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Introduction

 

How many of you were annoying 5-year olds who constantly asked, “Why?” This teaching is for you.

How many of you took a class in school--- maybe Physics or Math—and you said, “I don’t really want to understand the theory and how it all works. I just want to figure out the answers on the test and move on.”  This teaching is also for you.

Some of us approach the Scriptures with a thirst to know everything. The deepest, richest truths. We love to ask, “Why?” But we’re not as good as actually applying the truth. Doing something with it. Others of us just want to know what we should do today. What we should do with our lives. But we really don’t want to spend much time thinking about or studying the deeper truths about God and the Gospel. I suspect the majority of us have a blend of both. But it depends what day of the week it is. 

We are in the 2nd week of a series going through a letter that the Apostle Peter wrote in about 64 A.D. Dave started the series last week, but because of the bad weather, about half of you missed it.

In this letter, Peter is gives us a beautiful blend of two things: The deep, rich truths about who God is, what happened in the heavens and on earth when Jesus Christ came 2000 years ago. And commands on how we should live out the Christian life. Virtually every epistle tackles both topics. But Peter does it in a unique and powerful way, especially in this passage we will study today.

And regardless of our preferences or personalities that might drive us to one of these over another, ALL of us need both things. We must know God and the deep workings of the Gospel of his Son. THINK DEEPLY. We must apply those truths in obedience in our daily lives. ACT STRONGLY. If we lack either one, our lives will be grossly deficient. But if we do both, we will discover great spiritual fruit and power. 

Let’s pray.

Lord, help us to see today how we need both.

We need the beautiful, holy, glorious truths about you and your Son.

We need to believe those truths and obey them…..Today.

Help me with my words and my heart this morning, to speak in an honorable, noble way that befits the King of the Heavens and the Earth.

Help those of us listening today to do more than hear.  Help us to absorb, believe, and respond.

Lord, we beg you to help us, that we wouldn’t miss you this morning.  That our eyes and ears would be open to humbly hear and receive…and OBEY… the truth. 

Amen.

 

1 Peter 1:13-25

If the Lord were interested only in an external obedience and some form of moralism, the Bible could be very short. Perhaps 12 chapters long with succinct lists of commands. He would offer us no insight into his nature, no warnings, no promises, no eternal truths to inspire.

Love the Lord with all you have.
Be sexually pure.
Have gracious and loving speech.
Give generously.
Husbands love your wives
Wives respect your husbands.
Honor your parents.
Be honest; stop lying and cheating.
Repent of your sin.
Rejoice in what is true and good.
Sing to the Lord.

That’s all we would have if all God cared about was mindless, heartless obedience. 

Now Peter’s letter is filled with commands. But in many instances Peter gives far more than a command. He gives reasons and motivations for obeying and being holy. Let’s dive in and see what I’m saying.

Vs. 13

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

How many of  you want to understand the Bible better? Here’s a simple step: Be a detective. Look for words that connect thoughts and arguments. Words like “therefore” and “for” and “because.” Don’t isolate verses or passages when they are intended to be tied together. Your high school English teacher would be proud of you if you do this well. 

Peter's therefore refers back what he just said, and I think he means all of vs. 3-12. What is the therefore there for?

Jesus Christ has been sent to us.
God has great mercy
He caused us to be born again to a living hope through Christ’s resurrection.
He has given an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Yes, we will have many sore trials.  But our tested faith will result in praise, glory, and honor when Christ appears.

We must slow down and THINK DEEPLY. Stop and consider all this. Where would we be without this?

Facing God’s wrath instead of mercy.
Dead in our sins, headed for destruction instead of alive forevermore. 
Have nothing at the end of our lives on into eternity. Nothing. Emptiness. Vanity. A worthless life and future.
Hopelessness. This may be the greatest human tragedy, having no hope. Despair and depression. 

 Therefore, he says, be ready. In light of these things, live differently. Do something. ACT…and ACT STRONGLY.  His command is to “set your hope.” We are to set our deepest and greatest longing on the most beautiful, secure, eternal future. That is, our hope is to be set on the grace God will give us when his Son returns to earth.

