Live as Aliens and Strangers in the World
Topic: Sanctification Passage: 1 Peter 2:11–2:17
I want you to think about what is the most important thing, in every dealing with every person in every situation in life. This includes your interaction with unbelievers, even those who are hostile to the Christian message. I am talking about the person at the checkout counter, the lady at the bank, the person you hire to fix your plumbing, the next door neighbor, the person you work with at the office. What really matters in each of these interactions?
Is it to make sure you protect yourself, and protect your rights? Is it to make sure you are treated fairly? -that they bill you the right amount, or talk to you with a nice voice. Is your greatest priority to do right and make sure others do right? In a sense, all these have some place in your relationships.
But Peter calls us to something much higher! He calls us to live in such a way that God is glorified by our behavior. We are to live so that others would, someday give glory to God for our honorable and excellent behavior which they saw and experienced.
If bringing glory to God becomes your single minded purpose with every person, in every relationship, in every interaction, even in conflict, it changes everything. Our motive with others, is not self promotion, self protection, self fulfillment, but to show them the likeness and image of God. (to put God on display to others) We become NOT so conscious of the wrongs of other people toward us, but our focus is on our living honorable, praiseworthy lives. And not just when other people are good to us, but EVEN with those who slander or persecute or dislike Christians.
The key thought from this passage is verse 12 “Keep your behavior excellent (or honorable) among the pagans, (so) that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (NIV “Live SUCH GOOD LIVES among the pagans, that though they accuse you of wrongdoing, they may see your good deeds...”) And verse 15 “For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people”.
You are part of a bigger story than just your own life! You never JUST represent you in ANYTHING you do or say! You represent God! You show forth God, or not. You affect people's view of God and what they think and say about his people. Your behavior can be an instrument through which others see and glorify God.
In order to drive home this message to our hearts, Peter reminds us of something about ourselves that we are never to forget. He reminds us that we are “beloved” and that we are “foreigners and exiles” or “strangers and pilgrims” KJV.
It is NOT unimportant that Peter calls his readers “beloved”. This should be taken on two levels. First, he reminds those he is writing to that HE loves them very much. This could be translated “Dear friends, or people whom I dearly love”. This is a great example for how we address each other.
If you are going to give spiritual opinion or instruction to someone, in person or on Facebook, or by text, it is SO important that you LOVE the person to whom you are communicating. EVEN IF you are right in your opinion, it doesn't affect people for good, without love. Paul told the Corinthians, “Concerning this debate about food sacrificed to idols, we all have knowledge. HOWEVER... Knowledge makes arrogant but love edifies”.
We can learn a lot, NOT only from what the apostles SAID, but HOW they say it: the tone, the affection, the love! How you address people is so important.
But there is another reason Peter addresses them as beloved. Christians are those who are dearly loved of God. If you belong to Christ, you are a beloved person! God loves you as much as he loves his own Son. There is nothing you could do that would diminish or change his love for you. There is nothing that could happen to you that could ever change that love.
Peter emphasizes that we are a chosen people, a people belonging to God, a people who have received mercy, a people who are beloved of God. It is important to know this, to walk in this, in order to live this distinctively excellent life among those who do not know God. This special love that God has for you, is what stirs you to live for him!
Not only are we “beloved”, Peter goes on to say, “I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul”. He tells us we are foreigners and strangers in the world, because he wants us to see ourselves in that way. We are like people on a journey, in a foreign land. We belong to another country, another place. We are citizens of heaven. We are not at home in this world!
If you travel to a foreign country for two weeks, you are not interested in settling down there, fitting in with everybody and every idea in that culture. You may enjoy things you see and do there but you know you are there temporarily and that it is not really home to you.
This viewpoint about yourself affects your outlook on life. You are different from those around you. You hold different values. As foreigners and strangers in this world you should not participate in the sinful passions that are all around you in the world. Verse 11, “I urge you, As foreigners and strangers, abstain from fleshly lusts”.
There are enticements to sin in this world, that you must chose against! The Bible's plan for fighting sin; abstain! “I urge you.... abstain!” That's it! A one word solution to sinful passions for a Christian! To abstain from sin is a choice you can make as a person born of God. Whatever sin that so easily entangles you, there is a quick and sure way out...abstain! That's good news!
What the NIV translates “sinful desires” the NASB calls “fleshly lusts” or ESV “passions of the flesh”. These sinful desires certainly include every kind of sexual immorality, adultery, homosexual acts, pre-marital sex, pornography and on an on. But it is not limited to that. Paul said in Galations 5:19, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension and division, envy and drunkenness, orgies and the like.”
You abstain because they wage war against your soul. Anger is not good for your soul, hatred, envy, coveting, creating division...is not good for your soul. Some sins may hurt others very deeply, some of your sins may damage your body, but all sins wage war against the peace and joy and fellowship with the Holy Spirit you are to be enjoying in your soul. Sin should never be joked about or looked at in a flippant way. It is to be seen as a serious enemy.
If you are toying around with some attitude or practicing some sin – I urge you to see the danger of that this morning...and abstain from it!
You should consider yourself a stranger and alien to this world because SOME THINGS IN THIS WORLD WAGE WAR AGAINST YOUR SOUL. You cannot assume that the popular shows on television or at the movie theater are good for you soul. You cannot assume that the viewpoint of your teachers at school will not damage you spiritually. You cannot assume that commonly held views on morality are good for you. You cannot assume that what EVERYBODY ESLE is doing is good for your soul. You cannot assume that the things people in the world are passionate about, are good for you, to be passionate about. There are things that damage your spiritual life!
