Confession

  • I used to have this problem
  • as a child, my beliefs and what I was taught really presented me with few problems
  • but then I reached an age, around the time I became a teenager, when something new entered my life: temptation
  • that's about the age where you discover and experience peer pressure, not to mention physical attraction to the opposite sex, not to mention thoughts of independence and "I know best"
  • and something terrible happened within my soul
  • I felt isolated
  • I felt all alone, as if I was somehow abnormal in struggling with sins and temptations

  • you see, in church, everyone had it together
  • I never saw anyone struggle with sin
  • the preaching never even hinted at temptations
  • and it didn't help that the only verse that came to mind was this one:
  • (1 Corinthians 10:13) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
  • the first part was somehow comforting: no temptation has seized me except what is common to man
  • that was good
  • but then the whole question became: "Nobody seems to struggle with temptation in my church. What's wrong with either me?"
  • I still remember one pastor getting up and saying that in his entire walk with the Lord, he had never struggled with temptation in at least 30 years
  • that made me feel even worse

  • eventually, I made an appointment with my pastor and poured out my soul to him
  • the end result was that I found out I wasn't abnormal
  • for some reason, he could agree with me in private that what I was going through was normal, and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders
  • but the preaching never changed
  • it was as if, in private, behind closed doors, we could admit to having struggles, but publicly and from the pulpit, we had to pretend that we had it all together

  • now, I'm not suggesting that we all air our dirty laundry
  • but since when did we have to pretend that we're never tempted and that we never sin?
  • what gives us the idea that all of our battles have to be private ones - that we can't share openly with our brothers and sisters when we're battling temptation in a specific area of our lives?
  • the result is that in many of our churches, we come across as superficially having it all together, while privately we're dying a thousand deaths as we wonder, "Am I all alone in this?"
  • I came across these words by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
  • "Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy...he who is alone with his sins is utterly alone."
  • that's how I felt a lot of the time - alone in my sins, living in lies and hypocrisy

  • some years ago, I began to break out of this mold
  • you'll notice I try to be pretty frank about struggles and weaknesses
  • I'm done with pretending and putting on false pretenses
  • within the limits of common sense, let's be real
  • let's let each other know that we have struggles too
  • ironically, as we do this, it builds community and helps us battle temptation, because we gradually learn that we're not all alone

  • I used to think that confession was something we did privately
  • I certainly hope that you regularly confess your sins to God
  • (Psalms 139:23) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
  • (Psalms 139:24) See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
  • (1 John 1:8) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
  • (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
  • we need to get alone with God and think through the various categories of sin listed in the Bible - the ten commandments or the seven deadly sins
  • we need to take responsibility for our actions and realize how easy it is to lead a deceitful life
  • certainly I think we should practice confession as part of our regular prayer life with God

  • I think we've benefited from the Reformation teaching that we're all priests
  • we don't need an intermediary besides Jesus Christ to confess our sins to God
  • we don't need a priest or a confession box - we just have to go to God directly

  • but listen here: we've gone too far
  • we've abandoned something good in all of this, and what we've abandoned is very important
  • even Luther believed in mutual, brotherly confession
  • he wrote, "Therefore when I admonish you to go to confession I am admonishing you to be a Christian"
  • (James 5:14) Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
  • (James 5:15) And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
  • (James 5:16) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
  • the context is an illness
  • James just assumes that when we're ill, one of the questions we're going to ask is, "Is this illness the result of sin?"
  • it isn't always, but sometimes God uses physical illness as a means of disciplining his children
  • it's at least a question we should ask
  • but, as we examine our lives, and confess our sins, we're not to do it alone, but to each other
  • the question we should ask is, "Why?"
  • "Why should we confess our sins to one another - why not just God?"

  • we run into problems in another passage
  • (John 20:23) If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
  • that's a pretty powerful passage!
  • somehow we have the privilege of announcing forgiveness to others
  • we've lost something wonderful in our tradition if we don't practice the confession of sins to one another as the Bible teaches!

  • let me list some advantages to confessing our sins to one another
  • FIRST, IT LETS US KNOW THAT WE'RE NOT ALONE
  • we're too convinced that we are a fellowship of saints, when in reality it seems like more often we're a fellowship of sinners
  • Richard Foster writes:
  • "We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin...We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore, we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lives and hypocrisy."
  • we need to learn that we're in the battle together
  • we need to understand that we are not alone in our sin - that our brothers and our sisters struggle with the same temptations to fear, to pride, to whatever
  • we find out in mutual confession that we're a community of people struggling together

  • what a relief it is to know that I'm not the only one left alone in my sins!
  • one of the things that the new generation demands is that the church "gets real"
  • they want authenticity - they smell phoniness a mile away
  • let's offer them this authenticity - it's biblical after all
  • let's be open and honest about our struggles, and we all won't feel so isolated after all
  • Dallas Willard goes so far as to say that lack of confession hinders our fellowship together
  • "Confession alone makes deep fellowship possible, and the lack of it explains much of the superficial quality so commonly found in our church associations. "
  • confession deepens our fellowship and lets us know we're not alone

  • THE SECOND BENEFIT OF MUTUAL CONFESSION IS THAT IT LIFTS A HUGE WEIGHT OFF OF US - THE WEIGHT OF PRETENDING
  • Gordon MacDonald, a pastor and author whom I greatly respect, fell into some sin which he kept secret for a while, before it became public
  • in reflecting on his sin and trying to hide it, he wrote:
  • "Almost no one bears a heavier load than the carrier of personal secrets of the past or the present...The person who carries a secret has sentenced himself to a dungeon...I know what it is like to live with a secret. And having dissolved that secret before God, my loved ones, and the church, I know what it is like to live once again in the light."
  • Dallas Willard writes, "We lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy. We engage and are engaged by others in the most profound depths of the soul."

  • if you have the burden of carrying some secret sin, it will be a huge relief for you to experience the lifting of that burden as you share, quite honestly, your struggles with another believer in Christ

  • THE THIRD BENEFIT OF MUTUAL CONFESSION IS THAT IT HELPS US AVOID SIN
  • (Proverbs 28:13) He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
  • in this verse, the confessing and the renouncing are tied together
  • closeness and confession force out evildoing
  • in confessing sins, and having someone pray for us in our area of struggle, we gain extra strength in our struggle

  • for a while, I was struggling with a particular temptation
  • so I sought out a believer at church who seemed to be genuine and authentic and normal
  • I went to him, explained my problem, and made a deal with him
  • every time that I fell into this temptation, I had to sit down and right him a letter explaining just how I blew it
  • let me tell you, that worked!
  • there's nothing like old-fashioned shame and embarrassment to make one think twice before falling into sin
  • but the accountability that comes from confessing sins to one another makes it worth it
  • it even allows the other person to pray for us in that area

  • A FOURTH BENEFIT OF MUTUAL CONFESSION IS THAT IT HELPS US TO APPROPRIATE FORGIVENESS
  • (Psalms 103:12) as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
  • when we sin, after we confess our sins to God, it often doesn't feel as if our sins have been removed very far from us
  • one of Satan's names is the accuser, and he accuses us of sins sometimes long after we've confessed and God has forgiven us
  • so many Christians live with a false sense of guilt, not realizing that their sins are forgiven
  • Richard Foster writes:
  • "We have prayed, even begged for forgiveness, and though we hope we have forgiven, we sense no release. We doubt our forgiveness and despair at our confession. We fear that perhaps we have made confession only to ourselves and not to God. The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed....[but] God has given us our brothers and sisters to stand in Christ's stead and make God's presence and forgiveness real to us."

  • the Book of Common Prayer contains these words:
  • "If there be any of you who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein but require further comfort or counsel, let him come to me or to some other minister of God's word, and open his grief..."
  • Bonhoeffer makes the point that when we confess our sin privately, the sin almost appears to stay in the dark
  • but when we confess our sins in the presence of a brother, the sin is brought to light, and we experience the presence of God in the reality of that other person

  • so, we need confession
  • it helps us know we're not alone
  • it lifts the weight of pretending
  • it helps us conquer sin
  • and it makes real for us God's forgiveness

  • some practical hints:
  • if you want to practice this discipline, one of the biggest decisions you will face is the choosing of the person you will confess to
  • while theologically every Christian believer can receive the confession of another, let's state the obvious
  • as a general rule, choose someone of the same gender
  • perhaps you could confess to your spouse, but don't confess to someone of the opposite sex or you will be courting trouble!
  • it's my belief that there are some things we need to confess that only another person of the same gender can truly understand
  • there are some things in my life that only another man would understand
  • and for women, there are some aspects of your experience that I will never understand as well as another woman

  • pray that God will bring someone in your life with discretion and maturity
  • confidences can be abused
  • you need someone you can trust
  • ask God to reveal somebody to you who is spiritually mature, who has compassion, good common sense, the ability to keep a confidence, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of humor

  • find someone with the right skills
  • if you want to learn how to receive a confession, there's an excellent passage in Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipline that I'd be happy to share with you
  • you need someone who can gently drag out the confession from you
  • there will be times you will need their help to be honest
  • you need someone who can be quiet, who knows themselves and humanity so well that they'll never be shocked by your sins
  • someone who will be quiet, who will eventually lay hands on you at the end and announce God's forgiveness for your sins
  • above all, show common sense in confession, but by all means, do it!

  • I'm going to close by reading a passage about the practice of what we've talked about, from Richard Foster's book:
  • Although I had read in the Bible about the ministry of confession in the Christian brotherhood, I had never experienced it until I was pastoring my first church. I did not take the difficult step of laying bare my inner life to another out of any deep burden or sense of sin. I did not feel there was anything wrong in the least - except one thing. I longed for more power to do the work of God... "Lord," I prayed, "is there more you want to bring into my life? I want to be conquered and ruled by you. If there is anything blocking the flow of your power, reveal it to me." He did...
  • Foster began the process of examining his life and writing down everything he could think of
  • he divided his life into childhood, adolescence, and adulthood
  • he asked God to reveal anything in his life that needed either forgiveness or healing or both
  • whenever anything surfaced, no matter how small, he wrote it down
  • he continues:
  • Paper in hand, I went to a brother in Christ. I had made arrangements with him a week ahead so he understood the purpose of our meeting. Slowly, sometimes painfully, I read my sheet, adding only those comments to make the sin clear. When I had finished, I began to return the paper to my briefcase. Wisely, my counselor/confessor gently stopped my hand and took the sheet of paper. Without a word he took a wastebasket, and, as I watched, he tore the paper into hundreds of tiny pieces and dropped them into it. That powerful, nonverbal expression of forgiveness was followed by a simple absolution. My sins, I knew, were as far away as the east is from the west.
  • Next, my friend, with the laying on of hands, prayed a prayer of healing for all the sorrows and hurts of the past. The power of that prayer lives with me today.
  • I cannot say I experienced any dramatic feelings. I did not. In fact, the entire experience was a n act of sheer obedience without compelling feelings in the least. But I am convinced it set me free in ways I had not known before. It seemed that I was released to explore what were for me new and uncharted regions of the Spirit. Following that event, I began to move into several of the Disciplines described in this book that I had not experienced before. Was there a casual connection? I do not know, and frankly I do not care. It is enough to have obeyed the inner prompting from above.
  • There was one interesting sidelight. The exposure of my humanity evidently sparked a freedom in my counselor/friend, for, directly following his prayer for me, he was able to express a deep and troubling sin that he had been unable to confess until then. Freedom begets freedom.
  • let's pray

Shepherdology 101 (1 Peter 5:1-14)

  • I'm going to ask you to play a little word-association game with me this morning
  • let me give you a few words, and I am going to ask that somebody give me the first word that comes to mind
  • here we go:
  • Blue Jays
  • new municipal tax bills
  • Labor Day
  • back-to-school
  • short sermons
  • pastors

  • it's hard to know what to make of pastors these days
  • Christian people everywhere are crying out for spiritual leadership
  • and yet as our culture spins faster and faster, churches are caught up in a whirlwind of change, and people sometimes get lost in the shuffle - sheep without a shepherd

  • pastors, many times, simply don't know what to do
  • faced with overwhelming expectations and hampered by unworkable systems, some dash into the fray, and get demolished
  • others go in and in short order leave a trail of trouble
  • still others are searching for what it means to be a true leader in the 20th century, and unfortunately get hamstrung with business models rather than the pattern of Jesus
  • some become adversarial and wind up with broken spirits and broken churches
  • others plod on, with little hope
  • and many churches end up having a love/hate relationship with them

  • and yet we come back to point: Christian people everywhere are crying out for spiritual leadership
  • most Christians want to follow real shepherds - people whose lives are credible, whose relationships are authentic and warm, and whose ministry is genuine and helpful
  • speaking personally as a pastor, I believe that most pastors long to be that type of spiritual leader and to make that kind of difference in the lives of others

