Dr. Zach Crook
As believers in Christ, we are called to be good stewards of the varied grace of God. This means living an active faith that is focused on glorifying God in everything we do. In this blog post, we will explore the teachings of 1 Peter 4:1-11 and how they challenge us to live differently than the world. We’ll discuss the importance of speaking God’s words, serving with the strength He provides, and using our gifts to love and serve others. Ultimately, our goal is to inspire and encourage each other to live for God’s glory and to see what He can do in and through us when we have an active faith that is fully devoted to Him.
To Live in Grace: Stop Living in Your Flesh
In the first few verses of Chapter four, Peter’s message is essentially to stop living for the flesh and start living for the Lord. He emphasizes that we have already wasted enough time pursuing fleeting pleasures that do not bring true satisfaction. Peter reminds us that we have the choice to follow either the Lord or our flesh. He lays out a clear challenge for us to live in the world but not be of it, contrasting the way we live with the way of the world. However, there can be two extreme approaches to living in the world. Some people may completely remove themselves from the world, shielding themselves and hunkering down in a bunker due to their belief that the world is bad and evil.
To Live in Grace: Stop Living As the World Does
There are two extreme approaches to living in the world that are not biblical. One approach is to completely remove oneself from the world and shield oneself due to the belief that the world is bad and evil. On the other hand, some people believe that they should fully immerse themselves in the world and live it up because they only have one life to live. However, Peter reminds us of a third way, which is to live in the world as ambassadors, resident aliens, and elect exiles. We are in the world, but we are not of it. Peter uses the example of a boat to illustrate this concept. Just as a boat is made to be in the water but shouldn’t take on water, we, as followers of Christ, are called to be in the world and be salt and light. We should not withdraw from the world, but we also should not immerse ourselves in it. Instead, we need to be ambassadors of salt and light in the world but not of it. Peter challenges us to understand what Christ has done for us and to stop wasting our time pursuing worldliness and living for the flesh.
To Live in Grace: Let Go of Idols
Peter tells us that there’s a different way for us to live, as worldliness is being consumed by the moment don’t idolize the good gifts that God has given you. When we idolize created things rather than worship the creator, we exchange the truth for the lie. For example, our society today idolizes politics and government on both sides of the political spectrum, thinking that if we got the right person in office, all our problems would be fixed. However, the government was never meant to be our savior, and if we look to it for salvation, we are in trouble. Another example is sex, which is a good gift that God has given us to enjoy within the confines of marriage. However, our culture has completely removed it from those limitations and said to do whatever we want. We’ve taken a good gift and idolized it, instead of worshiping God.
As we live differently, Peter says that people will be surprised that we don’t join them in the same flood of wild living. The majority of the world thinks that this world is all there is, so the idea is to make the most of your time here on Earth and pursue everything in this world at this time. However, as followers of Christ, we are called to be different and to live as ambassadors. We shouldn’t withdraw from the world or immerse ourselves in it, but we need to be salt and light ambassadors in the world, but not of it.
To Live in Grace: Measure Your Life by God’s Standards
Peter is telling us that there’s a different way for us to live, one that’s not consumed by worldliness. When we live differently from the world, people will be surprised because, for most people, this world is all there is. The world tells us to pursue temporary pleasures, but God tells us that we were created for a different world, one that’s eternal. So, instead of living for ourselves, we should fix our eyes on Jesus and live for his kingdom. Although this may bring conflict with culture, ultimately, we are living for the approval of God, not the world. We will all stand before God one day, and the things of this world will not matter. The gospel was preached to those who are now dead so that they might live in the spirit according to God’s standards, even though they were judged according to human standards. Peter is reminding us that even those who died in poverty, without any success according to the world’s standards, can still live in the spirit according to God’s standards.
We should make the most of our time in this world because we were not created for it but for a different world. Rather than pursuing temporary pleasures in the present, we should focus on Jesus and His kingdom, knowing that life in this world is fleeting. However, when we start living for something greater than this world, there will be a conflict with culture. We will be slandered when we stand against culture and live for the Lord instead of ourselves. We may face persecution or even death, but we should remember that we are living for the approval of God, not the world.
However, we will all stand before God one day, and when that happens, none of the trinkets of this world will matter. The gospel was preached to those who are now dead, not to give them a second chance, but because they heard the gospel while they were alive. Even if they died in poverty or were martyred for their faith, they will be judged according to God’s standards, not human standards.
To Live in Grace: Remember Your Time is Precious
Peter reminds us that the end of all things is near, and we should remember to number our days and live wisely. Martin Luther’s favorite text was Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to learn wisdom.” Despite it being almost 2000 years since Peter wrote this, his message still rings true, and we should take his words to heart.
