Living for God 1 Peter 4:1-11

The apostle Peter wrote his first letter to encourage Christians who were experiencing fierce persecution from the Roman empire. Peter points to Jesus the Suffering Saviour, who gave his life as a sacrifice for sin and rose from the dead to give eternal life and the promise of heaven to all who put their trust in him. When we build our lives on Christ the cornerstone, we are made into a spiritual building where the Holy Spirit dwells, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special possession. So Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus and endure suffering, and at the same time to live holy lives which bring glory to God.
1 Peter 2 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 4 spells out what living like that will involve. And it begins with,
Turning away from sin
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
Before we knew Christ our lives were shaped by our evil human desires. Now we will want to do only what is pleasing to God.
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
Some people who call themselves Christians seem to think these verses don’t apply any more. Their behaviour is no different to all their neighbours and colleagues and friends. We have talked before about the detestable idols which so many people today are worshipping, the false gods of Money, Sex and Power, of Shopping and Entertainment and Celebrity. Peter here lists some of the kinds of damaging behaviour which many people consider to be perfectly acceptable.
The New Living Translation puts it 3 You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.
If any proof was needed that these kinds of problems are everywhere in today’s world, we need only point to the recent resignation of a certain Cabinet Minister. He did not resign because he was caught having an affair or because he abandoned his wife and children. Those immoral actions did not cause any scandal. He only went because he was caught breaking the Covid social distancing guidelines which he was primarily responsible for imposing on the country. That demonstrates how far society’s morals have departed from God’s standards.
4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.
NLT 4 Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.
Time and again the Bible teaches us that God expects Christians to stand out as different from the world around. People should be able to see the difference Jesus makes. Not that we have a puritanical attitude to enjoying life. But Christians do not need parties or drink or drugs or immorality to make us happy. Peter reminds us that everybody will have to face the holy God on the day of judgment.
5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
So Christians should turn away from all kinds of sin. There are things we should never do. But God also calls us to positive actions.
Loving one another
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
7 The end of all things is near. Jesus is coming back one day – maybe soon – maybe even today. So we should all be ready. I once heard this wise advice. “Never do anything you would be ashamed to be found doing when Jesus returns. Jesus is coming back soon.
Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.
Be of sober mind. Be serious, of sound mind, literally a “wise mind.” The basic idea is to be self-controlled. The root problem with immorality and lust, feasting and drunkenness and wild parties is that people lose control of themselves.
Titus 211 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
Christians are to exercise self-control. But more than that, we are to love each other.
. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
The apostle Peter does not write about loving other people as much as the apostle John does in his letters, but we have already had this encouragement in chapter 1.
1 Peter 1 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Christians are called to love each other deeply. God’s kind of love – agape love. Deep love, constant love, faithful love, because love like that covers over a multitude of sins.
Proverbs 10:12 tells us, love covers over all wrongs. NRSV Love covers all offenses.
When Christians love each other we will forgive each other. We will ignore each other’s shortcomings. And one example of that kind of love is hospitality.
9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
NLT 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
Hospitality is not the same as entertaining. Entertaining is the posh dinner on the fine china. Hospitality is just opening up your home. Letting people find you just as you are. Remember that song from the musical, Oliver,
“Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself one of the family.
We’ve taken to you so strong. It’s clear we’re going to get along.
Consider yourself well in. Consider yourself part of the furniture.
There isn’t a lot to spare. Who cares?..What ever we’ve got we share!”
One of the things many of us have missed most over the last year and a bit is just chatting with our friends. Chatting after church on a Sunday. Chatting at Home Group or Bible Study. Just dropping round for a coffee to catch up and to see how we are getting on. As life begins to get back to normal, one thing we can deliberately set out to do will be to enjoy those times again.
We read about the first Christians, “They were like family to each other.” (Acts 2:42 Contemporary English Version.) We should love one another deeply. Practise hospitality. But then there is something else all Christians can be doing to love each other, to build up the church and to serve God in the world. We should all be
Using our gifts to serve others
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Every Christian has been given gifts by God which we can use to glorify God. We all have natural talents. We all have different skills we may have developed by training and experience. We all have gifts given by the Holy Spirit to equip us to serve God. God has poured his grace into each of our lives and we are stewards of that grace.
The Holy Spirit is at work in every Christian, equipping us to serve God in the church and in the world. Here Peter only talks about two kinds of gifts, the gift of speaking and the gift of serving.
11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
Peter isn’t just talking about preachers here. He is talking about every Christian when we have the opportunity to deliver God’s messages. That does includes preaching and teaching in the church. That includes when God gives a message in prophecy or in a dream or a vision. That also includes any of us talking about Jesus and sharing our faith with our friends. Whenever we speak for God we should speak “as one who speaks the very words of God.” We should remember what a privilege it is to represent God as we teach or as we share our testimony. And we should rely on God to give us the words to say. The apostle Paul lists some of those speaking gifts in 1 Corinthians.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
We talked about “the priesthood of all believers” in 1 Peter 2. But the Bible also teaches us about “the prophethood of all believers”. The same Holy Spirit who spoke through the prophets in the Old Testament and in the Early Church is given to every Christian to hear God speaking to us and to help us to deliver God’s messages. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
Then Peter speaks about a different gift – the gift of serving.
If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides,
There are so many different ways we could serve God in the church and in the world. Any time we are loving our neighbours and helping other people. Any time we offer hospitality. Any practical tasks God gives us to take on. In every situation we should be serving in the strength which God gives us, depending on the infinite resources of God and not on our own human abilities. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)
We should all be using all the gifts God has given us for God’s glory. Paul gives the same encouragement to the Romans
Romans 12 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
The last year has been very strange. Most of the time we have not been able to use our gifts or speaking or serving as we used to do before lockdown. We have got out of practice at serving God. As things are returning to the new normal it will be good to ask God how he wants us to serve him in the days ahead. Who does he want us to speak to? Who does he want to help? What does he want us to be doing for him in the church and in our community? Perhaps he will even have new ways we can be using the gifts he has given us, things we have never done before, as we step out in faith for him.
Turning away from sin, loving one another deeply, and using our gifts to serve others. Why would we do these things?
1 Peter 4:11 …. so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
For the days ahead let us offer our lives afresh to God, so that he can work through us and so that God will be praised through Jesus Christ. Serving in the strength God gives us by his Holy Spirit, and all for God’s glory.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. (And all the people said) Amen!

This entry was posted in 1 Peter.

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