"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. 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..." -1 Peter 4:1-4a---Suffering. Confession: It's something that for quite a while I've tried to avoid talking about. I knew that if I talked about it or discussed it aloud with anyone, that I would be held accountable to live above reproach in the area of suffering. That not proclaiming the Name of Jesus just because I knew that suffering would come was something that I struggle with often. This morning I was reading in 1 Peter, specifically chapter 4. Oh, how conviction fell. I wanted to share what the Lord opened my eyes to this morning.
---Verse 1 starts off by talking about how Christ suffered in the flesh. For me, that is immediate comfort. Not only did my Savior suffer, but my Savior chose suffering "No one takes my life from me, I lay it down on my own accord." (John 10:18). He chose suffering and if our desire is to imitate Him, then so should we. We, the servants, are no greater than our master, Jesus Christ. (Matthew 10:24). But by suffering, we must begin to arm ourselves "with the same way of thinking..." (v1) --thinking like Christ. So to do that we must understand that suffering means to have ceased from sin (v1). Yes we are still sinful, yes we still have the disgusting sin of this world, but we have to choose the road less traveled, the road of suffering for the Name of Jesus rather than the road of comfort and fleeting pleasures. Basically, if we don't choose suffering, we will choose sin. We need to get it out of our heads that Christ isn't worth suffering for. We need to break from that old sin, not by our power and not to perfection, but to be molded to be more like Jesus. It talks about that break in verse 2. Suffering shows that we count all things of this world as rubbish in comparison with knowing Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:8) HE. IS. WORTH. IT.
I like verse 3 because it talks about how the sinfulness of our past is enough sin. It is sufficient. So guess what? ..We shouldn't do it anymore. If you sinned a little before being born again it's enough. If you sinned a large amount before you being born again it's enough as well. How often we hear people not explicitly say, but imply "I just need a little more time in my sin...just a little more time and then I'll get right with God." We need to start NOW. So if you desire God's will, and if suffering is in God's will, then suffer you should. How can we strive (by the Spirit) to cut off sin? By suffering of course. Suffering is produced when a person forgets about his desires and his aspirations and has a direct immovable gaze to the cross and the making much of Jesus. We need to get it that YES we receive grace and mercy every single day (Lamentations 3:22-23, 2 Corinthians 9:8) and YES we desperately need that grace and mercy, but shouldn't we want to look like Jesus? Shouldn't we have the fear of God in us? Like Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 11:1 that we should imitate him because he was imitating Christ.
In verse 4 it just lays it out---people malign you. They slander you. They make you look like a fool to those around you and you feel lonely. Jesus warned us about this in John 15:21 "But all these things they will do to you on account of My Name, because they do not know Him who sent Me." Still, even then, it's better to suffer for the sake of God's glory and His name rather than to continue in sin.
My challenge for you this week--- take the road less traveled. Ask the Spirit to give you strength to choose God's will above your own... and if that includes suffering, well then so be it!
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." -Romans 5:3-5
Grace and peace,