Bible Studies for Life

with Jim Burnett

Sunday,  April 30

Life in the Church

I Peter 4:7-11

In 1974 Johnny Cash came out with one of the greatest patriotic songs of all time: Ragged Old Flag. The song chronicled the history of America, the wars and crises we have been through, and the resilience of the American flag that still flies proudly across our nation.

The Church of Christ has been through a lot since being birthed at Pentecost over 2,000 years ago, but she is as strong today as she ever was because she is an eternal entity. In fact, Jesus himself guaranteed that the gates of hell would not be strong enough to stop the church and the truth she espouses (Matt. 16:18).

In the passages before us this week the Apostle Peter reminds us that our identity in Christ dictates and defines our relationship with church family members. We need to be connected to other believers. God knew this and that’s one reason he created the church. We can’t grow or be healthy in isolation.

But the Church has never been perfect because it is made of imperfect people. And unfortunately sometimes things happen in congregations that cause believers to get hurt, become angry, and leave. Sadly those who do leave and never plug back into a local body of Christ become easy prey when they cordon their lives off from other Christians.  There is danger in going it alone because “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8 NIV).

In 1 Peter 4:7 the Peter gives us a strategy for keeping our churches strong and healthy. First we are to pray for others and with others. There is no greater spiritual weapon that God has given his church than prayer. Intercessory prayer is a powerful way to demonstrate your love for fellow believers. This kind of praying is other-centered. Many times as a pastor, I have felt the prayers of the congregation I serve. Frankly, it provided the fuel I needed to keep going. When we truly love each other we will pray for one another. And God hears those prayers. Use your direct connection to God to pray for and with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

In I Peter 4:8-9 Peter gives us the second step in our strategy to strengthen our churches and make them healthy: love one another. I like to work with wood and build things. But I am by no means a carpenter, not even close.  That’s why I always purchase plenty of caulk for most of my projects. Caulk covers a multitude of my mistakes. That’s exactly what Peter said love would do for offenses. It covers over them.

The kind of love Peter is prescribing does not always come easy. It requires that we work at our relationships with one another, that we give each other the benefit of the doubt. When we offend we ask forgiveness. When we are offended we offer forgiveness. That’s just what Christians do. There should be absolutely nothing we can’t work out because of our relationship with Jesus. The blood of Christ is powerful when applied. What he did on that cross for us should trump any and all sins committed against us. A part of loving each other is being hospitable or friendly. Smile at your brothers and sisters in Christ. Shake their hands. Love on them, for this fosters unity and strong bonds, but do it genuinely.

A third thing we can do to make our churches strong and healthy is serve one another. In 1 Peter 4: 10-11 Peter reminds us that God has given every single believer at least one gift and then he tells us why: to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. But this God-given must be used in the strength of the Lord and for his glory.

Are you serving the Lord by using the gift or gifts he has given you? There is much joy in being used by God. Unfortunately many church members have never experienced the fulfillment that comes from serving the Lord. Would you help them get plugged in? Would you invite them to be a part of your ministry? Sometimes all it takes is for them to see a need and be given an opportunity.

Pray for your church and love and serve in the strength of the Lord, for this will enhance church life.   

Burnett is pastor of Willow Pointe Church, Hattiesburg.