How to Respond to Difficult Days

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Good morning church family. I’m glad to be able to join you online from wherever you’re watching or listening from. I want to invite you to 1 Peter 1 where we’re going to be together. While you turn to 1 Peter 1, we’re in a series called All In. We’re looking at how Jesus went all in for us and asking us the question are we all in for him? And while you turn to that, I do want to let you know as a church family, I know some of us are starting to ask the question, what’s it going to look like when we’re able to gather back together?

I just want to pause as I get ready to get into this text and just tell you this morning just how thankful and blessed I am for the church that we have. I know the season we’re in psychologically has a different effect on all of us depending on where we are. So as we move forward, we’re going to do so with concern and care for everyone knowing we can’t please everyone. We want to be gracious in how we go through this. And just say whatever plan we put forth, we don’t want you to feel obligated to have to do any of it. But we do want to provide opportunities for us as a church family knowing that we all crave fellowship. We want to do it the best we can.

We’re going to contain to offer online opportunities and we’re talking about different ways for people depending on where you are and how this is impacting you in being able to provide some form of community to encourage you. But we are thinking about that. We are planning, we actually have a meeting after this service to talk about those steps moving forward. And we recognize things change so rapidly that whatever we plan in a few weeks could be different.

But I do want you to know that I miss you. We’re praying for you and throughout all of this have been just blessed and encouraged by seeing the care and generosity of our church through our current a relief fund. Our church finances have been good. Seeing the way people have been just offering, caring and providing for community and people around them. Even the donation box we have out here as a church to collect food for non perishable items for people that might have needs. You can drop this off Tuesday to Thursday here at the church from nine to five. We have our doors open to to do that.

There’s a little concern with how the economic impact will continue and we just want to be ready to love on people and actively loving people right now. And as I consider where our church is, I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of circumstances than what they are. And all of us may be viewing this from a different lens, but I think that we will continue to see a ripple effect through the scenario that we’re in.

And the book of 1 Peter is a beautiful book for us to look at. So here’s my prayer for us today. I want 1 Peter not to be just a passage that I understand intellectually, but I want it to impact my heart and my life in the way that it transforms me in God’s word. And I can’t emphasize enough how important 1 Peter 1-2 are for us. Because, Peter’s writing to an audience that’s going through adversity. I know that they’re being persecuted because their faith, we’re not necessarily being persecuted because our faith, but we’re facing some challenges in life right now. And it could continue. It could amplify, I don’t know. But 1 Peter, 1-2 lays really a foundation for us. So central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Then because of that he starts making the application. Okay with this foundation, what does it look like in my life? And so this, this chapter becomes the root for which everything else finds it’s nourishment for how we live the Christian life. If you just remember as we’ve gone through chapter one, we’ve taken a few weeks to do this, but as we’ve gone through chapter one, the opening verses verse one and two, he tells us the audience he’s writing to, which we’ve talked about as being modern day Turkey. And Peter is not with the believers there. He says he’s writing from Babylon, which we believe is modern day Rome. It’s the way they would refer to Rome at the time as Babylon because they don’t want to be persecuted anymore than they were. And so they would give this nickname, I think, to Rome as being Babylon.

And Peter is not too far from being martyred for his own life. In fact, Clement of Alexandria says that Peter’s wife was crucified. Then Peter himself was crucified upside down because of his faith. And so Peter, he’s going through this hardship. In fact, it tells us in these opening verses in verse five and six that they’re going through these trials and the Peter goes on and says he’s going through it with them. But he reminds us that they have something that’s imperishable and undefiled in verse three and four because of the resurrection of Jesus. That becomes central to who we are as Christians to the point where Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, if the resurrection didn’t happen, Christians are to be most pitied of all people. So that is the foundation of our faith.

We see because Jesus has life, He promises that we too will have life. And so our faith is undefiled in that way. It’s imperishable in that way. It endures despite circumstance. I don’t know how much you’ve thought about this, but when God created the human soul, it was created to live forever. It will live forever and God desires for your soul to be with him, by faith, through Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for you, if you put your faith in Christ, that soul is experienced in his grace and presence forever. It is imperishable in that way.

