Control is an enormous issue in America. I seriously doubt that you could name a sector in our society in which control is not a major issue.

Control is certainly a major political issue. Who controls the White House? Who controls international policies? Who controls domestic policies? Who controls the Senate? Who controls the House of Representatives? Who controls the governor's office? Who controls state policies? Who controls city affairs? Almost every political question on every political level begins with this question: who has the control?

Control is certainly a major heath issue. Who controls the direction of this nation's health care system? Who controls the doctors? Who controls the hospitals? Who controls the drug companies? Who controls the insurance companies? Who controls who my doctor is and what health care I receive?

Control is certainly a major issue in congregations. Do the elders control? What do they control? Do the preachers control? What do they control? Do the members control? What do they control? Do special interest groups control? The whole concept of autonomy is basically about control.

For the last three or four decades, the overriding issue in the lives of the individuals is control. When we discuss protecting "my rights," or defending "my freedoms", or intruding in "my space," or asserting "my independence," what are we discussing? We are discussing control, who controls "me."

A basic issue causing major problems in marriages involves questions of control. A basic issue causing major problems in parent and child relationships involves questions of control. A basic issue causing major problems in personal life styles involves questions of control. A basic issue causing major problems in congregations involves questions of control. A basic issue causing major problems in personal godliness involves questions of control.

In being a godly person, is the question of control an internal issue, an external issue, or a combination of both internal and external issues? If it is a combination of internal control and external control, what is the balance?

  1. When Peter wrote the letter we call 1 Peter, he had an extremely difficult task.
    1. He had to prepare the hearts and minds of those Christians who received his letter for hard times and suffering.
      1. In 1 Peter 3:16 he informed them they were going to be slandered.
      2. In 4:12 he informed them that they would be subjected to a "fiery ordeal."
      3. In 4:14 he informed them that they would be reviled because they believed in Christ.
      4. In 4:16 he informed them that they would be subjected to humiliation.
      5. A number of times in chapters 3 and 4 Peter used the word "suffering."
    2. I do not know about you, but that is not the kind of information I want to send to Christians I care about and love.
      1. I do not enjoy giving people bad news.
      2. I have had the experience.
        1. I well remember waiting alone in a hospital to tell a father who came home from a job out of state that his only child, a teenage son, had been hurt in an accident and would not recover.
        2. I well remember waiting at a home to tell a father that the daughter he loved committed suicide.
        3. I well remember having to inform almost a hundred congregations that the government ordered them not to meet again.
      3. It is hard to give people bad news.

  2. Peter prepared these Christians for his bad news.
    1. In chapter one, Peter did two things.
      1. First, he reminded them of the enormous blessings God had given them.
        1. Verse 3: God's great mercy.
        2. Verse 3: the new birth which gave them a living hope that was made possible by Jesus' resurrection.
        3. Verse 4: their indestructible inheritance that was reserved for them in heaven.
        4. Verse 5: the protection of God's power.
        5. Verses 6-9: anything that happened would only prove their faith and save their souls.
      2. Second, he reminded them of their commitment.
        1. Verses 13, 14--they belonged to Christ to serve God's purposes.
        2. Verse 15-21--because they belonged to God through Christ, they were committed to being holy just as their God is holy.
      3. Because they obeyed the truth and purified their souls, they must love each other fervently (1:22).
        1. If they understood who they were,
        2. If they understood what was temporary and what was permanent,
        3. They would love each other fervently.
    2. In chapter 2, Peter reminded them of who they were.
      1. Verses 1-3: knowing the Lord's kindness meant they must not live like people who did not know the Lord.
      2. Verses 4-10: they lived and acted like living stones who were God's temple.
      3. Being Christians made them unique as people.
        1 Peter 2:9,10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
    3. Even though bad times were coming, they would behave in truly distinctive ways.
      1. Verses 11 and 12 said they would be the slandered, but the way they lived would prove the slanders false.
      2. In verses 13-17, Peter stated that even though they would be slandered, they would be good citizens.
      3. In verses 18-25, Peter stated the even though Christians who were servants would be slandered, they would be good servants.
      4. In 3:1-6, Peter stated that even though Christian wives would be slandered, they would be exceptional wives known for godly behavior.
      5. In 3:7, Peter stated that even though Christian husbands would be slandered, they would be exceptional husbands treating their wives with understanding and honor.
      6. In 3:8-12, Peter said that even though the times would be tough on Christians, they would be a kindhearted, humble people that tried to live in sympathy and harmony with everyone.

