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Don’t waste your life: focus your life
Living Radically Different–the importance of a life focused on grace
1 Peter 1:13ff
I think if I had one special criticism to level against the average Christian, it would not be that they’re doing something so terribly wrong, but the fact that they are not really doing anything! They seem to be content to just occupy time and space in this world–a world that is falling apart around us–a world that desperately needs the message that we have! In such a situation, an apathetic satisfaction with the status quo is tragic. To content oneself with simply being a nice person is lamentable. It reminds me of the story concerning an elderly lady named Nancy Jones.
Miss Jones lived in a small mid-western community. She had the notoriety of being the oldest resident of the town. One day she died and the editor of the local newspaper wanted to print a little obituary commemorating Miss Jones’s death. However, the more he thought about it, the more he became aware that while Miss Jones had never done anything terribly wrong (she had never spent a night in jail, nor had she ever been drunk), yet she had never actually done anything of notice.
While musing over this, the editor went down to have his morning coffee and met the owner of the tombstone establishment in the little community. He poured out his lament. The proprietor stated he had been having the same problem. He wanted to put something on Miss Jones’s tombstone besides, “Miss Nancy Jones, born such-and-such a date and died such-and-such a date,” but he couldn’t think of anything of significance she had ever done. The editor decided to go back to his office and assign the task of writing up a small article suitable for both the paper and the tombstone to the first reporter he came across. Upon returning to the office, the only fellow around was the sports editor, so he gave him the assignment. They tell me if you pass through that little community, you will find the following statement on her tombstone:
“Here lies the bones of Nancy Jones, for her life held no terrors.
She lived an old maid. She died an old maid.
No hits, no runs, no errors!”
I really don’t want that to be said of me. When I depart from this life, I want my life to have counted for Christ. I want to have made some sort of positive impact for the glory of God. I would like to have people say of Chris, what they did of King David in Acts 13:36, he “fulfilled his purpose in his generation and then went home!” But in order for that to occur, your life will have to have focus. And Peter now calls us to focus our lives. Turn to 1 Peter 1. We’ve studied verses 1-12, where God has motivated us with eternal salvation; now in verse 13, he tells us how to respond. God gave us His light in verses 1-12, now He focuses that light into a laser in verse 13.
Peter’s readers are struggling. They’ve been sent to the Roman frontier near the Black Sea as a punishment for gathering as Christians, sharing the Gospel, and offering people a new life in Christ. So Peter motivates them by sharing with them the greatness of their salvation in verses 1-12, and now in verse 13, Peter calls them and us to live a radically different life. Even while they’re suffering, Peter says in verses 13-17, what’s important is to live a focused, unique and accountable life. Is your life focused, disciplined, limited, directed at Christ and His work through the Church in the world? No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power, until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined. Look at the text, verses 13-17, and underline three phrases.
13 “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ 17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.”
These verses are driven by three clear commands–you underlined them. Verse 13, to fix your hope–a focused life. Verse 15, be holy yourselves–a patterned, unique life. Verse 17, conduct yourselves in fear–an accountable life. On the basis of everything God has done for us in salvation, we are to be saturated with a certain hope of future grace, we are to be made uniquely holy in every area of our lives and we are to live accountable to God in everything we do. Ready?
As we dive into verse 13, it breaks down this way. The main verb is “fix your hope” on the grace that is coming, and we do that by “girding your mind for action” and “keeping sober in spirit” (the two participles that explain the main verb). So girding our minds and keeping sober are going to enable us to truly fix our hope completely on the grace coming with the return of Christ. Girding our minds and keeping sober will cause us to focus on our certain coming future. A big part of the reason you and I walk through our everyday lives without much thought of Christ, or hope in heaven, or rejoicing in all we have been given in salvation is because we have not girded our minds for action nor kept sober in spirit. If you want a more Christ-saturated life . . . if you want to see the Gospel really lived out in your life . . . if you want to be more on fire for Christ and His work–then pursue what Peter says here in verse 13. Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
What a great way to start the new year–are you ready for 2010? God tells us how we should live as His chosen children. Do you read labels . . . check the ingredients . . . look for warnings? I read a lot of labels these days, I look at cholesterol, salt, calories–and I am really picky and I stay away from all items that are going to cause me problems. The following needs a warning label, so here it is . . . this is exactly what you need to hear to radically fire up your relationship with Christ, but–it’ll require dramatic change. Most Christians today are out of sync with the teaching in verses 13-17, and only a few courageous Christians will respond in the power of the Spirit to obey. I hope you’ll be one of them. The first step to live radically different than the world around us . . .
