Your Life Can Make a Difference

// February 2nd, 2020 // Sermons

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series 1 Peter Series

This is now Sermon #11 from the book of 1 Peter… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Your Life Can Make a Difference …I believe that I can safely say that nobody wants to go through this life and not have made any impact.  We all want to make a difference.

I mean, we all know that nobody will live forever.  And, when death comes near to us, it always feels like it is too soon – life is so short.  In James 4:14 we read, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  We are here today and gone tomorrow – at least that’s how it feels.

And so, every person wants to know that his/her life has counted for something.  We have this built in desire to know that we didn’t waste our life on things that don’t matter.

In Mark 8:36, Jesus said, And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  That is a frightening thought because it means that you could be rich, famous and popular by the world’s standards, you could be at the top of your career ladder and come to the end of your life only to hear God say, “It didn’t amount to anything.”

While I was a student at Nipawin Bible Institute, I remember one of the instructors challenging those of us who would soon be graduating with that kind of thought.  He spoke of his own life and how he had determined some years earlier, that he didn’t want to come to the end of his life and hear God say, “You tried, but you came up short of fulfilling your purpose!”

Brothers and sisters, if the soul is lost, the whole of the person is lost.  You will not be able to negotiate a deal with God to get yourself a do-over”; there are no mulligans in the game of life.  When your time is done, your time is done!  Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  There is no crossing over from hell back to heaven.  When you sacrifice your soul, you will never get it back.

Therefore, since so much is at stake, we need to pay attention to what God has to say.  As sojourners and exiles in this world, Christians have generally done their best work when times were toughest.  We might not like the thought of this, but in the history of the church, we seem to do better as a minority.  When we are in charge, we start to relax and we start to compromise.

It wasn’t this way in the 1st Century – in the early days of the church, Christians faced wave after wave of persecution from the Romans.

And so, Peter sent this letter to his struggling readers that are scattered in various places.  He tells them, “Don’t be surprised if times are tough.  This world is not your home.  It’s not supposed to be easy here.”

We know that unbelievers watch us and many have drawn conclusions about what we believe, for this reason we need a plan to make the greatest impact for Christ.  Peter gives us four steps we need to take:

  1. Abstain from the passions of the flesh

That phrase “passions of the flesh” in v. 11 refers to the temptations that we face because we are still human beings and will have to deal with sin until we die.  We all are confronted with a continual struggle between good and evil. We all live with Paul’s Romans 7 struggle, every day.

Peter tells us these fleshly desires wage war against the soul.  If you are a Christian, you are living in a war zone.  Most peacekeepers serving in a war zone are instructed that the rules of engagement are, “Don’t shoot unless someone is shooting at you.”  That’s life in a war zone.

My friends, we live in a war zone – our very real battle is not on the outside; it’s on the inside.  Every believer is at war with the desires of the flesh that seek to drag us down.  All sin starts in the mind.  If you win the battle on the inside, you definitely win the battle on the outside.

As resident aliens, we cannot and must not accept the world’s standards.  As citizens of heaven, we will always be square pegs in round holes.  The danger is that we usually try to “pound to fit and paint to match” so that we look and act like the rest of the world.

We are always looking for something bigger and better.  I remember early on in ministry, a man said, “So, how long do you think you’ll be in this church.  Surely this is just a stepping stone to some big church in the city.”  And, I quickly told him that I had no ambition to pastor a large city church.  One mega-church pastor wrote, “Mega churches have problems just like a smaller country churches have problems.”  And then, he added, “Big dogs just have more fleas than the little dogs.”

It is God’s plan to teach us that nothing in this world can truly satisfy us.  Only God Himself can fill the “God-shaped vacuum” inside the human heart!  We should never be able to feel at home here because we’re not at home here!  The battle inside the heart is one more proof that our true citizenship is in heaven.

For that reason, looking on a woman lustfully is committing adultery in your heart (Matt. 5:28).  As Jesus said, out of the heart come all the evils that make us unclean (Mark 7:20-21).

It’s in the heart where the real battles of life are fought.  And if we are going to make a difference in the world, we must learn to abstain from fleshly desires.  Here’s some questions:

  • Do you ever feel like hating someone because of their skin color?
  • Do you ever think about having an affair?
  • Are you ever tempted to cheat in school or at work?
  • Do you resent those who get ahead by cutting corners?
  • Do you hold grudges against those who mistreat you?
  • Do you ever think, “I wish I weren’t a Christian, just for a minute, so I could do whatever I wanted to do?”

