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Godly Living

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
June 13, 2024 4:00 am

Godly Living

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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June 13, 2024 4:00 am

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But Christians have always had to live among pagans. We have always had to live among people whose habitual intents are rooted in the lower order of things above which Peter exhorts us to rise. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Today John is going to start showing you the link between the way you live and your influence on those around you at work, in your neighborhood, and at home. He calls this kind of living singing the Lord's song in a strange land. That's also the title of his study. Now, inherent in that title, John, is an intriguing idea. As a Christian, you are a stranger, an alien, in a world that is, well, cynical about you and what you believe. Is that fair to say? Well, it is a fair call, and if you stop to think about it, the Bible says the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one.

That's pretty comprehensive, isn't it? The devil himself, Satan, Lucifer, is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. What that says is that Satan works above the earth, he works in the world, and he works in the people in the world. This is a dominating satanic influence. So to start with, as a believer, why would we expect anything good, godly, beneficial, out of the world?

You just can't elevate those expectations or you will be seriously disappointed. The world may be cynical about us without cause, but we certainly have every right to be cynical about the world. You cannot have expectations for the world to behave the way believers behave, because they don't belong to the Lord. So here we are. We are sons of God. We are joint heirs with Christ. We belong to the heavenly kingdom, and we are aliens, to be sure, in the world that is under the full influence of Satan. That's going to be our series from 1 Peter, singing the Lord's song in a strange land.

You don't want to miss a day. That's right, you don't, and thank you, John. So friend, if you find yourself working for an unreasonable boss, or if you're living with an unbelieving or difficult spouse, or any other time that you interact with unbelievers, how do you make your testimony what it should be? Bring that question to John's study today called, Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land, and now here's the lesson. John 11, Peter writes, Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles so that in the thing in which they slander you as evil doers, they may on account of your good deeds as they observe them glorify God in the day of visitation. Admit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God.

Honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if when you sin and are harshly treated you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

Now the key phrase in this section I would draw to your attention is found in verse 15. It is this, by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. By doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. The word silence is used often to speak of muzzling an animal. Figuratively of reducing an adversary to silence, as it were taking the very accusation out of his mouth. You will notice also that it speaks of ignorance and foolish men. These are people who are willfully ignorant of God's truth, foolishly disobedient to God's word, and they are criticizers or critics of Christians. They take a foolish position, they take an ignorant position, and they attack the truth. And Peter says the way to silence them is not by what you say but by doing right. And let me put it to you as simply as I can.

The main point that you want to understand is this. The single greatest tool for evangelism is how you live. It is doing right. The single greatest tool for evangelism is doing right. That's how you silence the critics. To put it in the terms of verse 12, that is how you, in keeping your behavior honest among the Gentiles, bring them to the place where they will actually glorify God in the day of visitation. In other words, you not only silence their criticism, but you bring them to the point where they glorify God by what you do, not what you say. So I say it again, the foundation of all Christian witness is what you do, not what you say. The single greatest tool then of our Christian testimony and of evangelism is doing right.

It is how you live. Now obviously we live in a society today not unlike that of Peter where people criticize Christianity as well. We have our critics for sure.

In fact, they are widespread, far reaching, very vocal, and for the most part have captured the institutions of our society. The critics of Christianity are many. And the point of our greatest vulnerability and the point of their greatest accusation is what we do. It is the scandalous conduct of Christians that fuels the fires of critics. It is the purity and godliness and virtue and righteousness of Christians that silences the critics.

And so again I say the single greatest tool of evangelism we possess is doing right, living right. And that's what Peter wants us to understand. Commentator Robert Layton had some poignant words. Listen to what he said. When a Christian walks irreprovably, or free from need to be reproved, his enemies have nowhere to fasten their teeth on him, but are forced to gnaw on their own malignant tongues.

Fairly graphic. He then went on to say, as it secures the godly thus to stop the lying mouths of foolish men, so it is as painful to them to be thus stopped, as muzzling is to beasts, and it punishes their malice. And this is a wise Christian's way, instead of impatiently fretting at the mistakes or willful missensures of men, to keep still on his calm temper of mind and upright course of life and silent innocence. This, like a rock, breaks the waves into foam that roar about it." End quote.

That's good. Rather than fret at the censures of critics, we keep still in our calm temper of mind and upright course of life and silent innocence. Beautifully said. Alexander McLaren, the great Scottish preacher, wrote, The world takes its notions of God, most of all from the people who say that they belong to God's family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. In fact, they see us. They only hear about Jesus Christ.

And we know this. The bottom line, then, in evangelism is not what we say, it is what we do. And as someone said many years ago, some of us speak so loud by what we do that no one can hear what we say. How right Peter was. And the principle for his discussion here really comes from his Lord Jesus, who said in Matthew 5, Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. That is precisely what Peter is saying in verse 12. It is as they see your good works that they will glorify God in the day of visitation. And so we are called, then, to a kind of life.

This is an encouragement, then, to a godly life, which is essential to evangelism. Now, the group to whom Peter was writing needed to hear this because they were in a very stressful situation. Chapter 1 and verse 1 tells us they were scattered. They were Christians scattered throughout hostile pagan places, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Not only were they scattered, but they were being persecuted.