#1 Remembering your SALVATION
Verse 13 “Therefore . . . ” Look at the very first word in verse 13–what is it? Therefore! Every time you see a “therefore,” you must ask yourself, “wherefore is that therefore, there for?” Peter is declaring that this is the response to salvation. Here is the reaction to all that God has done for us in verses 1-12. Here in 1 Peter, we get to the first so what application. Do you remember what God did for you in verses 1-12?
Verse 1 God chose you, verse 3 God caused you to be born again, verse 4 God has given you an eternal inheritance, verse 5 God is protecting your eternity, verse 6 God is refining you in order to reward you, verse 8 you are loved, and verses 10-12 God has blessed you even more than prophets, apostles and angels. We have much to rejoice over and remember every single day. Here’s the way we will live different because of what God did to us. This is our lifestyle under grace, now that we’ve been born again. Because there is so much grace that God has given us, in order to enjoy even more grace, to be closer to Christ, to take pleasure in your relationship with Him, Peter says to these alienated saints; therefore, fix your hope on God’s grace, fix your hope on the return of Christ when He makes everything right, fix your hope on your eternal future in heavenly perfection . . . how? A focused life requires you to be . . .
#2 Supervising your thoughts
Verse 13 “Therefore, gird your minds for action” To have every day count for Christ, you have to approach what you think about in a whole new way–you must supervise your thoughts. Peter uses a very unusual term–gird your mind. It literally is translated gird the loins of your mind. The image is of a person who is wearing flowing garments and in order to travel or work or battle, he tucks them into his belt so he can move freely without tripping over his clothes. The word for mind is from two words, “mind” and “through”, and it’s used in the New Testament as what you think about, what goes through your mind. So here, God wants us to tuck in all those loose thoughts. The Lord wants us to supervise what goes on in our minds. You’ve seen those guys who wear such baggie shorts that they have to hang on to them with one hand to keep them up–imagine them trying to run a hundred yard dash with those pants on. Or can you see them trying to fight someone while wearing those pants?
All of you ladies have long dresses. At some point in your life you probably had some long, uncomfortable prom dress, or some sort of bridesmaid gown. Imagine doing yard work in your prom dress–you can’t! You’d have to tear it and tuck it in to be able to do anything. Nor can you function as a Christian the way God designed you to unless you are willing to supervise your random thinking. You can’t see it in English, but the Greek text actually contains the word “hips”, which is where a belt or girdle rests. There are some of you who use a belt to control your outfit, and women still use girdles in order to control something I don’t wanna know.
Today we might say, “Let’s take off our jackets and roll up the sleeves of our minds.” The custom of eastern nations was to bind up their long flowing garments and tuck them into a girdle or belt when they were going to exert themselves by traveling or working. When preparing Israel for travel to leave Egypt, and the Passover, God gave Moses instructions for the people in Exodus 12:11–“Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste–it is the Lord’s Passover.”
In order to get all of us ready for His return, Jesus said in Luke 12:35, “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight.” Be dressed in readiness is to literally have your loins girded. In order to fight spiritual warfare against our hateful enemy, Paul tells the church in Ephesians 6:14, “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.” As a soldier approached the enemy army, he would tuck in all his extra clothing. He would pull in all the loose ends, especially that clothing that hung down to his knees. He’d pull that between his legs, pull it in tight like an athletic cup, and tuck that extra cloth into his heavy leather belt so he had freedom of movement. Girding up the loins is what they would do to prepare for battle and protect vital parts of their anatomy. And, the imagery of the armor was to be girded with truth since truth is crucial for us as a church to be able to stand firm against the father of lies–Satan and his demonic army.
