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Grace-Motivated Living (1 Peter 4:1-11)

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Introduction

Good morning guys, thank you for allowing me to join you for worship this morning—it is great to be back with believers again and it is great to be able to meet within a church building again. I know that this church has been opened for a few weeks, which is a great blessing, but I’m sure some of you are still experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and the shut-down that resulted from it and just like any national or international disaster, this pandemic has left you with questions. People who remember national tragedies (like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor) remember a time shortly after the tragedy in which people are filled with questions—and the questions that they ask generally fit into two categories.
These questions are either temporal or eternal. Temporal questions are questions that are focused on this earth or this life and eternal questions are those that are focused on the spiritual world or the next life—and both sets of questions can be completely legitimate. For instance, the reason why we go to the doctor’s office and we go to the dentist is because we have questions that are temporal in nature—am I healthy? Do I need medication? Are my teeth healthy? Do I need a tooth pulled? All of these questions are concerning temporal life and yet we should ask them. Eternal questions are questions concerning the next life, the spiritual life—they are questions concerning eternity. For instance, what happens when I die? Is heaven a real place? Is hell a real place? And all of these questions should be asked.
Occasionally, you’ll find a question that concerns both the temporal and the eternal and they’re usually a question concerning what we should during this life because of something that we learned concerning the next life. For instance, if you were an unbeliever and you had just learned about heaven and hell, you might ask “where can I learn more?” Or if you were a recent convert, you might ask “how do I become more like Jesus Christ?”
Or in the case of people who have just survived a pandemic or survived an attack like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor and they’ve just been confronted with the temporal nature of life (the fact that this life is short), the question for them might be, “what do I do now?” And as believers, we can very well have the same question, now that we’ve survived quarantine and this COVID-19 scare, “what do we do as Christians now?”
This morning, I’d like to try and give you an answer to that and to encourage you in your spiritual growth.
If you have a Bible with you this morning, please turn it to 1 Peter 4:1-11 and while you turn there, let me give you a little bit of background information to help us understand the passage we’re studying this morning.
The Apostle Peter wrote this letter to Christians that were exiled throughout what we would now call Asia Minor and he specifically calls them the “exiles” in 1 Peter 1:1 because these Christians were in the midst of severe persecution that scattered them throughout Asia Minor. Scholars believe that this letter was written in 60-65AD, which would put them in the midst of the reign of the Roman emperor Nero who was known for his cruelty towards Christians. A key example of his cruelty towards Christians, would be the great fire in Rome, that burned for almost a full week and destroyed a large portion of the city. The historian Tacitus says that originally people blamed Nero, but to prevent the people from turning on him, he blamed the Christians. And the Christians that he couldn’t blame the fire on, he seized and tortured and justified his torturing of Christians by claiming that Christians hate the human race.
He crucified Christians, fed them to dogs, and he was known for using Christians as torches during the night. He was a wicked emperor who hated Christianity and that is why Peter is writing to these exiled Christians. In essence, he’s saying, “Yes, we’re suffering severe persecution, but this is what we should do now.” And the answers that Peter gives to them are applicable to the lives that we live today.
Let’s read 1 Peter 4:1-11; afterwords, I’ll pray; and then we’ll start breaking down the passage.
1 Peter 4:1–11 ESV
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Let’s Pray.
As we study this passage, we’re going to break it down into two main sections: Vs. 1-6, is calling us to change our manner of thinking—to think like Jesus thinks and Vs. 7-11, is calling us to live in a new way that involves actively loving and serving one another. This whole section is driven by the reminder that our lives are short, but the cross motivates us to live for the future—or put another way; this world is temporal, but the next world is eternal and we should live in accordance to that truth.
Let’s re-read Vs. 1-6, to keep it fresh in our minds as we work through the passage.
1 Peter 4:1–6 ESV
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

