Living for the Will of God - 1 Peter 4:1-6

In 3:13-17 Peter made this statement: it’s better to suffer than to sin. In 3:18-22 he proved that truth from Scripture using the examples of Noah and Jesus. Now, he applies that truth in 4:1-6: it is not enough for you just to hear about people who thought that way; it’s time for you to start thinking that way! Don’t go away “inspired” by Jesus; go out and imitate Jesus!

Imitating Jesus starts by putting on the same mental armor that Jesus used. Jesus thought: “Whoever has suffered in the flesh is done with sin.” Since He knew that sin, not suffering, is the true threat to the soul, He spent His whole life on earth doing the will of God, choosing to suffer rather than spend even one moment on sin.

Christ knew that the threat of suffering is a weapon that the enemy uses in order to destroy your soul by scaring you into sinning. The devil wants suffering to convince you that it is not worth it to follow Jesus, since following Jesus is painful, uncomfortable, and even harmful. But if you are wearing Christ’s armor, then Satan’s weapons cannot destroy you. Sin first appeals to the passions of the flesh, claiming that sin is better than obedience. When spirit-filled self-control turns away from sin, Satan switches from sweet-talk to threats of suffering. But if you call Satan’s bluff by thinking like Jesus and choosing to suffer, then you’ve disarmed the devil. If you cannot be seduced into sin, or scared into sin, then you are done with sin. Enduring persecution for Christ’s sake is proof positive that you’ve chosen to live for the will of God rather than for human passions.

But the flesh does not want this definitive break with sin to happen. The passions of the flesh want just a little more of your time, just one more glance, just one more taste. Just one more. You can be done with sin tomorrow, but tonight… But the Spirit says, “That’s enough!” You’ve already spent too much time living for your sinful desires: sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. You don’t have any more time for them.

But since before you were born again by the Spirit, your flesh had no natural limits to check greed, lust, sloth, etc. A lack of self-control over runaway desires is normal for unbelievers. Saying “no” to your desires is almost unthinkable. This is why it is so surprising and alienating to unbelievers when a Christian stops sinning. You’ve turned your back on what everybody does, what everybody loves. You’re claiming to be living for something better, and so they malign you, mock you, and persecute you for living in such an unnatural way.

Earlier, Peter called on Christians to be ready to defend this supernatural way of life to men, but here he points out that everyone will have to make a defense before God, who is ready to judge the living and the dead. Remember, the catchphrase of those who live for human passions is this: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” They are only thinking about how to get the most out of this life right now. But God not only judges the people in this life, He will also call the dead to give an account of how they lived in the flesh. Because death is not the end, it is better to suffer than to sin!

But what about those who turned away from sin, suffered for it, died under the scorn of the world, and who haven’t been raised up and vindicated like Jesus? What good did the gospel do for them? Peter answers that those who wasted their lives in the eyes of the world will have their vindication. The fact that they are dead does not prevent God from exalting them and proving their persecutors wrong. When Jesus Christ returns in glory on the great resurrection day, God will clothe those who suffered for Christ in the flesh with renewed and glorified bodies, undoing the apparent sentence of death against them, and rewarding them with eternal life in the spirit.

So here’s the question for you: if the gospel brings pain and suffering into your life, is it worth it? If following Jesus does you no good in this life, is it still worth it? When you answer this question with a confident “yes”, then you’re thinking like Jesus. So catechize your soul with this great truth: whoever chooses self-denial and suffering in the flesh for Christ’s sake has ceased from sin, and has begun living in the spirit the way God does. You’ve spent enough time living for sinful passions; think like Jesus, and start living for the will of God.

Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 by CJ Bowen