STUDY | Spend the week studying 1 Peter 4:1–11. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | I have the power and ability in Christ to live differently.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
A WRONG TURN
Jesus’s story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is a cautionary tale about the destructive power of sin. It’s a reminder that sin makes you take wrong turns in life that lead to detours and dead ends. The younger son in the story wanted freedom from his father. That’s why he asked for his share of the inheritance, even though his father was still alive. But the son soon discovered he wasn’t free at all. His sinful choices wrecked his life and put him in the pigsty, literally.
Q: What does it mean to be free? How does sin keep us from being free?
Then one day the son came to his senses. “What am I doing here?” he asked himself. “My father’s servants have plenty to eat and a roof over their heads. I’ve had enough of this. I’ll go back to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against you. I shouldn’t even be called your son. Treat me like a servant so I can pay back what I’ve wasted.’” He had a plan and started on his journey back home.
Like the son in the story, each of us has a choice to live for ourselves or for God. In 1 Peter 4:1–11, Peter calls his readers to turn from their old way of living and to choose to live differently than the unbelievers around them. These believers were no longer slaves to their sinful passions. No, they could choose to live differently. The same is true of you. You have the power and ability in Christ to live differently.
Q: Recall a time when you sinned and needed to turn from it and seek forgiveness. What did you learn from that experience?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
IN A FIGHT
Peter writes to his readers in 1 Peter 4:1–11 with a command to take up arms and be on guard. Why? Because they were in a fight—the same fight we face every day. It’s the spiritual fight against our flesh and its sinful, deceptive ways. It’s the fight that comes down to the choice to live in the old way of following sin or the new way of following Christ.
Read: 1 Peter 4:1–11. In what ways do you experience the fight against sin?
THE OLD WAY
Peter didn’t want these believers to turn back to their old way of living, so he reminded them of what that old life was like by describing how the unbelieving Gentiles around them live. They appeared free as they pursued their passions, but they were really slaves to the idols they had made of the things and people they desired.
These unbelievers had taken the bait of sin, hook, line and sinker. They were blind to the truth that sin puts you on a destructive path. They couldn’t believe you could live any other way and ridiculed Peter’s readers for not going along with the crowd. What these unbelievers couldn’t see was that they were headed straight for judgment. Eventually, they would have to give an account for all the ways they chose to live for themselves and not for God.
Q: Where do you feel the most pressure to go along with the crowd? How can you can resist that pressure?
THE NEW WAY
Peter offers his readers a different and better way to live. Instead of being ruled by their passions, they could be ruled by God by living to do His will. How is this possible? A new power was at work inside them. God’s Spirit was enabling them to choose to live for God’s will, which resulted in a changed heart and a changed life. What does this new way of living look like? Peter describes it as being self-controlled and sober-minded, loving others and serving them with your gifts and glorifying God in all you do.
Q: In what ways do you live to do God’s will? Where is God evident in your life?
Q: What does it look like to be self-controlled and sober-minded?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
The Christian life comes down to the daily choice to live for God and not yourself. That was Peter’s message and it remains true today. Each of us must decide that we’ve had enough of our old life and choose to live in a new way for Christ. We must arm ourselves for the fight against sin and its deceptive ways by:
- Praying with purpose, focus and alertness.
- Choosing to love in all circumstances.
- Using our gifts to serve and bless others.
- Glorifying God in all we do.
You are called to live with godly discipline. The foundation of godly discipline is love, and Peter gives us some ways to put love into action. You can express love through your hospitality, words and acts of service. The way Peter describes love in action should make us think of Jesus, who lived His life to love and serve others.
Q: What makes it difficult to choose to live for God daily?
Q: What’s one way you can express love to someone this week?
LEARNING TO GROW
Learn to live with a growth mindset (“I’m learning.”), not a fixed one (“I’m a failure. I’ll never change.”). See your life as a story of unfolding changes and incredible possibilities because God is at work in you. Yes, you will have times when you fall back into old habits or experience setbacks. But a growth mindset looks at those occasions not as ultimately defining, but as opportunities for learning and growth. Real growth and change are possible when you choose to live in a new way with Christ.
Another essential aspect of growth is community. You can’t truly grow outside of community. So, find a community where you are loved and encouraged in your growth as a believer. Consider whether the people you choose to spend time with are life-giving.
Q: How would having a growth mindset change the way you view your spiritual life?
Q: Share the names of some people in your life who are life-giving. How can you be life-giving to others?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
WITH THE END IN MIND
Your days on this earth are very limited. No one gets to the end of their life and thinks, “Gosh, that was so long!” Don’t waste your life on things that don’t matter in the end. Live with eternity in mind. What truly matters in this life is your relationship with God and what you do with the few days you have to enjoy Him, serve Him and glorify Him in all you do.
Q: What does it practically look like to live with eternity in mind?
Q: What’s the biggest change you need to make in order to focus on what really matters?
Pray for the Spirit to guide you in understanding the new way of living in Christ. Ask for faith to choose Him and choose love in all circumstances. Repent of any ways you nd yourself going back to your old way of living.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:24–27 and reflect on what Paul says about self-control and discipline in the life of a believer.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
What it Means to Suffer
Peter’s readers face the choice of either taking the path of least resistance (going along with the values, norms and practices their society accepts and expects) or obeying God and suffering ostracism and judgment from unbelieving family and friends who criticize and condemn them (v. 4). Willingly suffering in this way, even as Christ suffered rejection, demonstrates that the believer has resolved to be done with sin.”1
The Holy Spirit’s Role in Your Life
The Bible gives different roles for the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The Spirit transforms the hearts of believers (Ezek. 36:26–27; Jer. 31:31–34). He convicts people of sin (John 16:7–11). He is a Helper for believers and works alongside them as an encourager (John 14:16). The Spirit sanctifies believers (Rom. 15:16). He guides and enables believers to understand God’s Word (John 16:13). He helps believers in their weakness and intercedes on their behalf (Rom. 8:26–27). He reveals Christ’s person and work (John 15:26; 1 Cor. 12:3) and gives glory to Him (John 16:14). The Spirit also gives spiritual gifts to believers (1 Cor. 12) and produces fruit in their lives (Gal. 5:22–23).
Lifestyle of Unbelievers
Peter’s list of the sins of unbelievers is one of many in the Bible. See also Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:10–11; 6:9–10; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3–5; Col. 3:5, 8; Titus 3:3.2
“Love does not ignore the reality of personal sin any more than it justifies or condones sin. Confrontation of sin is appropriate and necessary, especially when we demonstrate love. However, it is just as important to demonstrate a willingness to forgive and then to move on. Forgiveness, like love, is an act of the will, a personal choice.”3
1. Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2546.
2. Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 202.
3. David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 73.