Friday, May 17, 2013

Serving One Another

Scriptural Reading: 1 Peter 4:1-11
Devotional Reading: Luke 16:10-13

It is easier to serve God and our fellow believers when we remove our pride. We are not greater than Him. So we must remember love and humility are characteristics we must have in order to serve our Lord and one another. We must also have an anxious desire to serve. In the joyous psalm of praise, believers are to “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2 KJV) In writing to the Galatians the apostle Paul described the service of believers among each other at Gal 5:13-14, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (KJV)

There are countless ways to serve God. Serving God in the community is one of the many ways. Recently approximately eighty volunteers assisted the Habitat for Humanity St. Louis in a building blitz of five new homes for needy families. The homes are not forecast to be completed until October. Every May there is a Women Build Week. Prior to the week, thousands of dollars worth of brand new power tools were stolen from the Habitat for Humanity sites. The Home Depot store made a donation to replace the stolen tools. The women came to work anyway, meeting their goal and raising $12,500 for Habitat. Lowe’s will donate a $5,000 gift card since they met their goals. Habitat will use the gift card on additional tools. Their determination, along with the kindness of all donors for new tools, kept the hope alive. It was a loving service. The construction of these homes is not behind schedule.

The apostle Peter encourages scattered Gentile Christian communities that are experiencing persecution for their faith. Service for the Lord and serving one another, whether in the midst of a trial or not, gives glory and praise to God through Jesus Christ. This lesson is a study which focuses on the hope that Jesus inspires for those who are suffering. It is the third lesson of a four-part study under A Call to Holy Living.

Peter strongly argues against sin by comparing it with the sufferings of Christ at 1 Pe 4:1-2 “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” (KJV) Since Jesus suffered in the flesh to die to sin, believers must expect to follow Him by preparing our flesh to suffer. He died to destroy sin. The believers put on their armor (Eph 6:10-18) to be of the same mind. They put off the old man when they were baptized into Jesus Christ to put on the new man that they might not serve sin. (Rom 6:3-10 KJV) Suffering makes it more difficult to return to the old man. The lusts of man are not within the will of God. That would seem self-explanatory. James declared in his writing at Jam 1:13-14, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (KJV) Occasional temptations may occur, but only due to the corruptions of man. True believers make the will of God the rule of their lives rather than human desires.

Those old “friends” can’t understand the newness that has overcome the saints as Peter outlined in 1 Pe 4:3-4, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banqueting, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:” (KJV) The believers had spent a long time in their past life (old man) in sin (the will of the Gentiles). The apostle listed some of the sins they had regularly enjoyed before they decided to accept Christ as their Savior. Lasciviousness (sexual sin), drunkenness (excess of wine), revellings, and idolatry were specifically mentioned as works of the flesh by the apostle Paul in Gal 5:19-21 when he stated, “…they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (KJV) Peter specified the two additional past sins of lusts and banqueting. Lusts are the indulgence in strong irregular appetites and desires of all types. Rom 1:24 states, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves” (KJV) Banqueting is an assembling together for the purpose of drinking together; a wine feasting. The old “friends” do not understand that the result of sin is death. (Rom 6:23 KJV) Therefore, they used harsh reproachful language against them to injure their feelings.

To comfort the believers the apostle wrote at 1 Pet 4:5, “Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” (KJV) The old “friends” along with all unbelievers who remain in their life of sin shall have to give an account to God as to their behavior on Judgment day. The apostle Paul wrote at Rom 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (KJV)

Many of the first century Christian believers suffered as martyrs for their faith. The apostle addressed this at 1 Pe 4:6, “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (KJV) These saints had heard the gospel, believed, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. They had put off the old man of sin and put on the new man of Christ. The believers were dead to sin and alive in God through Christ. They were disrespected in many ways, to include torture and death, in the pagan world, but they shall live forever in eternity. The reason why many unbelievers shall be judged is due to their rejection of Christ and their behavior toward those who suffered martyrdom for the cause of Christianity.

