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Peter: Called to Live the Good Life

Called to Live the Good Life

Series through 1 and 2 Peter – lesson 7

Sunday morning, June 27, 2021

Text: 1 Peter 2:11-17

Good morning, church! Good to see all of you here this morning and thank you for choosing to be here. The title of this morning's sermon is "Called to Live the Good Life." 

What comes to mind when we hear that phrase, the good life? Maybe our minds go to a life of wealth and ease. Maybe we think of just being financially secure, where the pressures of finance are not an issue. Maybe it is a life free of pain. Maybe it is a life where things slow down a little bit and we are not constantly rushed. Maybe we picture a quiet place on the lake, or by a river, or a little cabin somewhere where the pressures of life seem to be unable to find us. Maybe it is a life full of activity and energy and things to do. Maybe it is a life surrounded by family and friends. Maybe it is a life that is more solitary than crowded. 

I guess that is the trouble with using a phrase like the good life. Who gets to decide what that is? Who gets to define it? Surely there has to be a standard or how would we know if life is good or bad? What if we let the author of life define it for us? In our text, Peter tells us what the good life looks like. He gives us what God sees as the good life

Let's read it again.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 

I see a problem right off the bat. "As sojourners and exiles" Living the good life as people who don't fit in? Again, I don't know exactly what comes everyone's mind when the good life is mentioned, but I would venture to say that whatever that vision is it carries with it some portion of our controlling our own destinies. Foreigners, sojourners, exiles and outcasts usually don't have much control of what goes on around them. Can we really live the good life in this situation? Peter says not only can we, but we are called to do so.

Peter goes on to give some directions for living the good life. The first is abstinence. Again, when we think of the good life, we may think about getting things. We may think about what we can accumulate. But the first thing Peter says is that we abstain from something. We are to abstain from passions of the flesh. Sounds good. What is that exactly? Our first instinct may be to think of bodily pleasures, bodily craving. Things like sexual immorality, maybe addictions, drunkenness, (we might even throw in gluttony) would probably make the list. I think all of those are included in what Peter is talking about here. But I also think we risk missing other things from which we should abstain if we stop there. What other passions of the flesh might be included? What about things like anger, or hatred, or envy, or pride? What about these passions that do damage to our souls and damage to others?  I've never been a huge fan of the Message translation. If you read the Message Bible and it makes sense to you and you learn more about who God is and what he wants, I think that is great. It has some good things about it. I also think Peterson really nails this passage. Listen to how he translates it:

11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life in your neighborhood so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. (1 Peter 2:11-12 MSG)

Abstaining from these things in crucial because we are in a war. There is war being fought and I think we are – humanity is the prize. One of the things that hopefully we see when we read through this book is how much God wants to be with us. He created us so he could be with us. He placed Adam and Eve in a garden where he could be with them. When humanity rebelled and evil seemed to cover the earth, God rescues Noah and his family so that he can continue to be with humanity. The list goes on and on. Abraham, Isaac, Israel, the Tabernacle, the Temple, Jesus in the incarnation…. God wants us. He wants to partner with us. He wants the whole world reconciled to himself. He wants to give us life eternal and be with us forever. 

Satan also wants us. Not to do us good. Not to give us life. He wants to destroy us. He is the thief of which Jesus speaks in John 10:10 that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He is the lion, of which Peter will speak later in this letter, that prowls around seeking prey to devour. The things from which we are to abstain are his weapons. Weapons that damage us. Weapons that damage others.  Weapons that move us farther from the image of Jesus that we are called to be. Weapons that move us farther from the mage of God in which we were created. Weapons that move others away from coming to God. He always seems to be right there with us offering those weapons for our use. Whenever those are presented to us, we are to refuse.

The good life also involves submitting to God. Again, from our text this morning:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 

I'm certain we all agree that submitting to God is an absolute must. We see what he's done for us. We see how much he loves us. We see what he wants for us. And we know we are to submit to him. But submitting to the government? That's another story isn't it. We find that rather difficult in light of some things our government does. When the government seems to openly support things that are directly opposed to what we find in Scripture, (abortion, same-sex marriage, seemingly taking the side of evil) we feel as if we can't support it. We may even believe it to be our responsibility to take action and do something about it. 

