life with CHRIST

For those who are following along with our summer Bible study of 1&2 Peter, here is a recap of our conversation about lesson 7 . . .

TODAY’S DISCUSSION – 1 Peter 4:1-11

This week’s study was entitled “Good Managers of GOD’s Bounty,” and walked us through detailed pictures of life with and without Christ.  It was interesting to ponder Peter’s challenge to pause and consider our role as “stewards or trustees of GOD’s grace” as well as His gifts to each of us individually.

Without Christ, we could only know GOD as Judge.  He knows every heart, examines every secret motive.  Though right and wrong may seem muddied in our world, true justice will eventually prevail.  All will one day answer to the Almighty.  Apart from Christ, whatever we might hold out to GOD as an offering of redemptive value from our lives will disintegrate to dust when tried by fire.  We will have nothing on which to stand.  How sobering.  BUT GOD…

Because of Christ, we are set free from the penalty of our sin.  We are offered a firm foundation, the Rock of Christ, on which to stand – and He will stand forever!  His Spirit now lives and works in us, “giving us the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippian 2:13).  As believers, when our efforts are presented to Him in the final judgement, there will be pure elements that survive the fire when the rest falls away.  These are the works of His Spirit through us, for which we will be rewarded.  In glory, fully transformed into the image of the Son, we will joyfully offer any rewards back to GOD in humble worship!  In the meantime, we are adopted into the family of GOD and now know Him as a loving Father who extravagantly showers us with abundant blessings.

It was interesting to pause in our conversation to notice one key difference in life with or without Christ.  As much as believers do “not sorrow as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13), our celebrations look different as well.  Rather than a self-focus of indulgent pleasure or even evil thoughts and actions, those who love and follow Christ “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!” (1 Peter 1:8)  The more we know of the heart of GOD, we hunger to know even more.  The more we recognize His wondrous hand in creation, in the circumstances of our lives, in shifting our own hearts, the more we stand in awe of who He is and the graciousness with which He welcomes us to hold a unique place in His story.  The deeper our understanding grows of our secure place in His care, the more confidently we can rest in true, inexplicable peace!  We are less likely to sweat the small stuff, but can also more steadily weather the big stuff too!

Recognizing that his audience is still enduring a heavy dose of that “big stuff” – suffering persecution and recognizing the coming “end of all things” – Peter again offers perspective and encouragement to those facing various trials.  He reminds us again that we will follow in Christ’s footsteps.  Just as He suffered, we will also.  But we can adopt the mind of Christ, being ready and anxious to do the will of GOD. 

Part of that willingness will come from recognizing the positive outcomes of suffering.  This lesson helped us to gather a list of those results from Romans, James, and the beginning of 1 Peter: endurance, strength of character, confident expectation in GOD’s redeeming work, hope that doesn’t disappoint us, hearts filled with His love, the testing of our faith that allows us to know with assurance that it is strong and pure, and the opportunity to offer praise, glory, and honor when JESUS is revealed to the world.  As Christ did, we can fix our gaze on the glory to come, and demonstrate a reality that seems opposite of the difficulties we are facing.  Rather than walking in defeat, we can genuinely rejoice in the Father’s care and transforming work in our lives.

Peter finishes this section of chapter 4 with the mention of two other thoughts: how spiritual gifts and the power of love can serve us individually and collectively as the body of Christ.  The gifts and abilities each of us possess are from GOD, to be used to benefit others.  He is the One who equips us to do any good work.  He is the One who knows how each of those gifts fits perfectly together with our personalities AND with the gifts and talents others in our families or local church bodies bring to the table.  When struggles come, we can ask Him who He has especially equipped to rise to the challenge at hand, or how He has specifically enabled each of us to step forward and offer what no one else may be able to contribute. 

Peter highlights two gifts that are particularly needed – at every turn!  We will always need clear teaching of GOD’s truth, and compassion and care from those who serve.  Our minds and hearts will always need careful attention!  Peter is also faithful to remind us that LOVE is key in all of these relationships.  Trials and pressure can bring about friction, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings.  He urges us to interact with one another from a place of love, genuine effort to understand someone else’s perspective in a spirit of grace and forgiveness.  As Proverbs 10:12 reminds us, hatred stirs us quarrels, but LOVE covers all offenses (love leaves space for mutual understanding and forgiveness to pave the way toward healing and reconciliation, while hatred and retaliation bring further brokenness and pain).

To sum up the overall themes from this lesson, Peter offers a more succinct charge in verses 7-11: “be earnest and disciplined in prayer, demonstrate deep love for one another, extend cheerful hospitality, manage spiritual gifts well, and show GOD’s generosity with the strength and energy GOD supplies.” 

We concluded as a group today that prayer is our biggest challenge, especially when answers are slow in coming and the world around us seems to spin out of control.  But … when we can come into His presence, lean into His embrace, saturate our minds and hearts with His truth, and rest in His plan, He will enable us to find the steady, faithful path He has planned for us.  From that place, we can reach out to others around us, welcoming them to enjoy that same eternally unchanging reality.  His promises are sure, His provisions to us always offer enough to share, and His arms are always open to anyone who chooses to trust Him!

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