The Christians to whom Peter writes
are engaged in a furious spiritual battle.
They are being afflicted by the onslaughts of the enemy. In chapter one,
Peter describes what they are going through as fiery trials.
1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for
a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which
perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result
in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)
It is imperative that these suffering
Christians face their spiritual battles totally dependent upon the resources
of God. Peter writes, "So then, those who suffer according to God's
will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to
do good." (1 Peter 4:19 NIV)
In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown winds
up on the pitcher's mound, and with self confidence quotes Scripture: "Thou
shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the pestilence that
walketh in darkness..."
In the next frame, WHAM! the ball comes zooming
back from the batter, catapulting Charlie head over heels. Then in the
last frame we see him lying face down on the ground with stars dancing
around his head. He concludes, "But those line drives will kill you!"
Sometimes real living for God is not much
Developing the Mind of Christ
A believer living with the attitude
of the world toward sin is a powerful weapon in the hands of Satan.The
world seeks to make everyone conform to its way of thinking. (Romans 12:2)When
the world thinks someone is strange, it begins to pressure him or her to
live differently. Non-conformity is threatening. The world may shame us
back into our old way of thinking and living. The world seeks to desensitize
us to morality. The world seeks to get us accustom to sin. Instead of opposing
sin we end up getting used to it.
Peter encourages us to wage spiritual
battles armed with the mind of Christ. Peter writes, "Therefore,
since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same
attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human
desires, but rather for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV)
The key to winning spiritual battles
has to do with how well you arm yourselves before the battle begins.
Victory comes through developing sound strategies before battles transpire.
Jesus said, "Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.
Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand
men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is
not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way
off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does
not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:31-33 NIV)
Solomon wrote, "Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance."
(Proverbs 20:18 NIV)
The battles of life are fought and won
in our minds. Battles are won
as we develop the mind of Christ and speak the words of God. Our
attitudes are our weapons for Christian warfare. Weak or wrong attitudes
will lead to defeat.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action;
be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when
Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil
desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called
you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because
I am holy." (NIV)
Developing the mind of Christ enables
us to serve Christ with the strength God provides. Yielding
ourselves to Christ way of thinking develops a mind that is set against
sinning. It helps us overcome the sinful ways of living.
1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one
speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with
the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through
Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The physical wars of the Old Testament
reveal to us spiritual truths through earthly realities. They allow
us to view earthly struggles from heaven's vantage point. We find such
a battle in 2 Kings.
The king of Assyria came to wage battle against
Israel. The king of Assyria challenged king Hezekiah saying, "You say you
have strategy and military strength-- but you speak only empty words. On
whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?" (2 Kings 18:20 NIV)
Hezekiah had told his officials not to answer his enemy's threats. (2 Kings
Hezekiah sought the mind of God. Hezekiah
dared not speak until the Lord spoke to him. When Hezekiah heard the words
of his enemy "he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the
temple of the LORD." (2 Kings 19:1) He also sent his officials to ask the
prophet Isaiah for advice.
2 Kings 19:5-7
When King Hezekiah's officials came to Isaiah,
Isaiah said to them, "Tell your master, 'This is what the LORD says: Do
not be afraid of what you have heard--those words with which the underlings
of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such
a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to
his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.'" (NIV)
God's power for victory was discovered as
Hezekiah yielded himself to God.
Developing the Lifestyle of Christ
Peter was concerned about Christians
retreating into the world for safety in tough times. Tough times
may turn Christians back into seeking the old lifestyles they lived before
becoming a Christian. Peer pressure from the world may make retreating
appealing. Drawing the line in a new life will antagonize former friends.
They may find our new life in Christ strange and threatening.
