July 22, 2010 David Balzer

1 Peter 4: From King’s Cross to Katoomba

A few years ago I was at Katoomba Men’s Convention. And it was on the same weekend as the Gay Mardi Gras. Two groups of people. Completely different. With different ATTITUDES. Different OUTLOOKS. Different PRIORITIES. Different LIFESTYLES. Different FASHION styles.

Katoomba compared to King’s Cross.

One group was interested in satisfying every selfish desire they could. Looking after Number one. Doing what they felt like/ whenever they felt like doing it. The other group was learning about how to put OTHERS first. To be good husbands and fathers and friends.

From King’s Cross to Katoomba. Only two hours apart by train. But it’s a trip that represents the journey EACH OF US are on.

This isn’t a sermon about that lifestyle IN PARTICULAR. But only in the sense that it’s a life that IGNORES GOD and what HE says about life, and seeks to satisfy our OWN desires. And that’s somewhere we’ve ALL been.

But at some point, for those of us who are Christians, we jumped on the train from King’s Cross to Katoomba. We walked through the tunnel of self-centredness, climbed the stairs of greed, and hopped off the platform of self-gratification.

And we started up the mountain towards Katoomba. We left King’s Cross. And headed for the KING who DIED on a cross.

And so life NOW is about keeping our eyes on King Jesus who calls us to live by a DIFFERENT set of rules. An upside-down set of rules. Where joy and happiness are found in putting OTHERS first. Freedom is found in SERVING. And true life is found in dying to selfishness each day.

And we’re all at different stations along the way. Some of us are doing pretty well. We’re MILES from King’s Cross. From where we used to be. We hardly miss it at all. It was such an EMPTY life. And unsatisfying. And pointless.

And life now is so much better. Richer. More satisfying. More joyful. Learning to love God. And learning to love his people.

We’re at Blaxland. Or Lawson.

And some of us AREN’T doing so well. It’s a pretty steep climb up the mountain. And the things you USED to do are still hanging around like a bad smell. Maybe you haven’t been travelling for very long. You’ve still got cravings for the OLD life. The bad habits that are hard to break. And you’ve got withdrawal symptoms.

Or perhaps you’ve been on the trip for YEARS. And for a while you were doing okay. But your wheels are slipping a bit lately. The track’s a bit steep. Things you thought you’d left behind have snuck up on you again.

Or you’ve gone a bit dry. It seems like nothing much has changed for ages. The Bible just seems like another book. Your prayers, when you bother to pray, don’t seem to reach any further than the ceiling. You’re doing it tough.

Maybe you only feel like you’re at Macdonaldtown, or Redfern.

Well, it’s PEOPLE JUST LIKE US that Peter’s writing to in Ch 4. They’re on the journey from King’s Cross to Katoomba, too. They’ve left King’s Cross behind. And, UNLIKE most of us, they were really in the middle of things. The life they used to live was just about as bad as you could get. Peter paints a pretty black picture as he thinks back to where they used to be.

But they’ve moved on from that. And Peter wants to encourage them to KEEP moving. To keep travelling towards Katoomba. And so he paints the picture about what their NEW behaviour should look like.

And it’s the same for us. Peter’s telling US to keep moving.

And he does it by giving us TWO MOTIVATIONS. Two reasons to keep moving. One’s ALREADY HAPPENED. And one’s GOING TO HAPPEN SOON.

1. Motivations to move (1-2; 5-6)

If you like, we’re like those gigantic freight trains. So many carriages, they need engines at the front AND the back. One lot of engines pulling. And one lot pushing.

Looking back: Christ’s suffering: (1-2)

And the engine that’s AT THE BACK. Is the example of Christ’s suffering. That’s the reason that’s already happened. Look at v1.

(1 Pet 4:1-2 NIV)  Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. {2} As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

“Think back to what Jesus went through” says Peter. “And take up the same attitude.”

And then he tells us what that attitude is. “He who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” And it’s a bit hard to work out who Peter is talking about. Is he talking about Jesus? Or about us?

And I think that might be the point. Jesus suffered and died, to put an end to sin. To defeat it. That’s what it said back in Ch 3. Verse 18.

(1 Pet 3:18 NIV)  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

But Peter says WE’RE to have that same attitude. Does that mean WE’RE to die so that we can defeat sin? Of course not. It’s only Jesus who could do that. But Peter’s saying “There’s a general principle there.”

When those who follow Jesus/ suffer AS WELL, it’s A DECLARATION OF WHO’S CAMP THEY’RE IN. “I’m prepared to follow Jesus – even if it means putting up with suffering.”

