We have an incredible ability
to be swollen with high levels of arrogance.
1 Peter 3:13-17
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
A close friend of my family told me last Sunday that her unsaved biking partner was killed just two weeks ago while riding her bike. Ecclesiastes says it is better to go to her funeral than to go to the movies to your favorite sporting event or thanksgiving dinner.
James 4:13 -14
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
We have an incredible ability to be swollen with high levels of arrogance. I believe America is “the house of feasting.” The culture of this place is to try to fill your days with as much mirth and comfort and entertainment as possible. To distract ourselves from the end of all mankind. The american culture does not produce people who lay to heart the end of all mankind.
And you can see it in the way we strut through life with an arrogance like there will be no Day of Reckoning. We think we are strong and wise and able and enduring – but we are but a vapor, soon to vanish off the face of this planet and to appear before our Maker.
Recently, I have had some health issues come to a crisis point and I have been made aware through this crisis that there has been a subtle arrogance in my life.
To make a long story short, I have a vitamin deficiency and one result of that deficiency was that I actually had a few psychiatric events – what appear to be some kind of seizure. I felt like I was losing my mind. This was, to say the least, an unsettling experience. I felt like I was slowly becoming like king Nebuchadnezzar when he was driven from men and his dwelling was with the beasts of the field.
But by the grace of God, through the intercession of the saints, modern technology, and the wisdom of my doctor, it was discovered that I had this vitamin deficiency. So As my vitamin levels have begun to improve so has my energy level, outlook, and use of my mind.
But, I realized through this, that I had been subtly assuming that some how it was my power and ability and intellect that was responsible for accomplished things in my life. I would never had said this, but this was evidenced by the feea in my heart when my strength was taken. Who is holding your mind together?
Brothers and sisters, we are but dust – a mist in the hands of God. How easy it is to say with our mouth, God is God, and yet to live and function as if we ourselves has power and wisdom and life in and of ourselves. You and I are mist. Let us remember and take it to heart.
Considering the Gospel
But even as our weakness and creatureliness and God’s power and authority must be firmly in our hearts at all times, you and I, who are born again have something else we must lay to heart which Peter is calling us to consider this morning.
Peter has just finished (in verses 8-12) drawing our hearts to consider our calling into the New Life in Christ and the final blessing that means for us who have believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We are no longer creatures who have the face of the Lord against us, but we are those who have the eyes of the Lord on us for good and He is open to our prayers. Yes, we are those who have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
And what Peter does now is to draw out a stunning conclusion from this gospel hope of glory; a conclusion that will radically change the way we live on this planet until Christ appears – if we believe it.
So let’s take a look.
The conclusion that Peter draws out of the hope that we have is found in verse 13 and 14.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.
So First, let’s just make sure that these to sentences are clear. Let’s make sure we have a handle on how these two sentences relate to one another. I think that all of our translations begin verse 14 with the word, “but” which typically introduces a contrast. However, in this case the contrast is more subtle than we might at first think. In fact, one commentator says that the greek ‘alla’ would more helpfully be translated “indeed.”
At any rate, Peter begins by asking a rhetorical question, “…who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” And the assumed answer is: no one! His point in fact is that No one can harm you if you are zealous for what is good! We will come back to this incredible point in a moment.
But you can imagine and may yourself be thinking, “there are plenty of people who would love to harm us and do in fact harm us, even if, and perhaps especially if we are zealous for what is good. Those who deeds are evil do not like their deeds exposed or called what they are.” So, Peter, anticipating this clarifies what he means in the next sentence: “But [indeed!], even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”
It is not Peter’s intention here to imply that the the Christian life is typically easy and comfortable. In fact, Peter has again and again in this letter told us that, suffering is to be expected in the Christian life. No – His point is that, there is no one on the planet who can really harm you. Those who are born again will be everlastingly blessed! No matter what happens, at the end of the day, you will be blessed beyond your wildest imagination.
So when He says in verse 13, “who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” He is saying, if you are a Christian, one on whom the eyes of the Lord are looking and for whom His ears are attentive and open to their prayer, if you are a Christian, one called to be zealous for what is good, than there is no power in hell or on the earth that can ultimately harm you.
The thought here parallels Paul’s though in Romans 8:31 – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
In fact, Paul knows that many are against us and at the end of that same chapter he will list tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword as things that are against us… But Paul’s point is that even in all those things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! Paul knows there are people against us. Even against us to the point of putting us to death, and yet he says, “if God is for us who can be against us!”
Both Paul and Peter are unpacking the glorious and incredible implication of being a Child of God. No one can successfully harm you – not with words, or jail, or guns – not really! Do you believe this? If God is for, us who can be against us?
How Then Shall We Live?
If we do it will change the way we live. How then shall we live?
In the second half of verse 14 Peter tells us how we then should live: He gives us three instructions. The first two hang together and the third grows out of the first two.
So, because no one can harm you, not really, as a child of God,
- Do not fear them, nor be troubled.
- Instead, in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord
- Always be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that you have.
So let’s look at each of these.
Sanctify Christ as Lord
I want to start with the second in this list, but as I said, the first two hang together – they are like two sides of the same coin. But I want to focus first on the positive instruction: Honor Christ the Lord as Holy in your hearts.
This instruction from Peter is the same idea we find in the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” That word ‘hallowed’ is the same word employed here by Peter to describe what we are to do with Christ in our hearts. We are to set Him apart, to distinguish Christ from all other things in your heart, to set him apart. But Peter says we are to set Christ apart as something: as Lord.
We are being called this morning to get ourselves aligned with the way things truly are in this universe. Who rules and reigns over this world? truly? Who has authority in heaven and on the earth? It is Christ. He is Lord. Will any of God’s enemies triumph over Him?
“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
Isaiah 45: 22-23
“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
At whose name will every knee bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess is Lord to the glory of God the Father? Jesus Christ, the eternal Son who has come and conquered sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, as you think about your life, who is reigning as Lord. In truth, Christ is Lord. But in your heart is Christ Lord of heaven and earth and all they contain? Is He esteemed by you as Supreme and Powerful and Victorious? Or, in your heart, is there someone or thing that has your trust. Are you banking on someone or something else to achieve victory and happiness and success and blessing? Yourself? Your job? Your wife? Your kids? Your friends? Food, drink, money, sex? —— all mist.
Do Not Fear Them
But, let us flip the coin over now and look at the other side of Peter’s instruction. Peter says at the end of verse 14, “Do not fear them (them who make you suffer), nor be troubled, but set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Do you see how these two instructions are so closely tied. Peter says, “don’t fear those who try to harm you and cause you suffering. Don’t fear them, like they have any real power. They don’t! Christ is Lord. Set Him apart in your heart.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
Oh, we need to keep perspective.
Don’t fear anything or anyone. But reverence God as God – esteem Christ as Lord over heaven and earth and your life and eternity – as He truly is. Your Savior is Lord and so you need not fear anything or anyone!
Now this kind of heart set, leads to strange behavior. It leads to behavior like self-sacrificing love – do you see why? because your treasure is secured by Christ. Faith leads to joy in the mist of affliction, and peace when the tempests rage, and patience when others treat you unjustly, and kindness when your mistreated and maligned, and goodness when there is no immediate earthly reward, and gentleness when treated roughly, and self-control when under pressure and pain, and fearlessness in the face of death. When you trust Christ to be the triumphant Savior He has promised to be for you, you become as strange person. A freed and fearless person.
And so, Peter gives a third instruction: always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for [your strange behavior, that is…] the hope that is in you.
The glorious news of the gospel is that God has sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, the triumphant Lord and all who will trust Him for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting and full will find Him to be a mighty Savior – and in fact, all who are His cannot be harmed by anyone or anything – not really. So, don’t fear anyone or anything, but set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and when people see your strange free and fearless behavior and ask you for a reason for the hope that you have – be ready to answer them by pointing them to Jesus.
A Grand Purpose
Now before we wrap this section up this morning, there is something Peter does here that is so important to see. In verses 16 and 17 Peter appeals to us on the basis of being welcomed into God’s grand purpose to glorify Himself. in verse 16 Peter highlights something that I think many of us don’t think much about, but need to think about. We need to think about the shaming of the wicked.
One of the things that will glorify God at the end of the age is the absolute shame of the wicked.
Isaiah 2:11-12, 17
The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
For the Lord of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
God will be exalted as God and the wicked will be shown to be what they are. God will utterly shame the wicked and one of the ways He will do it, (so we read here from Peter) is through your godly and Christ-honoring suffering.
He says in verse 15
“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
You and I have been welcomed into God’s plan to exalt Himself on the final day – and we participate when we suffer for righteousness sake, when we trust Christ as Lord and as the Mighty Savior and are zealous for what is good even when it is painful and unpleasant and costly. It is your gentle and respectful behavior that will shame those who slander, revile, and cause you suffering.
Now this verse doesn’t say explicitly that this shame will only come on the final day. It may be that this shame could happen on the spot and bring repentance and conviction and may be what the Lord uses to save your persecutor. But either way your good behavior is part of God’s plan to either save or silence everyone who stands before the King of kings, Jesus Christ the Lord.
Your trusting in Jesus in the midst of being rejected by friends and family is a clear testimony to them that Jesus is powerful and trustworthy and valuable – He is Lord. And so do not fear them, but set Christ apart as Lord and be ready with an answer.
I’d like to point out just one more thing here that I think is intended to equip us for suffering well until the King Jesus appears. And that is the phrase, “if that should be God’s will…” In context, it seems that Peter is saying that it is better to participate in God’s designs to glorify His name by suffering for doing good than suffering for doing evil. But Peter undergirds our suffering for doing good with the phrase, if that should be God’s will.
Apparently, God’s will for His children in this world is not that we be wealthy, comfortable, and carefree. It is not God’s will that all His children avoid persecution or famine or sword or rejection. It is not God’s will to deliver us from every conceivable discomfort. No, God has higher purposes. And it is in fact the case that it may be His desire that you walk through suffering with strange hope-filled behavior so that the world is compelled to ask for a reason for the hope that you have – and you bear witness for God that Jesus is a mighty and trustworthy Savior.
God has a grand purpose, that he is working to accomplish. God is working to create a people who have come to understand, #1. that Jesus Christ is a mighty Savior and that He is coming soon, and #2. all who trust Him have nothing more to fear. And this people that God is creating are people zealous for what is good even if it costs them everything here, because they are children of God, born of His Spirit and their reward is secure in heaven.
Brothers and sisters, let us get our eyes and hearts up. Let us not waste our sort lives on trivial pleasures and passing sins, but let us set Christ apart as Lord in our hearts and not be troubled by the raging of sinful men who have no real power over us. Instead, let us always be ready to defend, with gentleness and respect, why we are so filled with hope – to the glory of Jesus Christ and for the honor of His name and the saving of the parsing and the silencing of the wicked. May Christ equip us and may He come quickly!