In the Midst of Chaos

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/6/2020

When I planned this series, I tried to anticipate… What will be the general state of mind, the climate, the mood, the psychology, the hopes and fears and anxieties of people as we head into the fall? And what part of the Bible might encourage our faith while inspiring a greater love of God and people and this tumultuous world?

1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. . .

I immediately thought of the letter the Apostle Peter wrote, to the “young-in-the-faith” Gentile Christians, who found themselves scattered over the provinces of “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia & Bithynia. . .” a geography spanning 300,000 square miles. . . known today as modern Turkey.

Biblical scholars debate who these people were. Were they Christians who got physically scattered because of persecution or some other circumstance? Or were they Christians who, because of their allegiance to Christ, became physically, psychologically, and spiritually oppressed (subject to cruelty)? Do you remember that verse in Proverbs 29:27 that essentially says the way of the wicked is detestable to the righteous; and the way of the righteous is detestable to the wicked? Sometimes we come to feel that we just don’t fit or belong in this world.

Young people today detest the cruelty of our world. They are outraged and want to fight back—they are creating chaos—hoping something new, better, and more just will emerge from the smoke and ashes. Older people detest the chaos. They’ve seen this before—they want to avoid, survive, and even see the chaos suppressed at most any cost. I can’t think of a time when people I know and love (even in this church) have been more divided.

The cry of our age seems to be “Stand Firm!” Don’t abandon your opinions and beliefs! Stand your ground! Be firm! Insist on your way! Be emphatic and resolute and do not budge. Resist! Fight! Cancel! Be outraged! I think of Peter in Garden of Gethsemane unsheathing his sword (his rage) to confront the Temple Guard who’d come for Jesus. “Don’t you dare tread on me or my Jesus!” [whack]

But I wonder if maybe there is a way young and old might stand together, not in the flesh, not in anger and hostility, not divided, not passively, but maybe quite powerfully and more effectively? Maybe there is a more redemptive way. . . a non-Red, non-Blue, non-left, non-right, non-White, non-Black, non-political, non-worldly, non-fleshly, uncompromised way. . . for us to stand together, and quite importantly, with Christ. . . with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. There are many self-authorized apostles today, who claim to have superior authority in Christ’s church. But then there were true blue, died-in the wool Apostles (Like Peter) who were called by Jesus, personally followed Jesus, walked with Him, were actual eyewitnesses of his life, ministry, sufferings, transfiguration, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. There were Apostles who were truly commissioned to be as such by our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

In your Bible, “the Gospel of Mark” is Peter’s testimony about Christ’s life. The letter of “1 & 2 Peter” is Peter’s word… his application of Christ’s life… to people dispersed across space and time… people subject to cruel circumstances, cruel injustices, cruel people/relationships, cruel marriages, cruel slavery, cruel systems and authorities… subject to cruelty sin and death itself!

1 Peter 1:1,2b, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad. . . may grace and peace be multiplied to you!”

Peter’s core message is this: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you!” Isn’t this really what everyone is seeking? Can you think of any times in Peter’s life when he needed a little grace and peace? Oh, how we’d love to exponentially multiply grace over cruelty! But how? Oh, how we’d love to multiply peace over the ever-escalating hostility and chaos! But how?

Peter didn’t write this letter in a vacuum. On so many different occasions we find Peter in crisis. (1) Do you remember how when called to lay down his nets and follow Jesus, Peter pleaded in Luke 5:8, “Go away from me Lord, I’m a sinful man!” (2) Do you remember how in Mark 4:37-38 Peter found himself straining at the oars, at the edge of darkness and terror, at the end of his strength, about to be swallowed by one storm after another at sea, how he cried out to Jesus, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re about to die?” (3) Do you remember how in John 20:19 Peter trembled in fear for his life in that upper room, knowing he’d denied Jesus, knowing his faith had been so weak and anemic, knowing they were all being hunted, sought by evil men?

How many times did Jesus not only pour out grace but multiply peace in Peter’s life? Mark 20:19, “Peace be with you.” Mark 4:39-40, “He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

In Jesus, there is true grace to snatch us from the clutches of all the cruelty and chaos. In Jesus, there is true peace. Indeed Christ himself “is” our peace.

In Jesus, grace and peace aren’t hollow promises—they are tangible realities. Can you think of anything our world needs more than GRACE and PEACE? What great temptation we face, to turn away from God and against one another. No, here is what we’re going to be learning… to turn toward God and toward one another… how to stand with God and with one another with grace and peace multiplying (exponentially), growing, spreading, infecting every heart, mind, body, and soul across the great expanse of this earth.

