Introduction to 1st Peter 1st Peter 1:1-2
Intro: Maybe tell a story of a POW or something here (emphasize great stress and loss of control)
Situated at the top of each of our kidneys is a very small body organ called the “adrenal gland.” Each of these glands measures about 2” in diameter and consists of a medulla, (the inner core) and a cortex, (which makes up the outer shell).
The adrenal gland secretes a fluid hormone known as adrenalin. You know what adrenalin does… it helps the body to adjust to situations of sudden stress.
For example: when you become very angry… or when you are extremely frightened, the adrenal glands infuse large amounts of adrenalin into your bloodstream. This adrenalin causes your bodily system to react in at least one of three different ways:
1. It increases the velocity of your heart rate.
2. It raises your blood pressure.
3. It rapidly speeds up the conversion of glycogen into glucose, which produces energy that flows to your muscles. Glycogen is a readily mobilized storage form of glucose and is a good source of energy for sudden, strenuous activity.
So when we are faced with a situation, which is fearful or stressful – adrenalin is released into our bloodstream and prepares us to do one of two things:
FIGHT or FLEE! Fight or Flight it is often called.
1. your heart rate speeds up!
2. Your blood pressure rises!
3. And glucose is released directly into the muscles enabling us to react… stand or Run.
This is just an amazingly marvelous mechanism of our human anatomy, right?
But what would happen if you faced a situation where there was great stress; or great danger; or great fear – BUT you had no control over the situation. In other words, you cannot fight and you cannot run – you can’t react!
*Mark It – You are afraid – worried, you are stressed, perhaps you are angry! The adrenalin kicks in: your heart rates jumps; blood pressure rises; glucose levels are peaked out… you want to fight OR you want to run from the situation – BUT you can do neither. Your body is saying “Do Something!” But you can’t.
The inability to respond to this sudden flow of adrenalin leads to an erratic heart- beat. The heart is ready to do something – but you’re not able to. Stress is now put on the heart muscle; nerves begin to react and damage to your heart can occur.
Transition: We all know what a predicament is, right? It’s a negative situation in which you have no options. Ever been there? Perhaps we all have at one time or another. We are frightened, we are angry, we are stressed… the adrenalin is flowing, our heart is pumping faster and faster, and you feel the strain as your muscles tense up… but the situation is of such a nature that you cannot, you are unable, to do anything. You can’t fight it and it won’t go away… That’s quite a predicament isn’t it? Predicaments with no options can not only lead to heart damage, but it can also lead to a miserable state of insecurity. And mark me here – prolonged spats of insecurity ultimately lead to despair and hopelessness.
Interject: Say, “James, How do we cope with a situation that we can’t change – AND can’t avoid either? How are we supposed to deal with that?”
Transition: Great news is that is exactly the focus of this Book, 1 Peter. The apostle is writing to a people who were afraid; who were angry; who were incredibly stressed and at the same time were powerless to affect the situation. They had no options and consequently they were moving toward despair. They were in critical danger of losing all Hope.
Through this Book we get an opportunity to peek over their shoulder as they read this letter from the apostle. We get to see God move to counteract their potential despair with divinely orchestrated words of Hope!
Now as we jump in I want to state a principle that you will see permeated throughout this Book. And this is my proposition this morning:
Insecurity then despair and hopelessness occurs when we place our hope in things we can lose… jobs, people, material possessions, friendships, health, life, money… all things we can lose.
Peace and Security and Hope comes when we place our trust, our hope in things we can’t lose – the Word of God, Jesus Christ, Eternal Life, Heaven.
What we are going to see God do through this book is to redirect their focus from the things they can’t change and that they can lose to things they can never lose. Consequently our focus can be redirected too.
I. The Situation @ Hand (1:1)
II. The Shifting of Focus (1:2)
1.The Situation @ Hand
We can gather an idea of just how dire a predicament these people were in just by looking at verse 1. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”
The key word in that verse is “scattered.” It comes from the Greek word “diaspora.” Diaspora is a technical term referring to the Jews driven from their homeland, Israel.
“Diaspora” is a compound Greek word. The prefix “dia” means through or throughout. “Spora” carries the idea of scattering a seed over a field. So “diaspora” literally means to scatter seeds throughout a field – from one end to the other.
