Summary: As Christians, there are some important aspects that should characterize our lives, and only as we put them into pracitce can we enjoy the abundant living Jesus promises.
Portrait of a Christian
I Peter 1:14; 2:2,5,11
Many things have been said of religion or Christianity. William James, the famous psychologist, said: "Religion shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude." Paul Tillich (August 20, 1886 – October 22, 1965) German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher said: "Religion in the largest and most basic sense of the word, is ultimate concern. And ultimate concern is manifest in all creative functions of the human spirit." The Random House Dictionary says of religion that it usually involves devotional and ritual observances and often has a moral code for the conduct of human affairs. Rudolf Otto, (September 25, 1869–6 March 1937) was an eminent German Lutheran theologian and said of religion: "It is the emotion of a creature, abased and overwhelmed by its own nothingness in contrast to that which is supreme above all creatures."
Friedrich Nietzsche, the atheist who proclaimed that God was dead, said something quite different about religion. He said: "From the start, the Christian faith is a sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of the spirit; at the same time, enslavement and self-mockery, self-mutilation.”
Now we might ask ourselves what kind of portrait we would paint of a Christian. For some a Christian is one who must be at church on Sunday and Wednesday and any other time there is a function or activity at the church. I have had people tell me that they do not have to come to church to be a Christian, and technically this is true. I recall the time a man and myself were visiting another family in the community, and the question was asked if this particular person was a Christian. His answer: "Well, I was raised a Christian." On the movie Across the Great Divide, the question is asked of the man who is leading the two children across the wilderness: "What religion are you?" His answer was “I was raised a Christian." For others a Christian is anyone who has accepted Christ as their Savior and what they do after that point does not really matter. Some equate being an American with being a Christian. Seemingly then, there are many different ideas about what it means to be a Christian.
In our passages today, Peter shows us what an accurate portrait of a Christian should look like. While we may go to many different places or people to find ideas on what it means to be a Christian, the Word of God is the final authority.
I. THEY ARE OBEDIENT CHILDREN
Peter says; "Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance."
Peter compares the relationship Christians have to that of a parent and child. The Bible is very clear on the matter that children are to obey their parents. In fact, under Old Testament law a rebellious child could be put to death. This commandment to obey the parents is a command that carries a promise. Remember what the commandment says: "Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12)
Obedience to parents or any kind of authority is sometimes hard to find. It appears that we are now raising a generation of young people who have little respect for authority. One gathering in Saugerties, NY (August 1994) celebrated the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. This was a love and drug fest that took place in l969. That generation was rebellious too. It also seemed to want to cast off the yoke of authority. Bucking rather than obeying seems to be the norm.
Peter says this is not the way it should be in the Christian's relationship with God. What proves to ourselves and others that we are a Christian is our obedience. We are to obey God just as the child is to obey their parents. Ideally, the obedience of a child should be out of love, not out of fear of reprisal if they disobey. We can force our children to obey us, and sometimes we have to do that as parents, but it is much better when they obey out of love. It should be the same way with the Christian. They should obey God because they love him. We should not obey God simply because we fear his wrath. We should not simply obey God because we are afraid we will miss out on some blessings. We should obey God because we love him and appreciate his sacrifice for us. This is a part of the portrait of the Christian. What a shame that so many believers miss out on the deeper meaning of being a Christian because of areas of disobedience in their life.