Everybody in the first century wore loose robes, and it was normal for them when they were working or traveling, to cinch them up into their belts– pulling in all the loose ends so they had freedom of movement. Peter is saying you are to do the exact same thing with your thoughts–“gird your minds for action” means you can’t think anything you want to and still be a Spirit-filled Christian. You must supervise your thoughts. This is a radical idea to some of you–but to have a focused life, you can’t allow yourself to have loose thinking or random thoughts. How do you do it? The Bible is really clear . . .
First You are to choose what you think about Verse 13a, to “gird your minds for action,” is similar to Paul’s charge in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Remember it by THRPLGEP–True, Honorable, Right, Pure, Lovely, Good, Excellent, Praise.
Let your mind dwell on these things–the word “dwell” is unusual. It means to reason, calculate, to select what you think about and if it doesn’t harmonize with these categories, then it’s off limits! Christians, to live a focused life, you must cultivate the habit of intentionally choosing not to think about certain topics, and intentionally choosing to think about other topics. You should have truths you are actually choosing to think about. This is why a quiet time in the Word of God is so important; this is why we give you sermon notes to review during the week–and why reading good books is essential to being a healthy Christian. And not just reading a book, but writing down a quote to apply all day. Not just reading the Word of God, but reminding yourself during the day what God said to you, and asking Him to apply it through you. Meditation for the Christian is not emptying your mind like eastern false religion, but Biblical meditation is filling your mind with truth–saturating your thinking with the Bible. Secular meditation is picking a phrase and repeating it over and over to empty your mind–I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful. The Chargers are good, the Raiders are bad; the Chargers are good, the Raiders are bad. No! Biblical meditation is to saturate your thinking in God’s Word. Practice THRPLGEP; write out a 3×5 card, write on your hand. Choose what you think about.
Second You are to guard what you think about The Greek word for “gird” in gird your mind has the idea of prepare, make ready, to be earnest in doing something, while the opposite of “gird” is to be idle, fall asleep, be lazy and to be at leisure. God wants your mind on duty. This is so convicting. If you are going to enjoy all the blessings God has for you in Christ, you can’t allow your mind to just drift–you can’t allow your mind to be an open playing field for the enemy, or for random everyday thoughts. You need to be prepared. In the Greek, Peter made “gird” speak of something we are currently doing, we are ongoing girding our minds. And the voice he uses tells us we ourselves do the girding–Christian, you are the one who guards your thoughts. You must supervise your thinking. You can’t expect to honor God if you fuel your fears, pour gas on your worry, stir up your anger or rehearse your hurts.
Christian, never forget how temptation works. Remember James 1:14, 15, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Sin is described, not as an act, but as a process. It starts with some strong emotion, which creates an open door for sin. Then, if the mind chooses to dwell on that emotion, eventually the will engages in sin. But the place where temptation must be stopped is the mind, before the will is engaged. Luther said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” You’re going to experience wrong desires, but the mind is where those tempting desires are stopped. If you don’t guard your thoughts, then you will sin. Peter is telling us to gird those thoughts–guard your mind. Say Lord, not fear, just faith; no anger, just adore; not worry, just worship. You don’t have the right to think about whatever comes to mind. You don’t have the right to grind over worry, fear, jealousy, or to dwell on hate, unforgiveness, impurity or problems. To gird is to guard–verbally say no out loud to a wrong or weak thought–then pursue thinking on a promise of Scripture. So choose your thoughts, and guard your thoughts, and . . .
Third You are to limit what you think about This is convicting to me. Look at verse 13–the reason you are to gird your mind for action is to be able to fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. But you can’t fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the return of Christ unless you limit what you think about. And there is no way to fix your hope if you never have time to think about coming grace. You can’t limit what you think about, unless you do less in life. There is not enough room in your mind to be thinking about all the things we think about. Would you agree, we spend too much time thinking about lesser things? Yes, we need to think about our families, our work, our homework . . . but sadly, we invest far too much time thinking about sports, activities, clothing, the next game, friends, sports radio, the next movie, who said what, Brad the Pitts, what Madonna does, how did Michael die, what’s President Obama going to do next, what did Rush say, the latest scandal, what people think of us, and on and on and on . . . just fill in the blank. Yes, at work you have to concentrate on that spread sheet, or that electrical box in front of you, or your duties at home, or focus on your homework, or get your head in the game–but with all the massive free spaces in our thinking, you must limit what you think about.