  • the Bible paints a picture of what a spiritual leader should look like
  • it's not a picture of a CEO of a church - sitting behind a desk or in a boardroom, making decisions, tapping gavels, dispatching memos, and announcing edicts
  • it's not a picture of a dynamic speaker who can hold an audience in his hand and bring people to tears
  • and it's not even a learned scholar whose skills are so sharp he could exegete the church bulletin for half an hour
  • the picture is that of a shepherd
  • (1 Peter 5:1) To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:
  • (1 Peter 5:2) Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care...
  • shepherd is a bit of an antiquated term, but I don't think there's a better metaphor of what a pastor should be

  • in Bible times, shepherds were as common and familiar to most Middle Easterners as telephones and supermarkets are to us
  • almost anywhere in the Bible world, if you gazed across a landscape you would likely see at least one flock of sheep
  • a shepherd wasn't really in authority over sheep as much as he was a servant of sheep
  • when a tiny lamb was born, one of the first sensations felt by the shivering lamb was the tender hands of the shepherd
  • his gentle voice was one of the first sounds to awaken his delicate eardrums
  • "The shepherd lived with the lambs for their entire lives - protecting them, caressing them, feeding and watering them, and leading them to the freshest pools and the most luxuriant pastures - day and night, year in and year out...Each sheep came to rely on the shepherd and to know his voice and his alone. They followed him and no one else." (Dr. Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep)
  • the sheep, of course, knew who was in charge
  • they might occasionally feel the tap of the shepherd's crook, but only necessary
  • in short, as one person puts it, the shepherd smelled like sheep

  • I am hungry to be a shepherd to the flock here at Richview
  • I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe this is where God has brought me to serve you, to live along you, to live a credible life so that you learn to trust my voice
  • I long to be a godly leader who senses the urgency of God's mission and leads the church into the twenty-first century the way Jesus would want me to

  • if you long to be part of a church that functions as God designs, you need to hear this too
  • you need to be able to pray for your pastor
  • and what's more, you have some responsibilities too!
  • look with me this morning at 1 Peter 5 as we outline three critical guidelines for shepherds and three critical outlines for sheep
  • this is how the church should operate
  • Peter is writing to a church under pressure - experiencing or about to experience great persecution
  • the theme of his book has been how to live as God's people in a hostile world
  • and he wraps up this important book by giving some very important guidelines for shepherds and for sheep
  • FIRST, FOR THE SHEPHERDS OR PASTORS
  • three questions, found in verses two to four
  • let me preach to myself for a minute - but this will apply to some of you
  • we are all shepherds in one sense
  • and you should hear this, because you need to pray for your leaders and understand and sympathize with our calling

  • to those involved in church leadership, Peter gives a virtual checklist of proper and improper pastoral motives
  • things haven't changed very much between his time and our time
  • Peter asks spiritual leaders three questions:
  • DO YOU SERVE BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO OR BECAUSE YOU WANT TO?
  • (1 Peter 5:2) Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be
  • many pastors neither enjoy nor want to be pastors
  • to be sure, there are weeks where the pain that is associated with people-oriented ministries are acute
  • but over time, emotional and spiritual burnout and the trend to "cool down" after years of service can take its toll
  • and ministry can become an obligation
  • but when a man has a pastor's heart, he serves the sheep not because he has to, but because he wants to
  • the word willing here means an unrestrained or free choice
  • given all the options in the world, I'd chose to be a pastor!
  • God wants our ungrudging service
  • nobody should be pressured into a church office which he or she does not really want!

  • I've learned there's a tremendous difference between getting up and preaching because I have to, and getting up and preaching because I want to
  • a pastor came home on a Sunday night
  • he had re-used an old sermon from a previous church
  • in fact, it had been years since he had sat down with the creative juices flowing and served up a fresh meal to his flock
  • and in a moment of honesty, his wife turned to him and said, "Either rekindle your passion for the ministry or get out"
  • shepherds, are you doing your tasks because you want to or because you have to?
  • are you performing tasks under a sense of calling from God, or because you have nothing else to do?

  • second question for shepherds:
  • (1 Peter 5:2) Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
  • SHEPHERDS, ARE YOU SERVING BECAUSE OF THE MONEY YOU CAN ACQUIRE OR BECAUSE OF YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR MINISTRY?
  • now, the average pastor of a church did not enter the ministry motivated by money
  • but it's not hard for the temptation to creep in
  • Peter contrasts serving for money with "eager" service - service that is done with a positive emotional desire
  • he's not saying that pastor's shouldn't be paid for their work, but keep greed and selfish interests far away
  • ministry is a sacred position - not a profession to practice, but a debt to discharge
  • not to be done because you're getting paid for it, but out of an enthusiasm that bubbles from the subterranean springs of the heart

  • third questions for shepherds:
  • ARE YOU SERVING BECAUSE OF YOUR DESIRE FOR POWER, OR BECAUSE OF THE IMPACT YOUR LIFE MAKES ON OTHERS?
  • (1 Peter 5:3) not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
  • the word "lording" literally means domineering; forcefully ruling over
  • Peter here forbids arbitrary, arrogant, selfish, and excessively restrictive rule
  • there is no place for pastoral dictatorship, for emotional intimidation, or the flaunting of power
  • shepherds, what happens when you don't get your way?
  • are you threatened by the gifts of others?
  • you are not sovereigns, but servants
  • you are not an authority, but an example

  • and shepherds, for those of you who fulfill the job description in 1 Peter 5:1-3, look what's waiting for you:
  • (1 Peter 5:4) And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
  • that's what I'm waiting for
  • that's what I care about
  • much more than the evaluation of the sheep, as important as that might be, I've got to answer to the Chief Shepherd

  • I need you to pray for me and for the other leaders of this church
  • I need you to pray that God would preserve all of us from succumbing to the temptations of ministry
  • we need to keep a healthy balance, to rejoice in our service, to find joy in serving as Christ did
  • Spurgeon said a century ago:
  • Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in a good state of repair...If the workman lose the edge...he knows that there will be a greater draught upon his energies, or his work will be badly done...
  • It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle axe and weapons of war.
  • could we pray for a minute for pastors?

  • well, we're not done yet
  • BECAUSE PETER GIVES THREE INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOU SHEEP
  • listen up, now, sheep!
  • THE FIRST THING YOU'VE GOT TO DO IS TO FOLLOW YOUR SHEPHERDS
  • one of the greatest needs in the church is not just leadership, but followership
  • sheep need to learn the fine art of following credible and gifted shepherds when they lead
  • I'm convinced that many churches thwart the God-given gift of leadership - they don't allow leaders to lead
  • but when God gives you a shepherd who is willing to serve you eagerly, willingly, and humbly, follow him!

  • (1 Peter 5:5) Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.
  • there is some debate as to who the "young men" refers to
  • the majority of scholars believe that Peter is here speaking generically of all those who are under the authority of elders, both men and women
  • and his instruction is, follow the lead of your shepherds
  • in fact, submit to them
  • it won't mean that you don't sometimes disagree with them; it doesn't mean that you give a blanket endorsement of every pastor in the world
  • but support your shepherd! get behind him!

  • when able leadership is present, following the leaders is both healthy and effective
  • remember God's call on your pastor's life and ministry, as well as the high calling he has to preach and teach God's truth
  • and come to terms with your calling to be recipients of that person's ministry, and support him

  • THE SECOND THING YOU'VE GOT TO DO IS BE HUMBLE
  • (1 Peter 5:5) All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
  • (1 Peter 5:6) Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
  • (1 Peter 5:7) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

  • somebody said, "The person who looks up to God rarely looks down on people"
  • literally clothe yourself with humility
  • Peter uses a wonderful metaphor
  • the word clothe was used of a slave who tied on an apron before serving those in the house
  • we're to metaphorically dress ourselves in servant's clothing to minister to one another

  • we're to humble ourselves to each other, but also according to verses 6 and 7, under God's hand
  • what Peter has in mind is that we submit to God's will even when we don't understand it
  • we might have questions about God, but Peter says, "Don't worry - submit to him anyway. Eventually it will all make sense. In the mean time, cast all your anxieties on him."
  • so be humble

  • sheep, follow your leaders, stay humble, and finally:
  • BE VIGILANT
  • (1 Peter 5:8) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
  • (1 Peter 5:9) Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
  • (1 Peter 5:10) And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

  • sheep should really pay attention when a lion's roaming around
  • lions attack sick, young, or straggling animals
  • Peter says, "Watch out for the devil when you're being persecuted!"
  • don't get cut off from other believers, so focused on your own troubles that you don't watch out for danger
  • look to other Christians for strength, and resist him
  • refuse to succumb to his temptation
  • Satan does flee when a child of God stands up to him in Christ's strength

  • verse 10 says, when this whole thing is sorted out in the end, we know who wins
  • we're on the winning side, and no matter how much you go through in this world, you're guaranteed, eventually, that you'll be strong, firm, and steadfast

  • what do you say to sheep who are getting chased around by lions?
  • what do you say to shepherds who are putting their lives on the line for their sheep?
  • keep serving one another
  • stay humble; be vigilant; and it will all come out all right in the end

  • now, look at me
  • I'm so grateful to be your pastor
  • I believe we have great things ahead of us here
  • but let's be clear
  • you're a bunch of sheep
  • I'm a shepherd
  • my job is to have the right motive to serve you
  • your job is to follow, and to stay humble and vigilant
  • because the enemy is prowling around as we speak looking for someone to devour
  • so be on your toes! fulfill your end of the bargain, and pray for me that I'll fulfill my end
  • and when we do this, according to verse 11, look who has the power and look who gets the glory:
  • (1 Peter 5:11) To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
  • let's pray

Servanthood

  • take ten chickens - any ten
  • put them in a pen together, and spread a little chicken feed
  • in short order, you'll see an amazing thing happen
  • these chickens, previously strangers, will form a hierarchy based on dominance
  • to use everyday language, they'll form a pecking order
  • instinctively, through a series of skirmishes, they will determine who the Number One Chicken will be; then the Number Two; the Number Three; all the way down to poor old Chicken Number Ten

  • once the order is established, Chicken Number One can pick on any chicken without fear of reprisal
  • the rule is, you can pick on any other Chicken who is lower than you are on the pecking order
  • pity poor Chicken Number Ten: pecked by nine other chickens, with no one to peck

  • take any ten people; put them in a room together, spread a little food around, and the same thing happens
  • there might not be clucking and pecking, but gradually we compare status and education, and sooner or later, we know who is Chicken Number One and who is Chicken Number Ten
  • and Chicken Number Ones have free reign to strut their stuff, impose their will, and to generally peck whomever they want to peck

  • you see this in the church
  • it's disturbing to me how easy it is to label people and decide, "This is somebody who's important. This is somebody who is nice, but don't worry about them"
  • we're very quick to label over externals and to maintain this pecking order

  • you see this over and over in the Bible
  • Jesus talked about how certain people like the important seats in the synagogue
  • can't you just see it?
  • somebody knows they're Chicken Number One - look where they're sitting!
  • (Luke 11:43) "Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

  • Jesus talks about going to a wedding feast, and taking the place of honor
  • embarrassingly, however, the host comes and kicks you out of the seat because somebody more important has come along
  • his point? sit yourself in the humble spots, so the host will come along and exalt you
  • (Luke 14:11) For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

  • or what about James and John?
  • (Mark 10:35) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
  • (Mark 10:36) "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
  • (Mark 10:37) They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."

  • what a picture of how we act!
  • how easy it is to condemn when we see this in other people - but how like us, isn't it?
  • somebody has wisely observed that pride is the oldest sin in the book - it was through pride that the serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God"
  • it's shown in the way we act - in our vanity, our stubbornness, our effort to become and to remain Chicken Number One

  • a baby operates the universe as if he or she was the only one alive
  • and if they don't get their way - watch out!
  • a baby is by nature selfish - and as adults we are to grow up so that we're not focused on ourselves all the time
  • but the reality is that we are
  • and Jesus tells us that this is unacceptable
  • Jesus tells us:
  • (Matthew 20:25) Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
  • (Matthew 20:26) Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
  • (Matthew 20:27) and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--
  • (Matthew 20:28) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

  • being focused on ourselves has a number of problems
  • it makes our world very small
  • when we remain focused on ourselves, what a small world we live in!
  • it ignores the interests and rights of others
  • others don't get their way - it's all about what we want
  • it creates conflict, because others are looking out for themselves as well
  • if you put even a dozen people in a room, and all of them are selfishly trying to get their own way, conflict is the natural result
  • and another problem with our self-focus is that we miss out on the joy of servanthood
  • what Jesus calls the joy of finding ourselves by losing ourselves
  • the joy of living through dying
  • ironically, if you want to be happy, stop focusing on being happy - focus on serving others
  • if you want to be blessed, simply be a blessing to others

  • in one of the most moving scenes in the New Testament, the disciples gathered in a room together
  • gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were very aware that one of them needed to wash the other's feet
  • the problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least
  • so there they sat, feet caked with dirt
  • it was such a sore point that they weren't even going to talk about it
  • no one wanted to be considered the least
  • and then Jesus took a towel and basin and redefined greatness
  • (John 13:14) Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.
  • (John 13:15) I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
  • this comes so unnaturally to us!

  • in talking about the spiritual disciplines, which are the pathway to spirituality, we've talked so far about celebration and slowing
  • we're still going to talk about confession, secrecy, Scripture, prayer, and fasting
  • but tonight we're going to talk about three disciplines under the umbrella of servanthood
  • they involve bringing three disciplines together
  • LET'S TALK FIRST ABOUT THE DISCIPLINE OF SUBMISSION
  • this is the inward component of servanthood
  • (Philippians 2:3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
  • (Philippians 2:4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  • the phrase "in humility" is crucial
  • it provides the undergirding philosophy
  • you see, the Pecking Order is built on the belief that some of us are better than others
  • it's the belief that our opinion or our status is more important than someone else's
  • here's the problem
  • each of us, in the eyes of God, is the same
  • none of us, regardless of our titles and possessions, is worthy of more than hell
  • the key is to realize that we're all equal before God
  • and therefore, in humility, we're to do the same thing that Jesus did while on this earth: we're to consider others as better than ourselves

  • can you imagine what would happen if everyone followed this?
  • if presidents of companies treated janitors with respect?
  • if husbands stopped viewing themselves as "Chicken Number One" with the right to peck away at his wife?
  • if every husband said, "My wife is a Very Important Person, and I am going to honor, respect and encourage her"
  • if the wife said the same thing about the husband?

  • can you imagine what would happen in the church?
  • servanthood means that we evaluate what takes place not by our own preferences, but the preferences of others
  • it's interesting that Paul wrote this to a very mixed church
  • Philippi was a cosmopolitan city, and the church matched this diversity
  • there were people of different national ities and social backgrounds in the church
  • with so many backgrounds in the church, unity must have been difficult to maintain
  • and that's why Paul said it's so important to guard against any selfishness, prejudice, or jealousy that might lead to dissension
  • showing genuine interest in others is a positive step forward in maintaining unity among believers
  • submission means that we give up the right to be in charge and impose our own desires

  • the Bible places a premium, I believe, on those of us who are dominant - leaders and those with greater power - to be submissive
  • (1 Peter 3:8) Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
  • in the New Testament, slaves are told to be submissive to their masters
  • why should they be told that? they didn't have a choice!
  • one of the reasons, I believe, is that it's possible to be submissive on the outside and rebellious on the inside
  • the New Testament goes to the heart of the matter

  • once again, wives were told to be submissive to their husbands
  • when this was written, they didn't have a choice!
  • but, Paul and Peter say, the attitude is what's important

  • what is more amazing, and what we sometimes lose today, is what the Bible says to those who had the greater power in the relationship
  • fathers, don't frustrate your children
  • masters, treat your slaves the same way
  • husbands, love your wives
  • what we sometimes forget is how much submission this requires of the dominant partner in that cultural setting!
  • "If anything," one person writes, "the sting of the teaching falls upon the dominant partner"

  • friends, it is crucial that we become servants by submitting
  • we need to live the words of Martin Luther, who said, "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all"
  • if you want to become a servant, begin submitting to your spouse, those in the church who have different musical tastes than you do, those with whom you have passionate disagreements
  • ironically, the less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside
  • submission is a key biblical teaching that applies to all our relationships
  • it allows us to follow the example of Christ, who submitted himself all the way to the cross

  • this is the most important step
  • THE SECOND COMPONENT TO SERVANTHOOD IS THE DISCIPLINE OF SECRECY
  • we're going to talk about this in a few weeks by itself, so we won't swell on this tonight
  • one of the hardest things to do is to serve in obscurity, with nobody noticing
  • Richard Foster writes:
  • Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition.
  • over and over, Scripture warns us against self-promotion
  • (Proverbs 27:2) Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.

  • two men went to the temple
  • (Luke 18:10) "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
  • (Luke 18:11) The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.
  • (Luke 18:12) I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
  • (Luke 18:13) "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
  • (Luke 18:14) "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
  • the moral of the story is simple: don't be self-righteous
  • don't blow your own horn!
  • don't do good deeds to be recognized, because if you do, you won't be a servant

  • one of the best ways to die to yourself is to be willing to serve, unnoticed and unappreciated, in obscurity
  • find that place where nobody else is serving, where you might never get any recognition or applause, and become a servant in that area

  • LET ME CONCLUDE TONIGHT BY TALKING BRIEFLY ABOUT WHAT IS CLASSICALLY CALLED THE DISCIPLINE OF SERVANTHOOD
  • when we read of the discipline of servanthood, people usually have a few things in mind
  • the first is the ministry of the mundane
  • like Dorcas, we can find ways to make "coats and garments for the widows"
  • or, as Jesus said, we can offer somebody cups of cold water in Jesus' name
  • practical things in which we put our self-interests aside, and serve somebody else

  • Richard Foster, who has written a wonderful book called Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, tells this true story
  • during the frantic, final throes of writing his doctrinal dissertation, he received a call from a friend
  • his wife had taken the car, and he wondered if Richard Foster could take him on a number of errands
  • trapped, he consented, inwardly cursing his luck
  • on the way out he grabbed a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Life Together, thinking that he might have a chance to read it
  • at each errand, he inwardly fumed at the loss of time
  • finally, at the supermarket, he waved his friend on, saying that he would wait in his car and read
  • he opened his book to bookmark, and here is what he read:
  • The second service that one should perform in the Christian community is active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly.
  • ouch!
  • one of the best ways we can become servants is to see a need and fill it
  • drive someone to the bank
  • do their laundry
  • it's the ministry of the mundane, and if you're too busy to engage in it, you're too busy!

  • the second is the ministry of being interrupted
  • sometimes our work must be interrupted for tasks that are not on our agenda
  • sometimes we must live with the "latch off the door"
  • we need to make ourselves available, from time to time, to talk or pray with troubled people - people whom we won't be able to cure, and who won't contribute to our own success
  • John Ortberg has suggested that occasionally you set aside a day to be "a day of secret service"
  • in it you are simply available to others and have no agenda of your own
  • the goal of that day is that you're 100% available; it is impossible to be interrupted
  • the only goal is to serve

  • there are other things - the ministry of embracing your limitations, the ministry of holding your tongue
  • but let me touch on one more - the ministry of bearing one another's burdens
  • (Galatians 6:2) Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
  • the ministry of carrying each other's burdens is to make their problems our problems
  • to see a need in somebody else, and to realize that the best way to meet that need is to use our own resources
  • the best example of this is what happens in a healthy family
  • automatically when a problem arises, a parent or one of the children makes it part of their problem
  • and whatever resources necessary are moved to meet that ne ed

  • I see this in the old Mennonite communities
  • when a barn is destroyed, it's not the one family's problem
  • the entire community drops whatever it was doing and helps to raise the barn
  • this is a model for us to follow

  • so submit to one another - put their interests ahead of your own
  • practice secrecy - don't blow your own horn
  • and serve in whatever way possible

  • I think one of the greatest modern examples of these disciplines was Henri Nouwen
  • he was one of the brilliant theological minds of our generation, a tenured professor at Yale
  • but listen to what he said at the height of his success
  • "I felt I needed something else because my spiritual life was not deep. I'm just a fragile person, and I knew that I wasn't rooted deeply enough in Christ. I wanted something more"
  • so this brilliant theological mind closed shop and moved to a small community in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and became a pastor to a group of mentally disabled kids
  • many people thought he was throwing his life away, caring for the most basic needs such as changing diapers of disabled kids, but Nouwen knew where he belonged
  • and he staid there until he died of a heart attack a couple of years ago at age 65
  • (Matthew 25:40) "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
  • people wondered why a brilliant man would give up his career to help change diapers of mentally disabled children
  • he said it was because in giving up everything to become a servant, he actually found satisfaction and peace
  • (Mark 10:43) Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
  • (Mark 10:44) and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Tested and Tried (1 Peter 4:12-19)

  • so how did you do last week?
  • when I left you last Sunday, I challenged you to commit to God in one of four areas
  • I asked you to commit, for one week, to pray, love, be hospitable, or begin discovering and using your gifts
  • many of you raised your hands, and I'm curious - how did you do?
  • so I'm going to ask you a favor
  • if you followed through on your commitment, and something good came out of it, I'd like you to write down a short note and give it to me describing what happened
  • and next Sunday morning I want to share some of the results without identifying any names or identities
  • in fact, if anything - even one thing - from our study of 1 Peter has made a difference in your life, I'd like you to share it with me by giving it to me this week, getting it into the church office to my attention before Thursday
  • and next Sunday, as we wrap up our study of 1 Peter, we'll begin by celebrating what God has done through his Word
  • let's pray before we open God's Word this morning

  • just a few months ago, a young man by the name of Hasan became a Christian after an evangelist passing out gospel booklets in a nearby city told him about Jesus Christ
  • in this North African country, Hasan knew the risks, but he returned home and told his family of his decision to become a Christian
  • his father, an emir, ordered him to renounce his faith before a council of village elders, but Hasan refused
  • and the father, in keeping with Islamic law for apostasy, had his 15-year-old son publicly beheaded

  • a Punjab district court sentenced Pakistani Christian Ayoob Masih to death on April 27, declaring him guilty of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed
  • Ayoob, age 31, was convicted and sentenced to hang under section 295-c of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death penalty.
  • in addition to the death sentence, Ayoob was ordered to pay the state a fine of 100,000 rupees ($2,500).
  • all over the world, in countries such as Algeria, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, and Sri Lanka, it is estimated that two hundred million Christians live in danger of imprisonment, persecution, and even death because of their Christian beliefs
  • last year, 160,000 Christians were martyred
  • in more than 60 countries around the world, Christians are being tortured, murdered, and even crucified because of their faith

  • I don't know of any recent martyrs in Canada
  • however, a Christian liberal arts university in British Columbia recently applied to the B.C. College of Teachers to offer the fifth year of teacher training necessary to be a certified teacher in that province
  • their request was approved, and subsequently overturned because it was felt that "Trinity Western's Community Standards discriminate against homosexuals and that Trinity Western education graduates may therefore be biased against homosexuals"
  • the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that this argument is "inherently flawed" and that there is good evidence that graduates are not biased against homosexuals
  • the case, however, has been appealed, and a decision is not expected until October
  • the problem? that the Christian university welcomes all students, but asks that while they attend, they live according to Christian behavior, and abstain from premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior while attending Trinity Western

  • why should believers, who generally live quiet and peaceable lives, be targeted in ways that make life very difficult for them, even resulting in many parts of this world in physical torture or death?
  • I am not a prophet, or a son of a prophet, but I think we can safely predict that even in Canada, it will become more costly to be a believer in Jesus Christ in the years to come

  • Peter gives four instructions in this morning's passage, 1 Peter 4:12-19, the first one of which is especially important for us in Canada to hear
  • if you've been here on previous weeks, you know that Peter is writing to a group of churches in the area now known as Turkey
  • the theme of Peter's writing is really how to live as a Christian in a hostile world
  • it's possible that as Peter writes this section, he is addressing a group for whom persecution has already become a reality
  • in any case, for all of Peter's recipients, persecution, and even death, was going to become a reality in their lives very soon
  • as Peter focuses on this more intense form of suffering, he instructs us on how to react
  • AND THE FIRST THING HE SAYS IS: EXPECT SUFFERING
  • (1 Peter 4:12) Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
  • it's interesting that when something bad happens, our first response is to be surprised - "I can't believe this is happening!"
  • we've bought into the idea that we should always be happy, comfortable, and successful
  • but this isn't so!
  • the Word of God brings us crashing down into reality, and tells us, "There's nothing strange about fiery trials. In fact, expect them"

  • Charles Swindoll says, "If...we view life as a schoolroom and God as the instructor, it should come as no surprise when we encounter pop quizzes and periodic examinations....Maturity in the Christian life....is measured by our ability to withstand the tests that come our way without having them shake our foundation or throw us into an emotional tailspin"

  • a lot of Christians have an ejection-seat mentality
  • as soon as they get into difficulty, they want to pull the ejection cord and zip off into glory, hoping to get away from it all
  • the Bible is clear that if you are a believer, you are to expect suffering for Christ's sake as part of your life
  • (Philippians 1:29) For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.
  • throughout history and to this present day, Christians have suffered at the hands of the unbelieving world
  • a dedicated Christian who builds his or her patterned after the life of Jesus will likely suffer the fate of Jesus
  • Jesus said:
  • (John 15:20) Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

  • it's important to realize here that we aren't talking about normal human trials that are just part of life
  • we're not talking about lost keys and flat tires and sore backs
  • we're talking about suffering as a result of our commitment to live like Jesus Christ
  • and Peter says, expect it! it will come!

