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Thursday, August 18, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “As The Deer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 4 (ESV).

For the Will of God (3:18; 4:1-6)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

When Jesus Christ was put to death on a cross for our sins he took upon himself the sins of the entire world. For our sake God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co. 5:21). Thus, when Jesus died on that cross, our sins died with him and were buried with him. And, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over those sins. He did this that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (See: 1 Pet. 2:24).

So, when we come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Ro. 6:1-23). Our blinded eyes are opened and we are turned from darkness (wickedness) to light (truth, the gospel, Jesus), and from the power of Satan to God that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18).

Therefore, since we died with Christ to sin and we have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, if indeed we are in Christ Jesus by faith, we should arm ourselves with this way of thinking always. In other words, daily we should consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. And, we should take into account that Jesus redeemed us, i.e. that he bought us back for God with his blood, so our lives are no longer our own to be lived for our own selfish and sinful desires. But, we should honor Christ in all that we do, and live to please him in all ways. He is not only our Savior, but he is our Lord (owner-master), and we are his bond-servants.

Too many people who call themselves Christians don’t follow this teaching, though. They are taught that salvation is nothing more than an escape from hell and a ticket into heaven, with not much in between. They are being taught that nothing is required of us by God – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to God’s will. Yet, that is not what scripture teaches. If you read the New Testament from beginning to end you will find that there is one common message throughout all these books, and that is death to sin and living to righteousness; walking in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

Yet, if we do as this says, and we do arm ourselves with this way of thinking, and daily, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh, and we are saying “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and we are consciously living for God in obedience to his will for our lives, we will be persecuted, even by those who call themselves Christians. They will think this lifestyle is too radical, and that we shouldn’t take our “religion” so seriously. They will even try to get us to go back to some of those sinful ways so that we will appear more “normal.” They won’t encourage us in our walks of faith, but if we do things in the flesh they may congratulate us. We may even be kicked out of some fellowships because the leaders in those congregations were taught by their leaders to get rid of people like us.

Serve One Another (vv. 7-11)

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

We were not placed on this earth by God to please ourselves and to acquire wealth and possessions and to engross ourselves in worldly pleasures. This world is not our home. We are just passing through. Our home (our destination) is heaven. All this we have come to call home is temporary. We are not to live for this world but for eternity. We should always keep in mind that God has placed us here for a purpose, and that purpose is to live for him, to follow Christ, and to obey his teachings. Too many who call themselves Christians live not much different from those who make no claims to faith in Christ at all. This should not be!

If we are sober-minded today we are considered weird, as though something is wrong with us. We are told to “lighten up” and to have a good time, as though having “fun” should be our life’s goal. Now, I have a good sense of humor. I love to laugh. I enjoy spontaneous and clean-cut (in good taste) humor, but having “fun” all the time is not my life’s goal, nor should it be the goal of the church. Church meetings don’t have to be “fun.” They need to be inspired of the Holy Spirit, though, and Spirit-led, but so many are not.

So, what is love? Too many people have this idea that loving others means we pacify and tolerate sin in the lives of those who call themselves followers of Christ. But, that is not loving others. That is loving ourselves, because we know if we speak the truth in love that people won’t like us, and we don’t want to be rejected, so we say nothing, and we do nothing, and by our silence we give agreement to their sin. May this not be! True love cares more about others than it does ourselves. True love tells the truth, but in love. It does not lie to people or try to make them feel good about themselves in their sin. Love does not make excuses for sin nor does it ignore it. It does forgive it, though.

God has given us the body of Christ that we might encourage one another in our faith. Encouragement, though, is not just a pat on the back or saying nice things to people. It also means to inspire, to urge, to nurture, to persuade (push), to give counsel and to exhort. We are to use the gifts of the Spirit given to us by the Spirit to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, to die to sin and live to righteousness, to forsake their former way of living for sin and self, to live for God, and to do his will his way. This is love! This is loving and serving one another like Jesus loved and served us and gave his life up for us so that we could go free from slavery to sin.

The Fiery Trial (vv. 12-19)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Jesus said that if we follow him that we will be treated like he was. We will be hated, falsely accused, mocked, rejected, and ostracized. People will try to trip us up like they tried to do with Jesus in order to attempt to discredit our ministry and the gospel message. And, our greatest persecutors may not come from the world, but from within the worldly church, or more specifically from within the institutional church. So, we should not be surprised when we go through such suffering and persecution and rejection, even coming from within the church and from church leaders. But, we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for Christ and his gospel, and for our faith. And, we should not shrink back or be afraid of what might happen to us, but we should trust God with our lives, and rest in his love.

As the Deer / Martin J. Nystrom

Based off Psalm 42:1

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield…