Summary: When we know who we are, we'll understand what we have.
Strangers in a Strange Land
Rev. Brian Bill
September 13-14, 2014
Do you find it difficult to hold on to hope when our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity? Just this week, America’s largest university system in California “de-registered” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on all 26 campuses because InterVarsity refuses to allow non-Christians to serve as leaders of their groups.
One astute observer had this to say, “America’s college and university campuses are increasingly resembling closed countries.” In commenting on this situation, Albert Mohler wrote, “What we’re looking at here is not only the ‘de-recognition’ of these organizations, but the stigmatizing of evangelical Christianity.”
How do we handle all the anti-Christian antagonism in our country? Our present culture seems to be in a moral free-fall, doesn’t it? Liberties that Christians have taken for granted are being removed. Marriage has been reframed and redefined. The sanctity of human life is under attack. BTW, Walk for Life is next Saturday morning.
Do we just cave into the culture around us? Do we become combative? Or, do we go with the gospel by bringing Christ into the culture? How do we maintain hope when everything seems so hopeless? How do we remain Christ-centered when our culture is becoming increasingly caustic toward Christianity?
These questions and more are answered in the book of 1 Peter. We’re kicking off a brand new series today called, “Living Hope: Seeking Holiness in a Hostile World.”
In order to apply the Word to our world, let’s view this letter as “Peter’s Epistle to Edgewood.” Could I encourage you to read this entire book at least once a week? In just 105 verses, it ties together all four of our key vision words – gather, grow, give and go. As we dive in, it’s my prayer that we will gather with God’s people to hear God’s Word, that we’ll grow deeper in our walk with Christ, that we’ll give what we’ve been given and that we’ll be better equipped to go with the gospel to the culture around us. Incidentally, we put together a booklet called, “Edgewood on Mission” that contains the combined text from last weekend’s message and our Vision Night on Sunday night.
When I told Ray Pritchard that we are beginning this series, he responded with these words: “Never have we lived in more unstable times with complete moral collapse at home and the rise of brutality on a scale hitherto unknown in the Middle East.” And then as he reflected on the impact Edgewood is making in our community, he added these words, “These are exciting…times to pastor a church in such a strategic location.” I couldn’t agree more!
On July 18, 64 A.D., the city of Rome ignited in flames and burned for six days while the emperor Nero played his fiddle. Historians tell us that it’s likely that Nero started the fire but when it blazed out of control, the citizens became hostile and so he blamed the Christians for starting it. This unleashed a fire of persecution against believers that spread to other parts of the Roman Empire. Nero was nasty to Christians. He reportedly covered Christ followers in tar and then set them on fire while they were still alive, using them as torches to provide light for his garden parties. He also covered Christians in the skins of wild animals and then sent his hunting dogs out to tear them to pieces. He also nailed some to crosses, lacerated others with hot knives, and even fed Christ-followers to lions for sport.