Sermons

September 6, 2020

Armed in Suffering for the Sake of Sanctification

Jason Meyer (Downtown Campus) | 1 Peter 4:1-6

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.—1 Peter 4:1–6

Introduction: Transition From the Lord’s Supper

Please do not think we have now moved beyond the Lord’s Supper—as if we are now going to fix our eyes elsewhere to the next topic. Our text compellingly calls us to have our sights firmly fixed on Christ’s suffering as we seek to embrace God’s will for us in suffering.

I want to begin with a reminder of the connections we saw last time between 3:17, 3:18, and 4:1.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.—1 Peter 3:17

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.—1 Peter 3:18

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.—1 Peter 4:1

Verse 1 is the main point of the passage. If we were to state it in its simplest form, it would be, “Arm yourselves with the same way of thinking” (v. 1b). But the phrase “same way of thinking” only makes sense with reference to the phrase before: “Christ suffered in the flesh” (v. 1a). 

So if we put those two phrases together, we get the following point:

We must meditate upon Christ’s suffering and then arm ourselves with the same way of thinking.

We do not arm ourselves with weapons when we face the hostility of the culture all around us; we arm ourselves with a Christlike way of thinking or a gospel mentality. 

How does this point fit with the rest of the passage? 

Peter reinforces that point in verses 3–6 with a two-fold foundation: (1) the present judgment and (2) the future judgment.

In terms of the present judgment, Christians experience a certain kind of judgment right now in this life at the hands of unbelievers. We are ridiculed and rejected for failing to adopt the way the world thinks and the way the world lives.

But the present judgment that believers endure must be paired with the future judgment that God will carry out. The verdict will be reversed. Unbelievers will be decisively and irreversibly condemned for their rejection of Christ, but God’s children will be saved and restored forever. 

Those two foundational points bring us back to verse 2 and what Peter says about a certain way of thinking and living. The future judgment cannot be an abstract concept that we think about from time to time. It must break into the way we think and live here and now. That future judgment must reinforce the resolve of believers to endure suffering. The resolve to embrace God’s will in suffering is also a package deal with embracing God’s will for sanctification. Willingness to embrace suffering (earthly loss) shows that believers have died to this world and its sinful passions (earth’s exiles). It means we really are the citizens of heaven living for the world to come.

The passage is packed with glorious truth and there are many tight logical connections that I am excited for us to discover together. I wrote the main point of the sermon this week and then I wrote a summary of the passage that tries to put it all together.

Main Point: We must meditate upon Christ’s suffering and then arm ourselves with the same way of thinking.

Here is a summary of the passage: 

Because Christ’s suffering was the pathway to glory, believers should adopt the same mindset and surrender to God’s will in suffering and sanctification because they know the present judgment is a prelude to glory that will come with the final judgment. 

Outline

  1. Resolve to Suffer, Not Sin (1 Peter 4:1–2)
  2. The Present Judgment (1 Peter 4:3–4)
  3. The Future Judgment (1 Peter 4:5–6) 

1) Resolve to Suffer, Not Sin (1 Peter 4:1–2)

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased 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.

A) Christ’s Suffering and Our Suffering: A Mindset 

Peter labors once again to connect Christ’s suffering and the believers’ suffering. Jesus suffered according to God’s perfect will. Jesus endured suffering and hostility and would not be turned away from obeying his Father and fulfilling his purpose: to bring many sons and daughters to glory through his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus would not let anything keep him from dying on that cross to bring you and me to glory.

I find it fascinating that Peter and the author of Hebrews have the same strategy in linking Christ’s suffering with our suffering.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.—Hebrews 12:2–3

What was one of the main things Jesus had to overcome? Shame! People tried to scare him away from obedience by shaming him. But Jesus despised the shame. He looked the shame square in the face and said, “I shame you, shame. You will not keep me from obedience!”

We see the same thing in Hebrews 13:12–14. What did Jesus have to face? Reproach! We will as well.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.—Hebrews 13:12–14

What is Peter doing and what is the author of Hebrews doing when they share these verses? They are saying what any good coach or commanding officer would say: “Be prepared, get ready, train for this, don’t be caught off guard.”

Our willingness to embrace the reproach and shame that will come on the path of obedience means we have made a decisive break from sin and the path of disobedience. That is where Peter goes next.

B) What is the link between suffering and sanctification?

For whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased 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. (vv. 1b–2)

What does it mean that whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin? The essential point here is to recognize the choice between two paths: either the path of disobedience (i.e., the path of least resistance—going along with the culture and avoiding their contempt), or the path of obedience (i.e., the path of much resistance—following Christ and not the cultural norms and being willing to suffer the potential criticism and cultural pressure that will come your way).

A resolve to suffer says, “I have decided to follow Jesus no matter the cost. I will gladly choose to obey God and face the world’s wrath rather than obey the culture and face God’s wrath.”

C) The Rest of the Time in the Flesh: What Do You Live For?

So as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (v. 2)

Those two paths now receive different names based on what you are really living for.

