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Pressure From Every Side

28 Dec

I want us to begin by thinking of the word “chaos”?
· Theory that explained what went wrong in “Jurassic Park”?
· Your teenager’s bedroom?
 
I want to draw a working definition of chaos from Genesis 1:2:
(Gen 1:2) “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
 

Chaos: “a vacuum, a void, an emptiness … not filled and transformed by the voice or Word of God.”.
 
We often spend time talking about the culture in which we live and admitting that our culture is in a MESS.
 
But this is only symptomatic of a much deeper problem: void/vacuum/ emptiness that exists at center of American soul:
· A void marked by an absence or a poverty– of self-restraint, moral absolutes, compassion, civility.
· Void that cannot be filled, only exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, violence and immoral sex (real or vicarious), money, power or material goods.
 
Jim McGuiggan, in his book Caution: Men at Work…if the sign says “GOD at Work,” there is hope: for that’s what undid the chaos in beginning.
 
Talking about what we “DON’T” won’t do; to merely adopt a “prophetic” tone by cursing the darkness encourages among us the spirit of self-righteousness or superiority.
 
Our goal is to allow Peter to issue a call to Christian excellence and holy accountability.
 
The first action of God when it was time to create the universe? Deal with the chaos. That’s what God does!
· Where there is void, he wishes to fill it by His creative power
· Where there is emptiness and loneliness and chaos, He goes to work to bring into being something orderly and meaningful and beautiful.
 
(Isa 45:18-19)  “For this is what the LORD says– he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited– he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. {19} I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.”

Our God is a God of revelation…not of chaos but truth … did not cloaked His being in nature, but has spoken to us, once through his prophets, now  “by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the universe.” (Heb 1:1-2)

Jesus told a chilling parable about that:

(Mat 12:43-45) “”When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. {44} Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. {45} Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”” (some have called this the Parable of the Haunted House.).
 
What makes this especially chilling: He was talking about not about houses but people …empty people: empty of joy, empty of authority; empty of Lordship, empty of God.
 
If ‘nature abhors vacuum’… then Satan loves one…he loves to “repossess” empty hearts.

The problem with chaos?: something WILL fill an emptiness, rush in to fill the void: that’s why people watch 40 hrs TV/wk … take drugs … hire prostitutes … shop till they drop … join cults — to fill the emptiness! (by no way am I listing items here in the order of harm done).
 
But any fullness but God’s…only deepens the hunger, only intensifies the emptiness, until the “final condition worse than first.”
 

What has PETER to say to us about the CHAOS? 1 Peter is written to a church in the midst of culture at best indifferent, at worst hostile, to it.
 
Roman culture was willing to tolerate Christians so long as they kept their religious notions to themselves … so long as they exhibited a broadminded spirit.
 
But this, Church of Jesus Christ could not do that… so they were persecuted.. (1 Pet 2:9-10): “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. {10} Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
 

Peter’s wonderful strategy is to address this head on, immediately, from the first sentence in his letter: “Dear scattered strangers … spiritual exiles.”
 

Conventional wisdom today: always go “inclusive” … but Peter knows he must appeal to their set-apartness (holiness) if he is to keep Church from conforming to the Chaos of the secular world.
 
‘Yes, as “strangers in this world” they were made to feel strange … as “resident aliens” they experienced alienation … “peculiar people” will be looked upon as peculiar.
Peter’s words are sympathetic and supportive, but blunt and foreboding:  ‘I know these are tough times for believers … and they could get tougher.”
 
So he speaks to them of “TRIALS”:

(1 Pet 1:6-7) “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. {7} These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

(1 Pet 4:12-13) “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. {13} But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

What is the purpose of trials? To force or encourage us to get at the TRUTH.
 

Interesting: the kinds of “trials” Peter speaks of, which would serve to reveal truth and the genuineness of their faith, were largely VERBAL: several different words are used in the verses: insults, slander, malicious talk: verbal violence. (2; 12, 3:9, 3:16, 4:14)
 
“Persecution” in 1 Peter: initially it was not in the form of Polycarp in the arena … but verbal rejection: slings and arrows of outrageous co-workers, or neighbors, who (4:4) “think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation”
 

Today it would be the person who is ridiculed because he won’t laugh at their sexist joke, who won’t stand quietly by and tolerate racist language, who won’t keep the gossip alive, who won’t trade insult for insult.
 
Along the way, Peter indirectly speaks of different “trials” — internal ones: evil desires (1:14), malice, deceit, slander, hypocrisy” (2: 1), even feelings of resentment, that they were undergoing trials (4:12)!
 
Peter’s challenge: Silence your critics, persecutors, peer-pressurers … with your LIVES.

(1 Pet 2:11-12) “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. {12} 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.”
 

Show them how Christians love … care … serve … speak … “do good” (Peter’s signature phrase in this epistle) … and if need be, die.
 
Story of a minister who found out he was going to die in next year of cancer…wondered what he would do with his time” “Thought of resigning my duties at church, so I could travel, or rest; then I thought, no, for years now I’ve been telling my church how to live … I figure now I have a chance to show them how to die. (I preached at a congregation in Mansfield, Ohio, that had a youth minister who had cancer and knew he would die in a few months…he stayed on the job and even made a video that was played at his funeral).
 