We set our hope on many things. The weekend. Getting out of college. Getting married. Going on vacation. That’s not all bad. But none of those things have the beauty and majesty and glory and joy that the Second Coming of Christ has. None are as secure and sure. Too often we long for puny things. We set our hope on temporal, small things. We are to set our hope fully, entirely, completely on the grace God will give us on that day.

Peter also gives us some conditions--- some heart conditions—as we set our hope fully.

First, prepare your minds for action.

Have minds that are alert:  minds ready for action. Literally in the Greek we could translate this as, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” It’s an idiom, a figure of speech in Greek. In the ancient world, people wore long, flowing robes. When they wanted to walk fast or run, they would tie the robe up around their waist with a belt. In this way they girded up their loins. Peter means, have minds that are alert, ready for action. Not a sleepy, lazy mind. Minds that are clear-thinking and prepared for something. 

Second, we are to be sober-minded.

This literally means a sober mind. It would include free from stimulants like drugs or excessive alcohol. That’s obvious. But it’s much more than that. It’s having a clear, alert mind. Stable. Poised. Not distracted or panicky or hysterical.

One author even said this: 

“We shouldn’t let the mind wander into any kind of mental intoxication or addiction which inhibits spiritual alertness, or any laziness of mind which lulls Christians into sin through carelessness.”  (Wayne Grudem)

Mental intoxication or addiction. What a powerful expression. We lose our spiritual concentration. As we consider that, we will quickly realize that about anything can intoxicate our minds: sports, dreaming of being rich, a thirst for fame and accolades from people, fear of what people think of us, video games, worries about finances and the future.

Why does Peter want us to have a clear mind? So that our hope is set fully on the right things. On the best thing. In view of our salvation described in vs. 3-12, long for the most glorious, wonderful thing: The return of Jesus Christ. 

So here we see what Peter wants us to do: Think Deeply about who God is and what he has done for us through his Son, Jesus. Act Strongly by keeping our minds free, clear, focused, attentive so that our hope is set fully on the life to come when Jesus Christ returns. We cannot be mindless about these things. We cannot be actionless. Do you see what I’m getting at?  Does this make sense?

 

With all this in mind, I propose one way to look at this. Consider that there are two extreme approaches to the Christian life. If we think of a spectrum, these two extremes would lie on the far ends.

Extreme Error Symptom Needs

Every learning, never doing

Parasaical

Not obedient.

We are lazy in action.

Critical spirit

Arrogance

Be a "doing" Christian.

Humility

Action

Study with intent to obey.

Know that genuine faith has works.

A mindless doer.

(Don't give me any details, just tell me what to do.)

No foundation of knowledge of the truth.

We are lazy in thinking.

Powerless

Moralistic

Self-righteous

Self-reliant

Be a "thinking" Christian.

Don't be shallow.

Be a learner.

Where do you fall in this spectrum? We might all have leanings towards one end or the end, but most of us may find ourselves heading in either direction from time to time. (By the way, if you naturally lean one way, hang out with others who are strong the other way.)

In reality, true knowledge of God and his truth is not at all in conflict with obedience and action and a daily walk of holiness. They are in reality the same thing. But we can separate them in our own minds. I can separate them in my teaching.

Also, as we disciple one another, we need to keep this “whole package” in mind.

As a parent, I can be on either extreme as I try to train my kids. I can just try to make sure they hear the truth. Memorize lots of Bible verses. Go to Sunday School. Have family Bible reading. (All wonderful things, by the way.) But I can fail to help them to connect it all to action. To obedience.

OR….I can emphasize doing and action and moral character…..All good… But fail to really teach them about their God who sent his Son to save their souls for all eternity. Both positions are weak. We have to have both.

The same thing can happen as we disciple one another as adults. We can have wonderful Bible studies and learn lots, but fail to take earnest, strong Action. We can strive for holiness….have wonderful accountability groups…. But never push ourselves to deeper, richer thinking of and faith in our Glorious God who has shown mercy to us. We must pursue it all.