The word was carried over in the technical sense to describe the scattering of the Jewish race as a seed throughout the field of the world… like seed scattered throughout a field.
Now even a cursory look at history reveals that the Jewish race has suffered persecution like no other race of people has ever experienced. Holocaust after holocaust has been their fate… The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes & Persians, Greeks, Romans, & Germans have all attempted to annihilate this race of people.
And aside from physical persecutions they have suffered social persecution as well. Because as these Godless nations would conquer Israel they would then force the Jewish people out of their land and scatter them across the world.
The most severe of these scatterings was to come in 70 A.D. when the Romans swarmed in to crush the Jewish uprising and killed over 1,100,000 Jews and then drove the remaining population out of Israel scattering them among the nations of Europe, Asia and Asia Minor.
The Jews became like Gypsies. Where do gypsies live? Here and there, right? This country, that country, they’re homeless.
Speaking of Gypsies I got an opportunity to see this firsthand when I travelled to Romania following the fall of the dictatorship of Ceacesceu. We were there bringing relief supplies to the people in the churches and the pastors. While there, we had to make our way through Transylvania and throughout that region we encountered gypsies. Living in their covered wagons, dressed like you’ve seen them depicted on TV and yes, even scorned by others throughout the area.
That was the social status of the Jews – they were seen as no better than gypsies and wherever they set up camp, whatever country they called home – they were hated. They were scorned.
But the insult doesn’t end there. Not only were these people Jewish but they were also Christians. People from all of these areas mentioned: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia would have been present @ Jerusalem during Pentecost and would have heard Peter preach. Doubtless, some of these were converted to Christianity and took their new found faith back with them to these areas.
Additionally, the Apostle Paul had travelled this region extensively and many Gentiles had also been converted.
And it is to these Jewish and Gentile converts that this letter was first sent. These were people who had recognized Jesus as the Messiah, taken Him as Lord and Savior… and that commitment to Christ made their lives even more problematic.
Some of you are probably asking yourselves why would their being Christians make their lives more problematic?
To answer that let me give you a date from history. July 19, 64 A.D. That was the day that Rome burned. The Emperor, Nero was considered maniacal and he was the prime suspect. He had an insatiable desire to build and the only way he could continue to build was to tear down what was already and build it back bigger and better.
The city of Rome was divided into fourteen districts and by the time the blaze was quenched three of these districts had been completely consumed.
Rome was a city of narrow streets. And on both sides of these streets were high wooden houses where over 1,000,000 people resided. Once the fire started – it would easily leap from one side of the street to the other, consuming everything in its path, including people, like kindling.
Those who tried to extinguish the fires were hindered and when one fire was stopped another one started.
Historians tell us that Nero had a front row seat in the “Tower of Massinus” and he is described as being “charmed by the flames,” at one point calling them “quite lovely.”
Many people perished. Religious shrines and artifacts were consumed as well. Lost in the flames were the temples of Luna, Aira Maxima, Jupiter and the Shrine of Vesta.
People lost loved ones, homes, their culture and their religious faith was rocked to the core! Their gods had been consumed in the flames! Their resentment ran deep, bitter and rapidly turned deadly.
Nero sensed this and knew he had to redirect their hostility away from himself Recognizing his danger he sought a scapegoat and found one ready-made for him: Christians. He accused them of starting the blazes and launched a fearful persecution of the church.
His task was made significantly easier, because of the perceptions regarding Christians by the citizens of Rome.
1. Christians were associated with Jews. The church was at first seen as a cult or off-shoot of the Jewish religion. Jews did not abide by the polytheism of Rome and were scorned for it. Also, many of the Christians were of Jewish heritage. Rome was rife with anti-Semitism.
2. Xians were hated and mistrusted because of various myths that had been spread about them:
A. Accused of being cannibals because of misrepresentation regarding the Lord’s Supper. “Eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus…”
B. Xians were accused of dividing homes and families. Many wives came to Christ – rejecting the pagan gods of their unbelieving husbands. For a wife to act independent of her husband was a huge affront.
So, Nero picked the right group to blame this tragedy on because they were already suspect in the minds of Romans.
Under Nero this persecution took many forms: Xians were nailed to crosses, racked, boiled, lynched, wrapped in pitch and set ablaze as torches to light the gardens for his parties. Some Xians were sewn up into animal skins and thrown to wild dogs in order to be torn limb from limb.
As a result the persecution spread just as the fire before had. The center was Rome but it quickly jumped to other provinces and as it spread it touched places like those mentioned in verse 1 and consequently it touched the Xians living in those places too!
Mind you, as this persecution began to make in-roads into these cities fear began to fall upon Xians. Adrenalin began to flow into their bloodstreams, their heart rate increased, blood pressure rose, muscles tightened, stress and anxiety became a fact of everyday life because their minds were telling them to Fight or Run or Do Something!
But they couldn’t take on the Roman Empire NOR could they make it go away NOR could they escape it – the known world was under Rome’s control.
Consequently they became fearful, angry, even frustrated. No doubt many of them lay awake at night heart racing, jumping at every sound, wondering when someone would come for them…
Their minds are telling them to “do something” but there really was nothing they could do and they were slipping toward despair and hopelessness.
So what the Apostle Peter does is shift their focus AND ours from things they can lose to things they and we can never lose. For those of us who have trusted X, there are some wonderful things we can never lose – that can never be taken from us.
We’ve seen the Situation @ Hand now let’s look at
II. The Shifting of Focus (2)
“(2) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace and Peace be multiplied.”
Stop right there and notice that word “peace,”
“a rrain a” in the Greek. It literally means a state of peace, freedom from anxiety, freedom from worry.
Might be saying, “James, how in the world could Peter be telling them to have this abiding sense of peace when they are seeing friends and loved ones lose everything, including their lives – knowing that they might be next?”
He challenges them to peace and security by shifting their focus from that which they are going to lose anyway by gently reaching out with his words and cupping his reader’s chins and lifting their faces skyward – toward heaven to that which they can never lose.
And that’s exactly what the book proceeds to do! Look at Vs. 3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (4) to an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
From here Peter launches into a plethora of things that are ours, and that we, as God’s children can never lose.
He talks about heaven in Vs. 3
Second Coming in Vs. 7
Salvation in Vs. 9
Our Savior –Jesus Christ in Vss. 18-19 & 2:4
The Word of God in Vs. 23
Our election 2:9-10
These are ALL things that we cannot lose and the security of all these things is bound up in heaven. Our and ability to know true peace is secure in those first few words of verse 2: “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”
We are elect. We have been chosen. We’ll get into the implications of that more next time.
Point is. You want peace? Want security? It will only come when we set our affections on the things we cannot lose.
The apostle Paul reiterated this in the Book of Colossians Chapter 3:2, most of you probably already know this verse – “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth…”
Say Why? – Because you cannot lose things above – things in heaven. However, you do stand to lose everything here on earth. You can lose your career, job – if that’s what drives you, what allows you to sleep at night – you’re setting yourself up for some major insecurity. The very thought of losing your job will rob you of peace won’t it? You can lose friends, money, loved ones, house, even your life.
These are the things most people place their hope in, aren’t they? We measure our very self worth by our careers, jobs, money, friendships, spouses, children, health… ALL these things are things we can and will one day eventually lose. No wonder deep down, MOST people are so insecure!
I’m reminded of the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6: 25-34
25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single •cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. HCSB
True security and Peace is really a matter of our thought life, what you think about, concentrate on – make sure those things are things you cannot lose.
Close with an illustration: Your mind is like a never ending DVD Recorder. And its recorded and cataloged everything you’ve ever done, every situation you’ve imagined yourself in. And it enables you to play back these recordings on demand, at a moment’s notice.
And what do most people do? They go over and find a DVD containing things they can lose, things they can’t control and they insert the DVD into their head and the video begins to play…
They play back video of this problem, or that problem, they go back over conversations they had and say “look at how that person treated me.” They review over and over some problem with their boss or job, or arguments with co-workers or family or their spouse. They play back video in their minds of one predicament after another… the adrenalin begins to flow, their blood pressure rises, feelings of insecurity set in and they begin to lose hope.
Child of God – Don’t you do that! Place your chin into the words of 1st Peter and lift your vision, your focus skyward –toward heaven. Be encouraged! The greatest treasure, the greatest blessings in all the world are stored up for us in heaven, kept by the very power of God Himself.
Invitation – If don’t know this peace, but want it… Can be yours.