If you brought a Bible with you, I’m going to invite you to turn to the book of 1 Peter. We’re in 1 Peter 2 together. This is a beautiful passage of scripture. We started this as a church family when coronavirus started because if you’re familiar with 1 Peter at all, 1 Peter is a book during challenging times with the early church in the first century. They’re facing hardship.
Peter addresses this letter to the church that’s in modern day Turkey and they’re about to go through and chat through some challenging experiences. And Peter himself is familiar with that sort of scenario in his own life, because, Peter has been faced persecution not too long after he writes this letter. He’s about to be crucified upside down and just before he’s crucified, history tells us that his wife is also martyred for her faith in the Lord. Peter is certainly an individual that’s familiar with suffering. And I’m going to move around just a little bit cause I feel like my head gets cut off for some of you guys. So I want you to be able to see me.
1 Peter 2 is where we are together and this is such an encouraging passage to think about how we can be used. The Lord, despite any circumstance, God can use us. And not knowing how things might look for us moving forward and not even knowing the circumstances of, of how the economy might affect us or how this virus could impact lives that we would be going through together. This book is a great reminder really, if you feel like you face a very little hardship in life, that there is a reason to still get up and rejoice and even you feel like you faced just a season of difficulty. There’s a reason for us to get up in rejoice.
And not just that, to recognize that God can use those moments to make his people stronger. When you read scripture, you’ll see stories of individuals that accomplish great things for the Lord. But the time in which they are refined for God is when they’ve faced adversity in their lives. That God uses them in those seasons of waiting and those seasons of challenges to do a work within them for the next journey that God is going to call them to as a way of preparing their lives. When you think of individuals like Moses who for 40 years under Pharaoh has to run and spend 40 years in the desert. Or Elijah who goes through a famine. Or Esther who is about to watch her people be slaughtered. Or even Noah who has to spend a hundred years building an ark, while people may point fingers at him. God uses that season to refine them for something great.
And I think the same thing is true in our own lives. And Peter writes this letter to the early church to help them recognize how important it is to just be sensitive to the way that God is using us through seasons of adversity. It’s not about hitting the pause button to wait for everything to get back to perfection before we start serving him. But to understand in the midst of the trial is where God meets us and where God wants to use us. That God is always fighting a battle for us.
So as we think about 1 Peter, I’m going to just jump into Genesis for just a minute to lead into what 1 Peter 2 talks about. Because when God designed you, everything that God intended in your design, Peter highlights as he describes the way that the Lord wants to work in our lives in 1 Peter 2.
So if you start in Genesis one let me just throw this picture out for us. I’m just gonna look at two verses in Genesis 1, if you want to follow along. If you have notes, I’m going to give you just the first blank in the notes that we’ve got printed at the resource table and that’s for us to recognize that God calls his people to rule. You rule. God calls you to rule. Now, before you start banging on your chest and declaring yourself the king of the jungle, I think just leave that for Tarzan for today. I’m going to describe a little bit more about what ruling looks like.
But when God created you in the very beginning, Genesis 1:26 he makes it known that he creates his people to rule. Let us make man in our image. So the triunity of God; Father, Son, and Spirit discussing here, let us make man in our image according to our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and get this, and over every creeping thing.
So when you’re out in your yard mowing today, if you see a snake, just say in Jesus name, you know I rebuke you. You rule over everything. Don’t be afraid of spiders. God calls you to rule over everything and have dominion over everything. And when you consider just the idea of that rule, here’s the beautiful thing that God is saying to us as his creatures made in his image. That the primary way God wants to make his glory known in this world is through his people made in his image. You want to see God work? God works through his people. And that’s what this beginning of the idea of ruling starts to shape for us.
In fact, in Psalm 8:3, the psalmist describes the beauty of God’s creation. This is a wonderful Psalm to read as we’re outdoors today. Just Psalm 8 and allow that psalm to just fill our spirit.
But in verse three it says this, when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained, what is man that you take thought of him? And the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than God and you crown him with glory and majesty. You make him to rule over the works of your hands and you have put all things under his feet.
The psalmist thinks about who God is and the beauty of all that he’s made. And then he looks to us and thinkings, but who are we God, that you would even give us opportunity to demonstrate the goodness of who you are in this world? What a privilege that is to think that God would even consider us in such a way as to demonstrate his goodness being made in his image.