1 Peter 1:1-2a, “To those chosen. . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ. . .”

Could we talk a moment about our great salvation? In Ancient Times, do you know who the chosen people were? Do you know who was God’s chosen nation. . . who were his holy, covenant, favored, privileged, foreknown, treasured, beloved, called-out people? It was the Jewish people, the Jewish race, the biological descendants of Abraham. Do you know who was hated and despised, dirty and unclean, forgotten and canceled, alienated and thought of as good as dead? It was the hated Gentiles. They were definitely NOT the people of God.

Whenever we see this Bible word “chosen or elect” we think of it being synonymous with words like “exclusion and rejection.” But in Peter’s mind “chosen and elect” has a profoundly different connotation. Perhaps we forget, or were never taught, that at one time Peter was a proud, privileged, Jewish Supremacist. He had no problem preaching Jesus to his own Jewish kind. He had no problem imposing his Jewishness on others. But do you remember what happened in Acts 10? A Gentile man, a Roman Centurion, an Italian, a devout, God-fearing, charitable, Jewish-loving, praying man named Cornelius had a vision. He was told to call for a man named Simon (Peter).

And at the same time Peter is up on his roof praying, when he becomes stricken with hunger, and falls into a trance. Heaven opens up and he sees all sorts of unclean animals—four footed animals, reptiles, birds—and the Lord says in Acts 10:13, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter protests, Acts 10:14, “No, Lord! For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.” And what does the Lord say? Acts 10:15, “What God has made clean, do not call impure.” Well guess what? Peter’s dream wasn’t about meat! No, what does Peter realize? Acts 10:28, “Peter said to them, ‘You know its forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner, but God has shown me that I must not call any person impure or unclean.’”

There was no paradigm shift more profound to Jewish Peter than the scandalous gospel that now also the Gentile was chosen and elect! The Apostle Paul in Romans. All these Calvinists getting hung up on Romans 9, God’s gracious election of Israel. Oh the marvel of it all, that God could be so selective, including the Jew (who he foreknew, and loved), excluding the Gentile. Romans 9:15, God says, “I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” But what is the scandalous gospel? There was no paradigm shift more profound to Paul than realizing that a whole category of people otherwise known as “Gentile,” “Not my people,” “Unloved…” were now to be called of God “Sons and Daughters, “My people,” “Beloved.”

No more profound paradigm shift for Paul than realizing that God’s chosen and elect people who reject him… Romans 11 read it! Romans 11 totally eclipses Romans 9! Don’t stop at Romans 9! That God would cut down His beloved Ancient Olive Tree, and God would then graft in “wild shoots” yes, “Gentiles!”

You know it was those Gentiles, living as exiles scattered like seed, feeling forgotten, feeling forsaken, suffering cruelty, unsettled by chaos and upheaval… do you know what they most needed to hear? “You too are God’s people. You too are God’s chosen. You too were foreknown by God the Father, you were part of his purpose and place, he had his eye set on you from all eternity!” They needed to hear 1 Peter 2:9, “But [now] you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession… [you were] called out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:10, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but not you have received mercy!”

They needed to hear that the Spirit of the Living God was just as active, and powerful, and available to them as anyone else. “You all are being saved through the sanctifying, refining, purifying, holy-making work of the Spirit!”

They needed to know that what they most needed to do was to not just obey the gospel in faith, confession, repentance, and baptism…. But that they needed to stay in faith, being obedient continually no matter what! Peter tells them in 1 Peter 1:5 how they being guarded by God’s power through their faith for salvation! He tells them in 1 Peter 1:6-7 how their suffering and grief and various trials are proving the character of their faith—a faith more valuable than gold!

They needed to hear that even they were being sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ. There wasn’t any sin nor cruelty God’s grace couldn’t cover. Not any chaos or trial Jesus couldn’t breathe peace into. Like us, like our cruel and chaotic word needs to hear Peter’s invitation, “May Grace and Peace be multiplied to you!”


Scripture Verses

1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:9-10; Mark 20:19; 4:39-40; Acts 10; Romans 9 & 10.

Worship Playlist

King of Glory by Passion

Living Hope by Bethel Music

Blessed Assurance by Elevation Worship

Faithful to the End by Passion

Study Questions

  1. Why does chaos make it difficult to stand firm in your faith?
  2. How does one prepare in advance for chaotic times?
  3. What could you be doing now to stand firm in this current time of protests, unrest, virus, politics, unemployment, and disrupted plans?
  4. Read Psalm 31. What do you glean from this Psalm about standing firm?

Apply It!

Resources

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