I. The temporal nature of this world compels us to think like Jesus thinks. (1-6)

A. We should think like Jesus thinks when it comes to Suffering (1-2)

Peter starts this section by calling us to remember the suffering of Jesus Christ. He says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.”
We have to look back at 1 Peter 3:18-22 to realize that Peter is referring to the suffering of Jesus on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind in order to bring us to God.
And what we realize is that Peter is reminding us of the suffering of Jesus to compel us to think in the same manner that Jesus thinks concerning suffering—or in other words, Peter is reminding us to expect suffering during this life.
Now, our type of suffering isn’t quite the same as Jesus’ suffering on the cross, because he died and was raised from the dead for our sins. Our suffering, at least the type of suffering that Peter is referring to is the suffering that his audience is living through—this persecution for their faith. And Peter tells us to expect this type of persecution.
Which shouldn’t surprise us, Jesus says that this world will hate us because this world hated him first (John 15:18-27) and even a quick reading over the New Testament gives us examples of people who suffered during this life despite doing great things for God (like Stephen, the first martyr; Paul being placed into prison; and John being exiled on the Island of Patmos)
So, we should expect suffering during this life, and we should prepare for this type of suffering. Peter says to arm ourselves with Jesus’ way of thinking.
So, what does Jesus think about suffering? And I think the best example of Jesus’ response to suffering is his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knows that he is about to be crucified and Jesus knows that the weight of the world’s sin is about to be placed on his shoulders and he prays this prayer in Luke 22:39-46, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Jesus anticipated suffering on the cross and yet his prayer is for God’s will to be done in the midst of his suffering.
What this tells us, is that we ought to expect suffering and we ought to expect to suffer like Jesus did. Which means, we ought to expect suffering from persecution.
And I’m not talking about this false sense of persecution that we sometimes think we have when we think every offense against us is persecution for our faith.
I’m talking about the persecution that the believers during Peter’s time; during Nero’s reign would’ve faced—where there is a very real sense that we could die for our faith. And I’m talking about the persecution that our brothers and sisters currently in China face because their government has a deep disdain for Christianity and they regularly arrest, torture pastors and Christians and they destroy churches.
Peter tells us that we should expect that type of persecution and we should be willing to suffer persecution for the sake of the truth. Now Peter does make a statement and at first glance it may seem a little off, “For whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
And at first glance, it seems to imply that we can achieve perfection on this side of eternity if we suffer in the flesh for the sake of Jesus, but we need to continue reading the sentence in order to understand what Peter is saying, so while it is joined with Vs. 1, it continues into Vs. 2, which says, “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
So what Peter is trying to say is that, believers are to arm themselves with the same manner of thinking that Jesus has when it comes to suffering. Which means that we are to be willing to suffer for the sake of the faith and whoever has armed themselves in that way and is willing to suffer, has ceased to be controlled by sin because they no longer live for the flesh, but for God.
It isn’t that the person has achieved perfection and no longer sins, but rather the desire within him is to do the will of God rather than to do what Peter calls his “human passions.”
He tells us that they are to think like Jesus thinks when it comes to suffering and persecution in order to live the rest of their lives on this earth, not for human passion, but for the will of God.

B. We should think like Jesus thinks when it comes to our former lifestyles. (3-4)

And then he says in Vs. 3-4, “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”
Now, we can get lost in the different sins that Peter lists, but the point here, isn’t the sin itself—If Peter was emphasizing sin, he could’ve written a much longer list of sins that included everything from what he has already stated to lying and cheating and murder. Peter is bringing up these sins because when he utilizes the term Gentile, he’s referring to a specific group of people.
When he says Gentiles, he’s referring to a specific group of unbelievers who were known for living in sensuality; and they were known for living in drunkenness; and they were known for their idolatry—they were known for their sinful lifestyles.
And he’s stating that the time for them to act like the Gentiles is in the past. That the “time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do,” which implies that before coming to believe in Jesus Christ, they acted just like the Gentiles were also known for their sin.
So, the point isn’t the sins that he’s mentioned in and of themselves, but the fact that before coming to know Jesus Christ, they lived in the same manner of sin as the unbelievers did; but when they came to know Jesus, they turned away from that lifestyle.
And the simple fact that they reject living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry surprises the unbelieving Gentiles
The simple fact that they reject this flood of debauchery that the unbelievers live in, is why the unbelievers malign the believers.
The word malign here refers to the way the unbelievers speak about the believers—they slander the believers, they verbally attack and accuse the believers.

C. We should think like Jesus thinks concerning incoming judgment and the Gospel (5-6)

But Peter tells them not to concern themselves with being verbally assaulted because Vs. 5-6, “[those that malign them] will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”
And this is really the first time in this passage that we see the idea that something or someone is coming. Peter tells them to expect the suffering and that they will be maligned because they reject the style of living that the Gentiles live, but that is ok; because they will be held accountable to the judge.
And of course, we know as believers who the judge of the living and the dead is. In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul gives Timothy the charge to go and preach the word and the very first phrase that Paul states is this, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ, who is to judge the living and the dead.
According to John 5:22, God, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son.”
And there are a number of other verses that tell us that Jesus is that judge that will be judging the living and the dead.
All of this is to tell us that Jesus will be judging the living and the dead; and that is the whole reason why the gospel is preached.
We have to remember that even Paul calls the preaching of the cross foolishness and yet that is the very truth that we are to teach and to preach and to proclaim to all that are around us.
Even Paul calls the preaching of the cross and the idea behind the gospel foolishness and yet we are told that he himself is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
Why do we continue to preach the gospel despite it seeming like foolishness? Because God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to bring souls to himself.
And because Jesus will judge the living and the dead, the salvation of souls is of utmost importance.
Or as Peter says, the Gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
The Gospel has been preached for over 2,000 years with the express purpose that people might live in the spirit the way God does.
Which adds to our understanding of what Jesus thinks.
The temporal nature of this world compels us to think like Jesus thinks—we should think like he thinks when it comes to suffering; we should think like he thinks when it comes to rejecting our former lifestyles; and we should think like he thinks when it comes to the Gospel.
Now Peter, doesn’t end this section just by telling us to adjust our thinking and to think more like Jesus does, he gives us some concrete ideas on how to make that happen in our lives, so we need to continue in the passage to gain a full understanding of what Peter is expecting.
1 Peter 4:7–11 ESV
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

II. The temporal nature of this world motivates us to change and to actively love and serve one another. (7-11)

Peter qualifies the rest of this passage with this one phrase, “The end of all things is at hand.”
And this one phrase is significant, because we need to remember that 1 Peter was written in the first century (approximately 60-64AD), which means that Peter under the inspiration of God, wrote over 2,000 years ago that “the end of all things is at hand.”
If Peter wrote this under the inspiration of God, over 2,000 years ago (which he did), that means that we’re 2,000 years closer to the end of all things than Peter was.
We are 2,000 years closer to the end times than anyone who lived during Bible times and that should motivate us even more to change and to actively love and serve one another.
This one phrase is also significant because it qualifies the next word, “therefore.”
Which simply means this, because we know that Jesus is coming again, we have work to do.
It is a term that motivates action and it motivates specific action.

A. Since the end of all things is at hand, we should be self-controlled and sober-minded for prayer (7)

Peter states that the end of all things is at hand and then he says, “therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
One issue that is common throughout all of history is that when people think the end is coming, they behave foolishly.
For example, when the world was coming into the turn of the millenium in 1999, there was a concern that the computers (which were still relatively new) would not be able to handle that transition between 1999 to 2000 and it would cause irreparable damage to the economy and banking industries and that infrastructure-related computer systems like those that operated power plants would not be able to handle the change and would cause severe damage. What we learned from Y2K is that when people think the world is ending, they either panic or they make foolish decisions.
And this is common throughout history. Even in church history, believers in the first century knew that Jesus was coming back one day and their foolish decisions resulted in them quitting their jobs, taking advantage of their friends who kept their jobs, and essentially just waiting for Jesus to come back.
As one commentator mentioned, “The nearness of the end has led some believers to lose their heads and act irrationally. On the contrary, believers should think sensibly as they contemplate the brevity of life in this world.” (Thomas Schreiner, NAC, 211)
What Peter is trying to get across is that even though the end is near, they should still remain level-headed and they should still think clearly.
Evenven though the end is at hand, they shouldn’t panic and they shouldn’t make foolish decisions
And his reasoning is “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
Which simply means that as the end draws nearer, they should think clearly about what is happening in order for them to pray more effectively.
Or put another way, prayer that is based on knowledge (what we actually know) of a situation is going to be more effective than prayer that is based on panic and misinformation.

