Urgent and Fervent (1 Peter 4:7-11)

Imagine that God showed you in a dream tonight that either you would die or Christ would return exactly one week from today. How would you live in the last week that you had on earth? If you are a Christian walking with the Lord, then I know your answer. You would urgently seek to do all that you can for Jesus, especially working to bring your lost friends and family to know Him as you do. You would use your words, your actions, and your prayers to labor for the kingdom of God with all your might while you still could. Your love for Jesus would help you to forget about all the little grudges and conflicts in your relationships so that you could focus on serving the Lord. Whatever gifts that God has given you (teaching, serving, helping, music, giving, etc.) you would use to the utmost of your ability for His glory. You would be urgent (working fast) and fervent (working hard) about serving God now so that you could be ready to serve Him for all eternity.

Of course, the truth is that no one knows when Jesus will come back but the Father in heaven (Matthew 24:36), and most of us do not see death looming on our doorsteps right now. But Peter reminds us today that our time in this life could end at any moment. Therefore, we should be “serious and watchful in our prayers” and “above all things have fervent love for one another” (1 Peter 4:7-8). That means choosing to overlook the small offenses of others, showing hospitality or kindness to others, and being faithful stewards (managers) of our talents and abilities by using them for God’s kingdom and glory. There must be hustle and passion in our walks with the Lord. That’s what today’s passage tells us. Satan and this world system under his sway want to distract us from eternal matters. He wants us to ignore the states of our own souls and the souls of others. The enemy wants to keep us focused on making ourselves happy now, even or especially if it means sinning against God and others. But we must fix our minds and hearts each day on eternity. We must  live for Jesus like tomorrow is not guaranteed – because the Bible says it isn’t.

The Text (1 Peter 4:7-11)

7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Background and Observations

• The statement that “the end of all things is at hand” is a definite reference to the coming return of Christ and the end of this age. The New Testament authors use a lot of different expressions to talk about the end times and the last days. Every time, the writers describe the end as being very near and use that truth as powerful motivation to be serious about living for the Lord on this earth while we still can.

• “Love will cover a multitude of sins” is a quotation of Proverbs 10:12. In that verse, we are told that “hatred stirs up strife,” or conflict between two people, while having love for each other allows them to forget about the small problems and offenses that might hurt their relationship. This is clearly Peter’s point in this passage; he wants Christians to overlook little stuff to focus on their unity in Christ and shared service in His church.

• In verses 9-11, Peter does not mention all of the possible New Testament gifts given to believers. He just gives a few examples, namely teaching and service, to represent the many different talents that God has given to His church to be used for His glory. Being serious about your walk with God includes intentionally seeking to discover your spiritual gifts so that you can use them to help serve in Christ’s church.

Questions to Think About

1. If you knew that you had only one week left on this earth, how would that change your life? What would you do in the short time that you had left before entering eternity?

2. How could you become more “serious and watchful” in your prayer life?

3. What are some specific ways that you can become more “fervent” (passionate, intense) in showing love to other Christians?

4. Have you discovered or begun to discover your spiritual gifts? How do you think that God wants you to serve with those gifts now and in the future? These would be good questions to ask a Christian mentor who knows you well; God often uses other believers to help us find His guidance.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

That Time Has Passed (1 Peter 4:1-6)

Real faith leads to real change. When a person shares his or her testimony, we should listen for correct belief. To be a Christian, a person must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and rose again for our salvation. A person must believe that we are saved by the grace of God alone through faith in Christ alone. But in a Christian school, especially at the middle school level, I have found that most students will affirm theses gospel truths with their lips. What I listen for in a testimony, however, is the change of the student’s heart and life. I listen for evidence of repentance and growth in faith. A legit Christian testimony will show sorrow and regret over past sin and a desire to become like Jesus. Someone who has truly been been born again by the Holy Spirit has received God’s holy hatred for sin as well as His enduring love for what is good and pure.

This inner and outer change is what Peter is talking about in today’s passage. For the true believer, the time of selfish, sinful wandering has passed. Such a person now lives like one who knows that God will one day judge his or her life. This person now lives with what the Bible calls the “fear of the Lord,” which is a reverence for God that leads to humble, holy living. A real Christian is a person who is striving hard to put to death his or her old sinful thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors and to instead learn to do God’s will as revealed in the Bible. This work of spiritual change and growth is certainly done by the power of the Holy Spirit; we cannot be sanctified on our own. But if the Lord is really in our lives, we will see the change, and others will, too. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

The Text (1 Peter 4:1-6)

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Background and Observations

• When Peter says in the beginning of verse 1 that Jesus lived in “the flesh,” he is talking about Christ’s human nature; He became fully God and fully man when He was born of the virgin Mary so that He could then suffer and die for our sins. But the references to “the flesh” at the end of verse 1 and in the middle of verse 2 are talking about our sinful nature, which as Christians we desire to put to death so that we can be alive in our spirits toward the things of God.

• Not all or even most Christians are guilty of all of the sins that Peter describes in verse 3. For instance, I would hope that none of our middle school students have attended (or ever will attend) wild drinking parties. But what Peter is doing here is giving specific examples of specific sins that were common in the Roman Empire in which his Christian audience lived. Some of his readers of this letter were guilty of these sins, and he is telling them that it is time for them to leave that empty lifestyle behind as they walk in their new lives in Christ. For us, the application is that whatever sinful patterns of thinking and doing dominated our lives before Christ, we should now turn from them as we instead follow Christ and His ways.

• The point about the gospel having been “preached also to those who are dead” is either talking about the gospel being preached to lost people who were spiritually dead before salvation or Christians who are now physically dead while their spirits or souls are alive in heaven. As I said in the last post (“The Conscience Cleanser”), nothing in the context of 1 Peter or the rest of the Bible points to dead people having the opportunity to hear the gospel, repent, believe, and be saved. The chance to be saved by Christ is only available while a person is alive on this earth.

Questions to Think About

1. What evidence of spiritual change and growth have you seen in your life since becoming a Christian? What has God been doing in your life so far this school year?

2. Would any adults or friends in your life say that they have seen change and growth in you? Who knows you well enough to be able to tell you what they see in your walk with God? That might be a good question to ask a Christian mentor like a parent, teacher, small group leader, or youth pastor.

3. How should the promise of a coming judgment by God in verse 5 affect the way that we pray for and treat our lost friends, family members, neighbors, and teammates?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel