WDJW (I Peter 1:8)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: 1 Peter 1:8
Some of you may recall a trend or movement in the 90's that revolved around these four letters: WWJD. The letters began on bracelets that were especially popular among Christian youth. But they soon spread to things like hats and shirts and coffee mugs, and then gained national, even global recognition. These four letters, as you probably know, were an acronym for the question: “What would Jesus do?” As a key website for the movement expressed it...
Beyond sex-sexuality-sexual harassment- all areas of decision are impacted - integrity, generosity, fairness, right or wrong choices, truth or lies, love or hate, racism, materialism. WWJD simply says, true love asks what would Jesus do in all things. WWJD stands in direct contrast to the "Just do it" mentality of advertisers, who often encourage kids to enjoy life with no moral boundaries...
You may or may not know that while this phrase or question did originate in the 90’s, it was actually the 1890’s. In 1896, a pastor from Topeka, Kansas, Charles Sheldon, wrote In His Steps. This book, which popularized the phrase “What would Jesus do?”, went on to sell tens of millions of copies. But it's important to understand that Sheldon was part of a growing movement in Protestant Christianity, mainly among the theologically liberal, a movement that proclaimed a “Social Gospel”. In the changing days of the post-Civil War, Industrial Revolution, many Christians sought to redeem society and reform the morals of a quickly decaying culture.
But most advocates of this Social Gospel believed the cure for this social decay was not to be found in emphasizing some antiquated message about a supernatural salvation for individuals through a miracle-working Son of God. No, the cure was to be found in the principles of love that Jesus had espoused. If people would only ask “What would Jesus do?” in each situation, then real reform, an earthly utopia (or as they called it, the Kingdom of God) could not be far off.
For so many in this movement, to be 'people of faith' meant believing in the power of a religious principle to transform society. But is that truly what it means to be people of faith?
II. The Passage: “You Believe in Him” (1:6-9)
Let's bring that question to God's word by looking together at I Peter 1. As I read from verses 6-9, consider what Peter tells us about being people of faith. He writes:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
As we hear clearly in verse 6, Peter is writing these words to disciples of Jesus who are enduring persecution for their faith. This is clear in several places throughout the book, including most noticeably 4:12-19. But did you notice how, for Peter, this theme of suffering goes on to serve a more glorious theme?
What Peter wants them to see is how their suffering is connected to their faith. In verse 7, Peter describes how God uses suffering and persecution to test the genuineness of a believer’s faith. True faith, instead of being extinguished by suffering, is actually refined and strengthened; much like gold is purified by a refiner’s fire. It is this kind of faith, this true, saving faith that will, beyond this life of suffering, bring glory to God at the return of Jesus to this earth.
But notice what else we learn from this passage about true faith? I think Peter helps explain this in what amounts to a bit of a digression in verse 8. This digression actually provides us with a beautiful picture of the refined faith mentioned in verses 7 and 9. Peter explains the essence of faith with these stirring words:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory...
Now notice what Peter does not say. Peter does not say:
“And even though you’re suffering through various trials, you’ve still believed that it’s better to endure suffering like Christ did, to abide by His pattern and principles, than to retaliate against your oppressors. Because of this, you are obtaining the salvation of your souls.”
The Christians to whom Peter was writing were not people of faith because they believed in the power of a religious principle to transform society.
No, these Christians were people of faith * because they believed in the power of a real person to touch and transform their lives. Even though these people had never seen Jesus in the flesh like Peter had, they still loved Him with all their hearts. And even though they could not see Him with these eyes in their everyday, they still lived out each and every moment, even those painful moments, believing this same Jesus was with them and would one day come for them.
Their example teaches us a very basic lesson that we are often prone to forget: (*) as Christians, our faith should always be in someone rather than something.
For that reason I would argue that asking “what would Jesus do?” before we make decisions is not a bad idea; it’s just incomplete. It’s incomplete because living a life of faith is more than just abiding by certain principles. I would suggest that we instead ask something like WDJW, or (*) ‘What does Jesus want?” Jesus is a real person... today, right now; as real as you or me. Look down at your hands for a moment. At this very moment, in the very presence of God, Jesus has human hands just as real as yours.
You see, to ask, “What does Jesus want?” reminds us that we serve a very real, living person, who each day desires for us, in the words of I Peter 2:22, to (*) “follow in his steps”. Jesus is only an historical figure in the sense that he also existed in and monumentally shaped history. But unlike other historical figures... He is not dead. Hallelujah!
So true faith is not simply belief in something (even spiritual 'somethings'), but in someone.
Why is all this so important? Well, I think this topic must be constantly revisited because judging by my own heart, and from what I see around me, the people of God are so often tempted to live simply as people serving principles, and not a person. We serve devotional principles, fellowship principles, service or ministry principles, obedience principles, worldview principles, afterlife principles.
Is there something wrong with any of these principles? No. The problem comes when we divorce these things from their source. The problem comes when we forget that we live not for principles, but for a principled person: Jesus Christ. We too often become like an artist who wants to paint a masterpiece for his true love, but then begins to neglect her when the painting itself begins to consume him; or like the father, who wanting to work hard and provide for his children and their future, spends more time at the office than at home.