  • part of our problem, I believe, is that we've grown accustomed to a Christianity that costs us nothing
  • when Hasan became a believer, he understood the risks when he returned home and told his family of his new faith
  • we need to understand and communicate that Christians should not be surprised if they suffer shame and loss of status because of their faith
  • whether we think of believers in mainland China, some Muslim countries, or in Canada, persecution is a theme woven tightly in the fabric of the Christian story
  • when it does occur, we shouldn't be surprised

  • instruction one: expect suffering
  • INSTRUCTION NUMBER TWO: REJOICE IN SUFFERING
  • (1 Peter 4:13) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
  • (1 Peter 4:14) If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
  • instead of being thrown off balance for our trials, Christians should rejoice to the extent that they realize that they are sharing Christ's sufferings
  • Paul taught the shocking teaching in Colossians 1:24 that his own sufferings somehow completed the sufferings of Jesus - not that we nee d to add anything to Christ's sufferings, but that we are called to stand, sometimes painfully, against the world
  • and here Peter shares a similar thought
  • rejoice when you're suffering, because when you suffer, you are being joined with Christ
  • losing status and being persecuted puts you right into the company of Jesus
  • Jesus went before us, suffering like us, and has left us an example to follow
  • what's more, when we suffer, we're told that Jesus is interceding for us as a sympathetic high priest who knows exactly how it feels
  • so Peter says, "Rejoice! You're in the thick of what he experienced"
  • you're living and suffering just as Jesus did

  • in fact, Peter mentions two benefits of participating in the suffering of Christ
  • he says in verse 13 that if we suffer, we'll be able to look forward even more to the revelation of Christ's glory
  • (1 Peter 4:13) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
  • one day, when Jesus comes back, what seems presently unjust and difficult to face will be turned into a celebration of joy
  • Christ's glory will be revealed, God will vindicate his people, and we will be ushered into pure joy, peace, and love
  • as the old spiritual says, "There's a better day a'coming; fare thee well, fare thee well"
  • as somebody else has said, "God will have the last word; we dare to wait for that"
  • what would cause a young person to be beheaded by his father if he didn't believe that Christ's glory would one day be revealed, and that what lay ahead is much more valuable than what presently exists?

  • another benefit is that we experience the extra help of the Spirit when we suffer
  • (1 Peter 4:14) If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
  • Peter gives us an example of suffering: being insulted for the name of Christ
  • this is hardly a severe example compared to physical injury, but it's a potent tool in the hands of Satan
  • when these words were written, the concept of honor and shame were much more important
  • but even today, when we receive criticisms and insults and lose status for our faith, that's enough to intimidate most of us

  • when anxieties and cares jump up to terrify us as we're suffering, when we are being insulted for our faith, we are guaranteed the ministry of the Spirit, who enables us to keep doing good and to keep bringing glory to God
  • when we suffer for Christ's sake, we will enjoy the unusual fullness and presence of the Holy Spirit to bless, strengthen, and to give a foretaste of heavenly glory
  • if you read the story of Stephen's martyrdom in Acts 7, that's exactly what happened to him

  • remember that you are never closer, never more a recipient of his strength, than when trials come upon you
  • the highest privilege in the world is to suffer for the sake of Christ
  • so when we suffer shame for Jesus, we need to realize that we're sharing in the suffering of Christ, that God is preparing a better day for us, and that the Spirit is giving us extra doses of his strengthening ministry at that time
  • this helps us to endure your suffering with joy

  • Peter's first instruction was to expect suffering; his second instruction was to rejoice in suffering
  • INSTRUCTION THREE: EXAMINE YOUR LIFE
  • Peter says, "First, ask yourself why you're suffering"
  • (1 Peter 4:15) If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
  • (1 Peter 4:16) However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
  • not all suffering is the result of good Christian conduct
  • some Christians are superb at doing dumb things and then spiritualizing them to get glory out of them
  • it's obvious, the text states, that if you engage in illegal activities, there will be legal consequences
  • the last word in verse 15 is interesting: it's translated meddler or busybody
  • it's an uncommon word, meaning someone who gets involved in the affairs of another
  • this brings to mind the law that says "He who sticketh his nose in somebody's business findeth a fist at the end of it"

  • if we suffer as a result of our own sinful behavior, then we're not suffering for the glory of God, but simply as a result of our own wrongful actions
  • when people know we're believers, we'll literally be under the spotlight, and we must not take any action that will discredit God
  • Billy Graham said once, "I would rather be struck down dead than to discredit God"

  • Peter reminds us that Christians aren't exempt from suffering - and many times the suffering is necessary
  • (1 Peter 4:17) For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
  • (1 Peter 4:18) And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
  • the word for judgment here doesn't mean condemnation, but rather an evaluation
  • God is sending the refining fire of judgment to judge us within the church, and it's going to move outward later to those outside the church
  • we aren't exempt from suffering, and our sufferings are part of God's evaluation of us
  • it will leave no one untouched
  • but God guarantees that we will be judged

  • Stuart Briscoe points out that "if the family of God doesn't do its job, God will not tolerate it, and church history proves this is true"
  • if you go to the birthplace of Christianity in the Middle East, you'll find plenty of beautiful ruins, but few churches
  • the center of the church then moved to North Africa; go there today and you'll find few churches, but many Muslims
  • Western Europe became the focal point: go to Western Europe and you'll see "beautiful, gorgeous cathedrals full of emptiness and tourists"
  • from Europe the momentum moved to North America, and there are those who believe that already the momentum has moved from North America
  • "Why? Because Christ has shown that if his own people will not accept responsibility and face up to accountability, if they think they are exempt from all difficulty, they are not living in reality. We are not sacrosanct, and the harsh reality is that judgment may come sooner than we think"
  • we need to be purged and refined, so examine yourself

  • INSTRUCTION NUMBER FOUR: COMMIT YOURSELF
  • when suffering for Christ, commit yourself
  • (1 Peter 4:19) So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
  • the word commit could better be entrust
  • it's a banking term that means to deposit something valuable for safekeeping
  • when it comes to trials, we can deposit ourselves into God's safekeeping, knowing that we're completely safe with him

  • I don't know what kept Hasan, a baby Christian, so committed that he was willing to be killed by his father for his faith
  • I don't know why Ayoob Masih refused to renounce his faith, choosing instead to be hung
  • or maybe I do
  • maybe it was because they had entrusted themselves to their faithful Creator and continued to do good
  • with two hundred million Christians around the world living in danger of imprisonment, persecution, and even death because of their Christian beliefs, what's wrong with us?
  • why don't we expect suffering?
  • why are we surprised when it comes?
  • and why are we ashamed to stand up for Jesus Christ, even if it means that we'll be insulted or shamed?
  • we do a great disservice to Hasan, Ayoob, and the 160,000 believers who were martyred last year alo ne

  • let's pray
  • Father, we pray for believers who this morning are imprisoned and persecuted because of their faith
  • there are literally millions this morning who are suffering as a result of their faith
  • we pray those who are this morning on death row, whose only crime is that they follow Christ
  • I pray that you would give them great boldness and courage in their convictions, that regardless of the results that they would continue to entrust themselves to you
  • (Hebrews 13:3) Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
  • Father:
  • thank you for the religious freedom you have given us in this country
  • help us not to take for granted
  • and where perhaps the worst thing we will face is a loss of status or a few insults for following you, give us the boldness to do what needs to be done to remain faithful
  • we're convicted when we remember that judgment begins with us, and if we don't make the grade, you just might refine us some more
  • Lord, make us worthy to be counted among Hasan and Ayoob, who trusted you to the point of death, I pray.
  • Amen.

Slowing

  • in the 1960s, expert testimony was given to a subcommittee of the United States Senate on time management
  • the essence of the testimony was this: because of advances in technology, within twenty years or so people would have to radically cut back on how many hours a week they worked, or how many weeks a year they worked, or else they would have to start retiring sooner
  • the challenge, they said, was what people would do with all their free time

  • thirty years later, not many of us would say that our primary challenge is what to do with all the excess time
  • the malady of our day is hurry sickness
  • we now have shampoos that combine conditioner, eliminating all the time-consuming rinsing that we used to do
  • we have pizza delivered in thirty minutes or it's free
  • in Detroit, a hospital advertised that emergency-room patients would be seen in 20 minutes or treatment is free, and business jumped 30% at that hospital
  • we eat fast food, not because it's good food or cheap food, but because it's fast food
  • even when fast food was invented, you had to get out of the car, go inside, place your order, and take the food to the table
  • so they invented the drive-through lane to enable our families to eat in vans, just as nature intended
  • one man lamented, "The hurrieder I go, the behinder I got!"

  • when we line up at the grocery store, we mentally calculate the number of people in each line times the number of items in each cart, and watch out if the other line moves faster!
  • we create mock races for our children - "Let's see who can bath the fastest. Hurry up!"
  • we build faster vehicles and computers, and when somebody asks us why we need more speed, we can't answer, except to say that faster is by definition better
  • our world has become the world of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: "Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

  • Meyer Friedman defines hurry sickness as "above all, a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time, frequently in the face of opposition, real or imagined, from other persons"
  • another man writes, "Nothing is more characteristic of modern life than the complaint, ‘If I only had time.'"

  • what does this have to do with spirituality?
  • quite simply: hurry is an enemy of godliness
  • hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day
  • it can destroy our souls and prevent us from living
  • if we are to grow spiritually, we need to eliminate hurry from our lives

  • a pastor phoned a wise friend looking for spiritual direction
  • he talked about the pace of his life and the rhythms of his family
  • he asked, "What should I do to be spiritually healthy?"
  • long pause
  • "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life"
  • another long pause
  • "Okay, I've written that one down. That's a good one. Now what else is there?"
  • another long pause
  • "There is nothing else"
  • and this advice is valuable today

  • time management isn't really where I want to go tonight
  • what I want to focus on is the necessity of slowing for your spiritual health
  • and I want to begin by looking at the example of Jesus
  • did Jesus work hard? absolutely
  • after describing a busy day, Mark writes:
  • (Mark 1:32) That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.
  • (Mark 1:33) The whole town gathered at the door,
  • (Mark 1:34) and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

  • on another occasion, the demands of ministry caused him to miss supper and work so late, listen to what his family said:
  • (Mark 3:21) When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
  • after a strenuous teaching session one day, he went out on a boat and slept right through a storm
  • talk about a picture of exhaustion!

  • yet Jesus was never in a feverish rush as we are
  • Jesus took time away
  • (Mark 6:31) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
  • (Mark 6:32) So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
  • doing God's work is very important, yet Jesus recognized to do it effectively we need periodic rest and renewal
  • a preacher one boasted that he never takes a day off because Satan never takes a day off
  • another wiser preacher responded, "I usually don't use Satan as my example"
  • Jesus knew the wisdom of slowing in the middle of hectic demands

  • as we look at Jesus' life, we find that Jesus took time for the two relationships that get pushed aside when we're too busy: our relationship with people and our relationship with God
  • we're often too busy for people - in fact, a whole area of time management tells us how to get rid of people faster so that we can get back into our hurry
  • I think often of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and how the priest and the Levite passed by the man who was robbed
  • where they too busy?
  • yet Jesus had time for people
  • he could spend hours talking to one person, such as the Samaritan woman at the well

  • and he also made time for God
  • (Mark 1:35) Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • (Mark 1:36) Simon and his companions went to look for him,
  • (Mark 1:37) and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
  • while everyone was looking for Jesus, he recognized the priority of meeting with God in the morning and getting his marching orders directly from him

  • the remarkable thing is, that the night before his death, Jesus could say:
  • (John 17:4) I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
  • let me quote from a little booklet by Charles Hummel:
  • How could Jesus have used the word "finished"? His three-year ministry seemed all too short. A prostitute at Simon's banquet had found forgiveness and new life, but many others still walked the street without forgiveness and a new life. For every ten withered muscles that had flexed into health, a hundred remained impotent. Yet on that last night, with many useful tasks undone and urgent human needs unmet, the Lord had peace: He knew he had finished God's work.

  • now we want to become like Jesus
  • I think we can learn some important lessons relating to our spiritual life from his life and the teaching of the Bible

  • WE NEED UNRUSHED TIME ALONE WITH GOD AND OURSELVES
  • I often ask myself - if Jesus needed to withdraw from the crowds and spend time along with God in order to be effective, how much more do we need unrushed time alone with God?
  • if Jesus was sinless and lived a perfect life, and yet he felt the necessity of retreating from the needs and demands of others, how much more is this necessary for our spiritual life?
  • I've found, like Elijah, that God often doesn't speak through the wind or the earthquake, but God speaks in a "still, small voice" - a small, gentle voice, and if we're going to hear it, we have to slow down!

