Good morning and welcome to Journey Church – my name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastor’s here at Journey. And I want to start by asking you if you have a good rollercoaster story? Raise your hand if you have a good rollercoaster story?
I remember when I was a youth pastor we would take a trip each year to worlds of Fun in Kansas City – and the big rollercoaster was called the Mamba. Now I’m not a rollercoaster guy – I don’t particularly love them – but usually there would be a middle schooler who would want to ride it but was nervous and so it would take some coaxing but I would say – I’ll ride with you if you want to ride with me?
And so one year there was this super sweet girl named Kylie – who told me she wanted to go but was really nervous – and sure enough we waited in line and Kylie was very very nervous. Sweat beading – her face was petrified – and the whole time I was like, it’s okay Kylie – you’ll be okay – and eventually we make our way to the car and we hop in – and then Kylie looks at me and says – I want to get off. I don’t want to do this anymore – and she starts working her way up – and just at that time – this sweet old lady who worked at the ride walked up – and like a total mom asks Kylie – what’s wrong dear? And Kylie says – I’m really afraid and I don’t want to ride this – I want to get off. And this mom – God bless her – she puts her hand on Kylie’s shoulder and
Pushes her back into her seat and closes the bar on Kylie and says – too late honey. And then walks away giving the special hand wave to the operator to say – let’s ride! And off we went – and to this day I will never forget the look on Kylie’s face when it started moving and she looked at me like I betrayed her – and both of us had tears streaming down our face – Kylie from terror and me from laughter – and off we went…
Let me ask you a question – does your faith ever resemble a rollercoaster ride? Does your faith ever feel like one minute you are on a mountaintop and the next you are screaming down a valley?
We talk about faith being a journey – does your journey ever feel like it’s filled with ups and downs and ups and downs and ups and downs and occasionally – your upside down and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry?
Well, this series will resonate with you because the letter that we are studying was written by the most rollercoaster faith guy in the entire bible. He goes from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows -sometimes in the same day. And yet – he becomes one of the most influential and important leaders in the early church.
His name was Peter. And sometimes he does things that are simply courageous – and other times he does things that make you cringe. But here’s the bottom line for Peter – he wasn’t defined by his ups and downs and neither are you.
Peter was the King of the swing! He went from stupendous to stupid so quickly and so often – Let me give you two examples of Peter’s.
Talk about a highlight – during a storm on the sea of Galilee – in Matt 14 – Jesus freaks out the disciples by walking on the water – and the disciples are freaking out – they think it’s a ghost – but Peter – sees it’s Jesus and Peter goes full Leroy Jenkins! Over the edge of the boat – in faith walks on water toward Jesus!
Its Peter and only Peter who has enough faith to say – “Jesus – let me walk on the water too… – and Peter goes full Leroy Jenkins – over the edge of the boat…. the other guys are like – Did Peter just go over the edge?
So the guy gets huge props for that… that’s highlight – even if he did eventually begin to sink… let’s give credit where credit is due.
But then – in Mark 8 there’s the time when Jesus told the disciples that he was soon to suffer and die but that on the third day he would be raised from the dead – and Peter rebukes Jesus. Listen Jesus – enough talk about dying and coming back to life – you sound ridiculous… And Jesus looks at Peter and says to him – get behind me Satan. I think that any time Jesus calls you Satan – that’s going to have to be a lowlight
Peter’s life had moments of stupendous victories – and he had moments of just stupid. Sometimes he went from stupendous to stupid within hours. Can anyone relate? Good – praise God that we are more than the medium average of our moments, high and low.
To be sure – our highs and lows – and how we respond to them shape us – they influence us – but you are not a stock. And your value- like Peters – doesn’t increase nor does it diminish based on performance.
So let’s jump into this first of two letters written by Peter – that became known as 1 Peter. It was written about the year 65 ad or so – during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. And we will read only the first two verses
This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
May God give you more and more grace and peace.
Peter begins his letter by first telling the people he is writing who he is… I am Peter. But then Peter does something very interesting to me. He goes on to tell the people he is writing who THEY are.
They are more than they think. You are more than you think. You are chosen people – living as foreigners in a strange land. You have been chosen by the father – made holy by the Spirit and cleansed by the Son – whom we obey.
Peter begins with our identity – and our identity is more than the amount of money we make or the amount of friends we accumulate or how high we climb the ladder of our choosing – no – our identity is found in God himself and that’s what makes it safe.
