There is a time to rejoice in God’s abundant earthly blessings. There is a time to rest, a time to laugh, and a time to feast. But there is also a season for reflection, for honest self-assessment, for recommitment to the more demanding aspects of our Christian walk. Lent is just such a season. The First Epistle of Peter reminds us that we are sojourners, and that we ought to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war” against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). In light of Christ’s suffering, we should “live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:2). This Epistle, at five chapters in length, could be preached as a midweek Lent sermon series.
At the outset, Peter calls Christians “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1), not fully at home on this earth. Everything under the sun is vanity (Ecc. 1:3). All the glory of man is doomed to pass away (1 Peter 1:24). The heathen go about in futility (1 Peter 1:18), sinful passions, and ignorance (1 Peter 1:14). But we have been born again (1 Peter 1:3), ransomed (1 Peter 1:18), promised an inheritance (1 Peter 1:4), and are being guarded until the Last Day (1 Peter 1:5). Peter builds on many of these teachings throughout the letter.
Although we are not at home in this world, how we live here and now does matter for the Christian. Jesus’ death, our faith, and our hope for things to come all inform the way we should think and live here and now. It is not as though faith were merely a spiritual or otherworldly matter. Although we wait for the full joys of heaven (1 Peter 1:4), though we long for the day when we will see Jesus (1 Peter 1:8), the Lord has called us for specific purposes in this life.
The LORD ransomed Israel from Egypt at great cost. The toll was tremendous destruction and loss of life for Egypt. In memory of this, all the firstborn of Israel had to be redeemed (Ex. 34:19-20). The Lord purchased Israel neither for libertinism nor for anarchy; he did not ransom them just so they could be free for freedom’s sake. Rather, the LORD liberated them in order to worship him (Ex. 8:1), dwell with him (Ex. 15:13), be his (Ex. 19:4), to obey him (Ex. 24:7), and ultimately to raise up a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18) and Abraham’s Seed, through whom the whole earth would be blessed. conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile
Christians too are redeemed for specific purposes. We are called to endure “various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). These refine our faith, just as a furnace purges away impurity from gold. Yet our faith is more precious than gold, which is doomed to perish along with this world (1 Peter 1:7; 24). The heat may be unpleasant, but the result is beautiful. Even in the midst of suffering, we should rejoice. The trials are for our benefit and God’s glory. We are not yet fully free from this world; we do not yet see Jesus face to face. Thus the need for faith (Heb. 11:1).
Christians are also called to holiness. Rather than obeying passions, foolishness, and worldly mindsets, we are to be ready for action and sober minded in this life, and hopeful of future encounter with Jesus, rather earthbound in our thoughts (1 Peter 1:13). Sinful passions tear apart Christian fellowship, and so we are called to lay these aside and instead love one another “earnestly, with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
Although everything under the sun perishes, rots, fails, disappoints, dies, and is forgotten, the word of God endures forever. And since that same word which endures has kindled faith in our hearts, we Christians will also endure into eternity. While we continue on our earthly pilgrimage, we are to hope in God, endure difficulty, live in love with others here on earth, resist the Devil, and praise God in all we do.
The preacher can urge his hearers that whether they eat or drink, fast or abstain this Lent that they at least reflect upon their spiritual life. We are surrounded by the world’s comforts. It is easy to think we are at home here on earth. But since Christ has risen from the dead, our faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:21) and our true home is in heaven.