Foreigners in a Foreign Land

// September 15th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 1 of 22 in the series 1 Peter Series

Starting off a new sermon series… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Foreigners in a Foreign Land…kind of brings me back to my framing days.  That first morning you drive up, there is the basement – sometimes the plywood was already on the floor joists and sometimes we would have to do it.  Right nearby was the stack of all the wood we would be needing to frame up the house.

So, this morning, as we pull up to the First Letter of Peter, we have a huge stack of amazing Christian building supplies waiting for us to utilize as we build our lives on the rock, Christ Jesus!

You will notice on the inside of your leaflet that I have divided up this book into 24 sermons.  So, you might as well crease your Bible open to this little book because we’re going to be camping-out here for several months.

Further, I would suggest that you take the time to read 1 Peter this week and maybe several times over the next while.  It is short — only 105 verses — and can easily be read in about 30 minutes.  This will help you to absorb the message as we journey through the book together.

Why did choose I Peter and not any of the 65 other books in the Bible?  My reasons:  Because it is short, easy to understand, and it speaks to us today.  Peter wrote to scattered believers to encourage them to live for Christ in a hostile world – thus the use of the word “exiles” on the leaflet.

This book is a message of encouragement (“Stand fast”) and a warning (“Hard times are upon us”).  As I think about our own congregation, this is relevant for us today.  As a church out in the country, we are quite a scattered congregation – not scatter-brained, geographically scattered.

For Peter, he was thinking of the region of ancient Asia Minor in the first century, and life for these scattered believers under Emperor Nero – the very one that destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Before we dive in, we need to take note of:

  1. Book Basics – we need to answer a few basic questions:

1) Who wrote it?  That’s easy – Peter wrote it.  We know this because the first word tells us so.

Peter was a fisherman from the little fishing village of Bethsaida on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.  As one of the first disciples – his brother Andrew had brought him to Jesus – he travelled with Jesus and he was the leader/spokesperson of the apostles.

He was named Simon at birth, but Jesus gave him the name Peter, which means “Rock.”  He writes his letters like a man named Rock.  His words are blunt, honest, and straight to the point.

2) Who did he write this letter to? – Again, v. 1 tells us that Peter wrote to believers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.  This part of ancient Asia Minor is where we today find modern-day Turkey.  Most of Paul’s letters were to specific local churches, but Peter wrote to the believers who were scattered far from him and far from each other.  First Peter is a letter to the mission field.

3) When did he write this letter? – We can’t be absolutely certain, but AD 64 is a good guess.  That’s the year that Emperor Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians – which started a wave of persecution that spread throughout the Roman Empire.

4) What was his reason for writing? – There’s a partial answer in 1:6, “…you have been grieved by various trials…”  As Christianity spread across the Roman Empire, it encountered huge opposition because the followers of Jesus challenged the immorality, idolatry, paganism and emperor-worship of contemporary society.  Christians became social outcasts as bizarre rumors spread from town to town.  We are on the cusp of this very thing in Canada today!

Here is a principle we need to keep in mind:  What you don’t understand, you fear.  What you fear, you oppose.  What you oppose, you attack.  That’s was the position of the early Christians.  They were misunderstood, feared, opposed and ultimately attacked.  In Rome, Christians were tortured, covered with animal skins and attacked by dogs, thrown in prison, and made into human torches.

Aware of what is taking place, Peter writes to say that things are going to get worse before they get better.  But his tone is more positive than negative.  He wants to encourage the scattered believers in Asia Minor to stand fast in the grace of God in the midst of great trials.  His letter is postmarked for our day.  He could have written this same kind of letter to Christians in Canada in 2019.

It’s like Peter is writing his own version of a Tale of Two Cities.  As Christian, we live in two different worlds at the same time.  The story of the Christian life is really about the city of God and the city of man.  In v. 1, Peter wrote to “elect exiles” or “God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners”.  Those two phrases explain our unique relationship to the world and to God.  Let’s consider:

  1. Our Relationship to the World

The key word here is “foreigners,” also translated as “aliens” or “strangers” or “exiles.”  It describes one who comes from another country to live in this country.  They are “resident aliens” or “expatriates” – strangers whose home is in heaven but they live on earth.

The people are not like you.  They have a different set of values, our likes and dislikes are different – and you are definitely a minority.  But that’s only part of what Peter is talking about.

He is writing to people who were living in their own hometowns.  The believers in Pontus and Galatia has been raised there.  They spoke the same language, wore the same clothes, ate the same food, and shared the same culture.  But, the people he is writing to, had embraced the gospel of Jesus and now everything was different for them.