Now with power comes responsibility. And in Genesis 1:28, God gives a little more thought to what it means being made in his image, or a little more clarity. He says, and God blessed them and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and rule.
Now, I think the concise way that we could say this, and this is in your blank, that God calls us to bless. That’s the next blank in this message that God calls us to bless. Meaning in verse 28 you see that God’s certainly blessed us, right? God blessed us and gives us opportunity to reflect his goodness in this world. To make the glory of God made known in our lives as we surrender to him. And we give evidence to his image on us. Whether you acknowledge God or not, we are creatures that give evidence to the image of God because we all desire things that are good and some, some degree, though it’s distorted. We look for justice and mercy and love. We all bear God’s image in some way or another.
But God blessed us and in so doing he creates us then to bless. And he describes rather than just say, go bless, he describes what that looks like. Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. But scripture makes it evident that we are to be a people that are a blessing. In Luke chapter 6:28 and in Romans 12:14, it says this in both passages, bless those who curse you, in Luke 6. And Romans 12, bless those who persecute you. That we are to be a people that blessed.
It’s like this: if you have an idea of what it means to reflect God’s image in this world, rather than be sort of a culdesac, God calls you to be a conduit. That you become this outflow of his blessing in this world.
I know people sometimes pray that God would bless them without understanding that when God blesses us, it’s for the intentions of purpose, that we could bless others through the way that God has blessed our own lives. Sometimes I like to use this illustration. I think it’s fitting for where we are in proximity in this park. That just up the street is the Jordan River. We got the Utah Lake down here to the south and the Great Salt Lake to the north. And when you go to the Utah Lake, though some of the life in the lake may be sketchy. He may catch a fish with three eyes, there is life in the lake. And why is there life in the lake? Because the lake has a way to flow out, just has an outflow, a source of water that comes through it and out of it.
But when you get to the Salt Lake, what’s on the Salt Lake? Gross flies on the outside. And I heard there are sea monkeys, but I can never get close enough to tell because the flies kill you before you get there. But it’s virtually dead. And why is it dead? There’s no way for the water to flow out. Once it gets there at dies. And the same thing’s true for us. You’re created to let the glory of God be made known in your life. And when we let it just end with us, the power of God’s spirit intended to flow through us and make his glory known, it diminishes. And that’s what happened with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
What you see it in this story is they reject God’s authority and your next blank says this. We distort our rule by rejecting God’s rule. But here’s the good news. Jesus invites us to return to him. We distort our rule by rejecting God’s rule over our lives. And that begins to help us understand what exactly it means when God creates us to rule. It’s not about dominating people or putting them under our thumb or telling them how great we are. That’s not the picture of what it means according to what God says when he creates us to rule in his image.
In fact, Jesus gave us this illustration in Matthew 20:25-27. You remember the story where James and John come to Jesus and they say to him, Jesus, make us the top people. I want to be vice president in your kingdom. I want to rule just right under you. You be King and I’ll be Prince. And Jesus gives them this beautiful illustration of what it means to rule. He says, you know, the Gentiles, lord it over others, but he wants to be great in my kingdom must become a servant.
God makes us strong. And when we use our strength for our glory, the result of that is we treat other people as tools or as instruments to leverage for our own power, our own image, our own display. Everything becomes about us. But rather than live life for our glory, when we live it for his glory, it becomes a blessing to everyone around us. Said this way, when I live selfishly, it harms others. When I live selflessly, it becomes a blessing to others when it’s for God’s glory.
It works sort of like this. This past week I went to get my car fixed and I pull in and they tell me I have a problem. My tires are wearing thin on one side and not the other. I had an option. I could just replace my tires. But you know what that’s like. You just replaced your tires. When one side of your tire wears out, not the other, you’re just wasting money because the problem really isn’t the tire. The problem is that your car is out of alignment. When your car is out of alignment, it destroys your tires at a much more rapid rate. And the same thing’s true with us. We’re called to be in alignment and that authority is with God. When we align our authority under his authority rather than waste things, we bless things.
I think as a young guy, before I moved out here, fresh out of college, I was a part of an organization that worked with young people in order to help them really rehabilitate through some traumatic experiences they had in life. And one of the first scenarios I was asked to go help was with a young kid who witnessed in the inner city. He witnessed a murder on the backstairs of his house and they needed him to testify in court. And he wasn’t stable in a place where he could do that. And so I had the assignment of meeting with this kid and spending some time with him until he got to a place where he was able to finally testify.
And the unfortunate place and circumstance in which he lived, that when he lived, first day I pulled in to pick him up and walk across the street as, as I meet the parents and we get back in the car and we’re getting ready to drive down the road. As we crossed the street in that short period of time, I’m on the other side of the street.
The police showed up in these massive amounts, this large group of police, and they all of a sudden just jump out of the car while we’re crossing the street, loaded with all sorts of weapons, charging a house for a drug raid. And here I am with a young kid, elementary age, thinking about what it means to care for his soul in those moments I’ve seen such destruction. When people take the strength that God’s given them and use it for their glory. And as we’re crossing the street trying to figure out how to care for him, I come across the street and we experienced another traumatic event as police are rating this house.
Men, can I just say to us, especially. That when we use our strength for ourselves, it is detrimental to the women and children in this world. But I think it’s important for us to understand. I know this works for all of us, that to understand who we are in light of who God is and to align ourselves with what he has called us to in him. And this is exactly where first Peter is, right?
In all the challenges of life, you got to think these believers, they feel discouraged. They’re looking at the challenges in front of them thinking it could even cost them their lives and they can’t wait for things to get back to normal so they go back to serving God. And this is exactly where Peter writes this letter to them and he wants them to understand who they are in God’s image because the Lord can work even in the most darkest of days. In fact, in the darkest days, his light shines the brightest. And that’s how this story begins, right?
Peter is, Peter talks about the declaration of Jesus and his resurrection. That’s the beginning of 1 Peter. That in the darkest of days, Jesus triumphs with the greatest of light and he overcomes the grave. And if Jesus does this for us, we put our faith in him that God can work in any challenge that we experienced in our lives as well. That his light could be made known. And so in 1 Peter 1:15, he calls us to be holy. And at the end of the chapter, holiness means, separate from the world and to see ourselves aligned with God. It doesn’t just mean don’t sin or be good. It’s to see an identity as it relates to God that’s apart from this world. And then at the end of this chapter, he says, dive into God’s word, in the beginning of chapter two. It’s the nourishment for your soul. And to love one another because this was a community of which we accomplished this together. That God calls all of us as his group, his tribe to live for his glory. In this world. If it doesn’t happen here, then where else does it happen?
In first Peter, 2:9, this is where we dive into the text and I’m just going to move through this quickly. We’ve read this together, that he gives us this identity. You might remember, you are a chosen race, a Royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. This is our identity in the midst of adversity that he calls us to live in. Then listen to this second half, I want to highlight this more today. So that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
A couple of great things there, but even though we reject God, that God calls us back into him from darkness to light. That God forgives, that Christ died for us, that we could be made new. That our sins can be washed clean in Jesus, and that God gives us this new identity. Called from darkness into light. It’s not about us making us more lovable to him. It’s about his love for us. He died for us while we were still sinners. Incredible love that sets us free.
Then he says this, that you then in that can proclaim his excellencies. What does that look like in adversity? We talked a little bit about it last week. We’re going to talk more about it next week. We’re going to look at specifically as it relates to marriage and the family next week, but Peter continues on in this story and so your next blank in your notes if you have them, is how do we live out our identity. That’s the question we’ll ask how do we live out our identity? And in first Peter 2:16, he gives this response, he says, because of Jesus, now act as free men and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God.
So Christ has set you free. And as Americans, this is Memorial Day, so thank you to everyone that’s served our country. We appreciate those freedoms, and this is thinking further than just American freedom, and though we need to be thankful for that, this is thinking about freedom in Christ. Now, here’s the challenge that Peter is addressing for the believers in this period. The believers understand that their main identity is for the kingdom of God. His glory, his goodness in this world. And so because of that, they say, okay, we reject all other authority in our lives, that we live for one King and we don’t care what you think. And what Peter is saying here is no, Jesus has set you free. Not so that you can look down at other people, not see they can cast them away, not so that you can tell them that you serve a different King and you don’t care about them, but he’s given you this freedom so that you can pursue them and they can find the same freedom that you discovered in Jesus.
So freedom isn’t about doing what you want whenever you want. That’s not true freedom. Freedom is to understand the gift that you’ve been given. And because of that, you then use your freedom to serve others so that they can find freedom as well. And that’s exactly what Peter is saying in verse 16. Act as free men and don’t use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves for God. Understand that it’s to call you into this alignment with the Lord because before you weren’t able to. You were an alien to him, opposed to him in sin. But now because of Jesus, he has, he has set you free.