First Peter chapter 4 and verse 12 says, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing. Verse 13 says they were sharing the sufferings of Christ. Verse 19 says they were suffering according to the will of God. They were suffering persecution. Not only were they scattered dispossessed, as it were, out of their own homes, but they were under severe persecution.

They were feeling the pressure of the society's hostility. And they needed motivation to carry on living the Christian life in the midst of a difficult time of trials and a difficult experience of persecution. Now, Peter has already told them about their spiritual privileges. Do you remember there in chapter 2 verses 4 to 10 how Peter outlined all the spiritual privileges of knowing Christ? And now in the light of those spiritual privileges, he calls them to faithful witness. And that faithful witness is really built on the life they live. That life must be a life that silences the critics.

That life must be a life that convinces the unbelievers of the validity of the Christian faith. So in combination it is both a negative and a positive impact that a righteous life leaves. On the negative it silences the critics because there is nothing to criticize. On the positive it brings men to believe in the validity of the Christian faith because its transforming power can be seen in the life of a Christian and consequently it becomes an attraction to Christ. So on the one hand we silence the critics.

On the other hand we convert them. Our text then focuses on the fact that we are to live a kind of life that makes our evangelism believable. We lay a platform of credibility. We lay a platform that speaks of the validity of our faith when we do what is right, when we live a righteous life. So Peter here is calling us to that righteous life in a hostile environment. He calls us to that in verses 11 to 20 and then in verses 21 to 25 he gives us the perfect example of it who is Christ.

In verses 21 to 25 he shows us how Christ lived a perfect life in the midst of a hostile environment. But before he gets to the example of Christ he talks about what we are to be. And basically as we think about our obligation to live godly before the watching world, he divides it into three identities.

We in the world have in a sense three perspectives through which as it were to look at our obligation. First of all he says we are aliens in verse 11. We are aliens. Secondly starting in verse 13 and running through verse 17 he discusses our role as citizens. We are aliens but at the same time we are citizens. And then thirdly he discusses our obligation from verse 18 to 20 as servants. And all of us fall into that kind of role.

We are aliens yet at the same time we are citizens and we all serve under someone, somewhere. And so as Christian aliens and Christian citizens and Christian servants, we have three arenas in which we are to demonstrate our influence for Christ. And by the way we live we will either feed the fires of criticism or we will extinguish them.

We will either affirm disbelief or we will confirm the validity of faith. Now this can be as practical as the home if you'll look at chapter 3 for a moment, verse 1. He's been talking about how everyone has a role to play as a servant and he picks up the wives and he says you're to be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, and I would assume that they're unbelievers here, they may be one, that is one to Christ, without a word by the behavior of their wives. Now here is a very simple homey illustration of the impact of how you live. A wife will have her greatest impact on her unsaved husband, not by what she says, but by what she does. Verse 2 says, As they observe your chaste and respectful behavior, as a wife is pure and as a wife is respectful toward her husband, and as she has that excellent behavior that is not preoccupied, verse 3, with what she looks like on the outside, but verse 4, what she is like on the inside, she will make an impact on her unsaved husband.

And Peter here is illustrating that this idea of influence starts in the home and spreads beyond that. So we are to live, whether in the home, in the school, on the job, in the neighborhood, in our recreational environment, wherever, in such a way that we may, without a word by the behavior of our lives, demonstrate the viability of the Christian gospel and put to silence the attacks of Christianity's critics. This we do in those three arenas, as aliens, as citizens, as servants. Let's look at this idea of aliens, just two verses, verses 11 and 12.

We are aliens. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may, on account of your good deeds as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Boy, those are two great verses, absolutely foundational to the matter of evangelism.

Now, in those two verses, you have two points, all right? The Holy Spirit here by the Apostle Peter is calling us to two considerations. First, He calls us for discipline that is inward and private. He calls for discipline that is inward and private. That's point number one of two, and that's verse 11.

And this is where it starts. If I am to live a godly life on the outside, it doesn't start on the outside, it starts where? On the inside. And I will only work out, as Philippians 2 says, what is on the inside. And so the issue of verse 11 is clearly inward and private.

That's what he's saying. So this matter of living as an alien in the world with an evangelistic mission, attempting to silence the critics on the one hand and to win the unbeliever on the other hand, begins with integrity of life, and integrity of life is all about the inside to start with. So notice verse 11. I urge you, as aliens and strangers, abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. That's where it begins. You see, our testimony on the outside is really gained by our integrity on the inside. It starts there.

It starts there. By the way, Peter uses the word beloved and he loves to use it. He uses it eight times in the two epistles here. And he uses it to remind his hearers, his readers, that God loves them, that they are beloved of God.

That has a way of warming up his exhortations. That has a way of sort of affirming that they, being the beloved of God, have a duty to perform to one who loves them. Since you are the beloved of God, your being so loved should elicit an obedient response.

