There is a bit of hypocrisy in that isn’t there? Something just isn’t right. There was disconnect—and inconsistency from what he was and what he was doing.
I find in that story something quite instructive for us. It is often the case that people in the church resemble that horse. There are a lot of people who come to confess Christ—they come into the church and wish to be part of that team—but when it comes to how they live, it doesn’t match up. There is a huge inconsistency. Instead of fulfilling their calling, they shirk their duties before God and coast along as they please.
It is that disconnect that I wish to address today. We as Christians must recognize that we cannot lead such a double life. Our job is to press on in the faith, living a robust life of obedience.
Peter tells us as much in this passage. In verse 17 Peter tells us that we are to “conduct ourselves with fear.” That is to say, our lives are to be characterized by the reverence for God and loving obedience to his commands.
And we must do this because our piety, doctrine and salvation demand it.
The temptation we face is to follow our culture in the way they live. We are immersed in a world that embraces a certain ethical system. But Peter tells us that we should be on guard against mixing the two. He says that we can’t be a hybrid of Christian and worldling. We must be conscious about living a consistently Christian life. One reason why is because your piety demands it.
I. We must fear God because our piety demands it
Let me read you this verse in a little more abbreviated manner. The verse starts out by saying, “If you call on him as Father…conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”
Now what is this saying? What were these people doing? They were being very pious, weren’t they? They were calling upon God. That is to say, they were praying to him. They were invoking his name and engaging in acts of worship, offering up their petitions and supplications. And we commend them for that. That’s a great thing. This is part of what it means to be a Christian. Part of what pious people do is pray.
But Peter says, “If you are going to pray to God, well then you need to live for God too. Otherwise you are not being consistent.” If your piety is only in your lips and not in the rest of your life, then it’s really no piety at all.
A converted cowboy rendered it like this: He said, “Lots of folks that would really like to do right think that serving the Lord means shouting themselves hoarse praising His name. Now, I’ll tell you how I look at that. I am working for Jim. But if I would do nothing but sit around the house here telling what a good fellow Jim is, and singing songs to him, he would not stand for it. However, if I buckle on my straps and hustle among the hills and see that Jim’s herd is all right, not suffering for water and feed, or being driven off the range and branded by cow thieves, then I am serving Jim as he wants to be served.”
That’s exactly the way we ought to see our relationship with God. You can’t just come in here and sing some songs and invoke God’s name and then walk out of here and live as you please. That is the most absurd thing in the world.
I would even suggest that it’s a rather raunchy thing to do to God. It is rather presumptuous to come boldly before the throne of grace and tick off your list of the things you want, and then walk away and live as you please.
How would you like it if your kids came up to you and handed you a list of all the things they want from the store, and then walked out on you and never did a single thing you asked them to do. Really, think about it. This is what a lot of people do when it comes to their Christian life. They are like a child that comes up to their father and says, “Dear daddy, you are so wonderful. You make me so happy. I’m so fond of you. Can you get me a bike, and a new dollie, and a set of new tea cups? Thank you daddy. I love you. You are so great.” They ask for all these things, but they never make their bed or wash the dishes. They never take the trash out or clean up their toys. Other than coming to their father to ask for their every desire, they have absolutely no regard for him.
So you see that’s no piety at all. If you are going to come to God in prayer and present your supplications to him, then you need to give God his due reverence with the rest of your life too. You need to be consistent because your piety demands it.
But it’s not only because your piety demands it. The fear of God needs to characterize our lives because our doctrine demands it too.
II. We must fear God because our doctrine demands itYou know why we are such sticklers when it comes to doctrine? There is perhaps no other church around here that is as picky as us Reformed people are when it comes to the doctrine of God. We get very uptight about our doctrine. But do you know why we are so persnickety about such things? Of course, the main reason is because it’s God. We want to understand him rightly. But there’s another reason. One of the main reasons we are so particular about doctrine is because our doctrine determines the way we live.
What we believe will affect what we do. If you embrace certain truths, then your life will be shaped in a certain way.
Last time we were together we learned about the holiness of God. Now if you believe that God is holy and cannot stand the presence of sin, then that is going to affect your life, isn’t it? If you understand that God is holy, then you’ll recognize that you need to find some way to get right with him. He is too pure and he cannot tolerate the least sin.
I have spoken with people and they do not have a right view of God’s holiness. And when they come to understand holiness, they will say that if that is true then no one can go to heaven in and of themselves. And I say, “You’re right!” That’s why Christ is so essential! Only he can take away your guilt and make you holy before the Lord.
So doctrine is very important. It shapes the way you life.
And in this passage we find another doctrine that is very important to understand. In verse 17 it says that God is an impartial God who judges each person according to his deeds.
In other words, God never overlooks our wrongs.
Of course, that’s not what most people today believe. Most people believe that God is some Grandfather that never takes account of any wrong we do. There is this twisted belief that God is so loving that he could never judge anyone for their sin. And this belief affects the way people live. They go on about their days indulging their flesh all they want.
But you need to recognize that this isn’t so. God does judge sin. And if you are here today and you’ve thought that God would never do that, then you need to think again.
