Years ago my family and a good friend of the family took a
wilderness trek. It was truly a wilderness area. We were walking the only path
in or out of the area. To illustrate how remote the area was, we walked the
better part of fifteen miles and saw no one else.
In the course of the walk, my middle son jumped mid-stride and
shouted, "Snake!" I looked ahead on the path and saw a copper head snake
stretched across the trail. Our friend, who was right behind that son, had
little exposure to the country or to a wilderness area. He immediately thought
we were teasing him and trying to make him afraid. It took all the pleading we
could muster to keep him from moving ahead and stepping on the poisonous snake.
He tried hard to see the snake, but he could not. Since he could not see the
snake, he was certain there was no danger. We finally convinced him not to move
ahead, but he never saw the snake, not even as the snake crawled off.
Spiritual danger is quite often like that snake and my friend.
It can be right in front of us with the power to cause us serious hurt. Yet, if
we do not see it, we are convinced there is no danger. In that ignorance, we
often inflict heavy, unnecessary pain on ourselves.
I want to begin by reading and commenting on a familiar
passage. After that reading and those comments, I want to make some
1 Peter 1:13-21
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your
hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus
Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which
were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy
yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall
be holy, for I am holy." If you address as Father the One who impartially judges
according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your
stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things
like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your
forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless,
the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the
world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him
are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that
your faith and hope are in God.
Peter was writing to Gentile Christians
(predominantly) who lived in northern Asia Minor who had suffered because of
their relationship with Jesus Christ and whose suffering soon would intensify.
Allow me to make some applications to us and to our
- Peter said, "You people need to prepare to be even more
serious about your devotion to Jesus Christ."
- "Prepare your mind to go to work!" [As we might say, "Put on your work
shoes and your work clothes!"]
- "Get serious about your spiritual commitment!"
- "Make sure that your hope is founded on the correct thing--the grace of
Jesus' resurrection when Jesus Christ comes again."
- Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope money!
- Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope physical pleasure!
- Do not make the foundation of your sustaining hope a desirable life
- Make the foundation of your hope the grace made available in Jesus
- Peter wrote to Christians who lived in an idolatrous environment that
embraced a pagan lifestyle [a lifestyle that often encouraged physical
- "You are now God's children, not children of idolatrous
- "You now seek to be obedient to God, not in rebellion to God."
- "Because that is true, you will not allow the motives and attitudes
which controlled your lives before coming to Christ to continue to control
- "Those past things controlled you because you did not know any
better--now you know better."
- "Now you have a new reason to exist--the holiness of God."
- "If you belong to the holy God, you WILL partake of His nature--you
WILL commit yourselves to holiness."
- "Slaves are freed [redeemed] with money. However, God did not use money
to give you your freedom--He used the precious blood of his son!
- "It is God's resurrection of Jesus that gives you your faith and hope."
- Were I to summarize Peter's challenge to those suffering Christians in
this reading, I would do it in this way: "Following God is serious business!
You need to be as serious about being God's holy people as God was about
inviting you to be His people! Get serious, and stay committed!"
- It did not take a lot of effort to be a person who worshipped the pagan
gods--that was pretty much a matter of indulging yourself while you did
what was popular in that pagan environment.
- However, to embrace God's holiness takes all the effort of a serious
- The only thing that makes that commitment possible, that makes it work,
is God's grace revealed in Jesus' resurrection.
- Your hope is not in yourself or anything you do!
- You cannot merit a relationship with God!
- Your hope is God's grace revealed in Jesus' resurrection!
- Surely you responsibly obey--but your obedience merely declares your
appreciation for God's grace!
We are walking in the wilderness, and we are about to step on poisonous
snakes we are untrained to see.
I think Peter's directive we read is very applicable to us.
- I often think of my past and am astounded at how much visible change
this society has experienced in less than 50 years.
- No, I have no desire to roll the clock back to 50 years ago.
- No, I do not think 50 years ago was the ideal age.
- Many of us here lived in some degree of poverty 50 years ago.
- Just as a matter of curiosity--and you do have permission to look
around--how many of you were not alive in 1954? How many of you were at
least 18 in 1954?
- These thoughts are addressed to those alive in 1954.
- In 1954, where did you live?
- What size house did you have as compared to where you live right
- Think of the things in your house in 1954, and think of the things
in your house today. Is there any difference?
- How many cars did your family have in 1954? How did that car or
those cars compare to what you are driving right now?
- What was your income in 1954? What is it today?
- What did you wear in 1954? What do you wear today?
- How often did you and your family eat out in 1954?
- Where was the church building located [the one you attended] in
1954? What was it constructed of? What kind of educational facilities
did it have? What kind of family life center did it have? How many
ministers did it have? What were its commitments and involvements?
- Take a moment to think and reflect--how much have things changed in
this society in 50 years?
- Are you aware of the first time you realized that our society surely
- Or, has it changed so gradually that you just woke up one day to the
fact that virtually everything is different.
- Do you realize that many of the common medications used today did
not even exist in 1954?
- Do you realize how many people died of heart attacks in 1954
caused by conditions we repair today?
- It truly is a whole different world today!
- For over 50 years we have gradually become more and more
prosperous--for most of us that did not happen all at once.
- As we got more prosperous, we lived better and better.
- Fifty years ago there were many things congregations could not do
because we just did not have the money.
- Then, gradually, congregations had more money.
- We built buildings we could not afford to finance in the 50s.
- We involved ourselves in ministries we could not afford in the 50s.
- And at the same time, we could improve our life styles and support the
church in growing works.
- For years we were so prosperous we could give generously out of our
surplus and improve our life styles at the same time.
- And now, noticeably, that is coming to an end.
- Whereas we had decades that we did not have to make a choice, now
increasingly we have to make a choice.
- For a long time we thought we could do everything, and now we are
forced to realize that we cannot do everything.
- Increasingly, we will face the choice--personal lifestyle, or
personal expression of faith?
- Peter said, "Folks, it is time to get serious about your commitment to
- "Remember who and what you were before you were a Christian, and who
and what you are now as a Christian."
- "Your commitment is not to a godless lifestyle of personal
- "Your commitment is to the holiness of God, the One who saves you
through Jesus Christ."
- "You will exist here as a physical creature for only a short time--so
do not allow money or pleasure or lifestyle to determine and define who
- "There is only one thing that defines who you are--that is God's grace
revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
- "Because of that grace, you are free to allow God to remake you and
There is coming a moment when God will give all in Christ Jesus a gift. At
that moment we will realize as never before that we are totally unworthy of the
gift. At that moment we will realize with understanding just how unworthy of
God's consideration we are. At that moment we will know how totally dependent we
are on God's kindness. At that moment will look back at this life with regret as
we remember how stupid our priorities were. At that moment we will understand
how little faith we had, how selfish we were, and how blind we were to the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. At that moment we will realize that the greatest
concept was not the freedom of nations, but the freedom to become what God
wanted us to be.
Are you what God had in mind when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 November 2004
Link to other Writings of David Chadwell