Living Like Christ in an Unbelieving World (1 Peter 4:1-6)


Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | January 29, 2012


Text:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3  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. 4  They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6  For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:1-6)

Notes:

Last week we looked at the end of chapter 3 which told us that we can face persecution fearlessly and intentionally by viewing it through Christ’s resurrection, proclamation and exaltation.

This week, Peter returns to the argument from verse 18 of chapter 3 which says, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

And draws out other implications of the sufferings of Christ in our lives in chapter 4:1-6.

When we consider the sufferings of Jesus, it should motivate us to live a different kind of life than the worldly culture around us, it should help us understand the negative reaction of unbelievers to our faith in Christ, and it should assure us that justice will finally be served against those who persecute us for our faith.

Let’s look first at how Christ’s suffering should motivate us to

Choose a life of obedience that may include suffering instead of a life of sin  

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

 First, let’s talk about what verse 1 does not mean when it says “whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.”

It does not mean that Christians do not sin. Romans 7 and 1 John 2 remind us that we struggle with sin in this life because the old nature and new nature are at war within us, but that, 1) if we confess our sins, God will forgive and cleanse us from them; and, 2) our struggle with sin will come to an end when we die or when Christ comes again.

Next, let’s talk about what this does mean. There are a number of interpretations of this passage. The one that makes the most sense in the context is that it means that since Christ suffered during his incarnation to cancel the penalty and power of sin, we should live our lives not only freed from the judicial penalty of sin, but also freed – as much as possible – from the power of sin in our lives.

Think of it this way.

A sinner is like a thief who got caught for stealing. The thief has two problems. 1) He is in jail for stealing; 2) He still wants to steal. He is under the penalty and power of stealing. He has to pay the penalty for his stealing, and he has to overcome the desire to steal.

In order for him to be restored to society, he must pay the penalty for his crimes, and he must be rehabilitated so that he no longer steals. Once he has paid the penalty for stealing and is released from prison, will he still have the desire to steal? Probably. Will he be tempted by his old friends to steal? Probably.

The only way he can overcome the power of stealing is to change his attitude which will then change his behavior. He must become willing to work for a living, he must be willing to leave his old friends behind, he must be willing to avoid certain locations and situations that tempt him to steal. He must want a new kind of life.

That is what is being said here I believe about sin in our lives. Peter is saying to us – since Jesus has paid the penalty and broken the power of sin in your life, you should be willing, enabled by the Spirit of God, to live a different kind of life than you once lived. You should live your life, as Jesus did, not for himself, to gratify his own desires but for God and whatever his will is for your life. As Jesus said in the garden, “not my will by Thy will be done.”

You must adopt a new attitude, the attitude of Christ toward sin. He suffered every temptation we suffer, yet without sin. We know that in this life we cannot avoid sinning altogether because the sin nature will not be totally removed from us until Christ returns.

However, In 1 John 2:6, John writes, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

Peter writes in verse 1, that we should arm ourselves with the same attitude as Christ during his incarnation.

Paul wrote to the Philippians (2:5) “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross.”

The writer of Hebrews 12:1-4 says …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…3  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Because we have new life in Christ – the resurrected life of Christ – we can adopt a new attitude that will lead to new behaviors like those Christ exhibited. We are not like the thief who is left alone to change his behavior. The Spirit of God within us wars against the temptations of our sinful nature, the devil and the worldly culture around us, so that we can spend our remaining days doing God’s will rather than our own will.

It will not be easy. We are strangers in a strange land. We surrounded by unbelievers who think what we are strange and as a result, they heap abuse on us.

Let’s look secondly at

Understanding unbelievers’ anger and abuse 

 3  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. 4  They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

 This list is similar to lists we find in Ephesians 5, Galatians 5 and Romans 13. In short, it describes a self-centered life in contrast to a life that is God-centered. It describes a person that does his own will as opposed to a person that does the will of God. It describes the pagan culture from which many of Peter’s readers came and which continued to surround them.

This is the culture which surrounds us as well today. Those who have spent any time in college dorms, or in the halls of high school campuses or junior high campuses or on public playgrounds, or in certain night sports, or on the internet or tuned in to some TV and radio stations, know that this is the culture that surrounds us. Many of us only see the tip of the iceberg and don’t want to see any more than that. But some of us lived in and among that culture for some time before becoming believers.

What I heard on the construction job site…

What our kids reported they heard on the playground the first day in FL….

What I saw in the subway in NY… girls heading to the nightclub.

The sex-trafficing trade in Toledo recently in the news.

What some of you see and hear in your work in the schools and other places.

We are surrounded by this culture, but it also seeks to disrupt the culture of faith in which most of you live. He says that those who participate in the worldly culture are surprised when you no longer want to run with their crowd after you became a Christian, and they get mean about it. They don’t bid you a fond farewell. They become insulted and incensed by your new behavior and therefore “heap abuse on you.”