Can we simply live our lives however we please in this world and not pursue Jesus passionately? The answer is no because, as believers, we should live like the end is near and not for this world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a renowned theologian, returned to Germany during World War II to be a part of the underground Confessing Church movement because he saw that the state church had aligned itself with Hitler and the Nazi regime. He argued against the idea of cheap grace, where one simply claims to trust God but does not allow that faith to transform their life. For Bonhoeffer, true grace is costly, and it changes the way we live. This sense of urgency and willingness to make sacrifices is exemplified in his book, “The Cost of Discipleship.” We are reminded that the end of all things is near, and we must have a sense of urgency and be ready for Christ’s return at any time. Therefore, we should pray that God teaches us to number our days and live with wisdom.
Satan tries to deceive us into believing that we have plenty of time before Christ’s return and that we should indulge in worldly things. This can manifest as people leaving their marriages to pursue their own desires or telling students to experience life before returning to the church. However, Peter reminds us that the end of all things is near, and we must live with urgency and believe that Christ’s return is imminent. We should aim at heaven and pursue an active faith, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. The enemy may tell us to live for temporary satisfaction, but Jesus came to give us abundant life. When we pursue after the Lord, our lives are better. We must remember that there are billions of people around the world who have not heard the good news of the gospel and could spend eternity separated from Him. As C.S. Lewis said, “If you aim at heaven, you’ll get Earth thrown in. If you aim at Earth, you’ll get neither.” So, let’s live as ambassadors and have active faith as the end of all things is near.
To Live in Grace: Cultivate an Active Faith
Peter is encouraging believers to have an active faith, and he provides several indications of what that looks like. Firstly, he advises them to be alert and sober-minded for prayer. He reminds them that prayer is a privilege and a means of communicating with God, the creator of the world, who loved them so much that he sent his son to die on the cross for their sins. Peter emphasizes that prayer should be used as the greatest resource rather than a last resort. He encourages believers to seek God’s will through prayer and to humble themselves at Jesus’s feet, submitting themselves to his guidance and direction. Peter reminds them that they have access to the holy of holies and the very presence of God, which is an incredible privilege. Believers should maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. We should be hospitable without complaining and use the gifts we have received from God to serve others as good stewards of God’s varied grace. In essence, Peter urges believers to live with an active faith that is grounded in prayer, love, and service to others.
To Live in Grace: Love One Another
Then Peter goes on to say that the second thing we need to do to have an active faith is to maintain constant love for one another. This means that we should demonstrate love consistently, as it covers a multitude of sins. When we live out forgiveness, generosity, kindness, and mercy, people are attracted to us, and it is our love that leads them to repentance. In a world that celebrates differences and uniqueness, we gather together under the banner of love and celebrate the fact that Jesus is Lord. Peter reminds us that if we have an active faith, we will be prayer warriors on our knees, love one another constantly and consistently, and show the world the power of God’s love.
To Live in Grace: Extend Hospitality
In verse nine, Peter instructs us to be hospitable to one another without complaining. This means opening up our lives to others and finding joy in sharing our lives with them. We should ask ourselves when the last time was that we had someone over and remember that hospitality isn’t just about opening up our homes but also about serving others. Peter reminds us that each one of us has received a gift from the Holy Spirit, and we are called to use it to serve others. He doesn’t say that only a select few are called to serve, but rather that every believer has a gift and should use it for the benefit of the church. As we use our gifts to serve others, we are fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives and building up His church.
To Live in Grace: Speak Words of Life
In terms of being good stewards of the varied grace of God, we should speak as those who speak God’s words. The language used by Peter is very purposeful, as he doesn’t specifically mention elders or pastors. This means that each and every believer, as the hands and feet of Jesus, has the privilege and responsibility of speaking God’s words, speaking life, and sharing the truth of the gospel. We should speak about God, not the things of this world. When we serve, it’s not because we have it all together but because God gives us the strength to step in and serve Him and His church. As we speak, the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us speaks through us. The reason we pray, love, be hospitable, and use our gifts to serve the Lord and the church is so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. It’s not about receiving praise or recognition from others but about bringing glory to God.
Why do we choose to have an active faith? It’s not for our own benefit or personal gain, but rather for the glory of Christ. Peter emphasizes this by saying that God should be glorified in everything we do. He reminds us that glory and power belong to God forever and ever. Peter challenges us to not live a self-centered and comfortable life but to actively pursue God’s glory and live on mission for Him. If we as a church came together with an active faith, dedicated to serving and loving God, and turning everyday conversations into gospel conversations, imagine what God could do in and through us. Therefore, let us choose to live for God’s glory and not our own, saying, “God, whatever it is that you want me to do, I’m going to do it for your glory.”