t a n d - S t r o n g
Firm Foundations for the Storms of Life
1 Peter 1:22-2:10 A Life of Love
Four Habits of Highly Effective Christians
What is it with lifestyle gurus? They promise significance, success, wealth, fame, efficiency, wholeness, balance, integration, promotion, peace of mind, long life and endless fulfilment. And millions believe they can deliver it.
Christians are not immune. After all, many of us are wondering how on earth we can fit everything into our increasingly busy lives - time for the family, friends and the church, achieve goals, cope with demands at work, answer the emails, please the boss, get meaningful exercise, detox the body, get enough sleep, and create a firm abdomen.
So there is a brisk trade in self-help seminars, weekend courses and books like Antony Robins, “Awaken the Giant Within”; Ken Blanchard’s “One minute Manager”; Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Travelled”; and most influential of all, Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It is probably the most successful management book ever, with sales of over 1.5 million a year. It is used as essential training by over 16,000 organisations and has spawned a multi-million pound business. It is such a highly influential book that even the president of the United States has endorsed it.
Covey claims that effective people are those who do not lose sight of the bigger things in life, who manage their diaries to ensure however busy and demanding the day is, the important things are never neglected. They are people who develop habits which enable them to achieve everything they want effectively and smoothly. They are people who routinely monitor their success, with a view to constant improvement. They are focussed individuals who get to the end of life and look back with happiness at all they have done. And they just make me sick with envy ... in a Christian sought of way.
Seriously, although Covey talks a lot about the importance of character and having a value system, he leaves it open to the reader to import what ever goals or values they like. So at the end of the day, although seemingly attractive, his route to self-perfection is deeply flawed. It relies, like all the other secular alternatives, on a self-orientated attempt to fulfilment and a self-centred definition of success. If you want to read about the deficiencies of Stephen Covey’s philosphy, from a Christian perspective, there are copies on the table at the back. I’d like to suggest this morning that if you truly want to be an effective person, save your pennies and read what God has said about finding meaning and fulfilment in life.
Last week we began to study Peter’s first letter to get some answers. We discovered that this letter was written to a church scattered across the Roman Empire. They were under pressure, living in a hostile, anti-Christian, secular world. Increasingly persecuted, they were living in the catacombs, hunted down for sport like animals by the deranged emperor Nero. As we discovered this is the daily experience of many many Christians around the world in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, North Korea and Afghanistan.
On Tuesday I attended a seminar at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity www.licc.org.uk organised by UCCF, Crusaders, Care Trust, Youth for Christ and the Evangelical Alliance. It brought together representatives from 30-40 Christian organisations concerned about the way in which British society and the judicial system is increasingly hostile to religious freedom of expression and in particular, the right to share our faith in public or speak of Jesus as the Son of God. Speakers included the MP Brian Mawhinney, Rob Frost, Mark Greene and Paul Diamond QC. They pointed out that just as in the first century, Christians are losing their jobs, being arrested, fined and even face going to prison for being obedient to Jesus Christ even here in Britain.
Last week, in the opening chapter of 1 Peter, we examined five incentives for remaining faithful to Jesus in the face of opposition. They are the glory of God, the holiness of God, the word of God, the judgement of God and the love of God. Notice Peter’s focus is upon God himself and his actions on our behalf. Not on ourselves and what we must do. Whatever your situation this morning, whatever burden you are carrying right now, whatever pressure you feel under, whatever opposition you are facing, whatever pain you are suffering, remember: God is with you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
self help books are precisely that. About self-help, and in the face of adversity
they are pretty shallow. In the verses before us today 1:21-2:10 Peter takes us deeper into God’s plan for us to live in community.
God’s plan is very different - we were created to live in community and support
Peter uses four vivid pictures to describe our relationship to one another in the Church. With each he gives us an authentic Habit of Highly Effective Christians.
1. We Are Children in God’s Family (1 Peter 1:22-2:3)
we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are born again
into a worldwide family. At the core of this family is the most important habit
Covey and all the other self-help gurus entirely miss,
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22).
This is the hallmark of an authentic church. Peter uses two words for love: philadelphia, = “brotherly love,” and agape, which is divine sacrificial love. Its the key to surviving rejection at home, hostility in society and opposition at work.
1.1 A Sacrificial Love
In community we share and experience God’s unconditional sacrificial love for one another. It is the evidence that we truly have been born of God (1 John 4:7-21).
1.2 A Sincere Love
Not only is this love a sacrificial love, it is also a sincere love.
This is love “with a pure heart.” Our motive is not to get but to give. The self-help manuals teach you how to manipulate others to get what you want. If our love is sincere and from a pure heart, we can never “use people” for our own advantage.
1.3 A Deep Love
word ‘deeply’ is an athletic word. It means “striving with all of one’s energy.”
Do you strive with all your energy to love? With some people you need to. When
tempted not to, remember God forgives us, so we forgive others. God is kind to
us, so we are kind to others. God’s love in outrageously indiscriminate, its wildly
infectious, its passionate for the lost. What about your love? Rick Warren says, “Love should be your top priority,
primary objective and greatest ambition. Love is not a good part of your life,
it’s the most important part.”
The Bible says “Let love be your greatest aim.” (1 Corinthians 14:1 Living Bible). He goes on to say “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” This is therefore the first and most important habit to develop if you want to be a highly effective Christian. How do we develop this habit?
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)
A healthy Christian will have an appetite for God’s Word just like a hungry newborn baby! We should want the pure Word, unadulterated, because this alone can help us grow. If you have children you will know why it is hard to get them to eat healthy meals. Sometimes children have no appetite because they have been eating junk food.
Peter warned his readers to “lay aside” junk food that hinders healthy growth. Peter lists the 5 habits of highly destructive people.
“Malice” means meditating on destructive thoughts for another. “Deceit” is craftiness, using devious words and actions to get what we want. If we are guilty of malice and deceit, we will try to hide it; and this results in “hypocrisy”. Pretending to be what you are not. Often malice and deceit are due to “envy” - wanting what others have got, and one result of envy is “slander”, conversation that tears the other person down.
If you want to avoid these habits of highly destructive people feed daily on the pure word of God. The first and most important habit of highly effective Christians therefore is to love as Christ loves us - sacrificially, sincerely, deeply from the heart. We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.
2. We Are Stones in God’s House (1 Peter 2:4-8)
The bible describes the church not only as a family but also like a building. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2:20), binding the building together. Whether we agree with each other or not, we belong to each other as living stones in God’s building. The first time Jesus described the church he compared it to a building. “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Believers are living stones in His building. Each time someone trusts Christ, another stone is quarried out of the pit of sin and cemented by grace into His building.
It may appear at times that the church on earth looks like a demolition site, but its actually a construction site. Its not perfect because its not finished. God is supervising the construction of his Church and nothing will get in the way of his plans. What a privilege we have to be helping to build his church on earth in which God dwells by his spirit. How important therefore that we cooperate with him in its construction. This is not my church or your church but his church. Peter wrote this letter to believers living in five different provinces, yet he said that they all belonged to one “spiritual house.”
There is a unity of God’s people that transcends all denominations. That’s why we aspire to be the community church of Virginia Water. We come from many different denominations and with historic roots in the Anglican church, we are a family and a building under construction. If we follow God’s blueprints given in the Bible and lay aside our man-made traditions we can continue to work together without discord and build His church for His glory. That is why I am excited that we have a mission statement - “to know Jesus and make Jesus known.” We have a vision and a five year plan.
We believe after much prayer and reflection we have his plans for our local church. The second habit we therefore need to form is one of service. We are in the construction business not the destruction business. There is no place at CC for tearing down other Christians. We are here to build one another up in love. So before you open your mouth to complain or criticise ask yourself “what am I prepared to do to help put it right, show by example, lead by serving. We need to remind ourselves that as living stones we are each “under construction”. Our role is to help one another find our place in the Body of Christ. To discover our spiritual gifts and natural talents and use them to build up and extend Christ’s church in Virginia Water. We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.
