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Sermon May 7, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1301

May 7, 2017 1 Peter 2:13-25

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

 

“Christ Sets Us Free”

 

 

We started in 1 Peter last Sunday with chapter one looking at how God gives us comfort through his word. 1 Peter is a letter written to exiles and as such, it is written to bring comfort to a displaced people. It seeks to teach us how to live in a world of displacement. I spoke of our sense of exile in our own country where religious liberty is still threatened and the culture is less and less influenced by God’s Word. We might consider 1 Peter one of the key texts for our time and our place in America.

Today we consider the freedom we have in Christ and how that freedom teaches us to live and emulate the freedom Christ demonstrated through his life on the earth. Christ sets us free in his own freedom and love, and we respond faithfully by seeking, with all our heart, to live like Jesus in our context.

 

  • Living Free

 

Our context is within a country that takes pride in its freedom. We are free to do as we wish inside the laws of the land. We are free to worship, to pray, to move about as we desire, to buy and sell, and so forth. Even more, we are free by faith in Christ. We are free but we are free within the bounds of God’s Word. Free to follow God’s commands and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our freedom has boundaries.

We are not allowed to say that our freedom in Christ gives us permission to do anything we want. Freedom that is true freedom has limits. Freedom without limits is anarchy. Anarchy has no authority to allow freedom. Our authority is the Bible. We place our lives under its authority to provide for us life and hope and faith and love. So Peter writes, Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16). We are not to use our freedom as a license to do whatever we want. Instead we live as servants of God. Servants of God live to please God in all they do. John Calvin says of this verse, we live in “free servitude and a serving freedom”.

The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:13-15, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Notice that Peter speaks of our freedom to serve God and Paul speaks of our freedom to serve one another. Peter and Paul are working off Jesus’ Great Commandment to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. In this light, our freedom is tied to our love. Our freedom is given for the sake of obedience in love. Our freedom is limited by our love for God, that gives us the desire to please God by following His commands. Our freedom is limited by our love for neighbor, that gives us the desire to forsake ourselves for others.

If we were to consider ourselves as exiles in a nation of free people, then our way of living free sets an example for all people. Freedom in Christ is the only true life of freedom.

 

 

  • Suffering for What is Right

 

Peter writes in 2:21-25 that we may suffer for doing what is right. We might suffer for the way we live free in Christ. We may suffer for seeking to follow God’s word. We might suffer for loving God and neighbor. Certainly we are still seeing people suffer in their businesses for seeking to follow God’s word in America. We see people suffer because we oppose certain cultural evils that many see as tolerance and social justice. We will suffer for what is right. Jesus promised that the world would hate us because the world hates Him. John 15:18-19, If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (This does not compare to those who suffer around the world, but we are just dealing here with our context.)

Jesus left us an example in his suffering, as Peter writes, that we might follow in his steps. Do as Jesus did. It is part of what it means to follow Jesus, to be his disciple. Like an apprentice to the craftsman, we are learning daily to be like Jesus, to walk in his footsteps. In our suffering we are not to commit sin, no deceit, to revenge, no threats, but Jesus entrusted himself to the Father. This is what we seek to do in our context of exile, to trust in God no matter what happens in our nation and in our culture. We suffer with the same patience as Jesus, trusting that God will indeed bring all things to justice. We suffer as Christ suffered, not because of the sinful things we might do, but because of the good works we do, or the expression of faith that we show, or the testimony to Christ that we give. In this we suffer for what is right.

 

 

  • Dead to Sin – Alive to Righteousness

 

The next great realization for exiles is to remember that what Christ suffered makes us dead to sin and alive to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” This is one of our primary goals in life, to die to sin and live to God. We do this by taking up our cross daily as Jesus commanded. We do this by seeking to know God’s word that we might hide it in our hearts to not sin against God.

Again, Paul helps us with this phrase with his word from Ephesians 2:1-10,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

 

One of the ways we are able to live free in Christ is in the knowledge that we no longer need to live in slavery to sin, but instead we live in bondage to Christ, who sets us free from the false freedom of life without rules. We were once dead in sin, now we are dead to sin. We were once living apart from God in our worldly ways, living for the devil, and living in disobedience, but now we live to righteousness and to God. Exiles must remember this truth that sets us free to live to God. We cannot allow the world to crowd in on us and make us stumble. Instead, we receive the blessings of forgiveness and love from the One who seeks life with us.

 

  • Healing for Your Body

 

The great blessings of being in Christ are highlighted in the freedom we have, in the life of righteousness and at the end of 1 Peter 1:24, in our healing. By his wounds you have been healed.” This is no doubt a reference to Isaiah 53 and the great suffering servant. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).

Healing here is not about the absence of injury or sickness, but it is about a particular kind of wholeness that we rarely achieve, but we try! It is a spiritual wholeness or completeness.

 

Proverbs 3:5-8 shares something similar, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”


 

Exile is a tough place whether it is physical or spiritual displacement. In Christ, we are healed; we are made whole. It is Christ who makes us whole, nothing we do of ourselves. It comes through trusting that Christ has healed our wounds brought about by our sin. So, in all our ways we acknowledge Him and we will see healing and refreshment.

 

  • Shepherd and Overseer of Souls

 

In the verse before 25 we find healing and now in 25 we find that Christ is the Overseer of our souls. Another term the Bible uses is God as our keeper. God looks after our souls. 1 Peter 2:25 “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

 

Turn with me to Psalm 121 - Guardian or Keeper, This is how Jesus is an overseer.

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

This is what it means to be the guardian or keeper of our souls. God is forever on watch, looking out for us. God keeps our lives. He protects and provides. He loves and cares for us. He guides and comforts. He commands and corrects. He disciplines and delivers. He does it all.

 

Exiles are in need of comfort, as we saw in chapter 1 of 1 Peter – Comfort in the word.

Exiles are also seeking a place to call home and in chapter 2 of 1 Peter we find that place in the freedom of Christ. Free to live in obedience, free to suffer for what is right, free to live to righteousness instead of sin. Free to live healed and free to realize that God watches over us, especially our souls. Tuck this word into your heart so that, if we ever face exile like the early Christians did, we might continue, without a misstep, to live in faithfulness to God. Take this word with you as exiles in the land, free to serve God and others without fear of suffering in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Guardian of your soul. Amen.