DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 31
The Daily Devotion below is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“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; 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.”
1 Peter 4:1–6
Working in ministry, you see all kinds of relationships begin and end. Breakups of dating couples are particularly hard, as the two people have spent lots of time together, shared many experiences, and perhaps even entertained future prospects, but then concluded they don’t have a future together. It’s hard to let go of the familiarity, comfort, and enjoyment we experience when coupled.
However, not every relationship is a good relationship. One person may be harmful or even corrosive to the other, or maybe it’s just that these two people are not a good fit. Though most are painful, not all breakups are bad.
In this passage, we are breaking up with our past selves and our former pleasures. Similar to a toxic relationship needing to end, there are things we must be “done with” in order to live the lives to which God has called us. But it’s not enough to simply break up; we actually have to put on armor and be prepared to do battle against our former selves and against a world that would have us join in its debauchery.
Sound extreme? It is! It is actually a matter of life and death.
In today’s reading, Peter explains that, since Christ suffered in life and in death, having true physical, mental, and emotional pain, we must prepare ourselves for the same. Christ did not sin, yet he incurred the pain of being in a broken world and being sinned against. Because he had a passion for the will of God, he willingly endured the suffering. Jesus was on the front line in the battle against sin, slaying our enemy for us.
So we are to share his attitude. What attitude is that? An attitude of trust—trust that God is sovereign, that the Father judges justly, that suffering ends in victory and glory, and that suffering is temporary but glory is forever.
Therefore, “armored” with this attitude, we are able to live in this battle zone, prepared to fight. The Message Bible translation is helpful in clarifying: “Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way...” (1 Peter 4:1–2). The life of the flesh in verse 2 is a life of sin, and the desires here are carnal, sinful desires, in conflict with the will of God. So where do we find the will of God? In the Word of God, which describes for us how Jesus lived and thought.
Thinking the same way Jesus thinks is essential. If you think a certain way (keeping Christ’s sacrifice at the forefront of your mind), it will help you act a certain way. Arming yourself is to equip yourself with the mindset of Christ; you are doing battle against the flesh. Therefore, reorient your thinking towards avoiding sin at all costs. Be willing to fight evil so that you do not have to suffer for doing evil.
Peter proceeds to list all the things that we are to break up with: “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (v. 3). A self-gratifying life consumed with overindulgence is not only dishonoring to God, but it is also a waste of our lives (v. 3). We have to detach ourselves from godless autonomy, and selfishness. We ought not to live for ourselves anymore or simply do what “feels good” at the time. We can’t simply chase the highs, consume mindlessly, and pursue our own worldly passions.
Peter is saying that we have already spent enough time living for ourselves, and it was all in vain (4:3; cf. Ecclesiastes 1:14). Those destructive ways are opposed to God, and we are all guilty of them. We are not to over-indulge in even good things. We are not to give ourselves over to lust or greed. In all of these acts, we are actually worshiping idols instead of the one, true God.
Now, engaging in behavior opposed to God doesn’t always mean the extremes of drunkenness, debauchery, or orgies. It could be subtly making jokes at the boss’s expense, gossiping about a neighbor, viewing questionable things on our phones, or conduct ourselves in a seductive manner. Limitless self-gratification and engagement with evil must be cut off—we ought to be willing to practice self-denial in regard to the things that separate us from God or compromise our pursuit of Christ-likeness (Matthew 5:30).
So, like ridding ourselves of a toxic habit or partner, our relationship with evil must end. We must cut ourselves off from it. Think of the scene in a sitcom where the best friend steals the phone and freezes it in a block of ice so the ex can’t be reached! Extreme measures have to be taken in our fight against evil since an extreme payment was made to transform us into people who emanate God’s goodness.
We as the people of God are to be noticeably holy in a corrupt world. We ought to be sin-repelled, so as not to suffer evil and not to defame God. But we need to remember that, while Jesus has conquered sin, we have not yet done so fully. We wrestle and we fight and we strive. We do battle for the kingdom and for our King, and we must be on guard.
Sin is very easy to slip back into. In fact, the devil is like a prowling lion looking for someone to devour (5:8), meaning to destroy by sin.
Christians have to be humble and realize that we are not above sinning; sadly, some of our worst sins may still lay in front of us. No, becoming a Christian does not give us a magic wand to erase the effects of sin. But through his Holy Spirit, God does enable us to have victories over sin. Yet, if we ever start thinking that we are the ones ultimately responsible for the goodness we see in our lives, we are severely lacking in humility and could easily take a big fall.
This constant barrage of sin is why we must always wear the armor of Christ. This is why we need to continually preach the gospel message to ourselves. This is why we ought to let the will of God shape what we are to be passionate about; any other route leads us back into the not-so-good-old-days. Mercifully, we have been enabled to break up with and break out of our former ways. We have a future in Jesus for the rest of our days to live for the will of God. Let’s keep doing whatever it takes not to trip up and reach back out to our “exes” after the breakup.