And if you’re in Jesus’ camp, then that means that SIN doesn’t belong anymore. It’s not part of the team uniform. GETTING RID OF SIN goes with the territory. Just like suffering.

So Peter’s saying. “Use what Jesus went through as MOTIVATION. He put up with suffering to defeat sin. And he did it for YOU. So when things get a bit tough. And you’re not sure it’s worth the effort. Get rid of sin. That’s the best way to say thankyou.”

They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. And Jesus LOVES it when we copy him. When we put up with suffering, and come to grips with sin in our lives. And get rid of it.

Look at how V2 describes it. We don’t live the rest of life for EVIL HUMAN DESIRES. But for the will of God. Mo longer what WE want. But what GOD wants INSTEAD. We’ve left King’s Cross station. And we’re headed to Katoomba. And Jesus’ suffering for us is the engine that pushes us along from behind.

Looking Forward: Christ’s judgment: (5-6)

But Peter’s also got another motivation for us. And this one’s still coming. It’s the engine that’s dragging us forward. Look forward to CHRIST’S JUDGMENT, he says. That’ll motivate you to keep going. Look down at v5.

(1 Pet 4:5 NIV)  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

A day’s coming. When EVERYONE – living or dead. Will be judged.

Judgment is a WONDERFUL thing if you know you’re INNOCENT. But it’s the EXACT OPPOSITE if you’re guilty.

You have a completely different approach to justice. Depending on whether you’re innocent or guilty. Like when you’ve been pulled over to be breath-tested on the way home from a restaurant.

It’s the difference between knowing you’ve only drunk Coke all night. And you sit there waiting. Cool as a cucumber. Because you’ve got nothing to worry about.

And when you’ve had a few beers, or glasses of wine. And you’re frantically adding up how many hours you were out for. When you had you first drink. When you had the last one. Divided by the number of pieces of pizza you had.

And just like/ the chance of being breath-tested/ makes us think twice about having another drink. So too, the coming judgment motivates us to make sure we’re on the right side. That we’re not living life for evil human desires. But according to GOD’S desires.

It’s the engine that’s pulling us from the front. Dragging us from King’s Cross to Katoomba.

King’s Cross (3-4)

Peter wants us to have the same attitude as Jesus – that is, that we’re DONE WITH SIN. And he’s given us two reasons why we should.

And back in verse 3, he describes what sorts of things his readers used to get up to. All the things that they’re DONE WITH. Look at v3.

(1 Pet 4:3 NIV)  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

It’s a pretty awful picture. Three are to do with sexual sin. Debauchery. Lust. And orgies. That’s certainly what verse 2 talks about. Evil human desires.

And then there’s two to do with parties. Drunkenness and carousing. Too much alcohol. And too much wild partying.

And there’s one more on the list. If you like it’s the worst of all. It doesn’t seem like it. But it’s the one that CAUSES all the rest. Or SUMS THEM UP. Detestable Idolatry. Whether it’s actual stone or wooden idols that represent gods. Or whether it’s ANYTHING that replaces God. Anything we desire MORE than God is IDOLATRY.

Physical satisfaction. A full stomach. Plenty to drink. Plenty of sexual partners. Lusting after people or things. And then doing ANYTHING to SATISFY that lust.

And Peter literally says. “You used to WORK at these things”. Working through the list. Ticking them off. They CONSUMED you. Your energies. Your thoughts. Your attention. You PURSUED them. With as much energy and enthusiasm as an athlete.

And these desires affected every part of your life. Tainted it.

Sin’s like that. Especially SEXUAL sin. You can’t just keep it in one compartment. It’s highly contagious. It infects your WHOLE LIFE.

It affects the way you looked at GOOD things. Like friendship and beauty. Everything degenerates into a craving to satisfy your hunger.

But the idolatry of materialism is just as contagious. Wanting more and more things. Your eye sees something. And your desire grows. And you have to have it. If someone else has it/ you’re jealous. It’s an evil desire that affects YOUR ENJOYMENT OF THE GOOD THINGS YOU’VE GOT.

The Apostle Paul said he’d learned an important secret. Not the location of a money tree. Or a treasure chest. “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether I’ve got HEAPS or nothing. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians 4:12 and 13. What a great secret!

Evil human desires. No wonder Peter says they spent enough time in the past doing that stuff. But not any more. They left that station behind.

But their old drinking mates didn’t cope too well. Look at v4.

(1 Pet 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.

They can’t understand why anyone would want to do anything diffferent. Doesn’t EVERYONE want to get swept along by the wonderful mob mentality of doing whatever feels good? Peter describes it as a “flood of dissipation”. Over the top wild-ness. Out of control degeneracy.

