Sermons

September 6, 2020

Grace for Good to One Another and Glory to God

Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | 1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 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

Introduction: The Discipleship of Comfort

In this section on how we live as a new people, the apostle Peter has walked us through how to relate to all sorts of ugliness around us and inside of us. He’s called us to let the gospel free us from our own sin as we set our hope on Jesus and to let the gospel reorient our hope as exiles who are not yet home—but who have great hope because we know our sure inheritance in the presence of our King.

And as our hearts are reoriented around our steady hope, we keep ourselves from assimilating to, avoiding, or getting aggressive with the culture around us. Instead, we engage with humility and courage, seeking to fill the places we are with beauty. Why has Peter spent so long in this section? Why beat this drum over and over again? Kids, are there any things that your parents say over and over and over until you wonder why they say it? Well, it’s because they think it’s so important! They want to help you have joy or keep you from danger.

Peter knows that all of us have a self-protecting, self-serving natural tendency. He knows that all of us like to be comfortable. This is not new. There has never been a time where people have gotten excited about people misunderstanding them or maligning them. There has never been a time where people didn’t want to be happy, healthy, and comfortable. We all long for a perfect paradise—it’s built into our hearts. But if we don’t know Jesus and the gospel and the eternity to come, if we don’t know that our full joy can only be found in God, then we will necessarily feel the need to try to recreate that here on earth.

We will pin our hopes on our rights. We will pin our hopes on our jobs. We will pin our hopes on our families. We will pin our hopes on the right leaders getting elected if we are fortunate enough to live in a place where elections happen peacefully. I mean, this is what most commercials you’ll see are after—our little slice of heaven on earth in this life. And Peter is calling Christians to what is permanent instead of what is passing. That’s what this section has been about. How do we shine forth the beauty of Jesus as those born again to a living hope as a people who know they are not yet home?

Outline

Introduction: The Discipleship of Comfort

  1. Prayer in the Last Days (1 Peter 4:7)
  2. Priority of Love (1 Peter 4:8–10)
  3. Power of Love (1 Peter 4:10–11)
  4. Purpose of Love (1 Peter 4:11)

Application: The Discipleship of Christ

1) Prayer in the Last Days (1 Peter 4:7)

Paul has been talking to the church about how to relate to the world outside of them in a way that shows the beauty of Jesus. Well, today he’s going to zero in on what should be going on within the blood-bought family of God. First, he’s going to set the context for us again. Look at the beginning of verse 7:

The end of all things is at hand.

What does Peter mean when he says, “the end of all things is at hand”? When Jesus was on earth, the disciples couldn’t believe that he was going to die because they thought he was there to establish his kingdom and overthrow Rome. Well, they didn’t understand that it was only Part One. Jesus came to earth to pay for sins, and then in the sheer mercy of God, he filled a church with the Holy Spirit so that they could proclaim his name, more could be saved, and then he would return the same way he came to bring about a new heavens and new earth free of all sin and full of his presence.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”—Acts 1:8–11 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son .... After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.—Hebrews 1:1–3

So this is the category. We are living in the last days. All of Israel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah until he came. Now, we live in the last days: The days between the first coming of Jesus—his life, death, and resurrection—and the second coming of Christ, where he returns in power to make all things right! 

Do you see how this fits with Peter’s theme? In paraphrase, Peter is saying, “Church, you are living in a crucial time. You are living in these last days. We don’t know when he’ll return, but we know he will. We know he paid for our sins and rose again in power and until then we wait with patience and expectation for his return to make all things new. We don’t hope in this life to make all things new; we hope in Jesus!” So what does Peter call believers to do in light of living in the last days? 

Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.—1 Peter 4:7b

I don’t think these are two different commands, but rather a way to emphasize a state of being. Kids, it’s like if your parents say, “It’s time to settle down and be calm.” It’s just two words to say the same thing. We’ve seen the word for “sober-minded” before. It was in 1 Peter 1:13.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

It’s a call to have our minds remember the hope we have when Jesus will return. And that’s what Peter is doing here. Remember, Jesus is coming back. Don’t give in to hopelessness, fear, or sin in this life when you know your Savior is coming soon.

When we know people are coming over for dinner soon, we take steps to get ready. But so often we forget Jesus is returning and we don’t set our minds on that hope, and therefore we don’t take steps to get ready. Do our lives look like a people getting ready to meet their King? 

In light of the last days, Peter wants their hope fixed on the final victory of Christ. Why? For the sake of their prayers. Oh my. This hit me this week. He wants them to be a praying people. He wants them to be a people on their knees in expectation of the return of their Savior and therefore praying for the presence and power of God to come and advance his kingdom, guard their hearts, and help them spread his beauty.

But we can’t do that if we aren’t sober-minded. We can’t do that with distracted minds. I’m reading a book with my wife (slowly) called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. We live in the most distracted age ever. It’s always been an issue, but now technology has made it chronic. We are consumed with stories and facts at an alarming rate. And it’s worse in an election year. We are distracted, anxious, filled with wandering minds about an uncertain future.

Peter is writing to a church beginning to experience persecution—and in the midst of that crazy cultural unrest, what does he call them to? Prayer with a mind fixed on Jesus. What if that’s what God has been meaning to do in his church during this pandemic? How are you doing? Are you at rest in Jesus your Savior and fervent in prayer? Or are you distracted and on a fervent mission to save the world with your knowledge? At this point, no one is posting anything original or mind-blowing. Not really. So why are we running to it? Could it be that our hope is misplaced and our prayer life is missing? Step one of Peter’s call to the church to love each other is to live prayerfully in light of being in the last days as exiles who are not yet home. 

2) Priority of Love (1 Peter 4:8–10)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.1 Peter 4:8a

Let’s stop there. Above all? You’re living in the last days. The culture is against you. You have no lasting hope here, but you have eternal hope in Jesus. So, what’s our first priority, Peter? Win the culture back? Fight for our rights? What do we do? Above all. Love one another steadfastly. Just keep being relentless in your love for one another in the blood-bought family of God and that will show the world an otherworldly community of love.

Is this your “above all?” Is this your highest priority as you walk through the unsettling times? Oh, how we need to re-understand the church not as a buffet line set up for our choosing and comfort, but as an otherworldly, supernatural family of God meant for us to love each other earnestly and lay down our lives for each other sacrificially. And what I want to do quickly from this passage is to show how our love for each other reflects the love of Christ. The church is supposed to be a movie or a play on display for the world of a) the forgiveness of Christ, b) the welcome of Christ, and c) the servanthood of Christ.

First, the forgiveness of Christ. 

Since love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

The word here means “to conceal or cover.” Our love for one another covers a multitude of sins. This can’t mean that we can pay for each other’s sin. But we can model a kind of love that forgives. We can show the love of Christ so brightly when we forgive each other when we live in a cancel culture. The culture we live in says, “You get something wrong. You hurt me. You offend me. You make a mistake, and I’m done.”

In the blood-bought family, we remember we are blood-bought. We are amazed at our forgiveness. And therefore, we are transformed to be like Jesus to extend forgiveness. We can say, “You get something wrong. You hurt me. You offend me. You make a mistake—and I’m still here.” We show the love of Christ when we don’t keep a record of wrongs or try to get even or cancel them, but instead are eager for our fellowship not to be broken but to extend forgiveness.

Second, the welcome of Christ.

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.1 Peter 4:9

The word for hospitality means “welcoming strangers.” But here we called to do this with one another. I think Peter is saying, “you are all exiles and strangers in this land—welcome each other in the name of Christ.” And do it without grumbling. Why would you grumble? The inconvenience of it maybe. Or maybe if you had some sin or frustration with them. But that’s why Peter started with love covering sin. The goal is to get your heart to a place where you are eager to welcome other believers into your life. That’s what hospitality is: “I see you. You’re welcome in my life.” Christ loved us while we were yet sinners. Is there anyone in this church right now toward whom your heart is not welcoming, but instead grumbles against? We have a chance to display the love of Christ when we show the welcome of Christ from hearts that love our brothers and sisters and have allowed love to cover sin. 

Third, show the servanthood of Christ.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.1 Peter 4:10

Christ was the suffering servant who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. And here we are called to follow him in laying down our rights, counting others as more significant than ourselves, and serving one another in love. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Do you believe that?

The church is meant to display the love of Christ above all in these last days to show the world an otherworldly community of forgiveness, welcome, and servanthood. In a world that is full of cancel culture, polarization, and self-serving agendas to get whatever we want as soon as we can—you can imagine how a church could shine the beauty of the love of Christ.

3) Power of Love (1 Peter 4:10–11)

These last two will be short, but they are important to see. If you’re sitting there right now realizing your misplaced hope or your lack of love, then what is our hope that we can change and be this kind of Christ-radiating community? Well, we’re born again to a living hope and God will empower us to become who we are. Look at some phrases with me: 

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.1 Peter 4:10 

God gives us gifts. That’s from him. These gifts are a display of his “varied grace.” In other words, there is a diversity of grace and gifts given to the family of God. He gives the exact gifts to the exact people that need them in every place to accomplish his purpose. The grace is from God. The variation from God. The gifts from God. He is the source of our gifts and grace to love.

Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.1 Peter 4:11 

How do we serve and love and welcome and forgive? In the strength God supplies. He is the source of the gifts, the grace, and the strength to carry out our call to display his beauty. Don’t forget he is the one who empowers your love—which is why Peter calls believers to fix their hope on him and be devoted to prayer. This is what prayer is, asking God for the help he promises.

4) Purpose of Love (1 Peter 4:11)

You remember 2:11–12 that opened this section with a call to fight our own sin and then display the beauty of Jesus with deeds that point to it? Why were we to do it? That others may see our good deeds and glorify God. How does this section end as Peter speaks of our love within the family?

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 4:11

We speak and we serve by the empowerment of God. All of this hoping, praying, and loving as exiles happens only by the power and presence of God among us by his Spirit to make us a holy nation and a royal priesthood who proclaim his excellencies. Even if we grow in this and do it better and make a difference in this life for the sake of Christ—all the glory goes exactly where it belongs. To our God who has saved us and is sanctifying us by the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the end of all things: the glory of God. It all belongs to him. And he is empowering us to loosen our grip on the things of this world and live for his glory as the great call of our lives. To give back to him what already belongs to him.

As we give ourselves to prayer with eyes fixed on Jesus to empower us, as we speak words and show deeds of the forgiveness, welcome, and servanthood of Christ, and as the world sees a people so different from the cancelling, bitter, hopeless, and self-serving culture in which we live—God is glorified. And that is where glory belongs forever and ever. 

Application: The Discipleship of Christ

At the beginning we talked about a discipleship of comfort in this world. Love is not comfortable. Forgiveness is not comfortable. True, heartfelt welcome is not comfortable. Servanthood is not comfortable. It will cost us. But as people of the kingdom of God living between the first and second coming of the King, God is working to empower us to become a community of self-giving love. And that is why the Communion table helps us follow in the footsteps of Jesus as disciples of the cross, not comfort.

There is a reason that, historically, this has been a weekly meal in the church. We need this reminder! We need this fellowship with Christ. What is Communion? It is a family meal of love, where we fellowship together with Jesus and as his body, where we confess our sins, and where we remember that he came once and he’ll come again. And the Bible teaches us that we are called in this moment to look at our own hearts for sin and then think about if there are any broken relationships within the body—any lack of forgiveness or lack of welcome. It’s meant to remind us that we are living in the last days as a blood-bought family of the King.

We have an opportunity in these unsettling, angry times to be a settled, hopeful, thankful, and self-giving community of love that can only be explained if Jesus is real and the Holy Spirit is working. The Table reminds us of who we are and brings fellowship with Jesus and each other to become who we are. 

As we approach the Table, it brings us into fellowship with Christ and each other as a fresh application of his body broken for us and blood poured out for us to make us a family and to look forward together to the day when he’ll come again. We come to the Table as a family to fix our eyes on Jesus, to prayerfully ask for his help to break the power of sin, and to move toward each other and the world with radical love that will bring him glory. We come to remember that our hope is not in this life, but in the one to come. We come to declare that only he is worthy of all of our lives and of every breath, and therefore we long to declare together—by our obedience and love—that he is worthy. We long to display the beauty of our King among ourselves so that others would see our beautiful deeds and agree with us that our King is beautiful and give him all the glory that he deserves.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline

Introduction: The Discipleship of Comfort

  1. Prayer in the Last Days (1 Peter 4:7)
  2. Priority of Love (1 Peter 4:8–10)
  3. Power of Love (1 Peter 4:10–11)
  4. Purpose of Love (1 Peter 4:11)

Application: The Discipleship of Christ

Sermon Discussion Questions

  1. How is all of life discipleship? 
  2. What is one of the primary discipleship messages of the world? Are there ways you see that at work in your heart? Your actions? 
  3. What does it mean that the end of all things is at hand?
  4. Why does he bring up sober-mindedness and prayer in light of the end of all things? 
  5. How is your own thought life and prayer life doing right now? 
  6. Would say your top priority in heart and mind is earnestly loving your brothers and sisters in Christ as an overflow of love for God? 
  7. Where do we go to find the power to love? 
  8. What is the end goal of all Peters command? 
  9. How do these verses finish the section from 1 Peter 2:11–4:11? 
  10. What is one way you can press in to the gospel and love toward others from this text? 

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