Tag Archives: 1 peter 4:1-6

When you start to change and your friends don’t like it

30 Aug

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Have you ever gone through a life change, and that change affected your friendships?

You know who your real friends are when you start changing.

Perhaps you believe new things, or maybe you have shed a long-held belief, and your friends are pushing back.  It could be that you have stopped doing something that you and your friends regularly enjoyed, and they are disappointed, even angry with you.

As Peter continues teaching in 1 Peter 4:1-6, he describes how the people he is writing to started following the way of Jesus, and as they moved away from the self-destructive patterns of their old friends, those old friends were not happy.  In fact, Peter says in verse 4, “they heap abuse you.”

“Abuse” is actually the word “blaspheme”, which means “to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation.” (Louw & Nida)

What Peter is describing could be the persecution those early Christians were facing.

So Peter goes on in verses 5-6 saying that those old friends will have to give account to God for their behavior. Then Peter makes a most interesting statement.  He says this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead.  Wait?  What?  The gospel is preached to dead people?

No.  Not at all.

Let’s examine this a bit further.

Peter uses the specific words, “preach the gospel.”  What is this gospel?  Gospel is simply a word that means “good news.” What good news?  Last week we looked at how Peter described the good news in 3:18 when he said that Jesus died for our sin, to bring us to God.  That is some good news, that people who are separated from God can now be with him.

But that is not the only good news in The Good News.  God’s good news is that he is doing a work of rectification, which is a big fancy word that means “making things right.”  God wants to set things right in the world.

As Peter has been teaching in this passage, God wants things to be right in our lives.  God wants us to move away from self-destructive sinful desires, and pursue his new way.

God’s Good News is not just a transformation of individual people.  God also wants to set the world right.  And so his good news is good news for all people, all creation.  Where there is injustice of all kinds, God wants to set things right.

That good news is what Peter says, “was preached to those who are now dead.”  “Was preached” is something that happened in the past.  Peter is talking about a preaching that occurred in the past.  Not present preaching, not future preaching.  Also, the word “now” is not in the Greek.  That has been added to help us understand the intent of Peter’s flow of thought.  He is talking about preaching that happened in the past, and some of the people who heard that preaching have now passed away.  They were alive when they heard the preaching.  They are dead now.  More than likely they had become Christians while they were still living, after they heard the preaching.

What does this all mean for those Christians reading this letter who are still alive and facing abuse from their friends?  While they faced criticism when they stopped their wild living and chose to follow the way of Christ, they can take great comfort that they are now living according to God’s way.

It is precisely at this juncture that some Christians have misunderstood what it means to live according to God’s way in our lives now.

I will never forget my visit to the Ephrata Cloister.  They wanted to remove themselves from the world, so they could not be negatively impacted by it.  It seemed like they wanted to live God’s way.  Except that Jesus specifically prayed in John 17 that God would not remove his followers from the world, but that God would keep them safe in the midst of it.

God doesn’t want us to escape from the world.  We can obey God while still living in the world.  The issue is not so much about figuring out what God’s will is for the myriad choices of living in the world.  Such as, can followers of Jesus watch movies or TV shows or play video games with certain ratings?  Can followers of Jesus wear certain kinds of swimwear?

Instead Peter is saying, start from a place where you stop indulging in evil human desires, and start following God’s desires for your life!

Certainly there are times when a follower of Jesus needs to stop or decrease a friendship because that friendship is a negative influence that the follower of Jesus cannot handle.  But in most cases, we followers of Jesus can stop indulging in evil human desires while at the same time maintaining genuine friendships with people who are not following Jesus.

So as we think about what Peter has talked about in 1 Peter 4:1-6, how about you?  Do you love God?

Are you living according to human desires, or according to God’s desires?

Have you armed yourself with the same attitude as Jesus, that no matter what goes on in your life, you are committed to do the will of God!

If you are like most of us, you have some of both.  You want to obey God, but you also find yourself giving in to evil human desires sometimes as well.

What patterns or habits do you need to change in order to live a life that is line with the way of God?

I encourage you to do what has often been called “soul-searching”.  Today is the day, Peter is saying, for us to stop or to begin to learn to stop following evil human desires, and today is the day to start growing our love for God that we might follow his desires for our lives.  He wants to change us into people that are different, and that might be hard for some of our friends and family to accept.  But God wants to change us into people that obey his desires for our lives, and that is the best way to live.

Christians, has Jesus transformed your life? Here’s how you can tell.

29 Aug

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

A question for any of you who consider yourselves Christians, followers of Jesus: would you say that Jesus has transformed your life?

Yesterday we saw that Jesus transformed Peter’s life.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Peter has that memory in mind as he continues his teaching in 1 Peter 4:1-6.  In verse 3 he builds on what he has already said in verses 1-2.  To review, Peter has taught that through suffering you are learning to be done with sin.  He says that Christians can choose to no longer live for evil human desires, and thus live for God’s desires, for God’s will.

