-I Peter 4
A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard, baseball cap in place, toting ball and bat. He was heard to say, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world.” Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed. “Strike one!” Undaunted he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself—”I’m the greatest baseball hitter ever,” and he swung at the ball again. And again he missed. “Strike two!” He paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. Then a third time he threw the ball into the air. “I’m the greatest hitter who ever lived,” he said. He swung the bat hard again, missed a third time. He cried out, “Wow! Strike three! What a pitcher! I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”(—Illustrations Unlimited)
Our attitude is critical isn’t it? Often times as Christians we are focused on our behavior when we think about showing God’s love or on our behavior when we think about not sinning, but our behavior means nothing if our attitude isn’t like Christ. People will often see our attitude before they see our actions. Purity, godliness and holiness start on the inside. Perhaps this message will challenge us all at a deeper level. You may look back on your week and think, “I didn’t break one of the Ten Commandments with my actions,” but think back with me as we reflect on how our attitudes might not have reflected Christ’s life and love this past week.
From time to time it’s important to asses ourselves and ask God to rework and remake the parts of each of us that don’t yet look like Jesus. Living and loving like Jesus involves regular self examination. Integrity in our Christian lives means we actually represent what we say we do and the way we encourage and challenge others to live is the way we actually live. Several verses in I Peter 4 describe what it means to imitate Christ and how we arm ourselves with His attitude and His actions in order that we might live and love like Jesus.
Stand with me for the reading of God’s Word from I Peter 4:
1 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. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 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. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 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. 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Arm yourself with the attitude of Christ. When I think of arming myself with something, I think of having a weapon. Arming ourselves with Christ’s attitude gives us the weapon we need to advance against the Kingdom of Darkness and to display the Kingdom of Light in a way that convinces people that God lives in us. Without a Christ-like attitude, it doesn’t matter how well we behave on the outside. If our attitude is critical, mean-spirited or unkind it won’t matter how squeaky clean our actions are. It will be a weapon that causes people to tune us out and be turned off to Christ if our attitude stinks.
I Peter 4 verse 1links the attitude of Christ with suffering. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude.” When I think of people who have an “attitude” I think of people who are cocky, maybe people who are looking to start a fight, maybe people who are trying to “one up” someone or have the last word by defending themselves or justifying their actions. Jesus was the “last word,” the Logos, and he was so, without having a haughty, domineering kind of attitude. He accomplished everything God sent Him to do without beating anyone into submission or arguing to prove a point. He accomplished God’s will through suffering and through serving. People who love and live like Jesus must adopt His attitude.
He suffered willingly. He didn’t think to Himself every Monday, “I wish I didn’t have to ____________.” He never muttered under His breath, “This isn’t my job!” His desire was for the will of the Father alone. He didn’t come to establish a career or to make a name for Himself. But he came to make God’s love famous and to lay down his life to save us. He didn’t care if people got his title right, if he had a fancy office or if people knew how far he had traveled to see them, how much he had studied and how much it cost Him to spend time with them. His agenda wasn’t to prove he was right (even though He was always right), but His agenda was to prove that God loves us.
We are supposed to adopt the same agenda by having the same attitude. We aren’t here to prove to anyone that we are right, but we are here to prove to them by our attitude and actions that they are loved by God and by us! Jesus didn’t vie for status or position, but he willingly left all of that to serve and sacrifice everything.
The dictionary tells us that our attitude is an “internal position or feeling with regard to something else.” As author Dr. Dale Robbins points out, “Airplane pilots often use attitude to describe their horizontal relationship with the runway when they land. If their attitude isn’t aligned properly, the plane will make contact with the ground at the wrong angle and it will cause them to crash.
In essence, your attitude is your inward disposition toward other things, such as people or circumstances. As in with an airplane, attitude is applied whenever you must deal with something or someone other than yourself. A bad attitude can cause you to crash with the very people you are trying to win to Christ. According to God’s word, when you become a Christian, a part of your new creation is the development of new attitudes. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” (Ephesians 4:22 NIV)
I’m not referring to a once in a while bad mood or an occasional situation where because you are tired, you don’t feel well or have had a bad day, you just aren’t too much fun to be around. We all have those days from time to time. What I’m referring to is a pattern, a day in and day out relating with people, a lifestyle of having an inward disposition that sees people and responds to people the way Jesus would regardless of what they say or do. When we have the right inward disposition, our actions will naturally flow out of that disposition and we will be able to live and love the way Jesus did.
because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
DONE WITH SIN! People who live and love with Jesus’ attitude aren’t led by fleshly impulses. In their inner attitude, the attitude of their minds and hearts, they have made the decision and declaration that they are done with sin. They aren’t living for the flesh. They desire the will of God alone.
When we are armed with the attitude that we are living for the will of God alone, we don’t knee jerk react to criticism. We don’t exhibit impatience with people who don’t seem “to get it.” We don’t flare up with anger. We don’t go into self defense mode. We don’t exert our power or authority in a fleshly “CEO” way. We aren’t about image management or trying to make our plans succeed. We aren’t impulsive, but we’re prayerful.
When we live and love like Jesus we are aware that timing is everything. Jesus was a Master at knowing when to point something out and when to say nothing. Sometimes the things that we desire might not be evil human desires; they might be good things that we desire. It just might mean that we recognize that the timing isn’t right for us to have them or go after them. The writer of Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. People who aren’t armed with Christ’s attitude are easily set off and may lash out or sound off or argue back because in their flesh they feel a need to defend themselves.
Jesus constantly had reasons to be angry and want to tell people off or put them in their place. He often had people taunting Him, trying to get Him riled up in order to discredit Him, but because he was submitted to the will of God and not the flesh, He was always in control of His tongue. He never said more than was needed or more than was helpful. On several occasions, He said nothing. When He did display anger, there was a righteous reason and the power of God was on display. Wouldn’t it make a great daily prayer, “Lord, help me never say more than is needed or more than will be helpful?”
The Bible says we are to be “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Anger and self defense-the need to be right- they keep the flesh stirred up. I can’t think of anyone I have ever met who said it was their goal to become and stay as angry as possible because they just loved how it made them feel. Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” We become dead to the flesh and its demand for attention, its need to be fed with anger and defensiveness when we submit completely to the will of God. In the process, we will become absolutely done with sin.
Sin isn’t just about breaking a commandment. It’s about missing the mark in any situation. If we sabotage what God might want to do in any situation because of a bad attitude, I believe we need to consider it sin and repent.
The second part of verse six says, “Live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
People who desire the attitude of Jesus sign up for transformation. They want to change. To live and love like Jesus, there always has to be an inner work going on that will sustain and enable the outer work we do. So, we sign up for it and surrender to it. We present ourselves in our bodies to God by saying “no to the flesh” and “yes” to the Spirit. We present ourselves in our “minds” by allowing God to transform our thoughts and attitudes. And we offer our spirits to God so that deep within, our spirits are being transformed and we automatically think and act and live like God desires. That’s how we live according to God in our spirit. His will becomes automatic because it is seared into our souls.
Signing up for transformation is the only way we can arm ourselves with Jesus’ attitude because all of us have triggers. Each of us has a button people can push. Each of us has character flaws, shortcomings and personality challenges. The good news is, however, we can be absolutely made new. Rough edges can become smooth, short tempers can be stayed, critical spirits can become filled with grace, but we have to acknowledge we aren’t perfect and submit ourselves to transformation.
We’re supposed to attain spiritual maturity which is more than having a growing or mature knowledge of the Bible. It involves a maturing of our character our inner man which will enable us to be self-controlled, patient, loving, gentle, and kind whenever God desires for us to be so, and it starts with an attitude that desires to submit to that process.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
People who live and love with Jesus’ attitude keep their minds free from clutter and their selves in check through prayer. Getting Jesus’ attitude right is tied to our ability to stop and listen and talk with God. It’s connected to regularly de-cluttering our lives of the voices that compete for our attention. It’s focusing on the voice of God alone so that we aren’t confused by worldly wisdom and human principles and practices. It’s about being self controlled so that we don’t run ahead of God.
Prayer is like a speed bump between our impulses and God’s plans. We check ourselves when we pray. Not only do we pray for wisdom and help, but we ask God to show us who we are or where we have failed and when His Spirit reveals the answers to us, we are able to change our attitudes and altar our course. It’s often in the place of prayer that God’s transforming work is done because in prayer God transmits His thoughts to us which give us a different perspective on our situation than we had previously had which changes our course of action.
It is also through prayer that we gain victory over the flesh and power to live as if we truly are done with sin. No one was more focused and clear-minded than Jesus. Luke 5:16 tells us “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” He knew exactly what the Father wanted Him to do because they were regularly in communication.
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
People who live and love with Jesus’ attitude are generous with people. Our call is to stay above the fray, above the drama, if you will. Our call is to love and serve. We lead the way for harmony and unity and transformation in people’s lives when we choose love, when we give the benefit of the doubt, and when we thank God for those “extra grace required people” in our lives. As long as you are living, there are always going to be certain people that could easily drive you nuts. But to dismiss or avoid them isn’t the attitude of Christ. People with the attitude of Christ don’t look for a quick way to pawn people and their needs off on others when they could share the love of Christ themselves.
Jesus was generous with people. Great transformation came into people’s lives just because He gave them time and attention. Some people are only going to change as they see Christ demonstrated in your life. They may not know they need to change or ought to change unless they spend time with someone who is living the life of Christ which will help them see there is a better way.
It’s a lot more fun to love someone to Jesus than it is to try to be their judge and tell them everything you think they ought to change. Even when God uses us to speak truth to people and challenge them to a different way of life, it is supposed to be done in love (Eph. 4:15).
