Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
Armed for Battle
1 Peter 4:1-6; Romans 6:1-6, 11
Turn to 1 Peter4. There is an old Puritan saying, “make the book live in me.” Or make the book live in us. A prayer that we would desire that the Word would have a tremendous impact in our lives. So let’s pray before we begin. Father, make the book live in us. Might we open up your Word this morning and allow its truth and its message to dig deep into our hearts. So make the book live in us, amen.
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose—because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin—so as to no longer live the rest of the time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have worked out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, maligning you, but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For to this the gospel has been proclaimed even to those who are now dead, so that though they were judged in the flesh as men, they live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
1 Pet 4:1-6 (LSB)
Have you ever been called an oddball? You don’t hear that term as much anymore, we might be more inclined to say that he or she is a little “quirky.” Sometimes I will say to Anne, “Yeah, he is sort of an odd duck.” Or that someone is a “geek.” The old term we used to use is that he or she is somewhat “square.” Have you ever been somewhere where you just felt a little out of place? When Anne and I moved to Blind River it was a bit of an adjustment for me, as I didn’t hunt, didn’t fish, didn’t ride a 4-wheeler or snow machine. Now I did play hockey up there, but they would always kid me about my lack of outdoor skills. I mean, you have ladies up there that ride 4-wheelers and snow machines everywhere. The Tim Horton’s parking lot was full of snow machines, 4-wheelers, and pickups. In Blind River, we used to go to on island on Family Day in February. And one year I was riding on the back of a snow machine and the driver asked me if I minded speed. And I said, no, I’m good. Well, that guy took off and I grabbed him with all my strength. And I asked him if there were any speed limit laws for snow machines. And he said, yes, but the OPP guys would never be able to catch them or know our routes anyway. I think these were all souped-up snow machines.
Well, Peter is going to speak to us this morning about being viewed as strange because of our relationship with Christ, as Peter is making it very clear in this passage that you cannot be the same as everyone else. And there are times when that can be difficult. For young people it can be hard to be pointed out as different. We used to laugh as there was the old saying, “be there or be square.” Well as youth leaders we would often announce an event and say, “be there and be square.” Because on the one hand, we want to be Christians who are caring and loving to the culture, yet realize on the other hand, we will not completely fit in. And where standing out for Christ is really difficult is in situations where you have not made known to people your commitment to Christ. In other words, if we try to hide our faith, being bold for Christ is going to be next to impossible. So, Peter is going to deal with some tough issues this morning: sin, boldness, commitment to Christ, and trust.
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose—because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
1 Pet 4:1 (LSB)
I believe we must from the get-go here understand that coming to Christ is not easy, as notice Peter says, “since Christ has suffered in the flesh [then] arm yourself with the same purpose.” The wording here is enough to grab our attention. For he doesn’t say, since Christ has suffered in the flesh then have the same purpose. No, he says since Christ has suffered in the flesh then “arm yourself.” When you arm yourself, it means you are getting ready to do battle. And arm yourself with the same purpose. In other words, there must be a great determination here. For remember Christ was crucified for bringing the same message to the world that you and I are to bring to the world. And if they didn’t like it then, there is a good chance that many will not like our message now. And before we say, well then what is the point. Well understand that yes, there will be those opposed. There will likely also be those who will be indifferent. But, as we learned the past two weeks, there will be “some” that may ask about the hope that is in us. For we cannot lose sight of the positive here. Remember Peter’s goal:
“… by keeping your conduct excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good works, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
- Pet 2:12 (LSB)
The goal here is that the believer’s life will look so attractive, that some will be shamed for what they have said about Christianity, and others will be so attracted to Christianity that they will ask you about the hope that is in you. But also remember that what we proclaim is in opposition to the demon forces. It is a message in opposition to Satan, In fact, being a Muslim today will likely gain you more sympathy from many in the culture than will Christianity. And if your purpose is the same as Christ’s, you need to arm yourself. And here is the first step in the battle. Verse one, because he, small “h” meaning the Christian, if he has the same purpose as Christ, the Christian is going to suffer in the flesh. In other words, it is going to be a battle. Why? Because he has ceased from sin.
- The Christian’s Willingness to Abandon Sin (vs 1)
If you have chosen to walk away from a sinful lifestyle, you are going to suffer for it. Young people you are going to suffer if you choose to abandon sin. If there are times when you don’t do what others around you are doing. And I believe that we must be struck with the assumption in this verse. For this is not speaking about someone who makes a front before others. This is not someone who is one way with Mom or Dad or with a certain group of friends, and then is quite different with another crowd. Because the assumption here is that this is the true believer who is desiring to walk away from a life of sin, and will suffer for the fight of the battle. The battle of denying self, as well as the battle of facing opposition for those godly choices. Yet trying to be a “goody-two-shoes” on the outside while only pretending to be pious or holy on the inside is complete hypocrisy, and is not at all what Peter is addressing. Listen Peter is speaking to the person who loves Christ. And therefore, desires to leave a life of sin. And therefore, desires to be bold in living that faith out in the world and before others. And what Peter is doing here is warning us, that this kind of choice is not going to be easy, as our sin nature will battle that, as well as many within society. So, have we got that, if you are going to abandon sin, you are going to have to arm yourself for battle.
- The Christian’s Willingness to Look Different (vs 2a)
Look with me at the beginning of verse two, “so as to no longer live the rest of the time in the flesh.” The rest of a person’s life are no longer lived for the “lusts of men.” Doesn’t mean everything was bad, but it was geared for self. Good to be reminded here as we have seen in our study of Genesis of what we would have become if God had not restrained us or the world, as men and women, the longer they lived, delved more and more into sin. Men and women were living 800-900 years old before the flood. It seems that if man was able to live again for hundreds of years in the prime of their lives, as they did in the book of Genesis, they would only become more sinful. And here for the Christian, the Holy Spirit puts a halt to that. The reins are pulled in on the term “lusts of men.” This could be described as anything in life that comes from selfishness. A love of self that desires and demands and takes at the expense of others. In other words, if I want this thing, I take it. If I desire this, it’s mine. If I lust after sexual things, I will find it.
Yet, the opposite of this is a different character. A character that battles against such things and is willing to suffer for it. This is the Christian, that others will look at, and see that they are different. They have different values, they have a different character, they are honest, they are more concerned with others than themselves, they are kinder, gentler, they love more than others, they work harder. And notice that phrase, “the rest of the time in the flesh.” This is referring to the change that occurs in the heart of men and women when they come to Christ. In other words, there was this time in the flesh in which they lived this way, and then “the rest of the time” where they live differently. To help us with this let us take a look at a similar passage by Paul. Turn to Romans 6. Paul has just been speaking about justification of faith in chapter 5. In other words, this is how we are saved. Now he is going to tell us how we are going to live.
1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Now, this is not about sinless perfection. No, this is the Christian who is committed to fighting the battle against sin, who knows that he needs to arm himself. And then notice what Paul says:
3 “Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
What Paul points to here is the baptism of the believer, as we need to point to the time when we gave our heart to Christ. Yet, he also considers here the baptism of the Christian.
5 “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”
Listen, the guarantee that one day we will be resurrected, is grounded in the fact there was a day in which we are able to look back to when we died. He is not talking about dying physically now, he is talking about being united with Christ in His death. Someone might say, I’ve always been a Christian you know. I have always believed, I always agreed with Christianity and grew up in church. But Paul would say, no you haven’t, for you have no guarantee of being resurrected with Him if there was not a day when you died with Christ. And this again places a tremendous importance on baptism as it depicts that very event in your life. For the New Testament believer, they would be confused if someone claimed to have died with Christ, become a believer, and yet had never displayed that before others through baptism. We are planning another baptism likely in December. And baptism basically says, are you for Christ or not? It is not the act of baptism that saves, but it is a display to others of what has occurred in your heart. You need to consider that.