Now in verse 3, I hear Peter saying: “Frankly, don’t you think you have lived a really sinful life long enough?”  In other words he is saying to them, “You have spent enough time in the past following evil human desires.  Keep following Jesus.”

Peter wants them to take a step back and review their life.  Apparently some of them had really lived it up in the past.  What Peter describes here is some risky behavior.  There is no self-control in this.

The scholars tell us Peter is referring to “drinking parties involving unrestrained indulgence in alcoholic beverages and accompanying immoral behavior.” (Louw & Nida) This is out of control stuff where you are risking your health on a regular basis.  In 2018, it would like getting high on heroine, sleeping around with anyone, getting drunk on a regular basis, and then driving vehicles drunk.  It is very selfish, wasteful, and irresponsible.

Maybe you’ve experienced some of that lifestyle yourself.  Maybe you know people who have.  Maybe your sinful behavior was rebellion in other ways.  Maybe there is some rebellion still going on in your life?

In what area of your life are you lacking self-control?  Is it your mind, mouth, attitude, money, time spent on TV, social media, video games, food, and you know God would say, “Follow me”?

Peter is saying to these Christians and to us that it is time to be done with that old life.

And that is exactly what happened!  Look at verse 4.

Peter reviews their spiritual story.  There was a change.  The people who were formerly partying it up had made a change. They had started following Christ, and they are living the new way of his Kingdom, or at least they are trying to.  The way of Christ is a way of self-control.  Think fruit of the Spirit growing in you and flowing through you.  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.  The new way is exact opposite of the way they used to be.  Where there was lust, there is now love.  Where there was anger and rage, there is now joy, peace, and gentleness, kindness.  Where there was rebellion and fighting, there is now patience and self-control.

Peter is talking to people who actually went through these changes.  So why would he need to warn them, if they had already made the change?

It could be that Peter knows how difficult persecution can be.  Especially when your friends are involved.  And that’s what we we’re going to talk about tomorrow.

The one crucial step that must come before doing God’s will

28 Aug

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What is the will of God?

Yesterday we looked at the surprising weapon Christians are to arm themselves with: the attitude of Jesus, which was an attitude of following the will of God for his life no matter what.  As we continue studying 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that we Christians will no longer live for evil human desires, but rather we live for the will of God.

What is the will of God?

Here is what the will of God is not: Peter is not talking about some special plan that God has for our future.

Very simply, living for God’s will is doing what God says.  Another great word for this is obedience.  We followers of Jesus are committed to obeying God, and Peter says that means that we no longer obey evil human desires.  What are evil human desires?

Another way to translate the words “evil human desires” is the word “lust.”  The scholars tell us that the word Peter used means “to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else, and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong.” (Louw & Nida)

When you put verses 1 and 2 together, Peter is saying that through the suffering he mentioned in verse 1, disciples of Jesus are no longer living for selfish human desires, but we are to live for the will of God, which means we obey his desire for our lives.

This the key to living as followers of Jesus: we live to obey the will of God! To obey God’s desires.

To understand this further, Peter uses the word “Flesh” multiple times in these few verses.  In the NIV you see it as the word “body” and as “earthly life”.  What Peter is talking about is that there are so many desires that our flesh has.  But so far in verses 1-2 Peter has been saying that when we experience suffering in our flesh, it really puts things into perspective, and sinful desires pale in comparison.  Thus followers of Jesus make it our focus to live according to God’s will and desires for us.

Let’s talk more about living for God’s will.  It is such a foundational concept to Christianity.

But how to we follow God’s will?  It can feel a bit forced.  Peter is saying, “Do God’s will.” Or, “Just obey.” Is that all there is to it?  Just obey.  Can we just choose to obey?  Is it that easy?

Maybe you have a personality where if God says it, then you are good to go with obeying it, period.  No questions.  You are okay with it.  And you genuinely seek to obey.

But there are others of you who have a different personality or approach.  You hear, “do God’s will,” and you know that it is a good thing, but you are wondering, why should we obey God?  Or is that all there is to it? Is there a reason for it? Can’t God tell us more about this?

I would suggest that there is more.  And that Peter knows there is more.  And that Jesus taught that there is more.  And this is what is more: obeying God’s will is intended to flow from a heart of love for God.

When we love someone, we are inclined to respect them, serve them, treat them well, help them.  God doesn’t want us to obey him begrudgingly because he is the supreme power of the universe, and we are his creatures.  As if God is some dictator.  Or a master with slaves.  God wants us to do his will out of love for him. He wants to be in a real loving relationship with us.

I wonder, do you love him?

Of course we would say “yes” to that.  But perhaps we say, “Yes, I love God” too quickly, without examining our hearts and minds.

I use some phone apps to guide me in reading scripture and praying.  One is from the Book of Common Prayer, and it has morning, evening and night prayer services that you can read through and pray.  It includes plenty of Scripture and the Lord’s Prayer, other written prayers, spaces for silence and your own prayer requests as well.  One of the written prayers that is in there every single day always gets me thinking:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and forever, amen.”

