Many think the church is irrelevant to their lives. Responding to this, we have titled today’s sermon, “Eternal Over Relevant,” because the Church is the one entity in this world that will live forever! If we stay on the true message of the Word of God and live as God’s people, the church will always be not only eternal, but always relevant!
People are struggling with issues and they don’t think the church addresses them. They think the church is only for faith and religious stuff, not family, parenting, work, school, finances, mental health, and a host of other real-world issues. People in our community are asking questions and they don’t think the church is answering them. The church only becomes irrelevant when it forgets its eternal identity and purpose.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning church; it’s good to see all of you here! I’m thankful to our church for allowing me to be out for three Sundays so I could get “new knees.” I got my second knee replacement three weeks ago and I’m happy to be back. I found out something; I don’t like being at home without you. I like being here with you. I knew that already, but it was a good reminder that we need each other.
If you’re here for the first time today and you’re trying to figure out what kind of church this is, we bought an old movie theater. We have decorated it with all this olympic stuff. What in the world’s going on? Well, we love kids; starting tomorrow night is our KidzFest. Grandparents or parents, if you know someone who has a child in fifth grade and down, please bring them. You can pre-register or you can bring them tomorrow night and they can register on site. We would love to have them.
We’re concluding our series today entitled, “I’m for it.” We got the idea, this four part series, from a recent survey by Barna. They asked people what they thought of the American church. 41% of them reported that they felt that the American church was known more for what it was against than when it was for. Half of the respondents said,Yeah, I think the church is known for what it’s against. It’s no wonder that that’s the case because, instead of being known for the Gospel and for the love of Jesus, we tend to be known for what we’re writing on social media and for what we’re saying to our neighbors, to our co workers and to our fellow students if we’re still in school. “The church is not the steeple, the church is the people.” That means the church is us; the church is not this building. The church is not the institution. The church is more than the pastor. It’s what we are saying and how we’re living in this world that’s the church. All you have to do is just look at some of the recent social media posts that some of us are making to get an idea of why we’re being accused of being more about what we’re against than what we’re for.
Consider this blog by Carey Neiuwhof entitled, “5 Stupid Things the Church Needs to Stop Doing to Make Progress.” He’s speaking of us, not the building, not the steeple. The church is the people. He says,
(1) Stop being so weird online. Some of us are toxic. We are ranters, trolls and haters. We hate everything. Some of us are cynical. We’re disappointed with everyone all of the time. We are the only ones that are right; quit talking about that online. Some of us are just so syrupy sweet that there’s no way you’re living on planet Earth. Stop being weird.
(2) Stop commenting on politics. When your church becomes a mouthpiece for a political party, you cease to be the church. Your job is to share the Gospel, not to change the government. We’re known more for our politics than we are for the person of Jesus. The church is not a mouthpiece for a political party. We are to speak about Jesus.
(3) Stop handling conflict so poorly. The church should be the best in the world at handling conflict. We were taught by Jesus exactly how to do it. Yet we often side step. We gossip. We talk about other people rather than to people. We avoid conflict. Or we run into it like a bulldozer claiming we’re all about truth. The world sees us as a people that just can’t get along with each other. We need to stop handling conflicts so poorly.
(4) Stop ranking sin selectively. Christians have become fairly good at focusing on the moral failings of others while ignoring their own. We pretend that the worst sin you can commit is sexual. And—don’t get me wrong—sexual sin has serious implications. But so does gossip. And divisiveness. And quarrelling—sins Christians routinely ignore. Mostly because we commit them. We don’t like to talk about the sins that we are committing, like gossip and quarreling. We don’t like to talk about those because we like those. Those are the ones we’re doing.
(5) Stop judging outsiders. Christians, the world has a judge and it’s not you. He’s fairer than you and far more accurate. In the meantime, do your best to help reconcile your brothers and sisters in the world to their heavenly Father through Christ. That’s your job.
When we’re perceived, as Carey suggests, not only are we known more for what we’re against than what we’re for, we’re also in danger of what Barna reports as being the second challenge facing the church. Over 30% of respondents said that they felt like the church was irrelevant to their daily lives. It’s just irrelevant to them. It’s no wonder, because we act like it’s irrelevant to our lives and so they feel like it’s irrelevant to their lives. 30% responded in this way.
In response to this, we’ve entitled this message, “Eternal over relevant.” The church is the one entity that will live forever. The people of God are eternal; we’re gonna have an eternal identity and an eternal purpose. When you follow that, you’re always relevant. Things change all of the time, but there are some things that are timeless and eternal.
Why do people think the church is irrelevant? It’s because they’re struggling with things that they think the church doesn’t address. They think we don’t talk about things like parenting, marriage, family finances and things like that. Do we talk about these things, church? Yes we do; we talk about them all of the time. Why don’t they know that? It’s because we are not telling them that we talk about it, We’re not communicating the things we know and the answers from God’s word. We are not inviting them to come and join us as we perceive them together as we follow Jesus. They they don’t think we are relevant; they think we’re just talking about “religious stuff.” They think we’re just talking about irrelevant stuff. The truth is, though, this is the most important kind of stuff that we talk about every Sunday. We need to tell people. Our church has been trying to do this since day one.
Wilson Community Church started in my living room in the fall of 1991. We started our first public worship service in January 1992. Here’s what the bulletin looked like. (picture on screen) Don’t laugh; down at the bottom I drew that so don’t laugh because I drew that with my mouse. You couldn’t buy logos back in those days so easily. Down at the bottom, it says “Presenting the never changing claims of Christ to an ever changing world.” That was our first bulletin; we gave intention to such things. We knew that the word of God is timeless, it’s eternal and it’s never changing. But we, also, knew the world was always changing and we wanted to manage that tension. Today, we’ve got a new logo, but it’s really very similar if you think about it. We say, “Come as you are, (that’s relevant, that’s present) and be forever changed by the love of Jesus (that’s eternal).” We’re still trying to manage the same tension that we are the eternal people of God and we have an eternal purpose. We’re just passing through this world, but while we’re here, we’re supposed to be a blessing to others.
The world is constantly changing. The songs they listen to, the movies they watch, the way they speak about things, the clothes they wear, etc. However, there are certain timeless things that are always relevant. That’s why we want to speak about the eternal over the relevant. This is our topic.
Let’s go and see the scripture that addresses our topic today. We’re going to be looking at 1 Peter 2, Peter’s first letter he wrote to instruct the Jewish background believers. These were Jews who had come to Jesus who had been dispersed throughout the Roman Empire because of persecution. He wrote to them saying that they can live according to their eternal purpose and their eternal identity in Christ. They don’t have to live just as people who have been persecuted in the Roman Empire.
I believe, today, that we can live out our eternal identity and purpose in Christ. How is this possible? We’ll be looking at the text and we will see three ways that we can live according to our new eternal identity and purpose.
Let’s look at 1 Peter 2:9-17 (ESV) 9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light . 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 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. 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” This is God’s Word. Amen.
We’re looking at three ways that we can live out our new identity, our eternal identity and purpose in christ. Here’s the first:
Living out our new eternal identity and purpose in Christ: 1. We are like shining stars proclaiming God’s praises to a dark world.
Peter was writing, primarily as I mentioned before, to Jewish background believers. They were Jews who had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Peter wrote to them in this letter as those who had been scattered all over, dispersed all over the world. He begins this letter in verse one like this; he says, 1 Peter 1:1 (ESV) “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” He’s referring to persecution that broke out, after the deacon named Stephen was stoned to death. Persecution broke out in Jerusalem and the Jewish background believers ran away. They dispersed all over the Roman Empire.
Just imagine this; Peter is writing this to a people who live in a nation that persecutes them and even kills them. This is the people he’s writing to; he’s encouraging them how they can live according to not what’s around them, but with eternity in mind. And so he’s speaking to them and he begins to tell them their true identity. It’s not based on being a Roman. It’s not based on their location and that they are a persecuted people. It’s based on who they are in Christ.
Peter gives them some identifying titles. He says, first of all, “you are a chosen race.” Do you see that in verse nine? “You are a chosen race.” Now, he’s not talking about race by birth. He’s talking about race by new birth. He’s not talking about race by color (red, yellow, black or white). He’s talking about race by faith; believing in Jesus. There’s a new race. It’s a race of believers. It’s called the church. You are a chosen race. Jew and Gentile alike are part of this new race, which is the race of people that follow Jesus.