That’s why Peter says to the believers, look, your soul is imperishable through the resurrection as it relates to Christ, because you will be through faith in Jesus for what he’s done for you with him forever. So you have that hope that endures. And so even though we’re being persecuted, verse five and six, you have a faith, verse seven and nine that is, that is more precious than gold. Because it endures beyond all of this world.

And then in verse 10 and 12 he reminds us just how incredible it is to be a part of today. Because he says in verse 10 to 12 that even the prophets and angels have long to look into this. Angels can’t fathom why God would become flesh and give his life for sinners who have turned their backs on God. And his love has transformed us. The angels look into this and the prophets have even looked forward to this day because they have been declaring something that that didn’t happen during their day but now it’s become true in our day.

So our faith becomes so precious. And then he gives this pinnacle statement, verse 15 and he begins to answer this question for us. How do we respond in these difficult days? We’re all gonna face adversity in life. And so how do you respond? Our faith is intended to be beyond circumstance. Because we have something that transcends circumstance in Jesus. And so verse 15 he gives us this, this statement, and this really becomes a foundational place for 1 Peter. He says, but be like the Holy One who called you be holy yourselves also in all of your behavior.

And so then what does he say to us? What’s our marching orders based on the circumstance though it may be adverse, but because of Jesus and what he’s overcome, he says this, this is where we’re called to then be holy, be holy.

So as he lays out his letter in 1 Peter, he then starts to shape for us, okay, what is the outworking of all of this because of what Jesus has done and our faith in Jesus, what does this look like? What does it mean to be holy? I think it’s important for us just to stop in this as we consider this idea of being holy, to just consider the magnitude of what it means to be separated this way.

Remember I said last week that sometimes we think of holiness and we have a a right framework towards it, but we sort of stopped short of really all that holiness intends to be in our lives. Sometimes we think about holiness, we think that it means don’t sin or do good. It’s about not doing the bad things and doing the good things. But the problem with just stopping there is that it misses the bigger picture of holiness altogether. Because you can be good all day long and never have God. You can do good things without God. You can’t necessarily do good things that are godly things in that sense, but not sending and looking good or doing good. You can do that without relationship with God. So that’s not entirely a rightfully what Holy means.

The better definition of understanding holiness is that where you are set apart as distinct. Meaning there is this world system, but this world is falling apart. It will fade away. And you as a believer in Jesus have now something that’s imperishable, it sets you apart. And that determines how you live, not this world. This circumstances do not dictate who you are. Jesus does the one who is eternal. The one who created you for his purposes. And that’s what holiness is. Now, in light of holiness that should transcend in the way that we live. That’s why he correlates this word holiness in the very last word in verse 15 as behavior. Because your setting apart for God should then lead to a certain way in which you live your life.

It’s different to say that you believe something and believe in something, right? You can believe things all day long, but it doesn’t necessarily dictate how you live. But when you believe in it, that shows this trust that permeates through your life.

The Greek has this word for believe it’s pistueos. It’s “believe.” But what’s interesting when you look in the New Testament, they took that word and they combine it with this other word which is “in.” This pistueos ice, “believe in.” If I gave us an understanding or sort of an example of what that would look like, let’s suppose for a moment that you walk into an auditorium. It’s maybe been a long time since you’ve been in one. Maybe there’s a crowd there, or maybe you’re in a social distance auditorium and you’re just the only one.

But when you’re in there, you see a high wire walker. And this person comes down and he says, do you think I can walk across this wire with a wheel barrel full of things? And you’re like, sure. I believe you. You’ve seen them walk the wire. Why couldn’t they walk it with a wheelbarrow? And so they get up and they walk across this high wire with everything loaded in it all the way across the other side. And then they maybe say to you, okay, but do you believe I could do it with you in it? And you say, sure, I believe that you could do that. I just saw you do it with stuff loaded in the wheelbarrow. Of course you can do it with me in it. And what if they say right after that, okay, get in.

