Display a “Map of Ardmore”.
1. Where do you live?
We all live in various communities within the larger community.
2. Other than the community in which you live what are some other communities to which we are connected? (family, work, friends, church, civic organizations, social media communities)
Technology allows us to stay in touch with others while absent from them. Ironically, technology that was intended to increase interaction has resulted in personal isolation. We choose to tweet instead of meet, text rather than talk, resulting in a loss of fellowship that face-to-face communication can create. The trend toward isolationism also has affected church life.
Peter emphasized the importance of being actively involved in a local church. These verses emphasize the importance of believers living in genuine community, obeying God’s will, loving and supporting one another, and using their gifts to serve one another. Many of them were being persecuted, so they desperately needed each other. Peter wrote to encourage his readers then and us today to remain faithful, “stay the course,” in spite of the difficulties we face. He reminds us to remember that a better day is coming. The passing of years since Jesus’ death and resurrection should not lull Christians into complacently thinking Jesus will not return. We are on a countdown to the return of Christ, and he encourages believers to be serious and disciplined.
Living for God! Read 1 Pet. 4:1-4
1. Since Jesus suffered on our behalf while He was here on earth, with what are we to equip ourselves? (the same resolve He had—He kept His focus on honoring the Father, being obedient to the Father’s will, and determined to accomplish His mission, see Heb. 12:2; John 6:38)
Jesus kept his focus on the victory and the joy that awaited Him. He came to do the will of the Father, and He let nothing interfere with that resolve.
2. Who is the “one who has finished with sin?” (Taken in context with the rest of the verses, it is referring to believers. That does not mean that we have attained sinless perfection, but that sin no longer characterizes our lives, see Gal. 2:20.)
3. What characterized their lives before coming to Christ? (chasing after their own desires, unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, lawless idolatry)
Peter said you have already wasted enough time doing these unholy things.
4. What happened when their old unbelieving friends tried to get them to join in their sinful perversions? (Christians were slandered, which probably included ridicule, false accusations, and persecution.)
5. Do you have friends, family, coworkers, or acquaintances who think you are odd because you won’t join them in sinful activities or because you spend so much time in church activities?
6. How do you respond? Does knowing the source of persecution help a person more readily endure it?
We should continue to befriend them without going along with their sinful activities. Treat them kindly and respectfully. Let them see the joy you have found in your new relationship with Jesus. Try to help them understand that your desire is to obey the One who loved you so much, He gave His life for you.
Answering for the Gospel! Read 1 Pet. 4:5-6
Peter gave us a strong motivation for living to please God.
1. What is that motivation in verse 5? (Everyone will stand before God and give an account for the way they have lived. See Rom. 14:11-12; 2 Cor. 5:10)
2. How does God’s holding everyone accountable serve as motivation for enduring persecution and remaining faithful?
Peter gives another word of encouragement in verse 6. In the fleshly realm, people pronounce judgment on Christians. They insult and scorn them for not joining in their ungodly behavior, but God gives believers the victory.
In verse 6, the preaching to the dead are believers who heard the gospel, accepted it, and have since died.
3. What is the promise at the end of verse 6?
God has empowered His followers to live by His power. He has given them the desire to live by His standards and to reject the selfish pursuits of the world. Though outwardly it may appear the persecutors are winning, the truth is that believers have more power and authority than the ones mistreating them. We live by His power in suffering, and after death we continue to live by His power in the spiritual realm.
Redeem the Time! Read 1 Pet. 4:7-11
1. Since this life is temporary, and we do not know when it will end, whether by death or Christ’s return, how are we to live?
- Serious and disciplined for prayer. We are to arm ourselves with fervent and devoted prayer.
- We are to have intense love for one another. Our love for others is to take priority over all the other things he mentions here. Why is love for others so important? (Genuine love causes us to forgive over and over again those who wish to persecute us.)
- Be hospitable. This is a specific way we can show love. Be open and welcoming, willing to serve others, and do it without complaining and grumbling.
- Use your spiritual gifts to serve others.
2. Who has received a spiritual gift from God? (every believer)
3. How is each gift supposed to be used? (to serve others and to glorify God)
God has given every believer one or more spiritual gifts to be used in serving others. We are to be good managers or stewards of the gifts He has graciously given us because God will hold us accountable for the way we have used those gifts.
4. On a scale of 1-10, how important is it to know what your gift is?
If you haven’t figured that out yet, I encourage you to spend some serious disciplined prayer in finding out what your gift is, because, once again, God is going to hold us accountable for the way we used the gifts He has given us.
The gifts are varied and Peter mentions two broad categories of gifts. (Rom. 12: 6-8 and 1 Cor. 12:4-11 mention more spiritual gifts.)
5. What gifts does Peter mention? (speaking and serving)
6. What would be some examples of speaking gifts? (preaching, teaching, encouraging)
Whatever is preached, taught, or spoken must be in line with God’s Words.
7. What would be some examples of serving gifts? (All the things it takes to keep a congregation running smoothly; administration, showing acts of mercy, giving, hospitality.)
8. What is the purpose of our gifts? (bring glory to God through Jesus) In other words, our existence and all that we do is so that God will be praised.
9. Where do we get the strength and the ability to use our spiritual gifts for His glory? (God provides the strength and power we need in exercising our gifts, v. 11)
In God’s kingdom, it isn’t about how much ability you have or what gift you have, but your availability to be used by the Spirit of God to bless other’s lives and further God’s Kingdom.
10.How do you know when you are serving from the strength God provides and not your own? (It becomes clear when you are doing something that’s not possible through your own strength. If you are drained by your service to God, you are probably serving in your own power or in the wrong area. If you are energized through your service to God, even when your body may be physically exhausted, you are serving in and through God’s power.)
11.Reflect on the four duties of end-time living: prayer, love, hospitality, and use of spiritual gifts. Which one are you the strongest in expressing? The weakest?
Summarize and Challenge!
Peter knew that living for God can be incredibly difficult in a sinful world. That’s why we need other believers to walk along beside us. We need the regularly support and encouragement that comes from being connected with the body of Christ, His church, a community of believers.
1. Who around you needs to experience the love of Christ?
2. Who do you know who needs a special word of encouragement, act of service, or just an expression of love? Consider some ways you can minister to them this week.
When we are ridiculed for our faith, a heavenly focus will help us keep our eyes on the proper place—obeying God and serving others.
Let’s live our lives focused on the glory of heaven and in great anticipation of seeing our Savior face to face!.