Peter says, secondly, you’re a royal priesthood. In other words, you are representatives of God on planet earth. You are ambassadors, you’re the “go betweeners,” you’re the body of Christ. You see, Christ has ascended to the Father, He’s the head of the church and His hands and feet are us. He has no hands or feet in this world but us; we are the only Jesus that many people will ever encounter. We are to shine like stars in the darkness. “We’re a holy nation” it says in verse nine. This had to mean a lot to those that were in the Roman Empire. Hey, you know what? You might be a Roman citizen, but your main citizenship is in Heaven. We are people of dual citizenship. We are Americans; it’s okay to be proud of that. But we should be more thankful and more excited because that’s a temporary identity and our permanent identity is our citizenship in Heaven because we have a passport through Jesus Christ. Amen. That’s the third thing; we’re a holy nation.
Peter says, in verses nine and ten, that we are God’s people. We are God’s possession. We belong to God; we are the people of God. We have a new eternal identity that will never end. This is our truest identity. Our identity is not to be based on our race, our sexual preference or our gender. All of these things may be happening in this world, but they will become irrelevant over eternity. So, let’s focus on them rather than the things that are irrelevant and are passing away. Peter is saying, this is I want you to get your mind around; this is your true identity. It is permanent and lasting .
Peter says, there’s a purpose for it. In verse nine, he says that this new identity allows you to be a people that proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. This eternal identity has an eternal purpose that you’re to shine like stars in a dark night. That you’re to be proclaiming the excellencies. It says in the King James translation of this same passage, “That ye should show forth the praises of him.” This is more than just verbal praise. This is the way you live your life.
The Greek word there that’s translated, “excellencies,” has the idea of having something beautiful, something good and something wonderful. We are to be like shining stars in the darkness of night so that people are attracted to the Lord because they want what we have. Peter says in verse nine that we have been “called out .” It says we have been “called out” of darkness.
That we are “called out” reminds us of the Greek word for church: Εκκλησία (“called out ones”). Darkness is a synonym for sin and its blinding effect on the sinner. So we’re the “called out” ones. Called out of what? Called out of the darkness, called out of sin, called out of the darkness of the world, which is ignorant of the things of God. We are “called out” to be “called to” the church. The word that’s translated “church” is in the New Testament 122 times and it’s referring to the church, but the word literally means “the called out ones.” We are called out to do what? To proclaim the excellencies, the praises, the thanks of God in a dark world. That’s what we’re called out to do.
Peter says in verse 10, “once you were not a people…”There was a time when you weren’t the people of God; you might have been Jewish and you thought you were the people of God, but you weren’t until you believed in Jesus. You might have been believing, who knows what?, but until you were born again, you were not the people of God. But, now you are.
Verse 10 says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Mercy is that loving forgiveness of the Lord that comes through Jesus. The apostle Paul writes about shining stars. He writes something very similar to what Peter writes. Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV) 14 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life…”
Friends listen, that’s what God wants you to be. He wants you to be little pieces of light throughout the the dark world, so that people can get direction towards God.
Have you ever studied the North star, also called Polaris, because it’s at the pole or the polar points to the north. The north star is at the very end of the handle of the Little Dipper, also called Ursa Minor. If you ever just want to get out at night and find it, the easiest thing to find is the Big Dipper, that constellation called Ursa Major. If you take the bottom of the big dipper and draw a straight line, you’ll hit the north star. The north star is not the brightest star in the sky. What makes it so important is it’s the most steadfast. It never moves from our perspective. It’s always right over the North Pole. When we discovered this some centuries ago, sailors and people traveling at night on the desert, they could look up and they could find Polaris , the North Star, and always find true north and always know what direction they were supposed to journey towards. It unlocked the ability to travel long before there were satellites in the sky and we had GPS. We don’t even have to know addresses anymore. We just get out our smartphones.
The north star shines even when there isn’t a full moon, You can almost always find the north star. We are to be people who point people to Jesus. We are to be like shining stars in the darkness.