Think about it: when was the last time you smiled simply because you were reminded of the Lord’s presence? When was the last time you overcame temptation because you were strengthened by the fact that Christ was standing with you? When was the last time you were comforted in your loneliness by the reality of the Good Shepherd? When was the last time you acted out of a genuine humility inspired by the presence of the King of Kings? When was the last time you participated in the work of his Kingdom, upheld only by these words: ...behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Brothers and sisters, friends, the essence of true, Christian faith is living each day in the reality of the very risen and very present Lord Jesus.
III. What This Belief Looks Like
Now to fill out this picture of faith a bit more, let’s return to our text and see what else we can learn. I think we can draw out from our passage three qualities of the faith Peter is describing.
First, faith in the reality of the risen and present Jesus is a faith that loves.
Do you see that in verse 8? Notice that there is a parallel structure in this verse or an ABAB pattern. The first part, or the first AB, is “though you have not seen him…you love him”, and the second part is merely a synonymous parallel to this thought, “and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with joy”. Do you see how the terms ‘believe’ and ‘love’ are functioning almost as synonyms in this context?
You cannot love a principle like you can a person, and a principle certainly cannot love you back. For the Christian though, the love of God should be our prime motivation. God has given us a heart to love His Son. One mission statement for the WWJD movement stated: “true love asks what would Jesus do in all things”. Now, this attitude to consider how our actions can be more loving towards others is certainly not wrong, but again, it doesn’t first address the source. The mindset of WDJW similarly asks about true love, but it's a love that is first directed toward the Son of God, and then toward others.
Based on this, and many other passages of Scripture, we can say with certainty, that Christian faith should never be cold. True faith is never simply a dispassionate exercise of mental conviction. No, true faith engages every aspect of our person, heart, mind, and soul. It responds to God’s love in a like manner. If you truly believe in Jesus, you will love Him.
And if you genuinely love Him, then, in the words of Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). As Paul later encourage Christ-followers, “Walk as children of light... and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10). Therefore, this love drives us to ask, “What does Jesus want... this day, with this person, in this situation?”
You see, if you don’t love Him, then you may need to rethink what you mean when you say you believe in Him. If Peter calls his readers in 1:22 to “a sincere brotherly love” and to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, how much more should they and we love Jesus with a sincerity flowing from the depths of our soul? Faith in the reality of Jesus is a faith that loves.
Second, this faith in the reality of the risen and present Jesus is a faith that rejoices.
This idea is pretty clear in our passage, isn't it? Notice how the words ‘rejoice’ or ‘joy’ form 'bookends' around our main passage. In verse 6 Peter begins his thought with this idea of ‘rejoicing’, and then actually completes, or brings his thought full circle at the end of v.8. But why is it these Christians are “greatly rejoicing”, especially going through what they’re going through?
Well, they rejoice because they believe. And in the context here, they can rejoice, even in the midst of suffering, because they believe in the reality of Jesus. Christ has given them new birth through His resurrection from the dead, Christ is at work, refining by means of their present trials. Christ will return someday, bringing the fullness of their eternal inheritance.
How could they not rejoice? How could we not rejoice in light of this reality of the risen Jesus?But if that reality does not inspire joy in you, then you may need to rethink what you mean when you say you believe in Him. Faith in the reality of Jesus is a faith that rejoices.
Finally, faith in the reality of the risen and present Jesus is that it’s a faith that hopes.
There is a clear emphasis in this passage on the future. Yes, the specific details of your future, of my future, might be a mystery. But these believers believed that Jesus would return; that Jesus would fully redeem, that Jesus would raise up; that Jesus would reward. And it's this future-oriented faith that inspires hope.
This is the “living hope” the Apostle refers to in verse 3 of this chapter. Our hope is living because the One in whom we hope was raised from the dead, never to die again. But if this reality does not inspire hope in you, then you may need to rethink what you mean when you say you believe in Him. Faith in the reality of Jesus is a faith that hopes.
What is the essence of true Christian faith? What does it mean to believe as a believer? Where are we looking in this new year as 'people of faith'? We should always be looking first to a person, not principles. Christian faith is not simply asking, “What would Jesus do?” It first asks, “What does Jesus want?” The faith of a disciple is faith in the perpetual presence of the Master, through all the ups and downs. This faith loves Jesus, it rejoices in Jesus, and hopes in Jesus.
The gospel is good news that, by God's grace alone, you and I can be rescued from a life of “What do I want” today, and empowered for a life of “What does Jesus want” today. Remember, what Jesus wants, in every area, at all times, is always what is best. In fact, that's what it means to be fully human, according to the God who made us. Will you talk to God today about your faith, or lack thereof? He's listening. He cares. If you've been looking to principles instead of the person of Jesus, confess that. Ask him this morning to give you that gift of faith. Place your trust in the very risen and very present Jesus, and ask each day in 2020, beginning today, “WDJW?”
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