As the Days Grow Evil

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/27/2020

This morning we are in Week 4 of our “Stand Firm” series. Our text is 1 Peter 1:13-21. I struggled so much this week, I literally spent days, thinking about how to introduce these verses! Psychologists tell us there are three basic ways people respond to danger. Sometimes we stand up to a threat, face-to-face, and “fight.” Sometimes were overcome with anxiety, and just sort of “freeze.” We don’t know what to say or do, or how to respond. We become paralyzed. Sometimes we just want to take “flight,” and want to run away from danger.

It is interesting to study Peter’s life. When I read the gospels, I get the impression that Peter was a guy who knew how to “outwardly” handle himself. Here was this fisherman—hardened by the elements, toughened up by the seas. So ambitious, so competitive, so quick to speak and act.

His name always appears first, anywhere the names of the Twelve Apostles are listed. If you go by Mark’s account, Peter was the first to follow Jesus. The first to confess Jesus as Lord. The only Apostle bold enough to step out of a boat, in the middle of a lake, and walk to Jesus on water. The first to draw his sword, to defend himself or Jesus. The first to the tomb to confirm the women’s report of Jesus’ resurrection—outracing all the others. Peter could have so much FIGHT in himself.

But we also see these moments of flight, like when Peter denied Jesus three times in the courtyard. Or these moments of paralysis, when Peter sat in the upper room, after Jesus’ crucifixion, frozen in fear. We talked in Week 1 about this letter is written to believers, “exiled” “scattered” as much physically and psychologically by anxiety and fear. Believers who were “aliens and strangers,” feeling like outsiders in a hostile land.

There were people, under extreme duress, who needed guidance. A younger, more physically reactive, volatile Peter might have said, “Get ready for action! Prepare yourself physically. Toughen up. Punch back! Draw arms. Fight” But Peter is older and wiser now. There is an inward way we should learn to handle ourselves—to prepare ourselves—and it’s the way of faith. Not to fight like the world. Not to run/take flight. Not to be paralyzed in fear. We are called to live lives of faith, to trust God, no matter what danger, threat, circumstance, stress, temptation, presents itself. 

Let’s flesh out Peter’s counsel for living lives of faith. . .

First, Peter Urges a Sober Mindset. 1 Peter 1:13a, “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded. . .” Our first assumption is that Peter might be talking about “physical” sobriety. One of the ways people are increasingly coping with stress is by drinking alcohol, smoking weed, doing drugs. Substance abuse only provides the illusion of escape, the illusion of flight. Those who come down from their high, or awake from numbness, only find themselves that much more anxious, and depressed, and stressed, and unable to cope. And so the cycle of captivity and addiction begins. With every escape, a person becomes that much more enslaved, and weakened, and desperate. If you abuse substances, there is so much quality help available to you. You will not get well until first get sober.

But I think Peter is talking about another kind of impairment. We can become just as intoxicated on emotions like anger and fear, as wine or weed. How quickly we succumb to emotion. Later in 1 Peter 3:14 Peter exhorts these Christians to not be afraid or intimated of people. We’re never so easily manipulated than when we're fearful and angry. Our words, our actions, are never so destructive, as when driven by fear and anger.

Our first priority must be to “sober up.” Often when things reached a fever pitch, Jesus would often retreat to hills, mountains, gardens, or even lakes. He’d unplug. He’d socially distance himself to maintain mental, spiritual, emotional sobriety. He’d rest, he’d sleep, he’d walk. Sobriety is prerequisite to ACTION.

Second, Peter Urges a Grace-filled Mindset. 1 Peter 1:13b, “. . . and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I was reading about how quickly we buy into cultural narratives. I’m reading this book called the Coddling of the American Mind. The authors suggest there are white/non-white narratives. Male/female narratives. Upper-class/poor. Able-bodied/disabled. Heterosexual/Gay-Lesbian narratives. Cisgender/ transgender. There are even fertility (family)/infertility (single) narratives.

At the core of all these narratives is this notion that an injustice is being done. So, when you come across people who identify with your sense of injustice, you form your tribe. And as your tribe grows, you construct a powerful and seductive narrative… a shared belief… about what is wrong, and who is to blame, and what must be done to make things right. You begin to Lionize those who champion your cause; and Demonize those who oppose your cause. Of course, reality is always more complicated, nuanced than your narrative. But when you’re filled with anger and hate who has time to deal with the nuances of reality or truth?

