We have been talking about priorities before Jesus comes. We know that toward the end of the school year, we start studying for finals. It’s probably not the best time to be distracted or consumed with other things. Teachers would say, “We need to focus now! Get ready to take finals.” We also know that at the last week before the wedding is probably not the best time to take a vacation. Priorities before big events are very important!
Yes, there are priorities before the end or transitions of major points in life. In the New Testament, God wants us live with the thought that Jesus can come at any moment. The people in Noah’s day, Jesus said, thought they had all the time in the world and so they were eating, drinking, marrying (in other words, just enjoying life, but not living as people with priorities) “and they were all unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt. 24:37-39).
I want the Lord to find me with the right priorities. I don’t want to waste my life. I only have a few years and it’s going by pretty quickly. I want to live with purpose, passion and living life God’s way and not my way. Why is this so important? Listen to Paul: “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself (1 Cor. 9:26-27 The Message). We don’t have another option! Paul actually uses the word “disqualified.” You know what that means? Out of the race. It doesn’t matter how you started. It doesn’t matter who’s running faster than you in the race. It doesn’t matter who finished before you. All that matters is that you ran the race. He says that living sloppily, not living with God’s priorities, living for yourself only leads to you not going when Jesus comes.
Actually that is also what Peter is getting at in 1 Pet. 4:7-11. In 1 Pet. 4:1-6, Peter talks about wasting your life as you live for your way. This life is a gift from God and we will have to give an account with what we did with it. The second paragraph from 1 Pet. 4:7-11 talks about living for God’ way. I showed you this chart last week that contrasts the two:
|Living my way (1 Pet. 4:1-6)||Living God’s way (1 Pet. 4:7-11)|
|Out of control (4:3-4)||Self-controlled (4:7)|
|Drunkenness (4:3)||Sober-minded (4:7)|
|Selfish Lust (4:3)||Sacrificial Love (4:8)|
|Exploitation of others (4:3-4)||Ministry/Service to others(4:9-11)|
|Temporary (4:5)||Eternal (4:11)|
|Ends in judgment (4:5)||Ends in God’s glory and praise(4:11)|
So I want to live for God’s way. What are God’s priorities that He wants us to get on before He returns? We said first of all:
I. A focused prayer life (1 Pet. 4:7)
Peter first calls us from distractions mentally intoxicating us, cluttering our minds from what’s most important: talking to God, developing a growing intimacy with God. People ready for Jesus’ return are people who are drawing upon God’s energy and strength in prayer. Secondly,
II. A sacrificial love for others (1 Pet. 4:8-9)
Not surprising to find after his discussion of the vertical relationship with God, Peter mentions the horizontal relationship with others. They go together. You cannot say you love God if you don’t love people. Peter says not just to barely love, but to EARNESTLY love, which is a love that stretches you to the limit, i.e. sacrificial love. Peter gives us two ways to stretch that love: First, practice:
Peter calls it love covering a multitude of sin. Love does not “cover up,” but covers sin is covered and not held against others because of God’s love forgiving us and not being held against us. Secondly, sacrificial love means:
a) Cheerful Hospitality
Look at 1 Pet. 4:9. So sacrificial love stretches you when you have to forgive. It will also stretch you when you have to serve an give of your resources, time, energy and personal space. Jesus took a towel and basin to wash his disciples feet (John 13). Love for others makes you want to serve them. Ed Clowney says, “It is the love of God that brings us to our brother’s feet; it is the grace of God that fills our basin for service.” The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia. You may have heard of xenophobia right? That is the fear of strangers. Philoxenia, on the other hand, means “love of strangers.”
In Peter’s day, “…travelers would rely on acquaintances, friends, and relatives to provide lodging for the night. In general, inns were unsafe and uncomfortable. Therefore, travelers avoided inns and sought accommodations with private parties.” Is hospitality a spiritual gift? I don’t like asking that question, because many believers then think they are exempted from doing something because they feel they are not especially gifted to do it. “I don’t have the gift of evangelism, so I never evangelize.” Giving is listed as a spiritual gift (Rom. 12:8). Does that mean you never give at all? That is not a biblical view of spiritual gifts. We are all called to evangelize (Matt. 28:18-20) and give to the work of the ministry, but some are especially gifted by God to do it. I think the same with hospitality. In fact, it shows up in the list of requirements to be a church overseer (1 Tim. 3:2).
What does it mean to be hospitable? I like Pastor Bill Versteeg’s definition: “The divine enablement to share with others our home, our lives, our personal space and resources without communicating a need for performance or an expectation of return.” He says “communicating a need for performance.” This means true biblical hospitality does not rely on human standards of acceptance: being a good conversationalist, attractive, intelligent, good personality, etc. And neither do you show hospitality hoping the person would then invite you to their place (this is why he says, “expectation of return”).
But true biblical hospitality is what Henri Nouwen says, “… is the gifted ability to focus our attention on others.” This is why it is sacrificial love and why hospitality is different from entertaining people at your home. I like what Commentator Barton says: “Being hospitable is different from social entertaining. Entertaining focuses on the host—the home must be spotless; the food must be well prepared and abundant; the host must appear relaxed and good-natured. Hospitality, in contrast, focuses on the guests. Their needs— whether for a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear, or acceptance—are the primary concern. Hospitality can happen in a messy home. It can happen around a dinner table where the main dish is canned soup. It can even happen while the host and the guest are doing chores together. Believers should not hesitate to offer hospitality just because they are too tired, too busy, or not wealthy enough to entertain.”
It is sacrificial love, a love that stretches you because you put you aside for the needs of others. True love says: You before me. But Peter knows human nature and how hard this is, so he adds the line: do it “without grumbling.” Why would you grumble about hospitality? That’s easy. Guests eat up your food. It’s expensive. Guests eat up your energy. They eat up your time. There is an Italian proverb that goes, “A guest is like a fish---after three days he stinks.” So it is easy to grumble, if your heart is not being replenished by God’s love continually. Invest in people and God will take care of your budget, replenish your emotions, multiply your time and bless you. Besides, nothing is yours anyway. You are not the owner, you are the steward. The budget, the time, the resources, etc, is all HIS. You want God to stretch your love? Has it been flabby? Show forgiveness quickly and hospitality cheerfully. Lastly,
III. Investing in ministry with others (1 Pet. 4:10-11)
Speaking of stewardship, Peter goes on to talk about serving others using your spiritual gifts. Invest your life in these things that will last. John Macarthur defines a spiritual gift as “a divine enablement for ministry to the body.” That is the purpose of your life. It is a great moment when you realize you are born, but it is a greater moment when you realize WHY you were born. And that comes when you realize how God has uniquely gifted you to serve Him in His body. I want to make several observations quickly about investment in ministry from these verses:
a) God gives each believer a spiritual gift
Notice Peter says, “As each has received a gift.” When God saved you, He wanted to use you in His body. So He saved you and equipped you in way to edify the body and glorify Him. We are one body, with its members functioning differently. You have at least one or more spiritual gift. Peter mentions a couple here and Scripture gives lists of different gifts, not exhaustive by any means (Rom. 12:3-13; 1 Cor. 12:4ff). You need to identify your gift. Some sites have tests you can take, which might be helpful. But usually you can tell what gift you have by what you are passionate about. Or you can tell by what bothers you. If you come to LH and say consistently, “They should be really more organized about this!” Perhaps you have the gift of administration. Also, others close to you might be able to tell you what you may be gifted about. So if you think you are gifted singer, ask someone first before signing up for the worship team. But know that God has gifted you in some way if you are believer.
b) God’s gifts are for serving others
God gives you a gift not to make you look good, but God to look good and building up of the body. It is not for personal enjoyment alone, but helping others enjoy God better and more. It is not given to boost your self-esteem, but to boost a God-esteem in other’s lives. It is to serve others.
Are you a servant for others? Gordon MacDonald gives the acid test for servanthood:, “You can tell whether you are becoming a servant by how you act when people treat you like one.”
c) God’s gifts must be managed wisely and obediently
Notice Peter says “good stewards.” A steward is someone who is entrusted with something that ultimately belongs to someone else. God has entrusted us with these gifts for us to be faithful and use them. He is the owner, I am the steward or manager. So if I am not using my gift to serve others in the body of Christ, I am, in essence, weakening the local church’s vitality and growth “because others cannot replace the unique giftedness of those who are not ministering.” So “spiritual gifts are not fundamentally a privilege but a responsibility, a call to be faithful to what God has bestowed.” Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe adds, “If life is to have meaning, and if God's will is to be done, all of us have to accept who we are and what we are, give it back to God, and thank Him for the way He made us. What I am is God's gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to Him.”
d) God’s gifts are multifaceted
This is a neat thought. Notice the word “varied” or other translations say, “manifold.” This literally means, “multi--colored” or “multi-faceted.” There is a unique blend of grace and faith with each spiritual gift that takes into account the believer’s personality and style. This should free us from trying to be like anyone else who has a similar gifting.
I love the variety of Sunday School teacher styles we have. Each one of the guys has a way they do it and it adds to the richness and diversity of our church in Sunday School. I know Anthony and Andrew are both gifted in being lead worshippers, but they are so different right? It shows God’s multi-faceted grace in the way He gifts us.
I remember when we were attending Harvest Bible Chapel and we had the privilege to hear Dr. James Macdonald and Dr. Joseph Stowell on summer as they took turns preaching. Pastor James is really a “truth preacher.” Not that he doesn’t preach grace, but he’s likes to kick you in the behind and get you going to serve and know God. But Dr. Stowell is a “grace preacher.” Not that he doesn’t preach truth, but you would always leave teary-eyed often wanting to love Jesus more. We needed both of them. Both men equally gifted in preaching God’s Word, but so different in the way they did it. God used both of them.
e) God’s gifts are used because of God’s grace
Why do we serve others? Peter says that our gifts are to be used for others because we want to be stewards of God’s varied grace. We do not deserve the gift we have been given. We did not earn them. God did not look at us and give us the gift because we looked good enough to deserve it, lived well enough to have it or had a great personality to receive it. It was out of His grace. We are recipients of His grace.
