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Live Different: Live to Pray

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7)

A friend of mine just got done running a marathon. Aside from not understanding why any otherwise healthy person would want to do such a thing, I must say I admired his commitment to preparing for this thing.

runHe ran lots of miles almost every day, of course. He changed what he ate, when he slept, and did everything he could to avoid getting sick – all so he could be in prime shape to run 26 miles on race day. That what it takes to compete in a marathon.

What does it take to compete as a Christian, to do everything you can to be ready for the “end of all things”? Prayer. Why is prayer so hard? Why does it require us so much focus and self-control to do it effectively? I don’t know, but I know that it does.

Peter wants us to see the need to sacrifice sloppy thinking, meandering self-amusement, and living for instant gratification – so that we can pray. He wants us to do the prep work needed to effectively talk to God. What changes would you need to make in your life to make that happen?

Think: What gets in the way of effective praying for you? What could you change to give yourself more time, more focus, more energy for talking to God more often and about more things?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

Do: Set aside 15 minutes in a row today or tomorrow where you will do nothing but talk to God.

Live Different: Think Next Life

“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:5-6)

Sometimes Christians fall into self-pity or confused thinking when we can only see life from what we ourselves stand to lose and gain.

runWe might feel bummed to miss out on the pleasure hunt, not to dive into the flood of selfish sex, drinking, and parties. We might feel burdened to pay the price of maybe being mocked (or worse) for following Jesus. We feel good thinking about making good use of our lives and receiving our reward in heaven.

But what do we feel for those who might mock us for believing in Jesus, for not joining in the pleasure parade? Do we believe in eternity enough to fear for them, to want to offer them the way out of their dead-end thinking and into a relationship with God that will provide joy (and pleasure) forever?

They will give an account to the judge after this short, painful life is over. That’s far scarier to imagine than the worst the world can do to those who follow Jesus on this side of eternity. What can you do to offer the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus to those you know who still need to hear and understand it – even those still living deep in sin, even those who think you foolish for trusting Christ?

Think: Do you know Christians who seem to feel sorry for themselves because being a Christian limits their options or makes them feel foolish in the eyes of the world? Do you know Christians deeply concerned for the eternal destiny of the unbelievers they know?

Pray: Thank God for helping you to believe the gospel and trust in Jesus for your salvation. Thank him that you will live forever in joy even if you suffer in some ways now for following him.

Do: Notice this week the attitudes you hear from other Christians about what we gain and lose by being Christ-followers.

Live Different: Expect Abuse

“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4)

We’ve got to be careful with this passage, I think. Peter isn’t telling us to put on our “I’m a Victim” T-shirts and start complaining about how bad Christians are treated in our society.

runHe’s talking to Christians who used to party hard and are walking away from that empty lifestyle. He’s warning them that their former friends won’t get it and will “heap abuse” on them for letting go of their belief in hedonism, for giving up on expecting to find meaning in a life of pleasure and numbness.

In Peter’s day, that abuse included terrible persecution against Christians, persecution most of us have never seen, but persecution that put them right in the middle of God’s will and on the path to making the best possible use of their lives.

We’ll see tomorrow, though, that the persecutors and party people were the ones in real danger – and we have the message of hope they most need to hear.

Think: Have you ever felt abused for not jumping into sin along with your friends? Have you ever prayed for friends who were jumping into sin out of concern for the danger they face?

Pray: Ask God to help you to have the courage and strength to pay any price required to avoid sin and do the good he’s called you to do.

Do: Read more about Christians who suffer for being Christians in 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Live Different: Don’t Waste Your Life on Sin

“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:3)

If you’ve lived a pretty straight-up or sheltered life so far, you might be reading this verse and thinking, “Wait a minute. I haven’t spent any time doing these things.” And Peter would likely say, “Even better.”

runWhy? Because he’s making a point that participating in all these “party sins” is a waste of our lives. It’s not just that they’re wrong – and they are, of course – it’s that they are time we can never get back, time in our short lives spent on worthlessness.

