Godly Living in an Ungodly World

// February 10th, 2020 // Sermons

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series 1 Peter Series

Because of the nature of the Scripture passage… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Godly Living in an Ungodly World…that we are looking at this morning, there will be some overlap from three weeks ago.

One of the hardest things for most people to accept is the whole concept of submission.  Most of us don’t like giving up the right to make decisions for ourselves.  And we don’t like the idea of someone else telling us what to do.  We don’t care for rules and regulations, and certainly don’t like restrictive laws.

Here’s a paraphrase of Is. 53:6 – “We’ve all gone our own way, and by nature we are rebels at heart.  And even when we obey, we often don’t like it.”

Like the story of the little boy who disobeyed his mother.  As punishment, she told him to sit in a chair in the corner.  After a while, she asked him, “Have you learned your lesson yet?”  With a look of defiance, he replied, “I’m may be sitting on the outside but I’m standing on the inside.”  We chuckle at this because we’ve all been there—sitting on the outside but fiercely rebelling against the rules on the inside.

Peter gives us God’s answer to the anti-authority mindset of our day.  These verses give us a framework for understanding how Christians should relate to the various “circles of authority” in our lives.

We have a “circle of authority” in the home, in the church, in the school system, in the classroom, on the job, in the office, on the farm – come on guys you know who’s in charge! – and, also at all levels of human government.  So, wherever you go and whatever you are involved with, you find people who are in authority and those under authority.

Peter intends to help us know how we should relate to the various “circles of authority” in our lives.  Because of overlap in these levels of authority, we often find ourselves dealing with people over us who lack wisdom and discretion.

Sometimes we might find ourselves serving under totally incompetent people.  We need to know how to respond—and why.  And we need to see the part that God plays in the “circles of authority” He has placed over us.  I have divided this passage into 5 parts:

  1. The Guiding Principle—Submit – v. 13-14

Peter’s opening statement from the NIV – “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.”  Peter’s focus is on people, not just on “institutions.”

We are to submit to those in authority over us.  So let me rephrase his statement:  “Submit yourselves to Prime Minister Trudeau and the Government of Canada, to the Supreme Court, to Premier Kenney and the Provincial Legislature, to the RCMP, to the County Councils, to the principal at your children’s school, and on and on, until it gets down to your own house.”

We all live under multiple layers of authority, and it’s very likely that there are some we don’t like and we definitely don’t like the decisions they are making.  There will always be:

  • Leaders we don’t trust
  • Laws we don’t like
  • Taxes we don’t like to pay

What do we do then?  Peter’s answer is very clear. We are to submit.

The word “submit” is a military term that literally means to “get in line.” Even if we don’t like the way they play the game, we are to “get in line” anyway.  Peter is so specific – we are not only to obey “the king,” but also any “governors” the king has sent.

Most of us understand that lines of authority are necessary for the efficient functioning of society.  But whenever we read a text like this, we almost immediately start saying to think, “Yes, but.”

So, we need to start with the command and get it clearly in mind.  If we start with the “Yes, buts” we’ll end up ignoring the submission principle.

#II. The Inside Why—For the Lord’s Sake – v. 13a

What does it mean to submit “for the Lord’s sake”?  It means that there is a direct connection between the people in authority over us, and God who is the Ultimate Authority.

Every authority over us exists, as they are, and where they are, by God’s permission!  If God did not allow it, the teacher could not teach, and that Manager could not manage, and so on.  This is true even of those people who seem harsh and cruel.  They could not rule apart from God.  This does not excuse sin or foolish behavior, it simply means that those in authority cannot exist apart from God.

We submit to authority because God has commanded us to do so, and because God established all human authority.

And so, essentially, submission to authority is really part of our submission to Christ!  In Luke 6:46, Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Two times we read in Scripture that Peter said the words, “No, Lord!”  But those two words should never go together.  Lord, is a title of submission; no is a refusal to submit.  If you’re going to say no, don’t say Lord!  And, if you’re going to say Lord, don’t tell him no!

We won’t understand how important submission is until we tie our submission to our obedience to Christ.  When the Lord is intimately involved in every detail of our lives, then we understand that obedience to authority is really obedience to the Lord!  Then, we will be able to give that obedience “for the Lord’s sake” because we know that He is with us and watching over us even when we think the command we are obeying is absurd.  #3…

III. The Outside Why—To Silence Foolish People – v. 15

As I said three weeks ago, the one exception that should be mentioned is regarding submission to unjust rulers.  Submission can be hard enough when you have a good boss and so on, but what do you do if your boss is unfair?

When Peter wrote about “the king,” he had in his mind the worst, immoral, vile, sadistic man – Nero.  As I said, three weeks ago, his hatred for Christians was known around the Roman world.  And Peter still says, “Honor the king.”