This freedom now gives you opportunity to just like Psalm 8 has said, to declare his glory in this world of which previous to this you weren’t able to do because you were in rebellion to God in sin. But in faith to Christ because of what he’s done on the cross. You have been set free. And what he’s saying to us, if you don’t like your circumstance, your environment, some of the relationships seem like it’s tense around you. You have a place to do something about it. And where does it come from? Not from the power of the circumstance, from the power of your Lord.
Because in the midst of our sin, his freedom becoming a servant for us, that’s transformed our lives. So now you have opportunity to do the same. And so in verse 18 he says this, he says, servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but listen to this, but also to those who are unreasonable. And this word means crooked. So he’s saying, look, I’m not telling you to be free to act for God’s glory when things are well. I’m also telling you when you face adversity in relationship around you, that that is still the season to live out the goodness of God in your life and maybe even more so.
So he uses these words to describe what it means with a master. He talks about servant in submission. Servant in submission. This word literally means slave. Now, I know in our culture today when we read a word like that, we want to immediately say, okay, Peter, now tell us why slavery is wrong and why we need to stand up and do something about it. And I think there are Bible passages that talk about being against slavery. There’s passages that talk about in 1 Timothy 1:8 that enslaving people is wrong. In 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 that you are not to be enslaved or become a slave.
But here’s what’s interesting about this passage. In this passage he’s not arguing against slavery, though we certainly think it’s wrong. But rather what he’s doing is he’s looking at as an individual that might find themselves in bondage. And he’s still saying, even in that bondage, there is a place to let the glory of God made known and the freedom for what you have in Jesus. What Peter is saying is he wants any person in this world regardless of where they might find themselves to still understand they have a place to make the goodness of God made known. And when that goodness of God is made known, there’s always possibility of transformation of the hearts of others. And how does it look? Not by maligning, but by living for this King because of living for this King, you bless.
When you’re in relationship with people that might be a little bit prickly, let’s say on the outside. Even though they may be rough around the edges when they encounter you and know that you’re full of the grace of God, even if you don’t agree with everything they do when they know that you’re for them. Maybe not for what they do, but for them as a person, you’ll have a place to speak into their lives. And this is what Peter is saying in the adversity that the people are going through.
Use the position for which God has given you to leverage for his goodness and glory. And he says this in verse 19, for this finds favor. Have the platform that God has given you to make a difference in this world, for this finds favor. If for the sake of consciousness towards God, a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly, this finds favor.
Peter uses a word here in verse 19 that he uses more than any other author in both Old and New Testament. And this is a powerful word. If you’ve got your Bible, I think it’s worth circling or if you’ve got notes, it’s worth circling, but it’s this word suffering. More than any other book. In fact, sometimes more than twice more than any other book, Peter uses this word suffering. Because he wants us to identify even in the most difficult of circumstances, there is a way and a place to let God’s glory made known. It’s not about waiting for things to get to normal. It’s not just about working with circumstances that are easiest or people that are the easiest. It’s about using the opportunities where God has you for his glory and to remind us for this finds favor in the Lord.
Verse 20: What credit is there? When you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience. But if when you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it. This finds favor with God.
I want to be clear in saying this. I’m not trying to help us understand how to manipulate everyone else in order to get what you want. Because what our hearts should ultimately be settled in is living our lives for an audience of one. Meaning I’m going to be who God calls me to be, regardless of other people around me do, or at least that’s my goal most days.
But it’s not because I want to manipulate someone else. It’s because I understand the position for which I have been set free and the King that I ultimately want to honor. This finds favor with him. Remember last week we looked starting in verse 13 where he tells us to submit to government authorities. Why would he tell us to do that? Because it’s what’s pleasing to the Lord. It says for the Lord’s sake. It’s interesting when Peter is writing to people and he says, look, I want you to go make a difference in this world. And they can say back, okay, Peter, now how are we going to do this? And he starts to tell us in 1 Peter 2 and the example is he starts to draw from, are to tell us where you’re leveraged above other people. But rather to start with the idea of, look, even if you find yourself suppressed under people, here’s still a place for God’s people to make a difference.
