Actions That Speak 2
Welcome to River City
If you’ve been with us for a while, you know we’re going through the book of 1 Peter verse by verse, and are in the middle of this section now on how we should live as followers of Jesus. The text that was on tap for today was about husbands and how they should live with their wives, and with everything going on at the moment, it just didn’t feel right for this week… I moved husbands to next week, and brought next week’s message forward to today.
Because here we are, still waiting on official results from the election; we’re seeing COVID numbers rising around the country and our state; we’re not able to meet in our usual way; we’ve seen rioting and frustration in the streets of our cities; more than ever in some States, we’re seeing Christianity and churches actually under legislative attack, And early this week, yet another high profile, well-respected Christian pastor admitted an affair and was removed from ministry.
As a side-effect of all that, 62% of Americans are more anxious right now then they were last year this time, almost double similar surveys from a year ago.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
If we are not a praying church, we’re going to be an anxious church.
So we’re going to look at some scripture today to direct our prayers, but then at the end of the call, we’re just going to spend some time praying together.
Because I would be lying if I said this week was easy for me. I found myself wound tight Wednesday and Thursday even before the Governor’s regulations came down. I found myself angry at the division in our communities and even in our homes, based on whether or not someone thinks we should or shouldn’t wear masks. I was angry that if I said we would continue to meet at the school, but with a mask mandate, that some of you would write off River City as “another one of those” churches that gives in to fear. I was angry that if I said we’re meeting on Zoom, some of you would think we are just letting the government control us and tell us what we can and can’t do. I was angry at what I read on social media, and angry at Twitter for telling me what I’m supposed to think. And I was disappointed that after 5 months back from shutdown, we can’t meet in person this week.
It all kind of snowballed in my mind and in my heart, and like a champion, right after spending 2 weeks studying how husbands should relate to their wives, I let out my frustration on my family. For the second week in a row, I was reminded of my weakness and my need for Jesus, and was reminded that none of us are beyond that basic, daily need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
I don’t know if any of you have felt similar things or not this past week or two, but I think it’s safe to say we have three kinds of people on screen today:
- Those who are fearful or anxious – you are worried about how things are all going to pan out
- Those who are either numb to it all or are like, eh, what are you going to do about it? – you’re not worried or fearful, you just go on with your life as if nothing is happening
- Those who are angry and disillusioned – you grumble and complain all day, and get mad at “those people” who “aren’t using their heads”
I think I’ve been all three of those in the past 7 days. So the question becomes, “where do we go for hope?” The first sermon of the new year will include 1 Peter 3:15, that says, “be ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” That assumes you have found hope!
Please turn or click to Psalm 34 if you have scripture in your hands. Psalm 34. I encourage you to read along with me, and if you can, I’d love for you to highlight anything that stands out to you as I read. Underline it, highlight it, put a star next to it – and come back to it later this week.
This is a psalm of David, who was running for his life from King Saul – ended up in enemy territory, just trying to survive. No doubt he was fearful, anxious, and at times numb. So let’s see what he wrote:
Psalm 34 –  I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  I will boast in the LORD; the humble will hear and be glad.  Proclaim the LORD's greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.
May I just pause here for a second and ask you to look at that again — I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise will always be on my lips. Maybe I’m taking this too far, but I don’t think that means complaining about things for 45 minutes, and then finishing up your conversation with, ‘’well, we know the Lord is in control!” That’s true, but no one is rejoicing when our complaining outweighs our praise 45:1. “Well, we know who is in control” is often just my personal justification for complaining and grumbling, because I’m feeling convicted.
Our kids’ school was having a sub fundraiser a couple weeks back, and it required two mornings of getting up at 5:00am to be at the school by 5:30 to start making sub sandwiches. The second morning, I stood next to another dad, one I didn’t know very well, and we’re about 50 subs in and he looks at me and the guy next to us, and asks: “So what’s your favorite chapter in the Bible?” I said I don’t know if anyone has ever asked me that! But for the next hour, we proclaimed the greatness of God together as we celebrated the work of God’s word in our lives. That conversation was a breath of fresh air, and I thanked him for asking the question.
I imagine if you asked the author of Psalm 34, King David, to explain what he means by exalting God’s greatness, he would say, “Listen to this, River City:
 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles.  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and rescues them.  Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!  You who are his holy ones, fear the LORD, for those who fear him lack nothing.  Young lions lack food and go hungry, but those who seek the LORD will not lack any good thing.  Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Look at what David did when he was in distress: I sought the Lord v4; this poor man cried v6; then he tells us, Look to him v5; Taste and see v8; take refuge in him, fear the Lord v9, Come/Listen, v11.
Then how does the Lord respond? He answered me and rescued me v4; he removes shame v5; he hears and rescues, v6; he encamps around those who fear him and rescues them v7; he is good v8; he provides for everything we need v9,10
In my frustration this week, I forgot to seek the Lord! Sure I was praying, reading my Bible, etc, but I forgot that while fear is a common human experience, God allows hardship to come into our lives so we seek him! How happy is the person (not whose problems are taken away, and circumstances are favorable), how happy is the person who takes refuge in God! This is written by a guy who is under daily pressure to NOT DIE! He’s happy! Those who look to the Lord are radiant with joy! Why? Because as Jesus said, if you’re seeking the Lord, you will find him. If you’re knocking on the door, it will be opened to you. God never turns away someone who comes to him in humility, seeking.