 

Vs. 14-16

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

“Obedient children” in vs. 14--- This may describe not only the believer's quality but his nature. Note that Peter's compelling call to holiness is based on our relationship with God as his children. This is a far cry from a self-imposed, self-righteous attempt at being holy. A calling for greatness out of relationship may be the deepest and richest motivation possible. We simply want to be like our Father. This is natural, loving and honoring. 

In vs. 15: Through faith in Christ, the believer is made holy. Sanctified by the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Holiness embraces purity and moral integrity. It means to be sacred, pure, separated from anything impure or dark or corrupted. We are holy. The Bible calls us saints.

Yet, with no contradiction at all, God also calls us to live holy lives. For not until we die and are released from this flesh will we always walk in Holiness. So why? How? By knowing that he is Holy.

Really we could say that every command given to us by God is a command to be holy. To have holy action. To think holy thoughts. To speak holy words. Why? Because the God who saved us is Holy. And he calls us to imitate him. This is something we have to THINK DEEPLY about. This is not a superficial thought. This is not light. This is weighty. Solid. Like pure gold.

One commentator, Albert Barnes, 150 years ago, said this:

 “It is a great truth, that men everywhere will imitate the God whom they worship. They will form their character in accordance with his. They will regard what he does as right. They will attempt to rise no higher in virtue than the God whom they adore, and they will practice freely what he is supposed to do or approve.”

Is your God small? Weak? Morally ambivalent? Then that is how you will live. Is your God completely pure? Good? Light, like the brilliance of the sun? Then that is how you will live. We can look at the conduct of our lives and know what our view of God is. 

We must learn to Think Deeply. And Act Strongly. We cannot be Mindless. We must not be Action-less.

I have tried to live by these principles for over 30 years. Sometimes I’ve been more successful than others. But It’s been my pursuit. And some of you have lived the same way. Others of you have not lived this way…at least, not yet. 

 

Vs. 17-19

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Wow.  There is so much here. In verse 17, the command is to “conduct yourselves with fear.” Live differently in the fear of God. But why? And how?

First, if you have believe in the Son of our Almighty, Holy Creator God,  you now have a Father in heaven. We must THINK DEEPLY about this. A Father. A good, gracious, mighty, loyal, devoted Father.

Second, there is a judgment. Now for the believer in Jesus Christ, the judgment for sin has been placed on the Cross of Jesus Christ. There is no longer any condemnation. Rejoice in that! You will live forevermore. There remains, though, a judgment of our works done as Children of God. A judgment of rewards. The Lord will reward us for our work done in Faith and in Love. He will never forget.

This is an awesome truth. Some day we will stand before Almighty, Holy God and either we will have deeds that he is eager to reward, or we have nothing to show for our time on earth as his children. We will be saved, but we will have nothing to offer up in love to our Heavenly Father. There is something awesome, even fearful, about standing before God….even though we are washed clean by his Son’s blood. So we should ACT STRONGLY because of this. We change our behavior and goals and conduct and attitudes.

And there is even more to THINK DEEPLY about:

Vs. 18:  you were ransomed--- bought back from death--- not with money, but with the very blood, the precious blood of Jesus, the Son of God.

So if we need any more inspiration to ACT STRONGLY--- to conduct ourselves with fear--- here it is: God paid the highest price, his Son’s life, to save your sin-darkened soul. The Value of our redemption is the value of the price paid for us. Hallelujah!!! We should be filled with joy. How now could we respond any other way to the Lord than to line up our conduct with his heart and nature??

The last couple of months, I have been facing anxiety and fear regularly. Perhaps more than normal. But I’ve been trying to practice THINKING DEEPLY and ACTING STRONGLY. Even a few days ago, I was anxious about a number of circumstances in my life. I was fretting. Fearing. Fear and anxiety are little more than a lack of confidence in our Powerful, Merciful Creator God.