The difference in that will determine whether or not you believe or you believe in. When you put your trust into that wheel barrel, the person pushing that wheelbarrow that says, okay, you believe in it because now you’re in the wheel barrel allowing this person. And I’m not that crazy. I’m not going to do that ever. So don’t ask me. But that’s what it means to believe in Jesus. You look at the truth of what he says, and it’s one thing to simply say, I believe it. But do you believe in it? Because when you believe in it, that’s what leads you to this holiness, this place of being separated, distinct, set apart.

So the question becomes for us then in 1 Peter, knowing that these believers in this chapter are going through adversity. What does that holiness look like lived out in my life? What does it mean for us to live this? Is to simply just say, okay, I believe, and I belong to Jesus? When the rubber meets the road, how does this transpire through me?

He gives us the answer in verse 22 and he gives it this way. In difficult days, how to respond. Well, his answer is this. A holy life should meet difficult days with fervent love. Let me read verse 22 for us, since you have in obedience to the truth, purified your soul. See, you’ve believed in this and you’ve been set apart. Your soul has been purified through this. This is the holiness he’s describing. Since you have in obedience to the truth, purified your soul for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

He’s defining for us, okay, when you say you belong to Christ, how does that transpire in your life? Believing in. It gives you the answer. It’s demonstrated through the way that you love others. People that belong to Jesus demonstrate that belonging to Jesus in how they love others. Because we more than anyone understanding what it means to be forgiven as a sinner. That God’s love transforms us and the way that God worked in this world is through his love to the point he gave himself on the cross, and that’s what God’s people are known for.

Holiness is seen in love and how you love. He describes it as not, not just the idea of love, fervent love, fervent love, right. Verse 22, purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. Fervently love. Why work fervently? And how in the world can you sustain fervently?

I would do much better with this idea of being holy to the Lord and loving in the Lord if he didn’t describe it as fervently, but more described as occasional love. Or circumstantial love. If the circumstances make you feel like you should love them, then just love. Or love when it’s convenient to love. But he doesn’t choose that word. He says fervently love. And why is fervent love so important? Let me give you an example.

Fervent love is this love that works with an effort. It’s like this sweating right towards this love. This straining in love. It’s this exerting, it takes energy. Why love that way? I read an article that talked about during this pandemic of recent that there is a record number of Bibles being sold right now. You know what that means? When circumstances disrupt our days and interrupt our routines, people look for answers. And sometimes what we do in circumstances that are out of our routine is we like to hit the pause button and wait for things to go back to normal. But you know what fervent love recognizes? People right now are asking questions and God’s people have an answer. We’re going to look at that answer in just a moment in this passage of scripture, but God’s people have an answer.

And what it encouraged you with this idea of fervent love, believers, is not to hit the pause button. But to understand that if you want to see transformation in this world, you’ve got to stand up, step out and do something. Love fervently.

That’s what it means to be holy in the Lord. This fervent love it’s definitely this idea of of work in the love. That it’s a love that becomes tangible, but how can I love fervently? You think about this when you get belittled, stressed, pressured, flustered, or even fought against like the Christians are in the first century. You think they’re being persecuted. We do have challenged today in our circumstances. Maybe jobs are at risk. Maybe you don’t like the convenience of the way things are. There could be a little shortage in food coming up. All those things could be true. What comes out? What comes out when you get stressed out? Do you stop and say, and I’m going to love deeply right now.

So when you think about this fervent love, what I began to recognize in my own life is this fervent love needs to be met by something supernatural in my life. When I think about being holy to the Lord and that holiness looking like fervent love and understanding this fervent love for these Christians in the first century is met in adversity, in challenges, in circumstances that were not convenient for them. Yet Peter says to respond this way, to be able to do that, you have to be able to transcend your circumstance to something greater than what’s in front of you. Now, where does that come from? How do they get that supernatural love in those moments?

In verse 23 he tells us this. Fervent love is fueled by God’s word. Look at this, for you have been born again, not of seed, which is perishable but of imperishable. There’s something supernatural here and that is through the living and enduring word of God.

