This morning I was reading in 1 Peter and the first few verses of chapter 4 jumped out at me. As you read them, I encourage you to do so slowly. Peter writes:
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. (1 Peter 4:1-4)
Isn’t that what we all want – to be “done with sin” like it says in verse 1 above? Don’t we all want to live for the will of God instead of for our desires which tend to mess up our lives? Haven’t we all spent enough time in the past doing what non-believers choose to do?
The question is this: what is the secret that enables us to live a life like this? It’s not about trying harder to be “done with sin.” Been there…done that…and it doesn’t work. You cannot live a Christ-like life by sheer willpower alone. So trying harder isn’t the answer.
In fact, the answer is right there in the text. The secret that enables us to live a Christ-like life is in verse 1. Peter says “. . . he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” That’s the key. If we suffer, if we are persecuted, then we’ll be done with sin. We won’t dabble in our “pet sins” anymore. We won’t live like the rest of the world does. Why? Because if we suffer for our faith, then our faith costs us something . . . so we’ll take it a lot more seriously. We’ll take Jesus a lot more seriously. We’ll take our spirituality a lot more seriously. And everything in life is spiritual, isn’t it?
If you’re reading this and you live in America, our faith doesn’t cost us anything, does it? We don’t suffer for our faith. We don’t lose our jobs when we convert to Christianity. We aren’t thrown into prison. We aren’t beaten if we own a Bible. We serve the poor when it’s convenient for us and we ignore them when it isn’t.
We can simply go to church on Sunday, profess belief in God, but then live the rest of our lives as functional atheists. Peter says we should stop living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry (v.3). And in 1 Peter 2:1 he writes, “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” And by no means are those complete lists of practices and behaviors to avoid.
If we suffered for following Jesus, I bet we’d take God at His word. But instead of treating those as commands from God, we treat them as suggestions from God. And more often than not, we choose to ignore those suggestions.
So as a Christian in America, what can we do? I’m not saying to pray for persecution to come upon us, to pray that we suffer. To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m still in process on this one. I just wanted to toss it out there. Those verses hit me and I didn’t want to keep them to myself.