This Sunday on September 13, we are starting a new sermon series called “Exiles With a Purpose,” a study on 1 Peter. The word exile is often a negative word meaning that a person has been banished from a community. For instance, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled as a political criminal to the island of Elba after he was defeated and lost power. However, God uses exile as a positive connotation. Strictly speaking, an exile is one who belonged to one community but no longer belongs anymore. Before we were Christians, we belonged to the kingdom of the world. We were consumed by its ideals and beliefs. We were sucked in and completely engrossed in the affairs of the world. When we come to Christ, we belong to the kingdom of God. That makes us exiles to the kingdom of the world. However, we still live in the world, and that clash is difficult to manage.
The idea of living in the world and not of the world is nothing new. Christians have often lived in cultures that have different values and worldviews than they do. In early Rome, the empire was the epicenter for immorality, corruption, and persecution for Christians. But, that didn’t deter the church. The church continued to grow and even flourish. How did it do that? The simple answer is that Jesus built it. The church remained focused on glorifying God by making disciples to the ends of the earth.
However, not all churches responded that way. The Corinthian church responded to the different culture by changing its Christian ideals to embrace those of the world. The Apostle Paul writes one of his longest letters in 1 Corinthians to address the foolishness the church was involved in. The Ephesian church responded by being afraid of the world around, and it became legalistic by creating extrabiblical man-made laws that stifled the church. The Apostle John writes in Revelation that the Ephesian church had “lost its first love.” The church in 300AD responded by instating a civil religion paired with the government that had Christian moral values. In doing so, they achieved good morality, but they eventually started to lose their focus of making disciples. Emperor Constantine took control of the Roman church, and he used the church as a political manipulation tool to accomplish his achieved government purposes. The church forgot its mission to make disciples, and that mere morality in the state was not the best indication of a person’s inner motivation to follow Christ.
We’ll be going through 1 Peter in the next few Sundays which is a great book that deals with some of these issues and offers encouragement and wisdom for the church navigating these waters. Hope to see you this Sunday!