“Whom Shall I Fear?” (I Peter 3:13-15 sermon)

In Marie Beth Jones’ Tales of the Brazos, she tells of Dr. William F. Bruner, who was one of the first doctors who lived in what would later become Angleton. One day Dr. Bruner was called to treat a young man who had suffered a gunshot wound in his hip. The young man told Dr. Bruner what happened: he said he’d seen a shadow on the way to his girlfriend’s house, and he just knew it was his rival for her affections. He’d known his rival might be there, so he had brought a gun for protection. But when he saw the shadow he started running for the woods and reached for his gun. But it was too late: a shot rang out, and he realized his rival’s bullet had struck him.

Dr. Bruner examined the wound, asked about the distance of the shooter. He looked at the pants the man was wearing, and noted the damage to them. Then he looked over the pistol the young man had been carrying for protection. Dr. Bruner’s conclusion: the shadow that the patient had been running from was his OWN shadow, and he had been so panic-stricken that he had managed to shoot himself! (p. 122)

Fear can be very destructive, can’t it? It can cause us to do a lot of foolish and harmful things. Unfortunately, even many of God’s people just live surrounded with fear. And God tells us here in I Peter 3 that if Jesus is our Lord, it should not be this way: 

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. ‘And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,’ but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts …”. Continue reading

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“God’s Rules For Christian Conduct” (I Peter 3:8-12 sermon)

When George Washington was a little boy, he copied out a document with the title: “110 Rules of Civility,” which was a common school assignment in his day. Because we have Washington’s copy in his own hand, it has become well-known — AND he did seem to try to live by it as well. It has some very practical guidelines for civil behavior, among them:

— Rule #1: Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.

— Rule #4: In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.

— Rule #38: In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein. 

— Rule #9: Spit not in the fire … nor set your feet upon the fire — especially if there be meat before it (!) 

These are just some good, practical, things that will help you be considerate of others, and get along with other people in society – we would probably benefit from observing some of these rules today! 

And that’s similar to what we find here in our passage today in I Peter 3:8-12. With these words, Peter concludes this whole section we’ve been studying on Christian living. In it he has talked about how we should be a good witness by the way we live towards the government, at work, in our home with our own family, etc., and now he ends this section with a general admonition for ALL of us as God’s people, on the way we should ALL live as a witness to ALL people, all of the time; especially in the church, but also outside as well:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 

For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’” Continue reading

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“Living Your Faith At Home” (I Peter 3:1-7 sermon)

Many of us are familiar with the famous story, “Rip Van Winkle.” Last year for the first time I really read the story in Washington Irving’s Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon. In it he describes Rip Van Winkle: “He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man … for husking Indian corn, or building stone-fences … In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.”

That’s a pretty good description of some people, isn’t it? They’re ready to do anything for anyone — except their own family! It shouldn’t be that way — especially for those who claim to be Christians. I Timothy 5:8 says if you don’t care for your own household, you’re worse than an unbeliever. True religion starts at home. Listen: how we live towards our own family says a LOT about how real our faith is. Too many people live one way at church, and another way at home, and God says it is not to be that way. Your faith should very much impact the way you live at home, and the way you treat your husband, your wife, your children, your parents — every family member you have. There should be no disconnect between church and home. Your faith should impact the way you live in your home. And that is exactly what we see here in I Peter 3:1-7.

Now we should put this all in a little bit of context, which will help us understand everything in this passage better. If you go back to I Peter 2:12, you remember Peter told us “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” He says, people in the world are saying bad things about you as Christians, so you be extra careful to LIVE in a way that is a good witness to them. Then he said in :13 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” — be a good witness by submitting to authority wherever you are: at work, towards the government, and in your family. Even when you suffer, like Jesus did for us, do it as a good witness, trusting God. THAT is the context which brings us to this passage. Chapter 3 really just continues these same ideas from I Peter 2, except now it applies them to the HOME. He says live this same way as a witness at HOME. Christianity always starts at home. Our first mission field is where we live. So God speaks here to both men and women about how to live out our faith at home: Continue reading

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“Returning To The Shepherd” (I Peter 2:25 sermon)

I saw the cutest video this week: a farmer in Wales (United Kingdom) had his whole flock of about 250 sheep get out of the field they were supposed to be in, and they went into another field, which they knew (from repeated scoldings) they were not to be in. The farmer knew what they would do when he confronted them, so he videoed it. The sheep were scattered all over this field — but as soon as he pulled up on his ATV and said “Get outta this field!,” they all took off running in the same direction, back to their home field where they knew they were supposed to be.