But here’s the thing that’s REALLY strange. The parties and debauchery were supposed to be such good fun. Everyone being everyone elses best friend.

But it was just EMPTY friendship. A loose connection for as long as the party lasted. Because everyone looks attractive through the bottom of a beer glass.

And as soon as these Christians left that station behind, their old friends turned on them. They ABUSED them. Can’t have been much of a friendship.

It’s because the whole basis for that lifestyle is making YOURSELF feel good. Meeting selfish desires. There’s no room for mutual friendship. Looking out for SOMEONE ELSE.

Well, that’s King’s Cross. That’s the station the Christians in Peter’s time have left behind.

Katoomba (7-11)

But they haven’t made it to Katoomba yet. They’re still on the journey. And so Peter spends some time describing where they’re headed. Encouraging them to push on.

And notice how neither of his two descriptions are INDIVIDUAL ones. He described what they USED TO DO when they got together. And now he describes what they SHOULD be doing WHEN THEY’RE TOGETHER as Christians.

So he’s actually painting a portrait for US. Not just about where we’re headed as INDIVIDUALS. But also as a church. It’s a GROUP PORTRAIT. Look at v7.

(1 Pet 4:7-9 NIV)  The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. {8} Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. {9} Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

And notice what a contrast it is to the way they USED to live.

Be clear-minded. It’s literally BE SOBER. That’s compared with being DRUNK. And be self-controlled, rather than carousing and getting carried away with wild parties.

And rather than chasing after idols. Be clear-minded and self-controlled so you can PRAY. Focus on God, rather than idols. On the Living God who hears and answers prayers, rather than dead idols who can’t do anything.

Judgment is coming. So pray for yourself. For your old mates. For your fellow Christians. It’s not “Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we die!” But “Be SOBER, SELF-CONTROLLED and PRAY. For tomorrow we die!”

And instead of lusting after someone’s body, or enjoying the dirty thoughts and actions of debauchery. Love each other deeply. That’s the RIGHT expression of love.

Have STRETCHY love. It’s to be DEEP. That is, fervent. Full-on. Without giving up. Love that doesn’t run out.

And as well as being DEEP, love is to SPREAD OUT WIDELY. There’s a quote from Proverbs. Love COVERS OVER a multiude of sins. Deep love overlooks other’s mistakes. It KEEPS loving even when people don’t ACT as if they deserve love.

And one of the ways of SHOWING that love/ is to offer hospitality without grumbling. Instead of hosting an orgy, or a swingers party, offer hospitality instead.

How good are WE at offering hospitality?

But it’s not just hospitality. In fact, says Peter in v10. Use WHATEVER gift God’s given you to SERVE OTHERS. Do it faithfully. Like a steward who is trusted to do a good job. Make the most of it. Don’t let it waste away.

Are you making the most of the gifts God’s given you? Or have you just put them on the back burner for a little while?

Next, we see some examples of how that WORKS. Verse 11.

(1 Pet 4:11 NIV)  If anyone SPEAKS, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone SERVES, he should do it with the strength God provides,

What does it mean to speak as one speaking the very words of God? I don’t know about you, but most of the time I say the first thing that comes into my head. And often what comes out is hardly worth saying. But if we recognise that we’re speaking the very words of God, that will make us stop and think about what we’re saying.

Because words can have a powerful effect. They make a difference. And they can be something that GOD USES for his purposes. To encourage. And comfort. And rebuke. And challenge. And support.

So let’s recognise the effect of the words we say. Let’s ask God to USE what we say to achieve his ends. Let’s speak as if we’re speaking the very words of God.

And even when we DON’T speak, Peter’s got some instructions for us. “If anyone SERVES, he should do it with all the strength, or ability, that God provides.”

Don’t run out of oomph half-way through a job. Don’t IGNORE a job, because you don’t think you can do it. And when you ARE doing it, do it DEPENDING ON GOD. Not in your own strength, or for your own glory.

Because when you serve with THAT attitude, it’s NOT God who gets the glory.

Peter says “serve with the strength God provides, SO THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE PRAISED THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

When people are LOVING with stretchy love, using their gifts faithfully, speaking to each other as if it’s God speaking, serving with the ability and strength that God gives. Then THAT’S a church that gives glory to God.

That’s the two portraits. King’s Cross. And Katoomba. How are YOU travelling? How far up the mountain are you?

How deep and stretchy is your LOVE? How faithful and responsible are you at using your gifts? How hospitable are you? And what’s your attitude like as you do it? What’s your speech like? Are you conscious of speaking as if they’re God’s own words?

And how are we doing at those things as a church?

(1 Pet 4:11 NIV)  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

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