Don’t surrender to sinful desires.  These desires are at war against your soul.  They are out to destroy you.  There is no place for evil thoughts or activities in the Christian life, so don’t make room for it!  If you think about evil long enough, you will be tempted to do it.  So don’t dwell on it.

You need to take note that Peter wrote this warning to believers.  Becoming a Christian doesn’t end the battle.  As a matter of fact, the battle doesn’t even start until you come to Christ.  And it doesn’t end until the day we die.

George Muller – a man known for his ability to pray – was a godly man who in his later years prayed, “Lord, don’t let me become an evil old man.”  We all should be praying that – “Lord, help me to finish well so that I can glorify You!”

  • Lord, don’t let me become bitter.
  • Lord, deliver me from arrogance and pride.
  • Lord, help me to not become cranky.
  • Lord, teach me how to love others.
  • Lord, free me from a critical spirit.
  • Lord, increase my ability to be merciful.
  • Lord, use me to win others to you.

So we are at war and we are instructed to abstain from all evil desires.  Here are some practical instructions to help us get started:

  1. Don’t hide your struggles, become vulnerable and honest.
  2. Cry out to God for His mercy.
  • Ask a friend if he/she might be willing to hold you accountable.
  1. Don’t give up just because you struggle…keep on struggling.
  2. Look for small victories each day.

This battle with sin will not leave us alone as long as we have these fleshly bodies.  But with God’s help, we can be changed, and we can receive His grace to fight and win the battle.  Step #2…

  1. Live an honorable life

One translation says, “Live an exemplary/proper life”.   Another reads, “Conduct yourselves honorably.”  The NASB says, “Keep your behavior excellent.”

The word used in the Greek is a word that means winsome, lovely, attractive or praiseworthy.  Take note of this principle:  We need to live in such a way that even unbelievers are impressed by our behavior!

  • Christians ought to be the most honest people on earth.
  • Christians should be the kindest people on earth.
  • Christians really should be able to be the most gracious people on earth.
  • And, we definitely should be the most trustworthy people.

Sad to say, but so often it’s the opposite.  When I had my framing company years ago, I was working together with an unbeliever.  He had been cheated by so many Christians before I met him, that he had actually made the decision, “I’ll never do business with another Christian again”.  What a shame when people who are representatives of the Sovereign God cause others to turn a cold shoulder to God by their dishonest business practices.

Our goal should be to Make Jesus as attractive as we can, by the way we live!  And Peter gives us a reason why we should live an excellent life:  Do it so that “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of salvation.”

The word that is translated “see” is actually a unique word that means more than a glance or a passing look.  It refers to the seeing that you do when you study something for a long time so that you remember it.

Whether we know it or not, unbelievers watch us all the time.  We may not think it is fair that they keep an eye on our lives.  But, they study us from a distance and they pay attention to how we do things – sometimes to be critical, but often to see if our actions match our words.   People who don’t know Jesus are watching us.

They watch…

  • How you handle problems at work.
  • Whether you laugh/participate in the dirty jokes or not.
  • How you dress.
  • How you spend your money – some people believe that our money is like a thermometer of our spiritual condition.
  • How you raise your children.
  • How you respond when tragedy and hard things come into your life.
  • How you deal with difficult people.

In some cultures the watching is wide-open but the North American culture would dictate the use of discretion.  Often we might not ever be aware that we are being watched.  Sometimes, years may pass and then we will find out that someone knew you way back when, and your Christian example played a big part in their coming to Christ.

We need to remember that every day you and I are either drawing people to Jesus or we are pushing them farther away!

III.           Don’t be surprised when they speak against you

Peter reminds us that we are to live morally excellent lives even “when they speak against you.”  The earliest readers of Peter’s letter would immediately understand what he is saying.

These early Christians had to endure many cycles of persecution and slander from outsiders.  Some were accused of cannibalism, because of the Lord’s Supper, as if they were actually eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood.  They were accused of immorality when they called each other brother and sister.  Some accused Christians as being atheists because they did not worship idols.  They were accused of hindering the idol business, like in Ephesus, in Acts 19.  People blamed them for breaking up families, disloyalty to Caesar because they wouldn’t say, “Caesar is Lord”.  So, when Peter wrote that people would speak against Christians, he was writing about something that happened every day in the first century.

And, the sad part – it is happening today, in many repressive societies around the world.  So far, in our country, we are very much aware of an anti-Christian sentiment, but it is more subtle and refined.  The threat we face involves using the education system – removing prayer from the school and changing the school curriculum to include teaching that removes parental involvement and introduces an alternative lifestyle that is contradictory to Scripture.