  • I know for most of us, we're very busy
  • we begin the day racing to get to work on time
  • and we end the day exhausted, collapsing into bed
  • our mind is continually racing, and even when we're in the car, we have the radio going so our minds won't have to slow down too much
  • now let me tell you about your devotional life:
  • you open your Bible, if you even have time for that
  • and you look at the assigned passage of Scripture
  • and automatically you begin to see if the passage is going to take you too much time to read
  • honestly, if you use a one-year Bible or other Bible guide, you're rushing to get the Bible reading done
  • you certainly don't have time to slow down and meditate on a certain passage of Scripture!
  • we turn our Bible reading into a race, if it even happens at all - and the result is we don't have time to slow and really meditate on a certain passage

  • now let me tell you about your prayer life
  • when we were children, we would be able to pray our grace very quickly: "For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful, Amen."
  • when you pray - if you even have time to pray - you almost begin, "Lord, I've only got two minutes. Not a lot of time. I'm sure you understand."
  • and your mind is racing ahead, and you certainly don't have time to slow down and listen to God

  • an ordinary car engine turns at four thousand revolutions for minute
  • a racing motor can turn up to ten thousand
  • we try to live our lives up at ten thousand
  • and the problem is, when we come to pray, we're still revving up at ten thousand RPM
  • and we've got to slow down to hear the still, small voice of God
  • Bill Hybels writes:
  • Embarrassingly few Christians ever reach this level of authenticity; most Christians are just too busy. And the archenemy of spiritual authenticity is busyness, which is closely tied to something the Bible calls worldliness - getting caught up with this society's agenda, objectives and activities to the neglect of walking with God.
  • Any way you cut it, a key ingredient in authentic Christianity is time. Not leftover time, not throwaway time, but quality time. Time for contemplation, meditation, and reflection. Unhurried, uninterrupted time.

  • it's time to slow down, reflect, and listen
  • it's necessary for our spiritual health
  • the archenemy of spirituality is busyness

  • I really believe that
  • SLOWING IS A SPIRITUAL ISSUE OF TRUST
  • when God created this world, he finished his work in six days, and rested the seventh to give us an example
  • you might disagree with me, but I believe that Christians are no longer bound by the Sabbath as a law, but only as a principle
  • it's good and proper to rest and cease from our labors one day in seven
  • but I'll tell you why its hard to do this
  • we have a hard time believing that the world is going to go on just fine even when we're resting
  • when we're not out there plowing the fields, or in modern terms, working the customers, troubleshooting, selling, and preparing, we have a hard time believing that the world will continue as it should
  • why do you think we have such a hard time slowing down for even half an hour or an hour to pray and spend time with God?
  • we believe that if we don't get down to real business, our lives and businesses are going to suffer
  • slowing down to spend time with God is an issue of trust

  • as somebody has said, the urgent will always call for our attention - the phone, crises, problems - but prayer and quietness and slowing will never call for us in the same way
  • the important is often lost in the tyranny of the urgent
  • the spiritual disciplines we're looking at, as a path to greater spirituality, cannot be rushed
  • you cannot rush prayer, celebration, confession, worship
  • they're important and crucial, but you have to slow to experience them

  • so how are we to slow?
  • if slowing is so critical to our spirituality and walk with God, how do we proceed?
  • ONE: CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD RUSHING
  • I have a book on my shelf with a wonderful title: Slow Down and Get More Done
  • they've done studies which show that Type A driven people who rush around do not actually get more done than those who slowly and without hurry accomplish their tasks
  • overcome the deception that you have to rush around in life in order to be effective
  • believe that God hasn't given you more to do than the time to accomplish it
  • don't you believe that?
  • why would God give us more to do than he did time to do it?
  • realize the 168 hours a week are enough - you don't have to rush
  • change your thinking!

  • TWO: TAKE STEPS TO SLOW DOWN ALL DAY
  • don't just slow to do your devotions; slow down your entire life
  • don't be like a hamster on a wheel
  • live like Jesus, who never rushed and never was frantically trying to catch up
  • somebody has suggested that for a month, we deliberately drive in the slow lane on the highway - you might arrive five minutes later, but in a better frame of mind
  • declare a fast from honking - put your horn on a vow of silence
  • for a week, eat your food slowly - chew at least fifteen times before each swallow
  • in the grocery store, look carefully to see which line is the longest and get in it
  • let the person go ahead of you
  • go through one day without a watch
  • you get the idea - deliberately choose waiting
  • and as you do so, you'll be telling God that you are trusting him to enable you to accomplish all that you need to get done

  • THREE: GET ALONE
  • this is really a separate discipline, the discipline of solitude, but it's necessary
  • Jesus went to the wilderness for forty days of solitude at the beginning of his ministry
  • he went into solitude when he heard of the death of John the Baptist, when he was going to choose his disciples, after he had healed a leper, and after his followers had engaged in ministry
  • slowing down and getting alone helps to free ourselves from the thinking of society and the external pressures we face
  • it's wise to get alone daily and spend an unhurried time just with God, and to schedule parts of days or even entire days alone quarterly or annually

  • FOUR: AT THE VERY LEAST, SLOW DOWN DURING YOUR TIME APART WITH GOD EVERY DAY
  • if you're going to do one thing, just set aside a certain time every day that you declare to be a hurry-free zone
  • don't answer the phone
  • don't multitask and try to do anything else but one thing: spend that time with God
  • read his Word and pray
  • a number of people have found that journaling helps
  • don't try to write anything profound, but just write out your prayers to God
  • "...the very act of journaling - sitting down, reaching for the spiral notebook, focusing our thoughts on life, writing for five or ten minutes - will reduce our RPMs from ten thousand to five thousand"
  • write out your prayers
  • but just spend at least some time alone with God as your personal, daily hurry-free zone

  • I've given you four suggestions:
  • change your attitude toward hurry
  • take steps to slow down all day
  • get alone
  • and create a hurry-free zone of your life every day
  • I want to challenge you before we leave to take one of these and to put it into practice this week

Four Commands - One Goal (1 Peter 4:7-11)

  • please open your Bibles to 1 Peter 4:7, found on page 1365
  • I should remind you that every week I provide an outline of the message in the bulletin, with convenient space on the back to doodle
  • but I hope you'll follow the outline if you feel it can be a help to you

  • I like people who don't beat around the bush
  • I sometimes feel like saying, "Give me the bottom line - spare me the details!"
  • I also like people who tell it as it is
  • and that's why Peter is my type of person
  • he doesn't dance around the issues - he just says what he wants to, cuts through the red tape, and gets down to business

  • when Peter, the big fisherman, took up his pen to write about suffering saints, he cut to the chase
  • and when he addressed the reality of the end times, he summed up his game plan in a one-two-three fashion
  • no beating around the bush
  • four commands, and one goal
  • (1 Peter 4:7) The end of all things is near.
  • as Peter contemplates the bizarre behavior of the emperor Nero, the persecution looming on the horizon, and the probability that he would not survive longer, he concluded that the end was near
  • Jesus was coming back to bring a dramatic end to the world and everything in it

  • Peter knew that the next major event on God's calendar was the return of Jesus Christ
  • I've noticed today that we make two mistakes when it comes to thinking about the second coming
  • the first mistake is to think we have it all figured out
  • early in his ministry, Warren Wiersbe gave a message on prophesy that tried to explain everything about the second coming
  • a pastor friend came up at the end of his message and said, "Brother, you must be on the planning committee for the return of Christ!"
  • Wiersbe got the point, but his friend added quietly, "I've moved from the planning committee to the welcoming committee"
  • some make the mistake of thinking that they've got it all figured out
  • I think it's important to study the Word of God and come to know everything we possibly can about the Second Coming - provided we do so with a large dose of humility

  • the mistake that you and I make more often, though, is to forget that Jesus is coming back again
  • one out of every 30 verses in the Bible mentions the subject of Christ's return or the end of time
  • of the 260 chapters in the New Testament, there are well over 300 references to the return of Christ
  • only 4 out of the 27 New Testament books fail to mention Christ's return
  • one-twentieth of our entire New Testament is dedicated to the subject of our Lord's return
  • Christ spoke of his return often, especially after he had revealed his death - never in vague or uncertain terms
  • and those who followed his teaching in the first century frequently preached and mentioned his return in their preaching and in their writings
  • we don't know when, and we don't know all the details, but we do know that Jesus is coming back again

  • one day the disciples visited Jerusalem
  • it would be the equivalent of a prairie boy visiting Toronto
  • they were staring at the temple - in modern terms, it would be like looking in awe at the CN Tower, the bank buildings
  • becoming enamored with faster computers, more amazing technology, faster airplanes
  • and Jesus told the disciples:
  • (Mark 13:2) "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
  • we need to hear that message today
  • our condominiums, cottages, cars, bank buildings - everything - is headed for the scrap heap
  • Jesus is coming again
  • the things we think are so important now are all going to be gone - career, mutual funds, retirement plans
  • Christ will come again and in a climactic display of justice and love will bring this world to its knees
  • it's guaranteed

  • and when will this take place?
  • Peter says, "The end of all things is near"
  • it's nearer now than when Peter wrote this
  • (2 Peter 3:8) But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
  • (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
  • (2 Peter 3:10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
  • all the previous acts of redemptive history have been completed
  • the last great "last act" remains: the end of all things
  • the curtain could fall at any time, ushering in the return of Christ and the end of the age

  • somebody has said "...almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living"
  • I once lived boarded with a young couple
  • one week the wife went away, and the husband lived on a solid diet of pizza and pop the entire time
  • in light of his wife's return, however, the husband did a thorough cleaning of the house
  • in the same way, Christ's return prompts us to be ready, specifically in four different areas:
  • BE FOCUSED SO YOU CAN PRAY
  • (1 Peter 4:7) The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
  • if I were to tell you that the end was near, and you really believed me, you would probably panic a little
  • but Peter says, "Don't panic - stay clear-minded and self-controlled"
  • don't be filled with anxiety
  • don't quit your job
  • Peter says that we need to remain sane, which means that we think and evaluate situations maturely and correctly
  • and we need to remain sober, which means that we need to avoid intoxication with anything that inhibits our spiritual alertness, whether alcohol or any other worldly concern
  • in other words, keep a clear head and don't get drunk on money, possessions, career, or anything else that keeps you from praying

  • you see, the reason given for staying sane and sober is "so that you can pray" more effectively, and more appropriately
  • when we're alert to events and interpret them correctly, we'll be able to pray more intelligently and appropriately

  • I don't know if you struggle with your prayer life, but many of us do
  • one of the reasons why is that we lack sanity and sobriety in our lives
  • if we were really self-controlled and sober, as Peter writes, we would automatically begin to pray better
  • I think if we really understand how totally and completely dependent we were on God, and how we can do nothing without him, we would pray a lot more
  • I think if we understood that the church is engaged in a battle for souls, and that the stakes are higher than any of us previously thought, we would pray with greater focus
  • if we opened our eyes and saw the vast amount of people who need the Lord and who are headed for judgment, we would pray more
  • if we really believed that the end of all things was near, we would pray - I guarantee it
  • so, Peter says, stay focused so that you can pray

  • Peter gives a second command:
  • (1 Peter 4:8) Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
  • LOVE ONE ANOTHER EARNESTLY
  • you'll notice a few things about this verse
  • Peter begins, "Above all..."
  • the expression "above all" speaks to the priority and preeminence of love as a Christian virtue as we wait for the Day of the Lord
  • love is the MVP of Christian virtues - it is given top priority here and in other places in Scripture
  • you can be a Christi an with a thorough knowledge of the Bible and theology, a sparkling church attendance record, a tax receipt showing your generosity to the church and to the poor, and yet if you don't have love - you're nothing
  • love is not a virtue that should characterize us in the church, it is the virtue that should characterize us in the church

  • the word translated "deeply" has the idea of a strenuous, intense love - in other words, it takes work
  • we know it takes work because the proof of this love, according to Peter, is forgiveness: "love covers a multitude of sins"
  • the community that loves one another is able to forgive one another more rapidly when issues arise
  • where love abounds in a fellowship of believers, many small offences, and even some large ones, are overlooked and forgotten
  • but when love is lacking, every word and action is liable to suspicion and misunderstanding - much to Satan's delight
  • so love one another earnestly

  • I've said it before - if you are lacking in the love department, you're missing the key virtue of the new life
  • the Bible says that if you don't have love for your fellow believers, you had better question the authenticity of your relationship with God
  • you had better love another fervently in light of the end, and if that means forgiving some offenses, you had better go ahead and forgive
  • love is the perennial solution to problems in the Christian community; it is the "above all" virtue

  • Peter gives a third command:
  • BE HOSPITABLE WITHOUT COMPLAINT
  • (1 Peter 4:9) Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  • the verse says "one another"
  • it means that we need to be hospitable to not just those who are loveable or friendly or fun to be with
  • we're to receive others into our homes, making them feel welcome, meeting their needs, and providing them a place of welcome and acceptance
  • but Peter knows that people are better at conforming externally than at doing something from the heart
  • so he adds "without grumbling"
  • then, as now, guests could overstay or otherwise abuse their host's welcome
  • hospitality can be an exasperating, not to mention expensive, chore
  • so Peter says - do it but don't grumble
  • let love open the door, get your priorities in place, and by all means, use your house to serve others
  • we should say that any friend of Jesus is a friend of mine, and they're welcome in our house - regardless of their nationality, age, color, or social status
  • if they're a friend of Jesus, they're a friend of mine, and they're welcome in my house

  • your house, no matter how big or small, is a gift from God to be used to serve others
  • when was the last time you had somebody in your house?
  • and was it just somebody that you know and enjoy being with, or are you even inviting others you don't know to your house?
  • I'm convinced that Sunday morning Christianity is just scratching the surface of what Christian community is about
  • use your homes, invite people over, and when they come and stay later than you would have liked, and leave dirty dishes on the counter, and the kids have broken something - don't grumble!

