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1 Peter 1:17

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Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and this includes you boys and girls, what makes you afraid? Perhaps you are afraid of the dark? Or maybe you’re scared of embarrassing yourself in front of your friends.
And with Covid-19 sweeping across the globe, many of us are worried about the future. Will my family and I stay healthy? What about my parents and grandparents? And what about my job? And if I’m laid off from work, how will we pay our bills?
So many questions and concerns come to our minds, and it’s so easy for us to be afraid. But when we look at our text for this morning, 1 Peter 1:17, we must ask ourselves this question, “Do I fear the LORD?”
Theme:
I bring you God’s Word from 1 Peter 1:17 as summarized in our theme: “Fear your Father and Judge during your exile!” We’ll first consider the person whom we fear, and second the nature of our fear. So first the person of our fear.
Point 1:
The structure of verse 17 is an if-then clause. If such and such is the case, then this is the result. “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, then conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”
Now according to Greek grammars, the word translated “if” can be translated two different ways, “if” or “since”. When the first clause is uncertain, that’s the first half of our text, it should be translated “if”, but if it is certain, it should be translated “since.” That’s what the NIV Bible does. So we need to find out whether the first clause is certain or not, whether it should say “since” or “if.”
The first thing we should recognize is that the one we call upon is our Father. 1 John 3:1 says: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” There is no question about it. God is our Father. We confess this in Lord’s Day 46. “Why has Christ commanded us to address God as our Father? To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our prayer:” And here you have it. “God has become our Father through Christ.” It is certain that God is our Father. But what about the next part that says God judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. Is this certain…?
Well absolutely! The Bible is filled with texts about God’s impartial judgement. Think for example of Isaiah 59:18, “According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies.” And Romans 2:6 says that God will render to each person according to his works. And there are many more examples.
God’s judgement is a difficult topic for many people, so it is helpful to see why God is an impartial judge. If we look at verse 15, we see that the reason for God’s justice is that our God is a holy God. Habakkuk 1:13 says that God’s eyes are too pure to see evil and he cannot look at wrong. In Leviticus 10, when Aaron’s two sons offered unauthorized fire God’s holy anger burned against them. Then he struck them down in his justice and he declared, “Among those who approach me I will be proved holy.” God’s holiness demands justice against sin.
We’ve established now that God certainly is both our Father and our impartial judge. But is it better to say “since” rather than ‘if”? . . . . We can’t tell yet, because our verse doesn’t just say if “you have a Father who is your judge,” but rather “if you call upon a Father who is your judge.”
 Let’s consider these words “call upon.” Would Peter have assumed that his recipients are calling upon God? Yes, because at the start of the letter, Peter addresses them as “God’s elect.” Are not the elect those whom God has saved? And did not Peter declare at Pentecost that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?” God’s elect are those who call on his name.
In conclusion, because this first half of verse 17 is true, we should understand it as “since”, not “if”. Peter would have assumed that his recipients were in fact calling upon God who is their Father and judge.
But as God’s congregation today, does this also mean “since” for us? We have the same Father. We have the same judge. But brothers and sisters are you calling upon your God? Are you living in communion with God? Do you tell God about your joys and your sorrows, your burdens and your temptations? Have you told God lately how much you delight in him and how thankful you are to him? Congregation do you call upon your God?
Thankfully, as the elders have confirmed, most of us do have a regular prayer life. But perhaps there are some among us who are asking, “why would I want to call upon this holy and awesome God? That sounds terrifying! After all, doesn’t the text say that God is going to judge my deeds impartially? I know that I’m a sinner. I can’t stand before the judgement of God.”
Being confronted with God’s holy judgement can be terrifying. God is going to judge me impartially for every sin? For my frustration with my kids this morning? For that dirty joke I laughed at last night? For the way I disobeyed my parents last week? How can I call upon this God? But congregation, the text doesn’t say a God who judges impartially, but a Father who judges impartially. Fathers aren’t people we fear, or at least we shouldn’t; we should love and trust our fathers.
And your impartial judge has become your father. How? No, not because of anything you did. If God judged you for your deeds you would be eternally condemned. But you weren’t judged! Your deeds were, but you weren’t. You may call the judge Father because Christ was judged, not for his deeds, but for your deeds. Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent. He was innocent! But Jesus took all your sins, your frustrations with your kids, your disobedience, all of it! He took your sins and he was judged impartially for them! Now when you stand before your judge you may call him Father, because Christ’s perfect life is imputed to you, and your judge will declare you innocent!
And Christ does even more for us! He intercedes for us before God, so now we may pray confidently to our Father. Aren’t you thankful that our judge is now our Father and that we can call upon him? Doesn’t this drive your life? Brothers and sisters, are you afraid?
We come to the second point, the nature of your fear.
Point 2
After seeing how beautiful it is that through Christ we may call our judge father, the command to fear may strike us as counter-intuitive. We just said that fathers are not people to fear. So why should we be afraid? In the words of Romans 8:33-34, “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” How can we be afraid?
