Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Difference of Gospel Centered Living

            In his letter to first century Christians who lived in a very challenging environment, Peter said these amazing words. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which was against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV)

            This call for a “gospel centered lifestyle” is as urgent today as when Peter first penned the words nearly 2,000 years ago. While the times have changed, human nature and the pull towards selfish, sinful indulgence remain as strong as ever. Peter’s counsel is for disciples of Jesus to replace their selfish, sinful desires with an unshakable commitment to goodness. When reading it, you immediately want to say, “Yes, I will do this.” But when you actually start to live it out, you realize that it is much easier said than done. You need lots of tools in your toolbox if you plan to live like Jesus!

            Peter had seen some success in following Jesus, but he had also experienced some devastating failures along the way. Through a life of trial and error he discovered many tools in his effort to live like Jesus and he passed them along for those who shared his desire to live as a disciple. Notice these “life laboratory” situations he highlights…

  • “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…” (1 Peter 2:13)
  • “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters…” (1 Peter 2:18)
  • “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…” (1 Peter 3:1)
  • “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives…” (1 Peter 3:7)
  • “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called…” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Peter’s list of tools sounds rather weak: submission, respect, consideration, love, compassion, humility, non-retaliation, and goodness. We much prefer this list: self-assertion, dominance, demands, power, intimidation, pride, and vengeance. Whether we are talking about interpersonal relationships or international politics choosing between these two toolkits will create predictable results. Goodness produces more goodness, violence produces more violence.   

G. K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” And yet Jesus is still calling us to follow him! Relationships, especially the difficult ones, are the equivalent of advanced studies for those who want to follow Jesus! Practice goodness…

- Kenny Payne 

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