  • stay focused to pray, maintain love as the MVP of Christian virtues, be hospitable, and lastly:
  • USE YOUR GIFTS
  • (1 Peter 4:10) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
  • (1 Peter 4:11) If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it 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.
  • Peter says here that every Christian has been given a gift and is expected to use it
  • verse 10 tells us that every single Christian has received at least one spiritual gift and is to use it to serve others in the church
  • one of the problems in the church is that we have allowed ourselves to believe that ministry is what the pastors do
  • every person in the fellowship of believers is to use their spiritual gift for the life of the church to serve one another
  • the pastor's job isn't to do the work of the ministry; his job is to equip you to do the work of the ministry
  • in other words, my job isn't to do the work; it's to get you to do the work

  • I believe the health of a church is measured not by the number of people who attend or the size of the offering, but by how many people are involved in ministry
  • the pastors can't do it alone
  • in most churches, 20% of the people do 80% of the work
  • but in a healthy church, every single believer knows their spiritual gift and every single believer is active in ministry
  • every single one of you should be able to identify where God has gifted you, because God has given you, regardless of your age, a spiritual gift that is vital to the functioning of Richview Baptist Church
  • Peter here lists two types of gifts - speaking gifts and serving gifts, but there is an almost limitless variety of different spiritual gifts, all manifestations of the richly varied and abundant grace of God

  • if there are going to be two emphases in my ministry here at Richview this fall, it is going to be prayer and lay ministry
  • if you want to know my game plan for September to December 1998, it's going to be to cry out to God for his blessing on this church, and to give every single person in this church an opportunity to discover and use their spiritual gifts
  • but we need to understand right now that the church is incomplete without every single person using their spiritual gifts
  • in fact, not using your spiritual gift is displeasing to God

  • in Word War II, a little French town had a statue of Christ in their town square
  • and when the bombing came, the bomb got the statue and pieces were broken off
  • they stored the pieces, and after the war began to rebuild the statue of Jesus
  • it had cracks now, but they appreciated it even more
  • to their dismay, the only pieces they couldn't find were the hands of Jesus
  • and that was tough on them, because the hands had the nail prints and that was significant to them
  • they thought they would have to take the statue down, until one person slipped a gold plaque at the bottom of the statue that said, "He has no hand but ours."
  • all of a sudden the community began to understand something
  • we are his hands and the extensions of his ministry
  • Peter says, use your gifts

  • these are the four commands
  • NOTICE WITH ME THE ONE GOAL BEHIND THESE FOUR COMMANDS: TO GLORIFY GOD
  • (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.
  • imagine a church where everyone prays, people love each other, there's hospitality going on, and people are using their spiritual gifts
  • that would be a church that is glorifying God

  • I didn't tell you this earlier, but these verses in 1 Peter are my life verses - the ones that I keep going to over and over
  • they motivate me; they state my dream for ministry, and my dream for Richview Baptist Church
  • that we pray, that we love each other, entertain each other, everyone uses their spiritual gifts, and God gets the glory
  • I think you'll agree with me that these four commands are do-able; they're real and achievable
  • they constitute my dream for Richview, and quite honestly, these commands only make sense given that the end is near

  • so what are you going to do?
  • which of these four areas are you going to begin working on today?
  • before you file this message away, you had better get busy and invite somebody over t o your house; forgive someone for a past offense; love somebody earnestly; pray; and find and begin using your spiritual gift
  • what are you prepared to do?
  • let's pray

How to Handle the Heat (1 Peter 3:13-4:6)

  • let me make a pretty bold prediction about your life
  • if you follow Jesus Christ consistently, and try to live in a way that's pleasing to him in every aspect of your life - at work, in the family, at school - here's what I'll predict
  • you're going to take some heat

  • many people don't like Jesus Christ
  • they don't say it in as many words
  • but they don't like what he represents, and they don't want anyone "stuffing Christianity down their throats"
  • once you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus, you're lumped in with many of his unpopular positions
  • and you're not always going to be the most popular person around

  • people don't like what the Bible teaches
  • just try explaining some of what the Bible teaches, and you're guaranteed to draw stares
  • try a few elementary theological points, share them at a coffee break this week, and see what happens
  • mention that you believe in a literal heaven and hell; in a real Satan
  • that you don't think that all world religions are the same
  • just challenge the person reading The Celestine Prophesy, or say that it's not just enough to be sincere
  • and you will find that you don't always hold a position that's appreciated by others

  • then there are moral issues
  • the majority view these days is that if it doesn't hurt others, it's okay
  • but just try taking a moral position on a social issue, and you'll be called intolerant and narrow-minded
  • when you take a moral position and refuse to participate in action you perceive as important, you will be perceived as a moral irritant
  • and it's just possible that you'll feel the not-so-subtle peer pressure, or just flat out hostility
  • I'd go so far to say that if you and I are not taking at least some heat as believers, we're probably not living consistent Christ-pleasing lives

  • imagine you attend a school where most drink to the point of drunkenness at least occasionally
  • where many of them smoke or use addictive drugs
  • and where sexual relations take place in a casual manner
  • and where people know who does what and who refuses to take part in certain actions
  • imagine that you're not accepted because of the stand you take as a Christian person
  • you gain a certain reputation

  • if you live a consistent life as a Christian in the workplace, the same applies to you
  • you might gain the respect of some, but others look at you like you're from some other planet
  • and some even experience the rejection of parents, who ask, "Why did you leave the religion I raised you in?"

  • the simple fact is: if you follow Jesus Christ consistently, and try to live in a way that's pleasing to him in every aspect of your life - at work, in the family, at school -you're going to take some heat
  • it's guaranteed

  • now, I've discovered that not everyone likes to take heat
  • some people are naturally inclined to take a bold stand
  • they've never seen a confrontation they didn't want to join
  • but others of us just don't like to make a fuss
  • we like to blend in and go with the flow
  • we certainly don't want to be pegged as holier-than-thou or goody-two-shoes
  • and we certainly don't want to take a bold stand if it will draw attention to ourselves

  • it's to you that I want to speak this morning
  • because it's just possible that in a desire to avoid attention, you've been living a less than stellar example
  • it might be that the only reason you're not drawing some heat as a believer is that you're not living a life that's pleasing to Jesus Christ
  • you've compromised in order to win acceptance by your peers

  • Peter gives us a principle this morning that should help you
  • it's found in 1 Peter 3:13
  • (1 Peter 3:13) Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
  • here's what Peter would like to tell you
  • if you live a consistent life that is pleasing to Jesus Christ, the general rule is that those who do right are rewarded, not punished
  • this is a rule of thumb, not an iron-clad promise
  • but his point is, don't shy away from living a clear and consistent Christian life, because generally the reaction you will get is one of respect

  • I've been in the position of watching certain people in the workplace
  • I've found that those who try to serve Jesus Christ faithfully as bookkeepers, or CFOs, professionals, or as postal carriers - whatever the occupation - I've found that they end up earning the respect of most of their peers
  • there might be a little bit of teasing; there might be a few that don't understand; but most end up respecting the quiet and consistent life that is dedicated to Jesus Christ
  • it just might be that you're overestimating the opposition that you're going to receive

  • but what if this principle is wrong?
  • what if, in your life, you're going to take a little heat
  • you're going to suffer the rejection of peers for the life you lead as a Christian?
  • well, Peter says, I've got five things to tell you that you need to remember when you're taking a little heat
  • THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD REMEMBER: YOU'RE BLESSED WHEN YOU'RE TAKING HEAT
  • (1 Peter 3:14) But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
  • "Oh yeah, Peter, I'm really blessed for taking some hits for being a believer"
  • well, Peter says you are, but I don't think this thought originated with him
  • Jesus said a similar thing:
  • (Matthew 5:10) Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • (Matthew 5:11) "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
  • (Matthew 5:12) Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  • you might say, "In what way am I blessed when I'm insulted for Christ?"
  • as a child I learned about Daniel in Sunday school
  • I remembered him taking a number of bold stands for God, and I aspired to be like him
  • it's funny that as children we have the courage to be like Daniel, but as we grow we become chickens
  • but we're blessed whenever we take a stand and draw some heat, because every time we do, we're standing in a line of great prophets - Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel
  • and God promises that he will reward the faithful by receiving us into his eternal kingdom one day where there is no more persecution
  • you're experiencing God's plan and fulfilling your calling
  • and one day you'll be rewarded for enduring those undeserved trials
  • just as God blessed all his saints who have taken bold stands before, God will bless you
  • that's the first thing to remember

  • THE SECOND THING YOU SHOULD REMEMBER IS THIS: TRUST CHRIST WHEN YOU'RE TAKING HEAT
  • (1 Peter 3:14) "Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened."
  • (1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
  • as opposed to thinking about the opposition, think about Christ
  • Peter here quotes an Old Testament passage from Isaiah 8 which warns us not to fear faithless people
  • the point of both passages is clear: instead of focusing our attention on those who are giving us trouble for the way we live, focus on Christ
  • remember that he, and not our human opponents, is truly in control of events
  • have such a deep-seated confidence in Christ as Lord and King, that you won't even give the opposition a thought
  • where's your focus? Peter asks
  • on the one who's giving you grief for the stand you're taking as a believer, or on Jesus Christ

  • THE THIRD THING, PETER SAYS, THAT YOU NEED TO REMEMBER: WITNESS WHEN YOU'RE TAKING HEAT
  • (1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
  • (1 Peter 3:16) keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
  • it's likely as a believer that once you begin living a consistent life that's pleasing to God, that you will be challenged by unbelievers
  • somewhere along the line, you'll be pinned against the wall and asked what you believe and why
  • the problem is, such an occasion will probably come up unexpectedly; yet if we have an answer ready, we won't miss the opportunity
  • when the moment comes, Peter says, have your answer (literally "defense") prepared, and by all means - give it with gentleness and respect
  • don't overpower the listener with your aggressiveness
  • respectfully explain why you live the way you do, and let God take care of the results

  • some of us believe that our faith is a personal matter that should be kept to oneself
  • I'm friends with many people who don't share my beliefs and who wouldn't call themselves Christians
  • I've found that in almost every case, they eventually ask about my faith, my lifestyle, my Christian perspective
  • you know what happens usually?
  • our hearts begin beating a bit faster
  • we become a little tongue-tied
  • we blow the opportunity
  • maybe the one application we need to make this morning is: be ready
  • know what you're going to say when someone asks you about your faith
  • there are some excellent tools that are available to help you know what to say
  • but prepare now, before the opportunity arrives, to be able to articulate why you believe what you believe
  • it doesn't have to be articulate; it just has to be genuine

  • it's a great thing to take a little heat for your faith, because that's what both Jesus and Noah did
  • and that's Peter's point in verses 18 to 22 - a wonderful but baffling digression
  • let me warn you first by saying that these verses are among the most difficult to unravel in the entire Bible
  • there are themes in here that would take months to unravel
  • what should we remember about Jesus and Noah?
  • one - to be bold in our witness, as they were
  • two - to be confident that, though we are few, God will certainly save us - as he did both Noah and Jesus
  • and also to remember that just as the flood eventually came, so judgment will come to our world as well, and Christ will ultimately triumph over all the evil of the universe

  • the bottom line of this section is: get your eyes off the problems of acceptance, and get them focused squarely on the fact that God will vindicate you
  • and just as Moses and Jesus suffered, follow their example, take some heat, and be bold

  • THE FOURTH THING WE NEED TO REMEMBER WHEN TAKING HEAT FOR CHRIST IS: REMEMBER THAT TAKING HEAT HELPS YOU BECOME OBEDIENT
  • (1 Peter 4:1) Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
  • (1 Peter 4:2) As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
  • if you focus on Christ, and are willing to take some heat for your devotion to him, sin will lose its power to defeat you
  • the more we take some heat for our devotion to Christ, the more that we'll be weaned from sin
  • following through with a decision to obey God, even when it means suffering, will strengthen our commitment: it will commit us more firmly than ever before to a pattern of action where obedience is more important than our desire to avoid pain

  • THE FIFTH THING WE NEED TO REMEMBER WHEN WE'RE TAKING HEAT FOR CHRIST IS: TAKE HEAT BECAUSE WE'VE SINNED ENOUGH ALREADY
  • (1 Peter 4:3) 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.
  • if you're tempted to take the easy way out and avoid taking heat for Christ, be warned: your past experience of sin is enough
  • you've sinned enough already for a lifetime
  • why would you want to live any longer the kind of life which was given to following sinful human desires?
  • it's time to get on with a life of obedience

