Summary: Christ's Lordship, Readiness to Witness, Hope, Respect
The 3 C’s of a Healthy Church - Always Be Ready
1 Peter 3:15 (p. 851) February 12, 2017
A few years ago I was walking out of one of our worship services after it was over and I walked past a staff member who was having an animated conversation with a gentleman that was really upset and letting our staff member know it. I heard this comment: “Are you telling me you financially support a ministry that involves hispanic people without making sure they are all legal?”
That got my attention…and you know me (I’m usually soft spoken and gentle and avoid controversy) . Maybe not (lol).
My first question to this “fired up” individual was “Are you a Christ follower?” And after he said he was I asked “What do you think as Christ followers should be our first concern when it comes to people…no matter their race?”
He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I don’t get you?” And I said, “Our first priority should be eternity, our first priority should be God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Don’t you agree?”
He got madder and said: “If that’s how you are going to use my money, I’ll never give you another cent.” And I felt anger but also compassion. I remember saying…“Put first priorities first and then the Holy Spirit can guide individuals to doing what’s right even if it’s hard.” He said something else about not giving anymore money and I ended the conversation with “If that’s how you feel you can take your $2.50 and head down the road.” He did.
The reason this conversation came to mind as I prepared this message involved the horns of a dilemma Christians are facing in the world today. How can we be Matthew 6:33 people who “Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness?” How can we be individuals who have “revered Christ in our hearts as Lord…and are always prepared to share the hope we have…with gentleness and respect? In a world that is divided and angry.
The Apostle Peter is writing to such a world in his first letter…There are individuals who view their Jewish heritage and it’s laws and traditions as giving them elite status with God…and there are gentile believers who are now part of God’s family…and both live under earthly authorities in this world. Peter writes:
1 PETER 1:9-17 (p. 850)
If we really want to fulfill God’s mission for our lives…in our world.
I. RESPECT AND GENTLENESS ARE VITAL
Christians who were Jewish…Christians that had been pagans…gentiles…all living under a Roman system where the Emperor of Rome was to be worshipped. Women, who before Christ, had very little authority, but now were lifted to equal salvation status…slaves and free, old and young, priests and blue collar workers.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy…each are now together “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” (1 Peter 1:9-10)
I share this because I promise you each of the aforementioned saw life through their priorities…Conservative Jews saw life through the covenant and the law…Gentiles saw life through liberal grace…acceptance. Slaves wanted freedom, Roman citizen’s wanted their rights…men and women saw life through different experiences and hopes.
Even among its leadership, the Church faced this struggle in it’s early days…The Apostle Paul who was a Roman Citizen, but had been a zealous Pharisee, a leader in the religious hierarchy, and the Apostle Peter, one of the Legendary 12…a Galilean fisherman who had been with Jesus through it all and had been the first one in the empty tomb, had some problems they had to overcome.
The Apostle Peter was influenced by Jewish conservatives to look down on gentiles who had not been part of the old covenant. It began to work too…because Peter started to try and please this crowd more than opening his heart to the gentiles…by the way this takes place after Pentecost, after the gift of the Holy Spirit, and after his vision that led him to Cornelius, the gentile’s house, so God could show Him the inclusive plan.
The Apostle Paul shows up and listen to what happens:
GALATIANS 2:4-14 (p. 810)
Paul has to share truth with love to Cephas (Peter). And that truth was…don’t let a crowd with an agenda sway you from the love of Christ…It can happen to anyone…even a lovely encourager like Barnabas.
Christians in today’s culture will continually fight this battle…a battle of division…a battle where Satan would blind us with a priority that becomes more important than His Kingdom…Here’s what I mean. It is very easy for me to love our veterans and be passionate about soldiers who suffer after they return from combat…Why? Because I see things through how my son has been cared for and treated. I’m sensitive about race relations because my son in law is black and my 3 precious grandsons through him and my daughter are bi-racial. These are high priorities in my life and influence how I approach life. They are emotional issues for me. And, I’ll bet that each of you have emotional priorities as well.