Like Paul, Peter reminds his readers that rulers exist to reward the good and punish those who do evil.  If you stick to doing what is right, you should have nothing to fear.  And, you shouldn’t be surprised to be punished when you do wrong.

When we obey the law, we have nothing to fear and we cannot be criticized.  When we disobey, all the excuses in the world don’t matter.  This brings us to #4…

  1. The Impetus—Submission produces Freedom – v. 16

Some people have convinced themselves that freedom and submission are opposites.  We conclude that to submit means to give up freedom, and choosing freedom means we won’t have to submit to anyone.  But, it doesn’t take long to see that this line of reasoning is false.

I haven’t asked Cydnie’s permission – but suppose Cydnie with her gift of music decided to take up the violin.  I’m sure she could do it…maybe she already has.  But, because she is gifted, she is allowed to study with a world-renowned violinist who has only one requirement:  “You must do exactly as I say.  You must practice according to the schedule I set out for you, and you must learn the music I ask you learn.”

So, Cydnie submits to the demands of her teacher.  She spends hour after hour practicing the same pieces over and over again.  She works on her fingering techniques so that she can play extremely difficult pieces.  And, in the process, most of her free time vanishes.

She isn’t like her friends and they don’t really understand her.  But, sometime later, the day comes when she performs on one of the grandest stages in the world.  Was her sacrifice worth it?  Most would say, yes.  But, it was quite a price she had to pay.  She gave up her freedom for the discipline of learning to play the violin at a high level.  IF she continues to progress in playing the violin, she will eventually attain the freedom to play like her teacher.

In any activity we try, even when it comes to our spiritual growth, there is no substitute for discipline, commitment, and the choice to submit.

You may be thinking, well that works for Cydnie and the violin but submission for most of us involves a struggle to do something we don’t want to do, or something we don’t think is necessary, or to follow instructions from a person we don’t trust and don’t respect.

Peter warns us not to use our freedom as a cover-up for sin.  Some Christians get so carried away with the notion of freedom that they think they aren’t bound by any earthly laws.  Such a view leads directly to spiritual anarchy.  Are we free?  Yes, we’re free from the guilt of sin and from the demands of the OT legal system.

But we’re not free to “do our own thing” as if we’re the center of the universe.  We are free to submit to God and to serve Him by serving others.  Martin Luther put it this way: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.  A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”  We are both free and bound at the same time.

Pastor Ray Pritchard put it into practical terms.  He wrote …

  1. We pay taxes because in the ultimate scheme of things, money doesn’t matter. God matters!
  2. We vote but we don’t lose our spiritual balance if our candidate doesn’t win. Politics is not the final measure of life and no one will serve forever.  In the ultimate scheme of things, politics doesn’t matter.  God matters!
  3. We obey the speed limit not because it’s the most important thing in the world but because compared to big issues, it doesn’t matter. God matters!
  4. We obey those in authority over us not because we like them but because they are temporarily in that position and they don’t matter that much anyway. God matters!
  5. We follow silly instructions cheerfully because they don’t matter. God matters!
  6. We submit to decisions we disagree with because their opinion and ours don’t matter anyway. God matters! #5…
  7. The Take-Away—Everyone Deserves Respect – v. 17

Four commands show us practical submission:

  • Honor everyone.
  • Love your Christian brothers and sisters.
  • Fear God.
  • Honor the emperor.

Some people are not honorable, we should honor them anyway.  Some people are hard to love…love them anyway.

These commands show us that our heart is the heart of submission.  Consider this:  How well have you honored someone when you have obeyed through clenched teeth and tight fists?

Some Christians say, “Jesus, I answer only to you.”  That’s not a Christian way to talk.  We do answer to the Lord Jesus, but He asks us to answer to others in our “circles of authority”.

We are to submit graciously, to obey willingly, and honor always.  We don’t have the right to pick and choose when we will submit to authority.  Five key summary statements:

1) God established the structure of authority in the whole of the universe.  The positions of authority and the people who fill them – if we believe God is Sovereign then we have to accept that He put them there!  No Prime Minister, mayor, foreman, judge, coach or policeman can serve apart from God’s will.

2) All of us are both in authority and under authority at the same time. As a man, you could, at the same time be a father, brother, son, husband, friend, boss, employee, leader, and team member.  And, as part of those various roles, you have a variety of responsibilities & privileges.

3) God has put you where you are for a purpose!  This is the core truth behind the doctrine of submission.

Let me make this very personal.  I was born the 4th child born to Frank & Annie Peters, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and grew up on a farm 3 miles from what is now the City of Martensville.  I started school in a 1-room country school called Virtue School (grades 1-3), Martensville (grades 4-6), Warman (grades 7-8) and Osler (grades 9-12).  Mom & dad sold our farm when I was 16 and we moved into the Town of Warman.