When we arm ourselves with Christ’s attitude, we can learn to overlook some things. I’m not talking about overlooking sin. I’m just talking about giving grace to people, not keeping a record of offenses against people, giving people the benefit of the doubt. Making assumptions can lead to judging which will put a wall up between you and others. Love will bring walls down!
Love leads to hospitality. We display Jesus’ attitude when we serve even when no one is looking and when we do it with a joyful heart without thinking, “Why am I the one doing this? I’m already busy enough.” Hospitality isn’t about serving when it’s convenient or when we’ve had time to clean the house and clear our schedule. It’s about being available to people even when it requires sacrifice. Both loving people and showing them hospitality point to verse ten.
10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
People who live and love with Jesus’ attitude are ready to dispense grace. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about? We live the truth and we hand out grace. When we wake up each day, we ought to put our feet on the floor and say, “Today, I am going to live the truth of Jesus’ love and try to hand out as much grace as possible using everything God has given me and every opportunity that comes my way.” Sometimes that’s tough to keep in the front of our thinking when we are cut off in traffic or someone calls the wrong number the third time in a row and we open the drive through bag and the cheeseburger that was to have been ketchup only has every possible condiment smeared all over it. People make mistakes. Listen, every gift we have received becomes a tool for dispensing God’s grace to others.
Our gifts enable God’s grace to be experienced. We ought to be like little Pez dispensers, that whenever we open our mouths, grace pops out. Why? When grace flows into people’s lives they are attracted to the Source of that grace and are changed. Grace transforms culture because it transforms people.
Don’t we know that to be true? Haven’t some of us received grace? Haven’t some of us been given second chances? Haven’t some of us botched a few things and needed another opportunity? Haven’t some of us been on the wrong path and had a friend come lovingly come alongside of us, put their hand on our shoulder and through prayer and Christian friendship just sort of started turning us around? Haven’t some of us had our sins forgiven and our slates wiped clean?
Larnelle Harris’s song says it best:
“Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I’d be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace.
We’ve all needed grace and those of us who have experienced it get to do the life and ministry of Jesus by giving it out to those who haven’t yet been freed by it! We have what the world needs to hear! They are tired of the judgment and labels that religion has placed on them. They are ready for some words of grace that assure them that “Though their sins be as scarlet they can be as white as snow” (Is. 1:18). They are thirsty for the life-giving words that their past can become past and all things can become new. They are longing to hear the news that God sees them as they are and loves them as much as it is possible to love anyone regardless of their life circumstance.
There are some behaviors we overlook in children because they are children. It’s not that we don’t take time to instruct them during teachable or private moments, but sometimes kids act the way they do because that’s the way a kid is supposed to act. We ought not be shocked by the behavior of sinners or even some Christians who are still young in the faith, but there is a time and a place to lovingly instruct someone that doesn’t involve harsh judgment and criticism. Criticism isn’t going to compel people to change, but grace will!
11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
People who live and love with Christ’s attitude speak God’s words into people’s lives. It’s God’s wisdom we draw on. If we haven’t heard it from God, we don’t need to pass it on. Our opinion isn’t going to help anyone, but God’s Word will deliver and rescue them from every trouble. Even Jesus said He only shared that which God instructed Him to say. John 12:49-“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.”
“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides.”
People who live and love with Christ’s attitude aren’t relying on themselves, but are relying on God’s strength. When we find ourselves operating in our strength it’s not too long before we’re also stressed, anxious, wrestles, and tired. There is an ease, however, to life and ministry when we are flowing in God’s power. Call upon the Holy Spirit to give you the strength and ability to strive with people, to pursue peace with people, to seek to bless people. He’ll carry you through!
“So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”
People who have Christ’s attitude aren’t trying to make a name for themselves, but are trying to draw attention to God through Jesus Christ, that He might receive the glory and the power forever and ever.
J. Sidlow Baxter tells of an incident that occurred in his home. It so happened that directly in line with a picture of Christ was a mirror. If one were to stand a certain way, the person’s image would blot out the picture. Dr. Baxter’s little daughter was one day standing before the mirror and happened to stand directly in line with the picture. When she moved, the picture again appeared. She ran excitedly to her Daddy and said, “Daddy, I can see Jesus when I am looking at myself.”(—Al Bryant—Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations)
Is your attitude such that people are seeing Jesus in your life? Today is one of those “take a hard look at self” days. Have you adopted the attitude that you are done with sin? Have you decided that you want God’s will alone? Are you being changed on the inside or are you holding on to what needs to change by justifying your actions? Are you praying for change? Are you praying for Jesus’ attitude? Are you showing love and hospitality? Are you giving people the benefit of the doubt? Are you willing to overlook some things in order to give grace to people who really need Jesus? Are you relying on God’s power or yourself? Is it your desire to show Jesus off in every situation? May God help each one of us answer these questions honestly and seek His power to change wherever we fall short.