That's what he's saying. Based upon your being the beloved of God, he says, I urge you, I beg you in a passionate way. It's the same word Paul used in Romans 12, 1. I beseech you by the mercies of God. And so Peter has a plea here. It's an urgent, passionate plea to people who are the beloved of God to reciprocate that love with obedience.

And it starts on the inside. Now, notice that he identifies us as aliens and strangers. It isn't the first time he's done that. Back in chapter 1, verse 1, he used the word alien. He said, I'm writing to those who reside as aliens.

So this is simply re-identifying those who have already been identified as aliens. Now, what does he mean by this? Well, he means that you don't belong in the society you're in. You don't belong there. You are a foreigner.

You are an outsider. In the words of Philippians 3, 20, our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our citizenship is in heaven.

We are aliens here. Our status, then, in this world is as those who do not belong. That is why John says, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

They're not even a part of your dimension. And by the way, beloved, that is the price of our privilege. It is a privilege to be exalted and taken out of the kingdom of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God's dear Son. It is a privilege to be redeemed. It is a privilege to be made a citizen of heaven, and the price of that privilege is to shun the things of the world. The price of that privilege is that while you are a citizen of heaven, you are a stranger here. You are not an illegal alien.

The world has not come to the point where they've made Christianity illegal, although in some places it is. We can thank God in America we are aliens but not illegal aliens. Now, I want to just mention about the word alien, if I might. It's a very interesting little word, paroikos. Oikos means house.

Para means alongside the house. And what it basically says is you're somebody who lives alongside the people who belong here. You come in alongside the homes of the people who belong here. You're not really family.

You're just alongside the family. You happen to be living near those who are at home in a certain place, but you don't belong there. You're a non-citizen. The word came to mean a person who is a foreigner in a land that is not his own. And then there is the word stranger, which is really a synonym of sorts.

And it simply refers to a visitor who makes a brief stay, a sojourner who's just going through the country, a traveler who's just moving around in it, someone passing through. I don't belong in this world. I am in the world, but I am not of the world. I am distinct from the world.

Listen to Hebrews 13, 14. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. This isn't our place.

This isn't our world. We are people who, in whatever country we might be on the globe, feel that our true home is somewhere else. So as Christians, the people to whom Peter wrote, and we as well, are scattered among people of other beliefs, people of other values, people of other morals, people of other standards of life, and frankly, we are just not a part of this world. But Christians have always had to live among pagans. We have always had to live among people whose habitual intents are rooted in the lower order of things, above which Peter exhorts us to rise.

So he reminds us that we're aliens and strangers. Now, as such, we must first of all be disciplined in an inward and private way if we're going to have an impact on the world in which we must live. To do that, a simple command, abstain from fleshly lust. Folks, that sums it up.

That is a comprehensive, simple statement. Abstain, that's exactly what it means. Stay away from.

Keep your distance from. From what? Fleshly lust.

What's that? The desires of your fallen nature. You see, because our souls are saved, and because we've received a new heart, and because we've been washed, and because we've been regenerated, there is a newness in us, but as we have noted in the past, it is incarcerated in our unredeemed human flesh. That's why we have a spiritual battle, because the new man in us is battling the flesh. And the flesh is where lust comes from. And so we are called to, literally the Greek word is, hold oneself away from fleshly lusts.

Well, that is tough. That is tough enough because the fleshly lusts are in us. It is especially tough in our society because we live in a pornographic society.

And in a pornographic society, our fleshly lusts are fed constantly by the visual images of pornography and the verbal expressions of pornography that are all around us all the time. And so for us, this is a great challenge for the Holy Spirit in us to give us victory. Father, thank you for our time.

What a rich time in your Word. Now as we close, may we give again a fresh commitment of ourselves to you. Make us into the kind of servant that you want us to be, faithful. May we have discipline in the inward and private place. And may our deportment in the outward and public place be such as not only to silence the critic, but to save the critic. O God, give us such grace for Jesus' sake.

Amen. If you're a Christian, God expects you to live differently from the rest of the world. And today on Grace to You, John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, helped you see what that different life should look like in a study he calls Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land. Well, no doubt you can find ways to apply this series at home, at school, in the office, in your neighborhood, pretty much anywhere you find yourself. To review these practical lessons anytime, download Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land when you get in touch today. You'll find all six messages from this study at our website, gty.org. You can download those lessons as well as more than 3,600 of John's sermons for free in MP3 and transcript format. Browse our sermon archive today and see what God's Word says about virtually any subject at gty.org. In addition to the sermon archive, there's a lot more for you to take advantage of at our website. You'll find helpful articles by John and the staff on the Grace to You blog. You can read daily devotionals, and you can check out what we call Grace Stream. It's a continuous broadcast of John's verse-by-verse teaching through the New Testament. All of those free Bible study tools are designed to help you dig deep into God's Word and apply its truth to your life. Our web address again, gty.org. Now, on behalf of John MacArthur and our entire staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Tomorrow, John will show you what the Bible has to say to you if you work for an unbelieving boss or if you're married to an unbelieving spouse. Be here for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth in one verse at a time on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-13 05:38:13 / 2024-06-13 05:47:59 / 10

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