This week I ran into an interesting story – about this guy named Tod Davis – founder of Life lock – that purports to protect your identity from theft – and as a marketing stunt he put billboards up all over the country with his picture and his social security number – and a promise that his company guarantees his identity is safe in their care. And the marketing ploy worked and his company grew like crazy – but the problem was – that thieves took his numbers and stole his identity more than a dozen times – and the end result was that his company was sued for millions of dollars by the FTC for false advertisements, and by a host of companies that were defrauded by people using his name and number.
Peter begins his letter by saying – it’s me Peter – you’ve probably heard about me. You’ve heard about my failures and success. And I want you to know that I’m not defined by those failures or successes – my identity and yours is safe – but only if it’s found in God himself.
Now – as we look at the manner in which Peter speaks about God it’s important to note that we see Peter identifying God in the scope of the Trinity.
Sometimes people want to think of the doctrine of the trinity as something that came along later in church doctrine – but here in ad 65 we find Peter addressing us with Trinitarian terms.
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is one and three. He is three in one. Father Son and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons existing in one.
All three have always been – the son wasn’t created – the Spirit is not a force – and this is actually a very important doctrine for us to understand.
And I used to think it was too difficult to understand but the more I study the Trinity the more I understand that of course God is three persons. God didn’t create humankind because he was bored or lonely. No God has always existed in perfect community – a community where love abounded. Not only to one another but one loves another and together they love a third.
It helps to picture the trinity as three dance partners – so in step with one another – laughing and loving and having a wonderful time together – – and that faith in God is an invitation from God to join the party. To join in on the dance – to love and be loved as God loves and is loved.
And yet – Peter indicates that each of the members of the trinity – though equal, have different roles. And so Peter is going to frame our identity in God through the lens of the Trinity – and it makes sense for Peter to do that because in Peter we find that he has personal knowledge of God at work in the three persons of the Trinity.
So why then does Peter say – God the Father knew you and chose you?
Because Peter was likely nearby at the Jordan river – when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
In John chapter 1 we read about John – out in the wilderness – teaching people to re-think the way they are living their life – repent – why? Because the gates to a different kind of Kingdom were about to be thrown wide open – the Kingdom of Heaven is near – he told them.
Now John had collected along the way some disciples. And we learn in John 1 that one of John’s disciples – was a man named Andrew – who was Peter’s brother. And we read in John 1 that one day John the Baptist looks across the stream that was called the Jordan River and sees Jesus walking toward him – and John the Baptist says – in essence – that’s the guy – there is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
And it says that John’s disciples left John and went to spend the day with Jesus. At the end of the day – John tells us Andrew and Peter were the first two disciples of Jesus. They were there or nearby when Jesus was baptized and they heard the story from John the Baptist who reported what happened.
And what happens when Jesus is baptized? Matthew tells us that when Jesus came out of the water – he heard a voice from heaven saying…
21 One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
Note again – the teaching of the Trinity included here – the Spirit in the form of a dove – but note what the Father says to Jesus.
You are my dearly loved son. Through faith in Jesus you become God’s beloved son, or cherished daughter, and you too bring God great joy.
Your faith might be marked by ups and downs – but they don’t define you. You are God’s beloved son. You are God’s cherished daughter.
If Peter were standing here he’s say – listen – I once walked on water – and it means nothing really – what’s really important is that God calls me his son.
And also – I once denied knowing Jesus in his greatest hour of need I betrayed the son of God and that too is unimportant – because I am God’s beloved son – even then.
Understanding and believing this will release us from the shackles of our mistakes and failures.
And listen – God announces those words of blessing over his son before his son ever accomplished a single thing in ministry – you bring me great joy because you are mine.
Accomplishments bring us the false sense of feeling deserved of God’s favor – we think – of course God loves me – I mean, look at me. I’m high capacity – and of course we know that people who think of themselves as high capacity soon find themselves in low places – and up and down you go.
Peter wants you to know you – the real you – is only found in God – being chosen and dearly loved by God – and then Peter says – note the role of the Spirit… his Spirit has made you holy.
Now if you take the time to read the first few chapters of the book of Acts – you will see that Peter knows a lot about the work of the Holy Spirit – and Peter here wants us to see that the work of the Spirit changes us from the inside out.
