Friday, March 23, 2018

A Lost Art

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

(1 Peter 4:9 ESV)

In our present age, it seems that hospitality has become a lost art. Perhaps this isn’t true of all cultures. But I believe it’s largely true here in the United States.

I remember the stories, told by older generations, of their visits to neighbors and family. These visits were often unannounced. Yet guests were always welcomed warmly. They’ve also told me of their preparations for company. Knowing that someone might stop by for a visit, they always made sure they had something ready to share.

This doesn’t happen anymore. We do welcome guests from time to time. But it’s more of a rarity these days.

Guests, today, are seen as an intrusion. They’re seen as an inconvenience. Unless we’re out and about, we prefer to remain in the privacy of our home.

This is especially true in the case of unannounced guests. We consider it rude of people to show up without making prior arrangements. It’s looked upon not as a blessing, but as an interruption.

As a pastor, I’ve been welcomed into many homes and people have been very gracious to me. And I’ve enjoyed these visits. However, I’ve experienced a level of hospitality that I find convicting as I’ve traveled overseas.

I’ve been welcomed by people who are very poor and who had little to share. Yet, despite their poverty, they’ve shared their best with me. And it wasn’t done in a grudging manner. It was sincere on their part. They felt honored to have a guest in their home.

I confess that I struggle in this area. I’m not as hospitable as I ought to be. I don’t often welcome people into my home. And when I have hosted people in my home, even if I put on a good display, I’m not as gracious as I should be. I sometimes grumble about the inconvenience. For this I need the Lord’s forgiveness.

Let us prayerfully consider how we can display hospitality to one another. Let us prayerfully consider how we can experience this fellowship with one another. As we see in the above passage, this is something we are called to do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Love is Blind

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

(1 Peter 4:8 ESV)

We’ve all heard the adage: “Love is blind.” What’s meant by this is that, when people are in love, they don’t see one another’s faults. It’s as if they’re blind to them.

People who’ve been married for some time often use this phrase as a form of ridicule. We laugh at those who’ve recently fallen into love believing them to be na├»ve. We laugh at young love knowing that both people in the relationship are overlooking the flaws in the object of their affection. We laugh knowing that, one day, those flaws will become apparent. We laugh knowing that they aren’t entering into the relationship logically.

We assume that, if they saw the flaws in their partner, they would likely rethink the relationship. We assume that, if they saw these flaws, they may even break off the relationship. We believe that, if they understood what they were getting into, they would end the relationship before it even began.

We’ll never find the perfect person with whom to enter into a relationship. Everyone with whom we fall in love is flawed. I’ve often told couples that, if they end their current relationship in favor of another, they will only trade ten problems for ten new problems. We’re all sinners, after all.

Yet, as much as we scoff at young love because it is blind, this is what Peter is calling us to in the above verse. He’s not addressing romantic love, in this passage, although his words can apply to it. He’s primarily addressing our relationships with one another.

He encourages us, as believers, to love one another earnestly. Our love for one another is to be sincere. It’s to be zealous. And we’re to love one another in this way because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Peter is saying that, if we love one another in this way, their sins will be hidden from our sight. We’ll be blind to them. If we love others, we won’t be intently searching out their flaws. If we love others, we’ll assume the best about them. And if we love others, rather than exposing their sin, we’ll do what we can to help them deal with it.

Hate does the exact opposite. It intentionally seeks out the sin in others. It assumes the worst about them. And it does so that it might make public their shortcomings.

As faithful as we believe ourselves to be, this is how we often live with each other. We live not in a spirit of love, but hate. We seek only to hide our sin while, at the same time, we expose the trespasses of others.

May we repent of this attitude. And may we live as Peter calls us. May we love one another earnestly. And may we do so knowing that, in this way, we’re covering over a host of sins.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Room to Grow

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more…”

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

It seems like, more often than not, the Christian life is one of conviction. As we spend time in the Word of God, we continually see our sin and our shortcomings. We’re continually driven to our knees in confession and repentance.

This is good. We must be willing to acknowledge our sins. We must be willing to receive correction. We must live a life of daily repentance. And we must trust in Christ, each day, for the forgiveness of our sins.

However, every once in a while, we discover that we’re doing something well. We find that we’re doing the very thing God has called us to do. We must then consider our response to this finding.

In talking to the Thessalonians, Paul notes something good happening in the life of the church. They were demonstrating brotherly love. And, for this reason, they didn’t need to have anyone write to them on this subject.  They didn’t need anyone to teach them.

They didn’t need this because they’d been taught by God himself. The Lord had so worked in their heart that they were demonstrating this brotherly love. And they were doing so not only among themselves, but among the churches in their region.

Seeing that they were doing well when it came to brotherly love, what encouragement did Paul give them? He told them to keep doing so more and more. Even though they were doing well, there was still room for growth. There were still ways in which they could better express this brotherly love.

The same principle is true for us, as well. Even when we are doing well, even when we are obeying the Lord’s leading, we must do so more and more. There is still room for us to grow. We can always find ways to do so in a greater capacity.

We can never come to the point of thinking that we have it all together. We can never come to the point where we believe there’s nothing more we can do. We can seek God’s continued work in our life that we might carry out his calling in greater and greater ways.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Out of Control

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” 
(1 Peter 4:7 ESV)

We like to think that we are in control of ourselves. We like to think that we maintain control of ourselves. But reality is often very different.

In reality, we are controlled by our sinful desires. We’re controlled by our lusts and passions. We allow them to dictate what we do and how we live.

Think, for a moment, of a drug addict. He has such a need for the high, he has such a desire for the high, that he’ll do anything to get it. He’ll do anything, no matter how immoral. He’ll steal. He’ll cheat. He'll commit acts of violence. He’ll sell his body.

In the same way, our passions drive us to feed them. And, for this reason, even if we think we’re in control of our actions, the opposite is typically true. We are out of control, allowing our desires to take the lead.

We tend to think that this is true only of non-believers. But this is often true of us as Christians. Even knowing the Word of God, we allow our sinful desires to control our life.

Peter, however, calls on us to be self-controlled and sober minded. We are to be in control of our actions, avoiding willful sin. We are not to let our sinful desires determine how we live. We are to fight them and choose, instead, to serve the Lord.

We’re to do this because the end of all things is at hand. As Christians, we live in expectation of Christ’s return. And, because of this, we must be prepared to meet him. We must not be living in unrepentance.

We’re also to do this for the sake of our prayers. When we are being controlled by our passions, it affects our prayer life. It hinders our prayers, because we’re so focused on our desires. It turns our attention from God to ourselves. And it also prevents us from praying rightly. Instead of praying for those things that will bring glory to the Lord, we pray for things that are self-serving in nature.

Let us, then, take an honest look at ourselves. Let’s see where we are out of control. And let’s confess this to the Lord, repenting of our sin. Let’s determine, instead, to live for the Lord and for his glory.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Living for Christ

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”
1 Peter 4:1-6 ESV

None of us naturally embrace suffering. Our tendency is to seek the easy path. Our tendency is to do anything and everything to either avoid or escape suffering. Yet, in the above passage, we’re called to do just that.

On the surface, this is a tricky passage. Peter’s focus has been on suffering for the sake of righteousness. And we must bear this in mind if we’re to understand his words.

Just as Christ suffered in the flesh, just as he suffered for the sake of righteousness, we’re to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking. This helps us to understand his next statement, which could be easily misinterpreted otherwise. He says that whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.

He’s not suggesting that, if you once had a toothache, you’re done with sin. Nor is he suggesting that, if we suffer for righteousness, we will be perfect and never again fall prey to temptation or the sinful nature. He’s saying that the one who is willing to resist the desires of the flesh, the one who is willing to suffer in service of the Lord, is living a life of repentance. He is living not for his sinful lusts, but to carry out the will of God.

This life of repentance and faith sets us apart from the world around us. The people of this world are surprised that we don’t behave as they do. They’re surprised that we don’t engage in sensualities, passions, drunkenness, idolatry, and the like, and they ridicule us for it. A life of repentance and faith invites persecution. It invites suffering.

That being said, Peter also reminds us that they will answer to God for their actions. God is the judge. And they must give account to him for the things they have done.

This is why the gospel is preached to those who are dead. He means, by this, not those who are physically dead, but those who are spiritually dead. It is preached to them that, even though they are judged, even though they are spiritually dead, they might live in the Spirit.

In other words, the condemnation they receive, because of their sin, draws them to Christ. As they see their guilt and the punishment they deserve, they are drawn to salvation. They are drawn to a life of suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Once again, if we’re to be freed from our bondage to sin, we must embrace suffering. We must be willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness. We must be willing to suffer that the gospel might go forth to those who are spiritually dead. If we’re willing to surrender our very life to the Lord, if we’re willing to endure everything for his sake, we have ceased to live for the flesh and are living, instead, for the Lord.