They also use subtle means of removing all references to God from public life.  Some time ago, Fox News ran a story in the US, with the following headline: “Students Free to Thank Anybody, Except God.”

This week, I read that the Fox Channel will not be broadcasting the Pro-Life ad during SuperBowl, but they will have an ad sponsored by a pro-transgender group.  And, Franklin Graham’s UK speaking tour has been cancelled because of pressure from LGBQT groups.  So, some of the subtle means of pressure is becoming increasingly aggressive.

As we think about these attacks on the Christian faith in North America, we must avoid the two extremes – anger or isolation.  We are not helping the cause of Christ when we lose our temper or to withdraw from society.

Peter’s answer is simple:  Don’t be surprised when your faith is attacked unfairly.  Live in such a way that you don’t provide them with legitimate reason to attack you; do your good works anyway, and leave it all in God’s hands.

  1. Remember there will be a Day of Visitation

The very end of v. 12 reads – “on the day of visitation.”  In the OT, the “Day of Visitation” refers to any time God visits the earth either in judgment or blessing.

In Peter’s theology, this “Day of Visitation” will be the day when Jesus returns to the earth.  That will be a day of good news and bad news.  His coming will be the best news for believers and worst news for everyone else.

Peter’s advice is:  Live so that unbelievers will glorify God on that day!  You might ask, how can unbelievers glorify God?  There are two answers to that question:

  1. Some unbelievers will see Christ in us and what they see will lead them to become believers as a result of our testimony. Those ones will join us in joyfully glorifying God when Jesus comes.
  2. Others will watch us but will not be lead to believe the gospel. They will not have any excuse on that day, but will not have a choice but to glorify God on that day.  Their once-defiant knees will bow before the very Lord they refused to worship during this life.  This is what Phil. 2:9-11 is speaking about – “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

This brings us back to a basic biblical truth regarding evangelism.  Evangelism and witnessing is not about us, and it’s not about the people we are trying to reach.  It’s all about God and His glory!  We are called to live in such a way that we make it easy for others to glorify God with us when Jesus returns.  This fits well with how the NLT has translated Matt. 5:16 – In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

When those who don’t know Christ…see peace in us, see our joy, notice our lives are based on truth and integrity, see the impact of forgiveness in us and the ability to forgive others, observe a strength of character in us, notice purity in the choices we make and the way we live, are moved by the compassion they see displayed in us, and see that we have hope in a world that looks and feels hopeless.

When they see those kinds of virtues showing up in our lives, in us over a long period of time, some will be inclined to ask us, “What makes you different?”  And that opens the door to talk about Jesus.

Ruth Graham once said that a saint is a person who makes it easy to believe in Jesus.  I think that is essentially what Peter is saying.  I would guess that quite a number of us in this room made the choice to believe in Jesus because we saw it lived out in somebody else.

My sister Anne, became a Christian about 3 months before I did…and I watched her, thinking it would be a short-lived change…but she was for real.  Her genuine conversion prepared the way for me to hear a sermon that broke through my 12-year-old heart and mind.

I wonder – How many of here today became believers because of the influence of someone else?  Very few people come to Christ all on their own.  I know it happens, but I have never met anyone who was motivated to believe in Christ through a vision.  Most of us came to Jesus because someone cared enough to influence us in that direction.

I urge you to thank God for those people whose godly influence helped bring you to the Savior.  Thank God for them and thank them in person if you can.  And then, do for someone else what they have done for you.

So, here’s the message of these 2 verses in simple format:

  1. Remember who are you—strangers, exiles and aliens.
  2. Live a holy life of visible moral excellence.
  3. Expect to face spiritual hostility.
  4. Do good things always-others are watching.
  5. Leave the results in God’s hands.
  6. Be ready for when Jesus comes back.

So, would you like to make a difference in this world?  The sermon in 4 sentences from Peter:

  • Live for Jesus from the inside out.
  • You will be blessed and unbelievers will be moved.
  • Some will scoff and mock, but all will notice how you live.
  • Others may come to faith in Christ through your testimony.

So, live for Jesus – the people of this world are watching and looking for something genuine.  That’s our challenge from the Lord.  When you leave this sheltered place, you go back into the world – I urge you to go and live such a beautiful life that others will be drawn to Christ.  Be a saint, and make it easy for someone else to believe in Jesus this week.

Let’s pray…

Series Navigation<< Yup, You’re a Priest!Godly Living in an Ungodly World >>

Comments are closed.