St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Christians, You Are Foreigners Here

Sermon on 1 Peter 1:17-21


Text: Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.


When I vicared in Arizona, I was also installed in a service at our Apache mission in Peridot.  After the service, the pastor announced that one of the members had an announcement for the congregation.  The man got up and made an announcement entirely in Apache.  What made us uncomfortable was the fact that, as he made the announcement, many in the congregation were stealing glances at us and smiling.  “That’s OK,” we thought, “We’ll get a translation of what he said and, then, we’ll know what he said.”  The trouble was that none was forthcoming.  We had no idea what he said, only that something was said about us.  It turned out that he was reminding the congregation about the surprise potluck and food shower for us the next evening.  While it turned out OK, we were quickly reminded that we were different from the rest of the people that were there.  While we felt uncomfortable, at first, we were very warmly received by the members.  Do you ever get that feeling of being different than everyone else?  We all do, in one form or fashion.  This is especially true when we, as Christians, strive to live our lives to the glory of God, in the midst of an unbelieving world.  This morning, the apostle Peter reminds us, CHRISTIANS, YOU ARE FOREIGNERS HERE.  1. You Are Different — Bought With The Precious Blood of Christ.  2. You Are Different — Called To Live In Reverent Fear.


The apostle Peter calls upon us to “Live out your time as foreigners here.” (Verse 17)  In the first part of our sermon, we will see “why we are foreigners” and then look at “how we live as foreigners.”  In verses 18-21, Peter points to the cause of our difference from the world.  First of all, he speaks of “the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors.” (Verse 18) This was certainly true the people who originally received this letter.  They had been brought up knowing the old Greek religion, with gods like Zeus and Aphrodite.  These gods were far from perfect. They were just as corrupted as mankind, given to being jealous, vindictive, power-hungry, vain, violent and immoral.  These gods might help you, if they were kindly disposed to you that day.  However, they were just as likely to make life difficult for you.  According to the Greek religion, after your death, there was no place of rest and peace.  You became a shadow traveling through the dark caves of the underworld.


There were also others in the area who had, basically, given up on the old religions and developed the attitude of “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  These people taught that all this life is all there was, so you had better get all of the pleasure and satisfaction you can, before you die.  However, those who follow this path all too quickly find out that this type of pleasure is fleeting and, in the end, empty.


Peter tells these Christians that they “redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (Verses 18-19)  Peter says that they were “redeemed.”  This means that they were ransomed or bought back.  The ransom price was “the precious blood of Christ.”  Peter says that it was “not with perishable things such as silver or gold.” (Verse 18)  The blood of Jesus was more precious than all of the wealth in the world.


What makes the blood of Jesus so precious?  He is described as “a lamb without blemish or defect.” (Verse 19)  When God commanded his Old Testament people to bring forward sacrifices, he told them that the animals were to be free from any blemishes or defects.  They were to be perfect.  Those Old Testament sacrifices were a picture of what Jesus would do.  Jesus, also, was free from all blemishes and defects, that is to say, he was without the blemish or defect of sin.  During his thirty-three years on this earth, Jesus never gave in to the temptations of Satan.  This is not to say that Satan didn’t try.  Remember how Jesus underwent a very direct period of temptation by the devil in the wilderness.  Satan even used Jesus’ own disciples to dissuade him from completing the task for which he had been sent, namely, the redemption of the world.  In spite of all of the devil’s temptations, Jesus held firm and did not sin even once.  His holiness is what makes his blood so very precious.  His precious blood was shed on the altar of the cross, when he suffered and died for us.


It was that precious blood that has redeemed us.  We were held captive by sin.  We were powerless to change our situation.  This is the empty way of life handed down to us by our forefathers.  We were born sinful.  We also deserved God’s wrath against every sin we have ever committed.  The empty way is also that fact that, no matter how hard we try, we cannot save ourselves.


Yet, we have been redeemed, ransomed from the power of sin, eternal death and the devil.  We are free.  We are free by means of the faith that the Holy Spirit creates in us that believes in Jesus as the sinless Son of God, who died and rose so that we would be set free.  We are different from others in the world, because we have been saved.  So many people vainly search for the way to get right with God.  They think that if they try hard enough, that will be OK.  As we said earlier, you can try all you want to get right with God.  You can never do so on your own.  As it says in verse 21, “Through [Jesus] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”  Notice that it is “through Jesus.”  We are different because we have been bought with the precious blood of Christ.


Since we have been bought with the blood of Christ, we are no longer our own.  We belong to him.  As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first epistle to them, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  Peter says essentially the same thing in verse 17, “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.”


Peter reminds us to live our lives “in reverent fear.”  When we hear the word “fear,” we automatically think of being afraid of something, like a fear of the dark.  Indeed, we would have every reason to be afraid, if we did not know that Jesus had redeemed us with his holy, precious blood.  However, since we were redeemed, God looks on us as holy people, whose sins have been covered with the blood of Christ.  He even invites us to call him “Father.”  Fear doesn’t mean being afraid here.  Rather, it means having an awe or respect for God.  It means respecting him and his Word, honoring it in our hearts and minds.  It is a grateful response for all that God has done for us.


Now, how do we show this fear in our lives?  We do so as we “live out (our) time as foreigners.” (Verse 17)  This means that we let our faith shine forth.  It means not going along with the sinful things that the world has to offer.  The world holds out many temptations, each one more attractive than before.  ‘Come and do like us,’ they say.  ‘We’ll show you how to have a good time.  Look at all of the fun you can have if you give up all of those old-fashioned ideas and do like me.’


The world tempts us to believe that the main goal in life is to get all that you can during this life.  Look at the many advertisements that bombard us every day with the latest and the greatest.  So many people show by their actions that they are out to get all that they can, similar to those ancient philosophers who said, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  It is very tempting to follow that crowd.  What does God’s Word say about the material things of this world?  We turn to 1 Timothy 6:8, where Paul writes, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  If we live according to those words, we not only show that we are different than the rest of the world, but also that God is the number one priority in our lives.


Another way that we can live as foreigners in reverent fear in by the use of our mouths, especially when we speak about other people.  How easy it is, when a group of people get together, to talk about all the goings on in the area.  Some of it is true.  Some of it is mostly true.  Some of it is not quite true, but it’s what we heard.  Even if it is the truth, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Why are we relating this story?’  Is it to help the person?  Isn’t it more often to speak bad things about others?  Aren’t we tempted, as soon as we heard something juicy about someone else, to tell the next person we meet?  The same is true about listening to gossip.  How often don’t our ears perk up, when we hear someone start a conversation with the words, “Did you hear about . . . ?”  Martin Luther once remarked, “The slanderer has the devil on his tongue, and the listener has him in his ear.”  Slinging mud can be a hard habit to break, but by doing so, we are living as foreigners in this world.


All too often, we must confess that we have failed to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world by our lives.  We have followed right along with the crowd.  Let us come to God for forgiveness and strength.  We need his strength so that we do those things that are pleasing to him.  We have been bought with the blood of Christ.  We were made members of his family through Baptism.  May we live as strangers here on this earth.


One of the biggest pressures that many of our children face is peer pressure.  They feel pressure to wear certain clothes, listen to certain types of music, etc.  Sometimes, that’s not a big deal.  However, if the pressure is there to do things that are wrong, then we have a problem.  Unfortunately, even as we grow older, we still face peer pressure.  So often we try to blend in.  Again, if it’s in the externals, it’s not a big deal.  However, Satan also uses peer pressure to tempt us to sin.  May God give us strength at those times to say “No, I want to do things God’s way.”  May God help us to remember that it is OK to be different.  Amen.