October, 2012

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People – Part 7

 

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 seventh and final in a series on “Service and Stewardship for the Glory of God and the Good of All People.” The original recipients of Peter’s letter were experiencing persecution on account of their faith in Jesus Christ. The typical responses in the face of persecution fall into the “fight or flight” categories. We either bow up or bow down. Peter’s admonishment is to take neither course of action. Instead he instructs believers to love those who persecute the church and work for the good of all people.

In the last half of verse 11 Peter gives us the reason for our speaking the oracles of God and our serving by the strength that God supplies. The reason is “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” The word “everything” should stand out prominently. This is a fairly exhaustive word. What is understood by “everything?” Well, everything. Think about nothing ( I realize this is an impossibility, but humor me for argument’s sake)…okay, anything else would fall under “everything.” The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Notice Paul and Peter are in total agreement; all things, whether spoken or acted, are to be done to the glory of Jesus Christ. This has profound implications on our life. There is no aspect of our daily life, not a single second, thought, or action, that is not covered by this. Everything in your life is to be done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Think about that for a second…let it really soak in. Talking with your kids. Meeting with friends. Changing the oil in your car. Reading the newspaper. Fixing dinner. Changing a diaper. Enjoying a nice dinner. Watching the Jets play (even without Tebow playing). Flirting with your spouse. Things behind closed doors and things in public. Everything. Everything is to be done in a manner that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

The implications of this on our lives are many. I’ll point out two. First, do something. If everything is to be done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ… DO SOMETHING! A failure to do anything is choosing to deny God (2 Tim 2:12). If Peter didn’t give that option to those suffering persecution, then we can assume that we in our comfort and affluence don’t have that option either. There are a myriad of ways in which to serve. Think about all the different things that could be done around the church or on a Sunday morning. Pick one. Do something. The reality is our church (like most churches or organizations) falls into an 80/20 split. Eighty percent of the responsibilities are going to be carried out by 20% of the people. And the converse is equally true, 20% of the people are going to consume 80% of the resources. Peter is calling the people of the church, those who have been purchased at great cost, to get off their duff (that’s a loose translation from the Greek) and do something! To quote the renown philosopher/theologian Hulk Hogan, “Whatcha gonna do?”

Second, everything we do should be done in a manner to glorify God through Jesus Christ. But not everything we do can be done in a manner to glorify God through Jesus Christ. There are words and deeds that simply cannot be done in a manner to glorify God. We cannot willfully enter into sin with a desire to glorify God. We cannot be part of actions which deny or minimize Christ. We cannot be party to anything that subverts the glory of the one true God for something else. This needs to be recalled the next time you hear a juicy nugget of gossip. Even if you call it a “prayer request for your friend” you can not sin and call it good. A call to service to the glory of God and good of all people is a personal call to holiness; holiness in every aspect of our lives.

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People – Part 6

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 sixth in a series on “Service to the Glory of God and the Good of All People.” The Apostle Peter is writing to Christians who are suffering extreme persecution. He is encouraging them in the face of this persecution to keep loving one another by serving. We serve to glorify God and to benefit all people. In the midst of difficult times (or any time for that matter), this is the manner in which God grows His Church.

The second half of verse 11 carries this admonishment; “whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength God supplies.” This instruction is paralleled with the previous instruction regarding speaking. Both are gifts to be used as a good steward in serving one another. The term “serving” can be pretty broad. What exactly did Peter have in mind when he penned this word? This particular word carries the connotation of service out of love which is a costly sacrificial service. This follows the model Jesus gives throughout the Gospels in which he turns the common notion of greatness and rank on its head. Our tendency (ever since the Garden in Genesis 3) has been to put ourselves and our own desires in the place of primacy. Our sin flows from a deep seated desire to be the first and greatest. To be a little more blunt, our sin flows from our desire to be God. The Son of God, however, came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (cf. Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:26). His service is a full and perfect sacrifice to his neighbor which results in life. And this example becomes Jesus’ command to his disciples (John 12:26). If you love me, do this. The simplicity is beautiful…if only we could submit to it.

This is the notion of service which Peter has in mind. But this isn’t something we can just conjure up. You are unable to grit your teeth and muscle out a service like this. Apart from God’s gift, your service in this manner will only be out of a desire to manipulate for self gratification. And we can be very clever and even fool ourselves with our “pure motives.” We are just that insidious. Apart from God’s grace we are unable to do anything good (cf. Rom. 7). We will do things for a temporal and earthly pleasure instead of for a heavenly reward. The scary part is that Jesus promises us that if that is our desire, that is what we will get (Matt 6:16). If you serve for the praise of man, then you may well get the praise of man…but that is it. You get no acknowledgement from God. If this verse doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then you underestimate your own pride.

Our service must be done by the strength which God supplies. The term for “supplies’ comes from a greek word used to describe a rich benefactor who would provide for a public chorus. It came to be understood as being extravagantly and abundantly resourced in order to execute a performance. The resources out of which you serve will determine who you are really serving. Serving in your own strength is only serving yourself.

How sacrificial and loving is your service? Are you willing to serve so long as you can fit it in? Second, out of whose resources are you serving? If we want to see our church have an impact in our lives, families, and community these questions are essential. These are the real heart matters with which we must grapple. These are issues that must ultimately drive us in humble dependence to the foot of the Cross and in complete reliance upon His power.

