Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 27, 2017
“His Suffering and Our Holiness”
Text: 1 Peter 4:1-6
The longer I study 1 Peter, the more I note how relevant it is to our time. The letter reminds us that this world is not our home—and our experience in Christ verifies the claim. We note increasingly, and with some concern, that this world is not perfectly friendly to us—but Peter told us this through the Holy Spirit almost two millennia ago. The specter of suffering has loomed over the letter for some time—and continues today. Last week, we noted that consideration of Christ’s unjust suffering for righteousness’ sake makes ours more bearable. This week, we note that His sufferings conduce to our forsaking of sin. Let us hear God speak to us by His Spirit from His Word—and may we by His grace profit thereby.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The specter of suffering for wearing Christ’s Name has hung more heavily over this letter since 1 Peter 3:8—though we noted this theme in 1 Peter 2:18-25 as well. The ground for our good endurance of this suffering is Christ’s own suffering. Note generally that Jesus suffered in our places; His sufferings unto death accomplish much for us. His sacrificial suffering atones for our sins, reconciles us to God, claims us as eternally His, and bestows blessings upon us. Those blessings from God are both tangible and intangible—and both temporal and eternal. All this Christ has accomplished for us in His suffering on the Cross; let us ever praise His Name for His work and His benefits.
Therefore, in view of Christ’s suffering in our stead, let’s arm ourselves for dual action. First, let us stop sinful living. Peter notes that the time that is past was sufficient, and then some, for this. Now we must stop this sinful living. Second, let us live for the will of God. These actions lead me—and perhaps they lead you—to think, “Oh, but if I had those former days to do again, and those former actions to shun and forsake, and…” Oh, indeed, if we had those former days to do again—to live then more nearly to the will of God. Oh, but there is grace from God Almighty—grace to forgive the past sins, and grace to empower present and future obedience. Rejoice in Him Who forgives your sin, Who heals all your diseases, and Who prepares and empowers your unspeakably glorious future in Him.
As we arm ourselves for the dual action of forsaking sin and living for the will of God, let us expect difficulty from those who pursue not Christ—who conform to the flesh, the world, and the devil. Those who walk not after Christ think it strange that we do not join in their base acts. True, often the unbeliever seems strange to us, but I assure you that we are more strange to him—because we know out of what God called us (our sin), but he does not know to what God has called us (His glorious life and eternity). Hence, the unbeliever thinks Christians as a lot—and perhaps you in particular—more than a bit strange. Moreover, they are surprised at our abstinence from unholy living. Their so-called pleasures occur here, whereas ours have root elsewhere, and perhaps they even derive meaning and purpose from these unholy acts, whereas our meaning and purpose centers on Jesus Christ. Hence, the unbeliever often reacts to us with surprise and esteems us strange. Alas, he often reacts another way too.
The unbeliever often malign us for forsaking unholy life in favor of holy life. Our holy conduct becomes a walking, talking indictment of theirs. Few under indictment of any sort respond well to the indicting party; therefore, the unbeliever generally will not respond favorably either to us or to our conduct. Yet the unbeliever will answer to Him Who judges the living and the dead—hopefully in repentance and faith while there is time, but either at physical death or at Christ’s return in any case. Let us not worry about the scoffing unbeliever, but let us feel the pleasure of God as we strive in the Spirit’s power to order our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ—and all to the glory of the triune God.
Let’s also note that the Godly in every age armed themselves thus. Those under the Old Covenant now asleep in Christ, who believed in a Savior to come, armed themselves to forsake sin and to live unto God. Those under the New Covenant now asleep in Christ, who believed in the Christ Who came, armed themselves thus. This dual arming is God’s call now upon us who believe—and it will be the call upon those believers in Jesus yet to come, should God tarry.
In view of all the foregoing, then, may God mortify our flesh by His Spirit. May He convict our minds of lingering wrongdoing, even though we be in Christ, and may He incline and empower our wills to forsake it. May God also vivify our spirits by His Spirit—and may we use His appointed means of grace to this end. Dr. Don Whitney, now at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote a very helpful book for the Church entitled Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. He lists a number of activities that, engaged in the power of the Spirit, will strengthen our lives in Christ in every way. These include Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. Many of these occur alone, many occur with company, and some overlap between solitude and group. As we walk with the Lord in these spiritual disciplines, we will find those lingering wrongs weakened and expelled—and we will see our Gospel obedience increasingly enabled. May Christ’s suffering for our sakes indeed empower our holy conduct—and may we know the ever-growing joy of the Lord as we walk hand in hand with Him all the way Home.