Hear me out.
Over the past several weeks in our church youth group, we have been covering the book of 1 Peter. It’s a short, amazing little book full of great things that a Christian ought to keep in mind. And in my little, purple, floral, tru tone ESV, the introduction to the book begins, “Peter’s primary message is to trust the Lord, live obediently no matter what your circumstances, and keep your hope fixed on God’s promise of deliverance.”
Cool. So what? One of the things that came up in last night’s discussion was that often, most of us don’t experience persecution in the true sense that early Christians did. And being a jerk for Jesus doesn’t count.
I think many of the kids in my small group and others took a bit of pause, trying to figure out exactly how this relates to them.
But as we looked deeper at 1 Peter 2, I started thinking back on something my youth pastor told me. I must have been a sophomore or a junior at the time, but the words stuck with me:
We have not been saved FROM A LIFE, but TO A LIFE.
Hold on a sec. What? It’s a confusing statement in that often, when we explain the gospel, we like to say, “Jesus saves us from our sin.” Yes. He saves us from the consequences of our sin. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”
Reality is, we live in a very broken world. Everyone is confused. There is no black and white, it seems. People lie, cheat and steal. Children are molested. Women are bought and sold into sex slavery. It’s an ugly place, originally created beautiful. And as every good environmentalist will tell you, we should aim to get back to that Eden. But it’s probably the humans’ fault it’s messed up. Well duh.
Just because you now have Christ, doesn’t mean the muck goes away. You’re just no longer bound to it. It’s a daily battle against the flesh.
Which it why we have Grace. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. And therefore, as we have been forgiven, we forgive others, remembering the assurance we have in salvation.
But what good is the gospel if it doesn’t change us? If it isn’t transformative?
This is why others look at Christians and think we’re a joke. Somehow we forgot Philippians 1:27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
When you pray that salvation prayer, you take up this banner that has Christian written in big letters and wave it all over wherever you go. And how you behave – whatever you do – people start associating YOUR ACTIONS with Christ. You’re a little Christ. A Christian. A Christ follower.
We’ve been saved to a life of making His name great. Because in this broken world, He’s the only one who deserves it. Even as He hung on a cross, dying in our place, He never deserved it. That’s big love, right there.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander… GROW UP (1 Peter 2:1). Yes, God accepts you as you are, but don’t you dare stay there. Because if you really wants Christ to be Lord of your life, he’ll change you, grow you, shape you.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:12
When I was a freshman in high school, I started playing JV softball for my high school. I wasn’t very good, but I loved it. But all throughout our preseason conditioning, the older girls on the team kept talking about this horrible, horrible run. It must have been three miles long, down to Vons, along the bike trail, through a neighborhood and back to the school. An Indian run. They called it, “The Vons Run.”
They seemed to hate it so much, I figured it was bad enough that our head coach wouldn’t make us do it… till he did. He sent us off, and as we were running down the bike trail, which happened to be alongside the highway, we looked up from our formation and saw him driving by in his truck, waving at us – heading home.
Of all the unfair things! As we kept running, we asked each other if maybe the assistant coach and JV coach were waiting for us.
“Can we stop running, then?” Someone asked.
In my head, I thought, “please, yes.”
We had no accountability. We could have cut a corner. Dropped the Indian Run formation, slowed up or walked the rest of the way.
But what if we had? What if I had? We didn’t, but we could have.
It comes down to this: Who are you when no one is looking or holding you accountable? Will you continue to do the right thing? Will you cut a corner or stop altogether?
We have not been saved from a life, but to a life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1
Struggling to keep the faith doesn’t always mean your friends and peers are mocking you for your beliefs. Sometimes it’s tied up in our own struggle to have integrity. To live the life we have been called to.
We are, after all, the called out ones – ekklesia – or “church.”
Don’t settle more merely being saved from the consequences when God has a life that is so much more than that for you. Be different. Christians have a reputation of being know for what we’re against… but what about all the things we are FOR.
Remember, your friends are watching you.
How do you live?