Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Stand Up and Be Counted as Christ’s
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:4 (NIV) They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.
(NLT) Of course, your former friends are very surprised when you no longer join them in the wicked things they do, and they say evil things about you.
In 1987, I met a man for whom I still pray. He was part of a group of men with whom I played golf every week. It was a rare experience for me as a new pastor in this town to be invited into this group of businessmen, and I saw it as a great opportunity to be an influence on their lives.
It was very hard at first: downright abusive. The first day I arrived at the course to meet them I was overwhelmed with the smell of cigar smoke and alcohol. Two strokes into the first hole I was literally shocked by the coarseness, crudeness, and corruption of the language. I was really out of place. But it’s exactly where God wanted me.
Through the years of playing with them, the strangeness of my behavior began to be accepted by them. One man in particular, the one to whom I referred earlier, stopped making fun of me for not swearing or cursing and for not drinking. He even gave me the option of choosing for him which form of abusive language he would stop using while I was around. He had categorized his language into three types. There was cursing, meaning the using of God’s name in vain or the damning of things or people. Then there was vulgarity, or crude and inappropriate language generally of a sexual nature. And finally there was profanity, which included all of the four letter words. Each week he would declare that it was impossible to stop the use of all of them, so he asked me to choose which one he could have for that day. My answer to him was always the same – Do not live your life to please or impress me. Do what is in your heart, and if your heart tells you it’s wrong, get your heart right with God.
After several years, we actually started to have some spiritual discussions. The abuse he had heaped on me for not validating his lifestyle turned into a desire to know more about what made me live the way I did. He started calling me to go to other golf courses at other times, and he would pick me up so we would have more time to talk in the car. He was a hard case, steeped in existentialism. Our discussions were healthier for me than they were helpful for him.
Then one day God opened a door. The man called me one afternoon and wanted to go golfing. I broke away from all of my other responsibilities because I could hear the hurt in his voice. During the forty minute drive to the course he shared with me that his wife was leaving him. Understand that he went to a different church in town, and that was only for appearances. He had other friends in town that made the same lifestyle choices he did. But when his life fell apart, he called me. We talked for hours that day, and in the days to come. He never gave his life to Christ, but he listened to wisdom. Even thought the divorce became final, he kept listening. Today, he and his wife are reunited. But that’s not the ending I want, or that God wants. He wants them to be reunited to Him, and for that I keep praying.
My friends, when you take a stand for Jesus, and separate yourself from the behaviors and activities of a sinful world, you will be considered strange. You will probably be abused. You will suffer, as Peter mentioned earlier. But when the day comes that those people have to face the realities of their own responsibility for their choices, they will turn to God and to His people for the help they need. That’s when all the suffering brings reward.
So stand up for Jesus. Don’t think you have to look and act like the world to avoid suffering. Be willing to suffer for Christ, and be encouraged to do so by reading what Peter says in verses 12 and 13 – Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.