Devotional Reading: Luke 16:10-13
Lesson Scripture: I Peter 4:1-11
Lesson Aims: To understand the significance of suffering; to realize that we must mimic Jesus’ life thus becoming holy; and to seek opportunities to serve for the glory of God.
Background: The first Christian persecutions began when Rome realized that Christianity was not a sect (subset) of Judaism. Being ostracized, victimized, and/or executed was synonymous with the faith. After all, how could one be “like Christ” without experiencing some of what He did? Jesus taught the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25-34.
The believers in the churches in Asia Minor were being persecuted by the neighbors, probably family, and the Roman government. Peter encouraged them to do the right thing in the face of trials and persecution, just as Jesus did. The “young believers” (new to the faith) began to realize how difficult right behavior was. The epistle was not only to encourage them but to testify that God’s grace was/is true! The apostle wanted them to recognize that suffering came with following Jesus, but so did holy living – being consecrated to God through sanctification. A holy lifestyle influences every life that it touches. Living a holy life also inspires action. After comforting them in their suffering (chapter 1), Peter gave practical applications for holiness (chapters 2-3).
Lesson: Chapter 4 opens with Peter connecting Christians’ suffering to Christ’s. He was triumphant as “the righteous dying for the unrighteous to bring them to God” (Echoes Adult Commentary). In their suffering for Him, they die to sin, breaking its power over their lives. UMI Direction re-words the latter part of verse 1 to read “Followers of Christ must put on the mind of Him in order not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”Believers must always remember that Jesus is the only example! Family and friends will think that they are strange and subsequently put them down. Peter tells them not to worry about their mocking critics for God will judge them. Christians, living or dead, will be measured by God’s standards. Only the Spirit empowers believers to live holy. He reminds the churches that all actions, thoughts and deeds reflect God’s grace. They are to love all, including their critics, be humble, hospitable and serve. The members of the body have to be sincere.
Application: If we could live perfectly, Jesus’ sacrifice would not have been necessary. Holiness is moving toward perfection. Our sin ends once we transition from this earthly life! Getting back to the subject, suffering for the sake of God/Jesus occurs when you stand for right, according to Scripture. That does not include losing everything because you didn’t pay your bills! We must recognize that standing for love and justice (God’s standards) has its consequences whether at home, on the job, at the ballot box, in the courtroom, and/or in government chambers – that’s what the Bible is talking about. Politicians, that means you too!
The Holy Spirit will empower those who stand. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy. Note, I said process. Every situation in life can make or break our faith. It is our choice and we must endure the fallout. The process doesn’t end until we transition from this life. What then did Jesus do? He served! Like Him, we too are to use our God-given gifts to help others in a nonjudgmental manner. Our Salvation was not solely for self, but for others as well. Service is our badge of distinction, not for personal praise but for His glory. My brothers and sisters, this is holy living!