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Standing Firm In a Foreign Land
1 Peter Introduction
I was traveling across Siberia in an overnight train; about 3 in the morning, had a man bang on the door of my berth, then yell at me in Russian. We got nowhere communicatively, but he was upset. About two hours later, the conductor came by with the same man woke me up, and continued to try to talk to me, which again led to nothing but frustration because of the language barrier. Three hours later, when the train arrived, the pastors attempting to pick us up were told by the police they’d have to come get us at the police station because we were being brought in for questioning. Two hours later, the chief detective told us the upset man on the train had left his berth with his wife to eat and when he returned, all his wife’s jewelry was missing. He assumed jewelry thieves had taken it and that my ministry partner and I fit his idea of international jewelry thieves. We were not arrested, so we were free to go, but that day I knew what it actually felt like to LIVE as an alien in a foreign land.
Do you know what it is like to be staying in a foreign country, not know anyone, not speak the language and experience hostility?
The believers Peter writes in his first letter did –
Open your bibles to 1 Peter 1 and take your outline as we introduce this letter this morning. As Peter writes this letter to Jew and Gentile Christians, they have been scattered to foreign lands Look at verse 1
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
These believers are not at home, they are aliens who’ve been scattered to 5 regions in Asia Minor, modern Turkey. They are surrounded by people who are suspicious of them and sometimes hostile to them, so Peter writes them to give them hope. Peter will remind them of the 4 S’s. Their SALVATION, their need for SUBMISSION, the SUFFERING they will experience in this world and the privilege of SERVICE to Christ. And all of it S, S, S, and S is a manifestation of God’s Grace to them.
Turn to 1 Peter 5:12 as Peter tells us why he wrote this letter 5:12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. [theme] Stand firm in it!
Peter uses the real life situation of these Christians being scattered to foreign lands as a reminder to all Christians, that WE are all aliens in a foreign land. You do not belong here – you are not at home. Our citizenship is in heaven and we are foreigners here…
Which implies that we should be uncomfortable here – are you?
So Peter exhorts them to be strong in grace- to live by grace and truth, and charges them to stand firm as strangers in a foreign land; Hey, the USA is NOT our first citizenship; we’re actually on enemy turf right now. This is foreign soil for the Christian – so what should we do?
Peter didn’t hide himself away like a MONK, isolated from the world
He didn’t immerse himself in the culture and live like everyone else
He didn’t infect himself with worldly thinking or actions
BUT He did teach us to INNOCULATE ourselves in the world and live uniquely for Christ to display while staying on earth.
So 1 Peter is going to teach us how to stand firm in the world! How to live by the grace of God while living in a foreign land! Ready? Peter has always been my favorite disciple – I can identify with a bold leader who speaks first and thinks later. I embrace a man who makes mistakes but still lives for Christ. I enjoy his genuine authenticity and his straight forward teaching! No matter what, Peter was never timid, passive or silent – I love that. He lived by grace, but stood dogmatically firm on God’s Word. He lived like a citizen of heaven on earth, by following the Bible as His constitution and bill of rights – over all authority and law. And therefore, Peter became the kind of man you never forgot. Of all the disciples, NONE stands as front and center as Peter. Whether sloshing around a sinking boat loaded down with a haul of fish, or swinging his sword in a torch-lit garden trying to cut off a head. Peter dominates every situation he’s in.
And today as we begin our study of 1 Peter, we’ll begin to embrace what it means to STAND FIRM; by looking at Peter’s LIFE and introducing His TEACHING from 1 Peter. Are you standing firm? Not here at Church, but this last week? You see, here at church, we’re in the huddle; I like the huddle, cause this is where we love each other, listen to our coach, follow His instructions, and thank Him for making us a part of the team – I LOVE THE HUDDLE; don’t you? But standing firm is not the huddle. After we huddle, we BREAK, and run the plays our coach tells us when you’re at home, training those children, at work, serving with integrity and faithfulness while you share Christ, at school, reaching out to the students who are rejected by others, so you can demonstrate the gospel in all you do? This is the huddle – out there is where we run the plays. Standing firm is what you do while you are IN THE WORLD. And we can embrace some of what STANDING FIRM looks like in our lives by looking first at Peter’s life.
