I imagine by now many of you have recently read or are familiar with the unique circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. His mother was engaged, but got pregnant outside of marriage and not with her finances. That’s Interesting. The political leader was so threatened by Jesus’ birth that he ordered a massive genocide of his citizens. That’s Interesting. A star guided men all the way from another country to see Jesus as a newborn child. That did not happen with any of my kids, or many people I know, so that’s interesting. A bunch of random blue-collar workers showed after he was born because they were guided by angels. Once again never happened at the birth of any my kids or anyone I know, so once again pretty interesting.
Jesus’ birth is not just interesting, but is a model for us. The circumstances surrounding our lives as Christians is meant to be interesting to other people. The way we live and the way we suffer are meant to be interesting, compelling and provocative. The reason has called us and left us here is when the surrounding world watches the story of our lives it is meant to spark their interest in Jesus. That is what I want to explore with you today…the birth of Jesus Christ serves a reminder that our lives should spark interest in our only hope.
1. Interesting Lifestyle—I Peter 2.9-3.7.
The first thing Peter addresses in our interesting lifestyle is our HOLY HABITS—READ I Peter 2.9-12. Peter begins to help us understand our lifestyle choices by referring back to OT identities. You can look at this chart with me on the screen and see how the language here is grounded in the OT.
What Peter understands is when people know who they are then they know what they are supposed to do. So who are we? We are CHOSEN race. We are GOD’s PEOPLE. We are a royal priesthood. We are a people who are holy—different—set apart, which means our lifestyles are meant to be compelling—provocative—interesting. Peter reminds us in verse 11 that we are exiles, and then says we are not to live like we are citizens of a different nation. We do this by “abstaining” from the “passions” or desires of the “flesh.” Our conduct is meant to be “honorable” or commendable. What is the purpose for all of this—“[so] they may see your good deeds and glorify God.”
The first thing we need to consider is what should be our regular holy habits? Second, where do those holy habits intersect with unbelievers? Finally, how is God calling me to use those holy habits in commendable, honorable, compelling or interesting way? We need to be regularly asking these questions, taking some time to examine our lifestyle habits, and considering how we can use our habits as an opportunity to do good deeds which will cause the non-Christian world to glorify God.
Now notice back in I Peter 2.9 that he mentions this specific phrase, “a holy nation.” Does this mean that our citizenship in heaven diminishes our citizenship in our nation? In one sense, yes, because are called “to abstain from the passions of the flesh.” This means there will be things that the world deems as perfectly acceptable that we do not. For instance it is not illegal to have an affair. Of course it is frowned on by many, but our government would not step in and stop that from happening. But as Christian who govern each other we would step in and attempt to stop this, because it is illegal in God’s kingdom. This is an example of what it means to be “a holy nation.” There will be places where our worldly government will ask us to accept things that we cannot as citizens of God’s kingdom. We saw this a lot in the book of Daniel.
But in another sense our citizenship in heaven should not diminish our citizenship in our own nation. Once again the book of Daniel is a great example of this. Listen to what Peter says—READ I Peter 2.13-17. Peter seems to believe that a very practical way we can let the surrounding world see our good deeds is by being good citizens. In fact the first Christians took this heart. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis tell us this:
When the apologists of the second and third centuries were defending Christianity, they pointed to the lives of the Christians as their strongest argument for giving Christians freedom. These men and women saw themselves as a third race, neither Jew nor Gentile. They lived as free men and women and used their freedom to do good. This is how the early church “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 ESV).—Chester & Timmis, p. 108
We should not only be good citizens, but exemplary citizens. The best ones. A simple way to do this is by seeking out our local officials and asking them what some of needs of the city and how could we help? When think back to great ministry of Daniel we need to notice God gave Daniel favor with a government that did not think much by him addressing the concerns of the government. It was NOT, how can my government serve me, but how I can serve my government?
