Give

Give

Give

1 Peter 2:11-12 - Wandering? Or Lost?

February 28, 2021 Speaker: Pastor Bill Series: 1 Peter: Unshakeable Hope

Passage: 1 Peter 2:11–2:12

INTRODUCTION

In J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” there is a poem that speaks prophecy concerning one of the main characters, Strider, who is actually the heir to the throne. It is quite famous, even quoted on the back of Jeep Wranglers spare tire covers by people who have possibly no clue where it came from. It goes like this:

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

 

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.

Were you to spend some time thinking about the poem and discerning the intended meaning, you would see that it speaks of the truth that at times there are things that appear rough or dirty but they are actually good and precious. A gaudy facade hides worthless value underneath, but a diamond will not shine until it is polished. In the Lord of the Rings, Strider, secretly the rightful king of Gondor, appears to be a wandering, homeless Ranger. 

Why do I share this? It’s been just about a year since all of this began to unfold around us. I have been depressed. I have been anxious. I have talked myself, logically, out of both of those things. But, it has been difficult. Most days, as I have said before, I feel like a bucket w/ gaping holes in the bottom. I wake up eager to be filled afresh by the Holy Spirit only to feel depleted in a brief matter of time. 

This is a dangerous place to be, as you know, because, quoting Jesus, it is the worries and concerns of life which choke out our fruit. How much fruit has already been lost? It does the disciple no good to expend unnecessary energy on such regret. 

We are wandering in the wilderness right now, are we not? Don’t you feel, at times, like the Israelites being brought out of Egypt by mighty Exodus only to wander for a generation in the wastelands? Do you feel as though God is silent? Do you feel terribly alone? Do you feel like you are wandering? But are you lost? The question, you see, is not if you are wandering, but if you are lost. As Steve reminded me this week, “There is a difference between being aimless and being in the wilderness.”

We need to realize that being a wanderer is part of our identity in Jesus, but being lost and aimless is not. We can still have a firm goal in mind even while wandering in the unknown.

1 PETER 2:11-12

After reminding his readers of their glorious identity as living stones, royal priests, recipients of mercy, and the new people of God in the previous verses, Peter brings them full circle to the identity that he brought into focus at the beginning of the letter.

[11] Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. [12] Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

God’s people, dearly beloved by Peter and by the Lord Jesus, are sojourners and exiles. A sojourner is someone who resides in a particular place temporarily, whereas an exile is someone who has been barred from their own native country. An astute reader should note that these two identities are less savory than that of royal priest and holy nation! Nonetheless, they are just as true as the others. 

Suffering, restlessness, disappointment, yearning for something more, an unmet hope for the future is as much a part of our identity as are the other more encouraging descriptors that we have explored. 

Adam was the first exile, being forcibly displaced from the Garden of Eden. Abram was sent as a sojourner into a far country yet to be seen. Jacob labored as a migrant under the abusive control of his father-in-law. Joseph was sold as a slave to a land that was not his own. Moses himself dwelt in the wilderness for 40 years after trying to take the issue of deliverance into his own hands. Then, he had to die in the wilderness years later after the entire nation was subjected to sojourning following their own disobedience. Under the monarchy, the entire nation of Israel would be exiled under the oppressive boot of Assyria and Babylon.

But it is not always sin that causes sojourning. Jesus sojourned, traveling around Israel. He said that even foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man (Jesus) had nowhere to rest his head. Jesus was a sojourner. Jesus was a nomad. Jesus knew he was just passing through until he would be able to return home.

It is this type of sojourning that Peter has in mind, as well as the author of Hebrews, when he says that we are simply pilgrims on our way to the city of God. What we need to realize as we wrestle with the identities of exile and sojourner is this: in this life we may feel as though we are wandering, but we do have a destination. We are not aimless people. We are not a purposeless people. We aim for the glory of God knowing, with confidence, that we will see it fully unveiled. The spiritual tools given to us (prayer, the Word, the Spirit, proclamation, love) are to be employed regardless of where we wander, how long we wander, or even why we wander. 