So Seek the Lord
What’s fascinating is that the apostle Peter loves Psalm 34. Turn with me in your scripture to 1 Peter. As you’re turning there, let me catch you up quickly with where we’ve been – Peter is writing this letter to people, not unlike David, who are facing persecution and trials because of their faith in Jesus, and he is instructing them on how to live as followers of Jesus.
And after taking the first 35 verses to explain their position in Christ – given a new birth by God’s mercy, into a living hope, an inheritance waiting for them, etc, he starts into the next section on how we ought to live in chapter 2:11,12: “Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to a abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.”
We need to be reminded in these days that grumbling and complaining come from sinful desires in your heart, and when you complain, your own words are arrows into your own heart! You are waging war against yourself!
Guys – I don’t know what sinful desire makes you complain, but for most of us, right now, the desire is to go back to the way things were. Nostalgia. The good old days before masks, before distancing, before shutdowns, etc. And even the author of Ecclesiastes in chapter 7, says “don’t do that! It’s foolish to wish for the good old days.” Why? Because we forget that we weren’t happy then either! We complained about everything then, too! We still got sick. Cars still broke down. We still didn’t like things about our job, or our boss, or whatever.
To dwell in the past is to forget that bad things happened then, and to dwell in the past is to overlook what God is doing now! So for those of you who keep saying, I wish we could go back – SEEK THE LORD! HE’S DOING A GOOD THING RIGHT NOW – A NEW THING! People are coming to Jesus! People are returning to church! The church is being purified by fire to rethink what discipleship and shepherding really is! People are calling out to God in prayer! Revivals are happening.
So put off the sinful desires that wage war against your flesh, and put on new clothing of the Spirit...
1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble,
There are five characteristics we are to have:
- Like-minded = In Greco-Roman culture, being like-minded meant you have a common heritage of faith and ethics. Remember, this society likes it when everyone believes the same things – it keeps things tight-knit. But what Peter is calling Christians to is that we are all like-minded in that we are putting off the empty, ignorant way of life we used to participate in, and put on the mind of Christ. Meaning – we’re not called to all have the same view of masks, or politics, or even theological distinctives = we are called to have the same mind as Christ, who as Philippians 2 says, humbled himself and became a servant.
- Sympathetic = Seeing things from another’s point of view, specifically being able to defer to them if they don’t agree with you. Father God, have mercy on your church! How hard we run after our own viewpoint and how little time we take to try and understand someone else’s.
- Love one Another = Some of your translations might say brotherly love. The emphasis is on the “brotherly”. The idea is that we view fellow Christians as family, and work for the interests of others. They are brothers and sisters, so we love them like family.
- Compassion = In Greco-Roman culture, compassion is a family term used when describing kindness shown to family members. Some of your translations may say “tender-hearted”. But again, it’s seeing the needs of others and meeting them
- Humility = In these days, humility was not something to champion. To humble oneself was to tell the world, “I’m powerless to defend my own status.” Because Jesus came in complete humility to his Father’s will, even when it meant death, we don’t have to defend ourselves either.
So you have those five characteristics Peter lays out of how we should live as believers.
Just to share an example of this in real life at River City: Two weeks ago, a young woman came to River City, and this was one of those Sundays we spent time praying together after the service, and as someone was praying with her, discovered she had some pipes freezing at her house, and need some straw bales to set around her house so that didn’t happen. And someone was standing nearby who still had straw bales on his truck from Trunk or Treat, and before the end of the day, she had straw bales around her house.
That’s treating each other like family! That’s showing humility and compassion and love all in something as simple as straw bales.
Now not to take anything away from that, but here’s where the rubber meets the road: Peter instructs us to not just do that for people who are nice to us, but to do that same thing for the person who is hostile or insulting to you...
9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.
Once again – the instruction is to do good, give a blessing, where you would otherwise have been tempted to not do good (pay back evil for evil, insult for insult). And in verse 10, Peter starts quoting Psalm 34, picking up where we left off:
10 For the one who wants to love life and to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11 and let him turn away from evil and do what is good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, 12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.
The late pastor and author, Eugene Peterson paraphrased those verses this way:
Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.
But what’s the motivation? And it’s Jesus.
If you can with your Bible, compare chapter 3:10-12 and chapter 2:22-24.
Jesus did not commit sin and no deceit was found in his mouth. We are to keep our tongue from evil and our lips from deceit.
When he was insulted, he did not insult in return. We are to turn away from evil and do what is good.
When Jesus suffered, he didn’t threaten in return. We are to pursue peace and not return evil for evil.
Jesus entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. We are to be compassionate and humble, sympathetic to those around us, even if they are hostile or insulting – trusting that God is our defender.
Jesus entered the glory of his father, and was given the name above all names. And because Jesus was faithful to his Father – obedient in the face of incredible suffering – he took on our sin, gave us his righteousness, and we are being kept for an inheritance that is ready for us at any moment.
So my encouragement to you today whether you’re anxious, or fearful, or angry, or numb – Seek God! Press in to know him, to walk with him. Ask him to give you opportunities to do good for others – even those who don’t deserve them.
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God.
I want you just right where you are, if you’re able, to spend some time with the Lord – if you’re watching with your spouse or family – pray out loud with them. If you’re watching alone, pray out loud, and if you need to repent – repent. If you need to praise God for what he’s been doing, do that. If you need patience, pray for patience. Pray for those things that bring on anxiety – pray that God’s will would be accomplished with our election; pray for relief from COVID; pray for your neighbors and family who don’t know the Lord and then Nevin will lead us in a closing song.
- Jobes, Karen, 1 Peter, (Baker Academic, Michigan, 2005), 203