Monday, July 09, 2007

New Life In Christ: A sermon preached at Dromore Cathedral Summer Praise service on 8th July 2007. 1 Peter 1:13-25

How then, shall we live? So far in 1 Peter we have been seeing the greatness of God, in what he has done for us, and the hope he has given to us through Jesus Christ. One of the first things Peter talked about was the new birth to a living hope (3), and now tonight, in our passage, Peter again talks of being born again through the imperishable word of God.

The question for us, then, is this – what does the new life in Christ look like? Tonight won’t cover all of it, because Peter returns again and again to this theme, particularly in the ‘be subject to’ passages in chapter 2 & 3. Our passage shows us three important features of the new life in Christ – holiness, fear and love. But before we come to these three features, we’re urged to be ready, to be prepared for action.

Up to verse 12, we see what God has done for us. Verses 13 on show us what we have to do – how we should respond to God’s grace and mercy. See the ‘therefore’ at the start of verse 13? (As we heard at Summer Madness last week, whenever you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible you have to ask what it’s ‘there for’!) That shows that there’s a link between what has gone before and what is coming now. Because of that, then this follows.

Verse 13 shows us that we need to be ready for the battle that is coming – and the battle starts in our minds. ‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.’

Peter is saying that if you know what you know about God, then you can be prepared for what is coming. The new life in Christ is not easy, in the face of opposition and persecution. So how should we live out our hope?

Peter first appeals for the family likeness of holiness. Parents, have you ever heard yourself say this - ‘as long as you’re in this house, you’ll live by our rules’ – or if you’re a son or daughter have you ever been told - ‘this is how our family behaves (or doesn’t behave).’ In a sense, this is how Peter goes on to encourage his readers to respond to God’s grace.

Because we have been given new birth (into God’s family) – we are called to live up to the family likeness. Verse 14 says: ‘as obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”’

We aren’t called to be holy to win our salvation. We can’t get on the right side of God by doing good things. We are only made right with God through what Jesus has done for us on the cross. But when we are saved, then we have to live up to what we are (or whose we are).

No longer will we so easily give in to evil desires that arise within us – instead we seek to grow more like Jesus. The choice is, in one respect, very simple – are we going to live our own way, or are we going to live God’s way?

Sometimes when we mention the word holy, or holiness, it might conjure up images of rules and regulations or of joyless existence. This cannot be farther from the truth! For Peter, and therefore, for us, holiness is modelled on God, doing the things that he is doing. As one writer has said, ‘there is a marvellous simplicity in a holiness patterned on God himself; it does not require encyclopaedic grasp of endless directives and prohibitions. It flows from the heart; its key is love. To be holy is to love the Lord our God with heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.’

What about you? Are you being conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance? Whose standards are you lining up to? Are there situations where you have a choice of what to do?

Up to now, Peter hasn’t specifically mentioned the cross, even though it has been the background of all he has said. Now, Peter speaks of it directly, as he reminds us of judgement – and as he seeks to encourage us to live a holy life.

First, he says that we call on a Father who is the judge. One day at the end of time, God will indeed judge each of us for what we have done. It’s because of this judgement that we’re called to live in fear – looking forward to that day. But it’s not a fear because of the final result, in the same style as a fear of spiders or a fear of the dark. The reason we don’t have to fear the judgement itself is because Jesus has died for us, if you have accepted him as Lord and Saviour. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. However, the fear is to come precisely because Jesus has died for us.

We’re back to the precious theme again – we haven’t been redeemed by perishable things like gold or silver – but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Slaves could be ‘redeemed’ in the market place – bought with money. But it was something much more precious and important than money that was used to redeem and save us – Christ’s blood shed on the cross.

We’ve been saved because God gave that which cost so very much – so we should live in response to that fact, living what I would call a ‘thankful fearfulness, or a fearful thankfulness.’

Peter then goes on to show how precious Jesus is – ‘a lamb without blemish or defect’ – he is our Passover Lamb, the substitute who died in our place, taking our sins upon himself. This is why living a holy life is so important, because we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

So far we have seen that the new life in Christ is about holiness and fear (or rather, thankful fear). There’s one final bit of instruction in chapter one that Peter has for the Christians he’s writing to. That is to love one another deeply.

Look at verse 22 – ‘love one another earnestly from a pure heart.’ That word ‘earnestly’ calls us not to half-hearted love, or a cold formal relationship with those around us. Rather, it points us to an intense, deep love. The same word is used to describe the earnestness of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44)

The reason we have to love one another deeply is because we have been born again. By ourselves, we’re self-centred, and only interested in other people for what they can give us or how we can use them.

Having been born again, we are part of the new family of God. As well as loving God, we also have to love our brothers and sisters. Peter links this to us being redeemed through the living and enduring word of God – which stands for ever. Why is this? Well, because it is through the word of God that we first learnt of the love of God for us, and it is the source of our ongoing growth in love and holiness as we bask in God’s love.

Did you notice that the word of God is described as living and abiding (and which remains forever)? Because the word of God abides forever, it also means that its message endures forever. Our new birth isn’t just for a week or two, but will last forever, into eternity. Similarly, God’s love for us lasts for ever, and so we are called to love one another earnestly, because we have been born again.

As we come to a close tonight, did you notice the double contrast between perishable things and imperishable? In verse 18, we are reminded we’re not redeemed by perishable things (such as silver or gold), but are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ; and also that we have been born again, not of imperishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

So how do we respond to God’s grace in this passage? First of all, do you know this new life in Christ? Have you been born again through the living word of God?

If you have been born again, then are you progressing in holiness, in fear, and in love? Remember, these are all to be rooted in the grace of God, and in what he has done for us. Let’s pray that we will grow in grace together, in our new life in Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment