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Princeton Presbyterian Church  (EPC)                                              Sermon # 2016

June 14, 2015                                                                                      1 Peter 4:1-11

Dr. Ed Pettus


“Living for the Will of God”



1.The Will of God!

a.For the individual believer

b.For the community of faith



Everyone can know the will of God.  It is not that hard.  But, we have certainly found many ways to complicate God’s will.  We have made God’s will into some kind of secret, a hidden gem that needs a map with clues to lead us on the way to finding what we think is the elusive will of God.  One of the ways we have done this is to promote the idea that God has a plan for each of us that we must discover.  That sets us up for confusion and wondering if we are really doing God’s will.  We think of each individual believer having a particular calling that we either hit or miss.  This, in turn, puts lots of pressure on us to have to find God’s will for my life.  Imagine you pray for a job and then you get two job offers.  Which one is God’s will?  Most of the time we think that it has to be one or the other.  I want to suggest that either one is God’s will.  It is not always a right or wrong path, but perhaps a good or better path.  God’s will is to work in and through us throughout our lives whatever decisions we might make.


I do think God has a will for his people.  We are all called to that which is revealed to us in the Bible.  We are all called to love, no matter what career we might choose.  We are all called to forgive, no matter what has been done to us.  We are all called to do God’s commands, no matter what the world might tempt us to follow.  Today, I simply want to suggest that the Bible has given us the will of God.  It is clearly articulated and revealed to us from Genesis to Revelation.  Some scripture says directly, “this is the will of God”.  Other parts command what God requires and desires of us.  Then we will look specifically at what the apostle Peter reveals of God’s will in our passage for the day. 



2.Direct statements

a.1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 


For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.


It is God’s will that we become sanctified.  Sanctification is a big reformed faith concept that means we are growing in Christ.  It this passage it is about keeping our physical bodies pure and holy.  This is what God desires of us.


b.1 Thessalonians 5:18


Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Simple enough, God calls us to be thankful.  We foster an attitude of gratitude!  No matter the circumstance, we know that God loves us and we are thankful.  We know that God is with us and we are grateful.  This is God’s will for us. 


c.1 Peter 2:15

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.


This verse is in the context of being obedient to civil authorities.  God’s will is that we behave as model citizens, that we do good works for the good of the culture.  You might recall from Jeremiah 29, a passage we have seen the past two Sundays, that the exiles in Jeremiah were called upon to look out for the welfare of the city.  For them that meant looking out for the place where they had been taken captive.  This is the will of God. 


d.Romans 8:27


And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


I find this passage helpful to us in relationship to God’s will because we can know that the Spirit is praying for us by God’s will.  This is perfect prayer!  We so much appreciate when others are praying for us, how much more to know that the Spirit of God prays for us according to God’s will.


e.Romans 12:2


Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


God has promised us that if we renew our minds in and by His word, we will understand His will for our lives.  The negative part is to not be conformed to the world.  The positive is to renew the mind.  This is how we know to test things and all tests need a standard by which to judge.  That standard for us is the revealed word of God because it reveals the will of God.


These are easy to see because they directly speak of being God’s will.  But in essence, every command God gives is the revelation of his will.  I am calling these the indirect commands toward living for God’s will.



3.Indirect commands

a.All commands!


Every word that God commands us is his will.  This is obvious to us when we think about it from the perspective that God’s will is what he requires us to do.  Let’s look at a few examples.



b.Exodus 20:1-17 


The Ten Commandments are God’s will for our lives.  It is not difficult for us to accept that God wills obedience to the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments have been a cornerstone of law and social order among God’s people and within our nation.  It is God’s will that we are rightly related to Him in the first three commands and rightly related to others in the last six.  To the fourth commandment we are called upon to honor a particular day.  This is God’s will for us.    



c.Micah 6:6-8 


“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


I site this passage just to show that God requires his people to do justice, that is, to judge rightly, to do what is right, and to see that those who need justice get justice.  It is God’s will to love kindness and thus to be kind to others.  It is God’s will to take our journey with God in a humble way. 


The passage does not say directly, “this is God’s will for you”, but we know that God does not command anything that would oppose His will. 


d.Matthew 22:34-40

e.Matthew 28:18-20


In the New Testament, more specific, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gave us what we call the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  The commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors.  The commission is to make disciples and teach them.  We sometimes lose sight of these things, but these, among other commands in the New Testament, are the will of God.  Jesus need not tell us that this is God’s will.  It is His command; do it and you are doing His will! 



4.The will of God according to 1 Peter 4:1-11

a.Arm yourself – v. 1

b.Do God’s will – v. 2

c.Do not join the party! – v. 3-6

d.Be self-controlled – v. 7

e.Be sober-minded – v. 7

f.Pray – v. 7

g.Love one another – v. 8

h.Show hospitality – v. 9

i.Use your gifts to God’s glory – v. 10-11


Look again at the reading for today in 1 Peter 4.  Verse 2 tells us to live no longer by human passions but for the will of God.  I thought we might look at what parts of this section we would interpret as God’s will.  I have listed nine particular things beginning in verse one with “arm yourselves”. 


The first word is to arm ourselves.  It is a military connotation of getting the weapons we need to either defend ourselves or take some kind of offensive action.  In Ephesians Paul speaks of putting on the armor of God, things like faith and truth and the word of God. 


b. and c. On the phrase Peter gives us in verse 1, it speaks to the second two points on doing God’s will and staying out of the world’s party.  Those willing to suffer for Christ’s sake are no longer seeking to live according to human passions or they would indeed “join the crowd” and stop the suffering.  Instead they live for God’s will and no longer subject themselves to their own fleshly desires.  They therefore, have “ceased from sin” or they are “dead to sin”. 

Rom 6.1-11  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


The rest of the list is fairly simple – self control is about discipline and knowing our limitations.  Self control is yielding ourselves to God’s will rather than our own.  Sober-minded is about keeping things in proper perspective and it probably has the understanding that we cannot function if we are constantly drunk on adult beverages.  Pray, love, and show hospitality – these are God’s will for us.  The last of the commands are the gifts we have been given.  It is God’s will that we exercise these gifts and that we do so all to the glory of God.  This is the will of God. 



Remember that Peter is writing to people who are in exile.  We started our time in 1 Peter with the understanding that we are in something like an exile by facing increasing hostility from our culture and the powers that be.  In the end, exiles then and now are called to do God’s will, plain and simple.  Every time we open our Bibles, we can find another way to live for God’s will.   There is a great promise in 1 John for following God’s will and there are things to avoid to stay in His will.


1 John 2.15-17  15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.


We shall know life eternal by living for God’s will, keeping His commandments, and abiding in what He desires of us.  I like this prayer by Thomas Merton on following God’s will which in some ways boils down to seeking to please God in everything.


Invitation – On God’s will, prayer for Thomas Merton


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.