Essentially, Peter writes, “You are a stranger living in your hometown.”  This is what happens when the gospel penetrates a nation, a city, a town, a village, an office, a classroom, a business, a factory, a neighborhood, or a family.  Nothing is as it used to be!  Everything has changed because you aren’t the person you used to be!  You have become a stranger to people who have known you your whole life.  That’s hard for some Christians to face.

Peter is saying, “You’ve transferred your allegiance from the world to Jesus.”  You didn’t move physically but you moved spiritually.  Salvation has made you a stranger in the world.

Not all people in the world cheat, but in this world people cheat.  All people cannot be called for lying, but in this world people lie.  Not all people in the world worship money, but in this world people worship money.  Not all people in this world are sex-crazed or sexually deviant, but in this world many people are.

And, for reason we live in as resident aliens.  So what does this mean in practical terms?

  • If you are a businessman and have decided as a Christian not to cheat, lie, or double-cross, if you’ve decided to deliver what you promise, you are a stranger in the world.
  • If you are a husband and you have decided to be faithful to your wife because you are a Christian, you are a stranger in the world.
  • If you are a Christian teenager, and you have decided to live for Jesus in the halls of your high school, you are a resident alien.
  • If you are a farmer and have decided to do your work as unto the Lord, not as pleasing men but in order to please God—if you have decided that money will not be the determining factor in your life – you will run your farm, ethically and morally, then you are a stranger in the world.
  • If you work in an environment where coarse language, profanity, and loose talk are the accepted norm and you have decided not to join in – may God bless you for that – but, you are a stranger in the world.
  • If you come to a place where, in order to get ahead, you have to compromise some of your Christian values, and you decide not to do it – you won’t often be congratulated, but you belong to the Fraternal Order of Christian Strangers.

It’s not a question of isolating ourselves from the world, but rather, a question of being in the world and not of the world!

Like the people Peter is writing to, we are scattered strangers in our world.  We gather on Sunday, then we scatter for most of the rest of the week.  For the most part, we are separated from each other.  And, that’s okay, because God has strategically planted us where we can do the most good for Him and His kingdom.  And, #3…

  • Our Relationship to God

Peter uses 3 phrases to describe this relationship with God.  These phrases use the Trinity to describe the spiritual story of every believer. We are…Chosen by God the Father…                                                                                                     …Called by God the Holy Spirit, and…                                                                                   …Cleansed by God the Son.

  1. Chosen“elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”

The word translated “chosen/elect” simply means “to choose for oneself.”  It was sometimes used to speak of choosing fruit or whatever.

In this context, it simply means that we are God’s chosen people.  Its Peter’s way of saying, “God has His people In Pontus, in Galatia, in Cappadocia, in Asia, and in Bithynia.”  We are God’s guerilla band, a group of spiritual soldiers scattered here and there.

Peter tells these harassed and sometimes discouraged Christians, “You are God’s elect.  He chose you and put you where you are, for a purpose. You are on the front line of what God is doing in the world.”  The same thing is true today.  God has His people in Garrington, in Eagle Valley, in Cottonwood, in Eagle Hill, Harmattan, Hainstock, James River, Sundre, Olds, Bowden, Innisfail, Caroline, Edmonton, Calgary, Romania, and in every corner of the world.

And God says, “You are there for a purpose.  I put you there to glorify Me.  Now bloom where you are planted.”  And, maybe God put you in some rocky soil without much sunshine; but God knows what He’s doing.  He put you there to reflect Him right where you are.  At just the right time, the world will see what God is able to do, in the toughest and most hopeless places of the world.

The word “chosen” implies to know something beforehand.  The Greek word for “prognosis” carries that thought.  Like when a doctor gives a prognosis, he is giving an educated guess – God’s foreknowledge isn’t like that.  He knows what is going to happen because in His Sovereignty He has determined to make it happen.  We are chosen because God decided to choose us.

Some think that foreknowledge means that God knows in advance who is going to believe and so He elects those people to salvation.  That’s not wrong, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Think of it like this:  God freely determined to offer salvation to all, so He offered His Son for the sins of the world.  He freely determined that whosoever will may come – and that whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life!  But, it also means that God knew you and me before we were born and He loved us, He chose us, He determined to save me and you, if you are saved!  If you are saved, it is because he determined to save you.  The chorus of an older hymn reads:

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because he first loved me.