And even if you are one who has come to Christ, I want you to recognize what this is saying. A lot of so called Christians are guilty of this and need to take this to heart. We have such easy believism today. It is rampant in the church. You think that once you come to Jesus all your sins are taken care of and God doesn’t judge them anymore.
This isn’t true. It is true that once you’ve come to Christ you will not face judgment that leads to condemnation. You cannot be damned because that judgment has been dealt with on the cross. But we will continue to be judged. Christians can be judged by their Heavenly Father in that they will be disciplined for their misdeeds.
Those of us who are fathers do this all the time, do we not? When our kids start squabbling and acting out, what do we do? We come in there and we act like a judge, don’t we? And our kids turn into little lawyers, ready to prosecute the case. Jonny says, “She started it!” And little Suzie says, “But he took my dollie.” They start making their case against each other because they know you are there to be the judge, jury and executioner!
Now when we get to the bottom of it all we divvy out the punishments, don’t we? And whoever is in the wrong gets disciplined.
We will never condemn our kids, but we will discipline them. Because we love them.
And that’s exactly what God does. The only difference is that he is the perfect judge. He never shows partiality like we often do.
And that’s what we need to remember. Just because we are his children, we shouldn’t think that we can do anything we want. We believe that God is our father, but we also believe that he is a father who is fair and holy. And so we should expect that God will discipline us when we sin against him.
And if we are experiencing some difficulties in life, we should take some time to examine our lives. If you ever find yourself in a miserable state, then you might want to ask God if there’s anything in your life that you need to correct. It might not always be the case that your particular affliction is due to something you’ve done wrong. But, on the other hand, it might very well be. God might be using a particular providence to bring you to your senses. He may very well be disciplining you for the way you are living.
I wish I could tell some stories and give you some examples of this, but I must move on. Just know for now that your doctrine, just as much as your piety, demands that you live with reverent fear.
And know that your salvation demands it as well.
III. We must fear God because our salvation demands it
Peter tells you that you should conduct yourself with fear. And he says in verse 18 you should do so because you know something. You know that you’ve been saved. And in particular, you know how you were saved.
You were saved by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That’s what he is getting at when he talks about being ransomed by the precious blood of the lamb. To be ransomed means that you were purchased by means of a payment. This was a word often associated with the slave trade. You would have a slave who would be purchased and then become the property of another.
Here it is saying that a price was paid for you. And that price was not measured with gold or silver. This is where the imagery of the lamb comes in. It is referring back to the Old Testament’s practice of sacrificing lambs, shedding their blood to signify the death that was due to you for sin.
In essence Peter says, how can you not give God his due homage when he has shed the blood of his own son on your behalf?
But not only do you know how you were saved, but you know what you were saved from!
Peter says you were ransomed from “the futile ways you inherited from your forefathers.” In other words, before you came to Christ your life was characterized by emptiness. You lived your life and you lived it how you pleased, but it was all meaningless. It wasn’t until you came to Christ that you felt like you had purpose and meaning in your life.
Now Peter says, how can you return to that former way of life? Why would you want to return to the vanity and futility of that life? You’ve been rescued from all that pointless living and given so much more.
And on top of all that, think about who you were saved by.
I do not have time to go into all that is said in verses 20-21. As I’ve said before, Peter knows how to pack a lot in a couple of sentences. But in these two verses he gives a complete summary of Christ’s person and work. He was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” In other words, he is the eternal Son of God who has always existed and does not have a beginning like we do. But he is also the one who was “manifested in the last times”, that’s talking about his incarnation—that humiliating act where he put on moral flesh.
Then, of course, he was raised from the dead. In this act He proved himself to be the Son of God and went to take his seat on high. And in doing so he gave you hope for eternal life, that where he is, you will one day be. All this is said of Christ to remind you of how much he loved you.
A mother once asked her child, “How much do you love me?” The little child was at first puzzled on how he should answer such a question. As he thought, he gazed out his window to the cloudless night. Then he said, “I love you all the way to the stars and back again.”
Do you think the mother was charmed? Of course she would have been. Which one of you wouldn’t be? But this is nothing compared to the love of Jesus. God’s love for you reached from the stars of heaven down to this earth, and then back again.
When you think about Christ, the one by whom you were saved, how could you not be moved to love him in return with reverent fear? I say that you salvation demands it. It would be so inconsistent if you didn’t.
I forget the team, but I remember hearing how there was a professional basketball team that was required to put on professional dress when they traveled to an away game. Before they boarded the plane they had to have a suit and tie. They were even required to carry briefcases. There wasn’t anything in the briefcases, maybe some magazines to read on the plane, but nothing significant.
Why did the coach require that? It was all about consistency.
He knew that the way they played on the basketball court would be determined by everything that led up to the game. He wanted them to have precision as they played and demonstrate the fact that they were professional athletes. So he required them to wear the proper attire and act with the same degree of professionalism before hand.
We are called to do the same. The way our lives play out in the world ought to be consistent with every other part of our lives. If we dress ourselves in the garb of piety, then we ought to reflect that piety in the way we live. If we carry a certain doctrine, our live must demonstrate the fact that we do. And our lives should be harmonize with the great salvation we enjoy.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.