  1. Earth’s citizens live for “human passions.”
  2. Heaven’s citizens (earth’s exiles) live for “the will of God.”

Peter keeps repeating this word for “passions” or “lusts” to make this point. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul—1 Peter 2:11 

Notice the repetition in 4:2–3.

So as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions ...

So arm yourselves with this way of thinking. Do not believe the lie that what we do in this life does not matter. That is called cheap grace. You think you can be forgiven of your sins and then live any way you want. You make a mockery of forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit and the miracle of the new birth. But you also have to avoid what the other ditch believes—that what we do here does not matter (cheap grace). This second ditch says that it is all that matters (now-ism). We want the judgment to come to break into the present so that the way we live and think does not look like the world, but looks Christlike and Christ-exalting.

2) The Present Judgment (1 Peter 4:3–4)

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.

A) Wasted Years

The believers have made a break from their pagan past when they did not know God. They did not live for God, but for the flesh. As Paul said, they were lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

He says that the time that is past is enough for living that way. The apostle Paul says it a different way in Romans 6. 

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.—Romans 6:20–22

I do not want to skip over these verses lightly. Many of you likely feel a sense of shame over past sin. And that is appropriate. Don’t give into the pressure to return to those things because of worldly pressure and shame. You have already tasted the shame of living that way. You feel a weight of grief and sadness over years that feel wasted when you were living a life of disobedience. Some of you wear the scars from living that life. 

B) A Life Sold Out for the Flesh

Was there ever a verse as relevant and timely and contemporary as this one? The world has not fundamentally changed and worldly thinking has not fundamentally changed. People still believe that life is found outside of God’s commandments and God’s will. Fullness of joy is found outside of his presence, not in his presence. So they are sold out to the pleasures of the flesh—primarily focused here on sexual freedom and expression.

I have to say that I feel so much sadness for those caught in this destructive lie. So many of my high school friends never got out of the party lifestyle. They live for the next high, the next drink, the next sexual encounter. But now it is a life of escapism. They can’t cope with responsibilities and they are in the snare of the lie that says, “satisfaction is only found in the next sin.

C) Surprise and Slander

With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you. (v. 4)

The implication of verse 4 is that these believers have made a decisive break with their past. Their former friends can tell a difference—mainly because they will not join their friends in this lifestyle anymore. Unbelievers are shocked by this change of life. They let them know what they think: “they malign you.”

They feel implicitly indicted and judged by the behavior of believers. You can hear it still today: “Don’t judge me. You think you are better than me? How dare you? Who made you God over me?”

Part of being armed with Christ-like thinking is not being surprised that they are surprised. Look at the connection between 4:4 and 4:12.

With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you. (v. 4)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (v. 12) 

I want to speak a word to singles here. You are perhaps assaulted with these worldly sexual expectations more than anyone else. It simply does not make sense to others that you would not join the hook-up culture or the move-in-together culture. Many of you have experienced relational turmoil, financial difficulty, housing insecurity, or porn addiction. In all of the heartaches and ups and downs, it is hard to feel that anything is stable, but rather temporary. 

I just want you to know that we see you and love you. We are praying for you. May the lovingkindness of the Lord shine in the shadow of our culture’s dark, unrelenting pressure. You are not defined by your relational status or sexual expression. You are defined by your relational status to your Savior. You are defined by the fact that you are joined to the One who died for your sins and defeated the grave so that you would be with forever. You are a blazing billboard for the sufficiency of Christ. 

Some of you face not only the norms of our culture in terms of sexuality, but a wide range of topics in which the world often hates what Christians believe. I immediately thought of perhaps the top four most hated things under attack right now.

These four things are really two pairs: Christ is the only way to heaven, and all others go to hell; God made humanity male and female, and designed marriage to be between one man and one woman, and all sexual relationships outside of that marriage relationship are sinful.

The Exclusivity of Christ
Jesus is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12—there is no other name given among men under heaven by which we must be saved). The world wants to say there are many ways to God.

The Doctrine of Hell
People hate the idea that God is going to punish those who did not receive Christ. They want to believe that there is no final judgment.

The Doctrine of Humanity
It is a sacred truth that God created humanity in his own image. He made them biologically male or female. The world wants to believe that we can choose.

The Doctrine of Marriage
It is a sacred truth that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. Any type of sexual relationship outside of marriage is sinful. The world wants to uphold sexual freedom to do whatever we choose. 

It will become more and more common to be ridiculed and slandered and shamed for holding these views. Peter is saying to us, “Be prepared for it and don’t be caught off guard by it.” As you go back to school, you will face this cultural pressure. Be ready. Peter helps these believers to strengthen their resolve with the last two verses.

3) The Future Judgment (1 Peter 4:5–6)

But they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

These believers made a break with their pagan past and now they are being slandered and reviled. But it would be foolish to give into peer pressure to return to the pattern of this world. The world’s judgment cannot have the last word, just as the judgment of those who reviled Christ did not have the last word. Jesus rose from the dead and will judge the living and the dead. Therefore, the judgment of worldly friends is not definitive; God’s judgment matters so much more.