After high school I went to Bethany Bible College for 1 year and then started dating Ruth and 7 months later, we were married.  We moved 17 times in the first 17 years of our married life.  God blessed us with a daughter and 2 sons, and they have blessed us with an amazing 10 grandchildren.  This summer will mark our 44th anniversary.  Before I turned 30 we joined Village Missions and served for 8 years at the Sunshine Coast Gospel Church and now we have been here for the past 25 years.  That’s pretty much my whole life right there.

As I look at my life, I conclude that I am what I am by the grace of God, and I am where I am by the grace of God.  If God had wanted a different plan, I could have been born in Iraq or Argentina and probably would never have seen a 63rd birthday.  The world would say, “Well, that’s the luck of the draw,” but I say it is the sovereign hand of God.  We are all what we are and where we are in life because God has willed it so.  You are here for a purpose!  Amen?

4) God tends to put the squeeze on us to help us grow!  If God always surrounded us with comfortable, easy places, we would never be stretched, pushed out of our comfort zone, or fall on our faces in desperation before the Lord.

Those uncomfortable places sometimes include being under the authority of people we do not like and do not respect.  If you find yourself in such a place, remember that you are not there by accident.

5) Submission is first and foremost an attitude of the heart.  It is not blind obedience.  And, because it is an attitude of the heart, sometimes we will disagree and will make our disagreement known rather aggressively.

Submission doesn’t mean we don’t work to make things better.  And, it doesn’t mean you have to stay where you are indefinitely.  Sometimes you might have to change jobs to improve your situation.  Sometimes we will need to speak out against things that we know are wrong.

There might even be times when as a last resort, we might have to break some laws.  Our Christian commitment could move us to protest unjust law – when we break the law, we cannot turn around and claim divine exemption from punishment.  Accepting punishment is part of the attitude of humble submission to authority, even authority we disagree with.

As I survey my own rebel heart, I find that I don’t like submission any more than anyone else.  I know that deep inside, there is a part of me that says, “Forget about the rules. Do whatever you want.”  Like Paul, there are times when it is blatantly clear that I have not yet attained – but I have learned many things over the years.

1) Living under authority offers the greatest freedom of all.  It provides protection, direction and security.

2) Rebellion leads to anarchy and destruction.  Like submission is and attitude, so is rebellion.  If we must disobey, we are still to honor the king.  That means obeying when we can, and not disobeying for personal gain or convenience.

Two questions arise at this point:

1) What should you do if those over you don’t seem worthy of their position?  Pray for them; Support them; Work for change; Obey them as much as you can; Don’t speak evil of them; Show them honor in how you treat them.

2) What should you do if you are told to do something you know is wrong?  Don’t do it!  Submission is not permission to violate God’s commands.  But, make sure it’s God’s commands that are being violated, not your personal preferences.

And, above all, avoid a rebellious spirit.

Our text mentions God four times in five verses.  Why did Peter feel the need to do that?  The answer is simple:

  • It’s not about you.
  • It’s not about the authority over you.
  • It’s all about God.

Submission is all about God.  Until we grasp that, we will continue to struggle in this area.  Two questions we need to ask ourselves:

  • Do I believe God is in control, down to the smallest details?
  • Do I believe God has me where he wants me to be right now?

Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, often included a three-word phrase near the end of every letter he wrote.  This little phrase summed up his whole life: “Be absolutely His.”  That’s really what Peter is saying.

  • Be absolutely His in your home. Not yours, but His.
  • Be absolutely His at church. Not yours, but His.
  • Be absolutely His on the job, in the classroom. Not yours, but His.
  • Be absolutely His in every relationship. Not yours, but His.

Submission is not about you obeying someone else, or following a set of rules.  Submission is a spiritual issue between you and God.  It touches every part of life because behind every human authority stands the Lord Himself.  In 1 Sam. 15:23 we read, “Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft.” A rebellious spirit against authority is actually a form of rebellion against God.  Submission is the hardest doctrine to obey in the Bible because it runs opposite to fallen human nature.

Peter mentions Jesus a few verses later…we are called to follow in Jesus’ steps.

He was insulted but did not retaliate.  He was sinned against, but He never sinned.  He was humiliated, but never threatened to get even.  He gave Himself to his Heavenly Father.  This submission led to His crucifixion, and his crucifixion brought salvation to the world.  Peter says, “Follow in His steps.”

And so we are driven back to the cross of Christ.  Without the cross, this sermon makes no sense.  But in the power of the cross, we can do what Jesus did.  This is our Christian calling, our privilege, and our greatest challenge.  “Follow in His steps.”

Let’s pray…

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