Peter is saying, don’t merely avoid sinful thinking like lust, anger, or proud thoughts, but avoid constantly thinking about regular things, ordinary things, non-sin random thoughts. Why? Because if you don’t, you’ll miss the best thoughts–God’s grace, the Word of God, Christ, Heaven–where your new mind belongs all the time. As a Christian, you don’t have the freedom to constantly fill your mind with trivial everyday things. We are filling our minds with so much data, so many trivial issues, we cannot possibly fix our hope on God’s grace–there’s no room. Men and women, we are far too busy with things that don’t matter. We are spending far too much time thinking about things that are not evil in themselves, not wrong, not bad–but there are so many things, we can’t think on the things that matter. We must simplify and make room for a spiritual life of grace. Most of the choices you make as families are good, but so many of them are not the best choices. The result is you are so busy with good things, you can’t think about the best things, to fix our hope on God’s grace.
Stop busying your life with sporting events, TV, movies, music, so you can’t think about anything eternal. We have to start limiting what we do so we can think about what God has for us to think on. Again, verse 13, gird your mind so you can fix your hope on the grace coming to us. We are not reading the Bible, or great books, and we don’t meditate on THRPLGEP because we’re too busy. We have so little time to think on those things necessary in order to enjoy the grace of God. So Peter is telling us to stop the insanity and start limiting your activity, so you can focus; so you can supervise your thinking, so you can meditate. Just because you can do all you’re doing, even want to do, plus have the means to do, doesn’t mean you should be that busy. Are you willing to simplify? Many will not–you won’t limit your TV shows, entertainment, game-watching, sports for kids, like an addiction. But it is exactly what you have to do in order to gird your mind. But those who do will also work at . . .
#3 Prioritizing your daily lifestyle
Look again at verse 13 “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit.” Often when the word “sober” is used in the New Testament, it means literally to be self-controlled and not to be drunk. When sober is used figuratively like it is here, it means the opposite of fuzziness. To be sober is to be free from every excess and every confusion. Sober is to be clear-headed and exercise balanced judgment. The idea is to be a clear-thinking, and good, decision-maker. To be sober is not being wishy-washy, chaotic, reactionary or rash, but to have clarity of life and a stable life direction. It is to stop being flighty, but to passionately pursue Christ and His Word–to do that which is most important for eternity every single day. To be sober is not to allow your emotions to direct your actions, but to live by the truth of the Word of God and by the Spirit of God. Being sober doesn’t refer to personality–you can be funny and be fun and still be verse 13, sober in spirit. Sober means you’re focused on why you are here and it shows.
Look at how sober is used in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8 “Let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 8 ” . . . since we are of the day, let us be sober.” 2 Timothy 4:5, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 1 Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” 1 Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
What’s a sober person? The sober person is the one who is not asleep in their faith. The sober person is watching for attack, they are awake, they know why they are here, and what they are to be doing – do you? The sober person is the one who is making this life count for Christ. The sober person pursues God’s grace by loving their spouse, discipling their children, serving their giftedness in ministry in the church, and sharing the gospel with the lost around them. They’re not confused, distracted or fuzzy about why they are here. Do you have a prioritized lifestyle? Is it obvious you are here to KISS–Know Christ, Imitate Christ, Serve Christ and Share Christ?
To keep sober in spirit is continual ongoing action. The Lord is not just interested in focusing your lifestyle on Sunday, but 24/7–your entire life follows Christ in all you do, all the time. Are you willing to make choices/sacrifices? Have you ever? Not just coming to church? If you went to court to prove your lifestyle was given to Christ’s purposes, would there be enough evidence to get a conviction? Why is that important? Because Peter says you can’t obey the most important command unless you are supervising your thoughts, and prioritizing your lifestyle. What is God’s command?
#4 Longing for His grace
Look at the rest of verse 13 “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” With your mind supervised and your lifestyle prioritized on why you are here, you’ll be able to obey Peter’s first command in this letter, to fix our hope on grace–what a great command!
