“A NEW WAY OF LIVING”
(A Chosen People – Series in I Peter)
Westgate Chapel 1/28/01 I Peter 3:18-4:6
PROPOSITION: The follower of Christ is called to a new way of living, because of the high price He paid, because we are united with Christ, and because of the coming judgment.
- ON October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic university professor attacked the corruption of the 16th century Catholic church, specifically for their practice of selling indulgences for whatever sins you might want to commit (kind of like get out of jail free cards).
- ROMAN Catholic theology at that time had degenerated into a works salvation. You were saved by joining the church, taking communion at the church, and other practices.
- MARTIN Luther called for reform.
- HE was excommunicated for being a heretic, but his heroic actions ushered in what has since been called The Reformation….and men like John Calvin, John Knox, and others, soon followed throughout Europe preaching that salvation was not by works but by grace through faith.
- THE message of the Reformers sent shock waves throughout the world at that time.
- WESTGATE Chapel stands in the stream of Biblical truth carved out and defended by the brave leaders of the Reformation….many of whom gave their lives for their stand.
- PROBABLY the key text for the Reformers was Ephesians 2:8-9.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.”
- I THANK God and praise Him for the Reformation and the changes it brought to the Christian Church.
- BUT like any element of God’s truth, the very thing that the Reformers gave their lives for is becoming the anchor that threatens to sink the ship.
- LET me explain.
- CHRISTIANITY on the modern Evangelical world has been reduced to two things:
1. The removal of sin guilt.
2. The promise of heaven after death.
- EVANGELICAL scholars have gone to great lengths to convince us that simply by giving mental assent to the truth claims of the Gospel a magical moment of justification takes place…where we are rendered just as if we have never sinned….and that is it!
- POOF! You are a Christian….through faith in Christ alone.
- AND in our desperate attempt to distance ourselves from Roman Catholicism, and be Evangelical….believing that there are NO works that can save you (and it is true….no works can save you)…we have ended up with a brand of Christianity that is powerless to change lives much less a society.
- GEORGE Barna’s research bears this out. In major moral and ethical life issues there is now little or no difference between how Christians live their lives and the people in America who espouse no faith in Jesus Christ.
- IN our attempt to be true to the Reformation we have neglected passages like 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
- THAT is more than “the removal of sin guilt”…..that is a total reorientation of life and living to the person of Jesus Christ.
- THE author of “The Divine Conspiracy,” Dallas Willard, calls our current brand of Christianity, “bar code religion.” (pp. 36-42)
- LET me explain with the help of Top Foods:
* Hold up cabbage.
• Ask for audience to identify the vegetable.
* Scan bar code on cabbage.
• Read the identification on screen.
• Comment on the information contained in the bar code.
* Set down scanner (screen goes black).
* Remove bar code from cabbage and stick on to water melon.
• Ask for audience to identify the melon.
• This bar code doesn’t care what it is attached to.
* Scan bar code on water melon.
• Read identification…cabbage.
* Set down scanner (screen goes black).
- THIS is what Reformation theology has degenerated into in our generation.
- IT no longer matters how you or I live!
- AS long as we have the Christian bar code, which is God’s grace, through faith, plus nothing….our sin problem is fixed, we will go to heaven when we die…and that is all there is to the Christian thing.
- GIVE me a second to push this illustration one step further.
- WOULD someone be a volunteer sinner for me this morning please?
* Describe the life of a sinner.
* Then let’s say that Joe Sinner attended a service at Westgate Chapel, and felt compelled to respond to the call to become a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ.
* Hang the bar code on the volunteer.
* Now, we tell Joe that his sins have been forgiven. Have they? Yes!
* We tell Joe that if he died, he would go to heaven. Would he? Yes!
* Scan the bar code.
• There is the information about Joe that heaven sees.
• It reads, “Saint!”
- BUT here is the problem….and it is huge!
- WE have neglected to tell Joe that the changes of the Christian life go WAY deeper than the bar code.
- AND our attitude towards Christianity is revealed in the little slogans that we like to put on our bumpers…
“Christians are not perfect….just forgiven.”
- SOUNDS lofty…but what it really says is that all we care about it the bar code that says “forgiven,” and we want the world to cut us some slack if our lives are essentially no different than theirs.
- THAT is not the Christianity of the Bible.
- GOD wants ALL of Joe!
- HE wants everything behind the bar code.
(Have “Joe” take his seat)
- CHRISTIANITY is a life to live NOW in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- WE are called to live TODAY a kind of life that is a foretaste of the life in God’s kingdom that we will live for eternity.
- JESUS said in John 10:10,
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
- LIFE abundant is more than sins forgiven and heaven when you die.
- THE Christian life is way more than a get out of jail free card.
* It changes your heart to be like the heart of Jesus.
* It changes your motives in life.
* It removes you from the throne of your life.
* It radically changes how you view other people in your life…and how you treat them.
* It turns your priorities upside down.
* It destroys the idols and other gods you and I have set up to worship in our lives.
* It changes your view of things and the ownership of things.
* It changes your vocabulary.
* It changes you view members of the opposite sex.
* It changes how you are when you get up in the morning.
* It changes how you handle your tax returns.
* It changes your commitment to the truth….it matters to you what “is” means.
* It changes relationships.
* It changes life as it is lived in your family.
“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- HERE is the motivation for this new way of living is…
“…it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13).
- AND the power is the indwelling Spirit of God Himself.
- I AM concerned, troubled in my spirit, that we may just have a nation full of churches….
* With people who have been convinced the bar code is all there is to the Christian life.
* Whose lives demonstrate none of the attributes of God’s kingdom.
* Who will not be ready for the return of Christ.