1 Peter 4:1-5
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body,
arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered
in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest
of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of
God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose
to do-- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and
detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with
them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living
and the dead. (NIV)
The decisive line of demarcation between a
life to Christ and death to sin is drawn at baptism. Baptism marks our
union with Christ. (3:21)
1 Peter 3:20-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the
righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death
in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and
preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited
patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only
a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes
baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body
but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection
of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--
with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (NIV)
There are three major perspectives seen
in the act of baptism. There is the past, present and future. We
must live focused clearly on each perspective. First, baptism reminds us
of our death with Christ. Peter is calling on us to remember the past life
to motivate us to shun sin. Baptism reminds us that our death with Christ
was death to sin. That death we experienced at baptism reminds us that
we are through with sin. "For you have spent enough time in the past
doing what pagans choose to do-- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness,
orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry."
There are two ways to live. The way the pagan
lives or by the will of God. Those who have died with Christ will look
at the former lifestyle that swept them away with fear and revulsion. How
many times have you wished you could erase those wasted years from memory?
But you can't. But we now have a new life with Jesus Christ and Peter reminds
us that there is no turning back.
Second, baptism gives us a clear perspective
on the present. We have died to sin and are alive with Christ.
We are in the process of putting on the life of Christ. Paul said, "Put
on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard
to lusts." (Romans 13:14) In the present we must cling to what is good.
Our death to evil human desires naturally
brings suffering as we seek to die with Christ. However,
death to sin is proof that we live with Christ. Having died to sin makes
us alive to God. Dying to sin doesn’t mean that sin no longer presents
a problem for us. But once we have died to sin we have the liberty to seek
to live for Christ.
1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and
all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies,
crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NIV)
Third, baptism gives us hope for the future.
We must live the rest of our lives seeking to do the will of God. "As
a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human
desires, but rather for the will of God."
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that
we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from
the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The
death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives
to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God
in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so
that you obey its evil desires. (NIV)
The greatest challenge Christ has for
each of us is the call to die with him. When we refuse to give
way to sin we make a decisive choice to die with Jesus Christ. When we
make that decision, it is a decision to suffer with Christ. The decision
to suffer with Christ renders us dead to sin.
It is essential that we preserve our
sanity in tough times. Difficulties have a tendency to cloud our
thinking and judgement, which affect the way we live. When our thinking
is clouded, we may seek to work things out own our rather than seeking
Clear thinking allows us to see what is
important and what is unimportant. It allows us to look beyond the
instability of emotions as we plot a steady course to Christ. Steadfastness
is accomplished when we view our activities in light of eternity.
Developing Our Mind for Prayer
The suffering difficulties bring have
a tendency to alienate us from God. We begin thinking we are strange
because strange things are happening to us. Feeling like a stranger tends
to alienate us. Peter writes, "The end of all things is near. Therefore
be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." (1 Peter
4:7 NIV) Earlier Peter admonished husbands to live with their wife according
to the knowledge of God so their prayers would not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:7
Husbands, in the same way be considerate
as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker
partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing
will hinder your prayers. (NIV)
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual
fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful
in prayer. (NIV)
Prayer requires clear thinking and alertness.
Prayer is not a cold rational exercise.
No doubt Peter remembers when he slept in
the garden when Jesus charged him to pray. Peter knew something of the
agonizing prayer of Jesus Christ. Jesus kept a clear mind of what was required
of him as he prayed.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place
called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there
and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and
he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is
overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch
with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and
prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet
not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and
found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?"
he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." He went away a second time
and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken
away unless I drink it, may your will be done." When he came back, he again
found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and
went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then
he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping
and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into
the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (NIV)
Responding to a question about time spent
in prayer, George Mueller said that he prayed for hours every day, but
he went on to explain that he lived in the spirit of prayer. "I pray as
I walk, when I lie down, and when I rise," he said. "The answers are always
coming. Tens of thousands of times have my prayers been answered. The great
fault of the children of God is that they do not continue in prayer. They
do not go on praying. They do not persevere."
