How Should We Then Live?
O LORD God, my dear heavenly Father, please bless me this day as I enter into Your presence to hear Your holy Word, to sing Your praises, and to lay before You my petitions. Grant that I might listen to You attentively, praise You with sincerity, and approach You with humility, for You alone are my God, my Savior, and my King. Yes, bless me this day! Amen.
The Children of Israel complained against God and were plagued with poisonous serpents. Upon their repentance, Moses was instructed to prepare a bronze serpent and place it in the midst of the camp. Whoever believed God’s promise and looked at the serpent would be healed. Even so, whoever believes God’s promise concerning Jesus will likewise be healed!
Jesus soon would die, rise, and ascend into heaven in glory. He gave His disciples one last command—to love one another as they had indeed been loved by Him. May we add to our Savior’s glory by fulfilling that command!
Text: 1 Peter 1:17-25 NIV
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
In Christ Jesus, whose everlasting word is to shape our very temporal lives, dear fellow redeemed:
Over the past 150 years that Immanuel congregation has been in existence, there has been a battle going on over the nature of the Bible within the external Christian church. Is the Bible the inspired and inerrant word of God, as it claims? Or is it simply a collection of ancient texts by various writers expressing their thoughts and giving their opinions about God? In 1976 Francis Schaeffer, a conservative Presbyterian theologian, wrote a book, entitled How Should We Then Live, in defense of the Bible and to emphasize its importance for our Christian lives. The thesis of the book is that God’s Word is everlasting and provides a solid basis for life in this world, while human thoughts and opinions are continuously changing and so cannot provide such a solid basis. Schaeffer claimed, and he was correct, that the pressures of life in this sin-filled world can only be endured successfully if you have that solid foundation of Biblical truth. Hence the question—how should we then live? Should we build our lives and live those lives on the basis of solid, biblical truth, or should we build our lives and live those lives on the basis of the ever-changing thoughts and opinions of men?
The apostle Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit and in agreement with Francis Schaeffer, would choose the former rather than the latter. He, after all, informs us that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Let us consider his Spirit-induced thoughts this morning in answer to the question: HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? Peter’s response to that question is that the Word of the Lord endures forever, therefore, live here as foreigners in reverent fear; live with your faith and hope resting in God; and live in purity with a deep, heart-felt love for others!
Peter begins our text by saying: “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” When you first hear the word “foreigners” in our text, you might be tempted to think of the ongoing political debate in our day regarding illegal immigrants, but that is not what Peter is alluding to in these verses. He is referring to our attitude towards this world and our life in this world. As God’s children, we know that our future does not lie here in this physical world. In fact, this physical world will in the end be destroyed by fire and be replaced by a “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-13). Therefore, we are to consider ourselves to be “foreigners” in this world—not permanent residents, but rather people simply passing through at this time on their way to a far, better place.
Our attitude is to be one of “reverent fear.” In other words, we are to have an awesome respect for our God—an awesome respect for His holiness, His love, His work on our behalf regarding our salvation, His will for our lives here in this world, and His plans for our future in the next. As if to bolster that attitude and resultant activity, Peter goes on to write: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” God was and remains serious about His relationship with us. He, above everyone else, is aware of what our sin and rebellion has done to His creation and to us—the crown of His creation. Look around you in this world. You and I can see the consequences of sin and the toll it has taken upon all of us as human beings, but God not only sees what is going on in much greater detail than any of us, for He sees every human action and He hears every human word, but He also knows the joy and the bliss that could have been had our first parents resisted Satan’s temptation and remained in full and faithful fellowship with Him.
It was because He wanted to restore that full and faithful fellowship between us and Himself, that He determined to redeem us—to buy us back from sin and death. This He could only accomplish, as Peter reveals, “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” If Jesus died as that perfect sacrifice, is it not then reasonable for us, as the apostle Paul suggests, to become “living sacrifices” dedicating our lives to Him and His service? (cf. Rom. 12:1) Therefore, dear Christian friends, HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? Because the Word of the Lord endures forever, live here as foreigners in reverent fear!
