Bible Text: 1 Peter 4:1-6 | Pastor: Daniel Stertz | Series: A Study of 1st Peter
Introduction: The Importance of Body Armor
Since the start of the Afghanistan & Iraq wars, the latest stats (June 2016) show 4424 US Military have been Killed in Action (KIA). Another 31,952 have been Wounded in Action (WIA). In recent years there has been over 90% survival rate of soldiers wounded today, compared to about 75% in Vietnam or even the Persian Gulf conflict. Why?
Body armor, better-protected vehicles, improved medic training, and rapid evacuation.
However, a large number of wounded are amputees, the majority having lost one or both legs. It is one of the highest amputee-per-wounded soldier rates in the nation’s history. Again, due to body armor & the improved medical and evacuation, these soldiers would have died in the past.
The result is that we have a lot more vets living the rest of their lives dealing with amputations.
App. I draw this to your attention, for a couple of reasons:
Monday is Memorial Day. We should remember the sacrifice of these soldiers & the families they come from. Living today are families who remember the loss of nearly ¾ of a million lives lost from WWII on.
Furthermore, we also are likely to see many who have lost a limb in service. Thankfully, due to technology and rehab, you might not even know it if they are wearing long pants.
Besides these, there have been about 8300 cases of traumatic brain injuries since 2000.
Additionally, the government has recorded 138,000 cases of PTSD of deployed personnel since 2000.
Unfortunately, stats like these have a way of shielding us from the suffering, but these numbers are people. We must never forget to give thanks for these heroes and to thank them when we have the opportunity.
Theme: As we turn to our passage we see that Peter uses a military term to describe how we must prepare for conflict. “Arm yourselves,” he says. This is not a military conflict, though it is possible that persecution could result in death. But the war is a spiritual one, requiring spiritual armaments.
The phrase can refer to weapons of war or equipment used for defense. Peter is thinking in metaphors like Paul does in Ephesians 6 when he says, “Put on the whole armor of God”.
But Peter focuses on arming ourselves with the same “mind” as the Lord. Note that he is pointing back to the verses we noted last Sunday, that Jesus willingly suffered unjustly for sin.
The word, “mind” (ennoia) means “thinking”. It refers to the thought which leads to determining a resolution. In context, then, Jesus willingly suffered unjustly. As the believer faces conflict in the world, he too, must determine to be willing to suffer. The thought is to determine to live for God no matter what happens.
Proposition: Peter shows us how this “plays out” when it is happening. We are able to make judgments about ourselves as we observe what he says should be happening if our thinking is like Christ’s – “I will suffer if that’s what I’m called to do.”
Trans: What should we expect to see if our thinking is right?
A Changed Attitude About Sin (4:1)
“For he that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.”
What does that mean?
Not without sin.
What it doesn’t mean—it is not speaking of some kind of sinless perfection. Because of the sin nature & the temptations associated with our flesh—our bodies—we will still commit acts of sin. The plan of God is to work toward victory over those things, but it is an ongoing effort of living for Christ.
What it does mean is it points to two choices a person has: sin or suffering. You get this from the context which is about not living like the unbelieving world around us.
A person can choose to live in the world around them, sharing in their sinful pleasures, and avoid persecution.
Ill. On the mild side, when I had my first job, it was “tradition” for the guys to all go to the local VFW after work for some drinking together on Friday night. I started this job when I was 17. At the time, the legal drinking age was 18. I turned 18 and there was a big “celebration” planned for me which I had no idea was coming.
I believed, that as a Christian, drinking was wrong. So from a fleshly side, the easiest thing for me would have been to go out with them, let them buy me drinks, and just “fit in.” I could be “one of the guys.”
Here’s the other choice – choose to suffer. That was the choice I made. Let me say, first, I didn’t expect the backlash I got. Just a simple, “No thanks, I don’t drink,” was met with wild-eyed incredulity first, and then anger and mockery. I was “pegged” a some kind of weirdo and “too good for us” person. (Note v.4)
You see the choice, however—sin with the rest of the crowd or suffer. When we choose the latter, we “cease from sin.” It’s one or the other.
