Years ago my family and a good friend of the family took a wilderness trek. It was truly a wilderness area. We were walking the only path in or out of the area. To illustrate how remote the area was, we walked the better part of fifteen miles and saw no one else.

In the course of the walk, my middle son jumped mid-stride and shouted, "Snake!" I looked ahead on the path and saw a copper head snake stretched across the trail. Our friend, who was right behind that son, had little exposure to the country or to a wilderness area. He immediately thought we were teasing him and trying to make him afraid. It took all the pleading we could muster to keep him from moving ahead and stepping on the poisonous snake. He tried hard to see the snake, but he could not. Since he could not see the snake, he was certain there was no danger. We finally convinced him not to move ahead, but he never saw the snake, not even as the snake crawled off.

Spiritual danger is quite often like that snake and my friend. It can be right in front of us with the power to cause us serious hurt. Yet, if we do not see it, we are convinced there is no danger. In that ignorance, we often inflict heavy, unnecessary pain on ourselves.

I want to begin by reading and commenting on a familiar passage. After that reading and those comments, I want to make some applications.

1 Peter 1:13-21 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

  1. Peter was writing to Gentile Christians (predominantly) who lived in northern Asia Minor who had suffered because of their relationship with Jesus Christ and whose suffering soon would intensify.
    1. Peter said, "You people need to prepare to be even more serious about your devotion to Jesus Christ."
      1. "Prepare your mind to go to work!" [As we might say, "Put on your work shoes and your work clothes!"]
      2. "Get serious about your spiritual commitment!"
      3. "Make sure that your hope is founded on the correct thing--the grace of Jesus' resurrection when Jesus Christ comes again."
        1. Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope money!
        2. Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope physical pleasure!
        3. Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope a desirable life style!
        4. Make the foundation of your hope the grace made available in Jesus Christ's resurrection.
    2. Peter wrote to Christians who lived in an idolatrous environment that embraced a pagan lifestyle [a lifestyle that often encouraged physical indulgence].
      1. "You are now God's children, not children of idolatrous gods."
      2. "You now seek to be obedient to God, not in rebellion to God."
      3. "Because that is true, you will not allow the motives and attitudes which controlled your lives before coming to Christ to continue to control your lives."
      4. "Those past things controlled you because you did not know any better--now you know better."
      5. "Now you have a new reason to exist--the holiness of God."
      6. "If you belong to the holy God, you WILL partake of His nature--you WILL commit yourselves to holiness."
      7. "Slaves are freed [redeemed] with money. However, God did not use money to give you your freedom--He used the precious blood of his son!
      8. "It is God's resurrection of Jesus that gives you your faith and hope."
    3. Were I to summarize Peter's challenge to those suffering Christians in this reading, I would do it in this way: "Following God is serious business! You need to be as serious about being God's holy people as God was about inviting you to be His people! Get serious, and stay committed!"
      1. It did not take a lot of effort to be a person who worshipped the pagan gods--that was pretty much a matter of indulging yourself while you did what was popular in that pagan environment.
      2. However, to embrace God's holiness takes all the effort of a serious commitment.
      3. The only thing that makes that commitment possible, that makes it work, is God's grace revealed in Jesus' resurrection.
      4. Your hope is not in yourself or anything you do!
        1. You cannot merit a relationship with God!
        2. Your hope is God's grace revealed in Jesus' resurrection!
        3. Surely you responsibly obey--but your obedience merely declares your appreciation for God's grace!

  2. Allow me to make some applications to us and to our current lives.
    1. We are walking in the wilderness, and we are about to step on poisonous snakes we are untrained to see.
      1. I often think of my past and am astounded at how much visible change this society has experienced in less than 50 years.
        1. No, I have no desire to roll the clock back to 50 years ago.
        2. No, I do not think 50 years ago was the ideal age.
      2. Many of us here lived in some degree of poverty 50 years ago.
        1. Just as a matter of curiosity--and you do have permission to look around--how many of you were not alive in 1954? How many of you were at least 18 in 1954?
        2. These thoughts are addressed to those alive in 1954.
        3. In 1954, where did you live?
        4. What size house did you have as compared to where you live right now?
        5. Think of the things in your house in 1954, and think of the things in your house today. Is there any difference?
        6. How many cars did your family have in 1954? How did that car or those cars compare to what you are driving right now?
        7. What was your income in 1954? What is it today?
        8. What did you wear in 1954? What do you wear today?
        9. How often did you and your family eat out in 1954?
        10. Where was the church building located [the one you attended] in 1954? What was it constructed of? What kind of educational facilities did it have? What kind of family life center did it have? How many ministers did it have? What were its commitments and involvements?
      3. Take a moment to think and reflect--how much have things changed in this society in 50 years?
        1. Are you aware of the first time you realized that our society surely has changed?
        2. Or, has it changed so gradually that you just woke up one day to the fact that virtually everything is different.
          1. Do you realize that many of the common medications used today did not even exist in 1954?
          2. Do you realize how many people died of heart attacks in 1954 caused by conditions we repair today?
        3. It truly is a whole different world today!
      4. For over 50 years we have gradually become more and more prosperous--for most of us that did not happen all at once.
        1. As we got more prosperous, we lived better and better.
        2. Fifty years ago there were many things congregations could not do because we just did not have the money.
        3. Then, gradually, congregations had more money.
        4. We built buildings we could not afford to finance in the 50s.
        5. We involved ourselves in ministries we could not afford in the 50s.
      5. And at the same time, we could improve our life styles and support the church in growing works.
        1. For years we were so prosperous we could give generously out of our surplus and improve our life styles at the same time.
        2. And now, noticeably, that is coming to an end.
        3. Whereas we had decades that we did not have to make a choice, now increasingly we have to make a choice.
        4. For a long time we thought we could do everything, and now we are forced to realize that we cannot do everything.
        5. Increasingly, we will face the choice--personal lifestyle, or personal expression of faith?
    2. I think Peter's directive we read is very applicable to us.
      1. Peter said, "Folks, it is time to get serious about your commitment to God."
      2. "Remember who and what you were before you were a Christian, and who and what you are now as a Christian."
      3. "Your commitment is not to a godless lifestyle of personal indulgence."
      4. "Your commitment is to the holiness of God, the One who saves you through Jesus Christ."
      5. "You will exist here as a physical creature for only a short time--so do not allow money or pleasure or lifestyle to determine and define who you are."
      6. "There is only one thing that defines who you are--that is God's grace revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
      7. "Because of that grace, you are free to allow God to remake you and your life."

There is coming a moment when God will give all in Christ Jesus a gift. At that moment we will realize as never before that we are totally unworthy of the gift. At that moment we will realize with understanding just how unworthy of God's consideration we are. At that moment we will know how totally dependent we are on God's kindness. At that moment will look back at this life with regret as we remember how stupid our priorities were. At that moment we will understand how little faith we had, how selfish we were, and how blind we were to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At that moment we will realize that the greatest concept was not the freedom of nations, but the freedom to become what God wanted us to be.

Are you what God had in mind when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 November 2004

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