Our daughter Libby grew up in Oklahoma and Louisiana, but since she has been married and in the ministry, she has lived in some different parts of the country, where they talk differently, and do things differently. She and Josh were serving in a church in New Mexico and she had gone to the jewelry store to get her ring cleaned, and she was talking with the worker, and after a few minutes he looked up and said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” They could tell by the way she talked she wasn’t from there: she said “y’all;” her letter “a” would take 2-3 syllables, etc. People can tell, by the way you talk, and often times by the way you do certain things, when “you’re not from around here.”
Well, there is a very real sense in which people should be able to look at us as God’s people, and say “You’re not from around here, are you?” Because as Christians, our eternal home is not here. We live in this world, but we are not “of” this world. Our language should be different; our actions should be different. People should be able to look at the way we live, and the way we talk, and say “You’re not from around here.” NOT because we dress in old fashioned ways, and say “thee” and “thou,” but because there are things we do not say; there are things we do not do — and there are things we do that no one but a Christian would. Because of that, people should be able to tell that we are not “of this world.” We “aren’t from around here.”
Last week we saw that when we make Jesus the Cornerstone of our life, that the Lord makes us into “The People of God”, with a number of great privileges and responsibilities. Now, in :11-12, he shares one of our most important responsibilities as God’s people, which is the life we are supposed to live in the world:
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
These verses serve as an introduction to the whole next section of I Peter, which focuses on glorifying God by the way we live, as His people. We’ll get into more of those specifics in coming weeks, but for today let’s look at this overview in :11-12 about our behavior as the people of God:
I. They’re WATCHING because “you’re not from around here.”
The general command he gives us here is that we are to: “keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” The word “behavior” here is literally your “walk” — the way you walk around; in other words, your conduct, your behavior.
He says your conduct “among the Gentiles” needs to be excellent. The word “Gentiles” here literally means “the nations.” It is the Greek word “ethnos.” We get our word “ethnic” or “ethnicity” from it. It means all the different nations, and cultures of our world. In other words, he says you need to watch your behavior among the peoples of the world — especially the peoples who need to know God.
And he says your conduct or behavior among them needs to be “excellent.” That word literally means “good; beautiful; honorable.”
He’s saying, make sure that your conduct among the lost peoples of the world is good.
WHY would that be important? Well, because the peoples of the world are watching us, aren’t they? They are watching how we live, and judging us as Christians by what they see and hear from us. So we have to be careful that the lives we live before them are a good witness to our God.
I’m so thankful for our Minister of Music, Kyle Chamblin. He deserves the break he is getting with Mrs. Jackie this week; be praying that they would have the greatest time, and come back rested and refreshed. Kyle & I were talking about our plans for our upcoming Discipleship program which will kick off Sunday night September 8th. I am excited about teaching a church-wide MasterLife group for adults and youth, to get us all on the same page with our spiritual walk with the Lord. Then in following semesters we’ll have a variety of adult classes to choose from. And Kyle is starting music & worship classes for our kids during that time, which will be great! So we were talking about that, and Kyle was saying how fun it is to work with 4 & 5 year olds. He said that they will just love you, but he said you also have to be careful, because they will imitate whatever you do. He said one time he was doing motions to a song, and the kids were carefully following his every move and motion. Then he said he got an itch on his cheek and so he raised his hand and scratched his cheek — and he said the whole class of kids did the same thing! So he said, teaching kids is fun; but’s also a big responsibility — because they ARE watching every little thing you do. I know that our leaders realize that; and I am grateful for our folks who are committing to work with them. It’s a big responsibility.
But in the same way, EVERY ONE of us as Christians needs to realize that we have a big responsibility in the world. Because preacher or not, teacher or not, every single one of us who says we are a Christian is being watched in this world. I said something a couple of weeks ago, about how they say that pastors and their families are “in the fishbowl” in a sense; but as Christians, we are ALL in a fishbowl — especially in a town like Angleton where everyone knows everyone. People are watching us, and whatever we say or do, wherever we go, reflects on our witness for the Lord, and impacts people. So Peter commands us here: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” They are watching. Let them see that “You’re not from around here.”
II. DON’T do everything “they do around here.”
But Peter doesn’t just tell us in a general way to “keep your behavior excellent” — he expands on that to include a couple of specific things. The first thing we see here is that he tells us to AVOID some things as Christians. He says “ABSTAIN from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” The word “abstain” here is a Greek Bible word that very simply, very literally means, “have away” — it means “keep away” from, keep your distance from, some things.
The point is, the Bible is saying there are some things we should NOT be doing as Christians. We’re NOT going to do “all the things they do around here.” We need to emphasize this, because there has been a radical “shift” over the past couple of generations among those calling themselves Christians regarding a number of practices. For some time, there were things that people who called themselves Christians just did not do: you didn’t smoke, or dance, or drink, or gamble, or commit immorality, and so on. And I’ll be honest:for too many people, for too long, being a “Christian” just meant that you didn’t “do” this list of “stuff.” So let me just say here that just abstaining from a list of activities has NEVER been what real Christianity is about. Being a Christian is NOT just “not doing” a bunch of stuff.
Let’s make it clear. Truly being a Christian means that you realize that God created you to know and worship Him, but you also realize that you have separated yourself from God by your sin, and by disobeying the commandments He gave us in His word. And because of our sin, we deserved to separated from God forever. But we heard the message that God somehow still loved us; and “while we were yet sinners” Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, and He rose from the dead to be the living Savior of everyone who would repent of their rebellion against God, ask Him to save them, and follow Him. And when we do repent and commit our lives to Him, He saves us, NOT because of the good things we do for Him —not because we keep a list of “do’s and don’t’s” — but we are saved by His GRACE and mercy in Jesus Christ. And so now we worship God and follow Jesus in this world. THAT is what being a Christian is: NOT just keeping a list of “don’t’s”. We need to make that clear.
BUT HAVING SAID THAT: let me balance it with this. Being a Christian does NOT mean that we are now free to just go out and do whatever we want to do. That is not Christianity either! Part of really being saved is “repenting” of your sin against God. To “repent” means you “TURN AROUND.” It means you stop going away from God, and stop doing the things He commanded you not to do, and come BACK to Him and start following Jesus and obeying Him.
So if you are really following Jesus, it means there are some things that you will stop doing as you follow Him. And that is what Peter is talking about here. He says if you are following Christ, you will “ABSTAIN” from fleshly lusts. “Abstain” means you are not going to be doing those things any longer.
This is important, because ever since the first century, there have been those who have claimed that now we can do “anything we want to” as Christians. They’ve had the attitude that God’s grace is so great, and we are not saved by our works anyway, so now we can just go and do whatever we want, and God will forgive us. This is called “libertinism;” that we are at “liberty,” “free” to do whatever we want to as Christians. And this false teaching of “libertinism” has been around ever since the first years of Christianity.
But also ever since the first years of Christianity, God has repeatedly said through His messengers that libertinism has no part in the genuine faith:
— John was addressing these “libertines” in when he said in I John 2:3-4, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
John’s sayilng, you CANNOT just go and do whatever you want and think you are a Christian. He says people who really know Jesus, will keep His commandments! There is no “libertinism” in genuine Christianity.
— The Corinthians were bad about this. They had a saying, “All things are lawful” (6:12) — in other words, they said we can do whatever we want and still be Christians: we can eat and drink whatever we want; we can be immoral; we can even visit prostitutes if we want. They said “All things are lawful!” So Paul wrote to these Corinthians and said, “What, know ye not that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? You have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God with your body …”. (6:19-20) He says you are NOT free to do “whatever you want to do.” God BOUGHT you with the blood of Jesus, and you need to honor Him with your body.
This is SO applicable to today, because many people who claim to be Christians today are saying basically the same thing: we can do whatever we want; we can sleep with whoever we want to, of any sex we want to, and still be Christians in good standing with God.
Now I hope that I have made it very clear, that Christianity does NOT consist of just avoiding a certain list of things. But God does make it clear here that there ARE things we will not be doing if we are really following Christ. Specifically God commands us here to avoid “fleshly lusts.” Chapter 4 of I Peter helps us understand what “fleshly lusts” means:
:2 says we are to live “no longer for the lusts of men but for the will of God.” Then in :3 he says: “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” SO there he talks about what some of those “worldly lusts” are: sensuality, lust, drinking parties and drunkenness, carousing — He says a Christian will not be involved in these things.
Then he says in :4, “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you.”
He says when a Christian person doesn’t go out with the others, to drink, and “carouse” or whatever, they get criticized for it. They may get called “holier than thou” or whatever. But that is part of the cost of following Christ.
So here’s one good question for you: are your friends surprised that you don’t run with them after fleshly lusts? Or are you still running with them after those same fleshly lusts? Peter says if you are following Jesus, you should not still be doing those things. Remember: “You aren’t from around here.” You are not of this world. You shouldn’t be living for those things. If you are following Jesus and your home is in heaven, then you will “abstain from fleshly lusts.” There will be things that people do here, that YOU will not be doing, because you are following Jesus and your home is in heaven. You are not doing to do everything “they do around here”!
