Exiles Series: Message #1 1 Peter
We are not so different from the Israelites during the Babylonian exile. During that time in Israel’s history – the country had split into two Northern and Southern nations: Israel and Judah. At the same time the Babylonian nation ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar was getting powerful. Their armies grew so large that their advance sounded like a train coming. Both the Assyrians and the Egyptian empires would fall to the Babylonian, this empire – which had the Hanging Gardens. One of the Seven Wonders of the World. This empire advanced toward Israel from modern day Iraq over every rock and stream. No one dared to stand against it. The only city resisted was Jerusalem and in an agonizing siege it was razed to the ground. Then the citizens began humiliation of living as exiles.
In the New Testament we read the words of Peter. That goof of a man, who half the time he was around Jesus did exactly the opposite of what he was suppose to do. If any of the 12 disciples was one of the Three Stooges – it was Peter. After the resurrection of Jesus though things begin to truly change – not because of the circumstances but by what happened to Peter. By the time we get to what he’s written in the N.T. – we see a different man. He’s man radically altered by the sights, sounds and smells of Jesus –a man filled with the Holy Spirit and by the presence of Emanuel God. A man who is no longer a ragamuffin, fisherman but an intercessor sage, filled with wisdom of a 100 missionary journeys. This was man versus wild. He became the ultimate survivor man who had matched wits in every city of the Mediterranean. While, he watched his friend’s die, set on fire, boiled in oil, and left to rot, he choked back the tears enough to survive another day as a Yahweh warrior living off what he could find because the message was more important than life or death. And because of his fighting stance Peter had survived the domination and persecution at the hands of despicable rulers who were constantly looking to throw him out. Peter was an Exile. Listen to his words:
1 Peter 2:10-12
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have it. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live 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.
Peter reminds us that we are strangers and aliens in this world. He calls us to be Exiles. He reminds us to resist assimilation and refuse despair. We are not to grow too accustomed to the culture in which we are present. We are to thrive in a foreign, ungodly society and while we may prosper, we are not to grow too cozy with this present order. It’s values are not congruent, compatible, or in harmony with God’s values.
The biblical metaphor that best suits our current times and faith situation is that of exile. The changes in our time are like the fall of Jerusalem. While we are driven to fringe I suspect we will grow deeper and stronger In the immortal words of Fredrick Nietzsche who said the Church would cease to exist. “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Nietzsche’s’ dead but we’re still here after another 150 years. That’s because we’ve learned to live dangerously. A couple things that exiles do:
# 1 Exiles are driven back to their most dangerous memories.
When the stakes are high, as they are for captives on foreign soil, exiles fall back on their most potent memories. The stories of Jesus are an affront to the empire because they call us to abandon consumerism, greed, self-centeredness, and violence. Our dangerous memories are a threat to all who profit from the status quo.
Peter reminds us again in 1 Peter 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” For us to and our band to survive we must countermand our every natural impulse. It is no accident that the story of the Gospel. That God so loved the world… Is a story that makes the world our home and provides us with the skills to negotiate the dangers of our environment.
Today the Christian movement is a story-formed community. We are formed by our dangerous story of our great hero. Our very human instinct is to embrace safety, warmth, and security. Our all-too-human impulses push us toward being untroubled. Those aren’t values that we see Peter tell us we need to have.
Look at 1 Peter 2:19 19 “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” – Its one thing to accept Christ and follow his ways when your family wants you too. But it’s a whole another level of honor when a student accepts Christ whose parents hate Christians, and don’t want you to follow Christ. What will continue to foster our strength in this world? Surely it will be the radical stories of Jesus, the prince with a thousand enemies.
Earth’s unlimited resource is the gifts, talents, passions and imagination of the people of God. You would think we would know this by now, but we often miss the gifts right in front of us. The world needs you to find the hero within you. The real battle is between less and more. Most of us don’t choose the worst life; we just don’t choose the best. Thos who don’t know Jesus can’t afford for you to sleep through your dreams, memories, and hopes. The world needs you at your best. It won’t understand you at your best and that’s why the world will try and push you out because it thinks your intolerant when really you just trying to tell the truth, it will force you to the fringe when your best upsets the status quo. But if you accept its values – you will live a life diminished. And then its not only you who loses, but the world will too.
# 2 Exiles courageously living dangerous lives.
I wanted to read to you a letter from one of our AG missionaries: Here’s what it says:
Just wanted you know how much we appreciate our STL truck.
Our work has us often on the borders of [_______________ countries]. As we stopped in a few of the many villages along the way, I couldn’t help but thank God for the fact that we had a vehicle that enabled us to get into these rugged areas.
We were overlanding the [rugged terrain]…no roads or trails, not even a path to direct us…just a thousand miles of grass and mountains. We stopped to make tea and within a few minutes were surrounded by 300 goats and their 12-year-old shepherd. We spent time with him and shared our food….in turn this opened another door with a nomadic tribe that roams [the area]. This is one area of the world that would have been virtually impossible to reach through any other means than a private vehicle equipped for the outback.
This area is home to a [Muslim terror organization]. After passing through this checkpoint, we visited scores of villages in what is now a terror-inundated region. At every stop we were overwhelmed with how lost and open the villagers were. Once again, without the truck that YOU and my District bought for us, we would never have been able to reach this area.You have blessed us and given us feet to get into places that are extremely remote and dark.
We cannot express how much it has meant to us. Thank you!
Here a couple student a testimonies from a students willing to live dangerously.
