By Chris Thomas
The opening verses of Peter’s letter addresses his hearers as ‘exiles’.
The dictionary defines an exile as, “the state of being barred from one’s native country, typically for political reasons.” But it would be most helpful for us to hear the sense of what Peter is saying if we were to think of the word refugee. The western world is changing quickly—what was a comfortable environment for Christians is fast becoming a place of hostility and civil suspicion. Christian values have moved from being simply tolerated, to now being actively rejected. What we, as Christians in the West, expected to happen in other places, is now happening here.
Peter calls his hearers exiles because that is what they were, in fact, that is what we are. This world is not our home, we are born of a different kingdom. As followers of Jesus, each of us carry a quiet discontent deep in our soul. The great theologian and writer, C.S. Lewis, described it like this, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
You were made for another world, a Kingdom over which Jesus rules eternally, and it is in this kingdom that Peter calls us to take our stand. Or as Peter often says, to live holy lives—set apart lives. When most people try to answer the question, “How do I be holy?”, their first instinct is to think about all the things I should do, or more often than not, all the things I shouldn’t do. But that’s not where Peter starts. He will get to actions, but first, Peter’s concern isn’t about what we should do—but how we should think. Peter wants the gospel to reorient our minds.
“Romans 8 says it like this, ‘What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?’, then the rest of thatlofty chapter roots our confidence in the reality that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ. Nothing.”
A Living Hope
Peter begins his letter with the most foundational of truths: God saves sinners who don’t deserve to be saved. So, let’s begin where Peter begins. Peter says that all of redemption’s history finds it climax in the cross of Christ and an empty tomb; a demonstration of the endless mercy of God. This mercy, shown in the death of Jesus, ushers in a new way of life through the resurrection of Jesus. This is no empty hope that asks hollow questions like, “There must be something better than this life I’m living”, instead it is a living hope, the type that takes us by the scruff of the neck and lifts us above the ruins of this life to see the reality of all that God has in store for those who love him.
Your salvation has been secured—it’s ready and waiting— nothing more needs to be accomplished. More than that, in Christ you are being guarded by God’s power for this salvation! How incredible! How amazing! Salvation is secure. God’s power holds you ready for it. No matter what, no matter what trial or tribulation, no matter what persecution, in fact, no matter about death—if you are in Christ, God wins!
Romans 8 says it like this, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”, then the rest of that lofty chapter roots our confidence in the reality that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ. Nothing.
A Temporary Trial
I know, many of our hardships seem anything but a ‘short time’, but that’s what Peter calls them. Peter is reminding us about a truth that Solomon introduced us to, that this life is a vapour, a morning fog that burns off as the sun rises. Peter says that anything we experience here, as hard and as long as it may feel, is a ‘short time’, a temporary trial in the scheme of God’s eternal plans. Not only are they temporary, Peter says that they aren’t wasted experiences either. The God who can shape dust and breathe on it to create you, can take your pain, your suffering, your tears, and shape it to create life.
A Higher Calling
So now, because of the living hope which we have gained in Christ, God calls us to take a stand. This is a call to live different lives, holy lives—not as a means to gain God’s mercy and grace, but as a response to God’s mercy and grace.
If, today, you know Jesus as the saviour of your soul and Lord over your life—this is no small thing. For you to be acceptable in the sight of God involved far more than you simply ‘turning over a new leaf’ or ‘trying harder to do the right thing’. Your salvation involved more than you making
a decision one day to ‘turn your life around’. God bought you. God saw the mess of your life, the brokenness and rebellion—all the sin, all the hurt, all the shame—and God stepped in with grace and bought you. He redeemed you. And that didn’t come cheap. And it wasn’t temporary. It took the blood of the unblemished, spotless, lamb of God. Peter says that this living hope is set completely on grace. You’ve been called to a higher calling than this temporary world, filled with temporary trials. You have a living hope. And this hope demands minds that are ready for action.
Take A Stand
Some of you have already discovered this truth, the rest of you will discover it soon enough—this world is a hard place to live. Few people grow old with contentment and without regret. Few people grow old without the scars of painful experiences. Even being a Christian isn’t a shield from these things; Jesus said, “In this world you will face trouble...”
You can spend your life on lesser things, on endlessly chasing satisfaction and contentment in a life that will fade away like the morning dew, or you can settle in your heart right now, “The gospel is where I’ll take a stand!”
Chris Thomas was the speaker at the CCCNZ Regional Conferences. Chris serves as the Teaching Pastor of Raymond Terrace Community Church in the Hunter Valley of NSW, Australia.