Now, I want you to think about something. Are you shining like a star for Jesus right now? Go back and look at your last couple of weeks of social media posts, tweets and posts on facebook, on instagram or some new thing I haven’t thought of yet or heard of yet. Wherever you’re at, go back and look at those posts. Do they show forth the praises of God? Are they full of thanksgiving and talking about Jesus and how thankful you are to be a follower of Christ and how you wish everybody knew Him? Who is your favorite person in all the universe? Are they full of your grumbling and complaining about political digressions? Are you grumbling about the way somebody talked to you at work or at church? What’s on your social media? Go back and look, are you shining like a star for Jesus? Are you making things worse for everybody by the way you’re living and talking now? Maybe you say, Well, I’m not on social media, so let up, pastor. I’m okay. No. What did you say to your spouse on the way to church today? What did you say to your kids or to your parents? What have you said or done in the last week? Is your mouth full of praise and thanksgiving? Are you shining like a star so that people want what you have? Are you a “gremlin” complaining, judgmental and quarrelsome? You see, I’m saying you don’t have to be like that, you have a new identity and no matter what’s going on around you, you’re a called people, you’re “called out” of this.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Amen.
Here’s number two.
2. We are sojourners conducting ourselves as God’s people with unbelievers.
We’re looking at verses eleven and twelve. We’ve “unpacked” verses nine and ten and now we’re looking at verses eleven and twelve. Verse eleven says this, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
What’s a “sojourner?” A “sojourner” is somebody who is just passing through, a pilgrim who is living in a land but doesn’t have citizenship. A sojourner is a foreigner.
When I was growing up, we used to sing this song and it has always struck me, I can’t remember the first time I heard it. I love this song because I grew up singing hymns and pretty much all the hymns in the hymn books were written in a major key. Major key songs sound usually happy. Minor key songs have a darker sound. The song I remember was in a minor key. It’s one of my favorite musical styles, which is the blues. I grew up loving the sound of the blues. “I am a poor, wayfaring stranger. Wandering through this world of woe. There will be no sickness, no toil, or danger. In that bright world to which I go. I’m going there to see my Father. I’m going there no more to roam. I am just going over Jordan. I am just going over home.”
I’m just a wayfaring stranger, a pilgrim and a soldier. I’m just passing through. I’m going to stop off and say “hello,” and I’ll see you later. I’m not going to get all hung up in the things of this world. I’m in the world, but I’m not of the world .
We’re in the world, church, but we’re not of the world. Don’t get entangled. Verse eleven says to abstain from the passions of the flesh because they wage war against your soul. They keep you from thinking rightly and you’re getting caught up in worldly stuff.
Probably the sin that most of us have in common is the sin of the flesh; it is the desire for more “stuff.” That’s the American sin; it has infected the church. We are caught up in materialism. We wake up in the morning thinking of what we want to buy and we go to sleep at night thinking of what we want to buy. We always want to buy more and more and more, and we always want to buy more than we can afford. We sin in this area because we think this stuff will somehow matter, but it won’t matter for eternity. We focus on the temporal things rather than the eternal things. Peter says to abstain from those things.
We also, as Americans, are over medicated. We medicate the pain because we want to feel happy all the time. We over medicate ourselves with drugs and alcohol; men and women over medicate themselves with other habits to try to distract themselves. We’re not thinking about the fact that we’re just passing through. They say You can’t take it with you, but we sure are stacking it up like we think we can.
The truth is you can take some things with you; you can take other people with you. How do you invest in Heaven? You invest by giving it away. Everything you keep, you lose. Everything you give away, you keep. That’s the “upside down” economy of the Kingdom of Heaven, of which we are members. Give the gospel to people; that’s how you take people with you.
We are sojourners. We’re just passing through. Peter says in verse twelve, “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.” Because you’re sojourners keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.
Remember, I told you that Peter is talking to the Jewish background believers. And when he refers to Gentiles, it’s synonymous with unbelievers in this context. Here’s what he’s saying to us as a church today. He’s saying this, Be careful about the way you behave in front of unbelievers, because you are the only Jesus they might ever encounter. Be honorable among them. Take care about the way you behave in front of them. 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.
Here’s some stuff to “unpack” here. First of all, even when you’re living appropriately, some of them will attack you because they feel the condemnation of their own sinful life just by your life, but don’t respond in kind. Peter, instead, says to treat them honorably so that after all is said and done, they will be attracted to Jesus. They’ll be attracted to the Gospel.
The word, “honorable,” could be translated in the Greek as beautiful, suitable, commendable, admirable and excellent. Live in such a beautiful way, in such an admirable way that even when they accuse you, they still want what you have.