Jamyee from OK has a huge heart for missions. Last year Jaymee attended the Launch STL rally in Muskogee with her youth group. She has always been a big help with any fundraisers, but this year God had a bigger plan for her. Shortly after the Launch rally, Jaymee felt that God wanted her to give the entire amount that she had been saving to get a car. This was a huge sacrifice for her as she comes from a single-parent, low-income family. Obediently, she gave all $1000 she had saved. This was not known to anyone from her congregation at the time. But around the same time Jaymee gave her car money to STL, her person began to feel that God wanted to have the men in their church give to provide a car for Jaymee. You see Jaymee never had a father figure in her life, but she has always been faithful to give of herself in many areas of her church (bus ministry, children’s ministry, youth council, and youth group.
Every year Pheit from Bethesda AG comes up with great ideas for STL. She has been personally responsible for over 50% of our student giving to STL every year she has been part of the youth group. This year she had the idea to make jars of salsa. She heard that for every $ 1 given to AG Mission there could be up to four souls saved. So she sells her salsa for $6 a jar and calls it 24 Soul Salsa. Last year she sold over $800 and is selling more this year.
We need you to be like these students because there are people who need to know that Jesus heals their soul. That his Kingdom is about brothers and sisters sharing food so that famines don’t leave multitudes starving, water wells that must be dug, children who need to be loved, relationships that need to be healed and that’s going to take you living on the edge, living dangerously
# 3 Exiles forge dangerous allies.
One of the stories Peter heard Jesus tell was the Parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus the only character to which Jesus ever attached a name in a parable, was the disabled, skin-diseased beggar who eked out an existence by getting alms from those who entered and exited the huge house of the Rich Man. The Rich Man – a person of wealth who is barred from paradise. But it’s not his wealth that keeps him out. In the story, the wealthy Abraham is in heaven as an advocate. The fact that wealth per se is not the problem is a significant reason why liberal and socialist attack-the-rich approaches to poverty have failed. In the global-economic area, where the rich get richer and the poor poorer, why are the attacks from Marxists not resonating with the poor – where the middle class is being squeezed into oblivion. Because when the poor dream, they don’t dream about being middle class or subsistent existence. The poor dream rich dreams . The poor dream of becoming rich. To attack the rich and vilify abundance is to attack the poor by taking away their dreams. The problem with the Rich Man as Jesus told it wasn’t his wealth. Rather the Rich Man lived his life without a relationship with Lazarus or any other poor person. In fact, the Rich Man lavished more love on his pets than on impoverished human beings who begged on his door step. Have you ever noticed how Hollywood has no qualms about portraying people being blow to pieces but never pets? Almost a third of all pet owners admit to deeper affection and companionship with their pets than with other people. Eight in ten dog owners and seven in ten cat owners allow their pets to lick and kiss their faces. One in ten pet owners gives his or her dogs and cats massages. When a culture “bows” to its pets, while making life rough for people – That’s messed up!!! Tell me what you get angry at and I will tell you who you are. In a message about giving what the rich need sometimes isn’t more digging deep into their pocket certainly that’s a spiritual practice but what the rich need is a relationship with the poor. That’s why you need to go on a missions trip. You befriend people who have nothing and you discover something. If your rich you discover your poverty and if your poor you discover your riches. See even as we get ready to give tonight I want you to know that God does not need anything but rejoices over those who give to the needy. I would like to leave this world having asked less of it than I have given to it. Your care for others is the measure of your greatness. When I read 1 Peter I see the Parable of Lazarus and the rich man echo through the thoughts of Peter in his writing. Because for Peter it was real…. Peter was the poor who had become rich.
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# 4 Exiles give what they can’t keep to gain what they can’t lose.
The Apostle Peter was the ultimate Exile. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary there is “satisfactory evidence that he and Paul were the founders of the church at Rome, and later died in that city. The time and manner of the apostle’s martyrdom are less certain. According to the early writers, he died at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution, A.D. 67,68. According to one tradition, Peter was warned by his Christian friends to get out or face death because the authorities were after him. He set off on foot, taking the Appian Way out of Rome. When he got some way out, the tradition goes he had a vision of seeing Jesus going back in. In his vision, He asked him where he was going and Jesus replied that he was going back to Rome to be crucified again. Peter knew that meant that he was to go back because it was God’s will for him to suffer a martyr’s death.
He was indeed arrested on his return. According to the Church Father Origen, When Peter came to be crucified, he believed that he was not worthy to be executed in the same way as Jesus had been, so he asked to be crucified head downwards. In John ch 21 vs 18 & 19 Jesus says to Peter: “When you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Peter, the Exile died, In the words of John 21:19 ” the kind of death which would glorify God.” Hs words echo from the grave as a one of the saints calling each of you to live as aliens and strangers, a holy nation, royal priesthood. He’s is still calling for those willing to live as exiles. Peter is considered to have planted many churches including Gentile churches even though he was a Jew. By all accounts this should never have happened because if you read Galatians 2 and Acts 10 – Peter had a racial prejudice. It took Paul the Apostle and Jesus himself in a vision with the animals in a sheet to convince Peter that you and I were worth it.
The only reason that America was a nation founded on the principals of Jesus Christ is because Peter so loved Jesus and loved people that he lived and died so that churches in the Gentile world would not only survive but thrive and pass their faith onto into European and African culture which would ultimately come here on our soil. Imagine he went from a racist to dying so that you would have the gospel. Jim Elliot the Missionary who was murdered and whose son later lead his murders to Christ said this: “He is no fool who gives what can not keep to gain what he can not lose.