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People – Part 5

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 fifth in a series on “Stewardship and Service to the Glory of God and the Good of All People.” Everyone has been gifted to serve. God has given every believer some sort of gift with which to serve the Body of Christ. If God owns everything (Ps 24:1, 1 Chr 29:11, 12), then everything we have comes from God. And the things we receive from God are given to us as gifts. As image bearers of God, we reflect his image and his communicable characteristics. As we grow in our sanctification we begin to more and more show forth God’s image. We walk more and more in line with God’s will for our lives. Our growth and maturation as believers in Jesus Christ should, therefore, manifest itself in a growing generosity and stewardship of our gifts. This is biblical generosity and stewardship. Hoarding (spiritually or otherwise) is not allowed in God’s Kingdom (cf. Ezek 16:49…this will blow your mind).

Verse 10 lets us know that each of us have received a gift and that we are then called to use that gift for the benefit of others. Verse 11 begins to speak practically about how to do this by breaking the stewardship into two categories of gifts; speaking and serving. This article will address the speaking category, next we will look at the serving category.

How does Scripture talk about “speaking” gifts? Peter indicates that in using a “speaking” gift, one should do so as one speaks oracles of God. Does this mean that speaking gifts are a new form of revelation? Is Peter talking about a new form of prophecy? Absolutely not! Scripture is sufficient for all we need to know about life and godliness. The words we speak cannot and must not add anything to Scripture. So, what is an oracle of God and how does one speak it?

Paul and the author Hebrews describe the oracles of God as the basic fundamentals of the Christian faith. Romans 3 calls them the advantage of Jew. The oracles of God were advantageous to the Jew because they had been seeped in the history and tradition of the Old Testament, which, as Augustine claimed, is the “New Testament concealed.” Hebrews 5:12 calls the oracles of God the basic principles of the Christian life. In a nutshell, the oracles of God are the Scriptures. God revealing himself to us. God’s very Word to His People.

So how does one speak an oracle of God? Speaking an oracle of God is engaging in sanctified conversation in which grace and truth are uttered in love. It is seeking to turn conversations to things godly and excellent. It is teaching, exhorting, and evangelizing. It is speaking wisdom, knowledge, grace, and truth to others.

Peter is not calling believers to create a new revelation about God, but rather to speak the words which God has already given to the Church. We serve by speaking God’s Word to each other. We serve by being “prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).

If you take an honest evaluation of your conversations, how are you doing in this? Are your conversations sprinkled and seasoned with grace and truth. Often we have a natural proclivity toward either grace or truth. But conversations and words that skew too far one way or the other do not reflect the character and heart of God. The gift and the call of speaking as an oracle of God is misapplied and misused. We must seek to honor the LORD in our stewardship and service. We must seek to exercise our call to serve and use our gifts by speaking God’s Word to one another in grace and in truth.

Service and Stewardship to the Glory of God and the Good of All People – Part 4

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 fourth in a series on “Service to the Glory of God and the Good of All People.” The manner in which we serve and love those around us will determine the impact we have on our community and our world. It is not enough for us to simply show up at church on Sunday. We are called to be part of this body and serve one another.

The Sea of Galilee is a reservoir that collects all the fresh water from the surrounding areas. This water flows out at the south end of the sea into the Jordan River. This river flows south and empties into the Dead Sea. Do you know why the Dead Sea is dead? The salt content is so high in the water that nothing is able to live in it. It is so high that it is physically impossible for a person to sink in the water. If you try to swim in the Dead Sea, you just float on the surface. Why is this body of water so salty? Why is this place completely inhospitable to life? It is because there is no outlet for the water. All the minerals from the north flow into the Sea of Galilee, down the Jordan River and into the Dead Sea. These minerals have no outlet to the sea, so as the water evaporates all these minerals are left in the Dead Sea. It only becomes saltier and saltier. The Dead Sea constantly takes and takes and never gives. It only becomes more inhospitable. The same is true in the life of the Christian. If you only take and never give, your life will become more and more inhospitable until your life of faith is dead. Consumers of theology will only create environments of death. If we only sit in our seats and consume Scripture, doctrine, and theology for our own purposes, then we will only produce a body that is inhospitable to life.

Peter calls us in this passage to use the gifts we have received “to serve one another.” Verse 10 shows us that every person has received a gift. There isn’t a single Christian who does not have a gift with which to serve. In fact, Paul writes, “what do you have that you didn’t receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). There isn’t anything you have that wasn’t a gift. You don’t own a single thing that wasn’t given to you. You may think that your hard work and effort produced your possessions, but they didn’t. God is source of all that you have and it is by his grace and mercy that you possess anything. Thankfully, God is extremely generous with his gifts. God has uniquely gifted each one of us…but he has done this for a purpose. Your gifting is not for your sole benefit. Gift and stewardship are intrinsically linked. God loved us so He gave to us. We are made in the image of God, so we reflect God’s goodness when we love others and give of our gifts to others. Being a “good steward of God’s varied grace” is just that simple. William Harrell writes, “we are to recognize that we have received a rich, divine supply to be used for the blessing of others in the body of Christ.”