We are stones in God’s house so lets build constructively.
3. We Are Priests in God’s Temple (1 Peter 2:5, 9)
living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood,
offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) We are a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood.”
In the Old Testament God’s people had a priesthood; but today in the New Testament
God’s people are a priesthood. We each have direct access to the presence of God
through Jesus (Heb. 10:19-25). We do not need a human mediator or priest to do
so. Instead we are mediators for those still outside the church. We bring them
to God in prayer. We bring God to them in word and deed. When you add names to
the banner at the back of the church you are demonstrating your role as a priest.
When you pray for some of the names written on it, you are fulfilling your role
as a priest. In the Old Testament priests served in the Temple. Most of the time we will serve as priests outside
I spend quite a bit of my time in Café Blu meeting people, counselling people, praying for people there. In public you are on display. I think carefully therefore about what I say because people are listening. Peter specifically mentions the privilege of offering “spiritual sacrifices.” We don’t bring animal sacrifices as did the Old Testament worshipers; but we do have our own sacrifices to present to God. We give our bodies to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2). The money we gave through Christian Aid week, for example, was also a spiritual sacrifice. The third habit we need to develop is doing everything in Jesus name. Asking “what would Jesus say?” what would Jesus do?” and then doing it as a spiritual sacrifice.
We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.
We are stones in God’s house so lets build constructively.
We are priests in God’s temple so lets serve sacrificially.
4. We Are Citizens in God’s Nation (1 Peter 2:9-10)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
description of the church parallels God’s description of Israel, in Exodus 19:5-6 and Deuteronomy 7:6. In contrast to the disobedient
and rebellious nation of Israel, God’s people today are His chosen and holy
nation. God may have a future role for Jewish people who believe in Jesus but it will be as part of his church, not separate.
Together, Jews and Gentiles in Jesus, we are a holy nation. We have been set
apart to belong exclusively to God. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). But access to heaven is not limited.
Church membership is not limited like British citizenship. Our government is trying to reduce the number of refugees claiming asylum. A policeman told me this week one of the ways they are achieving their targets. If the police discover a lorry load of illegal immigrants, they give each of the refugees a piece of paper with an address to report to. Very few bother to do so, they just disappear and never appear on the registers. Nor is heaven like America (hard as that may be for some to believe). There may be a limited number of green cards issued each year in America but citizenship of heaven is open to all.
The fourth habit linked to our citizenship of heaven is found in verse 9. “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) The verb means “to tell out”, or “to advertise.” Notice the word Peter uses for the way we advertise Jesus. “Praise”. We equate praise with church services. Peter equates it with evangelism.
When you love someone deeply it shows. Our enthusiasm to share the love of Jesus will be in proportion to our own gratefulness for the love he has shown us. The fourth habit we therefore need to develop is in becoming infectious with our praise of God, calling others out of darkness into his marvellous light. Four beautiful pictures of the Church. Four habits of highly effective Christians.
We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.
We are stones in God’s House so lets build constructively.
We are priests in God’s Temple so lets serve sacrificially.
are citizens in God’s Nation so lets become infectious through praise.
This is what community is all about.
This is why the good news of Jesus is so infectious when its lived out in community. To love and be loved. To know and be known. To serve and be served. To celebrate and be celebrated. It all comes down to the one word: Love.
Let me leave you with a challenge from Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life”
“Why is now the best time to express love? Because you don’t know how long you will have the opportunity. Circumstances change. People die. Children grow up. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. If you want to express love, you had better do it now. Knowing that one day you will stand before God, here are some questions you need to consider: How will you explain those times when projects or things were more important to you than people? Who do you need to start spending more time with? What do you need to cut out from your schedule to make that possible? What sacrifices do you need to make? The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.”
Lets pray together.
I am most grateful to Warren Wersbie’s “Be Hopeful” (Scripture Press) for the outline and some of the content and also to Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” (Zondervan) for some of the ideas and questions found in this sermon.