Exploring deeper, look at what Peter says one more time:

[11] Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. [12] Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Peter implores his audience, in light of their identities as strangers in this world, to pay close attention to their conduct among the Gentiles. Specifically, he says to abstain from the passions of the flesh and to keep their conduct honorable. 

I met Hassan in Greece in the Moria refugee camp. We spent time together while on a vision trip almost two years ago and then we were blessed to spend time together once more prior to his transfer from Greece to Sweden to be reunited with his son, who he hadn’t seen in four years despite being a teenager. Having survived the almost two year process from leaving his home country to being in Moria, and receiving documentation to not only leave the camp but travel to Sweden, Hassan now faces the threat of deportation, along with his whole family. Since President Obama removed the ‘status of war’ from Afghanistan (which to us and the UN is simply a title on paper), Hassan and his family are now classified as illegal migrants instead of refugees. Although Hassan was a refugee when he first left Afghanistan, now he is considered to be an illegal. Despite hardships that would face him at home - forced recruiting under penalty of death for his sons to join Al Qaeda - the government has determined that he has no legal reason to stay in the country. Now, he waits for appeals. In the process, by the way, Hassan and his whole family have come to faith. 

Why do I share this? The first thing that we need to realize is that Peter writes this because being an exile or a sojourner is a dangerous thing to be. As an exile, you are at the mercy of the nation in which you are currently residing. You are always an outsider, always a threat, always the minority. As an exile, the only people who understand you, truly, are other exiles. They have walked the road you’ve walked. Others have not. 

Christians, similarly, are exiles and sojourners, and they will never fit in with their host country or culture. There is something intrinsic in our new identities that make us stand out as square pegs in round holes regardless of where we live. The culture of the world, though of course on a spectrum, will always be hostile in some capacity to followers of Christ. This is not our home. We are travelers. We are wanderers. The last thing that we need to draw attention to ourselves. Instead, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, we should strive to live a quiet life. 

Now, quiet doesn’t mean silent! Peter just got done telling us to proclaim his excellencies in the gospel. So what does Paul mean and is he contradicting Peter? Not at all. For Peter, living a quiet life means living a life of integrity, which is why he tells his readers to abstain from the passions of the flesh and to live honorably. 

Abstaining from the passions of the flesh means to be on guard against the temporary pleasures of life. “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things” are not evil in and of themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. The enjoyments of the flesh are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and enjoying hobbies and talking with friends. And each and every one of them, if not kept in submission to the King of kings, can be deadly and can - quite efficiently - eviscerate your soul. When Jesus speaks of what holds a man back from following him it is not fear of death or persecution but a field, a new set of oxen, and a wife. 

These days, we have had a great number of enjoyable things stripped from our lives. Hobbies, going out to eat, even school - all of these things have been impacted (and many more)! As sojourners, living out of a tent with only the bare essentials strapped to our camel, isn’t it enticing to settle down in Babylon and enjoy life like everyone else? Indeed, it is a very real temptation, and it can kill your soul. The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but the appetizers that stuff you full so you have no more appetite for the main course. 

But Peter then mentions something else, to live honorably among the Gentiles so that “when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” We should draw a few things from this clause. 

First, ‘they’ will speak evil against you. Indeed, “you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matt 10:18). The world is not your friend. It is the kingdom of satan. We should pray for it, have compassion on it, be kind to it, and demonstrate love without measure, but we should NOT be in love with it. It despises you and one day will turn on you like a wolf to a sheep. 

Second, Peter is assuming that you have good deeds. Living a good life - a life of love, kindness, compassion - has great value. An angry life has no value. A bitter life has no value. A good life, a life of integrity, has value. But what value? It does not have value in getting you what you want. I can assure you that if you always do the right thing you will not end up on top, but at the bottom. You will not be the hero nor the victor in the world, but you will be counted as great in the kingdom of heaven, for many who are first will be last and many who are last shall be first. 

Third, your integrity will pay off when Jesus comes back. You may not experience it today, but one day you will. It will be a testimony to your faith even in the midst of unfounded accusations.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?

