Sir Winston Churchill had an amazing career as an English politician, Prime Minister and world leader – he is consistently listed by historians as one of the top 2 or 3 most important people of the 20th century. But reading his biography, you get an idea of his motivation — WHY he did what he did. From the time he was a child, Winston Churchill wanted to be a “great person.” He wanted to be a famous politician. He wanted to be remembered. So he went off to war, and put himself in positions of great danger, specifically for the purpose of “getting medals,” which would enable him to win a political office when he got back, and which would thrust him into public life. Churchill did some great things in his life, but his motivation; what he was living for — by his own admission — was to achieve his own fame and lasting greatness.
In light of that, we should ask ourselves today: “What am I living for?” Verse 2 here says the one who is following Christ is no longer living for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. What about YOU? What are YOU really living for? Peter shows us here in these verses a real contrast in the way people live: some who live for the things of this world, and some who live for the will of God. And it’s not just a matter of whether you go to church or not. There are plenty of people who “go to church”for an hour on Sunday, but who spend most of their lives living for the lusts of men. But there are others who go to church who are there because they are really seeking to live for the will of God. Which one of these kinds of people are you? You might say, “Well, I am living for the will of God.” But ARE you really? Does your life demonstrate that to be true? Peter shows us here in chapter 4:1-6 some of the things that will characterize the person who is really living not for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. I hope that you will evaluate your own life this morning, and see if these verses show that you are really living for the will of God:
“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 live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried 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, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
Several things in this passage show us what we are REALLY living for: whether it is the desires of the flesh or the will of God:
I. THE REPENTANCE THAT CHARACTERIZES US
“So as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”
The person who is really living for the will of God, has a life that is characterized by repentance. “Repentance” means you have turned around, and are now going another way. The one who’s living for God has put aside the lusts of the flesh, and the sins that characterize the people who are living for this world. Perhaps there were SOME Peter was writing to, who, because they were suffering, decided that they may as well just go ahead and sin: “Let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” “Things are bad anyway; we may as well enjoy ourselves.”
Many people today have that attitude. I read where they did a survey and asked people in America: “If you knew the world was going to end in a week, what would you do?” And two of the top answers of the American people were, “I’d go get drunk” and “I’d go to Las Vegas and live it up.” That’s JUST the attitude of the world: “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
That may be the attitude of the ungodly person, but Peter says it is not that way for us as God’s people. As God’s people, we are not living for the pleasures of this world, we are living for the pleasures of heaven, and the approval of the God who is waiting for us there. We aren’t looking for an “excuse” to throw caution to the wind, and go and sin.
Peter says, sure, there is sin in our PAST as Christians — he says you’ve been involved in drunkenness and carousing, and all the things he mentions here — but he says that does NOT characterize our lives NOW as Christians. If you’re really living for the will of God, then you have repented of those sins. You’re not doing those things any more if you are living for the will of God.
Some people say: “Well I thought Jesus took us ‘just as we are.’” Yes, Jesus welcomes all who come to Him, but He does not leave them the way they came to Him. He saves them. He changes them.
— Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery in John 8; He said He did not condemn her — but then He said to her, “Now go and sin no more.”
— After Jesus healed the sick man in John 5, He said to him in :14, “Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jesus took that man as he was; He healed him; but He didn’t leave him as he was. He told him to change his life and stop sinning.
— Paul said to the Corinthians (6:9-11), “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the Kingdom of God. Such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Here Paul says, YES, you USED to do all these sins; Jesus will take you no matter WHAT sin you are guilty of; He will forgive you — BUT HE WILL NOT LEAVE YOU LIKE YOU WERE! He will wash you and change you, and “sanctify” you (“sanctify” means “make you holy.”) Jesus takes you as you are, but He does not leave you like you are. If you really come to Jesus, you will be changed.
And that’s a really good test of whether you’ve truly come to Jesus or not. A whole lot of people SAY they’ve come to Jesus and been saved. In a place like we live, here in Texas, sometimes it can be hard to find a person who says they DON’T know Jesus! Almost everybody claims to be a Christian. But one of the best tests of whether you really ARE a Christian, is: has your life changed? Can you look back like the Corinthians Paul was writing to, and say “I USED to do …” all these sins — but I am NOT doing them any more. Those things are in my “rear view mirror” since I gave my life to Christ. If you can point to how the habits of your life have changed since you met Christ, that is a really good indicator that you really are living for Him.
But if your attitude is: “now I’m a Christian; I know I am going to heaven, so now I can go and do I want to and not worry about it”, and your life is STILL characterized by the things Peter talks about here (“sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing”, etc.) then that reveals that you have most likely never really been saved at all. The one who is really living for God has a life that is characterized by repentance.
II. THE PURPOSE THAT MOTIVATES US
:2 “So as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” Here Peter shows us two different motivations that people have in life; two different purposes that they can live for: “the lusts of men”, or “the will of God.” We are either living for one or the other.