Four Items Which Bring About Chaos
A. Absence of Biblical authority.
(1 Pet 1:13) “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
 

(1 Pet 3:15-16) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, {16} keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
 

Chaos will always result when there is no authoritative source of truth. What fills that void? The WORD OF GOD, the revelation of God who has always spoken the truth, who always declared what is right.
 
Truth is not merely some abstract body of orthodox religious laws – truth is that which makes life work…grow…to be rich and full … in contrast, lies are what make our lives small, shrink and die.
 
Every society needs voices that keep asking the right questions of its values: Are they true? Not, fashionable, sophisticated, profitable, my right … but is it RIGHT?

(1) Is materialism true?

(2) Is individualism true?

(3) Sex okay between consenting adults?. Not if your body was created by God, and purchased with a price.  

But — I fear we are becoming more and more ill-equipped to answer the Chaos. While we were known as “People of the Book” in years past —for some, that has become more an honorary designation than an earned one.

1:13: “Prepare your minds for action.”

Gird up loins, roll up sleeves. We’re going to have to THINK!
 
3;15: “Be prepared to give an answer”

Apologian/defense/a reasoned response. Some Bible paraphrases offer to define that answer (Phillips: “quiet and reverent answer”) That is, not mean-spirited, not argumentative, not condescending.
 
A Biblically illiterate church will surely fall victim to “AIDS”: Acquired Immune-Deficient Spirituality.
 
When our faith is on trial, we will be found immune and deficient: no answer/ reason to offer for our hope … and hope without a reason is ultimately hopeless. People who know their theology … will not be such easy prey to modern secularism, or theological liberalism, or New Age pantheism. 

Absence of moral identity. 

  1. (1 Pet 1:15-16) “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; {16} for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.””

    Peter makes sure his church knows who they are:
    · God’s elect/chosen (1:1-2) obedient children (1:14)
    · blood-bought redeemed (1:18-19) living stones in spiritual house (2:5)
    · holy priesthood (2:5) holy nation (2:9)
    · people of God (2: 10) free servants of God (2: 16)
    · brothers … saints … CHRISTIANS (4:16; only 2 other times, Acts).
     
    Morality grows out of, radiates from, identity.
     
    In Peter’s day, Christians could take a trip to Pompeii and gaze at erotica that decorated walls of public/private buildings; today, log onto internet and type in “SEX”: far and away the most popular search word on internet (did a search for this lesson and came back with “about 1,84 trillion results (0.35 seconds).
     
    Such confusion: tv/movies/professional sports has sought to give a legitimacy to the new paganism … not by argumentation and thoughtful reason … but by presenting images of attractive people doing shameful things.
     
    C. Absence of the experience of transcendence.
    (1 Pet 1:8-9) “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, {9} for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

When Timothy Leary died a few years ago, he reminded us of the amazing decade of 60’s … psychedelic excursions into transcendental meditation and drug-induced mystical experiences (Leary, a hippie to end, was still exploring the wonders of reefer madness).
 
What drove that misguided quest, still drives much drug use today: HUNGER … for experience of transcendence (cheap substitute): something thrilling, be it faster roller coaster, stunningly-violent movie (“Pulp Fiction”), or a hit of crack cocaine.
What we have to offer is not some religious adrenalin experience (“getting high on Jesus”) .….but the possibility of a living relationship with transcendent God, creator of the deepest joys the human heart can know.
 
I am not talking about some contrived emotionalism or cheap sentimentalism (where we turn down the lights and sing “Kum Ba Ya”) … but centering our worship upon Almighty God, singing hearty praises to our risen Lord.
 
(1 Pet 1:3-6) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, {4} and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, {5} who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. {6} In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 

Does that capture the spirit of your worship service? It should. 

 
D. Absence of a Sure Foundation.
(1 Pet 2:4-6) “As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– {5} you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. {6} For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.””
 

Terry and I were in the Northeast for a weekend seminar/meeting when we realized we were a few hours from Washington, D.C. We went to see Mr. Lincoln, arriving around 10 pm on a very cold February evening. We saw what has been called “a craggy face captured in Georgia marble” by Daniel Chester French:

  • All worldly standards: Lincoln was an ugly man.
  • A Charleston paper: “horrid looking wretch”
  • Houston paper: “leanest, lankest most ungainly mass of legs and arms and hatchet face ever strung on a single frame.”
  • Another paper simply referred to Lincoln as “the gorilla.”
  • But our affection for Lincoln transcends physical features. We see beyond the ‘obvious’ and look at the heart and character of the man’s life.

Peter: They looked at the Master, rejected him (as Isa. 53 said) … perhaps because He was so ordinary, perhaps because He asked for so much.  

But we look at the alternatives … there is no other foundation. Nothing else fills the Void. For as his Father did at that first dawn, He has dealt with the Chaos (of our sin), and thus we are re-created in Him.
 
Conclusions
Our Age looks into the Chaos and says: “Let me indulge your every desire … Let me substitute illusion for Truth … Let me distract you, thrill you, entertain you … Surely this will fill your emptiness.

 
Our God looked into the Chaos and said: “Be strong, be faithful, be true.
 

1 Pet 1:18-21: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, {19} but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. {20} He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. {21} Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Sermon

 

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