What transformed your life? The word of God’s spoken into you. And what will continue to transform your life? The word of God spoken into you. That’s why I said in the beginning when we look at this chapter more than anything, my prayer for us in these first couple of chapters is to understand the significance of this basis. Because this lays the foundation for everything that we do as believers. Everything that we are about is founded in this chapter, through the resurrection power of Christ made known to our lives in the power of his word.

God’s word is life in darkness because you have been born again, not of seed, which is perishable, but imperishable. The living and enduring word of God. Think of how significant this is. God’s word, his presence, it’s life. It’s life. I think that’s why John 1 copies Genesis 1. You think in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form and void. And God’s spoken said, let there be light and there was.

When God speaks, life begins. God’s word is life. And in John 1, in the beginning, the word was with God and the word was God. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory. And now Jesus’s presence comes, God in the flesh. And God’s presence is life.

2 Timothy 3:16, all scripture is given by inspiration of God. It refers to scripture as literally the breath of God. That’s what the word inspiration means. God’s word is life. And so when we take this word and we allow it not just to know it intellectually but believe in it, let it become a part of our being and saturate our soul, that it produces this supernatural life in us. So this is the encouragement for us. How can I be holy and set apart? What does it look like? Well, fervent love. I can’t love fervently. My love has an end to it. I can’t do it in and of myself. I love when it’s easy to love. I don’t naturally love when it’s hard to love. How can my life ever be transformed to love this way? Let God’s life speak into you and where do you find that life? In his word. That’s Peter’s argument.

When you think about the challenges of your day, when you want it to make a difference, you should root yourself in life. And that life is found in his word. God gave you his word for a reason. That’s why in Ephesians 6 it talks about the word of God is the sword. Or Hebrews 4:12 a similar description. He says it separates for us the bone and the marrow from the spirit and the soul. That it cuts through us in that way.

In 2 Timothy 3:15 that it makes you wise for salvation. And Romans 10:14 how in the world can anyone ever come to life less someone preach God’s words to them because God’s word is life and it brings life into us. It’s life. Jesus even says in Matthew 5:18 not one jot or tittle will pass till all of it is fulfilled. All of God’s word fulfilled. And Jesus highlighted the significance of his word for us.

When I think about the power of God’s word having life. And I think about just for historical sake, thinking about our own country. When I considered the Pilgrims and the Puritans that came across the ocean. Across the Atlantic to America and landed here, the Bible that founded America was the Geneva Bible. It wasn’t the King James Bible. The Geneva Bible is written in Geneva, Switzerland. And the reason it was written in Geneva, Switzerland is because the Puritans were persecuted to the point that they went there to find safety. And they put together the first study Bible in English.

It wasn’t the first English Bible, but the first English study Bible because they want to study God’s word. And they wanted freedom to do that in a land where they wouldn’t be persecuted. So they come to America. And here’s what’s really cool. When they come to America, the first Bible printed in America, wasn’t even in English. The first Bible printed in America came from a man named John Elliot for the Algonquin Native Americans

In the 1600s the individuals seeking freedom to study and learn and grow in God’s word. They come across Puritans, Pilgrims, and they have the Geneva Bible. A Bible written out of persecution because they understand the significance of God’s word. And they knew God’s word was life. And when they get to America, the first Bible they choose to print isn’t even in their own language. But rather they choose to print it in another language, the language of the people group that’s already here because they knew God’s word is life and they wanted that life for those people.

So the Algonquin Indians or Native Americans, it says in the translation of John Elliott’s Bible, it refers to them as Indians and not Native Americans. But you can see a picture of it today. Not even written in English. Why? Because they knew the word of God has life.

Two examples then Peter gives. Two examples of how God’s word fuels our fervent love. Because you could look at this and say, okay, that’s great that we say that. God’s word, that it fuels this holiness for us to fervently love, but how does it do it? And so Peter wants to just iterate these points for us by giving us two examples of how God’s word fuels our fervent love. In verse 24 and 25 he gives us the first example and he says it like this, the Bible endures forever. That is example. Look at it. Verse 24 for all flesh is like grass and all its glory, like the flower of grass. The grass withers, the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you.

