Michael Youssef - Identity Transformation - Part 11
For the true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, their faith is not seasonal. For true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, their godly conduct is not occasional. It is not one thing in public and one thing in private. The Apostle Peter tells us a true believer's conduct is motivated by the fact that the Lord is near.
A lot of people these days are claiming to be Christians and evangelicals, even. It must be contagious around election time. So many people who claim to be Christians and you look closer and their lives are devoid of Christian conduct. They live lives that has no evidence of the Christian faith, but they say, "I'm a Christian". Many politicians always discover churches around election season. To be sure, there's some who are true believers, and I will not take that away from them, election or no election, but all of this is far cry from the true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. How can you tell the difference? Well, their conduct in life. If they're believers, they operate under biblical principles day in and day out. The truth is anybody can claim to be anything, right?
Some people claim to be Christians because they go to church a couple of times a year. Being kind to animals or do a whole myriad of things, nothing wrong with that. In fact, I try not to use the word "Christian," or even "evangelical," because they don't mean anything anymore. Because for the true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, their faith is not seasonal. For true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, their godly conduct is not occasional. It is not one thing in public and one thing in private. A true believer's conduct is not as-need basis. For true believers, their conduct is not so they can get ahead in business or get some votes, no. For true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, their conduct is not to manipulate people and manipulate even God. There's some people try to manipulate God, believe it or not.
And that is why in 1 Peter chapter 4, beginning at verse 7 to verse 11, the Apostle Peter tells us a true believer's conduct is motivated by the fact that the Lord is near. That is truly what motivates every single believer in this life, the Lord is near. I want you to look at those verses with me please, at chapter 4, beginning at verse 7 to verse 11. I'm calling today's message in this series, "The Conduct of the Transformed Identity". The conduct of the transformed identity is not only consistent, but it's also persistent. In fact, there are four characteristics of the conduct of a transformed identity I want to share with you from this passage. Four characteristics. First, to them, prayer is a delight, not a duty. To them, love is second nature, not a chore. And to them, hospitality is a joy, not a job.
And finally, to them, the use of their spiritual gift comes naturally, not forced. First, those who have their identity being transformed into Christ, to them, prayer is a delight. It's not something you just have to do and they say, "Oh, I forgot to pray. Oh, this prayer, I'll do this". No, no, no, it's a sheer delight.
Now, let me stop here for a moment because I know this. I've been around a long time and I know once the preacher start talking about prayer, a lot of people begin to feel guilt about their prayer life. They immediately fear being rebuked about their prayer life. They really feel badly about themselves. I wanna change that today, amen? No one, including your pastor, ever feels good about their prayer life. I mean, I can pray for hours, still I don't feel right about my prayer life. So that's why people sit there and feel guilt about their prayer life when the preacher preaches on prayer. And we're gonna change that today, okay? Because if you get those temporary feelings of guilt every time you hear a sermon on prayer, and you say, "Oh, I should have prayed more. I should have prayed this and I should do this and that. I should have done that and I should have the other thing," if this continue, what do you know? You know what's going to happen? You're gonna develop immunity, and we don't want that.
Many years ago, I wrote a book called, "The Prayer that God Answers," and I remember clearly the publisher was actually taking issue with me on the title of one of the chapters. And the title of that particular chapter says, "Prayer is Easy". And this dear man, he kept saying, "Wait a minute, prayer is hard. Prayer is hard. What do you mean when you say prayer is easy"? I said, "Let me explain to you". It's easy to pray when you want something that only God can give you. It is easy to pray when you're desperate, right? It's easy to pray when you are at your wits' end. It's easy to pray when everything else has failed and you got nothing but God.
See, during those times, you pray day and night. It comes easy to you. By the way, there's nothing wrong with that. You got that? Nothing wrong with it. But this is far cry from what Peter said here in verse 7 of chapter 4, "The end of all things is near; therefore be clear-minded, be self-controlled". Why? So that you can pray. Peter is saying that when you live every single day in the anticipation of the return of the Lord, if you live with the return of the Lord in your mind, on your heart, you would delight yourself in prayer, whether you want something from God or not. Prayer would be like spending time with the most loved person. Prayer would be like delighting yourself in the one in whom you dearly love. Prayer would be like wanting to express gratitude and thanksgiving to somebody who literally snatched you out of the jaws of death. Prayer is like something you look forward to, not just daily or hourly, but every moment of every day.
You hear people say, "Have you said your prayers"? I cringe every time I hear that word, "Have you said your prayers"? because saying your prayers is like somebody calls you on the phone, and as soon as you say hello, they start talking, and they talk, and they talk, and they talk, and as soon as they finish, they hang up. That's saying prayer. I want to teach you two Greek words from which we get two English words that it will help you in your prayer life. One word is "dunamis," from which we get "dynamite". And the second word is "energeia," from which we get "energy". And you hear people talk about the power of prayer. I want to explain something to you very important today. I pray the Lord will use it to transform and encourage you. "Dunamis" is like the wires in this building, the electric walls, the cables. I'm telling you, I saw it when it was being built. I mean, there's so many wires in this place.