Peter says this, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” What’s the day of visitation? Well , some see the day of visitation as the day of judgment. If you go and look at Isaiah 3, you can see that phrase, “day of visitation,” there it seems to be in context with the day of judgment. Others see possibly the day of visitation could mean the day of salvation.
Here’s what I believe in this context; here’s what I I believe Peter is saying: If you will live a beautiful Godly life and treat lost people honorably instead of judgmentally, they will want what you have. And then, on the day when Christ returns, they’ll be standing with you, giving glory to God because they will join you. But, if you accuse them, judge them and tell them what’s wrong with them, all you’re doing is pushing them away. When you’re pushing them away from yourself, you’re pushing them away from Jesus.
Peter is talking about how to live as eternal, with this eternal identity of a sojourner in this world and how to be relevant with this eternal identity, how to live relevant with purpose in this world.
Paul agrees with Peter. Paul says in Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT) 5 “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Christian, listen to me, you are the church. If the church is being accused of being irrelevant, it’s because you’re treating the church as if it’s irrelevant to you. When it becomes relevant to you and you take on your identity, you will begin to think of every relationship, people in your family that don’t know the Lord, people in your neighborhood that don’t know the Lord, people where you work, people where you go to school. You begin to think, I need to pray and think about how I’m going to be perceived by these lost people. I carry them on my heart and in my prayers that they would come to faith in Jesus. I’m going to do this, not by accusing them or trying to argue with them.
I don’t think anyone has ever been argued into belief. We need to invite them into belief. We need to live a life in such a way that is so beautiful and attractive and so full of praise that they want what we have. We’re to live wisely and to make the most of every opportunity.
When the Apostle Paul visited the ancient city of Athens, he went up to the Acropolis, which you can see from anywhere in Athens. I’ve been to that Greek city and you can see the huge temple up there. There are idols up there. Paul goes up there and he sees all of this idolatry. He goes up to Mars Hill which, in the Greek, is Areopagus. He’s deeply troubled by the idolatry of the Greeks and the city of Athens . It troubles him, it triggers him.
Have you ever been triggered by the world that we live in, by the news that you’re watching or by the way things are going? You may be thinking, I need to blast everybody, I need to tell them off. Paul is troubled by what he sees. If you have read anything in the Bible about Paul, you know that Paul is going to let them have it, right? Wrong. They’re not believers. If Jesus was going to let somebody have it, it was religious people. If Paul was going to let somebody have it, it was religious people. But when they were dealing with sinners and people far from God, they were always gentle and honorable.
Here is what Paul says in Acts 17:22-23 (ESV) 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” Paul didn’t say they were a bunch of idolaters . He said, “you are very religious.” They all thought, Yes, we are. You know. He, then, said, “for as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship.” He didn’t say “idols.” He said, “objects of your worship.” “I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” He said, Do you see this one over here that says unknown? I know that God. His name is Jesus. Paul began to preach on Mars Hill, at Areopagus. Many wanted to hear more and many began to believe. What if Paul would have started with a “thunderclap” accusation about them being a bunch of idolaters? Do you think they would have been interested in hearing more? No, probably not. He started out with a little “sugar” and then he began to tell them the truth of the Gospel.
We can learn from Paul. We can be relevant and eternal at the same time by treating people honorably so that they can join us in our faith. Are you aware of the unbelievers in your everyday life? Are you conducting yourselves beautifully before them?
3. We are servants doing God’s good will in this world.
Peter has called us stars. He’s called his sojourners. Now, he’s calling us servants. He says in verse thirteen, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme.” Be subject; in other words, be a servant. If that’s not clear enough to you, then go down to verse sixteen where he says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” This is your eternal identity . Not many get it, but if you get Jesus, you get it. It’s an honor to be a servant of Jesus. It’s a high and holy calling. Live as those who serve Jesus who have submitted to Him.
Here’s the first thing it will look like if you’re a servant of Jesus: You’ll submit to every human institution. Wait a minute. We’re Americans, we’re individualists. I don’t want to submit to that governor, I didn’t vote for that president. He’s not my president. I don’t like the mayor, the principal at my child’s elementary school and that teacher, Lord, please give me a new boss. That’s us. Peter says for us to stop this and submit to human authority as unto the Lord. Do it for the Lord’s sake. Stop letting yourself be known for that and, instead, be known as a servant of God. A servant of the Lord Jesus.