Why? It’s because your faith implicitly condemns their behavior by refusing to participate in their godless lifestyle. Hebrews 11:7 …Noah…[b]y his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

New Christians, especially, are often surprised by the negative reaction of their old friends when suddenly the Christian no longer wants to run with the old crowd or do the things the old crowd used to do. The crowd tries to get the new Christian to go back to their old ways, to re-join the crowd, and live it up like they used to.

If the Xian doesn’t go along, they’re called a kill-joy or a Puritan or a virgin or some other term they consider unflattering in order to shame the Christian into coming back. It’s a form of peer pressure.

Charles Colson gained notoriety in the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s as a close associate of President Richard Nixon. When he was converted in the midst of the Watergate court proceedings, the press greeted his “born-again” witness with jeers of derision. Cartoonists had a field day picturing a cover-up by what they characatured as an instant saint.

In more recent years, Tim Tebow, the son of missionaries to the Phillipines and the current quarterback for the Denver Broncos has received similar reviews from unbelievers in response to his public profession of faith in Christ.

Raven Clabough wrote in an article for the “New American” on December 20, 2011,

 “Weeks ago, The New American reported on Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow’s passionate faith and the flak he has taken for it. Unfortunately, Tebow remains a target and was most recently the subject of an offensive comedic skit on Saturday Night Live.

After the Denver Broncos emerged from another significant win against the Chicago Bears last week, a number of media outlets began to ponder whether Tebow’s faith and constant prayer played a role in his success as a starting quarterback for the Broncos. On Saturday, December 17, Saturday Night Live made fun of the notion that Tebow’s spirituality has anything to do with his victories.

Last month, the Christian Post reported on the taunting of Tim Tebow by fans of the opposing teams which has not just targeted his quarterback abilities, but his faith. The Post wrote, “Oakland Raiders’ fans held signs that read ‘Welcome to Hell,’ directed at Tebow during the pre-game warm-ups before Sunday’s NFL match-up in Oakland. Sunday’s game marks the second week that the evangelical quarterback was targeted by fans for his Christian beliefs.”

The week before the Oakland Raiders game, when the Broncos played the Detroit Lions, Lions’ linebacker Stephen Tullock openly mocked Tebow’s prayer pose, dubbed “Tebowing,” after he sacked Tebow in the second quarter. Later in the game, other Lions’ players followed suit.

http://thenewamerican.com/culture/faith-and-morals/10257-snl-mocks-quarterback-tim-tebows-faith

In a similar article (by Jennifer Marshall in The Foundry, a publication of the Heritage Foundation (December 7, 2011), Jennifer Floyd Engel at Fox Sports is quoted,

“Tebow is just a guy with the good sense to say thanks. Instead of taking his cue, we mock his faith. And that says more about us, none of it good.”

http://blog.heritage.org/2011/12/07/why-tim-tebow-keeps-smiling/

Unbelievers will mock your faith because, like Noah’s faith, it implicitly condemns them. It re-notifies them of what they already know – that there is a God and he expects their obedience and worship – but they live in defiance or denial of it, and they take it out on you.

However, like Christ, we can receiver their taunting and jeers without seeking revenge, because, third we are learning to

Trust God’s judgment and justice

5  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6  For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Those who live for their own pleasure, it says, one day, WILL BE held accountable for their actions and those Christians who have been judged harshly and abused during their days on earth will be vindicated or justified by God.

There will be a judgment of the living and the dead. Those who lived for themselves will come under condemnation, but those who lived for God by trusting in Christ, will be justified and avenged.

Some in the early church were concerned that because some among them had died, that this proved that the Gospel was of no effect. They thought that because they had become Christians, that all the effects of the fall of Adam would be reversed. That’s why Paul reassured the Thessalonians that the dead in Christ would rise first and that the living and the dead would meet the Lord in the air when he comes.

Here, Peter reassures his readers that though some have died, they will neither get away with their self-absorbed lifestyles, nor will they be lost because they were judged harshly by unbelievers in this life.

Verse 5 says “they will give an account” to God for their abuse of Christians. They will not get away with it.

Verse 6 says of abused Christians who are now dead, that though they were abused in this life, the Gospel was preached to them during that time so that they might come to faith and thus live eternally for God. Just as Jesus was abused in his incarnation, but in his death entered into resurrection life, so believers by faith in Christ enter into resurrection life in the spirit that is obedient to God and thus averts condemnation.

With the passing years, Colson’s genuineness in caring for prisoners made its mark. The cynical laughter died down, and Colson’s conversion began to command respect. Something had really happened in his life.

Clabough finished his article about Tim Tebow by saying, “Tebow has taken the mockery in stride, never once rebuking anyone for their bad behavior. Most could argue that his healthy response to the abuse exemplifies the power of his faith.”

 Jennifer Marshall added a quote by Tebow at the end of her article that illustrates his attitude. He said, “If people want to bash me for that, that’s OK. It really won’t bother me. At least they know what I believe.”

Colson and Tebow are recent examples, yet Christ is our greatest and highest example. He accepted the jeers, insults and taunts of unbelievers and finally the ultimate suffering of death on a cross in his stride without sin to enable us to live a new kind of life – not for ourselves, but in obedience to God, empowered by his Spirit, for the glory of Christ.


Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.

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