Perhaps you have noticed that God’s people are often encouraged, “Do not fear!” But many other times we hear the command to fear. In fact Luke 12:5-7 has both. Let’s read these verses together, Luke 12:5-7: “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!” And then it goes on. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” How do we reconcile the continual exhortations to fear with the encouragements to not fear?
Well beloved, there are two types of fear in the Bible. One type of fear is the fear of condemnation. Do you remember what Adam said to the LORD after he sinned? “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Adam’s sin made him afraid. But we have been forgiven, so we don’t need to fear condemnation. 1 John 4:18 says, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
As Christians, we are forgiven; we don’t fear punishment, but we still fear God. We can learn about our fear from the context of our text. In verse 13, Peter tells the believers to set their hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our hope is in Christ, but we should be afraid that our hope might be fixed on something other than Christ, like our earthly possessions or entertainment.
If we look right after our text, we are again confronted with why we should fear. We should be afraid because it wasn’t mere silver or gold that we were ransomed with. It was something much, much more valuable. We were ransomed with the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He gave up his very life to ransom you from your former lifestyle, the way of this world. So be afraid that you might set your hope on something other than Christ. Tremble that you might slip back into your old lifestyle. You have been set free, but free for service. Psalm 130:4 says, “with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Fearing God is our fitting response to salvation, and it isn’t a chore; it’s a delight! Nehemiah 1:11 says that God’s servants delight to fear his name. It’s a delight that we may fear God and stand in awe of his holy wrath.
Let me use an illustration from John Piper. Imagine that you are climbing up a mountain with these sheer rock faces. And you look into the distance and you see a massive, a horrific storm brewing in the distance. And all of a sudden, your precarious position becomes evident and you feel afraid. That terrifying storm will certainly knock you off a cliff to your death! But all of a sudden you look, and there! You see a cave to hide in. This cave protects you from that fierce and dreadful storm, and what was so terrifying only a moment before, becomes delightful as you watch the lighting light up the sky and the thunder roar, and the winds tearing rocks and trees off the mountain. And you feel oh so very small…
Christ is like that cave. When we are protected by Christ, fearing God’s holy majesty and wrath is a delight. It’s awe-inspiring! But we must also be afraid that we forget about the God of the storm and are satisfied to live out on the mountain.
Now that we understand what fear is, let’s see what the text says about where we live in fear: The word translated “exile” in our Bible carries the sense of being without citizenship in a foreign country. In Acts 13:17, this word is used to describe Israel’s stay in Egypt. Exile is unnatural; it can also be hostile. Peter’s recipients faced abuse because they were Christians, and eventually even persecution.
The author of Psalm 137 was also exiled in a foreign country. But he remembers and longs for Jerusalem. He writes, “May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I forget Jerusalem, my highest joy.” What is the biggest danger to exiles? It’s not injustice, it’s not even persecution. No, hardship is not the biggest threat, but comfort. The biggest danger is that exiles grow comfortable and forget who they are and where their home is. They begin to live as residents, not exiles; they forget to fear the LORD, and they make something other than Jerusalem, their highest joy. Peter is reminding his listeners, “this is not your home country! Do not grow comfortable here and adopt their lifestyle!”
The same danger faces us; we too must be careful that we don’t grow comfortable in our exile. We must be careful that we don’t set our hope on things other than Christ, and run after other gods. gods like sex….. or money. Oh sex, oh money, in you I put my trust and my security; make me happy, you are my god. Brothers, sisters. How can you set your hope on these things, after everything that God has done? The pleasures promised in exile are fleeting. They will not last. If you have lost focus congregation, the time to repent is now! Turn back to God. Fear him alone.
If you are confronted with your sin right now, if you feel like you need to try harder this week, if you feel unworthy to call God your Father, REMEMBER! Remember the order of our text. It doesn’t say “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile so that you may call your judge your Father.” Did you catch that? Brothers and sisters, did you catch that? It doesn’t say do this so you can get that. It doesn’t say live in fear, so that you can call your judge Father. Isn’t it terrifying in this order? But thank and praise God, this is not our kind of fear. We fear God during our exile because of what Christ did.
And we know that our exile is not forever. Christ is coming back to take us home to heaven. Even when we experience painful trials of many kinds, and face the prospect of persecution like Peter’s original readers, we have hope, because this is not our home. Oh, the ridicule and scorn you may face is discouraging. Losing business opportunities because you don’t work on Sunday is frustrating. The idea of persecution if frightening. But though we may suffer a little while we rejoice! For Jesus Christ is coming back and he will take us home. We have a living hope because there is an eternal, unfading inheritance kept safe for us until Christ returns.
Conclusion:
Do you see how good you have it? Your destiny is secure. You do not need to run after the things of this world, because everything you need is in Christ. Because of Christ, you are no longer spiritually naked; you don’t need to hide from God like Adam. All your failures have already been judged and punished impartially. Jesus has suffered for you, so you can come confidently before your judge and call him Father. Brothers and sisters, let us meditate on how infinite a sacrifice Christ has paid for us, and let us flee from all our sins, terrified that in any way we might become fixated on the fleeting pleasures of this life. Amen.
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