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
[then down to vs 11] 11 “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
This is not Paul saying to just pretend that you do not sin, or just rejoice in the fact that you are a Christian. No, this is the difference between a person who has now come to Christ and therefore he or she is beginning to become more and more like Christ. And therefore, understands that sin is no longer to be part of their life. True, we sin, but this is no longer your heart or your desire. But a firm commitment of a slave of Christ. And when we may be tempted to sin against God, might we look back to the day that we were baptized as the day that I committed to serve Jesus Christ all the days of my life.
- The Christian’s Willingness to Follow the Lord’s Will (vs 2b)
“… so as to no longer live the rest of the time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
- Pet 4:2 (LSB)
But for the will of God. All our choices, decisions, and thoughts are being guided by Christ. Let us consider what sometimes has replaced or trumped the will of God in the Western Christian. And bear with me here. Too often, trying to find the will of God has become a fruitless venture for the Christian. As it has become for many of us, where I am to live or what car I should drive or where should I work or even whom I should marry. Now those are all important things. Yet, I believe, they sometimes can take our focus off of the main thing. Because we are not going to find a passage of Scripture to tell us whom to marry or what house to choose or where to work. No, the will of God in this passage is telling us to not live like the rest of the world. For I am convinced that once we understand that and take this truth to live holy lives so seriously from Peter, that the Lord will make it plain to us who we should marry. Young people, when you are convinced that you are going to serve Christ, and that guy or gal you are dating has no interest in serving Jesus Christ, they are not the one to marry. Men, once you are determined to serve Christ, you may have the freedom to serve Him in this job or at that place. Women, once you commit your life to Christ, it will become plainer to you that this is a wise choice for a husband or where you should live. And I want to be kind here, but we can get bend out-of-joint of God’s leading when He may be giving us freedom to choose what is best.
I remember a number of years ago John MacArthur sitting down with a young married couple who had both desired and been trained to go to the mission field. And they were sharing with him various options and said we don’t know where God may be leading us. And MacArthur said to them, where do you want to go? And they both agreed and gave the same answer. And MacArthur said, “Go, and serve Christ!” See, the Lord’s will often give us freedom to buy the red car or the blue car. A good question becomes, can I afford it? Freedom to live in this city or that city. But wherever you choose, the will of God is for you to serve Christ. And if He does not want you there, it will become plain to you if you are serving Christ. Folks, we need to focus on the main things of the Bible and not the fringes. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. Still with me? Back to 1 Peter 4:
“For the time already past is sufficient for you to have worked out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, maligning you.”
- Pet 4:3-4 (LSB)
They will be surprised that you do not follow them in their discussions, crude jokes, and their careless lifestyle. But, they will also be surprised once you make a stand for Christ, that you do not remain standing for Christ or honour Christ. And Peter would be quite blunt with us as he is to his own readers, that yes, the world will offer this and this, wild living, material living, dishonest living. And he would say folks, don’t live like that. And if you claim to serve Christ, don’t even start. And they malign you because you are not given to the same passions. Trust me, if you are determined to make a stand for Christ, you will be mocked. And this is not about bunkering down and living secluded lives, knowing that your decision to not watch pornography and being extremely careful about your Christian choices is very important, but that is a different topic than what Peter is addressing here. Peter is speaking about our influence in the world (2:12), “when they see your good works.” In doing good, showing kindness, being submissive, not running with the crowd. Yes, there are going to be times when we are going to say “no” and separate ourselves from the things of the world, but there will also be times when we are going to be active in the world doing “good things.” Finally:
- The Christian’s Willingness to Allow God to Judge
“… but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
- Pet 4:5 (LSB)
They will malign you, but they are going to be judged. This is why we do not need to revile those who revile us, for God will be the one who will judge them. Speaking of Christ:
“… who being reviled, was not reviling in return; while suffering, He was uttering no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
- Pet 2:23 (LSB)
See, when Jesus was on the cross there were those who maligned Him. But He didn’t malign them in return. Why? He entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously. Huge lesson for us here. His trust in the Father to someday judge righteously led Him to what? Not judge them. Not yell back at them. But to pray for them. Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
“Never paying back evil for evil to anyone, respecting what is good in the sight of all men, if possible, so far as it depends on you, being at peace with all men, never taking your own revenge, beloved—instead leave room for the wrath of God. For it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Rom 12:18-20 (LSB)
So those who oppose us wrongfully, if we trust in the ultimate righteous judgment of God, will lead us to pray for our enemies and not revile them in return. Now verse 6:
6 “For to this the gospel has been proclaimed even to those [believers] who are now dead”
True, some might mock saying, all this talk about Christianity, and look what happened to them. Their child died, his Dad died at such a young age, and he serves Christ?
“so that though they were judged in the flesh [i.e. they died] as men, they live in the spirit according to the will of God.
They held to their Christian beliefs and look they died like everyone else. For they were “judged” in the flesh or “condemned” in the flesh. True we will all die because of our sin. Greg Forbes said that Christians who have died may well have been viewed in one way, a negative way, by pagan society. Christians in Peter’s day were condemned as unsociable, different and even harmful to society. But from God’s perspective they are viewed in an entirely different manner. But here is the challenge, what matters most to you? To receive a positive evaluation by others, or to receive a positive evaluation by God? It is easy to say the opinions of others don’t matter, but in many cases that is a lie. For to be viewed positively by others is a part of our hard-wiring as human beings. Forbes went on to say that as sinful human beings we are driven by other people’s perceptions of us. And we can understand the confusion of the world when the one who claims to know Christ begins to look like the world. Why? Because this goes against the Word of God. Because the Christian (vs 2) no longer lives for his flesh, but lives for the will of God. Let’s pray. Lord, may we be willing to abandon sin. Forgive us Lord for claiming to follow Christ, yet still struggling in sin. May we be willing to be different. Not different in the sense of being odd, but be different because of our goodness and commitment to Christ. May we follow Your will for our lives, that we would become so obedient to our Master, that Your leading will become more evident to us. And may we be willing to rest in the fact that You are the ultimate Judge, that would compel us to even love our enemies. So, help us with this great task, amen.
John Stott said this about the Christian life. He said that every Christian has a 2-volume biography of his life. Sometimes volume 1 is very long, when someone is saved later in life. And volume 2 is shorter. The thief on the cross had probably one of the shortest volume 2’s. I had told you a while back about my friend in Wyoming who came to know the Lord only a few months ago. And he died a couple of weeks ago. Ron had a short volume 2. For others volume 1 is shorter, saved at a younger age. And volume 2 is very long. Sometimes those who came to Christ at a younger age bemoan the fact that they do not have as great a testimony, but also remember that when you were saved maybe at age 10 or 12, just be grateful from what Christ maybe saved you from. For you know you were a sinner and you lived for self. But if you had gone along your path unchecked, you would have fallen into many sins as well. If given more time, the human life falls into more sin.
But the point that Stott is making is the difference in the 2 lives. One is for self, while the second is for Christ. Volume 1 is characterized by sin. Volume 2 is characterized by a battle against that sin. Volume 1 fits in with what the world is doing. Volume 2 makes the Christian look different. Volume 1 knows nothing about the leading of God. Volume 2 desires greatly to be in the center of the Lord’s will. Volume 1 looks out for self and takes justice into his own hands, in other words, when he is reviled, he reviles back; and when he is hated, he hates back. While volume 2 is able to trust in the ultimate justice of God, and therefore he does not revile in return, and is even able to love his enemies. The question is there a volume 2 in your life? And if so, what is being written about you? Let’s pray. Father, thank You that You care for us. That You are intimately involved in our lives. So, may we serve our Master well. And all God’s people said, amen.