Teaching Series Introduction:
It’s a strange new world. When the world is all topsy-turvy, what difference does Jesus make in our lives? From the book of 1 Peter, we will rediscover the importance of being ‘strangers’ with purpose who make a difference in our world, all because Jesus first came to bring blessing and hope to us.
Title: Live As Free People
By: Tim Chilvers
Date: 4 October 2020 (Online Service)
1 Peter (Chapter 2, verses 13 to 25)
In a society in turmoil, how should followers of Jesus live? What should our attitude be to the government, and to our society? As free people, who live for a different kingdom, we have an opportunity to show a very different way from others around us.
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At the end of last year, I read something amazing written to parents who don’t believe in God, about how they should help their children with the big questions of life. It was written by a psychologist who wasn’t a Christian. And she was basically saying, if you’re a parent who don’t believe in God, when your children come to you with questions about heaven and faith and the future and God, and the big things in life, you should approach it very carefully. Because she was arguing that looking at all of the research and the evidence, it’s pretty clear that faith in God is good for your life.
And so therefore, even though those parents don’t believe in God, she thinks it’s best for them to help their children to believe in God. She said these words, the belief in God is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world. In a world that is outside of our control, and haven’t we seen that this year, and in circumstances that so often don’t go the way we would want them to, looking at the research, faith makes a massive difference.
And I think the writers in the Bible and Peter, who we’re looking at today would agree with her. But you’d also want to add something really important, that it’s not just faith that’s important, it’s who your faith is in that makes the massive difference. And in the passage, we’re looking at today, there’s two clear ways that Peter says Jesus changes everything.
I think both of these ways have really been modelled for us by our Executive Pastor, Andy Mackie. As we celebrate and say thank you to Andy and to God for all that he’s done through Andy, ahead of Andy leaving the staff team at Riverside, these two clear ways that Jesus makes a difference, have been brilliantly lived out amongst us. What are these two clear ways? Well, the first one is this, Jesus changes how we live in society, whether or not you’re a follower of Jesus, Jesus has changed things that has a massive impact on society today.
Because these Christians were living in what we now know as Greece and Turkey back in the first century. And they wanted to know if Jesus was now their King, could they ignore the emperors and the Kings around them? And I guess many of us may not be tempted to ignore, but sometimes we might well be frustrated at the ruling authorities around us. Peter makes it pretty clear that Jesus changes how we see society, because rather than just society being here for us, actually we live to serve Jesus’ society should I say.
Let me read to you, verse 15, for it’s God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as God’s slaves. Yes, you’re free because of Jesus, your whole life has changed now, but because of that, do real good in society, be a massive blessing, live with God as your master and therefore live for society serving it.
Don’t know if you heard the story in the news a few weeks back, about an American billionaire who had given all his wealth away. He was a guy who’d set up several decades ago a duty-free chain with his friend and he made a decision pretty early on that with his wealth, I think his fortune was about $8 billion, he wanted to give it all away by the time he died. He set up a foundation. And then a couple of weeks back, that foundation had used his last dollar. He’d achieved what he set out to, which was whilst he was still alive, see the good that he could do with what had been given to him.
And it was a massive contrast between his co-owner, who’d used all his wealth to buy fancy cars and massive mansions and live the life of royalty. He wanted to serve society compared to being here just for self. That was modeled to me in a very early conversation I had with Andy. When we just moved here from London, we moved to Birmingham and we’re having a discussion about the transport system and the differences between London and Birmingham. And if you know anything about London, London’s got quite an integrated system, where you can buy a travel card and just get on a bus or a tube or a train and it all works.
I couldn’t understand how a big city like Birmingham, there were several different bus companies and you have to spend different amounts of money in those buses, I just couldn’t get it. I Didn’t understand. And this conversation of course then went into all sorts of other differences. I remember spiraling a little bit about some of the challenges about Birmingham. As we were talking about some of the challenges, I remember very clearly how Andy approached it. Because he basically said, that’s why this city so needs the good news of Jesus. With all of the challenges and all of its brokenness, lets not just moan, let’s do something about it.
What we really need to do is to help people all around us, discover the freedom and the hope in Jesus, because that changes the city. Jesus changes how we live now and he changes how we live in our society, as Andy has modeled to us. That’s the first way that Jesus makes a difference. But there’s something else, something more incredible, is that Jesus not only changes how we live in society, Jesus changes how we approach suffering. Life often doesn’t go the way we would want it to. There are often very challenging things, painful things and some of us know them all too well.
It’s easy to have one of two reactions in the middle of hardship and suffering. One is to become bitter and cynical by it. The pain that we’ve injured, we then kind of force it on others or an alternative response is to be completely crushed by it and crippled. Well, Jesus offers a different way to both of those. Because Peter goes on to talk about the relationship between slaves and their masters. Slavery in the ancient world was quite different to the slavery that we might know over the last couple of centuries, the tragic stuff that’s been happening.
