Pastor Skip Heitzig guides us through First and Second Peter in the series Rock Solid.
We're doing a series in the book of First and Second Peter called Rock Solid. Peter was one of the early disciples of Jesus. Imagine getting to hang out with him, and listening to him, watching him. And so we've had the privilege of studying what he has to say in First Peter, chapter 3. How many of you have toddlers? Raise your hands, I want to see. Okay, just notice all the people so you can pray for them. [laughter] How many of you had toddlers? Okay, you've had them. How many of you are toddlers? Raise your hand. [laughter] Just kidding.
You know, toddlers have their own rules. You know that, right? There's like a whole set of laws just for toddlers. And the following are the "Property Laws for Toddlers": Number one; if I like it, it's mine. If it's in my hand, it's mine. If I can take it from you, it's mine. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine. If it's mine, it's must never appear to be yours in any way. Number six; if I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. If it looks just like mine, it's mine. If I saw it first, it's mine."
"If you're playing with something and you put it down, automatically mine. And, finally, if it's broken, it's yours." [laughter] Although it says here in parentheses, (No, the pieces are probably still mine.) Hey, that's fine for toddlers, but it's certainly not fine for mature believers in Christ. As followers of Jesus the watchword isn't mine, but yours; not me, but you; not self, but others. The title of my message this morning is "How to Attract Flies." Yeah, that's exactly it, "How to Attract Flies."
Let me tell you where I'm coming from. Back in 1744 a saying was written in Poor Richard's Almanack attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It's the old saying that says, "You'll catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar." Now, anybody from a developing country visiting America would scratch their heads at that little saying like, "Why would you ever want to attract flies to begin with?" But the point of that is simply this: when you have a sweeter approach, a nicer approach, you are going to be more successful in achieving your goals than if you're mean and cantankerous.
You'll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. So why am I calling the message "How to Attract Flies"? For this reason: the entire section that we have been studying the last several weeks, beginning in chapter 2, verse 11, all the way to where we are now is all dealing with how we as believers live our lives on the stage of this world. The unbelieving world is watching us very carefully. And it could be, it could be, that by the way we live our lives in all of those areas, we actually attract the antagonist and attract the adversary. And so he's already told us some ways to do that.
We continue in chapter 3, verse 8, where he says, "Finally," or to sum up what I've been saying. "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil, reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For 'He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."
"'For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' "Now let me just bring you back up to speed to where we've been studying the last few weeks. You know that Peter has been talking about the three major areas of social interaction: in society, or our relationship to government; at the workplace, or our relationship to our employer; and in the home, husbands' and wives' relationship to each other. That's what we've been talking about the last few weeks.
We have also noted that Peter says the general role for all of us in all of those roles can be summed up by one word. Remember what it is? Submission: submit to authority, wives submit to their husbands, servant to their masters, etcetera. Now Peter takes us to a fourth area of social interaction. And this is restricted now only to the Christian believer, and that is, the church. As believers we live in society, we have jobs, we have marriages, but we also have a family of believers. That's why he says, "Finally, all of you," verse 8. He's writing to Christian believers who interact with each other.
Now, the world is going to watch us in our relationship to government. And they're going to be able to see us in our relationship to our employer. And they're going to be able to look into our marriages and see how we do that. But most of them are not going to come into the church and check us out. Now some will, some will come to our meetings, but certainly they're going to see how we deal with each other when we're out in the world. And it could be, it could be that we are so compelling in our testimony that we actually attract those unbelievers by the way we treat each other.
Listen to this: in the second century A.D. a guy by the name of Tertullian, a church historian, said that the Roman government was so suspicious of churches because they were growing so rapidly that they would send spies into the church to check them out. One of the spies reported back to the Roman government, and I'll quote it to you: "These Christians are very strange people. They meet in an empty room to worship. They have no image. They speak of one by the name of Jesus, who is absent, but whom they seem to be expecting at any moment."
And they concluded by saying, "And my, how they love him and how they love one another." What a compelling, attractive testimony to be able to see in the lives of believers. So looking in these verses I want to look at three sweet things that can attract flies. Number one is our attitude, number two is our response, and number three is our motive or motivation. So, first of all, we do so by our general attitude; second, by our gentle response; and third, by our genuine motivation. Let's look at our attitude.
Verse 8, "Finally," or to sum it up, my final words in this subject, "all of you," all of you Christians believers that I am writing this letter to, "all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous." Now, we have a five-fold description, and I'm going to unravel quickly each one of those for you. But the five-fold description of the general attitude of the believer, it could all be summed up in one word, one word---love. Just like Jesus summed up the whole law in one word, love, so our relationships should be summed up by this one word, love.
But we have a five-fold description. Notice the first: "Finally, all of you be of one mind," or the word "like-minded" some translations say, "be like-minded." Now, just think about this for a moment. Is that possible, "be like-minded"? You know what most of us define like-mindedness as? You agreeing with me---that's like-minded. "This is what I think and you should agree with that." No, no. That's not unity, that's just uniformity. The Bible never calls us to that. There are differences of opinions that we have.
If we right now were to open up a discussion on politics, or on styles of clothing, or on what shows are appropriate to watch on television, or what styles of Christian music are appropriate to listen to or have at church, we would open a can of worms and we would have one huge disagreement. It's the way we are. We don't agree on everything. I had a friend of mine say, "If two people agree on everything, one of them isn't thinking." [laughter] I have certain views on eschatology, on the end times. I have views on the rapture, on the tribulation, on the millennium. I have views about the Holy Spirit.
Some of you may not share those views, that's okay. I always want to be gracious enough to allow you to be wrong. So that's all right. [laughter] The early church didn't always agree, did they? There were disagreements and arguments and divisions over things like meat sacrificed to idols, over keeping the Sabbath, over which days are appropriate to worship, over which widows should be taken care of by the church finances. Paul and Barnabas argued over John Mark. The twelve apostles argued over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I mean, there are---there's a litany of disagreements even in the New Testament. Someone once said, "The church is a lot like Noah's ark, were it not for the flood on the outside, you sometimes couldn't stand the stench on the inside." That's because we are fallen humans all gathered together to be like-minded. Now, listen, we don't have to think alike, we do have to have one mind. We do have to have one mind. Having one mind or like-mindedness, I would describe as this: cooperation in the midst of diversity, cooperation in the midst of diversity.
Best example I can think of, your human body, the very example Paul used of the church, "the body of Christ." There's different parts with different operations, there is diversity, but there is cooperation in that diversity. And that's the very thing Jesus prayed for. He said, "Lord, Father that they may be one even as you and I are one that the world may believe that you have sent me." So, here's the deal: there are some core issues, let's call them "essentials."
There are nonessentials, but there are essentials that we must all agree on: the nature of God; the person and work of Jesus Christ that he is God in human flesh that he came to this earth, that he took our place dying on a cross, that he rose physically from the dead, and that he's coming again. There are core issues that you must believe in to even be a Christian. We are of one mind with those issues. Secondary issues, well, they're secondary issues. We are of one mind.
Second on this list: "having compassion," compassion. Here's the word in Greek: sumpatheis/sumpathés. We get the word sympathy from it. It comes from two words: pathos, pathós, which means to feel or it means to have an emotion or to hurt, pathos; sum or sun [soon], together, to feel together. It literally means "feel the same thing." So it's interesting, he says, think the same things, "be of one mind." Now he says feel the same things. Here's the best definition I've ever found to have sympathy: your hurt in my heart; your hurt, your pain, your hurt in my heart.
In other words, I can't be callous, I have to share your joy and share your sorrows. Romans chapter 12 verse 15, "Rejoice with those that rejoice, weep with those that weep." Or First Corinthians 12:26, "If one member of the body suffers, we all suffer; if one member is honored, we are all honored together." That's having compassion, feeling together. Look at the third on the list: "love as brothers"---stop right there. I grew up with three older brothers, so I read something that says, "Love as brothers," and it doesn't, like, lift me up to some lofty place. [laughter] Because I love my brothers, but I also, like, chased a couple of them with a baseball bat from time to time.
I mean, we were brothers. It says, "Love as brothers." I'm going, really? A better translation would be, and it's helpful for guys like me, "Love one another as brothers should." Now that's helpful. Peter wrote this and I can't help but feel that Peter had his own brother Andrew in mind when he wrote this. Andrew was a good brother, a loving brother. He was the one who led Peter to Jesus Christ. So love one another as brothers should love. By the way, it's one of the proofs that you and I are saved. You want to attract flies? Love your brother and your sister in Christ.
How on earth can you love an unbeliever if you can't even love a brother or sister? It's a proof that we are saved: First John, chapter 3, "We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love our brothers." Look at the fourth thing in this description in verse 8, "be tenderhearted." Now, I just gotta tell you, that's a very difficult word to translate. Because the original word, "be tenderhearted," the original Greek word is a word called splagchnos, and it actually means your intestines, your kidneys, your guts, your heart, your liver. That's what it refers to, splagchnos.
And a literal translation of this reads this way: "have good bowels." [laughter] "Did I just hear that in church? Did my pastor just tell me to have good bowels?" That's what it says. And here's why it says that: because a couple thousand years ago in the ancient world it was believed that the deepest emotions that a person feels is in the intestinal region. We still, we still talk it that way, don't we? We say, "So, what is your gut saying?" Or we speak about intestinal fortitude: "I feel it in my gut."
If I were to get some of you to stand up here and face a crowd because you're just like, you're---some people are just so petrified of standing in front of people, you would have what are called---what?---butterflies. You feel all queasy in your intestinal region, your stomach. "What is that? I feel weird." Some of you would actually feel nauseated. So the deepest emotions were felt in the intestinal region. So even though it's hard to translate this, it would better be rendered, "You must be deeply concerned for others."
Let me put it to you this way: the church ought to be the place where the walking wounded feel at home. People who are wounded and beat up by this world should be able to come because we revel in being tenderhearted with each other. It's something we should be great at. If you're on the staff of this church, or you're an usher or a greeter, or you're on the security team, and you see people come in and---let me just tell that you I thank God for your service, but we have to guard against the tendency to see another person with another issue, another problem.
We're around this stuff as pastors all day long, and easy for us to just say, "There's another death, another divorce, another catastrophe has happened." We have to really guard ourselves from leaving this beautiful, sweet spot of being tenderhearted toward one another. The fifth description is "be courteous." I'll just be honest with you, this doesn't really help me a whole lot. In fact, I don't think it's a great translation. Other modern translations do a better justice to this word "be courteous." When I---I hear my mom right now, saying, "Say 'please' and say 'thank you.' "
That's being courteous, right? A better word is "be humble-minded," be humble-minded. Now, tell you why this is such a shocking statement, because when Peter wrote this in the Greco-Roman era, humble-mindedness was not considered a virtue, it was considered a weakness: "Only weak people are humble people." When the Greeks conquered people, they turn them into humble-minded people---"They're our slaves." The Greeks loved such qualities as self-confidence, self-esteem, self-assertiveness. They would have loved the swagger of the modern hip-hop artists, or Clint Eastwood, "Go ahead, make my day."
The Greek would have said yeah! Peter goes, "Nooo, rather than that, a humble-mindedness." Humility is the grease that keeps the gears of relationships running smoothly. I read something by F. B. Meyer, where he said, "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and the taller you grow in Christian grace, the more easily you could take them. I have now come to realize that God's gifts are on shelves---one below the other. And it's not a matter of growing taller, but of stooping lower." Humble-mindedness.
So all five of these form a beautiful description of the general attitude of the believer, which is love. Okay, that's fine. We're okay. Chapter 3, verse 8, got that down, we're good at that. "Okay, I'll work on that, Pastor, thank you." Okay, now it gets hard, because in verse 9 he's turning from people who are nice to you, and brothers and sisters---"Hi brother, hi sister, love you, tenderhearted, sympathy"---to people who are not, who are mean to you. What do you do if somebody is really grouchy and gripy or insults you or tries to hurt you?
Well, I'm glad you asked. Verse 9, this is our gentle response: "Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." Okay, so I don't know here, I don't know if he's referring to unbelievers who are in the world persecuting the believers who are in the church, or, or he could be speaking about fellow believers in your church who are just simply hassling you, you have a disagreement with. Either way it's all the same.
How do you treat them? You don't hit back, you don't fight back, you don't yell back---you bless back "that you might [obtain or] inherit," he says, "a blessing." I gotta tell you, I think this was very close to Peter's heart. I think Peter, when he wrote this, had a very specific thing in his mind from his past experience. Because there was a time in Peter's life where he did try to fight evil with evil. He did try to fight back. Remember the time when Jesus and his disciples were in the garden of Gethsemane and they came to arrest Jesus, and the Roman soldiers came, and remember what Peter did?
Remember he got down on his knee and was really humble and he said, "O Lord, just whatever your will is. I just want what your will is, because whatever you want"? He did that, right? He did not do that. What did he do? He took out a sword. He took out a sword and he saw the servant of the high priest, and thank God he was a fisherman and not a swordsman, because he was trying for his head and he missed and got his ear and cut it off. And Jesus said, "Peter, Peter, put away your sword. Don't you know that those who live by the sword will"---what?---"they'll die by the sword."
"Put it away, it's not how you fight this, Peter." So when Peter is writing this, I believe that's still fresh in his memory. You don't return evil for evil or reviling or reviling, but blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. Now, this is such a hallmark of the Christian faith, and if you were looking for something that is the dividing line that separates Christianity from every other belief system, this is it: we love our enemies. That's what separates up from every other belief system in God---we love our enemies. It was unheard of, it was unheard of.
Even the Jews had in the Old Testament what was known as the lex talionis; that is, the law that says the punishment fits the crime. You've heard it before, it's in Exodus 21. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot---that's the lex talionis. By the way, it's usually misinterpreted. Do you know why that was given? To limit vengeance, because human nature would want more than just an eye or a tooth or a foot. "You took out one of my eyes, you're going to be blind in both of your eyes for life." "Oh, yeah. You took out one of my teeth in that fight, you'll wear dentures forever."
That's human nature. So, to limit that the lex talionis was given: eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb. But this, to bless someone? Now, I gotta tell you, here I am up here with this microphone speaking to you, and I just gotta tell you, this is so easy for me to preach about, this is so hard for me to do. Anybody can preach on this, it's good preaching. "Love people." But I tell you the honest truth, put me behind the wheel of a car, [laughter] it's a different situation.
There was one time when I'm on the freeway here in town and I tell you, I just---I've always thought Albuquerque's the place where all the bad drivers come and we all live together in one city. [laughter] I'm on the freeway and somebody drives and pulls right in front of me and then slows down. I wanted to follow him through town all day long! [laughter] That was in my heart. Just yesterday I'm in Uptown, I see a parking space and it's right up by the Apple Store. It's like, "This is from God." So I'm seeing it, it opens up, I'm about to turn in, blinkers on, I'm waiting."
I'm waiting for him to get out. I'm thinking, "Thank you, Jesus." Just then, right before I turn in, somebody sees it and scoots right in and takes my spot. I so wanted to mess his mirrors up and put his windshield wipers up, and . . ." It's not easy to do. Easy to say, easy to talk about, easy to preach about, easy even to listen to, perhaps, but to do this is tough. I was reading in the Psalms---have you ever read these psalms in your Bible called "imprecatory psalms"? Ever heard of those? It's a theological way to mean not-nice-guy psalms, vengeance psalms.
It's where David calls down God's wrath from heaven on his enemies. Ever read psalms like that? They're in the Bible. And I remember when I first read these I was sort shocked and I was drawn to that kind of literature. It's like, "Wow! That's in the Bible." And I read that psalm where David said, and I quote, you can tell I memorized it, "Lord, break their teeth in their mouths." I read that and I said, "Man, I'm going to underline that. [laughter] That baby's a life verse right there. That's right in the Scripture."
"Hey, Pastor Skip, what's your favorite life verse?" "Oh, here it is: 'Break their teeth in their mouths.' " [laughter] And I'll be honest, there have been times where I've actually prayed imprecatory prayers. I'm so glad that God is a good God and he doesn't listen to everything I say. "Uh, not gonna say yes to that one." [laughter] But I found something---as I prayed for people, my heart began to change. As I genuinely prayed for my enemies, it might start out very vengeful, but I start thinking about them, my heart begins to soften, it begins to change.
And what Peter says is that you return blessing, knowing---look what it says, you need to see it, "Knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing," you may inherit a blessing. You will get blessed when you bless, instead of do what feels right and react. You will be blessed. Persecutions on earth today will add blessings to you in heaven tomorrow. Jesus said that in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven."
I read a book, it impacted my life years ago, by an author, a pastor named Juan Carlos Ortiz. He was Argentinian. Juan Carlos Ortiz was in a leadership conference he was writing about. He said, "I saw a man who was in my former denomination, so I went over to him," he said, "to hug him." But the leader saw him coming and stood back and he said, "Don't hug me, we're enemies." And Juan Carlos said to this fellow brother in Christ who said, "Don't hug me, I'm your enemy," he said, "Oh, well, I didn't know we were enemies." And then he said, "Praise God! Now I have an opportunity to love my enemy."
And he walked up to him and hugged him close and publicly prayed in his hearing, "Lord, thank you for my precious enemy. Bless his life, in Jesus' name." Now the guy was shocked, but he said within one year he was preaching at that man's church. You will receive a blessing. So how do you attract flies? By your general attitude of love; by your gentle response of blessing; and third, and we'll close, by our genuine motivation. Let's finish this up.
Verse 10, Peter says, "For 'He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' "That's the motivation. Why do you do it? Here's the mo---here's why. He says, "For," and then what does he do? He quotes what? He quotes the Old Testament. He's quoting a psalm in the Old Testament.
So follow his thinking: do this, don't do that; because or for; and he quotes Scripture. In other words, he's showing his audience, "The reason we do anything is because God says so in his Word," quoting Psalm 34. One of his favorite psalms obviously, because he quotes it at least three times in this letter, so far he has. By the way, one of the great reasons why I'm such a stickler about our Wednesday night through-the-Bible Bible studies from Genesis through Revelation is for this reason: I think it takes the whole Bible to make a whole believer.
And understand what God says through all of his Book adds that much more to your life. Notice what it says, "For 'He who would love life and see good days.' "Let me ask you something: Do you want a good life? How many of you want a good life? And you want to have a good day. I get that all the time, "Hey, have a good day." Want to have a good day, want to have a good life? Here's how to do it. If you love life, then love people, the good people and the bad people. Do you love life? I love life. The French have a little phrase, they call it joie de vivre.
Joie de vivre describes somebody who loves life, wakes up every day, "Ah, another day!" that ebullience, that positive attitude, a lover of life. But there are some people who hate life. Solomon who should love---he had every reason to love life because he had so much---wrote in his little journal in Ecclesiastes, "Therefore I hated life, because everything was vanity and vexation of spirit." Some people hate life. Other people, and I would say a lot of people, just endure life.
I know a lot of Christians, they just endure life. "How you doing? "Okay. I'm making it through. One more day." That's okay if you do that for like a week, but the following month and the following year---"How you doing?" "Okay." It's like what, did the spirit of Eeyore take over or what? [laughter] They just endure life, they're always enduring. Other people try to escape life shirking their responsibilities and opportunities. They don't love life, they don't endure life, they escape life.
