On the Team 4
Passage: 1 Peter 4:1–4:11
This is the final week of our sermon series “On the Team” in which we have looked at how you can find your place serving on God’s team in the church. Each week I have opened up regaling you with tales from my old playing days. But today you are spared. I’m not gonna talk about sports to start. Instead I want us to look back at where we’ve gone this series.
Shape this series has taken:
- God has been active and worked in our lives. We are offered a choice in how we respond to God. We saw Joshua call upon the Israelites to serve God and keep the law on the basis of what God had done for Israel. We serve God in the church as a response to what God through the church has done in our lives.
In the first week we talked about service being a response to the activity of God in our world in in our lives. God has given us live, God has given us love, God has given us a relationship with him and God has given us this church. As a response, out of gratitude, we are called to serve God. To serve the church. When we talk about being on the team what we mean is that we are invited by God to serve. This is not so much an obligation, but a gift that God gives us letting us participate in God’s work in the world and connecting us with God’s Holy Spirit.
- Jesus calls us to be a part of his mission in the world. That mission has the motto repent for the Kingdom of God is near, our goal is to witness to that Kingdom, and our task is to follow Jesus doing the things that Jesus did.
In the second week we talked about serving because its simply what Jesus calls us to. When God came into the world in Jesus Christ God came as one who serves. And the first thing Jesus did when it came time for him to get into the game was to assemble a team around him. This team would go on to serve doing the things Jesus does. They followed Jesus and Jesus’ invitation to them was to come and do the things he would do. And to continue doing them even after his death, resurrection, and ascention. Jesus invites us to follow too. When we serve we are engaging in the very activity of a disciple.
- As we respond to God through service and respond to Jesus’ call to follow him we mature as Christians through using the gifts that God has given us in service to the body of Christ which is the church.
Last week we talked about how the Christian life is not just about what we can get from God, namely salvation. The Christian life is also about how we can be actively healed in this life by God’s grace. The word for that is sanctification and the way that happens is Christian maturation. We mature in our faith. How we do that is by serving. By coming to see ourselves as part of this magical mystical body of Christ.
- Today we are going to look at what all this means for how we live our lives. I believe that serving in church isn’t just about meeting the church’s needs, it’s about your life, your discipleship, your family.
This morning we are going to look at a portion of the epistle First Peter. First Peter begins as being addressed to God’s chosen elect living in exile. The theme of the first chapter and a half of First Peter is living out our calling as God’s people, living different kinds of lives than those around us. When Peter writes that his letter to the holy exiles he is likely being somewhat metaphorical. Holy exiles, resident aliens is a phrase Peter will employ to talk about the kind of lives we are called to live as a part of God’s people living in the world. It’s a sign and signal that we are meant to be different, meant to live differently, meant to value different things as a sign of God’s presence in the world.
Much of 1 Peter is about acting, serving, how we live in the world. So when we talk about service this morning we are talking about what service here in the church means for how you live your life, what your life says to your children and your family, what it says to your neighbors and friends, how your actions witness to what you believe. And it is also about how living an alternative live based on an alternative story helps you live in sync with what God is doing in the world. And with that, let us turn to the Scripture before us.
1 Peter 4:1-11
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives 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 are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, 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. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so 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.
Peter begins this passage talking about his main theme: how to live as God’s people in the world. Living differently. Valuing different things. Christ suffered he says so we too should be willing to suffer. There’s a sense in which, Peter claims, that those who are willing to suffer have moved beyond those things that lead us to sin. There’s a lot that can be said about how Peter starts off this segment but for our purposes we will just keep with how its in line with Peter’s general themes. Those who are willing to suffer bodily, says Peter, are less concerned with earthly outcomes and are more focused on what God is doing in the world.
I remember what Martin Luther King Jr once said when preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan. He talked about how when the priest and the Levite walked by the man who lay dying in the ditch they passed him by because they were worried about what would happen to them. If they stopped to help the man would they too be beaten and robbed? They couldn’t risk their own safety so they walked by. When the Samaritan saw the man, King said his greatest concern was not what would happen to him if he helped, but what would happen to the hurting man if he didn’t stop to help. It’s that type of mind-set-shift that Peter is talking about here. There are people who care so much about their own lives that they are willing to go to any length to ensure their happiness. And there are people who are so concerned about what God wants in this world that they are willing to give their lives, their time, their checking account, their everything to ensuring that what God wants in this world happens. I’m honored that many people like that call this church their home.
Peter continues, “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 are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, 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.” A pastor I so greatly respect told a story one time about being recently married and being surprised at how much money his wife wanted to give to church. Yes a future pastor who was in seminary thought he and his wife should give less to church. But he told the story and he said that he had grown up in church whereas his wife hadn’t. When she came to Christ she knew what she was saying no to. And part of saying yes to Christ meant giving to the church at a certain level. The money isn’t the point of this story. The point is this: Peter reminds his audience that they have lived apart from Christ. You have spent time doing all these things and in the words of Dr Phil, you know how that worked out for you. You know what you’re saying no to. And the pastor’s story was so powerful because his wife was giving at this level he said because she knew what it was to live without Christ and she was willing to do anything it took to never have to live without Him again.
Friends we can build our lives on many different things. We can spend our time doing many different things. And what Peter is trying to hammer home to his audience is that if you believe that you have spent enough time basing your lives on things that don’t last, build your live on something that will. But doing that means making different choices. It means behaving differently. It means living differently.
We live in a world of immense tragedy and injustice. It has always been so. But more and more our awareness of the tragedy and injustice, our awareness of the danger and the threats is increasing. We are increasingly more aware that going to a movie theater can be dangerous. We are more aware that going to school can be dangerous. We are more aware that at any point natural disaster can strike us. And I don’t know about you, but in a world that is so shifty and ever changing I want something firm on which to build my life. I’ve had enough of placing my ultimate hopes in the powers and principalities of this world. I want to base my life on something that will outlast this world. This sort of transcendental thinking is what Peter turns to next.
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.
The earliest Christians believed that after Jesus ascended to heaven that he was going to come back very, very soon. In the early Epistles and in the Gospels we see warnings that not just is Jesus coming back one day, but that one day will be very soon. Paul even tells the Corinthians don’t bother getting married if you can help it because Jesus is coming back so soon that you can’t have your allegiances divided. Peter is saying here the end of things is near, be alert. Live differently because Jesus is coming and you don’t want him to catch you going back to your old life.
We don’t have that same urgency living 2,000 years after Christ’s ascension. Every now and again we get some leader claiming to know when Christ is coming back but for the most part most of us say we don’t know. What we do know, what we’re more painfully aware of now more than ever, is how quickly and suddenly our lives could end. A few weeks ago my mother in law was over at my house after watching our kids for the day. She had dinner with us and was helping us straighten up, being quite helpful. And she got a call from a friend in her neighborhood. A tree had fallen onto her next door neighbor’s house. The tree smashed through most of the house. Her neighbor had gone to her room to watch tv before falling asleep, something she did every night. The tree hit right where their bedroom was. She was crushed. It was a Monday night. My wife and I watched on the evening news as they reported from a home my children had played in.
We know that life is precious. We know that life is a gift. We know that we will not live forever and that we are not guaranteed more than the day we have. So the question becomes what are we going to do with the time we have? Are we going to base that time on things that will outlast us? Are we going to build on a rock?
What advice does Peter give to those who don’t have forever? He says,
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so 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.
What does Peter say we are to do if we wish to live lives as God’s chosen? How are we to live as resident aliens, citizens of heaven residing in the earth? How are we to build our lives on something lasting and worth living for? Love. Show hospitality. Serve as you have gifts.
We have been talking about getting on the team and serving the past four weeks. When it comes to serving in the church, when it comes to setting up our worship area, when it comes to setting up our hospitality area, volunteering with the children’s ministry, counting the morning offering you might ask why should I spend my time doing that other than the church needs me to. The church has needs and out of an obligation I’ll help out. I don’t want to sugarcoat it or be less than honest, setting up 80 chairs every week that have to get taken down sometimes is a drag. Hauling in and out all our gear is tough work each week. And I could give you stats like those who volunteer in their church also have more positive relationships with others in the church, feel more positive not only about their church but about their spiritual life, and other markers of positive things that come from volunteering. They exist and are good and are true, but it won’t make the work any easier.
I’m asking you to volunteer, I’m asking every one of you to get on a ministry team because I believe that what we do here in this church is the most important part of my life. And I believe it’s the most important part of yours. When we work, when we serve in the church we are claiming our citizenship in heaven. We are working towards something that will outlast all of us. We are partnering with God in building the Kingdom. We are building a life that is based on something truer than what we can find in this world. And we show the people around us, our families, our friends, what is ultimately important to us.
There is a flyer that has ministry teams, leaders, descriptions of their work, and what serving on them will require of you. Hopefully you’ve had some time to look at that. There’s a player card. I’m asking each of you, each and every one, to get on a team. To serve. To claim your citizenship in heaven. And to invest your time, your talents, your skills, your sweat into building something bigger than all of us. It’s time to get on the team, turning your card into the offering basket.