What Peter is suggesting here isn’t that a real injustice or cruelty hasn’t occurred against you as an individual, or even your tribe. He’s not even suggesting that one’s pain or loss are insignificant. What Peter is commanding though, he’s not even asking… is that we let an entirely different narrative define both us and others. He says, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The only thing that’s ever going to heal injustice, that’s ever going to depolarize, and destroy the dividing walls of hostility, is GRACE! We’ve all sinned, done wrong, but there is grace. We’re all to blame. All our ancestors right down to Adam are guilty, and bear a penalty too great to bear. But nothing save the blood of Jesus Christ, Second Adam, can make things right.

Our hope isn’t in worldly social justice and movements. It’s in declaring the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Third, Peter Urges a Holy Mindset. 1 Peter 1:14-16, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

One of the things that seems so obvious is how the body, our flesh, our cravings and desires, our sinful nature, can kind of have a mind all its own. Later in 1 Peter 4:2-4, Peter says we’ve already spent more than enough time in the flesh, living for human desires instead of the will of God. We’ve already spent enough doing what pagans do… “carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry.” In fact he says, they're surprised you're not plunging into the same glut of wild living as they!

Listen, your desires are incredibly powerful. And the more you fixate on a desire, the more powerful it becomes. The world says conform, give in, follow, obey your desires—and people overwhelmingly do. But God’s Spirit says do not be conformed to your former desires. A Holy God is calling you to be Holy in “all” your conduct. God is calling you to be holy as he is holy!

I have to warn you that professed believers will come to you, with Bibles in their hands and they will say, “Affirm this, affirm that, affirm this thing over here even though God says is unholy. . . even though it’s an affront to his character and nature. . .” Back in 1 Peter 1:2-3 do you remember? Peter tells us that our identity is this: Were chosen by God, foreknown by the Father, being sanctified by the Spirit, are to be obedient to Christ and covered by Christ’s blood. Our “fixation” is on our call to be God’s holy, obedient people no matter the cost.

Fourth, Peter Urges an Accountable Mindset. 1 Peter 1:17, “If you appeal to the Father who judges impartially according to each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during your time living as strangers.”

Here again is a key distinction. An ungodly person imagines that if they can maintain anonymity, they won’t ever be found guilty or made accountable for their many sins. If I can evade facial recognition, digital detection, the light of truth—if I can sin in secret—it matters not whether I lie, steal, cheat, threaten, destroy, maim, or kill.

But Peter reminds us that we have a Father who will judge everyone and everything impartially, for exactly who we are, and every thing we’ve said and done. As believers were to conduct ourselves in reverence—in an absolute fear and respect of God. Just because we might escape man’s justice, doesn’t mean we’ll escape divine justice. Over in 1 Peter 4:5 Peter tells these believers, … hey you know those evildoers slandering you… “They will given an account to the one who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.”

By the way, less we take glee in the thought of people facing judgment, Peter also says in 1 Peter 4:6ff that this is very reason why the gospel has to be preached. Because apart from Christ’s blood, humankind is morally guilty and eternal condemned, without hope. Christ must be preached or people will die.

Fifth, Peter Urges a Gospel-Centered Mindset. 1 Peter 1:18-21, “18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was revealed in these last times for you. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Here is food for thought. We tend to Lionize (over-esteem, overvalue) people who are part of our tribe. We tend to Demonize (dehumanize, devalue) people outside our tribe. I hear even Christian people describing certain people on the right, or the left, as pieces of human refuse, garbage.

A Gospel-Centered Mindset measures every single person’s value by the value GOD has placed upon man. The value of our fellow man isn’t measured in silver/gold, but by the value of the precious, perfect, unblemished, spotless blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for the sin of the world. God’s will isn’t that any should perish, but that all might be saved, raised up on the last day.

Scripture Verses

1 Peter 1:13-21; 1 Peter1:2-3; 1 Peter 4: 5-6

Worship Playlist

A Million Saints by Meredith Andrews

This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong

Sound of Adoration by Jesus Culture

The Great I Am by New Life Worship

Study Questions

  1. After reading this passage, what are some things that might undermine our firm standing?
  2. What are some evils you see rising in our days?
  3. Why are followers of Jesus to live as strangers in this world?
  4. Read Romans 1:18-2:16. How does this passage add to what you read in 1 Peter 1:13-21? What evil or injustice will you pray about this week?

Apply It!

Read and reread 1 Peter each week over this sermon series. One of the shorter books of the Bible, it takes just 16 minutes to read. The full text is in your Stand Firm sermon series booklet. You can also read it or listen to it read in various translations at www.biblegateway.com 

Resources