But there is a second reason for living pure lives. That is for the sake of pagans, or unbelievers. You are to live a life that silences foolish things that people say about Christians.
Peter said, “Don't give them anything to accuse you about”. “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles..” “Live such good lives among the Pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may (instead) see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”. “For it is God's will that by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men”.
As a side note: In God's view of things it is not believers who are ignorant! The pagan world culture tells us we are naive, and anti-intellectual ones. But God says It is the NON-Believer who rejects the voice of Conscience, and the evidence of creation, who is ignorant and foolish.
Peter says we are to silence them NOT by winning the argument but by honorable behavior.
Many non-Christians are looking for opportunities to slander us, so they can say, “See their Christianity doesn't work, therefore I can ignore my conscience; I can ignore God and the Christian message”. Many people want to justify their own unbelief and their own immorality, and their own passions. Then they won't have to change. When they can find you or me doing something wrong they put it on the front page, they talk about it, it spreads like wildfire. And THEY feel better about their own sin. And more resistant to the gospel.
But Peter says that your excellent behavior will mean that those who slander you will glorify God in the day of visitation. The day of visitation is the time when God visits. In Luke 19:44 Jesus called his coming a visitation. He said, “They will no leave one stone upon one another, BECAUSE you did not recognize the time of your visitation”. I believe the visitation Peter refers to in verse is Christ's second coming.
What does it mean that those who slander and persecute you will glorify God in the day of visitation? I think it could mean that some of them will be won over to the Christian message and be saved BY SEEING YOUR EXCELLENT BEHAVIOR. So when Christ comes they will glorify God by being ready for and loving his coming. It has been said, “People don't read the Bible - They read us”. The single greatest tool of evangelism is righteous living. Some will come to see that Christ is real and the Christian message is valid.
But I think what Peter means here in this verse, is that they will be brought to a place of humble subjection, and admission of the excellence of the behavior of God's people who they slandered and accused, in their life time.
At the return of the Lord, three things will happen to those who do not know God. One: They will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and God and will bow their knee before him, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9 says “At the name of Jesus,every knee with bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Without exception, someday everyone will admit willingly or unwillingly that Jesus is Lord.
Two: They will be punished for their mistreatment of the righteous. It is only just for God to repay those who afflict you. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
Three: They will acknowledge the good deeds we have done and glorify God....IN the very things they have slandered us. If they call you a hater now, someday in the presence of Christ, they will acknowledge your loving and kind deeds. IE God WILL be praised even by those who have been vicious in their attacks on Christians. Men like Richard Dawkins, will someday acknowledge the excellent behavior of Christians.
The will glorify God in that they will acknowledge his justice and righteousness and the goodness they saw in the lives of God's people. They will make a full confession that their accusations against believers were false and foolish. This verse does not mean they won't slander you, today or tomorrow. It means that they will have to take it back someday to the glory of God.
Every honorable thing you do, every righteous thing you do, will cause God to be glorified when Christ returns. Some will be won to Christ by our good behavior, but all will glorify God.
What kind of honorable or excellent behavior are we to have among unbelievers:
Certainly moral purity. Also... Be a good worker. Laziness at work destroys your testimony. Use good and clean language at work. Be thankful and positive. Don't grumble and complain. Be a servant. Be willing to do the unpleasant task with a smile. Keep yourself from slandering or gossiping about others. Be honest. Keep your word. Show up to meetings on time. Do what you say. Be fair and generous in your financial dealings. There are many people who have said, “I will never do business with a Christian again”.
These are all good things, but the one quality that Peter emphasizes is our submission to, and our respect for, those who God has placed in authority. He includes our conduct toward government, our conduct as servants or employees, as wives being subject to husbands, as husbands (granting honor to their own wives), as younger men to elders.
This is not the most popular topic. There are probably no books about this on the Christian best seller list at the Christian bookstore. Yet our respect to one another and showing honor towards those authority may have more to do with our effectiveness as a witness that anything else we could talk about.
Peter gives three reasons: *For the Lord's sake. You do it for God! What a motive to live a respectful life! *It is the will of God. You would be going against God to do otherwise. You are aligning yourself with God's heart and plan for you as you honor love and respect others. *It silences the foolish accusation of the world. Being in humble subjection to others is one of our most effective testimonies. I remember a Christian lady that worked in an office who said, “I don't have to obey anybody but God”. That lady did not have a very good witness in that place.
Peter himself gives us 4 final applications: Honor all people. No person should feel disrespected in the presence of a Christian. Everyone should be treated with honor, not just those you want to impress, or those you want to like you. You honor your wife, your family, the poor and rich, those with power those with no power.
Love the brotherhood. Love each other with the special affection of brothers. That means we should treat each other very well.
Fear God – Disrespect in the home, in government, or at work, starts with a lack of reverence for God. The cure for a resistant, defiant attitude is fear of God.
Honor the King. Whether he is a pagan or not. The current administration and past ones too, have taken many positions abhorrent to most Christians. We can disagree, we can speak out, we can work. But if our political activism crosses the line into dishonor, disrespect, and belligerence, and name calling, we have hurt our testimony and NOT brought glory to God.
Your life is being watched! Probably more people around you than you know, identify you as a Christian. Let us live honorable, excellent lives, in the world and among the people God has put us around. In every situation with every person show them the image and likeness of God. It is all for the glory of God!