B. Since the end of all things is at hand, we should love one another earnestly (8)

We should remain self-controlled and sober-minded for our prayers and then Peter makes this statement in Vs. 8. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
In the midst of all of the suffering from persecution that these people are in, it would be very easy for them to act unloving towards one another and to grow weary of each other and attack each other, but Peter calls on them to “keep loving [each other] earnestly.”
This idea of earnest love is to love each other constantly or to love each other eagerly. The implication is that they should love and show love to one another without hesitating.
In all things, their first reaction ought to be love; we might even be able to say that our first reaction ought to be to err on the side of love.
And the reason for this is that “love covers a multitude of sins.” Which means, that if there is an offense, particularly a minor or small offense, love would cover those transgressions against one another.
This is how the church is able to draw together so many people under the name of Jesus Christ, because even though we all come from different backgrounds, different socio-economic backgrounds, and different cultures; the grace of God compels us to love one another earnestly.
This grace of God coupled with the simple fact that Jesus will return one day compels us to overlook minor offenses towards one another and offer forgiveness instead; it compels us to lay aside matters of opinion and focus on the truth of the Bible; and it compels us to do everything we can for the good and the benefit of other people.

C. Since the end of all things is at hand, we should utilize our spiritual gifts to serve one another (9-11)

Because the end of all things is at hand, we are to be sober-minded and self-controlled for our prayers, we should love on another earnestly, and then Peter closes off with an exhortation to be hospitable and to utilize our spiritual gifts in love. Vs. 9-11, we are to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves be the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Vs. 9-11 could really fit in with the idea of earnestly loving each other. That as we earnestly love each other we are also to show hospitality to one another and to utilize our spiritual gifts to serve each other, but I’ve separated it from the rest of the passage in order for us to see it as a specific command. We are to love each other and in our love for one another it drives us to:
Vs. 9, show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
To be hospitable means to be willing to let someone into your home—in particular, during Peter’s time period, because of the lack of hotels in the first century, it meant to be willing to allow someone to lodge at your house and you can understand why they might be grumbling.
And yet to love that person means to be willing to let them stay at your home even at a cost to yourself—regardless of the cost of time, food, or energy.
And Vs. 10-11, because Jesus is coming soon and out of love for one another, we are to utilize our spiritual gifts to serve one another. Vs. 10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grade”
Peter makes it clear that we all have gifts that are given to us and what he is specifically referring to is the use of spiritual gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit to each and every believer. Which means that if you’re a believer this morning, you have a spiritual gift that in intended to help you serve others in the church.
Peter says that to utilize our spiritual gifts to serve each other is to be a good steward of God’s grace.
And he gives two examples of how we are to utilize our spiritual gifts and these two examples are not a comprehensive list of gifts, but rather two categories of gifts. He focuses in on those that speak—which would include those who preach, teach, and evangelize and those who serve—which would include any type of ministry that helps or encourages others
And in both situations, he tells them to utilize their gifts to the best of their abilities. He tells those that speak to speak as if they’re saying the very oracles or words of God—that can only happen if the speaker takes the time to accurately learn the word of God and to accurately portray the word of God to those around him. The speaker must do their absolute best to understand what the original author intended to say to the original audience and then apply the truths to the modern-day congregation; only then is he speaking the words of God.
And for those that serve, they are to serve as one who serves by the strength that God supplies. Which means that we serve not for benefit and not out of our own energy for status or respect, but we serve knowing that God strengthens and motivates our serving.
Only when we do our best to speak the words of God and serve in the strength that he supplies will we glorify God through Jesus Christ.
Since the end is at hand, we are to be sober-minded and we are to actively love one another, which is evidenced by our use of spiritual gifts. Now, I know that we worked our way through a lot of Scripture, so as we wrap up this morning, let’s take some time to talk specifically about application. I started the message by posing a question, “Now that we’ve survived a pandemic, what do we as Christian believers do now?” And I answered that question by pointing at the temporal or temporary nature of this world. So our application revolves around how soon this life will be over and it revolves around the continuous grace of Jesus Christ.

