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Do We Belong Here?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 21, 2024 12:01 am

Do We Belong Here?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 21, 2024 12:01 am

The world is quick to tell Christians that this is not our home. The gospel reminds us why this is such wonderful news. Today, Sinclair Ferguson shows how our heavenly citizenship shapes our identity, our hope, and our way of life.

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You can be a fifteen-year-old Christian boy or girl, a young college student, and you stand out from this confused crowd because the one thing you know is that you are in Christ, that the heavenly Father is your Father, that the Spirit is your sanctifier, and that you belong to the celestial kingdom and not to this kingdom. We live in an age of confusion.

Young people in the world really have no idea who they are, and they're told that they can choose who they are, what they want to be. And like a breath of gospel fresh air, Peter's first letter helps us see so clearly the Christian's identity in Christ. Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind as we navigate the early portion of 1 Peter with Sinclair Ferguson.

Don't forget that you can continue this study with Dr. Ferguson by requesting this brand new teaching series, Sojourners and Exiles, when you give a donation of any amount at So who are we in Christ? And how does Peter's answer to this question inform how we should navigate life in this fallen world, a world which ultimately is not our home? Here's Dr. Ferguson with six gospel principles from 1 Peter. Now, we're coming to our third study in this great first letter of Peter, which we're looking at, as I said at the beginning, as a tract for the times. Peter is writing to Christians in a non-Christian world, and we are increasingly ourselves Christians in a non-Christian world.

If you glance over 1 Peter, you'll notice that it's bookended, first of all, by an opening salutation in chapter 1, verse 1 to 2, and then in chapter 5, verses 12 through 14, a closing greeting, a very characteristic letter in antiquity. And then he has this wonderful encouraging doxology in verses 3 to 12. It's all a hymn of praise to God. And then when you move towards the end, there is an urging of these Christians to live together in humility. So, opening greeting, closing greeting, doxology about the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then an urging to live the Christian life in humility. And then right in the center, the core, the spine, we might say, of the letter is an exposition from chapter 1, verse 13 to 3, verse 7, first of all of our calling to be holy, and then in chapter 3, verse 8 to 4, verse 9, a call to suffer as those who are godly.

So, a very simple, structured outline about living the Christian life in a world like this. Another way of approaching this is to notice how he describes the Christians in chapter 1, verse 1 as elect exiles, as aliens living in a foreign land. He will return to this later in the letter to underscore for us, and this is already in the atmosphere of verses 3 to 12, that while we live here, we don't really belong here. As Paul says to the Philippians, our real citizenship is in heaven, but we live out that citizenship in the earth, and therefore we are aliens. And that's a tremendously important key and clue to the way in which we think of ourselves as Christians. We don't belong here. We are aliens. We belong to the kingdom of God.

And therefore, it is inevitable and proper that we should be different from those around us. Remember how Peter experienced that? I'm sure he experienced it frequently before the night in which he betrayed the Lord Jesus and denied Him. But you remember what really brought him down was when someone in the courtyard said, but you've been with Jesus, your accent betrays you. And if you're a Christian, your accent will betray you.

It's inevitable. It cannot be hidden. When we lived in the United States, I loved to be in elevators with people, engaging with them in conversation. And then because they recognized there was something strange about me, they would pluck up the courage as I left to say, now, where do you come from? And I love to say, Columbia, South Carolina, walking backwards out of the elevator and as the doors closed, seeing the quizzical looks on their faces that said, he doesn't really come from Columbia, South Carolina.

His accent betrays him. And this is the atmosphere in which Peter understands these Christians are living their Christian lives. And as he says at the end in his closing greetings, he's writing to encourage them in the face of opposition and suffering and to testify to them about the true grace of God.

Wonderful summary of this letter. So, having laid the foundation of God's grace in the gospel in verses 3 to 12 of chapter 1, we come to one of many of the New Testaments, their verse. And I'm sure all of us are familiar with how important that little word is, that connective that takes the truth of the gospel and then begins to explain to us how the gospel works out in practical Christian living.

Practical Christian living. The gospel is not haphazard. The Bible is not a promise box. The Bible is a book of logic.

Remember how Paul puts it in Romans 12, 1 and 2, that our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds that takes place as we learn to think God's thoughts after Him about this world, about these lives, about Him, and about the world that is to come. I sometimes say that the best way to put it is to understand that the gospel has its own language. The gospel has its own grammar.

And like any language with grammar, if you misunderstand the grammar and the vocabulary, you will never be able to speak the language fluently. And one of the values of this section to which we are coming now in chapter 1, verses 13 to 21, is it's a beautiful encapsulated illustration of some of the major principles of the grammar of the gospel. And I want first of all in this session simply to point them out to you very quickly.

There are, I think, six of them. The first is this, that in the gospel, all imperative statements are based on indicative statements. No matter what the order of these statements, the logic and the grammar of the gospel is that what we are commanded to do is rooted in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, and we dare not reverse that logic.