Live as well with your faith and hope resting in God! Peter continues with reference to Jesus: “He (Jesus) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” The view presented by Peter is an eternal one. Jesus was chosen by God before the world began to be the One who would come into this world and rescue us from our sin and our shame. Listen to the more detailed account of the apostle Paul regarding this same truth: “He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (a reference once again to Jesus)” (Eph. 1:4-6).
Jesus then shed His precious blood, entrusted His spirit to His Heavenly Father, and died. However, He was raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and God has placed all things under His feet to guide and to govern our lives, thereby leading us into a relationship graciously restored at least in part to what it once was and to what it will be again when we enter His eternal kingdom. Truly, as Jesus expressed so clearly and convincingly to Nicodemus, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). Jesus is, as He claimed to be, “the way, the truth, and the life” through whom we can and do come to our Heavenly Father (cf. Jn. 14:6). He is the “chief cornerstone” upon which we build (cf. Eph. 2:20), so that our faith and our hope rest alone in God! Yes, HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? The Word of the Lord endures forever, therefore, live here, first and fore-most, as foreigners in reverent fear. Live,then also, with your faith and hope resting in God!
Live, finally, in purity with a deep, heart-felt love for others! Peter continues by saying: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” Love is the very essence of God’s divine being. The apostle John tells us twice in his 1st Epistle, as if for emphasis: “God is love” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:8, 16). In that Epistle, he also explains the very nature of that divine love. He writes: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9-10). True and godly love gives; true and godly love sacrifices; true and godly love meets the greatest needs of those who are the object of that love. We are the objects of our Heavenly Father’s divine love—a love wholly connected to and expressed through the life and death of Jesus Christ.
Such a love cries out for—yes, such a love demands—a response! Our hearts cannot and will not remain unaffected by such love. That is why John concludes his description of God’s divine love by saying: “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:11). This is what Peter is referring to in our text. The natural response of our hearts to the love of God will be a sincere and responsive love—a deep and abiding love of the heart for others!
But how can you and I, whose sinful flesh reveals itself all too often in acts of selfishness requiring daily repentance and forgiveness—how can we obtain and sustain such a divine and self-sacrificing love? Peter explains: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” By nature, we do not possess such love, but when the Spirit of God leads us to repentance and faith, we experience a spiritual renewal—a rebirth through the powerful and imperishable Word of God! That Word convicts our hearts of sin, but then refreshes those hearts with messages of God’s merciful forgiveness drawing us into His fatherly embrace and convincing us of His abiding presence. Think of the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lk.15:11-32). Do you think that the wayward son was not changed by his father’s embrace upon returning with a repentant heart? Do you think he was out wasting his father’s possessions the next weekend? I cannot imagine such a thing! That young man’s heart was changed from fear to faith by his father’s warm embrace. That young man’s life was no doubt filled with love rather than lust from that moment on. So it is for each of us as we feel our Heavenly Father’s embrace through the gospel message of Jesus Christ!
It is that “living and enduring word of God” to which we can turn and upon which we can build our lives here and our hopes for the future. It is to that Word to which we are to listen—not to the siren voices of the people and the world around us.We cannot sustain our love upon the basis of the thoughts and theories of men—no matter how glorious they may seem to usat any given time. That is why Peter concludes our text with these words: “For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;the grass withers and the flowers fall,but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.” People are people! They are born, they flourish, they reach their prime, but inevitably they age and fade away. The Word of God, however, “endures forever!” This is the Word being preached to you this morning. This is the Word you read in your personal devotions. This is the Word we are privileged to share with one another in family devotions and religious discussions.HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? In answer to that question, Francis Schaeffer wrote an entire book pointing to the Bible. Peter’s response to that question as part of that Bible, and my prayer is that his response will become our own, is that the Word of the Lord endures forever, therefore, live as foreigners in reverent fear; live with your faith and hope resting in God; and live in purity with a deep, heart-felt love for others! Amen.
--Pastor Paul D. Nolting