I John 2:16 gives us some more detail about the lusts of men. It says: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” What Peter generally calls “the lusts of men” John specifically identifies as “the lusts of the flesh; the lusts of the eyes; and the boastful pride of life.” They are the things that please our bodies or our senses (what “feels” good to us); what pleases our eyes, or are “attractive” to us; or what pleases our pride, and makes us “feel good about ourselves.” These are the lusts of the world; what Peter calls “the lusts of men.”
So the question is: what are YOU living for? Are you living for those things — that make you feel good; or that look good to you; or that makes you feel good about yourself — or are you living for God and His kingdom? We may want to SAY we’re living for God, but are we? Think about how it plays out in the specific, daily decisions that you make:
Do you think: I want to eat or drink this, because it will feel good for ME?
Or do you think how what you eat or drink will affect the glory of God, and the work of the Kingdom of God in other people?
Do you think: what do I want to do with “my time”?
Or do you think: what does GOD want me to accomplish for His kingdom with the time He gave me?
Do you think: what do I want to do with “my” money? Or do you think: for what kingdom purpose did God entrust me with the resources He gave me, as a steward?
In every area of your life, do you do what makes you “feel good”?
Or do you do what you know GOD wants you to do?
I can tell you, from personal experience (and you probably know this from your own personal experience as well) those two things are almost always the exact opposite of each other. What I know God wants me to do is often not what I “feel” like doing. So if I am going to do God’s will, it is often the exact OPPOSITE of what I “feel” like. But one of the marks of a real Christian person is that we aren’t living for the desires of the flesh; we are living to do GOD’s will; not what we want to do.
The other day I was talking with someone about what time we get up. I usually got up pretty early, but that is not what I would “like” to do in my human flesh. What I would “like” to do, if it were up to me, is to stay up late and read. Left to myself; to my own devices, I would stay up later and later every night, and get up later and later — until my days and my nights would probably almost flip-flop! That’s what I “feel” like doing. But I also know, that is not what GOD wants me to do. He says in His word I need to be up early, to spend time in His word and prayer. I also need to exercise before I get into the office. So most days I get up at 5:00 a.m.; and often at 4:30 or 4:45, to have my Bible and prayer time, and get to the gym to swim, and then to the church office. This is NOT what I “feel” like doing. I “feel” like staying up until 1 a.m. reading and drinking caramel coffee! But see, what I “feel” like doing, and what is God’s will for me to do, are two completely opposite things.
And there are things like that in your life too, aren’t there? Maybe like me, it’s about getting up in the morning. Or maybe it is something else. But if you are a Christian, there will be things in your life that, left to yourself, you would “feel” like doing in your flesh; but you are NOT going to do them, because you know it is not GOD’S will for you — and because you are committed to Christ, you are living for the will of God; not what you “feel” like doing. If you can identify some areas of your life in which you are not doing what you “feel,” but what you know God wants you to do instead, that is one of the most powerful arguments for the assurance of your salvation, that you are truly a child of God! Because that is what genuine children of God do: they do not live for the lusts of the their flesh; what they “feel” like doing — but they live for the will of GOD instead.
The question is: IS that what you are doing? Are you giving up things that “you want to do,” to do the will of God instead? Or are you are just living for whatever you feel like doing? If you are just doing whatever you “feel” like in life, there is a really good chance you are not a Christian at all, because Peter says here the person who is really living for God is living “no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” HIS WILL is the purpose that motivates us.
III. THE SUFFERING THAT PURIFIES US
Verse 1 here says: “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 live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
As we have seen over these last weeks, MUCH of this Book of I Peter is about suffering. We have seen references to suffering in every single chapter in this book. Peter was writing originally to people who were suffering, and he pointed them to the sufferings of Christ as an example.
Well, as many of us well know, Peter is STILL writing to people who are suffering. God’s people still suffer today, in many ways. One of the most important questions of your life is, how do you respond in your times of suffering? Peter says here that one of the things that characterize people who are really living for the will of God, is that they allow their suffering to PURIFY their life. Peter says “he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” This is not one of the most “pleasant” teachings, but it is an important one in the Christian life: that God often uses suffering to have a purifying effect in the lives of His people.
We see this all through scripture:
— Psalm 119:67 “before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” The Psalmist says his time of suffering purified his life from sin, so that now he keeps God’s word.
— We see that in Israel in the Babylonian Captivity. Because of their consistent worship of idols and the abhorrent practices that went along with it (offering their children as sacrifices to the idols) God allowed His people to be judged, and to be carried away as captives to the nation of Babylon. It was a difficult time of suffering for them, but historians can look back and tell you, that NEVER again did Israel fall back into idolatry after the Babylonian Captivity. That time of suffering purified them from that sin.
So as God’s people, one of the things that will characterize our lives is that we will allow the suffering we go through to purify us. We will look inward in our times of suffering and let God speak to us about our lives. NOW, let me make it clear: this does NOT mean that all the suffering we endure is directly caused by our sin. Jesus made it very clear in John 9 when the disciples asked Him about the man’s blindness, that an individual’s suffering is not always directly caused by his own sin. BUT, having said that, times of suffering do present us with a great opportunity to let God speak to us about issues in our lives which need addressed.