How precious this is what was given to you, what indoors forever. Why should we care about it? And Peter’s answering, because it endures forever. He’s quoting from Isaiah 40 here, which is considered the great chapter of the glory of God that you can go back and read. But this chapter highlights the significance of God’s word and understanding the great glory of who he is.

I love the illustration here because it talks about the beauty of life and the things that we look to for security. I think we are attracted to beauty and security and we want to be a part of something that lasts forever. Something that matters, something that makes a difference. We want to be a part of those things. How can I be a part of a group that just makes a difference in things around me. And so we look for those things. We’re attracted to those things. And he talks about the beautiful things in this world. But he also talks about in these verses talking about the beauty of the grass and the flower that blooms from it. But then he reminds us of something, even though that beauty is there, even though we’re attracted to it, it fades.

So if you want something that matters, you need to find something that transcends it. Something that’s great. Or maybe they, even the thing that produced the beauty of what the flower is, because your life can be of more significance to that. So he shows us, okay, so what is that? And it reminds us, it’s God’s word. The Bible endures forever. If you want to be a part of something that matters, something that’s wonderful, beautiful, that gives life. How about what caused the flower? And you can find that through the word of God. God speaks, life begins. And God speaks to us through his word.

The word endorsed forever. The beauty of the flower fades. God’s loving endures forever. His word endures forever. Now when God calls you to fervent love, and you look at this illustration of the flower fading, but God’s God’s word endures forever. Can I just say this for us? That when it comes to fervently loving, the thing that will jade our love quicker than anything is repeated disappointment. When things let you down, that fire for love dies.

Let me say it like this. When you put your hope into something that doesn’t turn out to be all that you thought it would be, love fades. So what Peter’s rooting us in in this chapter is to understand that there is something of which you could find your love rooted in that that will strengthen you and continue to strengthen you and never fail you and never disappoint you. Though other things around you might, what is it? It’s his word. \.

So how do I maintain this fervent love? By rooting your love in something endures and he says that the Bible endures forever. And so this is where our hope draws into. This is how we won’t be disappointed because the promises of God will always be true. Here’s what becomes important for us. One of the things that if I find silver lining during these Corona days for us as a church, one of the prayers, one of the hopes, one of the things I’m anticipating for us as a church family, I love the fact that we have a church community to help us nurture and grow in him. But one of the things I’m hoping this allows us to do is to take responsibility within our own homes, to the nurturing of discipleship of the people under our roof. How are you growing in the Lord? What you cultivate, you replicate. What is your family being cultivated in? How are you growing?

The word endures forever. And he goes on and gives us a second example to this idea of holiness, seen through fervent love. In 1 Peter 2:1-3, this is the last example we’re going to look at. He says this, therefore put aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. And like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. What is he saying? The Bible provides the nourishment needed for the soul.

The Bible provides what you need for the soul. Now he does an interesting thing in these these three verses. He starts off talking about something really strange in comparison to where he goes. You think about this. He says, put away malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, and then he says like a baby, go for God’s word. Now how in the world does that correlate? When you think about why is he saying put this aside and like a baby along for this milk that will help you grow. How are these two even related to one another?

Well, here’s what he’s saying. When you think about this description in verse one, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander. You know what those words are all rooted in? You.

Why would you slander someone? Why would you be envious of someone? Why would you want to be deceptive? Because you don’t like what they have. You want what they have. Or you don’t like what they might think about you so that you could create some sort of environment to think differently about you because what matters is you. And we get lost in the things of this world and we will desire those things for me. And so we will get malicious in order to have them. To the point where we’ll even become, as this says, hypocritical, we might criticize other people because we’re jealous of what they have. When we ourselves do the very same thing that we’re being critical over them about. And we get lost in the things of this world because we crave that.

So what does he do? What Peter in this verse, he gets to the most primal description he can get us to understand of all the things that could distract us in life. But here’s where he says, okay, simplify here. Think about a baby. What do they do? They cry, they poop and they sleep. That’s what they do. And when they’re crying, the reason they’re crying is because they need you to change the poop or they need fed. And you don’t have to tell a baby they need to eat. A baby already knows they need to eat, that’s why they cry. In the most primal description is saying, look, in all the things that can distract your soul, can you just make your soul about this? Like a baby that desires milk? Make your soul about the word which changes your life.

