In Chronology

Written by Stephen Cox

A fortnight ago a few members of our church attended the annual FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) Conference. FIEC is a fellowship of churches across Australia whose passion is to bring the message about Jesus to all of Australia. Wagga Evangelical is a member of FIEC. FIEC churches are committed to praying for one another and continuing to promote the planting of evangelical churches throughout Australia. (You can find out more about FIEC at fiec.org.au)

We heard some great Bible talks on the letter of 1 Peter, encouraging God’s people to stand firm in God’s grace while looking forward to our future home.

Family stuck in airport for six days

Recently I heard of a family of four who were stranded at Salt Lake City airport for SIX days. With echoes of 2004 Tom Hanks flick The Terminal, the family had visited relatives in Utah but couldn’t get a flight home as they were all full. After FIVE nights of ‘sleeping with rats’, the family were saved by good Samaritan who paid for their fares after seeing their plight on TV.

How unfortunate for that family. Stuck at an airport for almost a week. You can just imagine what it would be like to be in that situation with a desperate desire to move on. To have a deep longing just to be home.

1 Peter is a letter that reminds us that as God’s people we are on our way to a much better destination. As Christians we are just passing through. We are temporary residents here on earth as we look forward to our real destination – an eternal relationship with God in the new creation. Peter uses the word sojourners to describe Christians. It’s a word we don’t hear too much these days but it just describes a person that resides temporarily in a place.

 

So it would be crazy for us to settle down. It would be like settling for a holiday in the flight lounge of an airport rather than longing for that final landing place.  Now some flight lounges have some pretty cool stuff – buffet style meals, massages, sleep stations – but the flight lounge is not the ultimate destination. Likewise, Peter describes God’s children as sojourners. We are not comfortable living in this flight lounge! Peter encourages us not to put down roots and grow attached to the things of this world.

 

Be clear on whom we are

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

We are God’s children, obedient to him preparing our minds for action, focusing on the glorious future that Christ has won for us. Not just preparing our minds but also controlling our passions as well. Peter challenges us not to fear the world – with their insults and ignorance – but to fear God, less we are tempted to compromise in our Christ-like behaviour and speech, misrepresenting our Saviour to the world. The answer is not just more Bible reading but Bible immersion – letting God’s word shape our identity. I was thankful for my Bible study group as they continue to encourage me to be diving into God’s word.

Standing together

Relationships bring colour to life. Sure, the mountaintop hermit has a spectacular view outside the window. But the colours inside the cabin are browns and greys. It is people who bring sparkle and fire to existence. When Peter concluded his first letter, a work frequently pointing to suffering, he did not tell his readers to escape to the isolation of a spiritual or literal mountaintop. Instead, he pointed to their relationships and said, “Here’s how to take care of each other.”  Bible immersion should lead to a deep love for our brothers and sisters. The word of God is the DNA – the genetic code that links us together (1:22) and it leads us to loving service of one another

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8 – 11)

When we serve one another we are showing God’s grace to one another.

Be an engaged traveller

As we live genuinely counter-cultural lives – showing love, compassion and humility (3:8) – we will engage with the world in gentleness and fear. (3:14) It is a gentleness towards others and a fear of God – that we would represent him rightly.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:14-16)

And in doing so, others may come to know our Lord and Saviour

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

A number of times I found myself asking, ‘Am I laying down roots too deeply in this world?’ ‘Am I finding too much satisfaction and comfort in the present, dulling my desire for the God’s new creation?’  ‘In what ways am I helping others come to know God’s grace in Jesus?’ The Bible talks at this year’s FIEC conference were a great reminder not to settle for the airport flight lounge.

Stephen Cox

 

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