Call to Worship:
“Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods…Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:1-7)
Oh Lord, indeed you are the great God above all gods, the great King above all kings, and so it is we offer you our worship this morning. We bring you, as tribute, our praise. We thank you for the privilege of being held in your hand, for the privilege of being sheep of your gracious pasture. We ask that you would feed us this morning through your word, that your would strengthen us through your Spirit, all for your glory. In Jesus name, amen.
Call to Confession:
“…And one of them, a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt. 22:35-40)
Holy God of All, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we come before your this morning acknowledging our sin. We understand that your word tells us if we keep the whole law but fail in one point, we have become accountable for all of it. Lord God, we have failed in much more than one point. We have not loved you with our whole hearts, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, we have sinned this week in thought, word, and deed. Father, we once again ask for your mercy. We once again plead no righteousness of our own, but only the righteousness of your Son, Jesus, given for us. And we pray all of this in his name alone, amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
“For our sake, he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-25
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
If you remember the old Sesame Street episodes, they would often be “sponsored” by a letter of the alphabet, a letter intended to be learned by the young viewing audience and applied. I was reminded of that when considering this passage, for all the themes that I think it addresses and highlights start with the letter “S.” You could say, in Sesame Street form, today’s passage is sponsored by it:
Recall that Peter is writing to a first-century audience that resided in the part of the Roman Empire that is today known as Asia Minor or present day Turkey. They were a mixed audience ethnically, their testimonies of salvation were mixed, but they shared the commonality of increasingly feeling like they didn’t belong in this earthly life. Persecution and hardship started to creep in; their neighbors failed to understand their commitments and religious beliefs; and many of them (as this passage indicates) worked or lived in situations that seemed unjust, didn’t seem fair, and would’ve left many wondering if God even cared.
Does any of this sound or feel familiar to you?
If so, Peter’s words are helpful. He gives us a lesson in selflessness. It’s not that he, Peter, or God doesn’t care. It’s not that he, Peter, or God doesn’t recognize that many do find themselves in difficult positions. Rather, it’s simply that Peter in his own life, his own testimony, his own journey alongside Jesus, began to understand more and more that the for many in the Christian life the cross precedes the crown. That the experiences of the “students” usually is the same as that of their “teacher” (Matt. 10:24) and just as Jesus suffered unjustly – and yet persevered – so too are his followers called to do the same. There are of course extreme-example exceptions to this, just like there were when we talked in the passage before this about submission to governing authorities, but this is a general Biblical principle.
And just how does one take this approach of selflessness?
By understanding it’s all a part of the sovereign plan of God. Just like a single sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God knowing; just like every hair on our heads is numbered, so too God intimately knows each and every thing we are going through. God knows each and every thing we are subjected to and trying to endure. It doesn’t necessarily make all of those things right, it doesn’t necessarily make the call to endurance any easier, but it continues to mean we are not alone. God is with us, and God even has plans to work out everything about the difficult situation or hardship ultimately for our good and his glory. God’s sovereign plan and sovereign watch are over and above any earthly situation or circumstance, and any personal quagmire we may find ourselves in, no matter how difficult or dire.
And so it is, that Peter reminds us this sovereign guidance of God is ultimately for – here’s the last “S” word – our sanctification.
Really, we could add yet another “S” word into this application – salvation. For you’ll notice that in verses 24-25, Peter gives us a neat and concise summary of salvation: Jesus accomplished what he did on the tree of Calvary so that we as wayward sheep would be brought back into the loving fold of our great Shepherd and Overseer. But, you see, precisely because that salvation has occurred, and precisely because we do have the assurance of residing in the flock of God through the work of Jesus, we can have confidence that what we encounter ultimately then is part of God’s design to sanctify us. The selflessness and even suffering, at times, we are called to endure are part of God’s sovereign plan, and that plan is intended to conform us more and more into the image of Christ – to make us obedient to the example of Jesus (v.21) – it is designed to sanctify us.
Once again, we are reminded of the timeless word of God for us. The grass may wither, the flower may fade, but truly the word of God does remain. Peter may have written twenty centuries ago, but its amazing how our experiences and what we are called to endure in the Christian life are shared still. So as we continue to navigate the road ahead, may we remember the selflessness we are called to, the sovereignty of God, and the sanctification he is working – all through and for the glory of Christ Jesus, our Savior.
May the Lord bless us and keep us.
May the Lord cause his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.