Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13
If you are privy to the news, you’ll know that godlessness of the country is not only growing, but it is becoming much more aggressive.
For instance, Apple has recently axed what is known as the Manhattan Declaration iphone app from its itunes store. The MD is a document that some Christians put together as a sort of statement of faith. Petitioners though, complained that the Manhattan Declaration, espouses hateful and divisive speech despite its rating of no objectionable material.
The “objectionable” material reads as follows:
“We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family."
You may have also heard how the money transfer company PayPal, has launched an investigation of several Christian organizations. Again it was because their views on homosexuality and traditional marriage were considered hateful to the secular mindset.
Stories have also arisen concerning Google and how the major search engine promotes certain left leaning websites over Christian and conservative websites.
These of course, are only the minor issues that are starting to arise. They help us to realize though that the major players in society today are not friendly to those of us who hold to the Christian worldview. Moreover, we see that there is a concerted effort to suppress Christians and Christianity. And their efforts are intensifying. You might say that their goal is not just to abolish the face of Christ from not just the public square, but to strike him from the face of the earth altogether.
If you have your ears tuned to the right places you will most certainly understand what it means to be pilgrims who live in the midst of pagans. You’ll understand that we live in a culture that is growing more and more adverse to our faith and way of life. That’s why the book of first Peter is so applicable to us today. We are finding ourselves in very much the same context as those early Christians did. We are seeing that our situation is starting to mimic theirs.
And Peter’s words help us just as much as they helped those to whom he first wrote. For in this passage Peter gives us instruction on what it takes to live in a culture that that is opposed to our way of life. He tells us that if we are going to live in an adverse culture we must possess the right frame of mind. Mentally, he says, we must stay alert to the evils around us and focused on the graces before us.
I. We must stay alert to the evils around us
Peter uses two phrases to communicate how our minds must stay alert. The first thing it says is that we must “prepare [our] minds for action.” A literal translation would read something like “gird up the loins of your mind.” The idea of girding up your loins comes from Middle Eastern warfare. Back then they wore long flowing garments. And when they had to run or do battle, they would pull these garments up and tuck them into their belts. This would allow them to run better or give them better agility as they went into combat. They wouldn’t have anything hindering their movement or getting in their way as they engaged in battle.
What Peter is saying is that we need to do mentally. We need to be alert. We need to be on the lookout for any foreign doctrines that might advance against our minds. We need to be prepared to take them on and ready to take the enemy by storm.
The same sort of idea is being communicated in the phrase “be sober minded.” Peter is telling you to be serious about your situation in life. He’s saying you recognize the dangers that may lurk about you.
If you would like to extend the metaphor of “sobriety,” think about it this way: Peter is telling you that there are intoxicating teachings out there. And these teachings have the power to impair your faith or damage your ability to say alert. If you are drunk, the alcohol in your system prevents your mind from functioning as quickly as it should. So your reaction time is not what it ought to be. As a result, you can succumb to all sorts of problems.
Young people, the best way I can describe this is by making this comparison. Let’s say that you are at a baseball game. And you’re hanging out with your friends, and you’re having a jolly time with them. So much so that you pretty much forget about what’s going on out on the baseball field. The game is the furthest thing from your mind. Then, all of a sudden, someone yells “Look out!” As soon as you hear that, there is a strong sensation that runs through you. Almost instantaneously you’re body tenses up. Your mind kicks into high gear and all your senses immediately turn into a radar to find whatever it is you’re supposed to be watching out for. And within a split second you’re jumping out of the way of a speeding foul ball. It all happens so fast—you react so quickly—that you don’t really know how you got out of the way.
That alertness—that kind of mental agility is the kind of thing Peter is talking about. You have to be on the lookout for any kind of evil that might be coming your way. If you are not on the lookout, then you might be hit with a doctrine that can damage your walk with Christ.
A while back I taught a couple of classes on “how to watch a movie like a Christian.” Basically it was a worldview class. The whole thrust of the class was that there is a distinctly Christian way to watch a movie. What I meant was that, as a Christian, you can’t just click on the television and turn off your brain. When you walk into a theater, or when you fire up the DVD player, your mind has to be engaged with what you are watching. Those films will be sending you messages. They will be communicating a particular worldview—and typically it’s not a friendly one. So you have to be active the whole time, examining what is being said and discerning what is it is saying about right and what is wrong, about God, about the world and life in that world.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time that doesn’t happen. Usually, when the lights go down, the brain shuts off. A friend of mine once expressed this idea really well. He said, “When I flip on Rambo, I’m not there to interact with it. I just want to see things blow up.”
That kind of mental lethargy is what Peter is advising against. When we let down our guard, then we are susceptible to the invasions of our culture. And we can be led astray by the anti-Christian worldviews that are so prevalent around us. At the very least, if we are not careful, we can easily dilute the Christian faith with tenets of feminism, or pluralism, or pragmatism or secularism that are being advocated all around us.
As a matter of fact, I spoke with a fellow home educator just this week about this sort of thing. She confided in me that many, if not most, of the Christians she knows have absorbed the darwinian worldview when it comes to their beliefs concerning creation. At best they have a theistic evolutionary view—one that says that God directed the evolutionary process over thousands and millions of years.
And she is right. Too many today have succumbed to our culture’s intensive indoctrination on this point. Society’s leaders have been working very hard to push this. They know that if they can knock this peg out of our belief system, everything else will come crumbling down on its own. That’s why it’s in our textbooks, in our museums, on our televisions, and in our newspapers. It’s a full court press when it comes to the question of beginnings. They are trying to slip it in anywhere they can, just hoping that by their constant pecking you’ll give up this silly notion of a six day creation.
