going to help us endure? Someone begins to read the letter …
(1 Peter 1:2–12).
2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
Can’t you just see them sitting there listening, hanging on every word … remembering the stories they already knew about Jesus and his teachings
5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. Your faith is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.
The followers would know, that FIRE is an opportunity for gold. Gold shines more brightly in a fire. God gets stronger and more pure in a fire.
So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring YOU much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
You love him, even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him, will be the salvation of your souls.
This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for YOU. They wondered what time, or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about, when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.
12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for YOU. And now this Good News has been announced to YOU by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.
I imagine a lot of applause, amens and tears going on …
Why does he start the letter that way? Why didn’t he start by saying, “I’ve heard you’re struggling and suffering, let me tell you how to fix that?”
That’s what I’d do? Someone is going through something, and I just want to tell them how to fix it.
But Peter doesn’t start off with what they can do to fix their situation. He doesn’t tell them what politician they should all get behind so they can change the persecution.
He gives them a reminder of what Jesus has done for them and a picture of hope for the future, for something beautiful. Because he knows that’s what’s going to transform them. That’s what’s going to sustain them.
As a kid, I wanted to learn to play music. I played piano. Guitar. Saxophone. Even the bassoon.
Now, who in their right mind would ever want to play a bassoon. Certainly didn’t help w/the ladies. Might have been that haircut/glasses/suit too?
You know why I learned to play this silly instrument? I went to an orchestra concert. They were playing the Batman soundtrack (1989 version, only good one) and it was amazing. I was from a small-town, and I’d never heard live orchestra music. I wanted to be a part of that.
So I took lessons. I spent hours practicing. I sacrificed any chance of having a girlfriend.
Not because someone said, you need to learn to play the bassoon. Here are the rules. Here are the mechanics. Here is the proper way to hold your mouth.
No, I saw the end result. When I practiced, I knew where I was heading. Someday I’d be playing in a concert orchestra. I’d be a part of making beautiful music with other people.
That’s how you build character. That’s how you get people to move towards a goal. You don’t give a bunch of rules and regulations. You put beauty in front of them.
Rules don’t change us. Have you read the OT? It doesn’t work. Moral regulations just create rebels or white washed tombs. But beauty transforms.
And Peter knows this from experience. So he doesn’t first give the church something to do. He gives them a reminder of who God is, of what Jesus has done, of what the Spirit is doing in them, and a vision for where the are going. He gives them hope.
That’s what Peter is saying, and we’ll close on this, and pick up in verse 13 next week …
He’s saying: Do you want to persevere? Do you want to get through trials and struggles? Then what is the vision that’s sustaining you?
Is it Heaven? Or is it something else?
What’s the vision that dominates your heart?
Is it the American Dream? Is it the perfect family? The right friends? The right politician winning?
Or is it Heaven?
Friends, our hope is in heaven. That’s what sustains us. Knowing that this world is not our home. That we’re just travelers passing through. That there is a reward waiting, unlike anything we can ever imagine.
Victor Frankel (Holocaust Survivor/psychologist) // Those who have a “why” to live, can bear with almost any “how”.
It’s OK to be homesick. In fact, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you should be homesick, because we’re not home.
But it’s a short trip.
Don’t lose your passport. Remember who you are.
Stick together. As foreigners, we need to keep each other safe. We need to be a refuge for one another.
Jesus says, don’t let your heart be troubled, I’ve gone to prepare a place for you. This world is not that place. We’re just passing through.