#1 Standing firm like Peter LIVED
Just a pencil sketch of Peter’s life can help you know what it means to stand firm in this world. As you study him in the pages of scripture, you’ll see that he knew
1st Standing firm is to obey Christ’s CALLING
Catch sight of Peter in Mark 1:16 TURN. In Capernaum N Galilee- out in their sun-blanched boat, probably about 20 feet long, Peter and His brother Andrew are heaving a net into the blue gray waters of the Sea of Galilee. They are partners in a successful fishing business, along with James and John – and Jesus walks by
1:16 And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.
No hesitation, no scrambling, no backward glances. Jesus called; Peter followed. Peter was a Galilean and Galileans were fond of innovation, by nature loved changes; typically quick tempered, but were also men of courage and honor. So here is Peter, a little hot, impulsive, emotional and easily roused by an appeal to adventure; HEARS Jesus CALL. We know Andrew was already influenced by John the Baptist in John 1:40; it is possible that Peter was with him. But after John was arrested, apparently both brothers went back to their fishing business. They both had already spent time with Christ, but here was the call to be a permanent disciple of Christ, to learn His teaching and obediently follow all His ways; to be a part of Christ’s plan. It is interesting to me that the emphasis of Mark 1:16-17 is I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men – Jesus tells Peter, He [Jesus] will transform him from being a fisher of fish, into someone who would literally fish for MEN. This is an invitation to rescue MEN, to deliver them from judgment, to release them from their sins, to offer them forgiveness, to transform them from the inside out; to become a TOOL of God to radically change men’s lives
Listen: To stand firm in this world is to know WHY you’re here…
To be LIKE Christ and to DO what Christ did…
…to be an example and explanation of the gospel message which will turn people from following their lusts to following their Lord, to transform them from conformity to Satan, and this world into conformity to Christ, and the next world. To cause them to stop depending on themselves, to depending on Christ. Standing firm is one who understands that it is only God’s grace that can rescue us from the punishment, power and ultimately the presence of sin over our lives. And once we have found this bread, we will want to share it with all the beggars who are starving.
Not everyone leaves their profession, but every true Christian DIES to SELF and seeks to fulfill their radical purpose – to evangelize our workplace, our neighborhoods and our schools. Yes, we’re strangers in a foreign land, but those who stand firm don’t HIDE from the world, or live LIKE the world, but we SHOW the world what it’s like to personally know and follow the true King from the Kingdom everyone longs for, but can’t find.
2nd Standing firm is to fulfill Christ’s ROLE for you
TURN TO MATTHEW 18
It wasn’t long until Peter, rose to a position of leadership among the disciples. In Matthew 10:2, Peter is referred to as THE FIRST among the twelve. The Greek word ‘first’ is PROTOS, which not only means first in order but CHIEF or FIRST in prominence. In Matthew 18 and 19 we learn that Peter became the spokesman for the disciples – he was the one who was bold enough to ask Jesus questions and nervy enough to insist on explanations.
Matthew 18:21 Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 19:27 Peter answered and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
And when Peter wasn’t asking questions about himself, he was fielding questions from those outside the group as Jesus’ rep. Matthew 17:24 …at … Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter, and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” [Back to Mt16]
Peter was also the primary one who answered the penetrating questions Jesus posed to the disciples – like this one in Matthew 16: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The YOU in Jesus’ second question is PLURAL, addressed to the whole group. Yet Peter was the one who stepped forward with an answer. And as a result of Peter’s faith in Christ, Jesus blessed him and changed his name to SIMON PETER, meaning the ROCK! Peter would have a special role, some keys, to unlock the gospel not only to Jews, but to Samaritans and shockingly, to Gentiles too.
Standing firm is filling out your ROLE – everyone of us is different but we all have a role to play, a purpose to fulfill and some pre-ordained tasks to accomplish – right?