Peter was writing to people who had grown up thinking that lust, drunkenness and worshipping idols was normal, everyday stuff. Then they became Christians and realized that what was normal for their culture led to pain, emptiness, loss and destruction. Normal partying brought them nothing good, even if it felt good at the time.

If we’ve really made the choice to follow our Savior who suffered for our sin, why waste our lives indulging in more of it?

Think: Which of the things on Peter’s list of party sins is coming to be seen as normal in our culture? Does the fact that a sin is normal and accepted make that sin less of a big deal? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to waste your life indulging in sin, even if its normal for your culture.

Do: Notice this week what sins are being “normalized” in the media and in your neighborhood.

Live Different: Done with Sin

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Several years ago, Apple ran an ad campaign for their line of computers called “Think Different.” Especially back then, they wanted people to consider the possibility that their “Windows” on the world wasn’t the only way to see things.

runGod’s Word tells Christians to “think different,” as well. And having our minds renewed is a big part of what it means to become like Jesus. But we’re not meant to stop at thinking different. God calls us to live different from the world in very specific ways.

Peter will help us to understand what that means this week, but it does start with taking on a Christ-like attitude toward sin. In short, as people who are willing to die for Christ, why would we want to waste our lives living for sin? Living different starts with not letting our physical appetites make the decisions for us.

Living different means living to say yes to God.

Think: Is your goal in your natural self to stand out from the crowd or to fit in? Is your goal as a Christ-follower to do either of those things? According to today’s passage, what should be your goal as a Christ-follower?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to waste your life living for sin but to live for the will of God, instead.

Do: Today’s verse starts with a “therefore.” Read 1 Peter 3:8-22 to see what it’s “there for.”

What to Be: Be a Finisher

“Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.’ ” (Colossians 4:17)

Our final role-model from Paul’s buddy list this week isn’t actually one of the guys working with Paul in Rome. He’s probably Philemon’s son back in Colosse, where this letter is headed. He was maybe taking care of some of Epaphras’s ministry duties back there while E. was with Paul.

whatto_350Paul tells Archippus to “see to it” (or “look out”) that he finish the “work” (or “ministry”) God gave him to do. Either Arcippus was dropping the ball or Paul knew that things were about to get tough for him. He urged everyone to remind Archippus to keep going and finish strong. Talk about accountability!

Has God called you to do any ministry work that you’ve left hanging – or that you’re thinking about giving up on? Maybe it has to do with helping with something at church or telling a friend about Jesus or even just making it your job to encourage other Christians in the jobs they’re doing for Christ.

Don’t give up. Be the kind of Chirst-follower who finishes what you start. Hang tough.

Think: What ministry work have you “received in the Lord”? Are you still working at it? If you can’t think of any ministry you’re supposed to be doing, what are some ways you could start serving Christ, especially in your church?

Pray: Ask God to help you to finish what you start for him.

Do: Make a plan for some specific ways you can “keep going” in serving God this week. If you don’t have a regular way that you serve in your church, see if you find a way to help.

What to Be: Don’t Be a Demas

“Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” (Colossians 4:14)

The next role-model we meet from Paul’s entourage turns out to be a negative one. Here he’s included in the posse as one of the guys supporting Paul in prison and sending greetings to the Colossians. But listen to this later letter Paul sent to Timothy:

whatto_350“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:9-10)

Demas started out on the path of Christ then got distracted by the world and fell in love with it. What is the world? According to John, it includes living for pleasure, possessions, and status. (See 1 John 2:16.)

God gladly gives us some of those things to enjoy, but he demands that we save our love for him. You cannot love the world and live for Christ at the same time.

Think: Could you ever see yourself falling in love with what the world offers – pleasure, possessions, and status? What can you do to protect your heart from becoming unfaithful to God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to love him with your whole life and not to be distracted from serving him by loving the world.

Do: Read (and think about memorizing) 1 John 1:15-17, which describes our choice between loving God and loving the world.