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.
Christian groups under Nero weren’t losing their status; they were losing their lives. It’s into this hostile culture that Peter writes the letters we know as 1st and 2nd Peter. Friends, with things becoming increasingly hostile toward Christians in our culture, it’s imperative that we know who we are, where we’re from, how we’re to live, and to cherish what we’ve been given.
1. We must know who we are. Look at the opening phrase in verse 1: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
• Saved. Peter was really a paradox wasn’t he? While he is listed first in all the lists of the disciples and he made some courageous statements about Jesus like: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus also turned to him one time and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” John MacArthur points out that when he acted like his sinful self, Jesus called him Simon but when he acted out his true identity, he was called Peter, or Rocky for short. It’s striking that he doesn’t call himself Simon here, but Peter.
Friend, if you’re saved, you have a new identity as well. And if you’ve bailed or compromised or denied Christ in any way, you can have a fresh start just like Peter did. One of my favorite verses about the Resurrection is when Jesus turned to Mary in the garden and said in Mark 16:7, “But, go tell the disciples, and Peter…” He wanted Peter to know that there was hope. His denials did not disqualify him. And then, in John 21, Peter was recommissioned by Christ with these words, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.” As we study his letter we’re some of the sheep that his words will feed.