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The Security of God's People

In His Steps  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:21
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1 Peter 1:1-2
I’m not a fan of roller coasters. From my point of view, it seems crazy and risky to ride them. In recent years, however, I’ve slowly overcome this fear (or hesitation) by riding them as I have opportunity, including my most recent ride on the Sponge Bob Rock Bottom Plunge at Mall of America.
How did I gain this confidence? By thinking objectively about the safety and security of doing so. Though coasters may feel life-threatening and outrageous, millions of people get on and off them every year, happy and unharmed. The National Safety Council (NSC) published an injury survey in 2013 which revealed that people face only a 1.5-in-a-million chance of being injured, and deaths are incredibly rare.
The same thing is true of following Christ. When we follow him by faith, we – like him – will experience hardship and suffering as a result, hardship and suffering which we would not suffer if we chose to not follow him instead.
“To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (2 Pet 2:21)
Just as I look at a roller coaster, feeling afraid and hesitating to get on, do you feel the same about following Christ? Are you discouraged by the unknown prospect of suffering, loss, or major life changes? Afraid and overwhelmed by some particular form of suffering or trial that you are heading into or are in the middle of right now?
This letter, called 1 Peter, will help you conquer this fear, encouraging and equipping you to follow Christ’s steps into the future, knowing that no matter what loss or suffering you endure for his sake, you will triumph through that suffering and come out more fruitful and victorious than before.
As Peter opens this letter, he says some things which should immediately increase our sense of complete security in following Christ and should lay a foundation for everything else he will say later on. Let’s take a look.

This letter is a message from Christ himself.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ
Peter introduces himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Apostle means a “sent one,” someone who was formally and officially sent by another person to do what that other person wanted them to do and to say what that other person wanted them to say.
We have no apostles today. These were people who had both seen the resurrected Christ and been sent by him to provide foundational service and, in some cases, revelation for the church in that first century following Christ’s ascension back to heaven.
According to Eph 2:20, the church is a “household” that is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” So, these apostles relayed to us what Christ wanted them to say and we continue to repeat, teach, and apply today what they provided at the beginning.
When we read and study this letter, then, we are reading and studying the very message and truths which Christ intended for Peter to pass along to us. Peter makes this very clear in his second letter, called 2 Peter.
“No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet 1:20-21)
As we go this this letter together, we must take what we learn as seriously as though Christ himself were speaking to us. To the degree that I am able to explain and apply this letter accurately and faithfully, we will understand Christ’s purpose and teaching for our lives, and we must submit to him because he is both our master and savior.
Though Peter was the leader and spokesman of Christ’s original twelve disciples, an aggressive, bold, eager, and outspoken, he was not a natural-born spiritual hero. In his earliest years (later teens/early college-age) of following Christ, he frequently forgot, spoke out, contradicted, or even attempted to correct what Christ would say.
In particular, Peter resisted Christ’s teaching about suffering. Whenever Christ hinted or taught that people who followed him would suffer or that he would suffer, Peter often spoke up – forcefully at times – to deny or reverse this idea. He didn’t want Christ to suffer because if Christ suffered, then he and Christ’s other followers would also suffer.
One notable example occurred in the upper room, as Christ observed his final Passover meal with the twelve disciples. As Christ foretold his betrayal and crucifixion, he also foretold that Peter would turn away from following him and publicly deny him three times.
“The Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren.’” (Luke 22:31-32)
As we read this letter, we read the words of a man who had once resisted himself suffering for Christ. We are also reading words from Christ himself, since Peter tells us what Christ wanted him to say, so we too can learn to follow Christ through any suffering.

This letter speaks to Christ’s chosen followers throughout the world.

To the chosen pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
Now, we should notice that this letter was not only written by a “sent one” – someone whom Christ himself had called to write this letter, but it was written to “chosen” people, as well. Just as Christ chose his original twelve disciples, so all of his followers throughout the centuries which have followed to this day have been chosen as well.
Knowing that you are chosen by God to follow Christ should not be the cause of endless argument and debate, nor should it be the cause a feeling of arrogance, elitism, or pride. Just as a bride should feel the confidence and security of having been chosen by her husband, so we should feel the confidence and security of being chosen by God.
When we follow Christ and walk then suffering, we can feel as though we “got ourselves into this mess,” but we didn’t. We suffer for Christ because we’ve been chosen to do so. That God has chosen you should give you courage and confidence not to run from suffering but to persevere through it, instead.
Not only are those who follow Christ chosen by God, but they are chosen to be pilgrims, a word which describes people who are “temporary residents” in some place. When we follow Christ, we should realize that we walk through this life for a brief and limited time.
The old gospel song, written by Jim Reeves in 1992, expresses this well:
“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
The original people to whom Peter wrote were followers of Christ who had been forced to uproot and move to places away from their homes and families, a change which had been caused by persecution and hardship of some kind due to following Christ. Peter will later describe this hardship as a “fiery trial” (1 Pet 4:14).
Like these early followers of Christ, our lives may often require moving and change, sometimes of a dramatic nature. We should be okay with this – especially because we know that we, like Christ and like Peter, have been specially and lovingly chosen by God.
In this beginning to his letter for us, Peter emphasizes the deliberate and intentional nature of God choosing us as followers of Christ who will suffer for him. He does this by showing how all three members of the Godhead – the Father, Son, and Spirit – are involved in our conversion, or in bringing us to faith in Christ.
By explaining God’s role in choosing us this way, Peter makes it very clear that we did not walk into our relationship with Christ by accident or due to some fleeting moment of ill-advised curiosity or passion.
Of course, nothing Peter says here contradicts or discredits the genuineness of our own personal choice to follow Christ. God does not force us to believe on Christ nor does he refuse to give others the same opportunity.
At the same time, no true follower of Christ has followed Christ because he chose to do so on his own. His choice to follow Christ is both entirely genuine and the sure result of the special choice and activity of God. There is nothing capricious or uncertain about becoming a follower of Christ.

