FEELING LIKE FOREIGNERS NOW, BUT NOT FOREVER

Week 9 – 8.6.17

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1 Peter 2:11-25

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

You are a foreigner and exile.  You look different.  Talk different. Think different.  Act different.  Sure, you celebrate the 4th of July and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every kind of ballgame, but you are living as an alien in this land.  Do you know how I know that?  Here’s what God says: you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

See, brothers and sisters, when Jesus called us to faith, he gave us a new life that encompasses all of life, not just certain days or select portions of days.  You aren’t just a child of God on Sunday morning or at home, but he made you his child all of the time.  That’s what we want to review todays and we listen to what Peter has to say about Christian life in society.

In order to talk about our life in society, we first need to address the way we view humanity as a whole. To do that, we need only go to the well-known passage, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son…” Jesus lived a holy life for all. Jesus shed his lifeblood for all. He did not die for some more than for others. The umbrella of his redeeming work did not leave some out in the rain.

Jesus gave his life for all humans because God made mankind in his image, perfect and in holy harmony with God.  He intended that to continue for eternity. So when mankind ruined that harmony, God sent his Son to restore that harmony for all humans. If Jesus gave his life for all, that means that God has imposed the same value on all people, regardless of color, ethnicity, language, ability, age, or any other qualifier. That value, that price tag is this: worth the expenditure of the precious blood of his own Son.

You have never encountered anyone – I don’t care how much they rub you the wrong way or how curmudgeonly they conduct themselves – you have never encountered anyone worth less than you. You have never encountered anyone for whom Jesus did not shed his blood, anyone whom God does not love with an all-surpassing love.

So if God loves everyone, what should be our attitude toward everyone? We should love them too. The most basic command when considering God’s will for our life in society is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving them does not mean we have to feel good about them; it means that we regard them as people for whom Christ died and that we always seek to do what is best for them, regardless of how we feel about them. Help and befriend them in their bodily needs. Help them improve and protect their property and means of income. Defend them, speak well of them, and take their words and actions in the kindest possible way. Set a good example for them in the way you act and speak. Honor, serve, and obey them if they are in authority over you.

Also remember that your goal in doing all these things isn’t just to make the world a better place, or even just to make Christ happy. Peter told us what our goal is: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Your goal is to win souls for heaven. People can and do argue with doctrine and slander organized religion, but it is extremely difficult to argue with love. It is extremely difficult for someone to say to you, “Your religion is worthless,” when you consistently treat them in a fundamentally different way than most, treating them in a way that reflects the value and worth God has given them as souls for whom Christ shed his blood. Little else so attracts people, especially skeptics, to the Christian Church and the gospel of Christ like Christian love does. That’s why God made you a foreigner, living with this selflessness and loving servant heart

Secondly, in order to talk about our life in society, we need to realize what holds sway in society, what makes it go, so to speak. Here we need to talk about the doctrine of the two kingdoms of God. First, there is the  kingdom of the word.  That’s the kingdom that cares primarily for souls, the kingdom of the Church.  And there’s the kingdom of the sword.  That’s the kingdom that cares primarily for bodies, the kingdom of the State. In the Church, the gospel holds sway, but in the State or civil government, the law holds sway, because society is also made up of unbelievers and people who care nothing for God. Thus, if there is to be any good accomplished in society, society needs to be forced and compelled to do it by reward on the one hand and threat of punishment on the other.

The godless employee does his job well not because he cares about others, but because he gets money if he does it well, and fired if he doesn’t. The godless politician supports beneficial legislation because the voters are watching. Rape, robbery, and murder are restrained because people don’t want to get fined, imprisoned, or the death penalty. Some have been swayed from divorce because of the legal and financial ramifications.

Here we should note, before going on, that this is precisely why your Christian love in society has such a huge impact. In a world where most are doing the right thing because they have to, it is a breath of fresh air to encounter Christians doing the right thing because they want to. In a world where mechanics are fixing your car because they want to feed their family and not get sued, it is a breath of fresh air to encounter a Christian who fixes cars because he is genuinely concerned about your possessions and your transportation ability. In a world where employers give their employees fair pay and benefits because it’s mandated by law, it is a breath of fresh air to encounter a Christian employer who gives his employees fair pay and benefits, perhaps even more than what is mandated, because he is generous and genuinely cares about their lives and their families outside of work.