  • verses four and five remind us of the consequence of a life that doesn't honor Christ
  • (1 Peter 4:4) They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.
  • (1 Peter 4:5) But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
  • you've sinned enough already in your previous life - but why would you want to continue in a life that will ultimately result in the judgment of God?
  • it's much preferable to live a life that's pleasing to God
  • I love how one person translates this:
  • "You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet - and before God himself."
  • those who don't live lives that are pleasing to God will one day have to give account to God for their disobedience
  • unless they too get a new life through Jesus Christ, they're headed for judgment
  • we certainly don't want to join them
  • it doesn't hurt that they think we're different from them - we are, after all!
  • if anything, we want them to know what we do: that we have a new life and new hope in Jesus Christ

  • but I'll repeat what I said before
  • if you follow Jesus Christ consistently, and try to live in a way that's pleasing to him in every aspect of your life - at work, in the family, at school -you're going to take some heat
  • you may be scorned because you won't participate in certain activities, and it's clear that your priorities have changed
  • if you live a consistent life as a believer, your example will be an indictment of others who aren't living lives that are pleasing to God
  • and the reception won't always be positive

  • but when you take some heat for Christ, you're blessed
  • just focus on him instead of the opposition; don't forget to witness
  • remember that suffering for his sake helps your obedience
  • and don't forget, after all, that you've sinned enough already for a lifetime - it's time now to live a life that's pleasing to God, even if it does draw a little heat

  • it's easy to say this in Canada in 1998, because for most of us, drawing heat will mean peer pressure - that we aren't universally accepted
  • but around the early 60's AD, taking a little heat might have meant physical suffering, and even death
  • the author of these five reminders himself was put to death as a martyr for his beliefs
  • and many others who read these words and remembered these points found within themselves the courage to take bold stands
  • and when they did, they remembered they were blessed; they focused on Christ, and they were able to give a clear and compelling defense for the reason of their hope

  • if you follow Jesus Christ consistently, and try to live in a way that's pleasing to him in every aspect of your life - at work, in the family, at school -you're going to take some heat
  • so let's be willing, and prepared, to take this heat, and thank God for the benefits that it brings to our lives
  • let's pray

  • prayer
  • fir st - prayer for boldness
  • second - prayer that others might notice the difference in our lives; not that we're better, but that Jesus has done something tremendous within us
  • we have a new life and a new hope
  • third - that they may be drawn to Jesus Christ through our witness

  • announcement
  • I hope you'll join us tonight for a concert of prayer - a time of praising God with the praise band, and also a time of prayer to God, tonight at 6:00
  • let's pray together

  • closing prayer
  • (Matthew 5:10) Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • (Matthew 5:11) "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
  • (Matthew 5:12) Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  • Father, thanks that you allow us to take some heat just as Jesus and Moses did
  • help us to live such consistent lives as believers that others will notice and ask how we're different
  • and when they do, help us to be prepared to give them a reason for the hope that we have
  • and that they may be drawn to the Savior we love
  • in Jesus' name, Amen.

Celebration

  • please open your Bibles tonight to Romans 14
  • (Romans 14:17) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
  • (Romans 14:18) because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
  • I want to point out to you how shocking these two verses are
  • to put them in context, Paul has been talking about disputable matters of the faith - specifically, in this passage, the eating of meat offered to idols
  • and in this discussion, Paul points out that the kingdom of God really isn't about trivial things like what we eat and drink
  • so you say, "Okay, Paul, what exactly is the kingdom of God about?"
  • Paul says, "Three things: righteousness, peace, and joy"
  • I don't know about you, but I like to consider myself a person of peace
  • I can buy into the kingdom of God being about peace
  • I am seeking after the ethical righteousness referred to in this passage
  • but joy?
  • what Paul is telling us is that God isn't satisfied with only peace and righteousness in our lives
  • Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is not only about righteousness and peace, but about joy
  • and to go even further, verse 18 says that without joy, my life isn't very pleasing to God
  • in fact, joy is commanded in the Bible over and over
  • (1 Thessalonians 5:16) Be joyful always.
  • (Philippians 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
  • joy is not an option for those Christians who feel like it: it's actually commanded
  • every one of God's children need to exhibit joy in their lives
  • now, work with me on this
  • I don't think anybody ever taught me this using words, but I seemed to have learned by example that joyfulness was almost sinful
  • I don't know where I learned this - maybe it was by example
  • maybe it's because most of the Christians I knew took themselves far too seriously
  • whenever there was any hint of joyfulness shown in church, it was squashed almost immediately
  • and dare I say it - there was precious little joyfulness manifested from the pulpit
  • I remember the first time I heard it said that Jesus had a sense of humor
  • I almost thought that I had just heard one of the most sacrilegious concepts in my entire life
  • I read passages like this one:
  • (John 10:10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
  • and I asked myself: is this true?
  • is it possible that one of the reasons Jesus came was to give us a more abundant, richer, fuller, more satisfying life?
  • because somehow I seemed to pick up that the Christian life was supposed to be one of heaviness and sorrow, a little persecution, but certainly not joy or laughter
  • certain passages would always give me trouble
  • they didn't fit my theology
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:18) Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:19) Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:20) He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
  • I thought, "Well, that's Solomon, saying that we should be happy in life, to find satisfaction in our food and drink - to be glad in our heart. Solomon certainly wasn't speaking as a Christian!"
  • I would hear of books like Tony Campolo's The Kingdom of God is a Party, and think, "Tony Campolo - what a nut!"
  • he talked about celebrations like that prescribed in Deuteronomy 14
  • a tithe of goods was to be used in a feast before the Lord on a vacation trip to Jerusalem
  • if the city was too far to carry their own produce as provision, then the tithe was to be sold, and listen to this:
  • (Deuteronomy 14:26) Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.
  • it certainly didn't fit into my theology!
  • then I would hear question number one from the catechism we used to use:
  • "What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."
  • I used to buy into the glorify God part, but what's this about enjoying God?
  • then, about two years ago, I came across a scholar named John Piper who calls himself a Christian hedonist
  • hedonism, you know, is the pursuit of pleasure
  • it literally shocked me to hear of such a thing as "Christian hedonism"
  • let me share with you what John Piper believes, because I have grown to accept what he says
  • "Christian Hedonism is a philosophy of life built on the following five convictions:

    The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.

    We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.

    The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.

    The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.

    To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever." Another way of saying it is, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him."

  • now here we have it: not only is joy and happiness and pleasure-seeking not sinful, but it's mandatory for a Christian
  • in fact, to the extent that you're not a joyful Christian, you're not pleasing God
  • as Augustine of Hippo said, "The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!"
  • to put it another way, in the words of C.S. Lewis, "Joy is the serious business of heaven"
  • joy is in the non-optional category
  • and I'm tackling it as the first of nine spiritual disciplines we're going to look at
  • Richard Foster wrote a book called Celebration of Discipline, and in it he writes:
  • Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be categorized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.
  • let me give you four reasons why celebration is an important spiritual discipline:
  • REASON ONE: EVERY MOMENT OF LIFE IS A GIFT
  • every once in a while we realize this, but every day is worthy of celebration, simply because we're alive
  • it's almost as if a veil needs to be lifted for us to realize this, but every moment is a gift from God
  • I remember when my grandmother passed away
  • I received that phone call as I was shaving
  • I had the entire day planned, and to tell you the truth, I was resentful that the phone disturbed me when I was so busy
  • but all of a sudden, the news I received changed my life forever, and all the important things I had planned all of a sudden became unimportant
  • for the rest of that day and some time afterward, I saw life with new clarity
  • the vision of my soul was sharpened
  • I appreciated being alive
  • life is a gift!
  • we don't earn it, can't control it, can't take a moment of it for granted
  • every tick of the clock is a gift from God
  • every day is a celebration day
  • every day is a birthday - a day to be grateful for life
  • (Psalms 118:24) This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
  • as a poem says, "Enjoy today, it will not come again"
  • REASON NUMBER TWO TO CELEBRATE: CELEBRATION GIVES STRENGTH TO LIFE
  • celebration brings joy to life, and makes us strong
  • (Nehemiah 8:10) Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
  • we can't continue long in life without joy
  • without joy, life becomes a drudgery
  • somebody has compared joy to the motor that keeps everything going
  • without joyous celebration, what use is there in getting out of bed in the morning?
  • there are going to be days of drudgery, but a priority in our lives should be the maintenance of an attitude that will give us the strength in our lives through the joy of the Lord
  • in the midst of our suffering and even in hard times, we need to cultivate celebration and seasons of enjoyment
  • Dallas Willard writes, "Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrows seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of our God because his goodness becomes so real to us."
  • one benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously
  • I'm convinced we take ourselves too seriously, and God not seriously enough
  • Richard Foster writes:
  • It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us live such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things...Our spirit can become weary with straining after God, just as our body can become weary with overwork. Celebration helps us relax and enjoy the good things of the earth.
  • celebration also gives us perspective
  • we can laugh at ourselves
  • we come to see that we and what we think is so important really isn't
  • we lose an inflated view of our own importance, and become less judgmental
  • others don't look so awful and unspiritual
  • celebration gives strength to life
  • closely related to this is the next reason
  • REASON NUMBER THREE TO CELEBRATE: CELEBRATION HELPS US RESIST SIN
  • the absence of joy creates weakness
  • in the words of Dallas Willard:
  • failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Here lies the strength of temptation...Normally, our success in overcoming temptation will be easier if we are basically happy in our lives. To cut off joys and pleasures associated with our bodily lives and social existence as "unspiritual," then, can actually have the effect of weakening us in our efforts to do what is right.
  • as I think Joe Stowell has said, we had better make our own fun, because if we don't, the devil will do it for us
  • we must arrange our lives in such a way that sin no longer looks attractive to us
  • in his fictional book Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a senior demon giving advice to a nephew demon on how to tempt humans
  • Uncle Screwtape writes:
  • Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and satisfying form we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures; all of our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy [God] has produced, at times, or ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.
  • if we don't enjoy the pleasures God has created at the times and in the ways which he allows, Satan will tempt us to take these same pleasures at times and in ways in which God forbids
  • we're all adults here, so let me take an example
  • God has given us the wonderful gift of sexuality
  • within the marriage relationship, Scripture encourages that we enjoy this aspect of creation to the maximum
  • Scripture says to be intoxicated with it - to enjoy it, to be enraptured by it
  • to the extent that we enjoy and thrive upon the sexual relationship as God designed it, we'll be immune from temptation to enjoy it in ways that he forbids
  • churches feed into this by not talking about it as a wonderful, delightful gift from God - they almost make it sound like it's a creation of Satan
  • enjoy God's gifts - revel in them - because if you don't enjoy them in ways that God designs, Satan will get you to enjoy them in his way
  • REASON NUMBER FOUR TO CELEBRATE: IT'S AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO GOD
  • God's nature demands that we celebrate his goodness and enjoy the life he has created
  • celebration is the natural result of seeing how great and lovely God is and how good he has been to us
  • when we see what God has done, feasting, dancing, singing, oration - all these become insuppressible reactions
  • it's noticeable to me that the most godly people are always the most joyful people
  • because in some ways, despite any circumstances that get us down - joy is the end result of getting to know God personally
  • so you weren't expecting this, were you?
  • our churches don't teach it enough
  • but if you're dissatisfied with the Christian life you now lead, and if you want to grow closer to God, become a more joyful person
  • I almost forgot!
  • how do we become more joyful?
  • the first step for pursuing joy is simply to begin now
  • the psalmist says, "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it"
  • today's the day
  • we live under the illusion that joy will come someday when conditions change
  • when we graduate, then when we get married, then when we have children, then when the children leave home, then when we retire - then we'll be happy
  • but today is the day
  • the second step is to find a joy mentor
  • we all know people who are joy-carriers
  • when we're around them, they breath joy into our souls
  • prize them
  • thank them
  • learn from them
  • don't be shaped by the joy-robbers in your life - we all know people who drain us of happiness
  • but identify people who are joyful
  • make an appointment to spend some time with them every week
  • find somebody to be a "joy mentor"
  • pray with them that the Spirit will produce more of this fruit of the Spirit in your life
  • the third step is to set aside time to be joyful
  • worship at church should be an ideal time to remind yourself of God's goodness
  • but if you need more, somebody has even recommended setting aside specific days of celebration, in which you eat foods you love to eat, listen to music that moves your soul, play a sport that challenges you, wear clothes that make you happy, and surround yourself with beauty
  • as you do this, give thanks to God for his wonderful goodness
  • reflect on what a gracious God he is to have thought of these gifts
  • Scripture says that God is the giver of "every good and perfect gift"
  • turn to God in gratitude and delight
  • the last thing I would recommend is to think biblically
  • a large amount of joy comes from thinking the right way
  • think about it - our God reigns
  • no matter what happens, we know everything works together according to his good purpose for us
  • we've read the end of the book, and we know who wins
  • we know the future God has prepared for us, that can never be taken away
  • we know that we have an inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled
  • (Philippians 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
  • if you want to live the Christian life you've always wanted, begin by celebrating
  • I think it's only proper to do some celebrating right now
  • God is so good...
  • He cares for me...
  • He loves me so...
  • God is so good...
  • For the beauty of the earth; for the glory of the skies
  • for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;
  • Lord of all, to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.
  • For the wonder of each hour; of the day and of the night,
  • Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of night
  • For the joy of human love, brother sister, parent, child;
  • Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild.