One morning I was praying, and the Spirit convicted me of my sin. I realized I needed to Repent of my Unbelief.  I needed to Act Strongly. Plain and simple, my anxiety and fear was due to a lack of TRUST in God. So I told the Lord, “I am sorry I am walking in unbelief. I repent. You are great. You sent your Son. I can and will trust you.”

We must learn to Think Deeply and Act Strongly. In anything we face: Complacency. Laziness. Lust. Worldliness. Hatred. Bitterness Anger. Critical spirit.

We don’t merely try to muster up some inner strength apart from God. We begin to THINK DEEPLY, apply faith, repent of our sins, and ACT STRONGLY. 

 

Vs. 20-25

20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,

25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

There is a lot to say here, but for sake of time, I’ll narrow the focus. The Command is what? “Love one earnestly from a pure heart.” That’s a beautiful command. Glorious. Don’t we all want to have a love like this?

It takes STRONG ACTION. This is not just about having nice feelings towards our favorite people. It’s about loving action and attitudes towards anyone in our lives, including those most difficult to love….those people we are tempted to avoid or hate or mock. But how are we to do this?

Peter tells us:  “since you have been born again.” We have to THINK DEEPLY about this. We ponder the significance of being born again. Being born of God. Being born to a new life that is imperishable. A life that will never die. A life that will live forever and ever.

Our lives on this earth is very, very fragile, like grass in the field that withers away. But our lives in Christ will never end. And all this is because of the work of Jesus for you. We THINK DEEPLY. With this in mind, you will find greater strength to love. "To love one another deeply from the heart.”  We say to ourselves, “I’m alive forever and ever, all because of the love of God for me, a sinner. Everything in this life—even the worst trials— are short compared to the glory of Eternity. “So of course I can now go and love those who are unlovely in my eyes, for neither I nor they are unloveable in the Lord’s eyes.”

So we ACT STRONGLY. We repent of our selfishness and bitterness and anger and laziness and lack of compassion. And then we go and show kindness. Forgive. Serve. Be generous. Pray for. Encourage.

 

Summary:

Verse Think Deeply Act Strongly
13 Therefore...grace brought to you Set your hope fully
14-16 You are obedient children of God, born of him (1:3) Do not be conformed to your former ignorant passions.
  He who called your is holy Be holy
17-19 The Father judges impartially; you were ransomed with Christ's precious blood Conduct yourselves with fear
22 ...you have been born again through the eternal word of God. Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.

 

In the Fall of 2013, we re-wrote our Statement of Faith with this framework of Thinking Deeply and Acting Strongly. It’s still the essence of what we have always held to, but we wrote it in Story form. More of a chronological approach. And in every so-called “Chapter” of this Story, we made application. So we could say that “The Story” is the Thinking Deeply part. And “The Response” is the Acting Strongly part.

I give this to you this morning as an example.  Read this later, and you will get an idea of what I am trying to communicate this morning.  And what Peter is trying to do in here in Chapter 1 of his letter. Knowing and believing the truths about God and this world he has created will motivate us to action.

 

Conclusion

The Christian life is more than following a set of rules. The Bible would be very short if this is all it was about. The Christian life is also more than just about studying and learning. We don’t sit in some eternal classroom, always learning but never doing.

God calls us to walk with him. We walk in life with him. We learn from him. We serve him. We love him. We love one another.

This is so fundamental.  It’s really not that complicated. But it’s easy to miss. And if we miss it, we will lack power, joy, love, and a true holy, pure walk with Jesus. But if we find it, ours will be the richest of lives both in this world and the next.

Let us become people who THINK DEEPLY.  And ACT STRONGLY. 

 

Pray

Lord, we worship you this morning for your Beauty. Majesty. Glory. Mercy. Kindness. Power. Eternality. Wisdom.

And the glorious, merciful work of sending your Son to redeem our dark souls.

Lord, we are forever indebted to you .

We say we love you.

Help us to know more.

Then help us to believe what we know.

And grant us the strength and humility to ACT STRONGLY.

For the sake of your great name.

And for the sake of the gracious reward you will grant to us in the next world. 

Amen.