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [God has some tasks for you]
Acts 13:36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, [hey, find your purpose, fulfill it, then go home]
1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. [you’ve been given a special way to serve]
Peter filled out his role and did a great job. But the apostle of the foot shaped mouth, also made mistakes. Peter not only got stars on his report card, he also received some detention. Peter was not only praised, but he also had the dubious title of being the most rebuked disciple.
Remember what happened in Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
At that moment, Peter was thinking like Satan and not Christ, saying what MEN think is best, not what God knows is best. Christians make mistakes, even loyal men of conviction like Peter!
Now, would you ever deny Christ? What if your choice was DENY CHRIST or your wife will be killed right in front of you. What if the choice was, deny Christ or each of your children will be tortured in front of you; what would you do? I talked at length to believers in Russia, who had denied Christ under those EXACT conditions. It caused guilt and anguish for them, their families and their churches.
BUT, why am I bringing this up? Because Peter denied Christ and it marked his life.
3rd Standing firm does not mean PERFECTION
TURN TO MARK 14 If you were to graph Peter’s life like Dow Jones industrials chart, there would be extreme highs and lows. And If the high point was Peters experience on the Mount of transfiguration, his denial in the courtyard would be the stock market crash of 1929.
Jesus predicted Peter’s crash at the final board meeting in the Upper Room. But Peter vowed he’d DIE before he’d deny his Lord.
Recall the scene in Mark 14:27 Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away,…verse 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night, before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me.” 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing, too.
In spite of Peter’s insistence, however his stock plummeted in the early hours of that cold dark morning and He did deny Christ, not once, but three times, just as Jesus said he would. Look at verse 66
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, “You, too, were with Jesus the Nazarene.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch. 69 And the maid saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” 70 But again he was denying it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” 71 But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” 72 And immediately a cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep.
When that kind of crash occurs in your life, typically you are despondent. Those type of failures are so devastating, you feel like you’re finished; you’re convinced, God will never use you again.
Have you been there? I hope so. Because the restoration Jesus gave Peter should give you and I a bullish outlook on the record lows of your portfolio.
4th Standing Firm means being FRUITFUL in the world
Peter’s stock turns around at the Resurrection of Christ. Turn Mark 16
The angel told the women who came to finish the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial that He has risen SO tell the others – but notice one of the most encouraging verses in the NT is Mark 16:7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.'”
Two little words – AND PETER – indicate God’s heart for those who fail, those who deny Him, and for those who mess up big time.
Tell His disciples – that includes Peter, but Jesus makes a point, tell HIS disciples AND PETER, clearly indicating, especially Peter. Christ has plans for Peter, and He doesn’t allow His true children to give up for very long. Can you imagine Peter hearing the ladies say, Jesus told us to TELL ALL the disciples, but especially PETER…
The actual turn around in Peter’s heart came in John 21. Peter went back to fishing fish when the words of Jesus came to him from the shore, shocking him back to reality, he threw himself into the sea in a rush to get to the Lord. Once on the shore, Peter found breakfast waiting for him and the other disciples Jesus cooked. While they were all around the campfire, Jesus either took Peter aside or spoke to him in front of all. Three times He asked Peter if he loved him, providing this devastated disciple a chance to reconfirm his love for each of the times he had denied it. And with the words, TEND MY LAMBS, SHEPHERD MY SHEEP and TEND MY SHEEP Jesus re-established Peter’s role of leadership; then sealed it with the command to follow Him. A quick look at ACTS will show how this restoration and Holy Spirit empowerment caused Peter to stand FIRM.