- THEY are the ones Jesus wrote to in His letter to the church in Sardis, in Revelation 3:1, where He said,
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
- THERE is no other explanation for the Barna findings about the conduct of Christians in America.
- NO wonder Paul warns the Corinthian believers,
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
ii. BECAUSE OF THE PRICE CHRIST PAID FOR US
- NOW, let’s tie this lengthy introduction to I Peter 3:18-4:6 (page 1202).
- PETER gives the believers to whom he is writing three reasons there should be a marked difference in the way they live their lives.
- THREE reasons why the Christian life is way more than bar code religion.
- AND the first reason is because of the price Christ paid for us.
- LET’S read it together from verse 18.
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
- THE memories of the cross must have been so vivid for Peter. He had witnessed it all.
* Christ’s wrestling in prayer in the Garden, with sweat like drops of blood.
* The humiliation of God’s Son and the beating at Herod’s court.
* The crown of thorns, and Jesus carrying the cross bar on the agonizing road to Calvary.
- SOMETIMES when he closed his eyes Peter could re-live every moment of that terrifying day.
- THE day that God came in human flesh and laid His life down in love….and for what?
* For sins…on account of your sins and mine.
* Once for all….the price is paid in full and never needs to be brought up again.
* The righteous for the unrighteous….the sinless Savior on the cross instead of sinful you and me.
- PETER says in verse 18 that it was all….
“…to bring you to God.”
- THE Gospels say that when Jesus died the veil that separated the rest of the world from the Holy of Holies….where God’s presence rested….was torn from top to bottom.
- THE barrier was removed that kept you from the mercy seat and the presence of God.
- JESUS did all that for you and me on the cross.
- NO wonder the writer to the Hebrews says,
“…how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)
- THIS is not a salvation that only deals with the sin issue and heaven when you die….but a reconciliation with God that unites your frail, broken, failing existence to the fullness of the Godhead in Christ Jesus.
- LET’S read on in the last part of verse 18,
“He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…”
- DEATH on the cross didn’t make Him a victim, it made Him the Victor!
- DEATH could not hold Him.
- THE very moment He breathed His last breath and cried, “It is finished!”, verse 19 says that in the Spirit He…
“…went and preached to the spirits in prison (20) who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”
- THE Greek word used for “spirits” indicates that they are the fallen angels, held in prison, awaiting the day of judgment…since the days of Noah.
- AND Jesus announced to the spirits (the Greek word for “preach” is not evangelize, but announce) that He was victorious over sin, death, the grave and hell.
- JESUS announced His triumph over evil.!
- COLOSSIANS 2:15 says,
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
- THEN Peter uses the illustration of the flood and the ark to speak of the coming judgments of God and this great salvation that delivers us from God’s wrath.
- VERSE 20,
“In it (Noah’s ark) only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, (21) and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body (not the outward ceremony of baptism) but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”
- THE inner cleansing of sin, received through faith in Jesus Christ, results in a “good conscience toward God” when it is combined with a life of obedience that flows from a transformed heart!
- VERSE 21b,
“It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (22) who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
- WHAT a wonderful salvation!
- JESUS did all of this to bring us to God!
- THIS great price….is reason to be more than bar code Christians….and to live our lives in the presence and transforming power of the kingdom.
iii. BECAUSE WE ARE UNITED WITH CHRIST
- BUT there is a second reason that there should be a marked difference in how Christians live their lives.
- AND in I Peter 4:1-5, it is because you and I are united with Christ.
- VERSE 1,
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”
- AS followers of Christ we share in His death…and it was a death to sin.
- IN Romans 6:1 Paul puts it this way,
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (2) By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (3) Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
- LET’S read on with the point Peter is making about our new way of living.
“As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”
- YOU see, we are not imitators of Christ, we are supernaturally united with Him.
- SO being a Christian means that we are dead to sin because we are “in Christ.”
- AND there is a power in that union with Christ that enables us to live victoriously.
- THAT is way more than bar code religion!
- BACK to verse 3, in I Peter 4,
“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (4) They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation…”
- WHEN you were one of them you ran this way and that….frantically, just like they did….looking for some meaning and joy in wild parties and dancing and lust and drinking….worshipping things and sports and money.
- YOU used to waste away your life….with them.
- BUT NOW THAT YOUR LIFE IS SO TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN THEIRS (do you get it?)….
“…they heap abuse on you.” (verse 5)
iv. BECAUSE we will all stand before THE COMING JUDGMENT
- THEN here is the last reason there should be a marked difference in how we live.
- IT is because we will all stand before the coming judgment.
- GOD is keeping a set of books that no spin doctor in the world will be able to dance around.
- THERE is a day of judgment coming when we will all give account for how we have lives as Christians.
- YOU say, Pastor, I thought it was only the unbelievers who will be judged?
- THAT is true of the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11, but Paul tells us that…
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- IN I Peter 4:5-6 Peter writes,
“But they (the unbelievers) will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (6) For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
- IN other words, this Gospel has been preached for generations to people who are now dead….in the Old Testament in a veiled form, but now in Christ….
- AND the purpose of this message of the kingdom of God that has been preached for generations?
1. So that when men judge the followers of God….in the flesh…they will see the transforming work of the Spirit visible in their way of living.
2. So that God, who sees the heart, will see the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in their lives from the inside out.
- THREE reasons that there should be a marked difference in how we live as followers of Christ…and not just bar code Christians.
1. BECAUSE OF THE PRICE CHRIST PAID FOR US
2. BECAUSE WE ARE UNITED WITH CHRIST
3. BECAUSE WE WILL ALL STAND BEFORE THE COMING JUDGMENT
- HOW about it Westgate Chapel?
- HOW about a new way of living….not just sins forgiven and heaven when you die.
- HOW about more than bar code religion in the days ahead?