What he’s saying is, you know, sometimes in life we can get worried, be concerned, get distracted by all sorts of things. Feed your faith and starve your fears. You think about the first century Christians worried about the circumstances around them. It’s getting hard, Peter, what are we going to do? He says, instead of run, instead of hit the pause button, fervently love. This is the time for God’s light to shine forth in his people because we have something that transcends the circumstance.

And how in the world could you ever fervently love and be holy in these days? We do not have the natural strength. We need the supernatural strength. And what do we do to do that? The same thing that transformed you in Jesus continues to transform you. The power of his word. Let your soul be filled with it. Not just know it, let it become you. Don’t just believe it, but believe in it.

I love how scripture uses the word repeatedly, meditate. We’ve talked about this in the last six months what it means to meditate in God’s word. Meditate is the same word in Hebrew as the roaring of a lion. When a lion roars, it reverberates from the depth of his being. It’s not just a sound he makes with the lips, but the core of who he is. And so it is when you meditate with God’s word.

I’ve found in my life when I get a reading list like I tried to read through the Bible in a year, I oftentimes don’t do well with that in the feeding of my soul. And the reason is because I make it about the list. But rather if I approach God’s word to just read it and tell, I’m blessed. To churn it within me, to allow it become a part of me. I find them far more enriched. Now, it doesn’t mean I don’t do a yearly Bible reading, I still do that, but I just approach it with a different mentality. Read until I’m blessed. Sometimes I don’t even stop when I’m supposed to end with the reading. I just want to keep going because I feel my soul is being nourished in his word and I enjoy that. So what he’s, reminding us of is just this primal idea of allowing yourself to grow.

Let me say it like this, guys, if you love Jesus, I shouldn’t have to convince you to read his word. I don’t want to guilt you to read the Bible, but rather I just want to ask, how can I better encourage you to love Jesus and love the word that he’s written in with his blood? What would encourage you to let that become who you are, your identity? We should respond to the things we claim by our love. Do we just say it’s important to us or do we reflect that it’s important to us? What you cultivate, you will replicate.

Have you even read through the Bible? Like if I just said, how many of us have read through Harry Potter series? Or how many have ever read Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia? How many of us have read God’s word? You make time for the things that are important to you. And God’s word more than anything will transform you. I know sometimes it becomes difficult to understand, but it’s like riding a bike. The more you do it, the more you get out of it.

So if you say to me, Nathaniel, how do we respond today? If you look at chapter one and we just say this, Christians went through adversity and they continue to go through adversity, but Jesus has overcome. And he calls us to live a holy life that will make a difference in the way that we love for him through a fervent love for Jesus. That love is born and fueled by the word of God. And sometimes we lose hope, we saw in the first example by false security and empty beauty. And sometimes we want to respond in malice, 1 Peter 2:1. But the word of the Lord endorsed forever and it’s very nourishment our soul needs.

If we aren’t using this quarantine time to get closer to God, I mean you have more of that individual time with him, what in the world are we doing? What are we doing? Do we really believe he has life? If we don’t wake up and live in that, what difference will his people make? I believe that God’s people can go through adversity and come out stronger.

I read an interesting statistic that said, one third of US presidents had a parent pass away when they were a child. One third of entrepreneurs have some sort of learning disability. There’s something about the human nature that when it’s challenged, it overcomes the adversity stronger than without it. I’ve said before because I grew up as a poor kid in West Virginia, that I think the Lord really used that to give me the strength I needed to plant a church. Especially here in our Valley.

But I think that we have the same opportunity right now in the middle of adversity. To make a decision of how we respond. Do we just simply say, we believe, or do we believe in? And believing in leans into something, not because we’re being guilted into it, because we see the power of what it is, and that’s what Peter’s reminding us of this morning.

There is power here. And when everything else can distract us, let your mind go to the rudimentary thought. This primal idea of God’s word is like milk to a baby, and by it God’s people grow.

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