1 Peter 4:7-11 If you have your bibles open you will see that the editors of the ESV bible have called this section of the Bible “Stewards of Grace”—a nice little summary of what we have before us and the title of my sermon this morning. But what do these words mean?
A steward is someone who manages what belongs to another. The thing itself does not belong to the steward-- but they are free to use it and manage it according to the values and guidelines of the owner.
That is what we are when it comes to the gifts that God has entrusted into our hands: money, health, time, life itself—all of those things that we call “mine”—really belong to God who has given them to us to use and manage according to his will.
Today God tells us of a special kind of stewardship that we have—that we are stewards of his grace. Grace is the attitude that God has towards us on account of Jesus—his undeserved favor and love on account of his Son’s redeeming work.
That we are stewards of God’s grace means that God has entrusted to our hands the love that he has for the world so that we can use that grace for the sake of others. And so then, how does that stewardship of God’s grace takes shape in our lives in our attitudes and actions? The Bible says that: The end of all things is at hand;
Peter knew that Jesus could return in glory at any moment—but he also knew that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousands year like a day—and so when he wrote that the end of all things was at hand, he wasn’t setting a date-- but he was saying that there was nothing left in the redemption story except the Lord’s return.
Everything has been accomplished for our salvation: Jesus has died upon the cross, risen from the dead, and ascended to the Father and has promised to return. That is what we are waiting for and looking forward to-- and as we wait and watch for our Lord’s return, the Bible talks about what kind of attitude we are to have as stewards of grace--that we are to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of our prayers.
To be self-controlled means that we tell ourselves “no” when it comes to doing those things that are wrong and we must learn to “make” ourselves do what is right. And secondly, to be sober-minded means that we must learn to think clearly and carefully about life, guided by God’s Word.
Just think about the scandals that we see all around us—public and private—and how many of those could have been avoided if the people involved had learned how to tell themselves “no” –thought clearly and carefully about the consequences of their actions BEFORE they did them—and made themselves do the right thing.
As stewards of God’s grace, our will ought to be self-controlled—our thinking sober-minded—and our hearts filled with love for others. The Bible says: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
God’s undeserved favor and mercy flows from Jesus’ love for us shown at the cross. And as his stewards, that same love of Christ is to flow from us to others.
We live in a world that needs the love of God. There are so many hurting people—so many broken families—so many sad situations that we may not even know about—where the love that has been given to us in Jesus would make all the difference in the world if we would only share it with others.
The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins and we see how true that is first of all in Jesus’ love for us. It is his sacrifice, given on the cross that has covered all our sins with his blood.
That same kind of loving sacrifice on our part is what causes us to overlook the frailty, faults and failings in others that are a part of our common life together.
Our faith in Jesus conforms our will to his in that we live lives that are self-controlled. Our faith informs our intellect in that we are sober-thinkers. And our faith transforms our emotions so that our hearts are filled with love for others. It is this Christ-like attitude that shapes our actions as stewards of God’s grace. The Bible says:
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…
This list of ways that we can serve as stewards of God’s grace is not exhaustive but it is representative of grace-filled living: hospitality—serving—and speaking. And so, we are going to look at those three in detail—both from the perspective of God acting in these ways towards us-- and then us sharing these same graces with others.
Being hospitable means that our hearts and homes are open to others—that we are willing to make a place for others in our lives. But the root of the word in Greek means to especially welcome a stranger—to make a place for someone who is not naturally a part of our circle.
That of course is what God did for us. We are not naturally his children but his enemies. And yet God’s heart was open and loving and he made a place for us in his family through Jesus’ reconciling work.
When we are hospitable to others we share this grace of welcome. In our homes and congregations and our circle of friends we are not closed off to others but make a place for them in our lives so that they can know there is a place for them in God’s life.
And then there’s serving. Jesus once told his disciples that he had not come into the world TO BE served—but TO serve and to give his life as a ransom for others. The Bible says that we are to look out for the interests of other and count others better than ourselves. Jesus service cost him his life and there is a cost to us in serving others—a cost to our pride—a costs to our wallets—a cost to our time.
But it is especially in serving that the world can see Christ in us. All over this world today there are Christians who are feeding others and teaching others and healing others and caring for others in the name of Jesus Christ.
These works of mercy help the world around us to know the Savior we follow. And the same is true much closer to home. When mom feeds the family and dad works overtime to support the family and the kids help out around the house—in other words when they serve one another-- they show something very real about the faith they have in their hearts and they allow God’s grace to bless others around them.
And finally the Bible talks about our speech as a vehicle of God’s grace—certainly in telling others about Jesus in our homes and community—but also in how we talk to one another in day-to-day life. The Bible has plenty to say about our speech.
It instructs to ask three questions about what comes out of our mouth: is it true? We are forbidden by God to tell lies about our neighbor and gossip about our neighbor and ruin his reputation. And then, is what we’re saying loving? Even if something is true, is it loving for us to mention it or bring it up. Would we be embarrassed to have friends hear how we talk to our family members? And finally, do my words edify—that is, do they build up that other person or tear them down? Is our speech true and loving and edifying like God’s Word to us?
Our speech is a powerful means of bestowing the grace of God on the lives of others when we speak in loving, honest ways that mirrors the loving words that God has spoke about us in his Word, encouraging, praising, and thanking others.
When we welcome others into our home and congregation and circle of friends—when we serve those around us to meet their needs—when we say kind things about others that build them up rather than tear them down—we are exercising our stewardship of the grace of God and witnessing to Jesus Christ and bringing glory to God. The Bible says that we are to do this so that:
In everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In the upper room, the night before Jesus went to the cross, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed: Father, I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do. So it is to be with our lives as stewards of God’s grace—that our lives are dedicated to bringing glory to God by sharing his gracious love with others just like Jesus did.
We ought to make it our life’s goal to able to say those same words at the end of our life: Father, I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do.
The Bible says that we who believe in Jesus Christ are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR good works. This is why the grace of God has been poured out upon us so richly in Jesus Christ—so that our own lives would be like his, bestowing his gracious love upon others—so that they could come to know and love him as we do. May God bless and empower our lives as stewards of his grace. Amen.