Many of you know my testimony, that I got sick with POTS in 2012, which left me unable to stand without getting sick, and I lost my job and was out of the ministry for over two years. I don’t believe that God “struck” me with that illness because of some great sin in my life. But still yet, I did let Him use that time to speak to me about a variety of issues in my life that He needed to change. And I think all of us as God’s children should do that when we suffer.
There is often something purifying about suffering. Why? There are probably several reasons for it: for one, we often cleanse our lives from sin “just in case” it was sin that brought on God’s chastisement. But also I think when we suffer, it causes us to focus on the essentials of life and eternity. We see how foolish the temptations and distractions of this world are, and it helps us to focus more on the Lord, and eternal things, than we were before. So our suffering — for God’s people — has a purifying effect. We don’t “waste” our suffering; but we let God use it to purify our lives.
SO: if you are suffering — even if you don’t believe that it is the result of your sin — and that is often the case — it wasn’t for Jesus; and it wasn’t for most of those to whom Peter was writing here — still, let your time of suffering be a time of purification for you. Ask God to show you sin in your life — actions, words, thoughts, attitudes, things left undone, broken relationships — and ask Him to purify you through this time. It is one of the marks of a person who is really living for the will of God, that he allows suffering to purify his life.
IV. THE JUDGMENT THAT IS SPARED US
“In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
Peter says the people who are living for this world, who are around us as Christians, malign us because we don’t do the same worldly things they do — BUT, he says, “they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” He says, their “peer pressure” is not going to stop us from doing what is right — because we know that the judgment of God is coming, and their “peer pressure” is not the final word on things — God’s judgment is!
Wednesday night as we studied Psalm 8 we talked about how those who are pushing same-sex marriage and transgender equality say: “Don’t be on the wrong side of history.” They point to how people in the early 1800’s said slavery was supported by the Bible, but now history has moved forward, and those who supported slavery are now “on the wrong side of history.” So they assert in regards to homosexuality now, that history is also now going in their direction. They say, don’t be left behind, don’t be stuck with those “old” Biblical values that are passing away. They say, don’t be on “the wrong side of history.”
But listen: this morality (or immorality!) may be popular for a season here on earth — and it appears, unfortunately, that acceptance of these sins may soon be in our country’s history. But God’s word reminds us today that the ultimate “wrong side of history” is to be on the wrong side of the Word of God; if you compromise His word, you will be on the wrong side of ETERNITY! So don’t give in to temporary worldly pressures to compromise. Don’t end up on the ultimate “wrong side of history” by denying God’s word — because one day you will stand before Him in judgment, and you will give an account for it. No one is going to “get away” with denying God’s word. There is a judgment that is coming.
I remember several years ago, driving down the interstate on a long trip, and a car just BLAZED by me in the passing lane — I don’t know how fast he was going, but it was fast! He may have thought he was so cool, and I was just some “old fogy” in the slow lane. But sure enough, when I went up and around the bend in the road, he wasn’t blazing down the highway any more: the Highway Patrol had stopped him, and was writing him up!
THAT is exactly how we as Christians should see those around us who are living for the lusts of this world. They think we’re so foolish and old-fashioned for living the way we do. They think we’re “missing out” by not doing the same things they do. But don’t let their “peer pressure” affect you. Don’t you wish you were doing what they were doing. God’s people realize that just like that speeding car that day, most of the people in this world are speeding headlong into sin — but they don’t realize that the Judge is waiting “just around the bend”! They aren’t getting away with it — NO ONE “gets away” with anything in this world. God’s word tells us here that He is going to judge the living and the dead. So just like a prudent driver stays within the speed limits, because he knows there are law enforcement officers watching, so we as God’s people should be holy in our behavior, because we are mindful that God is always watching.
Of course, as hard as we may try not to sin, we all DO. But thank God, there is a way to escape God’s judgment — as we saw last week; it is to get into the “ark” God provided for us, in Jesus Christ. We have ALL sinned — we’ve ALL done some of the things Peter mentioned in :3; every single one of us. And because of our sin, the bodies of every one of us will die. But Peter says in :6, that the gospel has been preached to those of us who are dying, and if we will believe that gospel — that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that God raised Him from the dead — and if we will truly commit our lives to Him, and live NOT for the lusts of this world, but for the will of God, like Peter says here, then we can be saved, and though our body will one day die, we will LIVE forever with Him.
Have you done that? If you haven’t, you can today. Admit that you’ve sinned; ask Jesus to forgive you and wash you and change you, and commit your life to Him. And then show that you really mean it, by putting your sin behind you; don’t keep living in it; live for God’s will and not what you feel like doing; and let God purify your life through your times of suffering. If you’ll do these things, you can be confident that you will escape judgment of God, and that you will live forever in heaven with Him.