The Fine Print
All of us might say that buying a Hummer on faith is a bad idea, if you’re expecting God to cover your bad decision. But we do tend to take the scriptures out of context when it suits us, don’t we? For instance have you ever heard anyone make this claim? (DVD by His stripes we are healed)
That’s an interesting use of that passage. It comes from Isaiah 53 and it is used by many “prosperity gospel” advocates to promote the idea that we should have no sickness and always have a gilded life. But remember: you really have to take the Bible in context.
That’s why it is so instructive to look at a New Testament occurrence of this verse. Peter uses this quote from Isaiah in 2:24 of his first letter where he says: “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed”
“Well, there you go,” you might be saying. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Jesus took my sin, my sickness, and my negative circumstances on Himself and by His wounding and His stripes I’m healed. Sickness go away! Disease, be gone! Poverty, leave me! Negative circumstances, get away from me! By His stripes I’m healed!”
But wait just a minute. What is the context of that verse? Well, let’s read the context and, when you do, you’ll discover that Peter has something completely different in mind that what is promoted on your cable tv. 1 Peter 2:21 says:
For to this you were called, because Christ also (what’s that word? Say it loud!) suffered for us, leaving us (an what? Say it loud!) an example, that you should follow His steps:
Now if Christ is my example and he suffered and if I am supposed to follow in His steps what does that mean? It means I will suffer! And how did He suffer? Well read on:
“Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Isn’t that amazing? The very text the “health-wealth” gospel crowd uses to proof-text the Christian’s easy disease-free, prosperous life is the very text the Apostle Peter uses to prove to that if we live for Christ, we will suffer! Context is pretty important isn’t it?
And it is so important that we get this right! It’s important because I rather suspect that there are many people coming to Christ for the wrong reason! That’s right. There are many people coming to Christ for the wrong reason. They’re coming to Him, not because they are sinful and in need of His cleansing. They are coming to Him because they are sick in need of healing, or poor in need of money, or going through divorce and in need of reconciliation, or out of work and in need of a job. They will jump through the hoop of praying the “sinner’s prayer” and getting baptized, but their real motive is for their problems to be solved.
In this sense, they are misinformed. They think that becoming a believer is, in some way, to having all the problems in their lives solved. They think, somehow, that faith in Christ is a panacea to the ills of this world. Salvation for them is the new entitlement program. All they have to do is pray the prayer and voila: Everything’s better.
I’ll tell you this person is seriously misinformed! And they are headed for tragedy. In fact, many people who see their Christianity in this way end up leaving the faith because they discover rather quickly that the Christian life is not easy street. In fact, as Jesus said the way is narrow and hard and few there be who find it.
There are the misinformed and then there are the distracted. They are the believers who are in the middle of their suffering and they find themselves distracted by it. They used to have their attention focused on the Lord, but suffering has a way of consuming your attention. The daily grind of spiritual intimidation, or the outright fear of spiritual confrontation plagues them and they get their eyes off of Jesus and put them on solving their own problems. Big mistake!
There are the distracted and the misinformed, but there are also the disillusioned. These believers are disillusioned by their suffering. They thought that when they prayed for God to deliver them from the professor who’s mocking their God that they’d ace the course, but they flunked. They thought that when they took a stand at work and refused to cheat, they’d be commended. Instead they’re about to lose their job. They thought that when they confessed their past sins to their mate and cleared their conscience they’d be welcomed with open arms but the revelation is straining their marriages and they cry out to God, “Why? Why haven’t you delivered me from this?”