Nevertheless, civil government with its law-based system is a valid institution of God. Here’s our God-given attitude toward civil government: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  It’s makes us look like foreigners to be willing subjects of the government no matter who is ruling, but it’s a good thing.

One application of this, that I need to remember just as much as anyone else, is the way we speak about our president and other elected officials. We often equate conservatism with Christianity. While there are certainly elements of conservatism that are Christian, the two need to be distinguished. Conservatism is a political ideology; Christianity is a religion. Fox News is conservative, but when they disrespectfully rail against our elected officials, that is not Christian. If we have a problem with our elected officials, there are better, godly ways to address those problems than simply railing against them over a cup of coffee. We can call them. We can write to them. And ultimately, we can go to the voting booth or run for office ourselves.

While we’re on the topic of voting, let me say a brief word about that.  We just heard that God has established every government. Ours happens to be a government by the people. To vote, then, is to uphold the government that God has established in our country. So voting is a good thing, but remember that every vote is always going to be a choice for sinful human beings.  Elected leaders can never change the real problem that plagues this world.  They will do their best to keep peace and prosperity, to help our nation on earth. So do your research and use your conscience.

When you are researching the candidates, it is good to look for those who will, as much as possible, uphold God’s moral standards. We heard last week that marriage should be honored by all. We heard in the First Lesson that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. Our first concern should not be, “How will this candidate’s ideology affect my wallet?” Our first concern should be, “How will this candidate’s ideology uphold the standards of God’s law and benefit the country at large?”

After doing all of this, pray that God would bless your vote and the outcome for his purposes. And then remember that Jesus still reigns on the throne of heaven, no matter who gets elected.  His kingdom operates with the power of his Word and that shall be our chief endeavor.   That makes us look like foreigners and that’s a good thing, a godly thing, a heavenly thing.

We should also say something about serving in the military here. Since we do uphold the civil government and its rule by law, that means that we also uphold its God-given right to have an army, to wage war, and to execute criminals. Peter said the authorities punish those who do wrong, and when the soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do, he did not say, “Leave the army.” Not all killing is hateful murder. If God has given authority to kill within a legitimate government and you are working for that government in the armed forces, then you may kill within your sphere of responsibility to the glory of God.  War is a part of a sinful world, not God’s design, so governments will have to make those tough decisions and God has given them the job of making those decisions.  As Christians, we honor those decisions. We need to give our Christian soldiers the benefit of the doubt. Even if we ourselves do not think a war is just, we have the benefit of looking in from the outside. Once a soldier is enrolled in the armed forces, he does not have that benefit to the same extent. Once he is enrolled, it is his job to trust his superiors and follow their orders, because if he does not, he is putting the lives of his fellow soldiers at risk.

The last thing we need to say about God’s other kingdom, the civil government, is what Peter says in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.” If the government explicitly mandates something that is contrary to God’s will as clearly expressed in his Word, then we not only may, but also should disobey it. That doesn’t mean we riot and rebel. It means we simply disobey. If we know it will mean consequences, we have two choices – humbly accept the consequences or move to a different country.

In closing, thank God that we not only live in the kingdom of the law, like all people do, but that we also live in the kingdom of the gospel. Thank God that he has given us the motivation through Christ to want to do what others must be forced to do. Thank God that we have the good news of life eternal beyond this earthly life of sweat, tears, and death. Thank God that he has placed us in a kingdom of the law that, up to the present, has protected our right to promote the kingdom of the gospel and preach the full and free forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. Thank God that he has equipped us not just with the ability to make our society better, but also to save the souls within that society by telling them of our ultimate king, Jesus, who gave his life for you and for me and for the whole world.

A Christian life in this society makes you look like a foreigner now, but not forever.

To God be the Glory.   Amen.

 

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IN, NOT OF

taking-care-of-our-church

 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

 

 

So, are you in or are you of?  Because there is a difference.

Carson Wentz is of North Dakota. (Although Wikipedia says he was born in North Carolina and moved here when he was 3.) This is where he grew up. He went to school here in Bismarck. No matter where his career takes him, he is of Bismarck, and Century High School, and North Dakota State University.  He can’t change that and neither can you.