Human nature is in rebellion against God until we receive Jesus. That rebellious streak makes us rebellious towards every form of authority.
I remember, when I was still a district manager for a major drug store chain, (I started out as a management candidate for management training and then I was an assistant manager of a store and then they made me a store manager. They made me an assistant district manager and, finally, they transferred me to eastern North Carolina and I moved to Wilson. I ran 20 drugstores for this drug store chain. I was a district manager and had 350 employees that reported to me and I was only twenty years old. The Lord really blessed me.) But, here’s the thing the Lord did all along the way. Every time I get promoted, my boss will get promoted and be my boss again. Every time, I would pray, Lord, please get this man out of my life. Now Lord, I’m a Christian. so you don’t have to kill him. Just get him out of my life. Move or transfer him, get him fired, get him out of my life. This man was so harsh in his management style, he only knew one way to lead and that was kicking you in the behind. That’s the only way he knew how to lead. He was always calling me (because early on, he would kind of say that there’s something different about this young fella) “boy.” By the way, I always called him “boss.” He would say, Hey, boy, and I would say, Hey, boss. He would say, Forgive my French. Now, I took French in college and I never heard any of these words in French class. He was hard to work for. I’d say, Lord, there’s no way it’s Your will for him to be my boss. Please get rid of him. I’d get promoted and he’d be my boss again. This went on for twelve years. I got so sick and tired of praying for the Lord to get rid of him. I finally said, Well, Lord, I guess You want him to be my boss. The Lord gave me a love for him. I started looking up to him like he was a father figure in my life and he started looking at me like I was a son. When I left that company, he was still an unbeliever. Three years later, on a Sunday night, I got a phone call. I’ve been pastoring this church now for a couple of years. I’ve forgotten about my previous life in a drug store. When I answered the phone and heard his voice, my spine went straight up. I heard him say, “Hey, boy.” I replied, “Hey, boss.” Then, his voice broke with emotion. He said, I got saved today and I knew the Lord wanted me to call you because I know you prayed for me and witnessed to me all those years. I had felt like a failure when I left that company; I felt like I had never scratched the surface with that man. I’m not bragging about myself because I didn’t always get it right, but, for some reason, there was just enough of Jesus in me to touch that man. God cared more about him coming to Christ than I did, whether or not I liked working for him.
We are servants. We’re not heroes. Jesus is the hero. If we live as servants of God, doing His will and submit to the authorities over us, who knows what God will do. Theologically it’s hard to wiggle out of this one. I don’t know about that pastor. Look at what it says in verse fourteen, “or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” God, are you telling me that? God, did you put that person over me?
Well, if you’re not clear about it , look what Paul says in Romans 13:1-2 (NLT) 1 “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” Be careful, rebel. God is the king and human institutions are under His authority. When Peter was writing this, not long after he wrote it, he was crucified by the Roman emperor, Nero.This is the same emperor that Peter is telling believers to honor and submit to.
Peter followed what he believed and the church turned the world upside down. It only took about 300 years before the whole Roman Empire became known as the Holy Roman Empire because these men and women lived as servants of God.
Verse fifteen says, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” By doing good, by living a beautiful life , an excellent life, it will silence people who are accusing you. In fact, those who are rebelling against you don’t like the fact that your very life is like an accusation to them. Even when you’re honoring them, they still feel funny around you because you’re that “Jesus freak.” You’re that person who loves Jesus so much. But, at the same time, they’re attracted to you. If you will stick around them long enough and love them long enough, they might act like they hate you, but whenever things get hard for them, they don’t call their friends, they will call you. Stay at it long enough, trust me, they will. They will ask, Can I talk to you about something? They, intuitively, know that you know the one Who has the answers. Just keep on honoring them even when you are accused by them.
Peter says to live as free people, but don’t use your freedom to cover up evil. Live as servants.
Then he closes with these imperatives. In verse seventeen, he says in summary, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” As eternal beings of members of the church and followers of Jesus, be shining stars, sojourners and servants. Honor everyone like that. Honor everyone and love the brotherhood, which you can’t do from your recliner. If you want to love the brotherhood, you have to go and meet some of the brotherhood and sisterhood. Love the members of the fellowship. He says to fear God, and honor the emperor. He threw that one in twice because that one was hard during the time of the Roman Empire.