As Peter’s readers face suffering, their hope is waning, so he tells them to supervise their thinking and prioritize their lifestyle so that they will long for God’s coming grace. Like an athlete who is willing to train hard to win the race, or the student who studies hard in order to win the grade. Peter calls you to endure your trials to experience God’s grace now, and to await even greater coming grace. You hope for grace! Christians can endure any trial because the best is yet to come. In fact, any genuine Christian can live with gratitude for all the mercies of the past, and can live with resolution to meet the challenges of the present because of the certainty that the best is yet to come. Pick apart what Peter is saying–he says fix your hope, meaning . . .
First Grace is certain Fix your hope. Peter says we are to fix our hope on coming grace and remember–in English, “hope” is I wish it will happen, but Biblical hope is “I am certain it will happen.” Hope embraces expectation, trust and patient waiting in what is certain because it’s divinely given. Fix your mind and daily lifestyle on the certainty of God’s grace. You are saved by grace, we are to live by grace, and we are looking for certain coming grace. Do you know how to tell you live by grace? When you are gracious, broken and humble with others . . . are you? Remember, Paul says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” in 1 Corinthians 13:7. Grace is certain.
Second Grace is comprehensive Completely. Peter says to fix our hope completely on God’s coming grace. Completely means totally, entirely and wholely–it’s comprehensive! The reason you must supervise your mind and prioritize your lifestyle is, there is no way you can entirely fix your hope on God’s grace now or in the future unless you limit your thinking and lifestyle choices from the influence of the world, even those things that are allowable and good. You can’t be comprehensive in current or coming grace without cutting some good things out of your life. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:1, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Are you strong in grace?
Third Grace is Christ-initiated Christianity is unique among all faiths worldwide, because it’s the only faith that declares you can’t save yourself, earn your way to heaven, or stop God from being angry at you because of your sin. Christianity says God initiated a plan to forgive us, clean us up, and make us right with Him now and forever. The plan was, God would become a man, a perfect God Man, pay the price for our sins with His death, take all of God’s punishment for sin upon Himself on a cross, rise from the dead, then give salvation to His children. God awakens your dead heart, gives you the faith to believe, and did all of this for you by His grace–God’s riches at Christ’s expense. All genuine children of God are saved by God’s grace, live by God’s grace, and will spend eternity with God by His grace.
Fourth Grace is coming to you Verse 13 wraps up with “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Christian, on the basis of all God has graciously done for you, given to you and brought to you in salvation, now put your certain, comprehensive hope in the fact that God will bring grace with Him when Christ comes again. When Jesus comes again, everything is made right, there is no more suffering, pain, illness or injustice–He fixes everything. So not only do we receive the grace of salvation, but now when Christ returns, we experience grace-saturated living. The Greek word for “brought” has the idea that this grace is already on the way to us–are you ready? What will it take?
ONE–A focused life requires work. Pulling in the loose ends of our thinking requires choices. Soberness has to do with self-control, and fixing our heart on grace is a command which is part of our sanctification, which means dependant obedience on our part. To really make a difference for Christ, we have to say “no” even to good things, so we can pursue the best things. And even though God gets all the glory for our growth, we still must make painful choices, sacrifices and denials. Will you work at it?
TWO–A focused life requires Spirit dependence. You can’t control your own thoughts in your own strength–but in Christ, by the Word of God, in dependence upon the Spirit, you can. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,” which is parallel to being filled with the Spirit–will you depend on the Holy Spirit?
THREE–A focused life requires certain anticipation. In just 13 verses, Peter has already spoken of Christ’s return four times. He says we’ve got to get our focus off of this life and on to heaven. If you are suffering, that’s easy–but can you do it when life is easy? Every single day when the alarm goes off, say “Come, Lord Jesus!”
FOUR–A focused life requires living by grace now. The only way you know God’s grace is to exchange all that you are for all that Christ is. Turn to Christ in dependent faith and repentance, which means you no longer do what you want to do, but what Christ calls you to. The only way to live by grace, is to cultivate a constant awareness of your daily sinfulness and your daily need for Christ’s salvation. Live each day knowing you can’t live the Christian life, admitting you’re the worst sinner you know, and that you have been saved by amazing grace.
Peter says, live a focused life!