The moment we begin to reverse that logic is the moment our Christian lives will get into difficulties and we may indeed lead to capsize. There's something else I think is important for us in our contemporary climate in the Christian subculture to say about this, that the greater the indicative of the gospel, the more rigorous the imperatives of the gospel. Now, I say that because there is, I think, a danger that preaching that exalts grace then tones down the imperatives of the gospel. I've heard preaching on passages full of imperatives that has warned people against the imperatives so concerned that they should grasp that the foundation of the gospel is not what we do but what God has done. But when we really grasp the gospel, we understand that the foundation the gospel indicative lay, what God has done for us in Christ, for example, in the opening two verses, is so strong that God is able to place on top of that the most rigorous imperatives that we should give everything to Jesus Christ.

And this is the principle that undergirds this whole section. Because of the blessings of God and the gospel, therefore, says Peter, here are the imperatives that flow from them. Set your hope on Christ. Don't be conformed to this world, verse 14. Be holy. Conduct yourselves with fear, always based on grace, always based on Christ. The second principle to notice, the second grammatical principle, is that our lifestyle is always the fruit of our mindset. So, you'll notice in verse 13 this rather surprising main verb where he says, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ but then in the context of preparing your mind for action. Those of you who are brought up in the older versions, gird up the loins of your mind.

It's a picture of someone gathering up the flowing robe in order to get ready to move, in order to get ready to run. And I think that is an important principle, isn't it? Especially today in our very, very feeling generation where people self-identify on the basis of what they feel about themselves. But the Christian life is not lived on the basis of what I feel about myself, but on the way I think about the gospel, and therefore on the way I think about myself.

And of course, our basic problem in this respect is our minds are intoxicated by the world. It's embedded in us, and we need that mind to be re-informed by God's truth. That's what girding up the loins of your minds really means, that our thinking needs to be reshaped by Scripture. That's something that we do in Bible study, personal Bible study of course, but it's something that God does, especially through the preaching of the Word. The preaching of the Word is the way in which God puts us on the potter's wheel, and with the two hands of His Word and His Spirit, He begins to work upon us and in us. That's why I think what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, about them receiving the Word of God, not as the Word of man but as the Word of God as it really is, that is at work in you. You see, the Word of God doesn't just come to us and say, here's the truth, this is what you're to do, you do it. The Word of God, when it's expounded to us, and we've all experienced this, I hope, works on us and works in us in ways no preacher could do, in ways no counselor could do. And this is what Paul is emphasizing here in this beautiful way.

So, first of all, all imperatives are based on indicative. Secondly, lifestyle is the fruit of mindset. Thirdly, and we've already touched on this, so I won't say more about it, our present life as Christians is rooted in future grace. We're to set our minds on the future and to live our lives in the light of the future. What happens to someone who is not a Christian as they grow old? It can happen to you as a Christian as well.

If you took a survey of the sentences that we speak, maybe I'm just speaking personally, more of them now begin with the words, I remember. But you see, when our lives are gospel-oriented, it's not just, I remember, but it's, I'm anticipating, and I'm living now not just reflecting the memories of the past but looking forward to the glory of the future. And that transforms everything.

That transforms the person who is in the care home from someone who remembers the past and is complaining about the present and has no prospect for the future to a person who rejoices sweetly in the present because they've a glorious prospect for the future. And then there is a fourth principle, I think, and that is, who God is determines what I am called to be. And you see this particularly in verse 15 and then again in verse 17, as He who called you is holy, you also be holy. And then in verse 17, because He is your Father, conduct yourself with fear. That's a great biblical principle. That's the turning point in so many Psalms, isn't it? When it dawns on the psalmist who the Lord really is and when we see who He really is, then we see what we are called to be. The command, be holy, doesn't just hang out there on its own. It's, you are to be holy because I am holy.

If you are in my family, then the family likeness is going to be seen. And as I say, that's a foundation for living the Christian life. Here's principle number five in this grammar. Negative activity must always be balanced by positive, and positive activity must always be balanced by negative. We live the Christian life on two feet, and if we try to live it on one foot, we will hop and stumble. And so, some of us as Christians are wired towards the negative. We need to deal with our sin, but we have little sense of the positive, little sense of putting on Jesus Christ in order that we may put off the old clothing. And some of us are more wired positively, and we are drawn to the fact that we are to put on Jesus Christ, and we lose sight of the fact that if we put on Jesus Christ, the old clothing needs to be put off. And Peter marvelously balances these two here in chapter 1. You notice that, for example, in verse 14, as obedient children, that's who you are by God's grace, don't be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.

You see that balance? I'm a child of God. Does that mean I can do anything I want?

No, because I'm a child of God, I'm not going to be conformed to the passions of the old family to which I once belonged. And that leads to the sixth principle. So, all imperatives are based on indicative. Lifestyle is the fruit of mindset. Our present life is rooted in future grace. It's God who determines what I am called to be, who He is, determines who I am.

Negative is balanced with positive, and positive with negative. And therefore, it is my new identity in Christ that determines the way I live. And you see that again in verse 14, as children, that's who you are. And then again, you'll notice later on rather beautifully, He underscores the principle in verse 17, when He says, if you are someone who calls on God as Father, and for those of you who are grammarians, that's a conditional statement of the first order.

It's not doubting that it's true. It's saying, in the light of the fact that it's true that you call on God as Father, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. And this is all through the letters of the New Testament that in Christ, the believer learns who he or she really is. And I can think of very much in the New Testament that is more important for us to know, more important for our young people to know, in a world where you have to self-identify, where you don't know. By definition, our youngsters are being told, you don't know who you are, so you must try and find out who you are and choose who you are.

And they're set adrift on an ocean of confusion. And you can be a fifteen-year-old Christian boy or girl, young college student, and you stand out from this confused crowd, because the one thing you know is that you are in Christ, that the heavenly Father is your Father, that the Spirit is your sanctifier, and that you belong to the celestial kingdom and not to this kingdom. And you can walk through the world that way. I can't tell you how grateful I am that it was, well, it was sixty years ago probably that the truth began to dawn upon me who I really was. And when that dawns upon you, you begin to have clarity, you begin to have simplicity. You understand God is calling me to be who I really am in Christ, and that transforms especially the dignity and the stability of your life. We said earlier on that you can't hide the accent with which you speak, and this is surely one of the beautiful things in our time that makes Christians and churches stand out as our world is awash with confusion about its identity and the identity of young people, that Christians know that Christians know who they really are.

And all of this emerges from being able to speak, understand the gospel according to its own rules of grammar. So, let me close this session by asking the question, well, who does Peter say that we are? Remember how Jesus asked that question, Matthew 16, who do men say I am? Who do you say I am? And now Peter is asking the question, who do you say you are? And here is the answer that he himself gives.

It's a very simple one. We are the children of the heavenly Father, and we are the servants He has purchased by the blood of Christ. That's just the beginning, but we get hold of these two things, and they are like strong walls around our Christian life. So, look at what he says in verse 17, you call on Him as Father. Back in verse 14, you are His children.

Do you know what's interesting? The very first confession of faith or credo statement that ever had a section on being children of God was not written until the seventeenth century in chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. It took the church in a sense, individual Christians got it, but it took the church in a sense seventeen hundred years before it began to taste the notion that this is who we are.

This is our privilege. We've been adopted into God's family as His children, and as Peter has said earlier in the chapter, we have been born again into His family and given a new nature, a family nature. We're not only adopted children who belong to another family and have all the old family instincts still. We're adopted children who have been given the new nature of the new family, and so these two become one beautiful reality.

It's not just that I'm adopted. It's that by the Holy Spirit, the instincts to call God Abba Father, something in my experience, apart from saying written prayers or the Lord's Prayer, no one ever does except a true Christian. But when you're a true Christian, born again by the Spirit of God, adopted into His family, there is this instinct to call Him your Heavenly Father. But then He says something that I think to many Christians is a surprise. So, He says, conduct yourselves, verse 17, with fear throughout the time of your exile.

Isn't this paradoxical? And after all, doesn't the Apostle John say that perfect love casts out fear? So, what's Peter saying? If you are a child of God, conduct yourself with fear.

Well, I'm sure you understand what he's saying. A person who knows he or she is a child of God, the last thing in the world they want to do is anything that will bring a frown to their Heavenly Father's countenance. They always want to live under His smile. And so, they live carefully, reverently in awe and loving fear of their Heavenly Father.

And so, as one of the old Scottish writers puts it, it matters little to them if the world frowns on them if He smiles, and it matters little to them if the world smiles on them if He frowns. That's a beautiful combination that creates affection and intimacy and fear because we are not only children of the Heavenly Father, but slaves who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. In this world, it was possible for slaves to buy their freedom. They paid the money to the God in the temple, and then their owner got part of the money, and the God kept the rest of the money, but you had to work to buy your own freedom. And the marvelous thing about our freedom is that it is actually purchased by God Himself, not with silver or gold, not with anything we can do, but with the precious lifeblood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. And because we are not only His children, but His blood-bought servants, our response is to say, everything I have and am is yours, Father.

Amen. Those gospel truths really do change how we think about everything, and whether young or old, we all need these reminders. This is the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and you just heard a message from Sinclair Ferguson's new line-by-line series through 1 Peter titled Sojourners and Exiles. If you'd like to own this series, or there is someone you know that you believe would be helped by this series, you can request it on DVD when you give a gift of any amount at or by calling Ligonier at 800 435 4343. Because you'll also receive lifetime streaming access, you can give the DVD away to that friend or donate it to your church library and still be able to listen and watch the series in the free Ligonier app. You'll also find the digital study guide in the app too. So make your request today at It's natural to love our family, but what about our spiritual family, our brothers and sisters in Christ? That's what we'll consider tomorrow as we continue this study in 1 Peter here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 03:47:07 / 2024-02-21 03:56:03 / 9

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