It was Peter who took the lead in choosing a disciple to take Judas’ place in Acts 1. It was Peter who became spokesman for the first evangelistic outreach and birth of the church at Pentecost in Acts 2. It was Peter who, with John, healed the lame man at the temple in Acts 3. It was Peter who defied the Sanhedrin, refusing to be silent about Jesus in Acts 4. It was Peter who presided over the grim task of dealing with sin in the first church with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. It was Peter who dealt decisively with the deceit of Simon the magician and introducing the gospel to the Samaritans in Acts 8. It was Peter who reached out to Cornelius, sharing the gospel to the gentiles for the first time, after God revealed to him that the gospel would be extended universally in Acts 10. Tradition tells us Peter had to watch his wife be crucified [encouraged her with remember the Lord] then thinking it unworthy to be crucified the same way as Christ, he insisted he be crucified upside down. God used Peter in a great way and when one stands firm in the world, they are going to be used in the world to produce God’s fruit.
ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS produce fruit, manifestations of Christ through service and sacrifice that impact lives… What’s your FRUIT? For you; it will probably be through something you LOVE to do, Something you almost feel guilty doing because you like it so much. It will be something God gives you a HEART to do, and as you give yourself to those things He intends for you to do, you’ll find your struggle with sin will lessen…are you being fruitful in the world?
As an apostle, God also used PETER to pen the two letters known as 1 Peter and 2 Peter. We are drawn to 1 PETER because Peter was a BOLD man who could identify with failure, who can understand pain and was well acquainted with suffering.
Which causes us to WANT to be
#2 Standing firm, like Peter TAUGHT
To stand firm like Peter, you have got to understand the unique situation the Christians Peter wrote to were FACING
1 Peter 1:1 gives us a strong clue
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
It’s AD early 60’s in the first century and the early church is growing. God used famine to scatter the church in Jerusalem and now He will use government pressure to get the church established in the areas listed in verse 1, all in ASIA MINOR, which is modern Turkey, Georgia & Syria. Not only did Rome conquer the world with military might, but Rome also used some unusual practices to grow their empire. Rome used some ODD policies to deal with famine, the overcrowding of the city of Rome and to manage difficult people. And God used those very policies to cause the gospel to spread and church to grow. Let me tell you what they did – Stay with me… it’s a little complex. Rome loved to grow its empire and emperor Claudius in the late 50’s grew the empire through Colonization. Occasionally, the Roman government would give its citizens incentives to have them populate a region on the outer edges of the empire. They might offer them land, or guarantee them Roman citizenship or offer them contracts to supply the empire with a substance found in that new region. Usually they would look for at least 300 volunteers to go, sometimes it was up to 6000 who would move. Sometimes slaves were freed and granted citizenship so that some far away region could be populated. If an area was of great military value, they’d colonize the region with veterans of the Roman army. They did this so they could stabilize a region on the frontier of the empire, to acquire a strategic area, sometimes to house troops to protect a sensitive border or to launch an attack, to saturate the region with the language and culture of Rome, economically to foster commerce with distant places and to connect the region with Roman roads bringing the entire area under the government of Rome. But the move of people to other regions was not always motivated with incentives. The city of Rome was always growing, and regularly became overcrowded. When disease or famine hit that part of the world the Emperor or the Roman Senate would look for an excuse to send some people of the city away into another region. Occasionally it was an entire section of the city that would have to go – some wise Senator would declare; ‘Brethren, all of Temecula must leave!’ and they would be sent away to some far away place, sometimes with benefits and sometimes pushed out by troops. More often than that, was the targeting of specific groups in ROME who were considered FOREIGNERS. IF they were not Roman citizens, or part of a different ethnic group and especially, if they were perceived as disruptive, they were forced to emigrate. Often, when these groups were sent away to a region, when they arrived, they continued to be treated as foreigners, since the local populations viewed them a drain or competition, rather than an asset. It was Claudius who Colonized the 5 regions listed in 1 Peter 1 and it was he who forced a sect of the Jews to emigrate to these 5 regions because Rome considered them a disruptive group. They were foreigners in Rome when they were sent away, they were aliens when they arrived in these 5 regions and they were also aliens because they were Christians who lived in this world. These’re the believers PETER writes to in 1 Peter. They were sent away from Rome to 5 new, frontier regions. Rome did have an official tolerance of religion and it was part of Roman culture to grant hospitality to all foreign religions. BUT they considered any religion a MENACE and DISRUPTIVE if they did three things #1 disturbed public peace [like public preaching] #2 Offended accepted morals [calling for sexual purity and fidelity in marriage] #3 engaged in converting native Romans [obeying the great commission, the hallmark of 1st century Christianity]. The Jews had already been asked to leave Rome years before when Pricilla and Aquila were forced to leave in Ad 49 in Acts 18:2
Now, look at 1 Peter 1:1 again
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
These Christians have been dispersed from Rome, scatter to the 5 regions in Asian Minor. They never really fit in Rome, they are aliens in their new regions and most of all, they are aliens because their TRUE HOME IS HEAVEN with Christ. Only way to explain these regions – leave Rome. It is to these displaced dispersed scattered Christian people whom Peter now writes to encourage them to STAND FIRM. They are alone, their situation is difficult, their faith will soon come under real attack under NERO, they are suffering the consequences of being a believer right now, but because of the amazing Grace of God, His undeserved salvation, they can submit, suffer and serve the Lord until He brings them home.