That’s why you need this kind of mental vigilance that Peter addresses here. You need to be alert, watching out for these attacks. If we are going to be Christians, we need to remember that there are under constant attack. The wider society has plotted an invasion on our faith. And that means we need to gird up the loins of our minds and be on a mental red alert at all times.
And while we mind our culture and all its evils, we should not forget to mind our future and all its glories.
You know, every soldier who is embedded in a fox hole on the front lines of a war will be watching his enemy’s movements. He’s going to be staying alert to what’s going on out there. But he’s also going to be keeping an eye on the sky. He knows that headquarters is going to be sending an air raid to take out his enemies and end the war.
Just like those soldiers, we need to stay alert to the evils around us. But we must also stay attuned to the grace ahead of us.
II. We must stay attuned to the grace ahead of us.
Our passage says, “Set your hope on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Christ Jesus.”
Part of what keeps us going in this life is simply recognizing that there is an end to our labors. Though we must be vigilant today, there will come a time when we can let our guard down. Christ will one day break forth from his current hiding place and bring everlasting peace to us. He will make it so that we will not have to be on guard at all times. He’s going to get rid of all the influences in this world that wish to disrupt our walk with Christ.
That’s why he says that you must set your hope fully on that. Or as another version puts it, “hope to the end for” that grace. He wants you to fix your attention on the end times and all that will transpire there.
The doctrine of Christ’s return and future glorification is to be our strong confidence. Our minds are to be attuned to these future graces because they ease some of the burden of our trails.
That’s exactly why it was written into the Heidelberg Catechism. During the Reformation Christians were faced with similar adversities. During the Reformation people were dying for their faith and facing imprisonment all the time. So when the framers constructed the HC, they helped to keep their people focused on this idea by including it in the section dealing with the return of Christ. In question 52 the HC asks, “What comfort is it to you that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead?” It answers by saying,
In all my sorrow and persecution I lift up my head and eagerly await as judge from heaven the very same person who before has submitted Himself to the judgment of God for my sake, and has removed all the curse from me. He will cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but He will take me and all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.
That language is fantastic. I love how it says that we walk through this life with heads lifted up. As a Christian, we always have our eyes ever on the sky. Our heads are not to be cast down, pessimistically looking at our present circumstances. We keep our eyes fixed upon that great salvation that will one day be ours. We focus on the coming of Christ and all the blessings that will accompany it.
Think of why this is so important. Here in this life it’s possible that we will find ourselves missing out on so much—or perhaps having things kept from us. As Christian outcasts we are going to find ourselves ostracized more and more. We’ll find that we will not be permitted to have certain jobs or able to engage in certain activities because of our faith.
Here’s just one example of how. Over the last few years I’ve noticed an increase of sports activities occurring on Sunday. It wasn’t always so. It used to be that our culture embraced the Christian understanding of the Lord’s Day, where we refrain from our employments and organized recreations to devote our time to the Lord. However, that has slowly been erased. Now Sunday is devoted to the other major US religion: Sports.
So my wife recognize that there’s probably coming a time when we may have to give up sports. Or at least we’ll have to say to the coaches and parents, “I’m sorry. We cannot participate on Sundays. We believe that this day is supposed to be reserved for rest and for the worship of God.”
And, unless God does a miraculous work to change the way things are going, we will find ourselves facing similar situations beyond the soccer field. Throughout time Christians have had to say no to certain things. And during times of persecution, many have been kept from holding certain jobs and positions, not to mention having many of this world’s enjoyments stripped from them.
This is why we must set our hope on the grace that will be revealed at the revelation of Christ. We must walk through this life with heads lifted up. We must know that, though we miss out on certain things here and now, there will be more for us in the life to come. The grace that will be ours will far surpass what the world may keep from us now. One day we shall possess blessings abundance, and they will be ours for all eternity.
So my brethren, set you hope on the future grace that is to be yours.
You know, this is exactly what the Muslim men do. Of course, their idea of future blessings is so carnal and abhorrent. The future for them is an indulging of the flesh with wine and women. We recognize just in that alone that it is a false religion. But think about it: Their hope (though it is a false hope) affects them now. The hope of fleshly fulfillment causes them to act. It impels them to give up anything in this life, even their lives.
My friends, we should pity them for their wayward religion. But we should also emulate (if not exceed them) in their action. We serve the true and living God. And we have a guarantee that he shall come again. And when he does we shall have a greater storehouse of grace bestowed upon us!
And as a result, we should not fret when we are forced to give something up, even if it means the loss of our life.
A hundred and fifty years ago our nation began expanding as people started moving west. Thousands of stories have been written about those men and women who mounted up their carriages to make their fortunes in the new territories. My daughter has recently been reading some of those works that capture the mindset of those settlers. There’s every good reason why there are so many books on it though. These men and women risked their lives. They were in danger almost every minute. They had to be on constant lookout for Indians and wild beasts that could tear them apart. Yet, despite the dangers, they pressed forward. The thing that kept them going was the thought of possessing their own land and with it a new life.
Peter tells us here that we must have the same “settler mindset.” As we travel through this wilderness, we stay alert and keep constant watch for the evils that lurk about us. We must be vigilant and be ready to fight anything that would destroy us or have us turn back. And yet, all the while, we must keep our minds attuned to the new life and new land that will one day be ours.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.