Right now we are experiencing a lot. We are all weary. We have been privileged in the United States to, for the most part, enjoy religious freedoms and no real threat of severe persecution, but this is not our identity. Perhaps what we are missing most in our faith as Americans is a theology, an understanding, of suffering, which is non-negotiable in the New Testament. Indeed, all who seek to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Instead of growing frustrated and angry, as I have been doing, we need to embrace the identity of wanderer, sojourner, and exile.

Sojourners are wandering, but they aren’t aimless. We know where we are going. We are headed to the New Jerusalem, to the Far Country, to go and be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who went ahead to prepare a place for us and is coming back to retrieve our bride. You may feel as though the church and your life have no meaning or aim right now, but that is a lie. The goal hasn’t changed. We exist to glorify God by making disciples who make disciples until the whole world hears. The hurdles are different. The tactics need to shift and change. But let us not grow weary of doing good because we WILL reap a harvest in the proper time if we don’t give up. I refuse to lay down and die from apathy, and if I go to jail, let it be for preaching the gospel and not for refusing to wear a mask. Live and die for something that matters and what matters these days and all days is the gospel of Jesus! 

Revolve hasn’t lost its oomph, but it is struggling. Jesus is still building his church, but Revolve has no guarantees. But my goal is not to plow my way back to the ruins of Jerusalem, but to teach you to thrive in Babylon, while we wait for the restoration of all things. In other words, I am far more concerned with how to equip you to function in the most certain impending calamity than to stop it. 

Sojourners have no space nor time for excess. When you need to travel long distances, you travel light. When I travel internationally I basically bring a jansport backpack. So much of what we thought we needed to “do church” was just extra. We can make do with a whole lot less. We don’t need a permanent location (even though it was nice). We don’t need all the bells and whistles and programs (although we enjoyed them). Actually, there are incredible benefits to being trim and thin. Like, for example, radical generosity. What if God knows the pace is quickening and the return of Christ is on the horizon and he has orchestrated us to lose our building for such a time as this - without losing any of our giving - so that we can GIVE MORE locally and internationally so that his fame is continually spread. Isn’t that worth it? Isn’t that better? To be a people defined by radical, nonsensical generosity?

Sojourners need to stick together. These days are hard. Being in the service with your kids? It’s difficult. Sitting out in the cold? It’s a challenge. We need one another. Exiles stick together. Sojourners travel with others. Refugees don’t go at it alone, but band together with fellow refugees. These are the days when it will take a village to raise our children. If you see a parent struggling, by all means go and help them out! These are the days when it will be a challenge as people lose jobs, have to homeschool kids while working and so much more. Do I have the answers? No. Do I know what to do? No. But we will figure it out by the Spirit’s leading - together. 

Psalm 84:5–7 reads:

[5] Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

[6] As they go through the Valley of Baca

they make it a place of springs;

the early rain also covers it with pools.

[7] They go from strength to strength;

each one appears before God in Zion.

The highway to Zion is the pilgrimage that we all take. Zion is another word for Jerusalem, the city of God. We are on that path, we ponder it, we give our heart and strength to it. But before we get to Zion we go through the Valley of Baca, and Baca means suffering. It had almost no water in it except for during the early spring rains, but God’s people make springs in it with their tears and their weeping. This isn’t weakness, though, it is strength and as we keep walking it leads to more strength. 

The weak thing to do right now is to give up, to grow apathetic, to not heed the warnings of Scripture and to let your love grow cold. Now is not the time to grow fainthearted, to lose faith, or to lack courage. Now is not the time to isolate yourself. Now is the time to press on and persevere. 

Yes, we are wandering. Yes, we feel like strangers in our own country. Yes, we are now exiles more than ever before. But we are not lost. We know exactly where we are going. And Revolve Church is wherever we are - together.

More in 1 Peter: Unshakeable Hope

April 18, 2021

God's Purpose in Suffering

April 4, 2021

The Resurrected King of All

March 28, 2021

How to Suffer for Righteousness and Not Stupidity