Peter would say “Amen” – the phrase“because he first loved me” is the great truth of God’s foreknowledge.  While I was still a sinner, He loved me, chose me and sent His Son that I might be saved – that’s Rom. 5:8.

A pastor told of a new believer, upon hearing that he was “chosen” said, “This means I have a responsibility.”  And, he’s bang on!  Those who are chosen are called to serve the Lord.  When we look in the mirror and consider how far short we fall of what God wants us to be, it’s easy to feel discouraged and defeated.  We pray too little and talk too much.  We give so little and spend so much.  We weep so little and criticize so much.  We need to remind ourselves that we were not chosen according to our merit, but solely by God’s mercy!  He knew what He was doing when He chose us, and He’s not finished with us yet.  Next, we were:

  1. Called “His Spirit made you holy…”

Some translations use sanctified/sanctification – which means to “set apart for a holy purpose”.  God’s Holy Spirit is the one who makes us holy.  He gives us the desire to know more, He grants us understanding, He convicts of sin, and He brings us to Jesus.

He is the cause of all spiritual growth.  His work begins in us before we believe and continues until we go to heaven.  He completes His work in us when we are finally glorified in God’s presence.  No one is ever saved apart from the Spirit and no one ever grows spiritually without the Spirit.

This means that my salvation starts with God’s work in me.  I didn’t choose him; He chose me!  He always makes the first move, because if didn’t, nothing would ever change.  Be very clear:  No one is ever saved apart from the ministry and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  And, then…we were:

  1. Cleansed “sprinkled/cleansed with His blood”

We were chosen for this — “for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.”  Peter uses obedience the same way Paul does in Romans — as a synonym for saving faith because believing God is always the first step in our obedience to Him.

When you believe, you are sprinkled with the blood of Christ.  This concept goes back to the O.T. sacrifices.  In Ex. 24 we read of a time when blood was sprinkled on people – at Mt. Sinai just after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, we find the Jews crossroad of commitment.

When they promise to obey all that God had said, Moses took the blood of several young bulls and sprinkled it on the people.  This sprinkling of blood meant they were entering into a covenant – they had heard it, agreed to obey it, and by blood they were entering into it.

To be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus means to believe the gospel and be saved.  It means the blood of Jesus has been applied to your life. You could attend church for 100 years and still be lost unless the blood of Jesus is applied to your life.

It’s one thing to say, “Jesus died on the cross,” and it’s another thing to say, “Jesus died on the cross for sin,” but it’s something else entirely to say, “Jesus died on the cross for my sin.”

Strange as it may sound, Jesus could die a thousand deaths, and it would do you no good until you come by faith and are sprinkled with His blood.  Make sure you put your trust in Jesus and are under His blood.

When I come to Christ by faith, His death is substituted for me, His blood is on me, and my sins are on Him.  This is the heart of the gospel!

The contemporary Christian group “Selah” sing an old hymn called “Before the Throne of God Above.”  One verse goes like this:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

And finally…

  1. Let’s Remember Four Things

There are 4 key truths about our relationship to God and the world:

  • God’s opinion of us is more important that what the world thinks of us.
  • Our salvation is secure on God’s sovereign choice.
  • We are not just accepted by God; we are chosen by Him!
  • Our position in the world is tenuous, but our position with God could never be better.

We are strangers in the world because we are chosen by God to be His people.  The only way to stop being a stranger in the world is to give up our allegiance to Christ—and we aren’t going to do that!  The world can pressure us, but we will not go back – we’ve come too far to go back.

I am sure most of us would rather be popular than persecuted.  We might like to give up being foreigners, but that would mean giving up the privilege of being God’s chosen people.  Therefore, we will:

  • Always be foreigners in the world; and,
  • Always be God’s chosen ones.

Peter teaches that it’s not easy to be a Christian in the world, but we take comfort in the fact that we belong to God as His chosen people.  That’s why v. 2 ends with the wonderful phrase: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

His prayer is, “May you have more and more of God’s grace and peace.”   This is how God compensates us for being foreigners in the world.  His grace and peace have no limits!  We can never come to the end of either.

  • We may be foreigners, but we have God’s grace in abundance!
  • We may be misunderstood and reviled—but we have God’s peace multiplied to us!
  • We may end up with the short end of the stick, but God sets no limits on the grace and peace He gives us.

The blessing of knowing the Lord far outweighs anything the world can do to us.

– Is that enough for us?  Is Jesus enough for you even if that makes you a foreigner in the world?

– Is being in God’s family enough for you?

– Are you grateful for the fact that He Touched You?

Let’s pray…

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