Living For God
1 Peter 4:1-19
Key Verse 13
“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Happy New Year everybody! Let me begin by praising God who has done many wonderful things in our lives and ministry in this last year. This is why it is absolutely necessary that we consider our spiritual direction this year, as a ministry. This chapter is really wonderful. It can give us the direction we need as a ministry. Peter talks the importance of living for God and pleasing him. And he tells us how we can do so.
First of all, what does it mean to live for God? Living for God means that we must struggle against sin and live for the will of God. What does it mean to live for the will of God? Let’s begin by reading verse 1 together, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” Writing to the early church, Peter first reminds them of the life of the Lord Jesus who lived, overcoming sin and temptation all the way to the cross. He was flogged, beaten, mocked, and spit-on. All kinds of humiliation was put on him on the road to Calvary where, ultimately, he was crucified. But this isn’t the only suffering Peter was talking about. Christ suffered greatly while here on earth. All throughout his life, Jesus committed himself to living according to the will of God. Although Jesus is God, we have to remember that he was also fully man. Day by day, he had to struggle to overcome sin. Day by day, he struggled to overcome the cravings of the flesh. Day by day, he was harassed by the enemy who tempted him in every way to give up the battle against sin. Yet he never once gave in to the sinful nature. Instead, he lived by the Spirit. This is what the author in Hebrews meant when he said Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8).
But why did Jesus have to suffer? Jesus suffered his whole life, to bring sinners to God. The righteous one suffered so that we may be made righteous through him. This is why Jesus suffered in his flesh to overcome sin by submitting his flesh in obedience to the will of God. Let’s look at verse 1 again. Peter then writes, commanding God’s people, that they too must arm themselves. Listen to his language very carefully. When Peter says, “arm yourselves” he paints us a picture of a soldier who is putting on his armor. He’s wearing his battle gloves (gauntlet), preparing his shield and sharpening his sword. Why is he doing all these things? A soldier does not go through all of this as a fashion statement; nor is he trying to impress anybody with his outfit. A soldier always arms his or herself in preparation for a battle. In the same way, we too must arm ourselves, with the same attitude as Christ, to go into battle. Every Christian is a soldier of Christ, and one of our greatest enemies is SIN. A terrible enemy—Sin corrupts our souls; it contaminates our lives with things that angers God. Listen to how the poet Emily Bronte penned these words so carefully in her poem, “The Prisoner.”
Oh I dreadful is the check–intense the agony……. When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see…….When the heart begins to throb, the brain to think again……. The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.
Sin is a slave-driver—a cruel master. Once we were so filled with sin that we were dead inside. But by the grace of God, Jesus came so that we may live again; only He can set us free; and when he died on the cross, he did by paying the price sin demanded. And so, we must now arm ourselves with the same attitude of Christ, so we will be empowered to fight against our mortal enemy, sin, which is always seeking to bind our flesh, and make us prisoners. We must learn to resist sin, even if it kills us! (Heb. 12:4) That is the type of attitude Jesus had.
But why is it so difficult to struggle against sin? Why do we have to struggle so much? This is because when a man or woman has not been changed by God, their only way of life is to live to satisfy their evil sinful desires. Normally, when we think of people with “evil human desires,” we think of the worst of the worst: murderers, thieves, the sexually perverse, even politicians. But the Bible is clear. It teaches us that having our hearts set on pleasure, comfort, and the easy-going way of life in this world is evil. These desires are not at all spiritual in nature, but rather come from the corrupt physical nature. Everyone at one point or another have had these desires ruling their hearts. But when we allow Christ to transform our hearts, he changes our way of life from living for the evil fleshly desire, to living for the glory of God—which we were created for. So it does not matter how strong willed a person may be— nor does it matter how disciplined. We need help from above to overcome our evil human desires.
For the Christian, those who are set free from the bondage of sin; whose spirits have been made alive again in Christ, we ought to be different. We no longer live trying to fulfill our sinful desires; rather we live by the Spirit. We no longer live for the flesh, but for the will and the glory of the one who created us! Let’s take look at verses 1 and 2 again. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” For this reason, it is imperative that we no longer give into the evil human desires that arise in our flesh—rather, we must struggle against it. Christians who don’t struggle against sin become weakened, and are useless in God’s kingdom when they are overcome by sin. Rather we must fight against sin with the attitude of our Lord Jesus. He was done with sin. He suffered in his body, and died for our sin.
