SERMON: A Passionate Faith (1 Peter 1:3-12)
Over the years many people who have been considered to be great. Indeed, history is littered with stories of people—good and bad—who have been considered to be great and have made a lasting impression.
And with each one, there was something about their character which illustrated what made them tick. Something of which they were passionate about. Something which made them notable. Something which made them stand out from the crowd, whether people agreed with them or not.
As a consequence, when history is told, the characters of a particular period—the ones with a bit of oomph—are usually the ones that are noted. And whether the discussion is about a village, a town, a business, or a country, it’s the colourful people who usually get the most attention.
As a consequence, the character of a person can be very important, particularly when it comes to influencing others, and making an impact on the world.
Which is probably why, that one of the larger characters of history, would have to be the person of Jesus. Because whether people believe that he is the son of God or not, and whether people believe that he was resurrected from the dead or not, the person of Jesus has made a huge impact on the life of the world.
He was, and is, one of those “You can’t ignore him” kind of characters. And behind the man, the thing that drove Jesus, according to the Apostle Peter, was passion. And that passion was directly related to the role the Father had given him to play.
B. JESUS’S CHARACTER (1 Peter 1:3)
Because the role that God had given him was to be the Messiah, to bring salvation to the world. And how he went about that was to show by example the way to a full relationship with God.
Now Jesus was born in exactly the same way as the rest of us. He lived life facing all the ups and downs of life—the joys and the pains, the excitements and disappointments that we all face. Yet he sacrificed his own wants and desires, to care for others—and I don’t just mean on the cross. Indeed, instead of enjoying the comforts of life, he spent a lot of time mixing with the poor and the outcasts. Instead of living a quiet life, he engaged with the leaders and challenged their roles, their abuses, and their teaching.
In other words Jesus didn’t just accept the role of a messiah. He didn’t just do the job in as basic a way as possible. No! Jesus showed in the way that he lived, that not only did he accept his role, but he accepted it willingly and with a passion. He embraced it full on, until his mission was completed.
However, being the Messiah was not Jesus’s only role. He also had the role of being the divinely exalted Lord of the universe. And that means that not only was Jesus responsible for creating the universe before he came to earth as the Messiah, but that when we die—or when the world comes to an end—it is to Jesus we will have to account for our sins. It is to Jesus we will have to face, to account for our belief or unbelief.
And if Jesus’s character was one of totally embracing the role of Messiah with a passion—on a no holds barred approach—then that is the kind of passion we can expect form him when it comes to Judgement Day too.
Because, as the Messiah, he has given us all a chance to come to Judgement Day with our sins wiped clean. As the Messiah, he has given us the chance to have our sins totally forgiven because he has already paid the penalty. As a consequence, if we then try to face Jesus on our own, ignoring everything he’s done and with everything that we have done on our own shoulders, we can expect, if Jesus is consistent, only one possible scenario—our eternal damnation.
When we consider some of the great characters of history then—and what makes them tick—the person of Jesus stands out as one of the great characters of history. Indeed, the greatest. For he attacked the role given to him by his Father, to be the Messiah, with a passion. And as a consequence, we can also expect him to play his role as the Lord of the Universe in exactly the same way too.
C. THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER (1 Peter 1:4-12)
Now obviously the passion and seriousness by which Jesus conducted himself as the Messiah has implications for us regarding our own future salvation. But it also has implications regarding our day to day lives as well. Because if we accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, then the question is, “What does that imply regarding the kind of people we should be now? What sort of characteristics should be present in the lives of every believer?” Because if our own future resurrection is our hope, then it shouldn’t just affect our future expectations, but, according to Peter, it should affect our daily lives too.
And in this short section from 1 Peter, Peter outlines four characteristics that should be features of any Christian’s life.
1. Living the Resurrection Life (4a)
Because, firstly, the promise of a resurrected life, and the promise of a future inheritance, are not just labels or names of some event that will happen in the future but are things that should affect us in the here and now.
In other words, if Jesus was passionate about his role as the Messiah—and did not do his job grudgingly but with gusto, the implication is that that same passion for the cause should be a reality in every believer’s life too.
Jesus worked hard and sacrificed his time on earth, and his life, because he wanted the message of salvation to be heard by all. He knew that was what his Father wanted. And he loved his Father so much he wanted to do it too. Consequently that same character—to live godly lives and to share his message of salvation with all—is what he expects us to be passionate about too.
If our salvation means anything, Peter suggests, then it’s not something we can keep to ourselves. It’s part of the character of every true believer to share what they believe with others.
2. Giving Glory to God (4b)
Secondly, as an adjunct to living a resurrection life, a Christian’s character should also be noted by the need to give glory to Jesus.
So, for example, John the Baptist began to withdraw from public life when Jesus came on the scene. He wanted to make sure that the focus of the people was on Jesus. The apostles refused the roles of gods and pointed people constantly to Jesus. As a consequence, the role of the Christian is to always point others towards Jesus. The Christian’s role is to take the form of a servant, and to give glory to Jesus, the source of salvation and the judge of the world.
For a Christian, a character where humility and not lordship are central goals should be a feature of life. Indeed, if we live the resurrection life, a life based on the fact that our future resurrection should have an impact on the here and now, then giving glory to God and pointing people to Jesus will become our natural tendency.
3. Trials of the Faith and the Guarantee for the Faithful (5-7)
Now obviously, having a focus on a resurrection life, and constantly giving glory to Jesus, will put any faithful follower of Jesus in a very precarious position.