Well, the Bible repeatedly says that we as mankind are just like sheep. Sheep tend to go astray — even when they know they shouldn’t! — and we as God’s sheep do the same thing too. Thank God He gives us an opportunity to come BACK to Him through Jesus Christ. Peter uses this picture of the straying sheep here in :25 of Chapter 2:

“For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

Last week we saw how I Peter 2:24 teaches us about the “Substitutionary Atonement” of Christ. We saw how this Substitutionary Atonement was explicitly taught in Isaiah 53, which is the passage Peter quotes here. He goes on then in the next verse, I Peter 2:25, to give us an illustration of what it means for us to come back to the Lord, and again this illustration comes right out of Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53:6 says “All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” We see again in that verse the “substitutionary” aspect of what Jesus did for us: it says “the iniquity of US all,” “fell upon HIM.” And the picture Isaiah uses there, of us being like “sheep who went astray,” is the picture Peter uses here to describe what happens to us in our salvation: Continue reading

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“The Substitutionary Atonement” (I Peter 2:24 sermon)

In 2018, an ISIS terrorist took a young woman hostage in southern France, threatening to kill her. In a bold move, a police officer, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, offered to take the place of the young woman. The terrorist let him swap places with her, and later stabbed him in the neck and killed him. After his death, it was revealed that this police officer had not long beforehand rededicated himself to his faith in Jesus Christ. Where did he get this idea of dying in someone else’s place? He got it from Jesus — because the Bible tells us that is exactly what He did for us on the cross:

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

This verse talks about one of the most important elements of the Christian faith; right at the heart of what we believe as Christians, what theologians call the “Substitutionary Atonement” of Jesus for us. Simply put, it means that Jesus died in our place; He “swapped places” with us — like the policeman did for that woman in France — and died for our sins on the cross. Let’s look together at what this verse teaches us about this “Substitutionary Atonement”: Continue reading

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“In His Steps: When We Suffer” (I Peter 2:19-23 sermon)

Cheryl & I love to read and watch the old Agatha Christie detective stories, so last year we each read her autodbiography. In it Mrs. Christie tells of a teacher at her girls school growing up. She said she couldn’t remember her name, but that one day in class, in the middle of the math lesson that day, this teacher suddenly said: “All of you … every one of you — will pass through a time when you will face despair. If you never face despair, you will never have … known a Christian life. To be a Christian you must face and accept the life that Christ faced and lived; you must enjoy things as He enjoyed things; be as happy as He was at the marriage at Cana, know the peace and happiness that it means to be in harmony with God and with God’s will. But you must also know, as He did, what it means to be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, to feel that all your friends have forsaken you, that those you love and trusted have turned away from you, and that God Himself has forsaken you. Hold on then to the belief that that is not the end. If you love, you will suffer …” and she said that suffering part of of a real Christian life. (Agatha Christie, An Autobiography, p. 150)

There is a lot of truth in what that teacher said. If we are really following Jesus, then we will face times, like He did, when we will suffer. Last week we saw that in EVERY area of our lives, we are to “trace the pattern” that Jesus left as an example for us. That is a general principle that applies to every area of life. But this command comes in the context of suffering (:19-20) and in the next verses he shows us just what Christ’s example WAS which we are to imitate when we are persecuted or suffer for righteousness:

:21 “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
:22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;”

How can we follow Christ’s example when we suffer as Christians? Continue reading

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“In His Steps” (I Peter 2:21 sermon)

There were many different college football teams represented here
today: we had Longhorn fans, and Aggie fans; Houston and Baylor — even a few Sooner fans — and many others. There are a lot of college football teams to follow and despite each of our own team preferences, there’s not really a “wrong” choice — they’re all good, and fun to follow.

But in life, there is only ONE allegiance that is more important than any other, and that is Jesus Christ: the One who shed “This Blood” for us — and we are to follow HIM. Our scripture for today says:

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”

This verse comes in the context of how God’s people should respond to suffering, and we are going to look at the Christian response to suffering next week. But for today I want to us to just look at the general idea this verse gives us, that Jesus has called us to follow “In His Steps.” Continue reading

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