The continual awareness of God's presence
is not reserved for great prayer warriors like Mueller. All of us can have
this moment-by-moment fellowship. When we "live in the spirit of prayer,"
the lines of communication are always open.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give
thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Developing Our Minds for Relationships
Peter admonishes us to maintain loving
relationships in difficult times. The easiest thing to do when
difficulties come is to become anxious and irritable. When this happens
we have a tendency to take it out on those closest to us.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because
love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another
without grumbling. (NIV)
How we maintain relationships in difficult
times gauges the depth of our love for Christ. Living for Christ
is a community experience. It is the fervency of our love for one another
that binds us together as God's people. The love of Christ is enduring
because it is a deep love.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he
may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you,
being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all
the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of
Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be
filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able
to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power
that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ
Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)
Christian Love covers a multitude of
sins and prevents grumbling. We
do not love others if we grumble against them and find fault with them.
"Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." (Proverbs
10:12) Love stretches our abilities to overlook the wrongs of others. Our
love can forgive when it is willing to pay the price Christ paid for our
Christian love manifests itself in hospitality.
Hospitality manifest itself when we greet one another as well as when we
visit in one another's homes. The church also shows hospitality as we greet
our visitors. Hospitality opens a person's heart to be receptive to Christ.
Hospitality reveals itself in service
to others. Peters says that we
have received our abilities from God to serve others with them. Our abilities
are found as we endeavor to serve. It is in humble service that we discover
the abilities we have.
1 Peter 4:10-11
Each one should use whatever gift he has
received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various
forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words
of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be
the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
A wealthy woman was interviewing an applicant
for a job on her household staff.
"Do you know how to serve company?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am, either way," replied the young
"And what do you mean by `either way'."
"Why, so they will come back or so they won't."
We must become effective managers of God's
grace. When we serve out of our love for Christ we discover the strength
God provides for ministry. If God is to be glorified in service, it must
be a service enabled by his power. We must not only serve in the name of
Christ, but we must also serve with the spirit of Christ. When we serve
for the purpose of bringing praise to God through Jesus Christ, God empowers
us. It is easy to begin a work for Christ and then begin to take the glory
and honor for yourself.
Motivation for Persevering
We can rejoice when we participate in the
suffering of Christ. Keeping our minds clear requires knowing that
the glory of God rests upon us when we are insulted for the name of Christ.
This gives us reason to rejoice as we participate in the suffering of Christ.
1 Peter 4:12-14
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the
painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening
to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so
that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted
because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory
and of God rests on you. (NIV)
After enduring some heartbreaking experiences,
a missionary was asked by a friend how he could remain so cheerful through
adversity. He replied, "Suppose someone sent me on a journey and warned
me that I would come first to a dangerous crossing over a river and then
to a forest filled with wild beasts. I would feel a sense of satisfaction
when I actually encountered these obstacles, because they would prove to
me that I was traveling the right road. The same is true in the Christian
life. The Lord told His disciples that they could expect tribulation. When
difficulties come, therefore, I find encouragement, for I know I am walking
the narrow path of God's choosing."
We must remember that judgement begins
at the house of God. In the book of Revelation John reveals God's
judgement against an evil world. In John's revelation God's judgement began
with the seven churches in Asia. It began with the house of God.
1 Peter 4:16-19
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do
not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time
for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us,
what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
"If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly
and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should
commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)
In Africa there is a certain tribe that elects
a new king every seven years, but upon the installation of the new king,
the old one is killed.
During the seven years of his reign, the king
has absolute rule and enjoys every possible comfort and abundance in life.
One thing he cannot do, however, is to change the custom of the old king
being killed after his seven-year reign.
One would think there would not be very many
candidates wanting to become king. Nevertheless, there are always plenty.
There are those who prefer seven years of absolute rule with abundant enjoyment
of everything that life can offer in spite of the end that comes to it
all after seven years.
Although we are surprised at such a custom,
we too accept it. Without realizing that we are like those kings who want
temporary enjoyment of power and pleasure regardless of the tragic end
that comes at the conclusion of that period of time. We want to enjoy life
here and all that it can offer us without even thinking of what the end
of life will be.