1 Peter 4:1-5
1 Peter 4 is one of the most difficult passages in all the Bible. We might say that here the Apostle pulls no punches but tells us in a forthright manner what it means to follow Christ—and he should know. He always remembered that look of his Lord the night he betrayed him (Luke 22:61-62). But Christ forgave him and on the day of Pentecost, Peter found new strength through the filling of the Holy Spirit. He would never deny his Lord again. He would live a crucified life and would eventually, tradition tells us, be martyred crucified upside down. But such determination meant suffering; it meant enduring what he was so afraid to endure that horrible night long ago. And Peter did endure it like so many of those early Christians and, no doubt, some to whom he wrote this very letter.
But Peter writes as one who encourages his readers to suffer: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” People who follow Christ suffer in some way or other, and, of course, in varying degrees. Perhaps in America, our way of suffering is to put away the sin which so easily besets us, to deny ourselves, to learn to fast, to go without while giving more of our resources to others—not just discretionary income but vital as well, and perhaps learn to pray on our knees again even if it hurts to do so. Let’s face it: What people are more flabby than Americans? What people use more excuses due to bodily ailments for skipping church, much less the heavy lifting which spiritual discipline calls for? And Peter hits us between the eyes when he says, “For whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” the reversal of which being that those who do not suffer in the flesh continue in sin. And those who have suffered in the flesh cease from sin, “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
The Apostle goes on to list some of those sins which believers should have sloughed off with their first regenerated breath. Unbelievers will not understand why we do not join them and malign us as hateful. This is happening as I write. Perhaps this is the beginning of suffering in our nation. But we must arm ourselves now by learning self-denial and sacrificial love. People who think and act this way are not thinking and giving themselves to sin. Suffering kills sin when done so for the cause of Christ, for the joy of our heavenly home. Begin today by saying, “No more” to the sin that so easily besets you and to the empty pleasures you allow yourself. And arm yourself for the day that may soon come.