2017-3-05 The Posture for Our Conduct

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          March 5, 2017

“The Posture for Our Conduct”
Text: 1 Peter 1:17-21

We continue today in our series through Peter’s first general letter to the Church, and—as advertised—we continue to find this letter wonderfully applicable in such a time as ours.  Now, having finished the opening greetings and Peter’s Spirit-led expression of praise, we continue forward today in what we called last week the heart of the matter.  Last week we were called to be holy, for God is holy.  This week we build upon this by noting our proper posture for such holy conduct.  Let us hear from God as He speaks from His Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

In our preaching portion this week, we note exactly one imperative—that is, one command from God through Peter—and everything else in the text connects to that imperative.  Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, commands us to conduct ourselves with fear.  By conduct we mean our everyday behavior, or the general tenor of our lives.  We, then, are to behave ourselves—over the long course of mostly ordinary days—with fear.  By fear we mean a couple of things.  First, but secondarily, we mean the dread feeling that comes from some actual or anticipated unpleasantness.  We fear what may happen if we miss a mortgage payment, or a dose of medicine, or the like.  Second, but primarily, to fear the Lord is to revere Him.  We must adore the Lord, and we must worship Him—and this, though it be commanded of us, is our singular delight.  We need not be afraid in the same sense that we may fear, for example, a thunderstorm.  The Lord says through the Apostle John, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out all fear” (1 John 4:18).  The fear of the Lord, simply stated, is to worship the Lord and to walk in His ways (Proverbs 9:10, et al.).[1]

Peter notes that we are to conduct ourselves with this fear if we call on God as Father.  The if in this sentences is not conditional, but, rather, it is rhetorical; of course we who are in Christ call upon God as our Father, for Jesus Himself taught us to do this (Matthew 6:9).  Because God judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, as Scripture here declares, we are to live our daily lives in obedience to Him because of our adoration for Him.

We are to conduct ourselves, thus, according to Peter, during the time of your exile.  It may seem strange to speak of our life on this earth as exile—after all, I, for one, grew my entire childhood in a town seventy-five miles from this spot—but, exiles we are, for Scripture declares it.  After all our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), and—since we are not there yet—we must not yet be Home.  Our exile, therefore, is both now and for the rest of our earthly existence.  Even if we have lived here all our lives, we are not at home like we shall be one day, praise God, when we arrive Home.

We are to conduct ourselves knowing that we are ransomed individuals—and, collectively, we are a ransomed Church.  Peter’s first readers were ransomed from certain futile ways, such as moral transgressions and idolatry, and we who are in Christ are ransomed from the like as well.  We are ransomed souls—and that not with perishable things such as silver and gold, which, though precious in the world’s eyes, are insufficient in the extreme to redeem.  We are ransomed—that is, we are purchased at a price (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20)—with the precious blood of Christ.  That blood is both infinitely meritorious before God and infinitely powerful to cleanse the elect sinner.  In view of this, as well as the foregoing, let us conduct ourselves with holy fear during this time of our exile.

Peter, led by the Spirit, moves into a declaration of the excellencies of Christ Himself—a declaration which further grounds our day-by-day conduct.  First, Peter rightly notes that Jesus is the Lamb without blemish.  The Apostle John records the anointed cry of John the Baptist, who cried concerning Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  The Apostle John, later seeing a heavenly vision, records for us of Jesus, “…I saw a Lamb, standing, as though it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:6).  Paul elsewhere tells us that Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).  As such, He is the appointed perfect sacrifice for sin—and reflection upon His atoning work fuels our daily living for Him.

Second, Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world.  The Apostle John writes in the Gospel bearing his name, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  Simply stated, Jesus pre-existed from eternity past.  There has never been an instant when He did not exist—nor will there ever be such an instant.  We read in the first chapters of John, Colossians, and Hebrews that Jesus was instrumental in creation.  Surely Jesus’ eternity can fuel our worshipful obedience in this time.

Third, Jesus, though eternally extent, is revealed in these last times for our sakes.  In fact, His revelation progressed from Genesis 3:15 (the protoevangelion, or the first announcement of the Gospel) increasingly less dimly through the Old Testament, becoming brighter and brighter until the full light of day through the Law, the Prophets, and the Poets (Hebrews 1:1, cf. Proverbs 4:18).  Jesus, in Mary’s womb and in Bethlehem’s manger, revealed Himself to us supremely in time and space (Hebrews 1:2).  We, looking back on the historical record, see Jesus—and the Holy Spirit quickens that record to the effectual salvation of our souls.  Indeed, God has revealed Christ by the Spirit for our sakes.

Fourth, God that Father raised Jesus Christ, the Son, from the dead.  This fact is both the unequivocal testimony of Scripture and the best-attested fact in ancient history.  The Father, in this resurrection, crowned His Son with all glory.  Because death no longer hath mastery over Christ, death hath not mastery over believers in Christ—the likes of you and me.  Because Jesus is raised, this changes everything—and it certainly fuels the passionate conduct of our lives in accord with God’s Word as empowered by the Spirit.

Fifth, it is through Christ that we believe in the triune God.  Jesus told Thomas and the other ascended disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).  By believing in Christ, then, our faith and our hope are in God—for all things, to be sure, but especially for Spirit-empowered obedience in a world system hostile to our Lord.

We are called to be holy, for He is holy.  We also are called to revere Him as we conduct ourselves in holy fashion.  Therefore, as we walk this pilgrim way, let us ever have our triune God in mind and in view—and let us ever seek to please Him.  May God, in this, fill our souls with joy, peace, and every good thing.  May He also, in this, work through our lives to call people to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and to call other Christians farther on in Him.

                                                                                                                        AMEN.

[1] This central claim rises from my very brief paper entitled “Exegetical Summary: The Fear of the LORD,” submitted June 2005 in partial fulfillment of the degree requirements for the Doctor of Ministry degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Advertisements