1 Peter is going to motivate us and encourage us and teach us how to make an impact for Christ regardless of how difficult it is. Imagine, being forced to leave your home, to a region that is uncivilized, in constant danger of being attacked by neighboring countries, mainly filled with people who don’t like you and are not going to make it easy for you to live. Like living in HEMET. You were once doing well financially but now you are poor. You had a job in Rome, and now you have no employment at all. You once knew what to do to protect your family, now there is no protection, even from your own government. Now you know what the scattered believers faced in 1 Peter and now you will understand Peter’s teaching to STAND FIRM. Don’t give up, don’t despair, don’t resist, put your trust in God and His WORD, remain humble, support each other in the church and be a witness in the world with the gospel.
Look at 1 Peter Notice the emphasis on the Alien situation of these Christians….
1:5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1:13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.
2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
3:13 And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
Are you ready for your life to dramatically change from 1 Peter?
Let me give you these closing challenges to stand firm …
#1 Standing firm is not standing STILL
All Christians GROW to be like Christ and all Christians intentionally DISPLAY Christ. John Piper says ‘There is no standing still in the Christian life – either we are advancing toward salvation or we are drifting away to destruction. There is no sitting still in the river of indifference, if you’re not paddling, then you’re headed downstream toward the falls. Here’s the tension: if you’re growing, you will always be out of your comfort zone – YET – Only DEAD FISH go with the FLOW. All those who are truly chosen will love the Word of God, they will grow, and become stronger in their faith – God will complete what He started. And my greatest concern for you is not with your sanctification but with your final salvation – AND only those who are currently being sanctified have the assurance of being finally and fully saved.
#2 Standing firm doesn’t mean you won’t FAIL
It is easy to convince yourself that once you’ve stumbled and fallen on your face, that you’re fated to spend the rest of your life on the ground, staring at the dirt. I meet Christians all the time who are trying to re-crucify Christ by punishing themselves through non transparency and non involvement – the most difficult person to forgive is yourself. I know other Christians who can’t move on because someone failed them, hurt them, hurt their kids, or their spouse. Peter shows us how to grab on to the forgiveness of Christ, through confession and repentance and make an impact for Christ. Listen, the enemy doesn’t care if it was you or others, as long as you just keep laying in the dust whining. Take Christ’s hand, and start walking – pretty soon, you will be able to RUN again. The greatest barrier to fruitful impact, is the fear of failure – YET, Failure is not Fatal!
#3 Standing firm comes from being an ALIEN in Christ
The Christians of 1 Peter had it rough, but the rougher it is the greater God’s grace is depended upon. As our culture declines and our country oppose the Word of God, the absolutes of biblical morality, the intolerance of Christ’s claim to be the ONLY way of salvation, and the gospel being shared with all peoples and all faiths, we will begin to feel more and more like ALIENS. And being an alien can only be a blessing, if we are IN CHRIST, if we know Him who is love, peace, joy and hope. Only if we have confidence that this world is not my home and heaven is far better
TURN TO CHRIST – only then, can being an Alien become a JOY!