Monday, May 04, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Strangers
Today’s Scripture: 1 Peter 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
Last week’s final devotional dealt with holiness, and the call to each of us to be people of integrity. We discovered that holiness means to have a core character that is consistent. Holiness is to be fully separated unto God, from the inside out. It does not allow for cracks through which the flesh might leak.
One crack that might develop is favoritism. Our flesh leans towards partiality. It must, because the flesh is self- seeking and self-fulfilling. We not only want what is for our own benefit, but we want what will benefit those whom we love. We reserve the right to play favorites and be partial to our favorite people. We even do it with our kids and grandkids when they model certain characteristics or personality traits that touch us in a special way.
God, however, in true holiness, is never partial. He sees each one of us as absolutely equal, and will review our lives of service for Him with absolute impartiality. When we stand before Him someday to receive our rewards, we will not be able to claim any privilege. Our family heritage will not matter. Our social standing and success will not be called into account. Even our positions of leadership within the church will be of no consideration. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, learned this lesson the hard way. Here’s his story:
One evening I stopped by the church just to encourage those who were there rehearsing for the spring musical. I didn’t intend to stay long, so I parked my car next to the entrance. After a few minutes, I ran back to my car and drove home.
The next morning I found a note in my office mailbox. It read: “A small thing, but Tuesday night when you came to rehearsal, you parked in the ‘No Parking’ area. A reaction from one of my crew (who did not recognize you until after you got out of the car) was, ‘There’s another jerk parking in the “No Parking” area!’ We try hard not to allow people—even workers—to park anywhere other than the parking lots. I would appreciate your cooperation, too.” It was signed by a member of our maintenance staff.
I’m sorry to report this staff member is no longer with us. He was late coming back for lunch the next day, and we had to let him go. You have to draw the line somewhere ….
No, I’m kidding. Actually he’s still very much with us, and his stock went up in my book because he had the courage to write me about what could have been a slippage in my character.
And he was right on the mark. As I drove up that night, I had thought, “I shouldn’t park here, but after all, I am the pastor.” That translates: I’m an exception to the rules. But that employee wouldn’t allow me to sneak down the road labeled “I’m an exception.”
I’m not the exception to church rules, nor am I the exception to sexual rules or financial rules or any of God’s rules. As a leader, I am not an exception; I’m to be the example. According to Scripture, I am to live in such a way that I can say, “Follow me. Park where I park. Live as I live.”
None of us are exceptions to the rules. Peter says we are all to be the example of holy living. We are to live our lives in reverent fear of God. He is the one and only judge of our works. According to this verse, one foundational principle of His review process is this – did we live our lives as strangers in this world or did we live seeking to be connected to this world? That’s huge! Think about it. Every day we live with the choice to seek our identity from the world or to live out our identity in Christ. With absolute impartiality, showing no favoritism, God will judge His children based on that issue.
Charles Wesley wrote a poem that says it well:
O that I might the power receive
The simple life of faith to live,
A stranger by the world unknown,
To live, shut up with Christ alone!
Jesus, my real Life Thou art,
Inspire Thyself into my heart,
And fill’d with purity divine
I live, thro’ endless ages thine.
Live today as an expression of your identity in Christ. It will make you a stranger to the world, but better that than a friend to the world and a stranger to God.