Application

Because of the temporal nature of this world and the continuous grace of God, we should learn to think like Jesus thinks (1-6)
Which means, just like Jesus, we should expect persecution and we should be willing to suffer for the sake of our faith. (1)
Jesus was persecuted and if we’re truly following Jesus it would make sense for that persecution to extend to us.
While I wouldn’t say that we should intentionally seek persecution, we also shouldn’t back down from persecution.
We should not allow other people to push us from our beliefs, we should stand firm in what we believe even in the midst of confrontation—if we claim to believe in Jesus Christ, let’s actually hold onto that truth when life gets difficult.
We should hate our sins and reject our former lifestyles, just like Jesus hates our sins and rejects our former lifestyles. (2-4)
Peter tells the persecuted believers that part of the reason that they’re being persecuted is because they no longer act like everyone else around them. They’ve rejected their sins and their sinful lifestyles and they’re different.
So the question for us today is this, have we rejected sin and sinful lifestyles? Or are we continuing in sin and hiding our sins from those around us?
Because the truth of the matter is that when we accepted Jesus Christ, we were supposed to repent of sin, which means turning from our sin and because we cannot reach perfection on this side of eternity, it means that every day when we sin, we need to actively hate that sin and repent from that sin.
We should continue hating all sin today—even sins that might be comfortable to us, like lying, gossiping, and acting in unrighteous anger and we need to repent.
Just like Jesus, we should love the gospel and we should proclaim the gospel so that other people might live in the spirit like God lives in the spirit (5-6)
I noticed on the website for this church, at the very top of the webpage it says, “making more and better disciples.” And I think that is an excellent mission and I think it really ought to be the mission for every single local body of believers.
Well, the first step of that mission is to love the gospel enough that we can’t help but to tell other people about Jesus—if we never bother to tell people about Jesus how can we possibly make more disciples?
We need to know the gospel well enough that we can explain to someone that apart from Jesus, they are completely separated from an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God that just wants them to know him.
And we need to love the gospel well enough that we can’t help, but to proclaim the gospel from the mountaintops.
Speaking of love, we’re to our final application point for the morning. Because of the temporal nature of this world and the continuous grace of God, we are to actively love and serve one another (7-11)
We should actively seek to love each other earnestly (8)
Which means that we should forgive each other for our faults. If I sin against you, let’s work it out; if you sin against me, let’s work it out and forgive one another.
This also means that in all of our interactions with one another, we ought to ask ourselves if we’re truly acting in love with one another or are we motivated by anything other than love for one another.
Our love for one another will be evident in how we use our spiritual gifts.
We should utilize our spiritual gifts to serve one another (9-11)
Which means that first off, we need to learn what our spiritual gifts are. And the best way to learn what your spiritual gifts are, is to do this—seek to get involved in the ministry of the church and seek to serve other people.
If you’re gifted at teaching, you’ll never actually know if you never bother to teach anyone. If you’re gifted in serving, you’ll never actually know unless you start serving people.
Spiritual gifts are meant for us to love one another with those gifts, but to learn what your spiritual gifts are, you need to start serving now.
Don’t wait until you figure it out, because if you wait, you’ll never figure it out.
Put simply, as I wrap up, In times like this, where life is uncertain and it might seem like everything is falling apart. What do we do now? We do this, we recognize that this life is short and we allow the shortness of this life and the grace of God to motivate us to think like Jesus thinks and learn to love one another as God loves us.
I’m going to pray for us this morning, and we’ll sing another song.
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