You might be sitting out there, saying, I didn’t vote for that president. Watch out, Christian. The word of God says that you’re supposed to honor and submit. Be careful about your voice. Think more carefully about what God’s word says and the way we live our lives. This is God’s word, speaking to us that we serve Him. Doing the will of God is always relevant and eternal, for the world is temporary.
Look what John writes, 1 John 2:17 (ESV) “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” You do the will of God. What you do and what you say has eternal consequence. Live for Him. Paul describes it to the church at Corinth. Paul became a servant to all that he might win some for Christ through the gospel. His willingness to be a servant moved him to make sure he used relevant methods to share the eternal message of Christ. I, sometimes, refer to this when I preach. I try to put some of “meat” up higher, so some of the ones that have beenChristians longer have to get on their tippy toes to get it. Also, I always try to put some “cookies” down here for the kids. That’s my challenge as a pastor; to try to put it at every level I can so that everybody, no matter who you are, can get fed and challenged from the Word of God.
Paul says this, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV) 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
If you’re talking to a child, get down on one knee. (I’m not going to demonstrate. I recently got “new knees” and they’re not ready for that yet.) Get eye to eye with a child so that you’re not so big. If you’ve got a big voice or a bass voice, try to raise your voice a couple of octaves when you’re talking to them. Don’t use big words and speak in the language they can understand. Tell them about Jesus in a way that they can understand.
If there is somebody who is hurting, instead of serving yourself and saying, This is the way I talk. Ask, How can I reach her/him? Pray about it and ask, Lord Jesus, what’s the key to his heart? It seems like everything I say to him is bouncing back. He’s not getting it. Lord, what’s the key to his heart so that when I speak to him, he hears You speaking. You begin to serve people and you try to communicate in the language that they can understand and in a way that they can get it instead of just getting it off your chest.
Paul says that he’s become a servant to all. We use modern methods as a church. Sometimes we are good at it. Sometimes, not so much, because things break down. We use technology; we use modern music. We’ve got a building with air conditioning. Don’t you appreciate that? We’ve got these things, but here’s what those are: those are relevant, but they’re temporary. What is eternal is the message. The message never ends. It’s always applicable. It’s always relevant. And so, we want to be relevant. We want to speak and we want to care.
When you look at your life, when you look at your priorities, when you look at your weekly calendar and you look at your checkbook, look at all the ways you’re spending your “time, talent and treasure.” Are you living like shining stars, sojourners and servants of God? If you are, no one’s ever going to accuse the church of being irrelevant because we’re living out our eternal identity and purpose.
Here’s the thing I’ll say in summary, if we will be the church, Christ will build the church. He never told us to build it. He said, be the church. Live out your new identity. If you will do that, He will build the church.
Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 (ESV) “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter had said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus said to him, “Upon that, I will build my church on that confession. I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” If we will be the church, He will build the church and no one will call us irrelevant.
Have you just trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior? I’m going to pray with you in just a minute and help you do that. Have you, if you are a believer, decided today, as you’ve heard God’s word, that you are ready to be a shining star for Jesus? Have you recognized that you are a sojourner, just passing through? Do you want to live as a servant?
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You for Your word today. Thank You for letting me be back in the pulpit, this is Your pulpit, it’s not mine and what a holy calling it is. I love Your word and I pray that we would be a church that loves Your word. I pray right now, God, for that person that’s far from You, that came in today on a thin thread. They’re ready to receive Jesus. Is that you my friend ? Right in your seat, right where you are, you can declare your faith and become a believer. Pray like this, Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner, I need a Savior. I believe You died on the cross for my sins and that You were raised again and that You live today. Come and live in me, forgive me of my sin and make me a child of God. I want to follow You as my Lord and Savior. If you prayed that prayer, believing, He will save you. It’s not so much the words of your mouth as it is the attitude of your heart. If you believe and ask, He will save you and this new eternal identity and purpose will become yours. Others are here today and you’ve done that. You’ve received Jesus, but you’ve been convicted by this message. Would you repent right now? Pray, Lord forgive me. I know I’m already forgiven, but give me a new expression of forgiveness right now, A fresh cleansing. Get this out of me, my grumbling, my complaining, my bad attitude… Lord, I want to be a shining star for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen. All of God’s people said, “Amen.”