But you can enjoy life and that's where you realize Sovereign God is in control of me, and even allows the good and the gnarly people that come into my life to be there for his own purpose, and I'm going to treat them with blessing and not cursing. That's one motivation. Here's the second, verse 12, "For the eyes of the Lord are on righteous." You get the idea that God is just sort of peeking down from heaven looking at you. Not like watching you to see how you're doing, did you mess up, but he's---the idea of this is he's superintending, he's watching over you with care, he's taking care of you.
He's protecting you and he's paying attention to you and listening when you pray. That's-that's the picture. "For the eyes of the Lord are on righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but"---but---"the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." So here's the deal: I don't have to worry about the people who do evil to me, God is taking notice of that. He's watching over me and he's going sort all that out in the end, so I don't have to be the guy to exact revenge. That's a high motivation.
I do it because the Bible says to do it, and I do it because God is watching over me, superintending my life, taking really good care of me, and he'll worry about all those evil people. I want to close with this thought: as I went through this description of sweetness, I couldn't help but think this is exactly what God is like. Romans, chapter 5, "God demonstrated his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While we were sinners, Christ died for us. When we were unlovely, Christ died for us. When we rejected him, Christ loved us and died for us. It's just like Jesus.
So here we are, we are not the company of faultless, we are the company of the forgiven, which goes to show and should be proof by the fact that we open our doors to the unlovely, to the hurting, to the raunchy, and we show Christ's love. Oh, yes, the standard of holiness; oh, yes, truth; but his love. And that's how to attract flies. And they want to be attracted, they're just looking for someone and something sweet. Would you bow with me? Father in heaven, your Word says, "Taste and see the Lord is good." There really is a sweetness about the character of Jesus the Savior that we love and serve.
There's such a beauty there. We are first to proclaim that in our own human nature we are not that. We are those people who do get upset, whether we're driving in a car, or standing in a grocery line, or watching a news report on television, or listening to a conversation. There's something that wells up within us, wants us to fight back. I pray, Lord, that like our Father, you, and like our Savior Jesus, that we would be those who are compassionate, loving, tenderhearted, humble-minded, and those who give blessing. Because you said to do it, and you said you'd take care of those who don't.
I, finally, pray, Father, for those who are gathered with us today either outside or over in the Hub, several hundred others who are not in this room, as well as those of us who are, those listening by radio and any other device. Lord we come to the end of this service where we evaluate our own lives and I pray, Lord, you would draw us to the cross. With our heads bowed, I'm speaking now to those of you who may have come but you haven't come to Jesus Christ yet. You have haven't come to Jesus personally to be personally forgiven.
You may be a wonderful person, even a churchgoer, a very religious and devoted person, but you have never come to a place in your life where you have surrendered to the lordship and the authority of Jesus Christ. I want to give you that opportunity before we leave this morning to do that. Or if you have wandered from him and you need to come back home, if you're in this auditorium and you desire to find his forgiveness and his love on a personal level by giving your life to Christ or coming back home to Jesus, I want you to raise your hand up in the air right now as we close this service so I can see it and I'll pray for you.
Just keep it up for a moment. Lord bless you, right over here, I see your hand. And right there, sir, I see your hand up toward the front. Anyone else? Raise it up. You're saying, "Yup, I need to do this. I've been needing to for a while." Yes, sir, toward the middle; on my right. Who else? God bless you, and you on my left, and you beyond that. That's right, right on. Anybody in the family room? God bless you. Yup, I see your hand over there; and on my left toward the back; to my right toward the back; right over here on my right. If you're outside in the amphitheater or in Solomon's Porch or in the Hub, there's a pastor there. You slip your hand up and let that pastor see you there.
Lord, I pray, and what a privilege it is to lift up these men and these women who have come to this place in their lives where they're doing the smartest thing they could ever do, the wisest choice they could ever make, and that is, to entrust their lives to you, the giver of life, and the Savior and lover of souls. I pray, Father, that you would give them now that sense of release and satisfaction and joy as they come to the cross, and also purpose, Lord. Give them strength to live each day for your glory, we pray in Jesus' name, amen.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.