If we turned all of the lights off, you would have no doubt that there is power in the wires, right? You know the current is there. That's dunamis. Dunamis is there. But energeia is only possible that when you flip the switch, and the electricity comes on, and you experience the power of the dunamis. The power of prayer is in you switching that light. The power of God is always there. The power of God is like the dunamis. It's always there. It's wired. It's everywhere. But only can experience that power when you switch on the light, when you get that energeia. There is power that God has placed that can only be found in prayer. His power is there all the time, but you only experience it when you flip the switch and you actually spend time with him. Are you with me? How?
If you're living every day longing for the return of Christ, knowing that you're a traveler and a sojourner, and you're not really gonna be here forever, when you live with the expectation of seeing the Lord face-to-face, that will give you a clear mind. It's gonna give you a clear mind to help you be able to pray according to the will of God. This is the only way that you get your prayers answered. If all of my petitions, and if all of my requests of God, if all of my prayer is to do with this life, it's to do with this world, do with this earth, all the stuff that's going on, and nothing wrong with that again, but if that's all there is, oh, I can say my prayers until I'm blue in the face, they are no power. They are no power.
Listen to what Paul said in Romans 8:27. "He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints". That's every believer, by the way, not those people in the stained glass windows. "Intercedes for the saints according to the will of God". You see, when you live this life with the expectation of seeing Jesus face-to-face and spending eternity with him, prayer is gonna be a delight, not a duty. And second characteristic of that conduct of a transformed identity is loving will become second nature.
Now, you notice how prayer comes first, then love? Now, there's some people try to reverse that and it doesn't work. It really doesn't, and I'll explain to you why. The reason he started with being clear-minded, and therefore praying according to the will of God is because when your vertical life is on track, your horizontal life will be fine. When your vertical relationship is out of whack, don't expect the horizontal relationship to work well. And Peter uses a word here which means your love being stretched. Hello? I know and you know that there's some people stretch our love. I mean, they strain it to the limits, God bless them. We're supposed to love everyone, but be honest about it. And that's what he's talking about, the stretched, the strained love. They stretch our love to the limit.
The problem for most of us is that we think that we are always right. Well, at least mostly right. We think that we are the ones who are being wronged all the time, or most of the time. We kind of don't easily see our shortcomings. We don't easily see our imperfections. We don't easily see our weaknesses. In fact, when you see these weaknesses, and shortcomings, and imperfections in your children, you don't like it. I wanna tell you why you don't like it, because it reminds you of your own failures and shortcomings. Don't take it out on the kids. Don't be irritated with the kids.
God sometimes use these as an opportunity to hold the mirror up to us and he says, "See? That's what you're like, but I love you anyway. You think you're wonderful? You think you're beautiful? You think you're intelligent? You think that you're right all the time? Look here. Look in the mirror. Here's what you don't like about yourself, but I love you anyway". Then God says, "Now, you must love others like my loving you. You must love them regardless of their failures. You must love them regardless of their shortcomings. You must love them regardless of their weaknesses. Love them like I love you". Verse 8, what does it mean, "Love covers a multitude of sins"?
Some people would translate this to mean that love glosses over sin. I mean, they began back in the '50s lowering the bar, and lowering the bar, lowering the bar, lowering the bar, to the point as the bar's on the floor. I mean, there's no sin. There's no such thing as sin. Sin doesn't exist. We're all sinners. We're all imperfect. We're all this and we're all that. But listen to me, that is not what Peter is saying here. God does not wink at sin. It's all right, everybody does it. Nobody's perfect, just go for it. No, that's what they say. God does not pretend that sin does not exist. Don't you ever forget that sin brought him from the glories of heaven to hang him on that miserable cross to shed his blood for you and for your sins, for my sin. He doesn't wink at sin, and that's why the Bible said, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we", what? Confess our sins. "When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and he forgives us all our sins".
And so, now this is love. If you really love a person, you don't only love the sinner, but you got to love his sin. You've got to approve of their sin. It's utter falsehood. It's not biblical. It's not the Scripture. It's not the Christian faith. As a matter of fact, I'm gonna be saying more about this in the next message. It's not because you love you approve of sin, no. What the Word of God is saying to us today is this: you love your brothers and your sisters in Christ just like Jesus loves you. Jesus never winks at your sin, but he said if you confess it, he forgives you. You see, that's why Jesus taught the disciples to pray in the Lord's Prayer, we call it the Lord's Prayer, it's really the disciples' prayer. "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us".