This is key to understand serving. What motivates you to serve? Do we do it so that other’s respond to our service like we expect them to? If I am going to lay down my life for you, it is so you can be lifted up. If I am going to empty my cup for you, it is so that you can be filled up. But what happens when that doesn’t happen? What happens when you don’t see the results or the fruit that you were expecting? We want to give up, because we are serving from motivation of results and responses. “Well, we tried,” we say and we stop leaning on God’s love to serve any more. Or we keep serving, but we are resentful, and bitterness broods in our heart. Then we are discouraged and disappointed. We must serve from the motivation of God’s grace. Serving from God’s grace means I sacrifice for others because I have been the recipient of sacrifice. I give my gifts for the Lord’s work because I have been recipient of the greatest of God’s gifts: His amazing grace that He showed me. Paul says, “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Sometimes there will be results. But sometimes not as we expect or when we expect them. Paul says, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). But we should be driven to give all of ourselves because God gave all of Himself for us. What motivates you to serve? Are you serving from grace or serving for results?
f) God’s enablement comes with God’s gifts
It is hard to categorize spiritual gifts, but broadly and generally speaking, you can categorize them as speaking gifts (preaching, teaching, exhorting, knowledge, discernment, wisdom, etc.) or serving gifts (administration, prayer, mercy, helps, etc.). This does not mean speaking gifts do not serve or you do not speak for God if you are using a serving gift. But notice Peter says that regardless of what kind of gift you have, it is a cooperation between God and you.
So if you are speaking, you are not speaking human opinion. You are speaking the “oracles of God” which refers to “words that God has given His people.” This will not be contrary or adding to God’s Word, but I have learned over time that I can prepare a sermon, but God often wants to prepare me with something specific for the audience.
I know some of you are speaking to youth or children. Some of you lead Sunday School or other Bible studies. Others of you lead worship. You can prepare the lesson from the book or prepare a Bible study. You can prepare to lead worship. However, there is something God wants to communicate through you using your preparation. This is why prayer and cooperating with the Spirit of God is so important. And that one word from God is what you want to communicate most of all to get God’s truth home into their heart. This is why you cannot prepare lazily or sloppily. My favorite times are when people come up to me after a message and say, “I was blessed by your point about…” and I tell them, “I never talked about that!” Then you know God was doing something in spite of you.
Notice also what he says about serving gifts: “as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” The word “supplies” or “provides” means lavish support, or an abundant supply of strength. It is God’s power you need to serve. God does not give you a gift and not enable you to carry out that gift in His power. Again, this is why prayer is so important before, during and after. Humble yourself before Him and allow Him to work through you.
g) God’s gifts are ultimately for God’s glory
Peter ends by saying the purpose or motive for doing any investment of ministry is for God’s glory: “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and forever. Amen.” All glory goes to God. He gave me this gift out of his grace. He gives me the strength to carry out my gift. It is His church I am serving and using my gifts for. I am His because He bought me and saved me. He gives me breath and life so I can use my gift. So nothing really should go to me. It should go to the source of all things, which is God.
So my investment in ministry is to make Him look good. His character being revealed further or His love being experienced deeper or His truth understood clearer, etc. It makes Him look good. When we use our gifts to the glory of God, people will leave saying not, “That was a great service!” or “That was a great sermon!” but “God is awesome!” Then you know you did not steal His glory, but was used of God to make His glory shine brighter and brighter. You will have decreased and He will have increased (John 3:30).
You may have heard of Dr. William Carey, great missionary pioneer to India. When he was on his deathbed, he was visited by a young man named Alexander Duff who greatly admired the famous missionary. After a long visit, Carey asked Duff to pray with him. Following the prayer, when Duff turned to leave, he heard Carey's feeble voice calling him back. "Mr. Duff," said Carey, "you have been speaking about 'Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey.' When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey. Speak about Dr. Carey's Savior."
When I’m gone, I hope people talk about how I loved and served Jesus Christ. I hope my wife and kids talk about that. What else is there that means anything? What are we doing with our lives? I want to be known as a man of prayer, who loved sacrificially and who served Him well, living to make Him look good and live in such a way so that people are left with how great a Savior we have. That will be a live well lived, ready for the return of our Savior.
Clowney, E. P. (180).
Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (168).
Versteeg, Bill. “Living Stones Theology: the Gift of Hospitality.” http://www.pbv.thunderbay.on.ca/NetSermons/1pet4ser.html accessed 24 September 2010.
As quoted in Versteeg, Bill. See footnote 14.
Barton, B. B. (118-119).
Mounce, R. (70).
MacDonald, Gordon at a Mastering Ministry Conference(January 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 5 quoted in www.preachingtoday.com accessed 28 September 2010.
MacArthur, J. (244).
Schreiner, T. R. (214).
 Wiersbe, Warren W. in his autobiography, “Be Myself.” Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 8 quoted in
www.preachingtoday.com accessed 28 September 2010.
MacArthur, J. (244).
Schreiner, T. R. (215).
Mounce, R. (72).
Shared by Lee Eclov from F. W. Boreham, "William Carey's Life Text," Wholesomewords.org , quoted in www.preachingtoday.com accessed 28 September 2010.