A Life of Submission (1 Peter 2:13-3:12)

  • I once asked a man to speak on the subject of how to have an impact on other people
  • when I asked him, he said, "That's going to be a short talk"
  • I was surprised, but he continued: "We all have an impact on other people. The question is how to have a good impact on other people"
  • it's humbling to realize that you have an impact on other people
  • the question we need to ask is, how can you have a positive impact on other people?

  • enter the apostle Peter
  • Peter was raised in the aggressiveness school of impact
  • by all accounts, he was a bit of a bully
  • by the force of his personality and his natural temperament, he was a natural leader
  • but don't get in his way, or Peter is likely to impact you with his fist, or his sword

  • when Peter writes to a bunch of social nobodies - "aliens and strangers," he calls them, one of the topics he tackles is how to have a positive impact on other people
  • an important question, especially for those who lack power
  • aliens and exiles held the low status of people without rights and without permanent residence in the Roman empire
  • how to have an impact was a crucial question for them, because with their limited power, injustice could be meted out to them with no recourse to justice or to power
  • they were living in a pagan world, in which following a murdered rabbi by the name of Jesus Christ was a strange way to improve their lot
  • if anything, it made life more difficult for them
  • in the middle of secular chaos, Peter tells them how to have a positive impact on other people
  • and it's not the advice you might expect!
  • (1 Peter 2:11) Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
  • (1 Peter 2:12) 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.

  • how do you have a positive impact on others around you?
  • two points, Peter says - the first one in verse 11
  • first, abstain from sinful desires
  • Peter doesn't get very specific about what these sinful desires are, but he's clear that these desires war against the soul
  • Peter tells them that if they want to have a positive impact on those around them, they need to deny themselves the temporary pleasures of indulging in physical, sinful passions, because these impulses and actions prevent them from living a spiritual life

  • you can see Peter's point
  • people are watching us all the time, and if they see us following sinful passions all the time, we're going to have an impact, but it's not going to be a positive one

  • Peter continues in verse 12, which in the original is the same sentence
  • point two of how to have a positive impact - live such holy lives that unbelievers have nothing to pin on you
  • (1 Peter 2:12) 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.
  • being a Christ-follower back then was suspect - I think you could argue the same for today
  • Peter's advice is, "If you social nobodies want to have a positive impact on others, here's what you should do - live such a blameless life that when pagans accuse you of doing bad things, they'll see your good behavior. And just maybe your example will be so strong that they, too, will be saved, and God glorified"
  • and let me tell you, there's no reason to doubt that such an strategy for evangelism would still work today

  • as Saint Francis of Assisi said centuries later, "Preach the Gospel to all the world and if necessary, use words"
  • if your actions are above reproach, even hostile people will end up praising God
  • even when, as in Peter's day, vicious lies were being spread about Christians, upright behavior could prove these rumors to be false, and could win unsaved critics to the Lord's side
  • Peter could say, don't worry about the opposition
  • live holy lives in the midst of secular chaos, and let God take care of the final results
  • that's how to have a positive impact on those around you

  • Peter develops this theme by addressing these two principles to everyday life
  • surely, the trick is in applying these lofty principles to everyday life
  • on Tuesday morning at coffee break, how are you going to have a positive impact on your co-workers?
  • Peter applies these two principles to four real-life situations
  • and we're going to look at each of these, because while there are changes, our worlds also have a great deal of similarities
  • and one word keeps coming up in each of these scenarios - a word that isn't very popular today - the word submit

  • AS CITIZENS (2:13-17)
  • (1 Peter 2:13) Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,
  • (1 Peter 2:14) or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
  • Peter told the believers that if they were to have an impact as believers in a hostile world, they had better submit to the governmental authorities of the day
  • you might say, "That's easy in Peter's day - they had didn't have the politicians we have today"
  • the emperor when Peter wrote was Nero, a notoriously cruel tyrant
  • a man who would eventually murder both his mother and his wife
  • known for his brutality and scandals that would make modern political scandals look like nothing
  • a man who, after Peter wrote this book, would arrest and kill Christians on charges of "hatred of the human race" - the man who would eventually kill Peter
  • Peter says, "Submit to the government"
  • the reason? in verse 15, "...so that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men"
  • submit to God, but as far as obedience to God will allow, live according to the law of the land

  • Peter also advises us how to have an impact
  • AS EMPLOYEES (2:18-25)
  • (1 Peter 2:18) Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
  • (1 Peter 2:19) For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
  • when we read the word "slaves," we unfortunately think of the reprehensible slavery of modern times
  • but slavery back then, while not desirable, was much better than we think
  • many people chose slavery back then, because the alternative was finding odd jobs
  • the entire Roman economy was based on the system of slavery
  • doctors, teachers, writers, accountants, agents, bailiffs, overseers, secretaries, and sea-captains all comprised the slave population
  • most slaves were freed by the age of thirty, and many became full-fledged Roman citizens by that time
  • the closest parallel to today is that of being an employee
  • and Peter is telling us how to have a good impact at work as believers

  • now, as back then, believers find themselves in the situation of working for non-Christian bosses who are not always fair in their treatment of believers
  • it was easy, back then as now, to work for bosses who are gentle and kind
  • but how do you work for somebody who treats you unjustly?
  • it's one thing to live a holy life when other people respect you, but what about when you're unfairly passed over for a promotion, or you don't get that pay raise?
  • Peter says, "Submit to your employer, whether they're considerate or harsh. Be a good employee anyway. It might be better to endure shame and injustice than asserting your rights in times of injustice"

  • let's be crystal clear here, bec ause this goes clear-cut against how we'd chose to operate
  • back then a slave could say, "Get real, Peter. You don't know my master. He sold my children. He raped my wife. If I don't perform to his satisfaction, he whips me. He doesn't deserve Christian respect!"
  • or, today we could say, "You don't know my employer. You don't know his habits, his moral life, his moods. It's easy for you to talk about submission, and working diligently, and respecting authority. You've never had a boss like mine!"
  • it's much easier to quit, or to sue, or to give your boss a piece of your mind

  • but Peter's point is excellent
  • what sort of impact would you have on your boss if, in the coffee room at your office, instead of joining in on hostile attacks on your boss, you made an attempt to protect his reputation?
  • it doesn't mean you have to like him, or to carry his picture in your wallet
  • what if you display an attitude of cooperation and respect and honor - following the example of Jesus, as Peter points out in verses 19 to 25
  • what if you focused on living a holy life in the middle of secular chaos, and let God take care of the final results?

  • the submissive life, in the face of injustice, is behavior rooted in the cross of Christ
  • it's not just pragmatic advice; it's not a piece of power; it's a piece of Christian theology
  • live this way because that's the way Jesus lived, and this is the kind of behavior God wills
  • the path of submission in the face of injustice is not for the feeble or weak-kneed; it's for those who are willing to pick up their cross daily and follow Jesus

  • two more scenarios
  • Peter tells us how to have an impact
  • AS SPOUSES (3:1-7)
  • when a man became a Christian, he would usually bring his whole family into church with him
  • but a woman who became a believer would usually come into the church on her own
  • under Roman law, the husband and father had absolute authority over every member of the household
  • so what was a Christian woman with an unbelieving spouse to do?
  • preach to her husband? challenge his authority?
  • Peter recommends another approach: show your husbands the same sort of self-giving love that Christ has showed to you
  • (1 Peter 3:1) Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,
  • (1 Peter 3:2) when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
  • at a time when women had more limited rights than men, Peter wants wives to submit - not because they are second-class, but because of the influence they can exert on their husbands
  • how can they have a positive impact in their marriage?
  • through the "eloquent silence of Christian deportment"

  • similarly, in verse 7, how can husbands have the greatest impact on their wives?
  • you could argue, and I will, that Peter is arguing that husbands likewise be submissive to their wives, in spite of the legal advantages they hold under Roman law
  • he says they are weaker, I believe, in the sense that women are vulnerable to attack and abuse
  • are women to submit to their husbands? yes
  • are husbands to submit to their wives? absolutely!
  • they are to be sensitive to their wives needs, and to relate to her with courtesy, consideration, insight, respect, and tact

  • do you see what Peter is saying?
  • he says, "You might have good government, you might have bad government. You might have a good boss, you might have a good boss. You might have a wonderful spouse, or you might have a spouse you would never marry again."
  • "Regardless of what they're like, here's some advice. Watch your life! Submit to them! Live in such a way that they'll have nothing bad to say, and maybe, just maybe, you'll win them to Christ"
  • imagine what would happen if spouses lived in a way that they looked for the happiness of the other and surrendered their will to the other
  • this isn't some utopian ideal
  • a married partner who seeks to live for the other, who seeks the happiness of the other, and who learns to say no to personal wants and wishes will have an impact on the other, and will be living the sort of live Jesus Christ lived for us

  • no wonder some of us aren't having a positive impact on others!
  • remember Peter's advice in the first place?
  • abstain from sinful desires
  • and live such holy lives that others can't pin anything on you
  • live holy lives in the midst of secular chaos, and let God take care of the results
  • submit, and maybe, just maybe, you'll win them to Christ

  • this is tough medicine
  • but it's the route to impact as citizens, employees, spouses, and lastly
  • IN THE CHURCH (3:8-12)
  • (1 Peter 3:8) Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
  • a local church ought to be a model of what it means to live harmoniously, lovingly, righteously, and peacefully
  • the church ought to be a living embodiment of what God wants for people in social relationships
  • it's the living incarnation of the love of Christ expressed for one another and the world
  • churches at that time were havens in which people gained strength to endure persecution
  • just as churches today need to become places where we can come and withstand the onslaught against personal morals and identity

  • you might have learned, as I have, that following Peter's command involves submission
  • one man writes:
  • "When the vote does not go according to the pastor's plans, when the choir does not get behind a certain special service, when the pastor speaks on topics that you or I would not choose, or when others are elevated to positions of leadership we might want - in all of these, individual Christians are confronted with the option of cruciform living. Either we choose selfishness, and grumble or divide, or we choose cruciform living by conceding God's will to other people and plans."

  • in essence, Peter's advice to us is simple
  • if you want to have an impact on other people, stop being preoccupied with your personal rights, and start focusing on serving others
  • live such holy lives that even hostile pagans will give glory to God
  • preach God to all the world; if necessary, use words

  • we live in a hostile world
  • you're not going to win too many points in this world for being a Christian
  • you might be suffering with a bad boss or an impossible marriage situation
  • but you can have an impact by living a holy life, submitting, and leaving the results up to God
  • Martin Luther King Jr. said:
  • You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don't have to know Plato and Aristotle. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics. All you need is a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

  • let's pray
  • Gracious Father:
  • thank you for your Word that we've studied this morning
  • I would like to pray specifically in two areas this morning: work and marriage
  • there might be some here who are in an impossible work situation
  • perhaps they haven't been consistent in living an exemplary life
  • perhaps the work situation has become so challenging, that they've become more preoccupied with their personal rights rather than making an impact for Jesus Christ
  • I pray that for these people, Lord, that you would enable them to be consumed not with getting the raise they deserve, but getting the praise from God
  • not with getting the glory for themselves but giving the glory to you
  • I pray that they wou ld see themselves, regardless of their boss and regardless of their circumstances, in the prime position of making a deep spiritual impact, because they live holy lives in the midst of chaos, and leave the results up to you

  • Father, there aren't many married people here who couldn't learn a thing or two about becoming a servant spouse
  • what would happen, O Lord, if regardless of how our spouses acted, we chose to serve them
  • if we looked for the happiness of the other, and learned to say no to our own personal wants and wishes
  • what kind of impact would we have on our spouses if we became their servants

  • what kind of impact would we have, O Lord, if we chose to live like Jesus did
  • (Mark 10:43) Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
  • (Mark 10:44) and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
  • (Mark 10:45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

  • as we come to the communion table, Lord, help us to become servants to each other, and to lead lives of submission, we pray. Amen.

  • [COMMUNION]
  • I told you earlier that Peter, by personality, was anything but submissive
  • where did he get these ideas that would ultimately see him martyred for the faith?
  • where did Peter get these crazy ideas?
  • the answer is simple: Jesus
  • Peter, who naturally lacked no hesitation in asserting his rights, watched firsthand as Jesus submitted to the cross

22He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. 23He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by his wounds! 25Once you were wandering like lost sheep. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.