September, 2012

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People – Part 3

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV)

This is the third in a series on “Service and Stewardship for the Glory of God and the Good of All People.” Leadership books often talk about the 80-20 split. The 80-20 split means that on average 80% of the work to be done is accomplished by 20% of the people. And 80% of resources are consumed by 20% of the people (though these are rarely the same 20%). This typically holds true in the Church. But it shouldn’t be this way. This is not the way in which a church thrives…in fact, this is a recipe for church disaster. Peter’s encouragement to the persecuted church in Asia Minor called them (and us) to serve one another for the glory of God and the good of all people. This included everyone. Everyone was to serve one another; no exceptions. All had a part to play and all were called to play that part.

Verse 9 centers on the concept of hospitality. The Greek word for hospitality is formed from the Greek words for “brotherly love” and “strangers.” The Church has rich history showing hospitality to those who have been cast off by the world. Consider this quote from Emperor Julian, who ruthlessly persecuted the Christians in the 4th century:

“These impious Galileans [i.e. Christians] not only feed their own poor, but ours also…. Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity… Such practice is common among them, and causes a contempt for our gods.”

Sociologist Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity comments that during the deadly period of plagues in the 4th century the church saw significant growth because the hospitality of the Christians provided not just a doctrine to explain but a doctrine which “provided a prescription for action.” 1 The generosity of God the Father in sending God the Son to redeem a lost and helpless people is our example of showing hospitality. We should see it played out in our lives by showing hospitality to those who are lost and helpless in our communities. Keep in mind, during the 4th century it was the ones afflicted with the plague. Who are the ones in our society who are most neglected and ignored. Who are the ones we would be called to show hospitality to? Who is the most disadvantaged?

Peter continues by added that this is to be done without grumbling. No one wants to be served by someone who grumbles incessantly. There is a disconnect between the action and the attitude. This is off-putting to say the least. Hospitality with grumbling is no hospitality at all. In fact, the lack of hospitality is a sign in 3 John of people being outside of the truth. May each of us be empowered by the Spirit to show hospitality to those around us. May our body be 100% committed to serving and do so out of joy and thankfulness.

 

1 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton University Press, 1996), 82.

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People – Part 2

Love One Another

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV)

This is the second in a series on “Service to the Glory of God and the Good of All People.” Every week we are presented with a myriad of opportunities to serve, but often we lack the motivation or the desire to do anything about it. God’s Word has something important to say about our service.

The Book of 1 Peter was written to the Gentile Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) who were being persecuted for their faith. Peter encouraged the Christians to serve in the face of suffering. We don’t typically face this same level of persecution. But the admonition remains. How much more shall we look for opportunities to serve in our relative comfort?

Peter encourages Christians to serve through prayer. Then, he reminds them, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.” The phrase “Above all” lets us know the priority of the statement Peter is making. Often, we can be overwhelmed with all the “to-do’s” in life. Our to-do lists can sometimes run as long as the phone book. Prioritizing is necessary, and Peter helps us in this task. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.” When we’re making the list of all the things we’re supposed to be doing, love must sit above all at the top of that list.

What exactly does Peter mean by “keep loving one another earnestly”? Love is a nebulous term. I love my wife. I love my kids. I love the Vols. I love pizza. I love (fill in the blank). Each of those uses of the word “love” means something a little different. Peter is exhorting the Church to love one another earnestly. The term “earnestly” means to love with an intensity and perseverance. It isn’t an easy love, it is a costly love. It is a costly love that mirrors the sacrificial love Christ had for us. That is the kind of love that “covers as multitude of sins.” The apostle John echoes this idea, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother…cannot love God” (1 Jn 4:19-20). So, we are called to love one another with an intensity and perseverance just like Christ loved us. How well do you express your loving thoughts, words, and deeds to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Would your actions, words, and thoughts toward others be characterized by the word “love”? I know I have a lot of work to do in this area.

