A Different Set of Rules

Glory to God in the highest! What does that actually mean? It means that God's glory is acknowledged and proclaimed in the highest heaven, not just the heavenly skies, or in the heavenly universe, but in the highest heaven where God dwells. Where's that? I don't know the physical address of heaven. But I do know this, the Bible is clear that God abides in the hearts, minds, and lives of those who have chosen to allow Him into their lives. You mights say, but if God is God, He doesn't need my permission for anything. Yes, He does! He determined when He created humankind, not to use His power to force anyone to love Him. So, He gave Adam and Eve free will to choose.
He has given that same right to each of you. He loves you and wants to be a part of your life, but it is totally up to you to let Him in or not. So here's my two cents worth.

I want to sing Glory to God in the highest heaven, but I also want to sing Glory to God in the lowest, in the lowest most needful places on planet earth. Places like the slums of Haiti! That's why we are raising money today to fund our ministries there! You see, God's glory, His peace, His grace, His love, His forgiveness, and His willingness to heal the broken hearted is what lowly earth desperately needs. The need for God's glory to outshine the wickedness and depravity of this world! The events of recent weeks couldn't make this more clear. The broken hearts of the families of those killed in terrorist attacks here in the U.S., France, Turkey, Chad and then the innocent Syrian refugees fleeing the terrorist who've taken over their country and now in limbo because of the potential for terrorist to use these displaced people to further their evil.   

There's a lot of rhetoric out there from so many different camps. Today we are going to rap up our Rules of Engagement Series and the words of our text couldn't me more timely. Let's pray and ask God to teach us the most important lesson today of how we as followers of Christ have a different set of rules than those of the world. Let's pray!

Father God, we need to hear from You today! And not just us, our nation, our leaders, our world and it's leaders. As followers of Jesus, we need to remember how Your Son taught us with the way He lived His life so selflessly and the way He gave His life so willingly to save us. Our world is hurting and struggling. There is so much injustice, hatred, prejudice, wickedness, greed, and the list goes on and on. But our hope and our peace is knowing that You desire to shine Your glory into our darkness! Help us to reflect Your light, Your truth, and Your love, by the way we engage our culture daily.
Hide me behind the Cross and let me not get in the way of what You would desire to do in the lives of everyone who hears this message. For it is in the precious Name of Jesus I pray and believe, Amen!

In the past five weeks we've studied the book of 1 Peter in the New Testament of the Bible. In this letter which Saint Peter wrote to the believers in five provinces in the Greco-Roman world. He gave the recipients of his letter rules for engaging the culture with the good news of Jesus, regardless of their circumstances.

Whether they were Greek or Gentile, free or enslaved, married or single, they were to engage the culture with the good news of Jesus! Rule number one is to be prepared with the blessed hope of our salvation. In other words, we can’t really engage our culture with the good news of Jesus Christ if we are not fully grounded in our belief and trust in our own salvation. Rule number two is to engage our culture by living lives that reflect our salvation hope. We do this by reflecting the holiness of God. Holiness means to be set apart, different. God is set apart and different and He wants His followers to be different from the world. He tells us to be Holy as He is Holy. Holiness is not being different in a weird way, or in a “I’m better than you kind of way!”

Holiness is seeking to live our lives in a way that reflect Jesus’ attitudes and actions: humble, serving, caring, loving, honest, having integrity, etc. Rule number three is to engage our culture through the calling on our lives. We are called to spiritual growth, both individually and corporately, and we are to proclaim to others the good news that has changed our lives. Peter then tells us to proclaim that good news by following God's call for us to behave ourselves, submit to those in authority, unless they ask us to violate our God-given convictions.
We are then to illustrate the message of Christ by following His example! And as Jay pointed out so beautifully last week, if we aren't illustrating this in our families and marriages, our message will be crippled at best and at worst, unbelievable to anyone.

We're going to wrap up this series of messages today much like Peter wrapped up his letter. Peter pointed out to his readers that the rules of engagement we follow are very different set of rules from the world!
How so? First of all we have...

A Different Kind of Strategy

2 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

The world would look at that strategy and laugh! "Are you kidding? Hey kid you'll never get ahead in this life with that kind of attitude! Only losers would follow such a weak and benign strategy like that. You're going to be trampled! Forget harmony, go solo, it's all about you! Sympathy for others will only slow down your climb to the top! And that love as brothers thing, you can't look at them as brothers, if they're not working for you they're your enemies. Compassion and humility is going to be seen as weakness! If they hurt you, get even, show them how strong you are!"
That's the world's response to the Christian way.

And I'll admit it what Peter is saying doesn't seem to make sense at first glance. And maybe it doesn't make sense if your only goal in life is to get ahead of the other guy, to beat the competition at all cost and to end up with more stuff than the other guy! But it makes perfect sense when your goals are not so shallow. What if your goal was less about how much you accumulate and more about how much you give away? What if your goal is more about loving and living life in such a way that you would rather enjoy a little with peace and contentment than to have a lot and be in a constant battle to win more stuff or to make sure nobody else gets your stuff?

The writer of Proverbs put it this way...

Proverbs 15:16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.

Peter further distinguishes our strategy from the strategy of the world...

1Peter 3:10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.
11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

We try to keep our tongue from speaking evil and we are truthful when we speak. We turn from evil and do good. We seek peace and even pursue it! We want to live righteous lives, but we are humble about this and realize we are not perfect and we make mistakes!

We realize it is the grace of God that has given us what we have and made us what we are. In fact, our strategy for engaging the culture is to let others see the peace and contentment we have even when we suffer for our beliefs. Listen to what Peter says in verses 13-17...  

1 Peter 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.”
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good
behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Did you catch the amazing thing about our strategy and the worlds? They live in fear, we do not! And when they ask us about the peace we have, we share the reasons for our hope, but we do it with gentleness and respect! We don't beat people over the head with our message, we humbly live the message so they can see the love of Jesus! We engage in peaceful conversations about the hope we have. We don't look down on them. We remember where we came from. Andrew reminded us that most of us have not been born physically into families with noble birth, but that God has made us nobility in Christ. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are,
29 so that no one may boast before him.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

And folks, it is precisely because of this that we have a different kind of Motive!

A Different Kind of Motive

We know we can't boast about ourselves and our accomplishments, but about what Jesus has accomplished for us and through us. This was a hard concept back then and it still is today. We want so desperately to earn everything we have so we can say, "I did that!" But here's the deal: when you realize that Jesus did for you what you could not do for yourself everything changes, and I mean everything! Your motives in life change. A desire to bring honor and glory to the One who created you, loved you, and gave His life to save you, becomes your greatest goal. In fact Peter speaks of our new motivation in his letter and how it puzzles the living daylights out of people who have not yet found Christ. Listen...

1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.

Sometimes it amazes me at how upset we get when lost people act like lost people! Don't get frustrated or angry at them! If you do, you lose your opportunity to help them.
We have to remember our new motivation. We want to bring glory to the One who loved us when we were lost, and the best way to do that is to love the lost and help them find their way to salvation! But you can't do that if you're miffed at them, or take it personally when they heap abuse on you!

Nothing brings more excitement to God than for us to help a person deceived and trapped in the lies of Satan, to find true life, true peace, true relationship with God! But this takes time, patience and a willingness to invest in building a relationship with the very person who thinks you're crazy and makes fun of you. Ok, how does one do that?
Peter gives us directions in chapter 4, verse 8 and following.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,  
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Did you notice Peter didn't say to love, and to offer hospitality and to serve only the good people and the ones who are nice to you and agree with you on everything! In fact he said love covers a multitude of sins, so that has to mean we are to love imperfect people! Now what I'm going to tell you next is huge!

Only a Godly motivation could allow a person to heed the following words of Peter's letter. Verses 12-16

1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering,  
as though something strange were happening to you.
13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Let me explain all of this with the following statement made by a theologian named Ray Summers.

"The term 'Christian retaliation' has a contradictory sound. What it means is that the only form of retaliation open for the Christian is to return good for evil. It is a part of the proverbial vocabulary of Christianity that: to return evil for good is animal-like; to return evil for evil is human-like; to return good for evil is God-like."

That's deep! That's powerful! And speaking of power, we not only have a different kind of strategy and a different kind of motive, but we have a different kind of power!

A Different Kind of Power

1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Are you seeing this? Our power doesn't come from high social position, material wealth, intellectual prowess, physical strength, political position, but rather from our humble dependence upon God's grace!
Peter continues...

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

In other words, let God put you in the position or place He wants you to be and let it be in His perfect timing! If God lifts you up in His mighty hand you won't have to worry about being let down, because His hand is strong enough to carry you anywhere He wants you to go! In fact Peter goes on to say...

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Let me put it this way…Cast it on Him and then cut the line! To many of us use the rod and reel approach to our problems. We cast them out to the Lord in prayer, but as soon as we finish praying we reel everything back in and try to deal with it on our own. But we must remember we don't have the power to overcome all of our issues, but when we realize how much He cares for us, we can trust Him to handle things. Peter then reminds us that some of our problems are not of our own making, but originate with the enemy of our souls. Listen...

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Did you hear that? Peter says when Satan roars at us and threatens to consume us with life's circumstances, we are told to resist him. I don't know about you, but at first that sort of scares me. I mean, Satan must be pretty scary and we know he's very wicked. And God never said we wouldn't suffer at times.  

However, God has promised when we resist Satan, no matter what the initial outcome is, we will eventually overcome because we have a different kind of power. It's a power fueled by a humble, yet very strong and persistent faith in God that know matter the temporary suffering we might face, we trust God to deliver us. Listen...

1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Restored, strong, firm, and steadfast! That's the different kind of power we have. In other words, God offers us restoration! God's power has all the strength we need and it's not flimsy or undependable! There's just one catch…you've got to stop depending on your own power, and start trusting Him to give you His power.  

Peter would write a second letter to the same people and here's what he said in 2 Peter 1:3-4

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Closing illustration and prayer!