And then yesterday, another app I use had this prayer,

“Dear Lord, instill in my heart the desire to know and love you more.”

In a week when I was thinking about a passage that emphasizes obeying God, these two prayers hit me hard.  Do I love God?  Of course, I love God.  But really, do I love God?

I thought of Peter, not long after Jesus was arrested and taken away.  That evening, Peter is following from a distance, watching, fear rising in his heart, as they put Jesus on trial.  Then Peter is spotted, and pointed out as one who had been with Jesus.  Peter allows fear to overtake him, and he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times.  Vehemently Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Then the rooster crows, and Jesus looks out across the way, locking eyes with Peter.  Peter, who had only hours before made bold claims about dying for Jesus, now has denied him. He flees the scene, weeping bitter tears.  But a few days later, Jesus rises from the dead, and Peter is a changed man.

Jesus reinstates him, saying Peter, “Do you love me?”  Three times, one for each denial.  And each time Peter says “I love you.”

This is a different Peter now.  Having acted out of fear instead of love, Peter is now set on a trajectory of loving Jesus that will carry on for the rest of his life.

Jesus transformed his life. Jesus wants to do the same in your life.  He wants to restore a loving relationship between you and him.  He is not a taskmaster forcing you to do his will.  Instead, he wants you to know, out of mutual love for one another, that loving him leads to obeying him which is the best possible way to live.

The surprising weapon followers of Jesus arm themselves with

27 Aug

Photo by Cmdr Shane on Unsplash

One of the biggest questions followers of Jesus ask is: how much should we be in the world, exposing ourselves to the world, participating in activities or behaviors that are considered normative in the world?

And by contrast, how much should we remove ourselves from the world? Which behaviors should we stop?

How much should we play video games, watch movies and TV, and which ones?  Should we trust the ratings systems?  Is it okay for 13 year olds to watch PG13 movies, for example?

And what about the many varieties of food, drink and drugs available to us, for our pleasure?  How much of that should we partake of?  As substances like marijuana become legal, should we partake?

What clothing should we wear?  How much skin should we show?  What is modest?

This was as big a deal for the earliest Christians 2000 years ago as it is now.  How do we be in the world, but not of it?

Where it really gets tricky is in the area of friendships.  If you are a follower of Jesus, and you have friends who are not followers of Jesus, how much should you do what they do?

As we continue in 1 Peter, we have arrived at chapter 4, and Peter addresses these issues.

In verse 1, the NIV’s “arm yourselves” is a great translation of the word Peter used.  It truly has military overtones!  Think of soldiers preparing for battle.  Strapping on bullet proof vests, helmets.  Lacing up boots, attaching a knife, grenades, ammunition and of course their gun.  A backpack with all kinds of equipment.  They are ready for battle.  No doubt Peter is talking to those early Christians this way because he sees that they, too, are in a battle, but it is not a military battle.

So how should followers of Jesus arm ourselves?  How should we get ready?  What equipment do we strap on?  The attitude of Jesus.

What was his attitude?  It is most clearly described in a place called the Garden of Gethsemene, just a short walk outside the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus was there on the night of his arrest, praying with his disciples.  Remember his prayer?  It was intense.  He knew that his arrest, beating and death were right around the corner.

How would you feel if you knew that within hours you would be severely beaten, falsely tried, and killed?  I would be freaking out.  While Jesus was definitely emotional, he wasn’t losing control.  The anxiety was massive.  And yet what did he pray?  “Father, not my will, but yours be done.”

In the face of severe bodily harm, Jesus remained 100% committed to do the will of God.  That is the attitude Peter says we should arm ourselves with.

Why?  Because, Peter says, “he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  But what does Peter mean when he says suffering in the body will lead to being “done with sin”?

Peter’s flow of thought from 3:18 all the way through 4:6 has Christians in mind, and how Christians can handle suffering.  In other words, he is saying, “Christians, when you suffer, it puts things in perspective.”  You’ve maybe experienced that yourself.  When you go through a hard time, you realize so quickly and clearly what really matters in life.

When you are suffering, you’ll realize that your previous sinful choices were so wrong.  We might even call this the process of sanctification.  Sanctification is a big long Christian theological word that refers to the process of being set apart for God.  During that process of being set apart, we are being shaped and changed, so that gradually we act more and more like Jesus would.  All disciples of Jesus are undergoing this process, where the Spirit of God, if we allow him, is at work in us.  What we find is that suffering, as painful and difficult as it is, actually grows us faster and more deeply, when we allow it.

Unfortunately, some people do not allow suffering to shape us to become more of what God wants us to be. Some people wallow in their suffering.  You know the Eeyore syndrome?  That’s when, instead of sitting in the suffering and listening to what God might want to teach us, we have a pity party.  Poor me.  We followers of Jesus should not approach suffering like Eeyore.  Instead, Peter says, we should have the attitude of Jesus, to follow God’s will no matter the difficulty.