What terrifying words: “They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (v. 5). It is coming. And God is ready. But they are not. As believers, we try to help them get ready for it, even though they may hate us for it further. 

Now what about verse 6? It sounds strange, does it not? “The gospel was preached even to those who are dead.” And what does it mean that they were “judged in the flesh the way people are”?

It may be helpful to sketch some of the context for why Peter brings this issue up. How would unbelievers malign the Christian faith? The former friends of believers mocked their Christian faith by pointing out that believers and unbelievers experience death exactly the same way. They physically die. How can the Christian faith be different when people die the same way?

Peter wants to show the difference that the gospel makes. Peter is not saying that Christ preached the gospel in hell to people who died to give them another chance. It says the gospel was preached to them. It means the same thing as 1 Peter 1:12.

In the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you ... 

Judged in the flesh like people are just means that they physically died like everyone else. When Adam and Eve sinned, death entered into the world. And now everyone dies. That is the judgment for sin. But that is not the end of the story for believers. The gospel brings life: “That they might live in the spirit the way God does” (1 Peter 4:6).

Yes, believers die just like everyone else in the sense that their physical bodies die and they are buried. But believers are also different in that they are spiritually alive because of the gospel. This is what Paul taught as well: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

What is the point? Just as their slander cannot have the last word, so the last enemy, death, cannot have the last word. Just as Jesus rose from the dead so that suffering and death did not have the last word for him, so it will not have the last word for us.

Here is a summary of the passage:

Because Christ’s suffering was the pathway to glory, believers should adopt the same mindset and surrender to God’s will in suffering and sanctification because they know the present judgment is a prelude to glory that will come with the final judgment.

Conclusion: Prayer

How did Jesus keep entrusting himself to the One who judges justly? Did he simply know it and thus suffer as a Stoic: immovable, unflappable, just marching through life with straight-line, even-keel emotions?

That is not at all the picture we get in Scripture. Consider Hebrews 5:7. 

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him

Jesus went through the ringer. He lived in a constant pressure cooker. How did he survive? Prayer.

What did he do? He offered up prayers and supplications.

How did he do it? With loud cries and tears.

To whom? To him who was able to save him from death.

What happened? He was heard because of his reverence.

What does reverence mean? Obedience! Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

That is our Savior! Now look at how we benefit from his perfect righteousness and reverence.

How Can We Pray in a Way That Connects to That Life?

And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.—Hebrews 5:9

First, rest in Christ. Do not have performance anxiety in suffering.

We do not need to be perfect in suffering because he was (being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation). We are not saved by our suffering as if we are always looking to God with performance anxiety: “Am I doing it well enough?” You are out there fighting and struggling and wrestling and you need to run to the strong tower. When you are there, you can just crash there—rest in Christ. He obeyed perfectly for you. He suffered perfectly for you. Rest there.

Second, as you rest in the fellowship of his sufferings, learn from him and resolve to obey him. Follow him. Let his resolve wash over you and change you. It does not just say the “source of eternal salvation to all who” receive him—no, “to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

Third, trust the Father in your suffering. He is refining you and making you more like Jesus. The refining fires are hot. They hurt. But they do not last forever and God is at work for your good in them. You must see that God is making you like Jesus the same way he made Jesus like Jesus: Suffering becomes like a school where we learn obedience. 

Fourth, pray like Christ. Lament. Pray with loud cries. There will be tears and heartache and perplexity. Give it all to him.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Main Point: We must meditate upon Christ’s suffering and then arm ourselves with the same way of thinking.

Summary of the Passage: Because Christ’s suffering was the pathway to glory (1 Peter 4:1a), believers should adopt the same mindset and surrender to God’s will in suffering and sanctification (1 Peter 4:1b–2) because they know the present judgment (1 Peter 4:3–4) is a prelude to glory that will come with the final judgment (1 Peter 4:5–6).

Outline

  1. Resolve to Suffer, Not Sin (1 Peter 4:1–2)
  2. The Present Judgment (1 Peter 4:3–4)
  3. The Future Judgment (1 Peter 4:5–6)

Discussion Questions

  • Why does the apostle Peter connect Jesus’ suffering with our suffering? What does it mean to be armed by a way of thinking?
  • In verse 2, what is the link between suffering and sanctification/obedience?
  • In verses 3–4, why do unbelievers malign or criticize believers?
  • Why does Peter say that the gospel was preached to the dead? What does it mean and how does it make sense in the context of how unbelievers malign Christianity?
  • Why can’t the present judgment that believers experience be the last word?

Application Questions

  • In this passage, has the apostle Peter helped prepare you for suffering? Do you feel ready? Why or why not?
  • In what ways are you presently experiencing or have already experienced the criticism of unbelievers because of the way you think and live as a Christian? Are you being criticized for any of the top four Christian convictions under assault right now?
  • What truths landed upon you in this message that you need to ask others to pray for you about?
  • What truths landed on you that you need to share with others in your life? How can you share these truths?

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace that we would be prepared for suffering and would live for God—not for sin or comfort.

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