But even then, slavery in those days wasn’t great. These slaves often enjoyed very difficult, challenging circumstances. Peter is painting a picture for them, that Jesus changes how they see their suffering. Verse 20. 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 endure it, this is commendable for God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you.
Because Jesus has died for us, enduring incredible agony, incredible suffering on our behalf, it changes how we then approach suffering. Offering a different path, neither to bitterness and cynicism or to being completely crushed and crippled, because we follow one who pushed through that suffering, beating even death itself. I remember years ago, this was modeled to me by a family, who’d been missionaries in a part of the world in which they’d endured a horrific brutal crime. I mean, horrible. And their story was so incredible, not by the details of the horrors that they’d endured, but their posture act of it.
Because it wasn’t one of criticism or condemnation about those who’d done horrible things and it neither was one that had been completely crushed, by the things that lived long in their lives even now. But actually that posture is one of grace and forgiveness. Because they followed a savior that had suffered for them, beating even death itself. And I remember, again, not that long ago, a conversation with Andy, in which a particular challenge was happening. Even though the challenge around that situation was very real and the concern about it was very clear, even in that, because of Jesus, he was able to speak so clearly about clinging onto Christ, the one who had endured for us.
Jesus changes how we see our suffering, because God understands your suffering, suffers with you and has even beaten death. That’s why Peter says astonishing words in verse 25. Writing to these followers of Jesus, you were like sheep going astray, he said, but now you’ve returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls. He describes Jesus as both a shepherd and an overseer. And it’s when we realize that Jesus is both of those, it enables us to push through and live in a different way, neither bitter or cynical or crushed and crippled, because we have both a shepherd who cares passionately, leading us through like a good shepherd to pasture safe and new.
But we also have one who is an overseer, who sees everything and sees all the circumstances and knows the harm that’s been done, knows the suffering you’re enduring and is judge over it all. It’s only when we have those two things intention and it’s only when we realize that Jesus is both shepherd and overseer, that we’re able neither to be crushed or cynical and neither spiral or despair. Because we have a shepherd leading us to pastures new who cares and a judge who sees all and has no favorites, that enables us to live in society in such a way that we treat all as people we want to serve and we endure suffering in such a way that we realize we have a savior who beat even death.
That’s good news. That’s the savior that Andy lives for. And in this next chapter of life, we’ll follow him wherever he may go. I guess the question for all of us is, is Jesus my shepherd, my overseer? Because he’s there wanting to lead us, wanting to comfort us and wanting to say, I know. Let’s pray together. As we pray, you may find it helpful to hold open your hands. Wherever you are, whether you call yourself a follower of Jesus or not, to simply hold open your hands, as it were a kind of posture of saying, Jesus, will you be my shepherd? Will you be my overseer?
Let’s pray. Lord we pray right now that you lead us, that we would know you as the good shepherd. You see it all. May we therefore live in such a way as being a blessing for others, knowing you’re the one who suffers with us, suffered for us and there is always hope. We cling to you, our shepherd and overseer. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
- On Sunday, Tim mentioned an article called ‘Don’t Believe in God? Lie to Your Children‘ written by Erica Komisar. The article encourages parents to help their children believe in God, regardless of whether they believe in him themselves. The author comments that the evidence is really clear that faith in God is good for you, and helps people cope with the big questions of life and death. What good do you think Christianity makes to society?
- Read 1 Peter 2:11-17. Can you give any examples of verses 11-12 being lived out in practice? What impact have times that you have ‘done good’ made, do you think? Has anyone ever seen something you have done and asked why you were doing it?
- In verses 13-14, Peter reminds his readers that Christians are called to ’submit yourself’ to the ruling authorities precisely, because they are followers of Jesus. This passage has caused quite a degree of controversy over the years! How should Christians live when the leaders of their nation don’t lead in a godly or Christlike way?
- Read 1 Peter 2:18-25. Again, this passage is also a difficult one. (It is important to not presume that ancient slavery is exactly the same as the horrific slavery of the last few centuries. However, sadly, passages like this have sometimes been abused to justify all sorts of tragic and devastating injustice throughout history. We must acknowledge this evil and also repent of such a hideous part of our nation’s history. And yet, at the same time it is also worth reminding ourselves that the bible has actually played a key role in inspiring people like William Wilberforce to work to bring about the end of the horrors of slavery.) What difference, according to Peter, does Christ make in the way that people approach suffering?
- Why is it such good news that God is one ‘who judges justly’ (v23)?
- What difference does it make to your life that God is both ’Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (v25)? What does that look like in practice?
- Take some time to pray for our ruler; our attitudes; our trust in Jesus through suffering.