Now, he's not talking about salvation. Salvation was taken care of when you came to Jesus Christ and receive him as Savior and Lord. He's talking about daily life. And if you refuse to forgive another fellow believer, how can you expect God to forgive you those daily sins? When we confess, our heavenly Father is more anxious to forgive us when we admit, which really means that we're in agreement with God. God, I blew it. My goodness, how many times have I prayed this and I've never once heard God say to me, "Michael, this is your 20,750 times you came to me and you asked for..." No, he doesn't do that, and we need to do the same. Your prayer life will be a delight, not a duty. Your loving of others would be just second nature.
And thirdly, hospitality will be a joy, not a job. The Oxford Dictionary defines "hospitality" as follows: friendly and generous reception of guests and strangers. Good for the Oxford Dictionary. In fact, Poor Richard's Almanack says that fish and guests smell after 3 days. That's more like it. Beloved, the bottom line is this. Listen carefully, please. The spirit of hospitality extends beyond the tangible acts of providing meals and place for people to stay. It includes the act, of course, but it is the attitude of unselfishness. That's really what Peter is saying here. So, we do what we do no matter the sacrifice, and we do it without grumbling and complaining.
Many years ago, when I tell you the end of the story, you'll figure out how many years ago, there was a businessman who came to a posh hotel and was trying to get a room for the night. And the conversation between the front desk manager and this man about the room, he said, "Sir, I'm sorry, we're fully booked. You can't have a room," and the conversation went on for a little while. Right there standing in the lobby was a very well-dressed man, and he overheard the conversation. So, he walked up to the stranger. He said, "Sir, I can hear what's going on. Would you accept my hospitality and come and stay the night in my room"? The stranger was very grateful and he sure enough went to spend the night with this debonair-looking man. And when the stranger went to bed, he saw his host on his knees, praying.
And then the first thing in the morning when he woke up, he saw the host reading the Bible. Well, what's been happening, the Holy Spirit has been convicting this stranger for several months, and he did not know it, but it's been going inside of him. And so, he finally asked his host, and within 30 minutes, the host led the stranger to the Lord. In 30 minutes. And then in the morning, they were both were departing to their different destination, but not before exchanging business cards. I want you to imagine with me, when this stranger, this guest being absolutely and literally flabbergasted to discover that his host was no other than William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of State. Peter is saying to us that one of the highest expressions of Christian love is hospitality.
And so, he's telling us that when you live in the light of the return of the Lord and you're spending eternity in heaven with him, your prayer life is going to be a delight, not a duty. Your love is gonna be second nature. Your hospitality will be a joy, not a job. And finally, fourthly, the use of your spiritual gift, it comes so natural that you cannot stop. Here's what the Bible teaches. Every single believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the day he or she born again, born of the Spirit, the Bible symbolizes the birth, the physical birth, but spiritually become reborn. People mock that and take it out of context, but every believer has this spiritual experience of rebirth. And when that happens, the Holy Spirit brings to each one a spiritual birthday gift, beautifully wrapped, and they hand it to you.
One of the saddest things, I have to say, is there are many believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have never unpacked that spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit gave them. That's the saddest thing, and that's why the church is not having the impact that it ought to have. I'm not talking about our church, I'm talking about the church of Jesus Christ. There are some who've been given more than one gift, two, three, or four, but every one of us has been given at least one gift. And Paul emphasized the importance of this, and as I tell you many, many times, when something in the Scripture emphasized more than once, or twice, or three times, you better take notice of it. Paul emphasizes it in his writing three times. You find it in Romans 12, you find it in 1 Corinthians 12, and you find it in Ephesians 4.
Whether it be the gift of teaching, or the gift of hospitality, or the gift of faith, or gift of administration, or gift of leadership, or gift of giving, whatever the Holy Spirit gave you as a birthday gift, he first and foremost gave it to you so that you might glorify God with it. Those who refuse to discover and use their spiritual gifts, they are stealing God's glory. I wanna repeat this. Those who refuse to open and discover their spiritual gifts and use it, they are stealing God's glory. Secondly, these gifts to each one of us, and it may be just a limited number of gifts, but even the variety of gifts, whenever they're given to us, there is not two of them alike. Just like our fingerprints, no two of them alike. Just like there's no two snowflakes alike, there are not two given gifts alike.
And we don't use our spiritual gifts to benefit us, we use our spiritual gifts not to draw people to us, we use our spiritual gifts not for our glory. No, no, no, no, and those who try, they're gonna learn very quickly the Lord has a way of dealing with that. Let me ask you a question. How can you brag about a gift, right? You have not created it. You have not originated it. You cannot imitate it. You cannot create it. It's given to you. How can you brag about something that was handed to you? Warning, warning, warning. If you know your spiritual gift or gifts and you're not using them, you are not only sinning against a Holy God, but you're sinning against the body of Jesus Christ. If you want help, as Peter said, the last part of verse 11, "That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To whom belongs the glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen".