Sermon on 1 Peter 4:1-8
Text: Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 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. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
There are many different self-help books on the market. I found a site that listed the best self-help books to read for 2020. Here are a few examples of some of them. There was one that was entitled, “The Year of Yes,” which describes how to say “yes” to everything that frightened you in the past. I found a health food book that was called “How Not to Die,” which told about all of the foods you need to eat to live a long life. Another title was “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.” All of these books claim to help you in your daily life. As we study God’s Word this morning, the apostle Peter is going to focus our attention on LIVING AS A CHRISTIAN IN A SINFUL WORLD. He wants us to know that 1. It Means Rejection. He will also give us 2. Tools To Help Us.
Before we talk about living like a Christian, we need to look at the reason for doing so. That answer is found in the words of verse 1, “Christ suffered in his body.” These words take us to the cross on Calvary. Christ suffered and died. Peter reminded his readers why this was necessary: “you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (Verse 3) Peter points out the wicked lifestyle that they had lived. When we read that list, we are aghast at how wicked those things are. Yet, the truth be told, though we may never have engaged in these activities, we have sinned against our God. We have done things in excess. We have wanted those things that God says we are not to have. We deserved the same punishment as the original readers of Peter’s First Epistle.
However, the good news that was shared with them has been shared with us. “Christ suffered in his body.” Jesus took the sins of those original readers, our sins, and the sins of all others to the cross with him. He suffered on the cross, as he took the full punishment for sins that we deserved. Because the sentence for sin is death, Jesus stepped into our place and died the death that was ours. Because “Christ suffered in his body,” our load of sin is gone. His resurrection guarantees that it is true. This has all been done for us, free of charge. There is nothing that we do to purchase it from him. The day that we were brought to faith was the day that heaven’s gates opened for us. This is the reason we live as Christians. We don’t do so because we must. We look at this as an opportunity to thank him for all that he has done for us.
Living as a Christian will mean rejection. First of all, it will mean a rejection of sin and the temptations of our sinful nature. Peter put it this way, “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” (Verse 1) The day that you were brought to faith, you died, that is to say, your sinful nature was put to death. However, a part of you was brought to life and that is the new man that wants to obey God in thanksgiving for all that he has done for you. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 6:4: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Just as you would expect that a dead person would be unable to do something, since we have died to sin, we are no longer under its control. To put it another way, imagine that someone gave you an expensive present. You can tell that they took a long time picking it out for you and it cost a great deal. Would you turn around and say something mean to them or do something to hurt them? Of course not. You would want to show your thankfulness to them. Since this is the case with earthly presents, how much more so a gift that came from God that cost the life of his Son! It is a gift that is priceless. Because you have this gift, you also know that you have eternal life waiting for you. Living as a Christian means rejection, a rejection of our sinful natures.
When we live this way, we can expect other rejections. In speaking of living as Christians, Peter talks about the sinful world around us. “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” (Verse 4) The sinful world around us continues to invite us and encourage us to join them in their sinful living. The picture here is that they are inviting to plunge in with them into a stream that is overflowing its banks. ‘Come on in,’ they say. ‘The water’s fine.’ However, when you take a look at the stream, you noticed that there is garbage and all other sorts of filth floating in it. So, you refuse to join them. They invite you to join in their sins, but you refuse. Peter says that the world is surprised that you do not join them. They think that what they are doing is fine. They believe that they find true joy and happiness in it. However, because you want to live as a Christian, you refuse to plunge in with them. At first, they are surprised that you won’t join them. ‘What’s the harm?’ they ask. Peter also tells us that “They heap abuse on you.” (Verse 4) ‘Who do you think you are? What kind of person wouldn’t do this? Do you think that you’re better than us?’ They may make fun of us or shun us. They persecute us in one form or another. It makes it difficult for us to live as Christians in the sinful world around us.
Peter reminds us in verse 5, “They will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” It may seem that the unbelievers’ swimming in the filthy stream of life is being overlooked by God. However, the day of reckoning is coming. It is the final judgment that the unbelievers, who are slandering the believers, will have to give an account to God. Peter reminds us that, although the unbelievers’’ actions might seem to indicate that they have the upper hand, they really don’t in the long run. We have an eternity of bliss and joy to look forward to in heaven.
In the meanwhile, our God helps us to live as Christians. When we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ as the one who saved us from the dreadful wrath of God, our attitudes change. They change in the way that we view our lives and other people. They change our view pf what is valuable and important. As the Holy Spirit changes the way that we think, he also gives us the power to make changes in our lives, changes that will please God, that will help other people, and that will keep our own souls from being warped by the world around us.
First of all, Peter reminds us, “The end of all things is near.” (Verse 7) We always want to keep this in mind. It is so easy for our sinful nature to fool us into thinking that we can always start living as a Christian tomorrow. ‘Right now, go ahead and live a little.’ However, we want to always be aware of the fact that we do not know when the end of the world will be. We want to use every day that the Lord gives us to thank him for everything he has done for us.
With that in mind, Peter encourages us, “Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” “Be alert.” Keep God on his throne in your life. Keep the message of the gospel before your eyes. Be mindful of and reject Satan’s lies. “[Be] of sober mind.” This has to do with self-control. Choose to put down the sinful nature with the help of the Holy Spirit. Let your Christian self set priorities and make choices that please God.
“So that you may pray.” It’s hard to feel like praying when you feel guilty over an unrepented sin. It’s hard to feel close to your heavenly Father when you have been pushing him away. As we live as Christians, we feel that closeness to our loving Father and want to come to him with all that is in our hearts.
Finally, Peter says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (Verse 8) Treating other people with love worships God. We see this as we look at how God wants us to treat others in the Fourth through Ten Commandments. It reflects the love of God in their lives and sweetens our own. The very finest way to thank God for our forgiveness is to show mercy and forgive others when they sin against us. Christian love is forgiving. It doesn’t count how many times we have forgiven that person. Christian love keeps on forgiving, no matter how high the number rises. As we forgive one another, we are helping them as they go through their lives as Christians in a sinful world. We make their burden lighter, knowing that they are not only forgiven by God, but by us, as well. God wants to help us in every way possible, so that we might live as Christians in a sinful world.
All of the self-help books in the world share one thing. What may work for one person may not work for another. This is what one author found out, perhaps by personal experience. However, because all people are different and are in different circumstances, the advice that is offered doesn’t help everybody. In his Word, our God does tell us how to live as Christians in a sinful world. He gives us the greatest motivation for doing so. We want to thank him for all that he has done for us. He tells us that we will face opposition and even rejection as we live for him. However, he does give us encouragement and strength to do it. We find that in his gospel promises that we find in his Word and the sacraments. Empowered by that gospel, may God help each of us to live as Christians in a sinful world. Amen.
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