Well, I’m so glad we’ve got these verse in 1 Peter 2 to turn to. You see, Peter makes it clear: If you’re a believer and you’re suffering, you’re not doing something wrong and God has not forsaken you. As a matter of fact, if you are a Christian and you are suffering, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. As a believer we are not called to a life of ease, but to just the opposite. 1 Peter 1:21 makes it clear what our calling is. Peter says, “ For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
Our calling is suffering! Wow! That’s not very seeker-friendly is it? What would happen if the prosperity gospel preachers preached this text in context? I have a feeling some of the gulf-streams would land, some of the beach houses would be foreclosed, and some of the satellites would come down! In fact, you may be sitting there this morning saying: “Come on Rusty, give me a little hope! I don’t know if I can sit here and listen to you tell me how bad my life’s going to be for the next 30 minutes!”
Well, I want you to know that there is hope. There is a positive side to this suffering, but you must really grasp the truth of this passage. So lets look at it this morning. Let me tell you about the fine print of the Christian life. Let me give you three truths you must know if you are to fulfill this calling in your life. The first truth is this: In this calling,
DIV 1: ACCEPTING MEANS SUFFERING
Now Peter speaks of their call to suffer in the context of what he has been saying to servants. The slaves of that day were told by the Apostle to render their service submissively. They were to obey their masters, even when their masters were harsh and hard to please. It is in that context that he comes to 2:21 and says, in essence, “The reason you are to submit to your master is because Christ was willing to suffer for us, and in that suffering, (watch!) He left us an example to follow!” The word “example” in Greek reminds us of the schools of that day where children were learning to write the alphabet. As might happen in our day, the teacher would give the children examples of the letters then give them something with which they could trace them out and reproduce them. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to place the blank paper of our lives over the pattern that Christ set and trace out that same pattern in us.
And what is that pattern like? Well, our suffering flows out of two areas in which we are to imitate Christ. We are first to imitate Him in holiness. V22 goes on to say, “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” He is quoting Isaiah 53 again in letting us know that Jesus suffered by never sinning nor trying to lie His way out of trouble with those who were attacking Him. Being set apart for God, means that our lives will constantly come into conflict with this world. In Jesus’case, it meant that he healed when the authorities said not to; he ate with the people the authorities despised; he touched the lepers the authorities left alone; He never sinned and surely the constant brilliance of His holy life caused those sinful souls around Him to hate Him.
And when we imitate Him we will be in the same position. Being set apart from the world will mean that when the world says homosexuality is ok, we must object; when the world says lying is preferred, we refuse; when the world says that promiscuous dress is expected, we are modest; when the world says that living together is the only way to prepare for marriage, we refuse to get sucked in. We imitate His holiness
And then we imitate His meekness. V 23 says, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten. This may be even harder to do than the first. When Jesus was being accused and put down, He did not trade insults. He refused to return insult for insult.
And when we imitate His meekness we will do the same. That means that when our unsaved friend laughs at us for refusing to listen to his dirty joke, we don’t get angry and put him down. That means when our unbelieving boss chides us for not cutting corners at work, we lovingly stand our ground without accusing. That even means when someone is in the wrong and they attack, we refuse to retaliate. We imitate His meekness and we imitate His holiness and both of them bring suffering. But that should not surprise us. Suffering is our calling!
And I know what you might be saying: “Who would sign up for that? It seems almost sado-masochistic to me! Well if you object, just realize to whom you object. You see, it’s not just Peter who’s saying it. In fact, the Apostle Peter got it from Christ himself. Jesus said in Lk 9:23
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
It was this calling that Dietrich Bonhoeffer heard. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote, “When God calls a man, He bids him (to) come and die.”
Bonhoeffer knew whereof he spoke. He was a rising academic, a promising theologian and a german pastor. His promising academic and ecclesiastical career was dramatically altered with Nazi ascension to power on January 30, 1933. He was a determined opponent of the regime from its first days. Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address attacking Hitler, in which he warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Führer (leader), who could very well turn out to be Verführer (mis-leader, or seducer). He was cut off the air in the middle of a sentence. He eventually started an underground seminary in Germany, turning out pastors who were willing to stand against the complacency of the church in Germany
As restrictions and then persecutions came in waves upon European Jews, Bonhoeffer cried against it and warned the church and the German people of the emerging evil. But no one listened.