Peter quickly moves from discussing “citizenship” to discussing “employment.” Peter knew that employers not only mistreated their employees, but the employers of the Christians we especially mistreating them. But listen to what Peter said—READ I Peter 2.18-19. Peter does not want to respond to sin with sin. He does not want us to respond to wrong with wrong. He shows us that Christ demonstrated this first—READ I Peter 2.23-24. Whenever you bear someone else’s sin you will experiencing what Christ experienced on the Cross. So, friends I know your employers, fellow employees, will wrong you. They will say NASTY things about you that are not true. But do not return their reviling with reviling, but entrust your life to the Judge who judges justly.
The final lifestyle Peter addresses is our marriages (I Peter 3.1-7). This is one of the few places in the NT where the wife is addressed more than the husband. I think this is because these particular women were married to unbelieving husbands—READ I Peter 3.1-2. It could also be men who claim to be believers but are living like unbelievers. Peter believes their conduct could win over their husbands. Christian women in these types of marriages can be WONDERFUL examples of what it looks like to have exemplary habits, be exemplary citizens and workers. I say that because I grew up with one of these. My mother was, and still is, a wonderful example of an exemplary Christian life. Chester and Timmis reminded us once again of something unique about the early church:
Stark [a sociologist] also draws attention to the distinctive way the church treated women. Most pagan girls were married off with little say before puberty. Christian women had plenty of say and tended to marry around eighteen. Aborting babies was also a huge killer of women in this period, but Christian women were spared this. Pagans routinely practiced infanticide. Archaeologists have discovered sewers clogged with the bones of newborn girls. Not only did Christians prohibit this, but they would rescue abandoned infants and bring them into their own families. Female infanticide…during abortions meant men outnumbered women in the Roman Empire. Not so in the church.—Chester & Timmis, p. 109-110
Peter knew the way the world treated women. Friends our marriages, the way we date women, the way treat them MUST look different than the surrounding world. I think is also a good reminder of the need of adoption, especially internationally where infant girls can still be viewed this way.
2. Interesting Suffering—I Peter 3.8-17.
I made this section a separate category because this subject has been the greatest obstacle to people coming to Christ in the modern western era, but historically has been our greatest advantage. The subject is SUFFERING. I say it has been an obstacle because in the west people will see all the suffering the world and have trouble believing a benevolent all-powerful God. But I say advantage, because when they see us suffer it can help propel them toward faith in Jesus Christ—READ I Peter 3.15-17.
Now let’s not loose sight of something extremely significant here. In our western mindset we read the statement, “who asks YOU for a reason for the hope that is in YOU.” We read this individualistically. But in the original Greek these “YOU’s” are plural. We can also pick up on this be remembering how this section started, “Finally, ALL OF YOU” (I Peter 3.8). There is no greater witness than the corporate witness of Christians suffering together. When the surrounding outside world sees how we suffer together they are compelled, provoked, interested in our HOPE. And friends the HOPE we are all supposed to pointing each other to is CHRIST. Notice how Peter says in verse 16 that our good behavior is “in CHRIST.” When we seek to truly live a lifestyle that is consistent with the teachings of Christ we will be reviled, slandered, we will suffer. But we can remember Jesus was reviled, slandered, and suffered for His good behavior. While many of us in the west do not face physical persecution, but we can face emotional, psychological, and spiritual trials. I am sure that I am not alone in that I have had people slander and revile me. I had one man accuse me of, “abusing people with the Gospel.” Seriously, what does that even mean? When I asked him what he meant, he said, “You make every issue into a Gospel issues.” I tried to gently tell, “Well, I believe every issue is a Gospel issue.” All that say, friends, when you really go hard after what Jesus wants from you people will not like it, they will not like you. But this is why it is SO important that your behavior is rooted in a Gospel mentality, because then you can experience what Peter says, “having a good conscience.” The Gospel needs to be what you bath in everyday, so you smell like the Gospel. You must brush your teeth with the Gospel so it comes out of your mouth. You must dress yourself up in the Gospel so you look good. “It is better to suffer for doing good…than for doing evil.” We will face suffering, but are we suffering for doing good? Are we suffering for doing the Gospel? Jesus’ birth was just the beginning of His suffering. The rest of His life was full of people who despised Him, especially those in power are were the religiously self-righteous. May we not forget that this Christmas season.