1 Peter 4:1(NKJV) 1Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
I believe it is the will of God for man to dominate life not be dominated by life. The first two chapters of Genesis are, for me, clear in this. Another way we might express this idea is that the will of God for us is that we occupy until Jesus comes. That means we should be able to walk in the promises and principles of God consistently through our lives. This week we have been looking at some important elements that can help us get this truth functioning in our daily living.
A major key to occupying in life is determining what dominates our lifestyle. If we allow the world, the flesh or the devil to dominate our lifestyle we will not be able to occupy. If we allow our lifestyle to dominate our Christianity, we can never fully occupy. The only way we can occupy in the power of God is to let our Christianity dominate our lifestyle. That means that our Christianity must dominate what we do in our daily routine, in our attitudes towards money and wealth, in our family life and in everything else that makes up how we live
How do we cause our Christianity to dominate our lifestyle? The letters written by the Apostle Peter to the church contain some of the most practical instruction in the New Testament. In today’s verse, Peter tells us some things that will help us elevate our Christianity above our cultural lifestyle. This first sentence contains some powerful but slightly unnerving advice. We must arm ourselves with the same mind Jesus had, we must be willing to suffer in the flesh.
When we speak of things like suffering, there are all sorts of images that come to mind. We think of the martyrs in the early days of the church. We may think about the many people today who are suffering hardship and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. As I write this, a pastor in Iran is under a death sentence because he will not convert back to Islam. If he would recant his faith in Christ, he could go free. However, he has chosen not to do that and may die soon leaving a wife and young children.
This scripture links this idea of suffering with the suffering of Jesus. Jesus suffered unspeakable injustice, humiliation, and beating followed by one of the most barbaric forms of execution man has ever devised. None of us can imagine going through that kind of suffering.
There is no guarantee that we will never face the kind of persecution that believers must face in other parts of the world. I am personally grateful that I live in a country where we are free to believe and worship as we wish. I think we must do all that we can to keep it that way. We can guarantee that we will never suffer as Jesus suffered. Hebrews 10 tells us that Jesus suffered once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
The suffering Peter speaks of is not something that only those in certain nations must face. It is not the suffering of persecution or at least not violent persecution. The suffering Peter is speaking of is something that must be faced by every believer no matter what country he or she lives in. It is not limited to a certain age in history. Every Christian in every age must face this suffering.
Let me make one thing clear before we go on. I do not believe Peter is talking about accepting sickness, poverty or emotional distress as part of our suffering. Any or all of these things may come into our lives, but they are also provided for as part of our covenant relationship with God. We may suffer in these areas because of the weakness of our flesh or the attacks of the devil, but we have every right to stand against this kind of suffering and expect to drive it out of our lives by the Word and power of God. The suffering Peter is speaking of here is a suffering that must be embraced not resisted. What is the nature of this suffering?
I believe the nature of this suffering is made clear in the wording of this verse. Peter says that the suffering we must endure is the same as the suffering Jesus did for us in the flesh. On the surface you might say, “That sounds like I need to be crucified.” However, Paul makes it clear in Galatians 2:20 that we were crucified with Christ. We do not have to endure what has already been endured. It is not the specific type of suffering Jesus endured that Peter is alluding to but instead what Jesus suffered to defeat. He is talking about suffering in the flesh to overcome sin.
Jesus had to suffer the full penalty for our sin in order to pay for all the sin of all mankind. It would make no sense for us to have to suffer in the same way. However, if we are going to defeat sin in our lives we must have the same willingness to suffer that Jesus did. We have to be willing to suffer self-denial in order to defeat sin.
We would like to say that, since we have been born again, we simply no longer want to sin. Every one of us who is honest will have to admit this is not true. There may be many sins we do find repulsive. This may include the sins we committed before we were saved. However, the bible says that anything that does not proceed from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23 KJV) We all have areas we still struggle with. I do not have to list the possibilities here. You know what they are in your life.
Whatever they are, they are keeping you from fully occupying your land of promises. Hebrews 12:1-2 extends this suffering to weights that hold us back. Some things are not sin, but they are weights. If we want to dominate life and not be dominated by life, we must also conquer those things as well. How do we do that?
This verse tells us to “arm ourselves” with a willingness to suffer in the flesh. Before we confront the sins and weights in life, we must arm ourselves with the willingness to endure pain because we deny what we want. This is not a popular idea in America today. There are whole industries committed to telling you to indulge every desire of the flesh. We idolize those who have the resources to do just that. However, if we want to occupy until Jesus comes we are going to have to be willing to suffer the disappointment and discomfort of saying no to the flesh in order to do the will of God.
It is sad in a way that we must stress this today in America. This nation was built by those who chose to suffer losing everything so they could worship God. They left the comfort of civilization for the depravation of life in the wilderness. They sacrificed all to serve God with pure hearts.
Even those who did not build this nation for religious freedom understood that sacrifice was the way to success and prosperity. Hard work and self-denial for the sake of future and family used to be core values of our society. Today the idea of suffering any kind of self-denial is almost anti American. We want what we want and we want it now. We do not want to save we would rather give in to the deception that we can borrow and borrow and somehow miraculously the money will manifest to pay for what we buy. However, we must have more so we borrow more. This has become a global problem and still we refuse to suffer any kind of sacrifice.
We teach them that their self-esteem is more important than anything else is and we remove any kind of sacrifice from their lives. We think we are protecting them. Instead, we teach them that they are entitled to everything all the time. No disappointment is allowed. No sacrifice is required.
Willingness to deny the flesh and fully follow Christ will build self-esteem and give us victory in life. Take up this powerful armament today. In the end, you will not have less you will have more. You will not have a life of lack you will partake of the abundant life Jesus came to give all who call on his name.