And where does it start? Not with them. It starts in your own heart. Because the true battle we always face as people really we like to blame others, but you’re responsible for you. It’s in our heart. And this is what verse 20 is telling us. What credit is it, if when you sin and are harshly treated you endure it with patience. But when you do what is right and suffer for it and you patiently endured this finds favor with God. So anytime we face a moment of adversity, there’s a fork in the road to make the decision. Okay, am I going to use my authority and my freedom for my glory to get what I want and to put other people under me and to tell them to get in their place? Or am I going to use it for God’s glory and God’s goodness in this world to use my position to become a servant to leverage before their benefit, but for the Lord.
In verse 21 how do we know this works? Verse 21 he says this, you have been called for this purpose. Church, you want to know your calling in this world? It’s to be a light in the midst of darkness. To be the hands and feet of Jesus as he has called us to rule. To understand that ruling as the Gentiles, as Jesus said in Matthew 20 isn’t about suppressing people or telling people we’re on the top, but it’s to emulate our King of Kings who became the servant of servants, which he’s about to say in just a moment. But in verse 21 he says, you have been called for this purpose, and he goes on. Look at the rest of this verse, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth, and while being reviled, he did not revile in return while suffering, he uttered no threats but kept entrusting himself to him who judges rise righteously.
Now listen to this, verse 24 and 25, and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by his wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you’ve returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. Maybe in your life, you can think in the model of Jesus is great, but maybe in your life you’ve even had an individual who has modeled the goodness of Jesus to you. Maybe you can think of a time where it wasn’t the best place for you in your life. And someone that loved the Lord showed up and they showed you grace when you didn’t deserve it.
It’s hard to hate people when they love you that way, isn’t it? No matter how much you want to fight them, they only returned with love and grace towards you. And God uses that , I think to change us, to begin to work on our hearts that may be hard to make us more sensitive to the goodness of who he is. And the reason I say that is because I know that happened to me.
I remember what it was like to be a 14, 15, 16 year old kid running on the streets, being a punk. And I remember my first encounter with a Christian, 60 some years old. In the middle of a scenario that wasn’t good with a bunch of kids that weren’t good. And this old military guy comes up to me in the street, toe to toe. I’ve never had a man do that. And he tells me all about his Jesus. And he wouldn’t quit. And it took a few years because I’m stubborn, as my mom says. But God used that.
I think years later in college, realizing I had just made a mess of my life and it was heading nowhere fast. And in my mind, trying to think, you know, if there is a God and there’s gotta be a purpose to life, where can I go to figure out that purpose? And then I remember, as a teenage kid being a punk, running into some Christians and then going back to them. God used that.
And verse 24 shows us, that illustration. That Jesus took on the form of a servant to serve us and by him were healed. And in verse 25 while we’re astray, he leads us and he really guards our souls, which is ultimately what we want to point people to.
There is a story in the book of Numbers 12:3, it’s a funny verse in the Bible. What makes it funny is that Moses wrote the book of Numbers. And in verse three he calls himself the meekest man on the earth. If I were in charge of writing my story. He calls himself the meekest man on earth, which is kind of odd because when you think about being strong, one of the characteristics that you would probably rarely put with strength is meekness. But when you think about who Moses was, he was the one that God used to come before Pharaoh. The leader that stood before the sea, while the army of the Egyptians were chasing after Israel and he parted the sea with God’s authority, and yet he’s described as meek.
If you ask the Jews today, who is the greatest leader in all of Israel, they would highly favor Moses. He was the leader of leaders. And yet the leader of leaders, what is he described as? He’s described as meek. I just want to say this to us, meekness in our lives should never be mistaken as weakness. But rather what meekness is in the life of a believer is confidence in who you already are in the image of God. You don’t need someone else to validate you because you’ve already been given incredible position by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And only because of that are you able to be a servant.
When you’re in the eyes of God, understand who you are. You don’t run to people for that validation. You don’t need it. Because you already understand the position for which you have been given in Christ. It is only those that are bold in Jesus that can take the form of a servant and truly serve for godly purpose, not for the validation of others, but for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Sometimes we look at adversity in our lives and we think that in that season we just have to sit there until God brings the rain again. But when you look at scripture, you truly see that those moments of adversity are oftentimes the greatest place that God uses for his glory and his people. Peter wants us to recognize how does that happen? It’s when the heart of a servant sees truly his position before God. As Jesus has forgiven us for the cross and by faith we put our our place in him and in that we’re able to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, not by our strength, but because of his glory.