After all, Jesus was often tempted to change his ways. And the temptation to live the quiet life, and not to stir the pot, must have been very attractive. The temptation to use his own position and power for his own benefit must also have been very tempting. And a lifestyle embracing worldly attractions must have been an attraction for Jesus too. (And all these things may be attractive for the modern believer as well.) But Jesus didn’t buckle under, and as a consequence he was persecuted, reviled and finally killed.
Now some or all of those things is what we may have to face too if we are passionate about our faith. Because living a resurrection life, and constantly giving glory to God, will leave us open to all of those same things.
So the third character that Peter says a Christian should have, is to go on living in the example of Jesus anyway, knowing that those who are genuine in their faith will have their faith guarded by God.
Now that doesn’t mean that as Christians, we will be exempt from anything nasty. And it doesn’t mean that those who are half-hearted will be guarded by God either. But what it does mean is that those believers who are genuine—and that will be reflected in the fact that they live resurrection lives—will be constantly “guarded” by God. God himself will see, not that believers will get an easy time, but that in the end they will safely reach the goal.
With this sort of guarantee in mind, then, a Christian’s character, even going through trials that will inevitably happen, should show itself, not in despair, but in hope and joy. Because despite everything, the knowledge of what a Christian has to live for (guaranteed) should far outweigh the trials that they may have to face on the way.
Having said that, it’s important to remember that the trials of life that Peter is talking about, are not the difficulties people face when things go wrong, when a loved one dies, or when it seems to be a matter of one thing after another. No! The trials that Peter refers to are those which come directly from being a Christian and living a resurrection life.
Those trials are a result of opposition to a believer because of what they stand for. And those trials are actually a test of their faith, to see whether they are genuine or not.
A Christian’s character, then, should include joy even in the midst of trials which test the genuineness of their faith. Because for those who are genuine, they can be sure that their inheritance is guaranteed.
4. A Realised Relationship with Jesus (8-12)
And, fourthly, a Christian’s character should reflect the fact that whilst the resurrection in all its fullness is something to be experienced in the future, there is also the reality that fellowship with the living unseen Lord is something that a Christian can enjoy now. We can, today, foretaste something of what is to come. And that should spur a believer on to living a resurrected life now.
Now, in Old Testament times God picked out individual people to relay his message—Patriarchs, Judges, Prophets—all of whom he used to deliver his salvation message, inspired through his Holy Spirit. But with the death of Jesus that means that same Spirit lives and dwells within every believer.
A Christian’s character, then, should reflect the intimacy of a personal relationship with God. A relationship that they have not just heard about from others, but one they actually experience for themselves. Salvation in many ways may be a future hope that Christians can look forward to, but it is also a present reality. And therefore a Christian’s life, and character, and willingness to live a resurrection life, should reflect that intimate relationship with Jesus.
Jesus, then, was one of the standout characters of history. But Jesus’s character reflects the seriousness by which he took his roles of being the Messiah and of being the Lord of the Universe. Roles that he has taken on with a passion. A passion that every Christian should embrace, reflecting the seriousness of the manner in which they hold their faith too.
According to the Apostle Peter: A Christian’s character should include not just expecting a resurrection life but living it. A Christian’s character should include an attitude of constantly giving glory to Jesus. A Christian’s character should include an attitude of joy knowing that although living a faithful life will mean facing trials for one’s faith, their inheritance is guaranteed. And a Christian’s character should reflect the attitude that we can know Jesus personally in the here and now.
And I’s like to emphasise, that Peter wasn’t just describing certain Christians, or even Christians in leadership roles, he was describing all Christians. So if those four features are not part of your life, then the challenge is to respond to the challenge of Peter.
Now as I said at the beginning, there have been many people over the years who have a made a considerable contribution to history, some good and some bad. And they have been noted by what made them tick.
Jesus himself was one of the characters, and he stood out well from the crowd. Indeed, two thousand years later he is still a controversial figure. But then he was given a job—two jobs—by God, and he took them very seriously indeed.
Yet now it’s our turn. And we have a choice whether to believe in Jesus, or not.
But if we believe, we have a role to keep: To be godly people; to live the resurrection life; to point people to Jesus; to stick with it despite trials; and to embrace a relationship with God in the here and now.
The kind of people God wants us to be is people with a passion. And that is reflected in the four things that the Apostle Peter described should be characteristics of the Christian life.
The question is, “Do we have that passion, that fire? Are those four things part of our character? And are we prepared to give our time and talents to God and his church?” Because, surely, that is the real test of whether we are genuine and passionate about our faith or not.
Posted: 5th April 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis
DEVOTION: Leadership in the Church (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Because when Peter says that role of a leader is to be a shepherd of God’s flock, what he means is that a leader is to do everything possible to look after God’s people. In other words, they are to exercise their ministries in caring for others, and they are to try to keep those under their charge from either wandering off the path or being snatched away by others.
The implication, of course, is that we should only accept leadership roles if we are correctly motivated ourselves. Because a leader should always want to use their gifts and abilities to help others in the faith and for no other reason. Indeed, being a reluctant member who has been coerced into leadership, or someone who has agreed to participate because of the lack of skills or unwillingness of others, are not the right grounds for taking on leadership in the church. Rather, only those who have been called by God, should take on a leadership role. And they should be eager to carry out what he has called them to do.
And if we follow those simple guidelines, Peter, suggests, with the emphasis in leadership on caring for others, then when Jesus comes again they will be rewarded with the crown of glory.
Now it’s an interesting passage from Peter, and one which puts fairly and squarely the responsibilities that goes with accepting leadership in any church. But is it the way the church currently works? Indeed, are our leaders always motivated to look after those who are under their care?
Posted: 12th October 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis