Peter's word to the scattered and persecuted church in exile is a powerful word to the church today: be humble, be alert, and stand firm. We are called to live in the temporal world with an eye fixed firmly on the eternal. Our hope is found in the power and authority of Jesus alone.
One of the greatest gifts to the local body of Christ is a group of godly Elders. Elders are called to care for the body, lead the organization of the church, and humbly and eagerly serve. However, the most important role they have is to be an example to the flock. Elders, deeply aware of imperfection and sin, say with the Apostle Paul: "Follow me as I follow Christ."
Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This incredible declaration has become one of the most divisive statements made over the last 2,000 years. Peter reminds us that Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone of our faith, but He is also a stumbling stone to many. When we embrace Him, we are made into living stones and built into the living church!
The suffering of Jesus is a reminder that we too will suffer when we stand for righteousness and truth. While the degree and severity of that suffering will vary, the unified promise of Scripture is that we will indeed experience suffering in this world. We are called to remain steadfast in doing good while trusting in the hope that a new day is coming.
Standing against the flow of culture has the potential to isolate and wear down the individual believer. However, God has not left us alone—He has given us the gift of community. Jesus has created a new society of people who operate according to different values and motivations, together becoming a display of His glory.
There is little doubt or disagreement that the world is broken. Our response to that brokenness is what sets followers of Jesus apart from the rest of the world. Responding to suffering and pain with righteousness and hope speaks a loud testimony of the grace of Jesus.
The difficulty of the marriage relationship has its root in Genesis 3. A desire to dominate and control, or a proclivity to be dominated or controlled, is deep within each of us due to sin. God's plan is dramatically different: a mutual submission to one another that weaves our lives together and parallels the beauty of Jesus' love for the church. The marriage relationship has a unique opportunity to display Jesus to the world.
The freedom that we are given through Christ is complete and all-encompassing. When we use that freedom to submit to the authorities over us, even when they are unjust, it is a powerful testimony to a watching world. Understanding who we are in Christ and our imperishable inheritance in Him gives us the grace to image Jesus by humbly serving those around us.
God commanded the construction of both the tabernacle and the temple with great detail and beauty because it was the place where He would meet with His people. Now, through the grace of Jesus, God is building a new temple—this time with His people! The church is intended to be the living temple in which the world is able to meet with God, and we are a kingdom of priests helping others connect with Him.
Armed with a living hope, we are called to enter into new life. The futility of our former life has been replaced by new desires and new appetites. Holiness, however, is not a foregone conclusion in this life. We are called to enter into the process with grace-driven effort, striving toward the hope that we've been given by grace through faith in Jesus.
The hope we are given as believers in Jesus is an inheritance that will never fade away. This restoration of right relationship with God is the culmination of the longings of the prophets and the direction of the law, the pinnacle of the hopes of heaven. It's not just a past event or a future hope, but a present reality that is available to us only by faith.
Strength to live as exiles in a foreign land doesn't come from self-esteem, good parenting or a well-organized life. Peter reminds a scattered and persecuted church that strength for living will only come through an understanding of God's work in our lives, the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us, and the holiness that comes through the sacrifice of Jesus alone.
When faced with a world gone mad and a culture that seems to be opposed to God's Word and ways, how will we react? Our immediate tendencies are either to separate or assimilate, but Peter calls us to become ambassadors. The call of the gospel is not to separate from culture or become like the culture, but to live counter-culturally.