Crucifying our flesh, struggling against sinful desires is definitely not fun. It truly is a painful experience. But look at what Peter tells us. He says, “Whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” From this we see that struggling against sin has great value. We have the great hope to be like Jesus in every way. We start to understand Jesus more, and even the sufferings he went through. Our hearts begin to change and we stop living for ourselves, and begin living for God. We’re done with that! We’re done with our sinful, self-centered way of living. Struggling against sin is a telltale sign that the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us to be made into the holy image of Christ who lived according to the will of God.
Let’s look at the other results Peter spoke of. Let’s read verses 3 and 4 together, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do– living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” Peter had to remind God’s people of the kind of people they once were, before the grace of God. He writes we once did what the pagans [or worldly people] chose to do. If given a choice as to how to live, worldly people would choose to live naturally, satisfying every desire of the flesh. This is what every Christian used to be. We used to adhere to the world’s “Do whatever feels good” attitude and philosophy. We used to live like them, act like them, think like them. Peter lists some of the most extreme ends people go to fulfill their fleshly desires. Carousing means: drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way. Today we call that the weekend, or more aptly “partying on New Year’s eve.” The point is that once, we were like the rest of the world. We lived for ourselves, chased after our own dreams, and fulfilled our fleshly desires. But once we are transformed, we can no longer live that way. We live for God. In fact, Peter urges that the people of God should no longer have any lingering affections for their past sinful lifestyle. You and I must live by the truth of God.
Take another look at verse 4. Notice how the people of the world view and respond to God’s people who choose to struggle against, and are done away with sin. It says, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation” The new NIV Bible says, “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living …” The ESV translates it as, “…they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery…” All three versions are essentially saying the same thing: worldly people find the Christian lifestyle strange and surprising. To them, you are going to be strange, surprising, weird, odd, creepy, abnormal, peculiar, funny (in a bad sense), sometimes even “fake.” We hear things like, “be real… be true to yourself… it’s only natural…etc”. Worldly people can never understand the pure and holy desires of a Christian; the earnestness a follower of Christ has to be like Jesus; the struggle against the evil human desire so as to be totally free from the sinful nature.
They think it’s strange when Christians don’t join them in doing what they do. “You’re a fanatic!” they’ll say. “It’s not such a bad thing to make lots of money, or to try to be successful if you want it.” “It’s my body, why can’t I do what I want with it; be with whoever I want…?” “It’s only natural.” “I’m not hurting anybody.” Why do they think it’s strange that Christians no longer plunge into sin with them? Why can’t they understand? It’s because the god of this world, the father of lies, Satan our great enemy has blinded them from the truth (2 Cor. 4:3-4). But on the Day of Judgment, they will have no excuse.
Let’s read verses 5&6 now, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” The time will soon come when we all will have to give account for our lives. So even the wealthiest person, the one who looks the most successful in this life and is the envy of all young people will also have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ and answer the question, “What have you done with the life I gave you?” Nobody can escape this question.
Now that we’ve seen the importance of struggling against sin, how else can we live for God? Take a quick glance at verses 7-11. From these verses, Peter writes to the early church that part of living for God means loving each other deeply. First, let’s read verse 7 together, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” We who are Christians should be careful not to fall into the same restlessness and anxiety that plague worldly people. Peter warns us to be clear-minded and self-controlled; alert and sober. Why? So that we may be able to pray. This is our duty before God and man—to pray for the souls of those suffering under the power of sin and to pray for the kingdom of God to come quickly; that it may fill the hearts of all people. What a privilege it is to pray!
Moving on to verse 8, Peter says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Just as we are separated from the world by Christ who freed us from sin, called us to be sober-minded and prayerful; so too must we be separate in our love. Love for the Christians should look radically different than the love the world knows. Listen again to the language Peter uses in this verse. He writes “love…deeply.” Simply put, our love should not be superficial. People in the world often love each other superficially. Their love is usually confused with sinful pleasure. They use each other, deceive each other until they’ve had their fill of whatever pleasure they received then throw that person to the side of the road and move on to the next best person they can find. But we Christians must never love people like that. Our love must be deep.