  3. What is your reaction to Peter's letter thus far?
    1. "Get real! No way!"
      1. "Peter told these people they were going to be slandered, but they would prove the slanders false by being kind, gentle, considerate people?"
      2. "Who are you kidding? That IS NOT the way you confront and fight injustice! That is not the way you defend your rights! That will not work!"
    2. I would hate to have the responsibility of writing Peter's letter to American Christians today.
      1. First, we would get terribly upset if someone who knew what he was talking about told us we would be slandered.
      2. Second, we would get just plain angry if someone who knew what he was talking about told us we were going to suffer.
      3. Third, we would resent being encouraged to counter these problems by living good lives of kindness and gentleness.
    3. If you conclude this is just the way people reacted back then, you make a big mistake.
      1. If these were just "natural reactions," Peter had no need to write them this letter.
      2. Peter explained how they could prepare for the coming slander and suffering.
      3. They were to prepare in most unusual ways.

  4. How did Peter suggest that they prepare and react?
    1. In 3:13, Peter reminded them that the wisest approach to escaping harm was zealously to do good.
    2. In 3:14, Peter admitted that did not always work--sometimes people hated righteousness so much they harmed good people just because those people belonged to Jesus Christ.
    3. This is what Peter said to do when they suffered for being righteous.
      1. Do not let their brand of fear intimidate and trouble you (3:14).
      2. Seat Jesus Christ on the throne of your heart (3:15).
        1. Give him and him only the position of Lord.
        2. Put Jesus, and only Jesus, in control of your attitudes and behavior.
        3. Be ready when those hurting you ask how you can be a calm person full of hope when you are being treated terribly.
        4. Be ready to explain your hope, not defiantly, but gently.
      3. Always maintain a good conscience (3:16).
        1. Be true to what you know to be right in Christ.
        2. Live in ways you understand to be loyal to Jesus.
        3. If you do that, those who slander you will be shamed by their slander.
      4. Why?
        1. One answer: Jesus Christ.
        2. God proved in Jesus' death if the choice is between suffering for what is right or suffering for what is wrong, God's people suffer for what is right.

  5. Most of us are grieved and distressed by many of the tragedies among Christians.
    1. Christians as a group do not do things well.
      1. We do not do closeness well.
      2. We do not do marriage well.
      3. We do not do parenting well.
      4. We do not do church well.
      5. We do not do crises well.
      6. We do not do tragedy well.
      7. We do not do sickness well.
      8. We do not do dying well.
    2. Sometimes we get alarmed and decide THE solution is to teach people "how to."
      1. Teach people "how to" build relationships, "how to" worship, "how to" handle hardship, "how to" die.
      2. I am all for teaching people "how to" and readily admit that we do not do enough to help people understand "how to."
      3. But if we think we will solve our many problems by teaching people "how to," we are terribly mistaken.
    3. The basic problem in America and in the church in America is not a "how to" problem; the basic problem is the control problem.
      1. Sometimes I fear we want to teach people "how to" do everything but have faith in God.
      2. We desperately need to teach people to seat Jesus Christ on the throne of their hearts and turn control over to him.
      3. Our basic problem: the wrong things control our lives.
      4. No matter what you teach people "how to" do, as long as Jesus Christ is not the Lord in control of their lives, things will not go well.

When we combine Jesus' control of our lives with teachings that show us "how to," God does powerful things. Who sits on the throne of your heart? Who controls your life?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 July 2001

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