“Of” is the source that describes your past, and so “of” can also be a helpful description for who I am and what matters to me.  It can give you characteristics about me.  If I say I am of Watertown, WI then you can understand a few things.  You know that I have experienced all four seasons of the year.  I’ve seen the beautiful colors of fall. I’ve trudged through the biting cold of winter.  I’ve worn short sleeves and shorts that first day over 40 in spring time.  I’ve sweated out a hot muggy stretch in summer.  Being of Wisconsin also helps you understand my fanaticism for the Packers and Brewers, brats and cheese.  If you know anything about our Wisconsin Synod, it began in Milwaukee and Watertown.  So you will also know that I kind of grew up in a Lutheran bubble.  I had Lutheran friends and neighbors.  My family and most of my friends’ families had long genealogies in WELS.  I knew tons of pastors and teachers.  I experienced plenty a potluck in my youth.  I played grade school athletics in a league of only Lutheran schools because almost any town around Watertown had a Lutheran school.

There’s one more way that “of” describes a person.  In Luke 2 we hear that Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem to the town of David, because Joseph was of the house and line of David.  “Of” describes to whom you are connected and related.  That’s kind of how last names started in the Middle Ages.  Rather than saying I’m Tom of the house of Martin of the house of Robert of the state of Wisconsin of the immigrants of Germany of the bowl making clan, I can just say all of that with Moldenhauer now.

“Of” says a lot.  So, what does it mean if someone says, “I am of the world?” Well, it means that they are from here, but it also describes a lot about them and what they care about.   If you say, “I am of the world,” that means you really care about this world and it means a lot to you.  That means that things like the elections this November are a big deal.  You watch the coverage and news reports.  You can’t wait for the debates.  You discuss (it seems that means complain about) the issues and the candidates with family and friends.  If you are of the world, then this election is a huge deal and holds a decisive path for the future of our country and world.

If you are of the world that means peace and quiet is probably a rare guest in your life.  Have you noticed how busy everyone is?  Have you noticed how little time people spend in peace without distractions and devices?  If you are of the world then you are caught in the hurry up and go.  Your schedule is maxed to capacity with work stuff, family stuff, fun stuff, and random stuff to the point where you don’t have much of any time for God and his church.  I mean, honestly, if people are of the world, then that means the relationship with God is strained to say the least, because God is not of the world.

If you are of the world, then where is the truth?  You see a world where people are told what they want to hear.  You can’t offend anyone anymore, so morality, politics, religion, sports, hobbies, food – all that stuff is all in the eye of the beholder.  You have to make your own way and your own truth.  Do what makes you happy and steer clear of other people so that you don’t offend them.  If you have to say something about personal ideas or feelings, do it on facebook or twitter so you can hide behind social media and a screen.  Then, offer a vague apology post a couple hours or days later.  That’s the way of truth if you are of the world.

If you are of the world then, brothers, then you have probably flared your nostrils and had a heated exchange with someone.  Guys get macho like that sometimes, because we think winning an argument with another guy proves something.  We have this this insatiable desire to be right and to win.  You want to be the person who has the answers and knows how to get things done.   You work really hard to “support your family,” which is maybe a cop out that means you want to give your wife and kids things they want and like.  That’s what is important if you are of the world. And that spills over into other aspects.  You want NDSU to get the 6-peat, or you want UND to pull off a huge upset over NDSU.  You want the Vikings to win tonight so you can say, “We got you, Pastor!!!”

And maybe one final thing that really matters in this world is the way you look.  If you are of the world then, sisters, you are all about fashion and hair and accessories.  You’ve got the magazine subscriptions to see what’s hot this year.  You stop at the malls and shops at least once a week to check out the sale racks.  You’re on a first name basis with the salon stylists. If you are of the world you probably have membership at the Y or at some point in life you’ve taken on a popular diet so that you can look good.  Because these kinds of things really matter when you are of the world.

People who are of the world are into all of this stuff.  You’re consumed by it.  You find your purpose for life in all of the worldly things.  But let me ask, does being “of the world” produce any lasting joy?  Is it really a good thing?  Let me ask it this way: will the election change our life?  Will the busy schedule give us hope for a better future?  Will speaking the world’s version of truth help people who are struggling to find some?  Will cheering for the Vikings or Bison or Brewers help us in the fight against Satan?  Do the shopping trips pay the price for our sins?  Can any of our worldliness help others with their sins?  Does being of this world shine God’s light in the darkness?