He makes us holy. Now there’s two ways the Spirit of God makes you Holy. The first is – that he declares you Holy – that through the work of Jesus on the cross you are once and forever declared to be not-guilty – in the next chapter he says that whoever puts trust in Jesus will never be put to shame – no condemnation – no guilt – we are made right in God’s site immediately through faith in Jesus.
But Peter also knows that there is a progression that comes through faith in Jesus. Where the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us as we live our life and begin to point out or convict us of our sin – where the Spirit – because we are loved by God – comes alongside us and says – let’s together – how about we begin making some progress in this area of anger. Or let’s begin to work together to addressing the area of lust – or of your selfishness or whatever sin might be there that tosses us to and fro in our journey.
Now one of the frustrating realities you will need to know is that your journey to becoming the kind of human you always wanted to become – does not happen overnight nor does it miraculously occur. Spiritual fitness, like physical fitness – requires intentionality and hard work.
We really would like God to miraculously fix us – immediately – but it’s usually requires effort on our part and cooperation with the Holy Spirit – who leads and nudges and convicts and challenges – as He does his part in transforming us into the image of God.
I know we don’t necessarily love the ups and downs of a rollercoaster life – but God uses all of our ups and downs to shape us and mold us and teach us. And it is the role of the Holy Spirit to help us live the life Jesus taught us we can live.
Peter begins his letter by reminding his audience – you are most than you think – you are more than your ups and downs. You are God’s beloved son and cherished daughter. Through faith in Jesus the Holy Spirit of God lives inside of you and is transforming you into a new kind of human being.
Lastly – Peter says – that we’ve been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
Peter deserves to be listened to when he tells us that we are cleansed by Jesus. Can any of us imagine the heartache that Peter felt after denying Jesus three times? When Peter says that we are cleansed – he was cleansed from the harshest of failures.
Later on – and this is recorded in John 21 – days after Jesus was resurrected- Peter was with Jesus and Jesus turns to Peter and asks him- Peter – do you love me? Yes I love you Lord. Then Jesus says a second time – Peter do you love me. Yes Lord! You know I do. Then a third time – Peter do you love me?
Why three times? See – Jesus was giving Peter the ultimate do-over. It wasn’t that long ago he heaped curses on Jesus three times in a row – this time – Jesus gives him a chance to start again.
And this is the promise that awaits us through faith in Jesus. We are more than our failures – we are more than our achievements – we have been chosen by God – made holy by the Spirit – cleansed by the blood of Jesus – and the result is a new kind of human being – with a new kind of life.
And what kind of life awaits the one whose identity is found in God?
Peter says this – he describes Christians as resident aliens – foreigners – as exiles. Interesting overlap between our last series on Daniel that was about the exiles – strangers living in a strange land of Babylon – in fact – here’s another overlap – at the very end of the letter Peter says he is writing from Babylon.
Babylon? Literally? probably not. Rome? Was it a code for Rome? Maybe – but probably it’s Peter’s way of bookending his letter. He begins by saying listen – we who through faith in Jesus walk the “With God” life – it doesn’t matter what city you live in – it’s all Babylon.
We don’t really belong here. This place whether Rome, Babylon, Gretna, it’s not our real home. We are living here as resident aliens.
When Jody and I were first married we lived in Massachusetts and we made some great friends – called the Beth and Donnie Scott. And they were great except – well -Donnie was Canadian.
And you know – I’m thankful that the day and age we live in now is striving to make progress and to respect people no matter what country they were born in and what culture they represent – but I do hope that we never progress quite to the point where I’m not allowed to make fun of Canadians.
This guy – we’d be talking about something and he’d say – well, you know – I’m Canadian! Want to see my green card. We do it differently in Canada! Oh okay! We’d be talking football and he’d say – I’m Canadian and we love hockey, eh? All right, all right we get it. On the fourth of July we’d invite Beth to the cookout but made Donnie stay home. Can’t have it both ways man!
But what is he saying – I’m here but my home is somewhere else. And that’s what Peter is telling us. We’ve been chosen by God the Father – made holy by the Spirit, cleansed and set on a different path by the son. And this world is not our home.
We’re never going to quite feel at home. We will always long for that great sleep that comes from your own bed. In the meantime, we are here – we have a job to do – we live at peace with all people, safe in His care.
Kylie by the way – let me tell you what happened to Kylie on the rollercoaster – she loved it – and after the ride was over went back in live about five more times that day – sometimes you gotta stick to it. You gotta be willing to ride it out. And over time you will see your faith grow and become stronger and more joy will be yours as you go and grow.