(The Chosen Generation - Sermon Series)
1 Peter 1:13-25
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. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 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.” 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 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. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
What if you looked in the mirror and did not like the reflection you saw, what would you do? The obvious answer is, change it. How? Where would you start? How would you bring about the changes that needed to occur, and how will you know when you have achieved the finished product?
There is a saying that says, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. The truth is that any change we want to effect or bring about in our lives must be attached to a plan. We need a plan to provide us with the blueprint and roadmap to our destination. Wherever it is that we hope to end up, we need to know how to get there.
In the concluding portion of the apostle Peter’s first epistle, Peter informs us that God has a plan for us. The reason God provides us with a plan to help us change our image. God recognizes that at some point we will become dissatisfied with the reflection we see of ourselves and we will need assistance in changing the picture that is being reflected to the world. According to the apostle Peter, God’s plan is for His people to reflect His Holiness in their lives and in the world. The scripture says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” We are also encouraged “To be holy in all that we do.” It is unfortunate that holiness has gotten a bad rap over the years. People who try to subscribe to holy living are often categorized as “super-spiritual,” “holier than thou,” or “think they are better than others.” The reality is that “holiness” is more about the standard for living we set for ourselves. A person who seeks to live holy desire to live by a different set of rules and standards for their life. Holiness has nothing to do with putting another person’s lifestyle down, but rather it is a choice to live our lives differently. In one episode of the Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason comments, “It is a shame youth is wasted on the young.” As we grow older, we learn to appreciate rules and order. Young people often point out that rules are a burden and an encumbrance they inhibit their ability to freely express themselves. It is only as we grow and mature that we see the blessing in rules and standards. We realize that in life we need boundaries to help us clearly delineate the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable. At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson offered a prayer that is considered a classic in terms of brevity and poignancy. He prayed, “Dear God, your will, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Amen” That is one of the best descriptions of holiness, the desire to do God’s will.
I have to admit that wanting God’s will is not always an easy thing to do. In fact, wanting what anyone outside of myself wants for me in not an easy thing to accept. It means that I have to see and believe that the thing someone else wants for me is better than what I want for myself. While this is a bit of a challenge, it is exponentially more difficult to work toward making it a reality in my life if do not buy into it. As I reflect back over my own life, I realize today that where I thought my parent’s were being mean and hard they wanted something better for me than I wanted at the time for myself. Before we buy into what God offers, we have to believe that it is better than what we have and what we want for ourselves. That is why Peter says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action.” All change regardless of the type of change we want to bring about begins in the mind. As a teacher one of the greatest challenges I face in my work with students is not educating them, but changing their minds. It is difficult to pack a closed box. It is difficult to show someone something if their eyes are closed and it is difficult to tell someone something if they are not listening. The real challenge to the fulfillment of God’s will in our lives then lies in our ability to open our minds. One of the most humbling experiences is to admit that we have made a mistake or that we got something wrong. However, worse than that is living in our mistakes and never doing anything to fix the problem. Peter says, make up your minds to be better. Make up your minds to embrace this new way of life that God offers us and then go and live it.
Just like it is challenging to bring about change when we do not see a need for it, it is also difficult to commit something we do not believe will benefit us. The apostle Peter shifts his focus to explaining how we can execute God’s plan in our lives and reap the benefits of that plan. Peter points out that execution begins with self-control. We live in an era of accountability. Accountability begs the question whose responsible for the actions we take? In a world where the lines of absolute truth have become blurred the answer can sometimes not always be clear. There are branches of therapy that are built around connecting present behaviors to past occurrences. There are other branches of therapy that suggest there are activating events in the present that trigger our responses to these events. While all these help us to better understand human behavior, the bottom line is that whatever we do or do not do God ultimately will hold us accountable. Peter says, “You call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially,” be self-controlled. Self-control is about commitment govern ourselves. The first word in the compound word self-control is “self.” I have a choice in how I respond to what is said and done to me. If we want people to see us differently then we need to present differently. When we allow others or the events of life to push our buttons then we are giving over control of our selves to them. Peter says take back control. If something other than us is controlling us than that thing is also dictating to us. It is telling us how to act, what to think, and how to respond. God’s plan calls for God’s people to govern themselves. How do we govern ourselves? Think before we act, speak, or respond to anyone or anything. The truth is that something are not even worthy of our time or a response. They simply are not worth the effort, the time, or our consideration. How do we govern ourselves? My grandmother used to say, “let some things pass you.” We have to learn how to let some things pass and not stop everything that comes our way. To put it another way, whatever is to big for us is small enough for God to handle. Self-control learning how to leave stuff for God to handle.
There are many enemies that we face and things that serve to undermine our progress both in life and in faith, and one of the most prevalent and persistent is discouragement. Yet, if we think about some of the saints who have come and gone, and even some of those who are still with us that have faced unthinkable odds, obstacles, tragedies and challenges, but continued on. We cannot help but ask what makes them different? How were they able to persevere through their trials and we often find ourselves stymied? According to the apostle Peter they had hope. In the midst of extremely difficult circumstances and painful situations they found the hope to go on. The foundation of God’s plan is built on hope for a brighter and better tomorrow. Hope helps us to get through today’s challenges by focusing on tomorrow’s victory. Hope reminds us that something better is ahead of us and we just have to hold on until we get there. Hope helps us to identify with Christ. Christ understood that in order for Him to get to Resurrection Sunday, He had to experience Good Friday. Hope says, in order for you to have a comeback you have to have a setback and in the midst of our setback – we hear the voice of hope saying, you are now ready for your comeback. No one can accomplishing anything they do not hope to accomplish. God’s plan is a plan filled with hope. One of the things that helped me to do whatever my father asked me to do was the hope I had that he would keep his promises. It is easier to be hopeful when we know that we are dealing with promise keepers. God is a promise keeper and therefore, we should be encouraged to do whatever God tells us to do because God has never broken a promise.
Even though we tell a person what we want they still sometimes struggle to produce what we are asking them for. God understands our struggle and uses Peter to remind us that not only have we been told, but we have also been given a visual of how to implement God’s plan for holy living. The scripture says, Christ, “Was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” Christ is God’s example of how we are to carryout and execute God’s plan for us. In Him we see how to overcome the obstacles in our path and face the challenges that arise. It is through the example of Christ that we learn first hand how to live in our chosen status and then demonstrate to the world what it looks like to live like we belong to God.
In life we will be confronted with choices and one of the choices we must make is, will where will we put our trust? Will we put our trust in other people? Will we put our trust in our own ability to accomplish things, or will we put our trust in God’s plan as God has revealed it to us through His Word? The text says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” In other words, the only constant in our world is the Word of God and in God’s Word we will find that God has a plan for His people. God’s plan is designed to improve the quality of our living. If we are interested in a better way of life, then we need to trust God’s plan.