III. SHOW THEM the truth of how “you’re not from around here.”
Peter concludes this section by saying: “so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may, because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Ever since the church came into being in the first century, Christians have faced false accusations — which makes sense, because the devil is a liar, and what he loves to do is lie and accuse. So he accuses the church, the people of God.
We saw in 4:4 that many Christians were being criticized by their peers for not running around with them. So they had “peer pressure.”
Also, when I Peter was written, Nero was the emperor of Rome, and the persecution of Christians for not worshiping the Emperor, had started.
— They called the Christians “atheists” because they wouldn’t worship all the traditional Roman gods and idols.
— Christians were also slandered as immoral, because they had “love feasts,” (the Lord’s Supper!) and they were called “cannibals,” because they “ate the flesh and drank the blood” of a man in those feasts!
So they had all these kinds of false accusations leveled against them.
And of course Christians are still maligned today, many times falsely:
— This week a Pastor in Nevada was attacked in the national media as fomenting “hate speech” because he teaches what the Bible says about homosexuality. I read what he taught, and it was very Biblical; very balanced. He said all sin is sin; he said heterosexual relationships outside of marriage are sin too; he said that unrighteous anger is also sin; but that practicing homosexuality according to scripture IS also sin, and will separate a person from God. Folks, that is not “hate speech;” that is clear, orthodox, Biblical teaching that has been practiced for the past 2000 years! Christians don’t “hate” people who practice homosexuality; we disagree with it; it’s one of those “fleshly lusts” we just talked about that we need to leave behind when we follow Christ — along with a bunch of other fleshly lusts — but we do NOT hate these folks. Genuine Christians will teach that we are to love and pray for them — and everyone else.
But in all these kinds of ways and more today, Christians will be denigrated as “haters” or “holier-than-thou”, or “hypocrites”, or whatever.
Peter says, SHOW THEM by your conduct that these things are not true.
I think it’s interesting that he does NOT say “convince them by your WORDS that these things are not true.” No, he says “as they observe your BEHAVIOR” let them see these things are not true, and glorify God through your testimony. He says “SHOW THEM.” SHOW THEM by your deeds what the truth really is.
One of our family’s favorite musicals is the old 1960’s “My Fair Lady” with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Near the end of the musical, Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl who had been transformed into a lady by Dr. Higgins, is being wooed by a young gentleman, who is going on and on about how much he loves her; he sings: “speak and the world is full of singing, and I’m winging higher than the birds …” — but suddenly Eliza stops him, puts her hand over his mouth, and says: “words, words, words, I’m so sick of words; I get words all day through, first from him, now from you. … Don’t talk of stars burning above; if you’re in love SHOW ME! Sing me no song; read me no rhyme; don’t waste my time, SHOW ME! SHOW ME NOW!”
What Eliza Doolittle was saying in that song is exactly how a lot of lost people in our country today feel. Many people, especially in areas like ours where there are a lot of churches, and a lot of people claiming to be Christians, have “heard” about God, and Jesus, and sin, and salvation, so many times over the years — and often times it has come from people whose life did not match up to the gospel they proclaimed. They have seen these hypocrisies; they have heard the blessings from their mouth one day and the curses from the same person’s mouth the next day; they have seen the compromises they made on the job that didn’t live up to the Gospel. And it has turned them off.
And these people are saying today like Eliza Doolittle: “I’m so sick of words … SHOW ME!” SHOW ME that what you’re saying is real. Don’t just tell me; I’ve heard all that; SHOW ME with your life!
THIS, I believe, is THE great challenge for us as Christians today: not necessarily to just “tell” people the gospel, but to SHOW THEM:
— show them how a real Christian is not “holier than thou” but humble.
— show them that a genuine Christian is truly holy, and won’t cheat on the job like “everyone else does.”
— show them that a real Christian is not a “kill joy” but has a REAL joy!
— show them how a real Christian person cares for people around them.
— show them how a real Christian marriage and family loves and serves each other.
— show them how a real Christian person’s language is holy
— show them how a Christian loves his enemies like Jesus did.
— show them how a Christian endures hardship and sickness and even death with faith and hope that the world doesn’t have, because they know they have a home in heaven.
This is what people need; for you to SHOW THEM!! SHOW THEM!!
Make no mistake; there comes a time when we have to share the gospel with words, but I really believe that the #1 thing people in Brazoria County need today is not for someone to just “tell” them again the words of the gospel; the #1 thing our families and neighbors and classmates and work associates need today is for someone to SHOW them the gospel. Like Eliza Doolittle, they’re “so sick of words.” SHOW THEM! — SHOW them that you’re different;
— SHOW them: you’re not living for this world
— SHOW them what a real Christian is.
— SHOW. THEM. NOW.
— SHOW THEM, that “You’re not from around here”!