(Rabbit Trail) BTW, I said recently, if you have to explain an illustration it loses it’s effectiveness. I realize there may be some sitting here who think, “What’s wrong with drinking?” This is not a sermon about drinking, but because it seems like evangelicalism has gone out of its way to to give drinking a “pass”, let me briefly remind you what Lemuel’s mother told him in Proverbs:
Proverbs 31:4-6 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: (5) Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. (6) Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Lemuel was a king. His mother told him it was foolish for someone in leadership like him to drink because it will affect his reasoning. That’s good enough advice for anyone. Furthermore she added, give it to someone dying to relieve their pain or to the depressed. The idea is medicinal, something we don’t need today with modern pain medications. (You may not agree, but I think the argument is with the Word not me.)
Back to the subject….
Our thinking needs to be to choose to do right and suffer the consequences, rather than do wrong to not be persecuted. If we deliberately choose to suffer then we will see the power of sin broken.
Ill. Man Forgot He Was Married. This is a story from the Daily Bread, June 1982. Supposedly a young man, shortly after being married was 3 hours late coming home one evening. Why? Because he went to the wrong house—his parents! He had lived there so long, and was used to going there after work, he just forgot he was married and had his own home. After being there a while, his mother reminded him, “Don’t you think your wife is waiting for you?”
App. While this story seems a bit unbelievable to me—talk about absent-mindedness!—it illustrates the point. You can’t be in two places at once. You can’t be doing two things at once when they are opposites.
Compare this to what Paul said in Romans 6. (Turn there.)
Paul is confronting the suggestion that because of Grace (chapter 5) someone might say, “You’re teaching that grace means a person can just go on sinning.” Paul’s response was an adamant, “No way!” He raises the question, “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer in sin?”
He then uses baptism to show how a person is identified with the death of Christ.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Note similarly to what Peter said his statement in v7:
(7) For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Paul goes on, however,
(8) Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
On the practical side, he begins in v.11 with “reckoning ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.”
(13) Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Summary. The difference between what Paul is saying and Peter is that Paul says this is the daily way of thinking we must have, “I’m dead when it comes to sin, but alive when it comes to righteous living.” Peter says, “Be willing to live for God and suffer, rather than being accepted and go on sinning.”
Realize that both of these call for a measure of suffering. In the case of 1Peter, we see suffering by rejection and mistreatment of others. In Romans, there is suffering in resistance to the flesh’s desires. But victory is more likely when we choose to use our bodies & minds for righteousness, not for sin.
Now let’s make an observation. Are we arming our minds with the attitude of Christ? Well, that is easily answered–Do we go with the crowd or willingly suffer? Similarly, are we counting ourselves dead to sin or is sin and alive to God? Again, we know if sin is being allowed to reign in our mortal body, then we’re not arming our minds with the right thinking.
Trans: Besides being armed with the Thought of determining to suffer rather than sin, we see…
A Changed Attitude About Time (4:2-4)
Note the two references to time here – 4:2 & 4:3.
How did Peter look at the time?
Obviously, we can’t get inside Peter’s head for a complete picture, but we know some things by what he wrote. It would appear that time was important to Peter. He especially was concerned with what we are doing with the time we have left to live.
Recall something he was told by Jesus when the Lord restored him: Read John 21:15-17. Here we have the three times Jesus ask Peter, “Do you love me?” Remember, Peter denied the Lord 3 times. Yet, Jesus knew Peter’s heart. Peter gave into his fear. Peter operated on his own power. So we have the Lord restoring him. Each time Peter responds with, “You know I love you,” Jesus comes back with an expression of “then serve Me.” The questions end with an almost exasperation by Peter, “Lord you know everything, so you know I love you.”
Then Jesus makes a curious statement:
John 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
The one writing this Gospel, John, then gives a commentary:
John 21:19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
It’s almost as if to say, “Peter, you said you would die for Me, but instead you denied Me. Now I call upon you to follow me, but it will cost you. In the end, your hands will be stretched out and you will be taken in a way you wouldn’t normally want to go. But, follow Me.”
