Think back to when you were twelve years old. What was life like for you then? Was that an easy time of life for you, or was that season of life more on the awkward side? I know for me personally, that was a challenging year of my life. I was in a new school. I was trying to figure out who I was and how I wanted to carry myself when I interacted with others. I was easily impressionable and many of my personal influences were not very good. The things I valued were, for the most part, unhealthy.
Over the next few years, things changed. The context that I lived in didn't change, but the people and the values that I allowed to influence me did. By God's grace, He put people in my life that had the desire to honor Him. Some of my greatest influences during the second half of my teen years were people who were just a few years older than me and they blessed me with a highly visible picture of what it meant to trust in and follow Christ.
During that season, I remember drawing a line in my life. I had an extremely strong desire to no longer live according to the faithless, worldly mindset I had welcomed into my life for far too long. I wanted to move beyond that manner of living and experience what it meant to be a fully devoted follower of Christ because I became convinced that that's exactly what God wanted for me.
And when we look at the content of 1 Peter 4:1-6, we can see that that's exactly what the Lord desires for all of us. He invites us to draw a line in our lives and to move forward as His family, instead of drifting backward into the mess He rescued us out of. So how can that be done?
Imagine attending a church worship service and never hearing the message of the gospel taught or proclaimed. Sadly, there are many contexts where that has been an issue historically, and it's also a concern in some contexts during present day. It can be a little too easy for us to lose sight of who Jesus really is and what He has chosen to accomplish on our behalf.
When we read the Scriptures, sometimes we have the benefit of learning something new. Other times, we have the benefit of being reminded of something we already know that we haven't necessarily thought about in a while. The portion of Scripture that we're about to look at probably incorporates both benefits. As we think about its content, some Christians will learn something new while others will be reminded of things they haven't thought about in a while.
What would our lives be like without Jesus? What kind of future would we be currently looking forward to if He hadn't intervened on our behalf? Sometimes, it can be far too easy for us to become complacent in our understanding of what He has accomplished on our behalf. We're so used to the benefits He brings to our lives that we don't consider the kind of mess we'd be in without Him.
This portion of Scripture helps us gain a better glimpse of some of the obvious and some of the behind-the-scenes things Jesus accomplished for us. The work He has done on our behalf is of far greater significance and far greater effect than we often realize.
Do you consider yourself easy to intimidate or not easy to intimidate? Are there certain personality types that produce a certain level of fear within you when you encounter them? Are there people in your life that you care a little too much about their opinion than you really should?
One of the most common fears we face on a regular basis is the "fear of man." Sometimes, we're afraid of what people might say about us, think about us, or do to us. I have also learned that those who try their best to convince me that this isn't something they struggle with, are also wrestling with this kind of battle (often on a deeper level than they're willing to admit).
Truthfully, it isn't hard to see why people become fearful of other people. In this world, who has hurt you the most... rabid dogs, great white sharks, poisonous snakes, or other people? We all have the same answer to that question. Other people may have slandered us, caused us physical or emotional pain, and may have intentionally conveyed a stand-off attitude toward us that keeps us at a distance.
Because of what we've experienced in the past, it's reasonable to be concerned about what people might have the potential to do to us in the future. That's certainly something the early church that Peter wrote his letters to would have been wrestling with as they experienced persecution, suffering, and disdain in their culture. But becoming overly fearful of other people isn't Christ's desire for His church.
So, if we've been wrestling with the fear of other people, what kind of counsel do we find in God's word to help us overcome that struggle?
We have been designed by God to grow mature. Just a quick glance around creation illustrates that. We see that in His design for humanity. We see that in His design for plant life. We see that in His design for animals. In the natural realm, the Lord has designed us to progress from infancy to maturity.
In the spiritual sense, this is also true. When we first come to Christ, we operate like infants. Everything is new to us. We begin the process of learning the Scriptures. We practice the process of walking by faith in Christ. We are strengthened by Him in the midst of trials and adversity. And by His grace, we have the privilege to grow spiritually mature.
One of the shocking realities that occurred to me when I was a new believer was the fact that many professing Christians don't place a high value on their spiritual maturity. It isn't one of their major priorities, nor is it a priority they attempt to model to their children. As a result, it feels like something is missing. Young believers aren't benefiting from the example of older believers and older believers aren't experiencing the joy of helping younger believers learn how to walk with Christ.
Thankfully, God's word gives us a picture of what spiritual maturity really looks like. Whether you feel like you've been blessed with great examples in your life to copy or not, we can all look to this section of 1 Peter 3 to find the picture and the pattern we're being invited to adopt as our own.