He had written that there were five deaths that a Christian must be willing to die: They were:
1. Death to Natural Relationships. During the days of the Third Reich, many pastors said that, personally, they would be willing to endure imprisonment or death, but they feared for their families. Hitler, you see, always used a man’s family as an inducement for absolute obedience. Bonhoeffer, refused to equivocate. He answered that our commitment to Christ should be so all-consuming that all natural affection must come under its authority. (Matthew 10:37)
2. There was death to Natural Relationships, and then Death to success. Bonhoeffer said, “Success is a veneer that covers only the emptiness of the soul.” Christians must die to natural relationships and to success, but then they must experience
3. Death to the flesh. All natural desires for gratification must be placed under the supremacy of the cross of Christ. Closely aligned with the death to the flesh was the . . .
4. Death to the love of money. Finally, a believer was called even to
5. Physical death for Christ, should that be necessary.
In his case, it was. Because he secretly worked with an organization committed to rid Germany of the scourge of Hitler, he was discovered and sentenced to be hanged. At dawn on April 9, 1945, the sentence was carried out. The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer ... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.
Why was he so willing to die like that? Well it was because “When God calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”
So let me ask you the questions that Bonhoeffer posed. I’ve actually narrowed them to three: First, Have you died to other relationships? Parents will you let your children go where God calls them? If it’s to Liberty or the Bible College in Nashville, will you let them go where God calls them. If it’s to the mission field, or into ministry. Will you let them go?
And teens adults will you leave the friends you’ve grown accustomed to if God calls you? Will you live somewhere else besides Wilson if God wants you to? Singles will you refuse to compromise your sexual purity to maintain a relationship you think you must have? Have you died to relationships
And second, Have you died to success? Bonhoeffer said, “Success is a veneer that covers only the emptiness of the soul.” Fathers, are you so driven to win that you’re losing your family? Are you so driven to be wealthy that you’re selling out your ministry? Are you so afraid of retiring penniless that you’re trusting in your own work and not in God? Have you died to success?
Have you died to your flesh? Are you driven by some habit or addiction that absolutely pulls you away from God? It can be something as simple as TV or as complicated as another woman. Have you died to your flesh? Will you just honestly ask yourself these questions? You see, when God calls a man, He bids Him come and die. Accepting the call means suffering. That’s the first truth you must learn about this calling. Here’s the second:
DIV 2: TRUSTING BRINGS ENDURANCE
V 23 says, Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, he did not threaten . . . One commentator wrote that this is another allusion to Isa 53:7
(“He was oppressed … yet he did not open his mouth”). the author points out that Jesus in fact observed his own teaching about loving one’s enemies (Matt. 5:38–48) when he was insulted (Mark 14:65; 15:17–20, 29–32) and tortured (Luke 23:34). Unlike other martyrs of Jewish history, who called for God’s vengeance on their persecutors Jesus was silent even in his own defense.
And remember, we are to follow His steps.
And you might be saying, “Well, I do, Rusty. I do follow His steps. I do not retaliate. I don’t hit anyone. You won’t find me going postal on my critics. Hey, I don’t even argue. I keep my mouth shut too.”
Well, did you know that there are other ways to retaliate? O yes. We may not strike out, and we may even keep our mouths shut, at least when we’re in the presence of our attacker, but what about when we’re not? Can I just so you some of our “Christian” methods of retaliation?
One way Christians return fire is that we demonize our critics. Yes! We say mean and cruel things about them and assign to them, sometimes without real evidence, the worst of motives. Thus, all pro-abortion people may be said to hate babies; All homosexuals have no morals; All liberals must be atheistic. You see, we demonize our critics. Sometimes I think we want to paint them so black so that we’ll feel better about ourselves. But listen, Christian, you’re no better than the homosexual. You’ve got the same sinful nature living inside of you, and apart from Christ you’re as hopelessly lost as they are.
Another way we return fire is to not just demonize our critics, we sanitize our fellowship. Because the world attacks our faith in Christ, we withdraw. We stick our heads into the spiritual sand and isolate the world from the only contact that can lead them to redemption. We may not see it as retaliation, but the truth is we are allowing them to go to hell without our witness.
Here’s another way. Not only do we demonize our critics and sanitize our fellowship, we ostracize our world. We want people to walk through these doors who are just like us. We feel a little uncomfortable when the “misfit” shows up. We may even create rules to keep them away from us. We want folks to be as clean as we are. All of these “retaliations,” if you will, are intended to make us comfortable. We want to avoid the very suffering God has called us to. Jesus didn’t play it that way. He took the blows and never retaliated.
And how was He able to do that? Why was He willing to be so persecuted but never open His mouth? Well, the Bible says that He was willing to do that because He committed Himself “to Him who judges righteously.” It was because He had real faith in God. One commentator wrote:
Jesus was not, however, simply a Stoic who had moved beyond feeling to detachment. He was a believer who trusted in God. That God judges justly is a truism of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation; rather than take up one’s own cause, the believer commits his or her cause to this judge. This is precisely what Jesus did.
By the way, this is the only way to be able to go through the suffering of persecution for your faith. There has to be this willingness to trust in the one who will one day make everything right. Accepting this call to the cross requires that you truly believe there is a resurrection God who will make all things right. It is an act of faith.
His was a rags to riches story. One day he was a slave, the next day he was a Prince. As an infant, he was placed in the Kings care and everything he ever thought about wanting was his. But there was a calling on his life. From the day he became aware of anything, his mother taught him that he was not an Egyptian, he was a Jew. He had a special calling to be set apart for God.
He heard the call the day he saw the Egyptian beating the Israelite. He intervened and killed the Egyptian. Then, the suffering began. He had to run away and leave it all behind: the royal robes, the chariot, the rich food, and the powerful position. It was all lost in one day! He was called to suffer.
He heard the call again when the bush flamed and God’s voice told him to go back to the very land he had just left and tell Pharoah to let the God’s people go. That was dangerous! His face was probably on posters in every post office. He was going back to certain death. The suffering continued.
He heard the call when He miraculously was used to deliver God’s people. The glow of victory, though, was soon eclipsed by the whine of grumbling. The people weren’t happy and they weren’t quiet. They blamed Moses for their bad situation and would have, at times, even killed him if they thought they could. The suffering continued.
It was difficult. There were times when he wanted to quit; times when he asked God why he had put such a weight on his shoulders. The suffering continued. And yet. Yet, Moses endured. How? How was he able to make it. Hebrews 11 tells us:
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
And, in that, he was like Christ. He was willing to suffer and not retaliate because he saw “Him who is invisible.” Christian that is the only way you will ever be able to accept this calling that Christ has given you. You are only able to accept the call to suffer when you trust Him Who is invisible.
There are some truths you need to know about your calling. You need to know that accepting means suffering and trusting brings enduring. But last, you need to know that in this calling
DIV 3: ENDURANCE BRINGS REDEMPTION
V24 capsulizes the great sacrifice of Jesus and what it accomplished. It says: Who Himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins might live for righteousness —by whose stripes you were healed.
Aren’t those great verses? They tell us of the wonderful benefits we receive through Christ. It is interesting that v 24 in Greek has a different construction than our English Bibles. In Greek, the words, “our sins” come at the front of the verse. Whenever the normal word order is interrupted in Greek, that means that the writer wished to emphasize them. So you might read it like this, Who Himself bore OUR sins, MY sins, YOUR sins, OUR sins on the tree. Bearing sins means taking the blame for them and accepting the punishment for them. That’s what Jesus did: He bore our sins, so God could forgive our sins!
And that’s not all. The verse goes on to say, “that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” Peter uses the metaphor of physical healing to show that, because of Christ’s sacrifice, we haven’t just been forgiven of our sins, we’ve been delivered from them. We, in fact, have died to their power in our lives!
What an awesome truth! Porn addicts don’t have to stay that way! Drug addicts can be set free! Wife beaters can become wife lovers! Deadbeat dads can become on-target fathers! That’s what redemption is all about. I am forgiven and I am delivered!
But in our joy over our deliverance, let’s not forget the cost. I am able to do that because He bore my sins in his own body on the tree! The reason I am able to be redeemed is because He endured. He didn’t pull back from the suffering and say that the price was too high.
Now don’t miss what Peter is saying here. He connects this right back to you and me. Remember he started this section off by saying that Christ is our example and that we should follow in his steps. In other words, just as Jesus endured to redemption to us, you and I must endure suffering to bring redemption to others. Now don’t misunderstand me. If I die for Christ, no one will ever be able to claim my blood as payment for their sin. That’s not what I mean. But, I do believe that when we are willing to put it on the line to share the gospel with others, through our witness others hear the gospel and Christ redeems them. In that sense, we follow the example that Jesus set. Endurance brings redemption!
In 1730, Count Zinzendorf told the Moravians about the urgent need for missionaries to evangelize the slaves on the Virgin Islands. Leonard Dober listened to Zinzendorf’s appeal. As he pondered God’s calling, Dober felt led to respond. God was calling him to reach out to the slaves there, so he decided to do something truly amazing. He decided to go to the Virgin Islands and sell himself as a slave in order to reach out to these people. He anticipated the horrible working conditions, but above all the degradation of slavery. No price was too high, he thought, when Jesus Christ endured persecution and died for him. So, Leonard Dober, at the age of eighteen, became the first Moravian missionary to the Virgin Island sugar plantation slaves.
He arrived in the Virgin Islands in the late 1730s, but he did not have to become a plantation slave. Instead he became a servant in the governor’s house. Soon he resigned his position, because he was concerned that this position was so superior to that of the slaves that it was detrimental to reaching them for Christ. He chose instead to live in a small mud hut where he could work one-on-one with them. In three years his ministry grew to include 13,000 new converts. Endurance brings redemption!
And I am sure that some might be saying, “That’s just too much to ask, Rusty. I could never do something like that. It’s for special people who have a “special” call.” Well, I have to be honest with you. I only see one call in this passage. It comes there in v 21: For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.
No, Leonard Dober had no special call. He had the same call you have and I have. He was called to follow “in His steps!” O, but listen, that’s not a dangerous thing. I know you think God wants you to commit all to Him so He can impoverish you or let some native spear you. If you think that way will you notice v 25? It says, For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. To say that we have returned to the Shepherd is to say that we have returned to the one Who knows every need we have and to the one Who is constantly watching out for us in every situation.
I still remember many years ago being in a testimony service in Nashville, Tennessee. In that service was a missionary who was getting ready to go to the mission field to some place of service that we all considered very dangerous. I don’t remember where it was but I do remember kind of feeling sorry for the guy having to go somewhere like that and so endanger his family. I’ll never forget his testimony, however. He stood and said, in essence, “Don’t feel sorry for me. The most dangerous place to be is not in ____________ (and he named the country). The most dangerous place to be,” he said, “is out of the will of God.”
Yes, our calling is to suffer, and yes, that may mean danger and it may mean pain. But we have this promise. We are serving the “Shepherd” and He will oversee our souls!
So let me just draw this to a close with three quick applications:
First, as a disciple, we must embrace suffering because it cannot be avoided. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Listen! If you are a Christian, the time is coming when you’ll have to choose between compromise and conflict, between persecution and accommodation. At those moments, embrace the suffering. At those moments accept your calling.
You see, you must embrace suffering because it cannot be avoided, and then you must embrace it because God’s plan cannot be thwarted. Persecution never takes God off-guard! He knows right where you are and He knows every single thing you are going through. Our tendency in the middle of persecution is to somehow think that God has forgotten you and doesn’t really know what is going on. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has a plan for redemption. He wants to use your suffering just like He used the suffering of Christ to bring about His plan. Remember that He is the Shepherd of your soul. Don’t run from His plan. Embrace it.
And last of all, not only must you embrace suffering because it cannot be avoided and because God’s plan cannot be thwarted, you must embrace suffering because it really can bring redemption. In fact, in His sovereignty, God has chosen the way of suffering to become the way of redemption. It was the way that Christ took to redeem us. It is the way we must take to carry that message to the world
As I stood in the sanctuary last night and listened to the message about idols, I began to look for the idols in my own life, and I determined that I did not have any. This was a little bit surprising to me considering the fact that I struggle to find time for my bible studies, so I tried it again.
This time taking a different approach, or maybe I should say a different perspective. As I said, " I looked for the idols in MY life"; where was God in that statement? The reason I didn't see the idols in my life, was because I didn't want to. So I said to myself, self; what would God consider to be idols in my life? Well, that sure didn't take long, sports and television.
The next thing I felt was a strong desire to cancel my cable and throw the television set away; right? Wrong, the next thing I felt was a strong desire to make excuses. My watching this show or that game was not taking my attention away from God. Apparently God didn't agree with me, now that was a big surprise.
So, I swallowed my sinful pride and agreed with God to do what He had already laid on my heart; I was to go home, unplug the television and put it in the closet for the remainder of this revival. Leaving the sanctuary I shook a few hands and I was feeling great as I started my truck. Then, I started to drive off and that was when it hit me; did I really just tell God that I would put my TV in the closet on the first Sunday night of the NFL season, WHAT WAS I THINKING!
The further away from the church that I drove the harder it was to hold onto the reason I made that commitment in the first place. It is important to understand that when I say church I am not referring to a building with a steeple. The conviction that came to me in the service did not come from stones or pews, it came from the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the presence of the Holy Spirit came from the body of believers that was in the pews that were surrounded by the stones.
Now my thoughts turned to all the things I would be missing Monday night football the first one of the season and it's a double header and what about my shows? Then a question came into my mind, that God must have placed there, because I would never make myself feel that small. It was simple and to the point; why don't you get this upset, when you miss a church service? This is a sad truth, as I'm sure there are many other Christians who would be more upset about missing their favorite television show than missing a Sunday morning in God's presence.
After parking my truck I began the abnormally long walk to my apartment door. The whole way knowing what I was to do, but not sure if I had the strength to do it. Stepping inside I knew I would have to do "it" before I did anything else. Now I'm at that awkward place, you know the one I'm speaking of Christian, where I made a silent commitment to God, nobody else knows about it, I could just forget about it, and ask God to forgive me.
Standing in front of my small television set, I reached down and turned on the television. Just kidding, I unscrewed the cable connection, unplugged it from the wall and placed it in a closet where it wouldn't tempt me.
On my TV stand, where my idol rested just moments before there was an area where the dust was not able to settle making a perfect outline in the shape of my television. In the middle of that perfectly prepared area I placed my bible and on one knee I prayed for God to strengthen my inner man, that He will become the focus of my life.
Many times we know what we should do, but like the homeless man at the traffic light begging us for food, it's easier to pretend it isn't there. If we don't make eye contact we can proceed with our day without conviction because we fooled ourselves into thinking he wasn't there to begin with.
Doing what we should often times creates a discomfort in our lives whether its missing a TV show to serve food at a homeless shelter, missing a Sunday sermon to work in the children's nursery or going to Russia to work with orphaned children.
In the grand scheme of things, I know that giving up TV for a few days is a pretty small sacrifice, but sometimes the small steps we take now prepare us for the larger steps God will ask of us later.
Video with music to “embrace the cross”
Pics of martyrs who died for Christ and by their deaths won others.
Stephen - won Paul
Paul - won millions
Peter - won millions