The understanding is that Jesus spoke of crucifixion. It is not in the Bible, but the record of history is that Peter died by crucifixion, though it is said he asked to be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die like His Lord.
Did this weigh on Peter’s mind? Well, we read in his second letter:
2 Peter 1:13-14 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; (14) Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
Peter’s second letter is about telling his listeners that he and the others were leaving a record as eyewitnesses. But Peter notes the importance of this since he knew the physical end for him was near. And we read the words, “even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.”
As Peter writes the words we read in his first letter about us living “the rest of our time” we see a man who was conscious of the time he had left. He reminds us to think that way as well. He admonition is that we have lived enough time for things that not only don’t matter, in many cases are abominations to God. So let’s live for God with what time we have.
Two Ways of Living Our Days Out
Ill. This is the truth Moses spoke of in Psalm 90 when he said, “So teach us to number our days.”
Notice the two choices we have before us. Just like we had the choice to sin or suffer, here we have the choice of living to fulfill our lusts or living for the will of God. An even more pointed way of looking at it is living for the will of the Gentiles (3) or the will of God. Whose way will you obey?
Peter describes the way of the Gentiles:
Lasciviousness is unrestrained indulgence, especially in sexual immorality.
Lusts – seeking to satisfy desires
Excess of wine – drunkenness
Revellings – referred to late night partying
Banquetings – referred to drinking parties
Abominable idolatries – note how the other things all seem to have to do with fleshly immoral living, so what does this have to do with the others? Understand that you become like what you worship. The idolatry of that day was associated a lot with immorality including temple prostitutes and the like.
The sins listed here are the sins of every age: sex, liquor, and false religion.
Why would Peter give a list like this?
First, when someone comes to Christ there is a lot of baggage he brings with him. For newer believers, it’s possible that the things he speaks about are part of their life and he points out they shouldn’t be.
Second, sometimes even for believers who have been saved a while, there is a “backsliding”. Instead of growing farther apart from the sinful parts of culture, a Christian might just drift along a little way behind. In the context, because he doesn’t want to appear “strange” (4) he might choose sin over suffering.
But we also need to see the overall ways he speaks of. The will of the Gentiles is living for self. The alternative is living for God. Even believers who don’t get engaged in the things he talks about nevertheless can still live according to the lusts of the flesh—they just reign in the lusts.
Application – So how do we live according to the will of God and not for self? For us as Americans, we might put it in terms of living for the American dream. Hopefully, the struggle for most of us is not whether to go to a drunken orgy, but rather what is our outlook on having a nice home, cars, taking trips, buying “stuff”, etc.
Try putting it into this perspective: To live for the will of God is to live the Kingdom of God. The difference between a Kingdom mindset and a worldly one is “What place does the King have in our lives? Is He central to the things we love? Is He central to what we like to talk about? Is He central to what we want to see happen at work, at church, or even in our leisure?
This is something we need to keep in mind every day and in all the choices we make. This is also something where we can’t lay down a bunch of rules—“Here, follow these and you’ll be doing the will of God.” There are individuals and churches which have sought to do this and the result has often been an external-based and even self-righteous Christianity.
The bottom line—what will we do with the rest of our lives? Will we live to advance the Kingdom of the Lord or will we live for self?
Trans: As we arm our thoughts we ought to be willing to Suffer rather than Sin; to think about God’s will rather than our wants; and third, there should be a …
A Changed Attitude About Judgment (5-6)
A believer should be thinking in terms of eternity.
Contrast the Gentile (4-5)
The unbeliever thinks a Christian is “insane” to not want to be a part of the life everybody lives for. They are shocked at first, but then very disapproving.
But Peter reminds us, that the lost person—the one who has not received Christ will give an account to the One Who is ready to judge the living and the dead. You’ll note that word “ready.” There is a hint in this of the urgency of the time. There is also the thought of no long-drawn-out procedure, no court of appeals, and no delay in sentencing. The Lord is ready to judge.
That is because He has fully prepared.
