Alien Existence: 2017 Study of 1st Peter #1
This is an exposition of 1 Peter 1:1-2. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 12, 2017.
I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this or not, but our world has changed dramatically in the last few years. Life is very different today. We now have a Department of Homeland Defense. We talk daily about threat levels. There is increase talk and anger about controlling our borders. Terrorism is a topic of daily conversation. If you’ve flown or taken someone to the airport or pick someone up at the airport lately you’ve seen first hand some of the changes. But beyond the geo-political changes, we changed in other ways as well. A decade ago a large Christian denomination openly embraced a practicing homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire. Prior to the vote an Episcopal seminary professor said, “I don’t know how I will vote. I believe it would be wrong for me to make a decision prior to seeing what ‘the spirit of Jesus’ might do in these meetings.” A few weeks ago a pastor in Denmark said, “I do not believe in a heavenly God, in the afterlife, the resurrection, or in the Virgin Mary.” He denied that God was the creator, or the almighty, nor in Jesus as the Son of God or His seconding coming or the resurrection of the dead – but following an official investigation by his bishop he was cleared of any wrong doing and returned to his parish! The International Herald Tribune’s story carried the headline, “In Denmark, A Man of God, but Without that ‘God’ Part.” When members of his church were asked about the controversy one responded, “Danes, we don’t talk too much about God, and Christianity is not a big force here.” Apparently it’s okay for a Christian church to have an atheist for a pastor!
Of course what was “over there” years ago is at our front door today. What is really disturbing about all of this is the wider discussion that is taking place. Harry Biswanger of the Ayn Rand institute is the leading proponent of what is called objectivist philosophy. This philosophical worldview sees the human being as a “free, independent, sovereign individual who exists for his own sake.” Biswanger and others find the whole concept of a God to whom we are accountable as “an impossible and degrading concept.” Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard finds the Ten Commandments “contrary to every principle of moral judgment.” The real problem for many is that the Ten Commandments remind us that we are not a law unto ourselves. We answer to God and that simply is not acceptable!
Several years ago All Soul’s Unitarian here in Tulsa was applauded for its work in helping churches to embrace and accept homosexuals and in advancing the idea that there is nothing inherently wrong with polygamy! The pastor, in an interview with the Tulsa World, explained the origins of the Unitarian Universalist Church as breaking away from traditional Christianity through denial of the doctrine of the Trinity and affirming that all religions lead to God – and then said, “But we remain orthodox Christians.”
I’ve said all this to say – I’m feeling more and more like an alien. The landscape is less and less familiar to me. I’m feeling less and less like I belong here. The nagging question is, “How are we to live in this foreign land?” For some answers we turn to the Scriptures and begin this evening a study of 1 Peter.
Text: 1 Peter 1:1-2
It is virtually universally accepted that Peter, the apostle is the author of this letter. He is writing to a group of churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). His message could be summarized as:
- Believers live as aliens and strangers in this life.
- Holiness matters – be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake.
- Live a transformed life as a testimony to others and as a means of glorify God.
It is also clear that this book is written during a time of persecution or on the verge of persecution. I’m convinced that it was written in the early 60s. Sometime between 62-64, just before the persecution of Nero. Peter encourages these believers to live courageously, trusting Christ in the face of tremendous trial. Within 18 months of its completion Peter became a martyr for the faith.
There are elements of 1 Peter that are hard for American believers to identify with. Though our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to biblical faith, we have not faced persecution. Though we have experienced a down turn in the economy we are not, on the whole, familiar with real poverty. While Christians around the world readily identify with this book most American believers do not. But I’m convinced that Peter has much to say to us in preparing us for the days to come. This evening I want us to look carefully at Peter’s greeting to these struggling believers. In his greeting we are reminded that:
Thesis: Regardless of life circumstance believers find their identity and sense of well being in their relationship to Christ.
There are two things I want us to note from our text.
- We, as the people of God live as aliens and strangers in this life. (1:1)
- The believer finds his worth and sense of well being in Christ. (1:2)
This world is not our home – thus to seek fulfillment and understanding here can only lead to frustration. To seek meaning and purpose in this temporary dwelling is to invite heartache and despair.
Peter’s advice to first century Christians is sound advice for twenty first century believers, “regardless of your life circumstance find your identity and sense of well being in a relationship with Christ.”