If you want to live for God, this is the most practical way of doing it: Loving, serving and sharing God’s grace with others. Take a look at verses 9-11. Peter first says in verse 9, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”. We must be hospitable and generous with each other as well. Jesus himself opened his heart and his life for each of us. So we too must be willing to open our own hearts, share our lives, and yes even open the doors of our homes as an extension of the love of God to one another. He adds that we must do this, without grumbling. It’s easy to fall into grumbling when our kind deeds go unnoticed, or those who we serve are unthankful and ungrateful. It’s hard not to grumble when we see and have to deal with other people’s sinful nature, whatever it may be. Even still, we are told, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” Every person is different no doubt; we each have different gifts, different skills and abilities. Regardless of all our differences, there is one thing that is true for every single Christian; it is that we have all received the grace of God, in one form or another. Therefore, nobody who is in Christ can ever claim, “I have nothing, so I can’t serve.”
Let’s read verse 11 together,”If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” One other way we can serve each other is by speaking the words of God to each other. We must learn to encourage one another, and build each other up. But none of this is possible if we don’t study the word of God ourselves. Looking again at verse 11, see what else Peter instructs them. He says,” If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” Our service should never be done in our own strength. Why? Quite simply put, our strength is very limited. If we love people, using our own strength, no matter how hard we may try, we become prone to anger, or annoyance, impatience, disappointments, sometimes even disgust. We absolutely need to depend on the strength of God in order to love others the ways he himself loved us.
Peter teaches the early church that living for God meant first, struggling with sin, then the need to love one another. And lastly Peter crowns this teaching with the invitation to participate in Christ’s sufferings. Let us read verse 12 and 13, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” From the moment we are called sons and daughters of God, we will immediately be rejected and hated by the world. Because of Jesus, unbearable trials come to those who love him and belong to him. Jesus told us very plainly, “You will be hated by everyone on account of my name.” (Mt. 10:22). So why are Christians surprised when they taste some suffering? Mostly because they don’t expect it at all. Many Christians think that they moment one is united with Christ, all troubles are over. But whatever the reason may be, Peter tells us not be surprised. In fact, according to verse 13, we ought to fully embrace and rejoice over our sufferings. Why? Because we are sharing a significant experience together with Christ. Phil. 1:29 says: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” Those who are self-seeking, or who are after honor and the praises from people cannot possibly experience this or accept it as truth. On the other hand, those seeking the glory and honor of God and praise from the Lord Jesus are willing to participate in Christ’s sufferings. What more can we offer Jesus than our hearts and lives? It truly is a great privilege to suffer for Christ.
Many men and women of faith have had to welcome suffering. Most never ran away, but readily rejoiced at the thought of being counted worthy to participate in suffering for Christ. And the more they accepted suffering, the more they matured in their faith. Paul, who experienced this firsthand said: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) People usually think that suffering only leads to heartache and wounds, sorrows of all kind and so many other negative things. But this is not so with the Christian. We’re taught over and over again that suffering is a precious gift from God. Without suffering in our lives, nothing significant really happens. We can’t grow. We can’t mature. It is the power source for growth in the personal Christian life, and the main power source of the church tasked with sharing the gospel with the world. One of the greatest ways we can participate in Jesus’ suffering is to seek somebody you can serve with the word of God to, even if it costs you some heartache or some material loss. These days, young people more than ever, need the word of God and we must be willing to suffer in many ways to share it with them through much love and sacrifice. But rejoice, because we are only participating in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus.
Look at verses 14-15, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” A Christian’s suffering must be much different from the way a worldly person suffers for example. People mostly suffer because of the power of sin working in their lives, driving them to shame and guilt and fear. But the Christian’s suffering is different. He or she suffer for the glory of the Lord. Look at verse 17, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” Peter tells us that suffering is like the beginning of God’s judgment to refine God’s people. But for non beleivers, suffering is a sign of God’s wrath and punishment. So Peter says: “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (19) We have the great hope in Christ, being united with him. Because of his suffering, we now have a chance to live a new life not according to the flesh and its desires, but according to the Spirit of God and His desires. We struggle against sin and live by the spirit. We also suffer with joy to do what is good in the sight of God. May God bless our small ministry to commit ourselves this year to struggling against the power of sin, loving one another deeply, and to participate in Christ’s sufferings. That’s the way to live for God and to please him. Amen
Let’s read our key verse, 13 together. “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.