1 Peter 4:1-11
“Living For God”
Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
We’re in our 4th week in a series on the letters of Peter and specifically, we’re still in his first letter to who Peter identifies as “the elect,” the called and chosen ones who, by faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection, have new birth into a LIVING HOPE and an inheritance kept in heaven for us.
Amid persecution, alienation, and suffering, Peter identifies followers of Jesus as LIVING STONES being built into a Spiritual House for the purpose of pleasing God by LIVING GOOD LIVES of humble submission—to human authority, to human employers, in the home, and within the church.
Using chapter 4 and 5 of Peter’s 1st letter (and rounding out this book), we’re going to look at some practical ways in which we can LIVE FOR GOD. Let’s read a portion of chapter 4 as we begin. [READ 4:1-11]
There are at least four imperatives that Peter gives in this passage, but they all rest on the first one : Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who suffered in his body is done with sin. Anytime we see a “therefore,” we need to ask, “what is it there for?” In chapter 3, we learned about a life of submission where Jesus was our great example. Here’s what Peter said about our Lord, “When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
We have a tendency to be rather sensitive about what we’ve done or not done in the name of Jesus. Most of us would acknowledge that we sin against God and others, and we really don’t want others pointing out our specific sin. Yet, when we do good deeds, we listen intently for compliments…“atta boys!” We want praise for our good deeds. Jesus has something to say about folks like that. Basically, we’ve gotten our reward on earth if that’s what we seek, but we won’t necessarily get it in heaven. It all comes down to our motives.
Then there are those situations when we get maligned for doing good…for taking the high road…for following the will of God. When this happens, some of us take to our social media sites and scream about the unfairness of it all.
Remember the Rowan County Court Clerk, Kim Davis, who was jailed in Sept. 2105 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples? She did NOT want the national publicity and persecution she received because of her convictions of faith. As far as I know, she did NOT make a public spectacle about the way she was being treated (many others did that for her, however.)
We are called to expect the world (meaning those who follow the ways of the world and not the ways of God) to accept or tolerate evert action and attitude of Christ-followers. Jesus himself said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 NIV. And yet, we sometimes get our peacock feathers ruffled if somebody doesn’t want to hang around us because we stopped doing the things we used to do—drinking, cussing, telling racist jokes, having sex before marriage, etc.
Christ suffered in his body because of us. If we show goodness to everyone around us, then we are not likely to be harmed because of it. Even still, we might get harmed emotionally for doing the right thing—and in many parts of the world, we might get physically harmed or even killed for living the Christian life. Peter says, in effect, “so be it.” “If you have it tuff because of your faith in Jesus, that’s a whole lot better than having it tuff for living a life apart from Jesus.” In fact, it’s “hellacious!”
So…we are called to “arm ourselves.” With the SAME ATTITUDE as Jesus. Hmm…where have we heard that before? Philippians 2:5 (“have this mind in you”). When we give our lives to Christ because of Him giving his life for us, then what we think, say, and do matter! We are ambassadors for Christ.
This leads us to the second imperative: We called to be clear-minded and self-controlled. We can’t say we are Christ-followers and then engage in drunkenness, lustful thinking and acting, idolatry (which can take the form of money, possessions, work, or play), and the like. All that sort of behavior is what is expected of the world and they will be judged accordingly. But not us. Not God’s Holy Temple!
I could spend much time on this double-imperative of clear-mindedness and self-control, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit…evidence that Christ is working in our lives. But I want to move to the third and fourth imperative…one being an outworking of the other.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:8-10)
Let me see if I can sum it up in a way I can understand. Because Jesus took our punishment when he had no sin in him and, because I am a follower of Jesus Christ and am to have the same attitude about obedience to the Father as Jesus did and I am to show that I live for God and not for the world. Because of God’s grace toward me, I will show my affection for God by the way I think and act. This gets worked out by avoiding certain old sins in my life, but also taking on new ways of living…LIVING FOR GOD.
The evidence that I am living for God is seen in the way I love others—especially those who are members of the household of faith. The more deeply I love you as Christ loves you, the less likely I am to sin against you. I’m likely not going to talk about you behind your back. I’m probably not going to make you feel small and insignificant. If you hurt my feelings in some way, I won’t lash back and try to hurt yours.
Not only that, but I’m going to be generous toward you. If you are in need, I’m not going to ask what it might cost me to help you. I’m not going to judge your past to see if you deserve my generosity. I’m not going to ask if you come to church enough…or if you agree with my politics or all my religious convictions. No, based on the grace shown me in the Person of Jesus Christ, I’m going to extend that grace to others through acts of hospitality and service.
You might remember that last week, we talked a great deal about two reshaped ministries at Byhalia UMC in which absolutely ANY of us can find a place to serve. Terry Tucker spoke about our Hospitality Team, whereby you have opportunity to show God’s grace to all who enter these buildings—helping them find a Life Group at 9 am, Common Grounds at 10 am, or a seat in worship at 10:30 am. But it’s so much more than pointing this way or that…it’s showing kindness and warm greetings. For some, your kind “good morning” may be the nicest thing they will hear all week! Let me encourage you to reach out to Terry, Susan or me if you want to help in this area.
The second reshaped ministry has to do with CONGREGATIONAL CARE. I’ve waited until now to give careful attention to this most important ministry. As your insert states, “Congregational Care is Everyone’s Business.” I think Peter would agree. We are all not called to do EVERYTHING, but we are ALL called and equipped to do SOMETHING in the way of serving others. For some, this may include spending quality time with someone who’s hurting and speaking a gentle word of hope. Others may provide physical tangible help to those in need.
Let me turn our attention and hearts to a family in our community who is in great need right now. We have already prayed for them this morning. The Shoffner family has experienced our worst nightmares. No one should have to experience what they have been through this last week in the tragic, accidental death of their nearly 3-year-old-son, Silas.
Because I know you and because we believe and live out what the Bible says, I have told Brandon and Lauren that we ARE their church family. Even though they’ve been with us for a short while, they have been very faithful in that time. Lauren and Brandon had plans for their 5 other children—Landon, Dana, Nathan, Haley, and Lilianna—to get involved with our children and youth ministries and are planning to be a part of a Life Group, too.
There’ll be time for that. Right now, they need to experience the love and grace of God in exponential ways. I’m going to ask Katie McCaleb to come forward. When the Congregational Care Survey was first in your bulletin last week, Katie sensed the Lord calling her to coordinate this new ministry. So, I’m happy to introduce to you YOUR Congregational Care Coordinator (CCC), Katie McCaleb. I’ve asked Katie to first share what Congregational Care Ministry is all about, inviting you to prayerfully engage in this ministry; and second, to share how you can immediately show God’s grace by serving the Shoffner family. Katie?
[KATIE SPEAKS ABOUT C.C.M. as well as specific serving opportunities for the Shoffner family.]
To stress again, you can serve them by giving financially, you can serve them by providing a meal, writing them a note of encouragement, or offering some other act of kindness. And we ALL can and must pray for the peace that passes all understanding to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Scriptures are pretty clear about our responsibilities as the household of faith. It’s important that we remember WHY we love…why we serve…why we are clear minded and self-controlled… why we have the same attitude about LIVING FOR GOD as Jesus did: SO THAT…IN ALL THINGS GOD MY BE PRAISED THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. We need no other motivation than to bring glory to our Lord. We no other praise than the praise of Almighty God saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Will you join me in LIVING FOR GOD?