The apostle excites the suffering saints to be focused at 1 Pe 4:7, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” (KJV) In stating “…the end of all things is at hand…”, Peter was giving encouragement during times of trials and persecution. It would cause the believers to lead a holy life no matter what the trial. However, it is unknown what the apostle exactly meant by the above-referenced phrase, other than to always be prepared by living a holy life. In preparation, we must constantly be sober (focused, serious, and thoughtful) and watchful unto prayer. Watch against all who sin and pray for God’s assistance. Who can help us but God? Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane to watch while He prayed to God. When He returned to the spot where they were on guard, He found they had fallen to sleep. He admonished them at Matt 26:40-41, “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (KJV) Peter remembered the ultimate lesson taught by the Master on that day.

Peter believing Christians must love each other in word and deed, strongly exhorted in 1 Pe 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (KJV) Saints must do all things with a love for and of God and for one another. It is an intense love that is able to forgive trespasses just as God forgave us our trespasses. (Matt 6:14 KJV) It is to the glory of God that there is strong, mutual affection among the brethren. “Let brotherly love continue.” (Heb 13:1 KJV) When there is hatred, jealously, and strife matters are worse. However, an intense love covers a multitude of sins. Sin is not excused or hidden by love. There will still be a Judgment. Love will cause the brethren to be blind to any imperfections of those whom they love. Believers are able to overlook the faults of brethren and help them go to the Lord for mercy. The believer(s) possesses a brotherly love that is willing to suffer for the salvation and transformation of their weaker brethren who are imprisoned by sin.

The apostle addressed the first century Christians to emphasize the importance of their active spiritual ministry of service at 1 Pe 4:9, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” (KJV) Many times during this pagan society, the Christians faced persecution, were driven from their home to other areas, food supplies were possibly low, some saints harboring the Christians would be arrested, imprisoned and, possibly, put to death. Peter exhorts the believers to be hospitable just as the apostle Paul did. (Heb 13:1-2; Rom 12:13 KJV) However, Peter goes one step further. Whenever a believer is hospitable, he should be cheerful, not grumbling. The person entertained should feel welcome out of love. Everything that has been received belongs to God, the Author of the plan of redemption. Surely believers can lovingly share or give what they have with others in need. Jesus said at Matt 25:40, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (KJV)

He emphatically declared that all Christians are able to serve one another in their active ministries when writing 1 Pe 4:10, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (KJV) Peter did not specify what type of gifts each man had received. He simply noted that not one believer, as a manager of God’s grace, had been left out of the gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit. The gifts are to minister one to another. One article on the web states, “Oh let me use the world, and my life in the world, as a steward of God. Whom can I benefit? Whom can I instruct? Whom can I help, or guide, or save? I ought constantly to be seeking my objects. If the love of God is in my heart, and I have a spiritual mind, and a true knowledge of my Savior, I may always be useful…I may not be appointed publicly to preach, but I am surely appointed in some way to make known the wonderful goodness and mercy of my God…” As you see, this unknown servant of the Lord was giving God all the glory. He was doing all he could to express a willingness to serve God through Christ. It was not self-serving as his/her name was unsigned to the article. As believers receive the gifts of God, they are to administer God’s grace to others as we serve the Lord and one another. The apostle Paul specified some of the types of spiritual gifts received by all believers at 1 Cor 12:4-11, 29-31; Rom 12:6-8 KJV)

Rather than supporting inactive, half-hearted ministries, Peter urged the believers to serve with distinction, serving with the strength God provides. He counseled the believers at 1 Pe 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (KJV) Whether a saint is a preacher or a teacher, he must make sure he speaks the true words of God as revealed. They can’t be simply idle words of the person’s or audience’s choosing. For such they will have to give an account to God at the time of Judgment. (Matt 12:36-37 KJV) Paul attested in writing at 1 Tim 2:7, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity." (KJV) Anyone who performs a service for the benefit of another should minister plentifully according to his ability. They should be humble in letting their light shine, while performing the service, and glorifying the Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16 KJV) In all things God will be praised through Jesus Christ. The goal of serving others is to bring glory to God.

Have you ever suffered for the sake of Christ? Are you actively involved in the gift given you to serve others or is your gift stagnant within you? Be consistent in your service. Don’t be a slacker. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15:58 KJV)

Written by Deborah C Davis

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