Not so much!  In fact, that kind of life is a part of the darkness.  Being of the world is a life where nothing lasts and where we can never stop the pursuit of ourselves. That kind of life is serving the devil’s purpose, really.  And we fall into that scary trap too often.  We get caught think about worldly problems and worldly passions and worldly possessions and worldly preferences.  And we may excuse it saying everyone else is doing it, but that doesn’t work with God.

That’s why God sent Jesus.  He didn’t send Jesus to be of the world.  He sent Jesus into the world.  That’s why Jesus’ main purpose here was not to show us the best kind of political leader.  He wasn’t interested in giving worldly wisdom for us and our kids.  And Jesus’ main message was not motivation to make a better life for yourself.  Jesus came into the world to be the Savior from the world.  He gave himself as a ransom for all.  He paid the price so that people wouldn’t think life is always about paying the price to get ahead. Jesus gave his life so that we can have a life that lasts forever.

God does not want people to fritter away in life trying to make this sin-darkened and broken world a better place.  You see, the world is broken and the devil wants you to think that you can fix it.  He’s hoping that you will love it so much here that you won’t think about eternity that much.   The devil hopes you will buy into the “be part of the solution” mentality.  But it won’t work.  The only solution is Jesus.  And if he wasn’t of the world, do you think you have to be?  No.  You have a God who loved you and saved you for an eternity with him.  You have a God who guards and protects you.  You have a God who guides you in the right paths.

That’s where Paul is getting at with this section of his letter.  If we are saved by God’s grace through Christ, if we have been paid for in full by a Savior who loves us and gave his life as a ransom for us, and if we have the truth that being of the world leads nowhere, then you don’t have to be of this world.  Instead, Paul gives us some ways to live in the world and not of it.

He says that you don’t have to think this election is the be all and end all of America.  You can have the right attitude.  Make requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  That’s the right view of government.  Pray for it.  There is not one divinely ordained government in this world.  Every government is filled with a bunch of sinners just like every country is filled with sinners like us, but God works through the government for the purpose of peace.  God doesn’t want heaven on earth, he wants us to have peace while we serve him with a godly life.  So being in the world gives us the right attitude about government and elections; you’ll pray for a government that allows us to share the gospel, for a government that lets us take care of the church.

Because in this world God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  That’s what matters, the gospel of Jesus.  God wants that to get out.  He wants truth to prevail, because his truth lasts.  If you have been struggling, if you have been running around trying to make life whole again, if you are fed up with everything going on, then the truth is still that God loves you and wants you to live with him in heaven forever.  HE sent his own Son to face hell so that you wouldn’t have to.  There is nothing more powerful than that.

So that changes things for us, brothers and sisters.  We don’t have to be macho men who win arguments, disputes and fights.  We don’t have to be alpha dogs, who everyone is afraid of.  We don’t have to put such an emphasis on being of this world.  We get to be bringers of peace because Jesus brought us peace and we want others to have it to.  We get to be honest leaders because Jesus gave us the truth.  We get to be good examples to our families, friends, and neighbors, because we know that being of this world leads nowhere.  We get to plan out time personally and for the family where Christ is the center.  That might be before or after meals.  That might be before bed times. That might be in the morning.  And that will be every week in church.  That is what a godly man does when he is in the world and not of it.

And for our sisters in Christ, Paul isn’t saying that looking nice and feeling nice is sinful, but there’s no need to find your worth and purpose in how you look or what gossip you know.  That’s being of the world.  God uses you in the world to be the example of decency and propriety.  Our younger girls and daughters don’t need better fashion tips and bigger closets.  They need godly mothers.  And you have a God who makes that possible because he fills you with his grace and mercy through his word and sacrament.

That’s what God has done for all of us.  Because he didn’t make us of the world.  He is using us in the world to be lights where the devil wants darkness.  He is using us to show love, the kind of love that speaks truth and speaks it with such selflessness and humility. All by grace and mercy, God is using us to take care of his church so that people will know their Lord and Savior.

So, are you in or are you of?  Thank God that he sent Jesus into the world to save us from being of the world.  As you go out this week, be in, not of.  God grant it.  Amen.