Few things in this world are as joyful, dangerous, unpredictable, and emotionally challenging as getting married. Biblically speaking, marriage isn't a contract, it's a covenant. It's a permanent pledge before God. When you make the choice to marry someone, you take the risk to entrust many aspects of your well-being to their care or provision. You also make the pledge to love them unconditionally and care for them in every high and low moment that comes your way over the course of your life, for decades and decades.
Marriage isn't easy, but few things of lasting value ever are. What does Scripture tell us about how God has called us to honor and respect our spouses?
There are certain aspects of the Christian faith that are quite different from some of the more common cultural expectations. One of the big differences is the attitude or the heart that we're encouraged in Scripture to convey. Some aspects of our culture seem to value dominance and control, but God's word encourages us to value cultivating the heart of a servant.
Servanthood is easier to value in theory than it is in practice. Many times I have heard it said that, "Servanthood sounds great, right up to the point when someone actually treats you like a servant." I know for me, this has been a lesson that the Lord has chosen to drive home to my heart quite a few times. When I was directing the Pocono Mountain Bible Conference, this was a lesson I had to re-learn every week when I took off my director's hat and helped wash dishes for retreats and mop cabins after they were used.
Is this a lesson you can sense the Lord trying to teach you as well? What has He been teaching you about the value of servanthood? Has Christ given you the heart of a servant? If so, how is a servant called to live, even in the midst of a world that doesn't always esteem servanthood?
As a Dad, it has been fascinating to me to watch my children grow up. I probably annoy them a little because I tend to take a lot of pictures, but it amazes me to watch how quickly they have changed and how drastically different they seem when I look at pictures or videos I took just a few short years ago. They're growing bigger, stronger, and more mature.
Regardless of our age, every one of us is a work in progress. As God's children, there are things that the Lord has already done for us, as well as things that He continues to do for us. He is building us and strengthening us. He is facilitating maturity in our lives. What do you suppose He wants His finished product to look like? Who is the Lord building us to be?
Everyone has a past. Each of us can recall aspects of our life experiences that have taught us lessons, brought us pain, or caused us to feel embarrassed. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were given the opportunity to go back in time and live your life over?
The good news is that in Christ, we have been made a new creation and a line has been drawn with our past. Through Him, we aren't who we used to be. We have been granted a new name and an identity that isn't anchored in our mistakes, failures, embarrassments, or old nature. Still, sometimes we struggle with issues from our past that resurface again in our present. What kind of line is Christ inviting us to draw with our past? How is the Holy Spirit empowering us to live, no longer for ourselves, but for Christ in the present?
How good is your memory? Sometimes my family teases me because of the random information or dates that stick in my mind, (so I try to use that information against them when we're playing Jeopardy.) But does it ever amaze you to consider the depth of the information God is capable of retaining? He knows every detail about everything that has ever happened. And in addition to that, He knows every detail about everything that ever will happen in the future. It's impossible for me to wrap my mind around that.
At the same time, He's been gradually working out the details of His plan to bring His gift of salvation to all who will trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has the seasons under His control, does everything He does on purpose, and is working all things together for good, for those who love Him.
At present, He knows every single detail about your life. He knows the exact number of breaths you'll take on this earth. He knows how many molecules are in your body. He knows the people you'll be meeting, the trials you'll be enduring, the joy you'll be experiencing, and the ways in which He will make great use of your life. Nothing escapes His sight.
He's up to all of this, and more, right now. Does His activity arouse our curiosity? Do we want to know more about what He's doing? Are we interested in looking into what He plans to do next?
Scripture tells us about people who were intensely curious about what God is doing. What do you suppose He might want us to learn from their example and experience?
One of the biggest mistakes we can make during the course of our earthly lives is to allow ourselves to become convinced that our lives are meant to be free from adversity or trials. When we mistakenly allow ourselves to believe that, we can become bitter and disillusioned. That perspective influences us to forget about the joy we're invited to enjoy in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. It also has the effect of making us critical, unhappy, and generally unpleasant to be around.
Years ago I attempted to befriend a man who had experienced some major trials in his life. We would grab lunch once a month, or so, and inevitably we would chat. Unfortunately, it became clear to me that the only thing he ever seemed to think about or talk about was an unexpected trial he had endured. Sadly, he was also unwilling to move beyond it. He was mad at God, mad at people, and couldn't see any potential benefit that could ever possibly come from his trial.
What about us? What is the dominant perspective that governs our lives? Do we trust in Christ and believe that He is ultimately in control? In the midst of our adversity are we able to look forward or are our eyes stuck looking downward? What counsel does God's word give us as we seek to navigate these things?