What would it look like if the people in your neighborhood, workplace, family, or other areas saw Christians loving each other with an intense and persistent love that manifested itself in sacrificial service? What would it look like for you to have a costly love for those around you? Dietrich Bonhoffer in The Cost of Discipleship commented that there is “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” Cheap grace is easy to come by but is ultimately worthless. Costly grace requires sacrifice. It requires your very life. But it does what cheap grace cannot. It offers life.

We can offer one another cheap grace and cheap love. We can go through the motions. Or we can make the sacrifice to offer one another costly love; real love. The results will be evident. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

 

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People

Service to the Glory of God and the Good of All People

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV)

 

The Apostle Peter wrote the letter of 1 Peter to Gentile Christians who were being persecuted in north-eastern Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). He exhorted the believers to bear their sufferings patiently, but not passively. He then calls them to fulfill the will of God actively in their service to one another. If we are to render service for the glory of God and the good of all men in times of suffering, how much more shall we in times of peace?

I want to take a few paragraphs each week to look at a different part of this passage to see what God’s Word teaches us about rendering service for the glory of God and the good of all men. We have many opportunities to serve in our church, but it is crucial that we know why we should serve. Service out of wrong or uninformed motives may have a short-term gain but will create long-term problems. We are called to be stewards of the grace God has given. All are, therefore, called to serve, but we must first check our own heart.

Peter’s first exhortation is to “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” The word used for “self-controlled” occurs 14 times in the New Testament. When Jesus healed a demon possessed man (Mk 5) the people heard and came to see. The man whom no one could chain was now “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind (same Greek word as “self-controlled”)” (Mk 5:15). This man now saw things clearly and is able to act sensibly. Paul uses this word in Romans 12:3, “do not think more highly of yourself, but think with sober judgment…” This is paralleled in 1 Peter 4:7 with being “sober-minded.” The term “sober-minded” in the New Testament always has a sense of knowing who God really is and what one is supposed to do about that. It is thinking and acting clearly. Having spent several years working with college students, I have seen the fuzzy logic and actions that result from a lack of sobriety. Many mornings are spent regretting the things done with less than sober judgment. But this is a bigger issue than freshmen, frat parties, and alcohol. Christians under the influence of their daily struggles and pressures are subject to a lack of sober-mindedness. When the stuff of life hits the fans, we are prone to making decisions that are out of God’s will and contrary to the leading of the Spirit.

Peter issued this exhortation to the believers in Asia Minor because they were dealing with extreme suffering and they longed for the time when all suffering would end. Peter cautioned them to remain clear-headed. Don’t become frantic. The temptation was to use the difficult circumstances as an excuse to circle the wagons and take care of self. In the face of persecution they were prone to revert to a “me-first” or a “I’ll get mine” mentality. Peter exhorts them, however, to remain in their right mind because they are still called to active service for the glory of God and the good of all men. And this service is accomplished in their prayers. Prayer…that might not have been what you thought was coming. The tendency in our “get it done” Western mindset is to think of active service as doing important stuff. Not that prayer isn’t important, but it’s…well, you know, prayer. But God knows what is really important. That’s why Peter says to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

How is your prayer life? It seems clear from this passage that our prayer life is directly linked to how clearly we see the Father. When the going gets tough, do your prayers revert to a “God help ME out!” or do you continue to serve others in your prayers? Our prayers are one of the most important ways that we serve. We need to think rightly about God so that we can pray effectively; not just for our needs, but for “Thy will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Sermon Audio – Revelation 2:12-17 – Inspect Your Dwelling Place

Sermon Audio from August 26, 2012

Preached by Rev. Donny Friederichsen

Inspect Your Dwelling Place – Rev 2:12-17

 

Sermon Audio – Revelation 2:18-29 – The Two Women of Thyatira

Sermon audio from September 2, 2012

Preached by Rev. Donny Friederichsen

The Two Women of Thyatira – Rev. 2:18-29