The Bible describes life in a number of ways. James says that it is a vapour, a puff of steam, “that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.” David, approaching his earthly end, described his life as nothing more substantial than a passing shadow. Job said life was like the wind. Some winds are hurricanes and others are gentle breezes. But every one of them are here for a while and then are gone. Moses said, “we spend our years as a tale that is told.” We are short stories. At our funerals, our lives are often described as little more than a succession of highlights.
This, “as a tale that is told” is the approach that I’d like to make toward life in this message tonight. Our lives are divided into chapters, where we spend longer periods of time. One chapter is our childhood, another is our adulthood before marriage, then marriage, retirement, etc. But then in those chapters there are hundreds of individual paragraphs, each quite different from others. And those paragraphs are comprised of a great many sentences – day to day events.
Throughout each day we do a hundred different things. We get dressed; perhaps we go to the gym; we eat breakfast; we read our Bibles; we pray. On different days we have different schedules: one day we mow the lawn, on another we water the house plants, on another we buy groceries, and then there is our weekly visit with that special friend. But once in a while come those special tasks: shoveling snow, going to the doctor, celebrating July 4th.
I’d like to ask: in the midst of all these successive things, WHY do we do WHAT we do?
What motivates you? For example, why do you go to bed every night at 11:00 instead of 9:00? Or, why do you take those vitamins every day? Why do come to church three times a week?
I suppose that every little duty, and every action we take, could be impelled by different reasons. Without a doubt many things are done out of habit – without much thought. But laying under those habits there were originally some specific reasons. You may habitually brush your teeth twice a day, because you don’t like dentists drilling on your teeth. You go to the store because your family, and your pets, need food. You do it for them. You get your hair cut, because it keeps growing, and because it makes you feel good to get it cut. You cut your toenails, because if you don’t, your shoes hurt your feet, and if you don’t your socks endf up with holes in them.
When I asked myself about the reasons for the things I do throughout the day, I came up with several answers. I do some things for Judy, and I do other things for you – our church. I do things for the Lord, and I do other things just for myself. And there is also the fact that some of these reasons blend with others in single duties. You probably do things because you love your family – your spouse, your children, your grandchildren. You might, from time to time, do things for your country or for your neighbors. But I doubt that any of the fireworks over the last weekend were really for the United States of America. People weren’t blowing things up at midnight for the blessing of the neighbors. Some would say it was for the kids, but 90% of it was for the pleasure of the demolition team, not for the children. Why do you mow the lawn? Is it because it is getting long, or is it because of what the neighbors might think if you don’t cut it? What if you never feed or water it, and it becomes a yellow/brown eye-sore in the middle of the block?
Peter, why should we submit ourselves to the ordinances of civil government? He answers: “That we might silence the ignorance of foolish men” – verse 15. Why should we have our conversations honest among the Gentiles? “That they may see our good works and glorify God in the day of visitation.” In just a few more verses, Peter will tell Christian servants that they should obey their masters, among other reasons, in order that their consciences might be clear before the Lord – verse 19. He implies throughout this chapter that saints should all live righteously out of love and thanksgiving to God.
Isn’t it true that most of what we do – the vast majority of what we do – we do for ourselves? Why do I brush my teeth twice a day? I don’t do it for you, or for Judy, or for my dentist. I do it for me, because I don’t like going to the dentist. Why do I go to the gym? Why have I tried to lose weight, and why am I striving to keep it off? It’s because I want to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Yes, I do these things for my wife, and I do it to be able to continue to serve the Lord. But I confess that mostly I do it more for me. It makes me feel good – emotionally and physically. Why do I dress the way that I do? I do it for me, but with an eye on what others might think of me. Pride. Why do I mow the grass every week? Because my neighbor mows his lawn at least once a week, and I don’t want him comparing his lawn to mine. It’s about me. Why do I drive the speed limit and obey other city ordinances? Because I don’t want to be punished as an evildoer. Why do I reluctantly pay my taxes? For the same reason. Some of you men ascribe to the maxim: “Happy wife – happy life.” Isn’t that just a bit selfish? Why do I spend hours preparing messages to share with you every week? I do it for you. I do it for the Lord. And I do it for me. I don’t want to think that it was obvious I didn’t spend enough time preparing for this service.
Underlying nearly everything I do, despite what I say about serving others, I’m also thinking about me. I’m not going to say that these things are true of you, but they probably are to some degree. If we are honest, self and selfishness are a part of nearly everything we do.
I remind you that the Holy Spirit’s subject here in this part of First Peter is obedience to civil government. So again, why should we submit ourselves to every ordinance of man? Maybe we don’t want to have to pay a fine or go to jail unnecessarily. That may be one selfish reason. But Peter says that we ought to have other reasons. “That with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” He says that we should obey the laws of our society that our unbelieving neighbors “may by your good works… glorify God in the day of visitation.” But after these things, there is still something else; something even higher to motivate us: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.”
Here is the ULTIMATE PURPOSE for doing anything – everything – do it for the LORD’S SAKE.
What does that mean; “the Lord’s sake?” There is nothing hidden in the word itself. There is no explanation to be found in the Greek Lexicon. Our Christian minds shouldn’t have any problem understanding it. The authorities which God has established should be obeyed for the Lord Himself; for the Name of God. We may not want to pay a $90.00 ticket, so we maintain the speed limit. That part may be all about us. But more than that, we should try to keep our turbo-charged automobile under the speed limit for the Name of the Lord. If God has demanded submission then we should submit for Him – no questions asked. We should obey the government of our state in the name of our Saviour; we should do it for God’s sake.
More specifically, we should submit ourselves for the cause of the Lord. Remember, we are trying to silence the anti-Christian critics. We are trying to win the lost to Christ; sharing with them a hunger and thirst for righteousness and salvation. The Lord could instantly implement His glorious kingdom, compelling all the countries and kingdoms of men into submission to Him. But that has not been His sovereign choice or design. He has chosen to use you and me for His glory. And as long as we are living in an unnecessarily obnoxious, or sinful manner, in the eyes of the world, we are not doing the cause of Christ any good.
To put it another way, we are to submit ourselves to God’s established earthly governments for God’s glory. Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and GLORIFY your Father which is in heaven.” I Corinthians 6:20 – “Ye are bought with a price; therefore GLORIFY God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the GLORY of God.” That verse from First Corinthians 10 answers the question:
WHAT should we do for the Lord’s sake?
We should do absolutely everything for His sake. If we could get this principle off the page and into our hearts it would revolutionize our purpose on earth. It would silence Christ’s critics, because it would stifle the selfishness of our lives which hinders the lost from seeing the Lord through us. If we put the Lord’s glory in the forefront of all that we do, the Holy Spirit would have what He needs to make us into servants of God and vessels of honor. “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,” which both belong to God the Saviour. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” So in the context, we submit ourselves to the ordinances of the civil government.
Peter’s words may have been related to the ordinances of man. But the gist of the New Testament is that we are to do everything for the Lord’s sake. That means we are to comb our hair for the glory of our Saviour. We are to dress for Him. We are to patiently wait in line at the bank for God’s glory, even letting someone else move ahead. We are to be polite and respectful, not in order to be recognized, but that the Lord might be recognized. We are to “honor all men. Love the brotherhood… and honour the king” for the sake of our Saviour. We should get out of bed in the morning for the sake of the Lord, and we should go to bed in the evening for the same reason. Even our entertainment should be enjoyed for the sake of the Lord. When the Holy Spirit said “whatsoever” He was talking about everything.
Just think for a moment about a couple of words in I Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether therefore ye EAT, or DRINK or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Whether or not anyone else was paying attention, last Sunday afternoon, during that time we spent at Bro. Berg’s house with our visitor from Ohio, I embarrassed myself at the way I was eating. Because the food was so tasty, and it had been so long since I ate a potato chip, I had far too much and it was not the sort of food I should have been eating. I was eating selfishly. I was eating for me; not for the Lord’s glory. What if we only ate for the glory of God and not for ourselves? Would I be correct in thinking we’d never over eat? Wouldn’t our weight drop if we ate for God? Would we get Type-II diabetes if we ate for God’s sake? How many bodily ailments would we miss if we truly ate for God’s glory? Why do some children, refuse to eat their vegetables, skipping some of the meal in order to have dessert? It’s because they are born as selfish, flesh-gratifying little sinners. As Christian adults, if we ate for the glory of God, we’d not be as picky; we’d eat more healthily. “Whether therefore ye EAT, or DRINK or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but generally speaking, shouldn’t the servants of God be among the healthiest of any group in America, because they eat and drink for the sake of their Saviour?
What should we do for the Lord’s sake? If we only considered the Lord and not ourselves, our prayer lives might change. How much of our prayerful devotions are filled with personal wishes, even when we pray for others? We want aunt Mabel to be healed, because it grieves us to see her in so much pain. It grieves US. Do we say, or do we really mean, the words, “NOT my will, but thine be done, Lord?”
How many Christians, especially pastors, yearn to stand in the limelight? How many Christians take the upper seats at the feast, metaphorically speaking? How many Christians have never really learned to sacrifice themselves or their possessions for the sake of the Lord?
The man who is writing this epistle was, for a long time, living like a relatively immature, self-centered child. Please turn to Matthew 19:27 – “Then answered Peter and said unto (Jesus), Behold, WE have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall WE have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Peter was like so many, measuring his Christian life by what he had done, what he had sacrificed for God. “In the regeneration” refers to the day when we are complete in Christ – the day of our glorification when we shall rule and reign with our Saviour. At some point around that time, we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ “that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done…” and those things which have been done, or which we have sacrificed, will be recognized and rewarded. But the key to that recognition will be whether those things have been given up for Christ’s name’s sake. Whatever has been done for ourselves, even in our Christian service, will be a part of the wood, hay and stubble which will be burned.
If I preach God’s word, even the gospel, without expressly doing it for Christ’s sake, will that service be honored? If I pray for a friend’s protection or for his good health, but I don’t consider God’s glory in my request, will it be rewarded? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” At the time of judgment and reward, whether or not we have put Christ first, will be evaluated.
That will be then… that will be soon at the Bema Judgment.
But are there more immediate or timely effects in doing all things for Jesus’ sake?
In studying for this message, I found and read all the scriptures which speak of doing things “for God’s sake.” And I was surprised by what I found. There was, of course, what Peter says here: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” And then there were our Lord’s words in Matthew 19:29 – “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” As we have seen, we are exhorted to submit ourselves to the ordinances of men for the Lord’s sake, and rewards will be given for our submission and our sacrifice. But the other five verses which use these words have a very different tone – a negative tone. Remember, we are to do everything for the Lord’s sake and glory.
Listen to some words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake” – Matthew 5:11. What can we expect when we put the Lord first in our lives, trying to live for His glory? Don’t be surprised if your dedication and sacrifice to God brings hatred and persecution. And then there is Matthew 10:32 – “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven… Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Living for the glory of Christ; living for Jesus’ sake, will mean some degree of hatred by the world.
After the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, God commissioned Ananias to baptize him. When Ananias expressed a little reluctance, “the Lord said unto him, Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how great things he must SUFFER for my name’s’ sake.” I won’t go so far as to say that your service and sacrifice for the Lord will mean suffering as Paul suffered, but there is a direct connection between seeking God’s glory and receiving the world’s hatred. Paul told the Corinthians when speaking generally about the apostles said, “We are (considered as) fools for Christ’s sake” – I Corinthians 4:10. And later he testified, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” – II Corinthians 4.
Here is where the true, mature saints of God are separated from the professing saints and immature believers. And I am including myself among the latter group to some degree. I am talking about how much of our lives are spent for God’s sake. It can probably be said that the more we live for the glory of God the more the world will laugh at us. But, there will be those few people, whose hearts God touches, who will find that your testimony draws them to the Saviour.
So we have a choice to make. The decision is ours. Are we willing to endure the ridicule of most of the world in order to lead a few souls to the Saviour? Are we willing to do all things for Christ’s sake even if it means rejection or persecution by our family or our neighbors? As I say, the choice is ours. But the exhortation is God’s: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”