“God’s Missional Community – An Alien in Poole” (John MacDiarmid)

Message Preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on Sunday 9th February 2014

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Reference: 1 Peter 2 v 11 – 3 v 7

Steven Spielberg’s 1980’s movie ET told the story of an alien, an extra-terrestrial who found himself left on earth after his colleagues returned home. The film is about an alien in a foreign world. Christians have something in common with ET. We are too are aliens in a strange world, in a culture we don’t belong in and values that we don’t subscribe to. Like ET, we can be lonely, find it difficult…and we often long to go home. Yet as aliens, those who are travelling through, unlike ET, we are not here by accident. Here are here by God’s design because he intends for us to have an influence on planet earth until we  go home.

The question is…how?

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Peter confirms his love for his reader – the phrase “dear friends” is one of extreme love and affection and implores them to act in the way he describes. There are three things things to do  and if they do each of these they will have a positive impact on the world around:

1. Say “no” to temptation

Romans 7 describes Paul’s battle with sin. It is the same for every Christian. This internal battle rages very day of our Christian life. It is a warfare waged by the enemy to destroy our impact on the world and to rob us of our relationship with God. We need to learn to abstain from anger, rage, jealousy – whatever is our weak spot. The key word is abstain – we are to learn to say  “no”.

2. Say “yes” to the world

Saying “yes” to the world does not mean saying yes to its values or its lifestyle. It means that we live in the world. We have front lines and we live on those frontlines. Withdrawal from the pressure of living in the world is not an option for the Christian. We can have impact only if we live lives among the pagans.

3. Say “yes” to God’s lifestyle

The one thing that will really make a difference is as we take our decision to abstain from sin and put it on display among the non- Christians that we will amongst every day.

They rest of our passage deal with the specific outworking of this.What does this good life look like? There are four examples, but a word that appears constantly is the word “submission”. When God talks about submission he is  not talking about any sense of inferiority. He is talking about the willing choice to give someone else the right  to have authority in our lives. How does this work itself out?

1. As Citizens

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,  or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor

Christians were being accused of being subversive to the state (as indeed Jesus was). The foolish talk could be silenced by citizens that honoured the God-appointed Roman authority – even though it was unjust and ungodly. Similarly, we ought to respond appropriately to the authority in our land.

2. As Employees

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The employees of the Roman world were very often slaves. Some of them could leave if they wanted, some of them were owned by their masters – but the word was the same: Submit to your masters – even the unjust ones. So the question for us is – how do we respond to our earthly bosses , even the bad ones? Our impact for the gospel is what is at stake.

 3. Husbands and Wives

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands,  like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

The main point that Peter is making is that godly behaviour by a wife consists of submission to her husband (not to men in general). This is particularly important in the case of a situation where a husband is not a Christian. Once again it is lifestyle that wins the day – not words.

But just to pre-empt misunderstanding Peter has something to say to husbands. This is not a mandate for husbands to mistreat their wives –quite the reverse. Husbands are to treat their wives with courtesy and respect, loving their wives as Christ loved the church.

In the home, as in the workplace and the state Christians say clearly that they belong to Jesus by the radical difference in their lifestyle.

In conclusion…

We return to our main point. Jesus is on a mission, and  we are part of his mission. As we seek to make Jesus name known throughout the world, the thing that will have impact is a community of loving, godly Christians living our their faith in full view of the world that they seek to influence.

I can’t help wondering, as Peter penned these words, if he was casting his mind back 30 years to that wonderful occasion in Galilee when he had been present at the most famous sermon ever preached as he heard Jesus say:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

John MacDiarmid

February 2014