In preparation for preaching, many preachers do more research than necessary. We also have a tendency to write or prepare more than we need to say. Therefore, I go through a process of cutting out portions of my sermons. I do this for my sake, and the sanity of the congregation. Otherwise, my 35-minute sermons would turn into 45 maybe even 50 minute sermons.
Generally, that which is cut out does no benefit to the sermon as a whole. Maybe the information is too “heady”, maybe it’s more detail than necessary, or maybe my words become too redundant. On occasion, though, I run into moments a passage is too much to cover in a 35 minute period. That was the case this past Sunday, and it was only 7 verses! For this sermon, I originally had 8 pages! My sermons are typically 3 and half pages!
There is more that I can speak on concerning actions speaking louder than words. I could say more about how Christ desires a beautiful heart on the inside as opposed to looking good on the outside. But one section that I decided to not speak on, and struggled to cut out was the last phrase made by Peter in verse 7. It says this:
1 Peter 3:7c NIV – … so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
This phrase seems to pop out of nowhere, and it makes a pretty bold claim! Peter expresses to his listeners there are consequences to not making ourselves lower. Namely, our communication with God!
Too often we simplify prayer to requests, and to do so here in this passage would be missing quite a bit of what Peter is saying. Prayer in its grandest form is communication with God. Prayer IS asking God, but prayer is also praising God. Prayer is meditating on his truth and Word. Prayer is offering thanksgiving for what God has done. Prayer is listening to God as he not only answers our requests, but also speaks that which we need to hear in order to be corrected and look more like Him. Prayer is BEING WITH GOD.
If we view prayer this way, it brings out the severity of what Peter is promising his readers. If we live at odds with our spouse, then we will live at odds with God. Our prayers, our communication will be hindered. Peter is saying if we raise ourselves above the other, then how can we in turn lower ourselves before Christ? The same one who said:
Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
And James who said this,
James 4:3 NIV
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
God cares deeply about Christians and how they interact with each other and the world. It goes across the board with all relationships. If we are at odds with others, even more so fellow believers, it will affect our relationship with God. How much more important, then, is our marriage relationship? The relationship God has highlighted to closely model Christ’s relationship with the Church!
All this leads to the desire God has for unity. Ultimately what Peter is helping his readers see is the most powerful way to share the gospel is by unified relationships. And this message is so important for our current cultural climate. We have divisions in theology, divisions in politics, divisions on right living, and the list goes on. And we can easily rest on our side believing anyone who doesn’t agree with us doesn’t deserve our time, attention, or even our respect. But here’s the truth: No one wants to belong to division. What happens if the church is full of it? At the core of unity, though is Christian submission; making ourselves lower to raise up the other and more importantly raise up Christ.
Paul says it best in Philippians 2:
Philippians 2:1-11 NIV
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If we want our relationships with God to be on point, we must be unified in the home. And once we can be unified in the home, that overflows to the church. And then from the church, it fills the world! If we want the world to see Christ it begins with us making ourselves lower in order to raise each other up acknowledging that God has exalted Christ to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name!