God the Father had foreknown them.

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father
First, Peter tells us that we become followers of Christ “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
This statement emphasizes the role of the first person of the Trinity, the Father. Since he is called “Father,” we should recognize that he (a) provides, cares for, and protects us like a father does for his family – only far better, (b) loves us like a father loves his children – only far deeper, and (c) deserves our undying submission, obedience, and respect.
“According to foreknowledge” tells us that our decision to follow Christ (or our relationship with Christ by faith) is rooted (or more accurately begins with) something more ancient and timeless than our choice to do so. It tells us that before you know Christ as our Lord and Savior, you were known by God the Father as his child. Because God is sovereign, timeless, infinite, and eternal, he has always know you as his child and we cannot change what God has always and already known.
This word means more than mere prescience, which imagines God “peeking ahead” into the future to see who would follow Christ and responding to that decision ahead of time.
In Amos 3:2, God said to Israel:
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth.”
This word known does not mean “know about,” as though God didn’t know about any other nations or people groups in the world. Known refers to a personal, special, relational knowledge. While he knew about other nations, he only knew one of them – Israel – in a special, personal, and committed way.
That’s what foreknowledge means. It means that God didn’t just “know about” you in distant eternity past, he knew you as a follower of Christ, as his child. He has always known you this way. Now that’s security for you.

God the Spirit had set them apart.

[Elect] in sanctification of the Spirit
In addition to God the Father’s longstanding, relationship knowledge of them, followers of Christ should also find confidence and security in knowing that God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead sanctified them.
The word sanctify frequently refers to a process of behavioral, personal, and spiritual change which occurs to followers of Christ after they initially believe on him. This happens as we live out our lives in reliance upon God, learning more about what his Word says, and conforming our lives to his will. By doing so, we become more spiritually complete and mature in our mindset and lifestyle.
Here, however, sanctify refers specifically to the earliest moment of this process. Here’s how it works. At the moment we choose to turn away from our false religious beliefs and sinful lifestyle to place our full trust in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, we become a follower of Christ forever.
In that moment, something else is happening which you cannot see with your eyes. The Holy Spirit of God is separating you from the multitudes of godless, unbelieving people and placing you in a new position and relationship with God. He is placing you into God’s family, empowering you for godly living, and equipping and enlisting you for God’s service.
So, following Christ is not as simple as “you changing sides,” because it is also the Holy Spirit of God changing your side, moving you from a distant relationship with God to a close and never-ending relationship with God instead, a relationship that will remain constant through whatever suffering comes your way not only afterwards but as a result.

God the Son had accepted them.

[Elect] for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ
In addition to the Father’s and the Spirit’s direct and personal role in your conversion, which provides more than enough reason for unflinching confidence and security in the face of suffering, Peter explains that Christ himself has also fully accepted us into a committed and permanent relationship with him.
Before concluding this little section with a focus on Christ, Peter acknowledges our own part in the moment of our conversion, when we ourselves choose to follow Christ. What’s fascinating here is that Peter calls our choice to follow Christ “obedience.”
Yet, this is exactly what following Christ requires – obedience. Describing our initial conversion to faith in Christ as obedience occurs elsewhere in the NT, too.
“The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)
“Through him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name.” (Rom 1:5)
These are not the only examples of obedience being used this way in the NT. This word means more than simply trusting in Christ as Savior but also to complying or submitting to him as Lord and Master. This is why the NT always, consistently associates the act of public baptism by immersion as the outward sign of obedience to Christ which makes a person’s claim of inward faith credible and believable, for if a person has believed on Christ as God and Savior, then that person will obey him through baptism. There is not a single example in the NT of an unbaptized believer. The early church did not acknowledge professing believers as genuine believers unless they had been baptized.
Our tendency to do so today is the result of a relatively modern phenomenon in which traveling, popular speakers would host large preaching rallies, calling for crowds of people to come forward to be saved, leaving the matter of baptism for another time later on. But the NT pattern is consistent: inward obedience to Christ consisting of trusting in Christ alone as God and Savior resulted in outward obedience to Christ through baptism.
As important as baptism may be in declaring and affirming one’s commitment to following Christ as God and Savior, we also know that baptism is not the moment of or the means of salvation. It is simply an outward affirmation of genuine faith, not the cause or means.
“Sprinkling of blood” reminds us that we are saved and cleansed from the guilt of our sins not through ceremonial rituals like the sprinkling of blood from sacrificial animals (per the OT) or being dunked under water (NT baptism), but through the real and personal application of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for your sins.
This concept of “sprinkling blood” should also remind us of what happened when God made official his covenant with the nation of Israel in the OT at Mount Sinai. This happened just after God had delivered Israel from oppression in Egypt and initiated a permanent covenant with them to be their God and for them to be his people.
“He sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’” (Exo 24:5-8)
This covenant established God’s serious commitment to be loyal to Israel, to care for and guide them as his special, chosen people. This serious and costly commitment to them was highlighted by sprinkling the blood of sacrificial animals on each person, indicating that the sacrifice had been applied to them.
Peter’s language here reminds us not only of this moment but of an even more significant moment, when Christ introduced a new and better covenant, one more serious and costly than the former one, the new covenant of his blood.
“This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt 26:28)
So, we obeyed God by turning to Christ for salvation and Christ applied the costly effects of his death on the cross for our sins to our lives, forgiving us from the guiltiness of our sins and accepting us into this new and eternal covenant by which God – the Father, Son, and Spirit – will forever be loyal to us who follow Christ.

This letter calls them to increased participation with God.

Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
Can you see what Peter is doing here? He is laying a basic but incredible theological foundation for our hearts that should inspire one of two things, depending on whether or not you are following Christ by faith.
If you have already believed on Christ and follow him as God and Savior, then this kind of security from God should encourage you to follow Christ with confidence no matter what kind of suffering or hardship will come your way.
If you have not yet believed on Christ and followed him as God and Savior, then this kind of security from God should motivate you to also obey God by turning to Christ alone as your God and Savior, regardless of how challenging or costly you think that doing so will be.
With this letter, Peter calls believers to lean more into Christ not less. To go forward with Christ and not back away. To embrace suffering rather than resist it, as Peter himself had so strongly resisted early on.
When we experience suffering and trials as followers of Christ, we should first remind ourselves of the unshakeable certainty of our relationship with God. The Father, Son, and Spirit have all participated with great forethought, effort, and cost to make our relationship with him possible, and they will guide us through whatever suffering the future may bring.
For everyone who follows Christ, God offers far more grace and peace than you can ever begin to imagine and such incredible blessings of wisdom, strength, guidance, provision, healing, endurance, and answers to prayer can only be realized when we follow Christ through suffering.

Peter persevered through suffering.

Remember how I pointed out previously that Peter had once resisted the suffering that comes with following Christ? You should also know that Peter also overcame this fear thanks to Christ’s faithful, loyal commitment to him even in his moment of deepest fear.
“The Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren.’” (Luke 22:31-32)
Peter denied that he would resist suffering for Christ, but it did happen, just as Christ said. In Christ’s greatest hour of suffering, Peter turned his back on him because he didn’t want to follow Christ into suffering.
In that shameful moment, it seemed as though Peter’s life and future had fallen apart, that he would never accomplish the things Christ had called him to do, yet only days or weeks after Christ’s resurrection, he restored Peter to his original purpose and calling.
[Christ] said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” (John 21:17-18)
These words not only preview Peter’s coming decades of faithful service to a first and growing generation of followers of Christ, and of laying a foundation of biblical teaching for generations to follow, these words also predict Peter’s eventual death as a helpless martyr for Christ – the very experience he had first refused to endure.
In John MacArthur’s excellent book about the twelve disciples entitled Twelve Ordinary Men, he writes:
“How did Peter’s life end? We know that Jesus told Peter he would die as a martyr (John 21:18–19). But Scripture doesn’t record the death of Peter. All the records of early church history indicate that Peter was crucified. Eusebius cites the testimony of Clement, who says that before Peter was crucified, he was forced to watch the crucifixion of his own wife. As he watched her being led to her death, Clement says, Peter called to her by name, saying, “Remember the Lord.” When it was Peter’s turn to die, he pleaded to be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die as his Lord had died. And thus he was nailed to a cross head-downward.”
As you look ahead to the roller coaster of life, will you get on Christ and follow him into the future with confidence knowing that your relationship and future with God are entirely secure? No matter the suffering, no matter the cost, will you obey the one gave his life to you and will be loyal to you forever?
When you obey Christ by following him in faith, you find that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are on your side forever. No matter how much change or loss comes your way. Grace and peace will be multiplied to you.
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