Can we look at the government that Peter is talking about in this letter for just a minute? The Roman Empire, vast and powerful as it was, was also highly immoral. People – people made in the image of God – were pitted against each other in fights to the death for the amusement of others. Slavery, oppression, and disregard of human rights were rampant. Rome had defeated and enslaved people from all over the world. The Empire set itself up as something to be worshipped by all its subjects. Those who rebelled against the power of the state felt the full force of its wrath. Unwanted children could be left at the city dumps to die of exposure. Around the time of the writing of this letter, Nero is having Christians killed in order to cover up his own misdeeds. What does Peter say that Christians – those who wear the name of Jesus  - were to do? Be subject to every human institution; the emperor, the governors, all. They were not then and we are still not to bow down to the gods of the empire, the gods of the state. But, they were to be good citizens and not seen as rebels. They were to take care of their neighbors, serve God, love the family of God and honor the emperor.

The Christians to whom Peter writes were already viewed as suspicious. They didn't participate in the worship of all the other idols in the area. They were already seen as different. Accusations of being a violent threat to the empire was not to be a valid accusation. As followers of Jesus today, we are looked at as being different. There are those who would like to see the influence of Christianity gone from our culture. We are still to live as good citizens. We may be viewed with suspicion because we will not bow down to the idols that are set up all around us. We may be seen as hateful because we refuse to call evil good. But we are still to be people who love our neighbors (even if we disagree), serve God by serving all others, being loving and devoted to God, and honoring those God has put in leadership. 

But how? How can we do this? How can we live the good life, one where we abstain from using the weapons of the enemy and where we submit to God, in a place where things seemed so opposed to his will? 

We look at the One who did it. We look at the one who lived the good life. We watch as Jesus loves and serves those who are very different from him. We watch as he loves and serves and submits. We see how his ministering to others is absent of the weapons of anger, pride, envy, hatred, and the like. We see him offer the good life in an inclusive way while still demanding that sinful behavior be stopped. 

Read places like John chapter 4 that records Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. What do we see there?

Jesus isn't caught in the trap of, "if you love me, you have to affirm that I am right." He makes reference to her sin, something that she also recognizes. But doesn't condemn, but he offers something better. What happens as a result? She believes and tells others who come to believe. Can we imitate this example of the good life? Can we engage someone in conversation and offer a better way without focusing on or condemning them for their sins. Notice that Jesus doesn't lead with her failures. He offers her living water, a different life, and hope. He doesn't agree with the way she is living. He doesn't tell her to go and get her life straightened up and then come to him. He seems to come across to her as loving and caring. Can we do that? Can we come across to people as loving and caring? Can we serve others who are made in the image of God without first condemning their behavior. Can we treat others the way Jesus does?

This leads to why we are to live the good life. 

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

The day of visitation – 

Some believe that this is in reference to Judgment Day. God will be glorified when Jesus comes again. Paul makes reference to this in a very well known passage in Philippians 2.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God ra thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should 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. (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV emphasis added)

There will be a time when God is recognized for who he is, and glorified. There will be those who rejoice and those who mourn because of his coming.

It also could be that people will be more receptive when the opportunity is presented to become part of God's people. They will recognize God as the author of the good life and want to be part of that. Peter makes this reference in chapter 3, verses 14 and 15 of this very letter, when he writes, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. eHave no fear of them, fnor be troubled, 15 but gin your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, halways being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and irespect,

We are called to live the good life. That good life is one that is defined by God and operated in his way. We don't give in to the temptation to pick up the weapons offered by Satan and to let our egos and passions rule. Instead we submit to God's leadership. We are servants of his, the One who continually serves humanity that is far from worthy of his love and grace. We are called to a life that glorifies God and makes the way that he has asked us to live look attractive to the world around us, so that they may see that there is good in this life. They may disagree with us, but really have nothing with which to accuse us. They may even want to be part of what God is doing. And we get to be those who invite them into his purpose. 


Written By

Parker Willis


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