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The loving God did the most loving thing—He sent His Son into the world to die for sin. The Son was sent, not so the world would be condemned; rather, so the world would be saved through Him. But to reject His sacrifice is to seal one’s doom. “He that believes not is condemned already.” He has not received God’s loving and gracious gift so he will pay for his own sin.
The Need of the Gospel
Note v6, Peter speaks about believers who are now dead. It is because of the judgment of God that the Gospel—the goodness of Jesus sacrifice—that the Gospel was preached to them. Yes, they might have been judged by the word (according to the flesh) and even condemned by the world, but the judgment that counts is the one by God. When a person is found to be “in Christ” having received by faith the Savior, he will stand in God’s judgment because he stands in the righteousness of Jesus and not his own.
Invitation: Judgment for every one of us is but a heartbeat away. If you should slip out into eternity—or should violently depart into eternity through an accident or such—you will face God who is ready to judge all. You will face Him with your own sins to account for or as one who received His gift of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ. Where do you stand?
Coming back to Peter’s address to believers, we must arm our thinking with the reality of judgment. And that reminder includes that believers will give an account as well.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (14) If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Paul refers to “fire” because the illustration he uses is of works of the Christian described as “gold, silver, precious stones” vs “wood, hay, and stubble.” Put those things on fire and the latter will not survive. But the precious metals and gems will. So the picture is that what we live for will either survive God’s trial or they will not. Salvation is not in question (15), but we might be like someone who lost everything in a fire.
Ill. We have known people who lost everything in a fire. Mary & I got a small bit of that feeling when our van burned up on the interstate when we were moving. It was stuffed full from front to back and many belongings were totally lost.
While we were thankful we were saved, you couldn’t help but think about things that were gone.
App. Here Paul reminds us that the sense of loss will be the realization of wasted lives and what could have been if only we had lived for the Lord.
So Peter reminds us of what is important. More than anything it would be the souls of individuals. The unbelieving will face God’s judgment. For that reason, the Gospel is preached.
Kevin Bauder on Being Relative:
Christianity must be made attractive. Sound doctrine must be adorned. But how? Paul answers in Titus 2: old men are to adorn sound teaching by their self-control, dignity, sensibility, soundness, charity, and perseverance. Old women are to adorn it with reverent behavior and good instruction, avoiding gossip and inebriation. Young women are to adorn it by loving their husbands and children, displaying sensibility and purity, and submitting to their husbands. Young men can make sound teaching appealing simply by being sensible.
Christians can never attract people to Christ by making themselves seem impressive. Carnal inducements will never turn people into Christians. To adopt these subterfuges is to morph Christianity into something it is not. It is to sabotage the faith that was once-for-all delivered. Furthermore, it is to wreak incalculable practical damage.
Why? Because twenty-first century Americans live in an anti-culture of despair. They are approaching the end of a turn that began with a lie. They have committed themselves to a metaphysical dream that robs them of morality, then meaning, and eventually identity. They can no longer say what is good, what is beautiful, what matters, or even who they are.
These people have created a popular culture that does two things. It expresses the despair in which they live: the hopelessness, the anxiety, and the rage. It also tries to provide enough distraction or cultural noise—whether through opulence, sensuality, inebriation, or spectacle—to stifle the despair.
If Christians want to be relevant, then the worst thing they can do is to imitate this culture. Every time they do, they are saying, “We’re just like you! We’re desperate, too! Look how anxious, hopeless, and angry we are!”
Bauder’s point reminds us of the importance of living for Christ before a world that needs to know Him.
Conclusion: Because there is so much that competes for our attention, we believers must make a deliberate & conscious decision to think in terms of the will of God and not the way of the world. Even things that are not wrong are not necessarily expedient in light of eternity. We must determine to:
Suffer rather than Sin – we can’t “go with the flow” when it is in disobedience to God.
Live for the will of God not the way of the world – what time we have we need constantly to think about advancing the cause of Christ in order to regulate how much time and energy we devote to the American Dream.
Live in such a way as to be able to share the Gospel with the lost who will give an account for their sin.