Mental Resolve for Spiritual Victory
1 Peter 4:1–2
1 Peter Lesson #116
December 28, 2017
“Our Father, we’re so thankful we have Your grace. We’re thankful that You have given us so much. And we are so often not appreciative; we take Your grace for granted. We pray that we might come to understand and appreciate more and more and just develop that capacity to love You and to love all that You have provided for us through Your Word and through Jesus Christ.
All our riches are in Christ Jesus, and just learning to exploit that which You have freely given to us—a unique spiritual life, unique to this Church Age and unique to all of human history.
Father, as we continue in our study of Peter, we’re reminded that we will all face opposition. We will all face persecution to one degree or another. We will face ridicule, hostility, undeserved suffering, and Peter is teaching us the mental attitude that we need in order to face these speed bumps that come along in our lives that are simply tools that You use to train us to focus on You and walk in dependence upon You.
We pray that we might be strengthened and encouraged in our study tonight. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me tonight to 1 Peter 4. It seems like we spent a lot of time in chapter 3 because we took about a five-month detour in the middle of that to do a study on “Apologetics in Christian Evidences.” Tonight, we’re continuing our verse-by-verse study as we have in the previous section.
The focal point of these first four verses is the mental resolve, that mental focus, that determination that we must all reach at some point if we are going to advance in the spiritual life and if we’re going to mature. That’s what I’ve taken for a title: “The Mental Resolve We Need for Spiritual Victory.”
In 1 Peter 4:1, we start off with the word “therefore,” which tells us this is a conclusion to something. “Therefore, 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.” Now some of you may say, “Well, I don’t feel like I’ve ceased from sin.” Well, maybe you don’t understand what this translation is really talking about, and that’s what’s important.
There are a number of issues in terms of translation and interpretation in this passage, and, as usual, it’s important to go back and contextualize the passage that we’re looking at. In 1 Peter 4:1 that “therefore” picks up the thought from 1 Peter 3:18.
1 Peter 3:18 starts with a “for,” and this is an explanation. Actually, it’s “because,” and it is developing the idea that comes out of 1 Peter 3:17. We have to keep that in mind as we’re reading and working our way through this next section, that the main idea that Peter is getting across is that it is better if it is the will of God to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
A lot of Christians don’t want to suffer for any reason. They don’t want to suffer for doing good or for doing bad; they want to just have a wonderful Christian life. Unfortunately, back in the 70s along the lines of tracts put out with the gospel, there have been a number of approaches that so emphasize the joy, the happiness, the meaning that we get in life from our salvation and from our relationship with God, that the idea has come across to some Christians in some areas that, “Well, the Christian life is just going to be a joy-filled happy life.” “It’s going to be a wonderful life, and there won’t be any problems or difficulties. All my problems are solved!” Well, in one sense, yes, they are solved, but that doesn’t mean that the speed bumps aren’t there. We still have to grow and mature, and we’re still going to face a lot of testing. We’re going to face challenges in our spiritual life, but that’s what gives us the opportunity to trust the Lord.
There are times, though, when we face circumstances in life and we feel like God is just somewhere else, that He has somehow left the building. Nobody is in the wheelhouse and the wheel is just spinning around and we are rudderless and going in all kinds of wrong directions as the storm clouds gather and toss us about.
But that’s not true. We think that that is what’s happening, but God is, nevertheless, fully in control. He is allowing sin in the cosmos to work itself out—negative volition to work itself out. Because of sin and because of people’s rejection of truth and rejection of God, bad things are going to happen.
People are going to use their free will, not for good but for evil; and there are also the ongoing problems of weather crises, which we’ve experienced here in Houston. Many people who’ve lived wonderful lives and have been obedient and focused on the Word lost maybe everything—lost their homes and they’re still not back in their homes.
One of the many tests that we face in life is to trust the Lord through those difficult times. When that happens, we think, “Why did God let this happen to me?” It’s that first question that pops out of our self-absorbed sin nature. “It’s about me! Why did this happen to me? Who cares about those other 99,999 families in Houston who are not back in their homes yet? It’s about me!”
That’s how we are; that’s just the orientation of the sin nature, and so we think, “This wasn’t very fair of God to let this happen to me,” whatever this might be. It might be a disease. It might be losing a job. It might be any number of things that hit us and were unexpected and have, as it were, seemingly derailed us from the wonderful plans we had for our lives.
In response, we asked these questions: “What did I do to deserve this?” “Is God somehow missing out?” A lot of suffering we automatically look at in terms of being undeserved suffering. Of course, Peter’s challenge to his readers is that they are to persevere in “doing right,” that is, in making the right decisions, responding to evil, responding to suffering, responding to calamity the right way no matter what the consequences might be.
You can imagine a culture that is truly hostile to Christianity. You can think about situations in our world today in any number of the Islamic countries. For example, in Syria, Christians suffered horribly with the expansion of ISIS during the last eight years, but according to recent reports, ISIS has just about lost all of their ground and all their territory. That’s one of those underreported stories right now.
If you pay attention to the mainstream media, you think that everybody in the world is just consumed with the idea that somehow Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to get elected to the White House. Of course, even a card-carrying liberal and Democrat like Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz says, “Collusion is not a crime.” We need to understand that. Yet we have an entire political party that only thinks of that, and that is the only thing that appears in the news; but one of the things that has happened in this first year of this president’s time in office is a complete shift in how the White House related to the military. Under the previous president, the previous administration, everything was micromanaged, and the rules of engagement—those are the laws that relate to what a soldier can do in the field as he interacts with the enemy—were so rigid and almost unrealistic that ISIS just grew and grew and expanded and expanded.
Yet, in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, ISIS has lost about 98% of its territory in Syria and in northern Iraq. That’s one of the most underreported stories out there. This is absolutely huge! ISIS is going to have to shift their base, probably to north Africa; and that’s where the future of that fight’s going to be.
The Christians who were in those areas were horribly tortured and persecuted. They were physically tortured. They were murdered horribly. The women were raped. You just cannot imagine how bad it was. We in America seem distant. Because they’re not the kind of Christians that we know, we tend to ignore them. The news doesn’t report much, and they’re just on our blind side, but we have tens of thousands of fellow believers in Christ in those areas who have been horribly persecuted. Peter says that this is undeserved suffering, and the response of the believer in that situation is to do what’s right no matter what it costs. The ultimate example for this is the Lord Jesus Christ, which is what 1 Peter 3:18 is all about.
1 Peter 3:18 emphasizes that it was Jesus, the perfect, the just Who died for the unjust, died for a reason. He suffered unjustly. He was arrested wrongly. He was ridiculed and abused as we’ve been studying in our Matthew series on Sunday morning. He was arrested. He was physically beaten and abused and flogged by the Romans, and then He was taken out and crucified.
This is the Son of God, the Son of man, Who is perfect, without sin, Who never did anything worthy of any of this punishment, and yet He is the prime example. None of us will suffer in this way, as the writer of Hebrews says, “suffering to the point of death.” None of us have suffered to the point of death in our spiritual lives, so that is the example in the Scripture of how we are to face adversity.
The other example that we go to is from the Old Testament, and that is in the Book of Job. I am of the studied opinion that Job was more than likely the first Book written in the Old Testament and that it preceded the Books of Moses. That would make sense, in my mind, to the fact that undeserved and unjust suffering is such a universal problem that the first book that is inscripturated is a book teaching us how to face and handle undeserved suffering and unjust adversity.
God’s answer to Job was pretty simple, that man can’t understand why there’s unjust suffering, so don’t try; just trust God. His answer is that it’s extremely arrogant to start questioning God when someone goes through undeserved suffering.
For example, yesterday there was an accident that occurred when a treehouse fell on a young boy, and he died overnight. People say, “How can a good God let something like this happen?” Why? This good God is giving people the freedom to make good or bad decisions.
Because bad decisions were made in the past with Adam, bringing sin and corruption into the world, then bad things will continue to happen, not just directly because of somebody’s bad decisions but because we live in a fallen world. The only way that’s going to stop is for the Lord Jesus Christ to return and end it all! God is extending His grace to allow the human race to continue to grow and develop and expand so that more and more will hear the grace of God and respond to the gospel.
God’s answer to Job was that, yes, He’s in control. He hasn’t left the wheelhouse. He’s not distracted by some war that’s going on in some other part of the world. He’s not off in some other part of the universe taking a look at what’s happening there. He is engaged because He’s omnipresent.
At every moment at every place in the universe, God is fully present! In His knowledge, He knows everything that has ever taken place and will ever take place. He knows what will happen in our lives before we do because He knows all the facts. If we know anything, it’s just such an infinitesimal part of the total amount of facts and information. We want to judge God on the basis of one minor nano-fact, and God knows all the facts, all the details, and His purpose is good.
If we look back at verse 18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust,” there’s a reason for that. This is a good. When you get into philosophy, you argue whether there is a “good” so great that it justifies the existence of evil. That “good” is that Jesus might bring us to God—that’s at the Cross. We may not understand the overriding purpose, the good; but we trust in it because of Who God is, and so we trust in Him.
We have promises. One of the greatest promises we have related to this is in Romans 8:28-30 where we read, “And we know that all things work together for good …” God is the one working those things together for good in His providential guidance of the universe. And it is for “those who love God.”
Now that really is a term, contextually, for all believers, not just mature believers who have grown to a mature love. All believers love God to the degree they have maturity. A baby loves his parents the way a baby loves his parents. A five-year-old loves his parents the way a five-year-old has the capacity to love his parents. A 20-year-old has a different capacity, and a 50-year-old has a different capacity. As you grow and mature, that capacity to love God changes and grows.
This is just a term for those who love God because in the subsequent phrases, those who love God are defined as those who are “called according to His purpose.” That is those who were foreknown, those who were predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. In verse 30, those whom He predestined, He called; those whom He called, He justified; those whom He justified, He glorified. That includes every believer! It’s not just talking about a special class of believers.
We can be confident that no matter how chaotic and crazy and messed up and hurtful some of the things are that we go through, God’s in control and He’s going to work it all together for good and when we’re face-to-face with Him, we will come to understand just how He was working in our lives.
When we come to this section, we have to think about what prepared Jesus to be able to face this undeserved suffering. Remember, He was not facing it in the power of His divine omnipotence; He was facing it in His finite humanity. What were the resources that He called upon in order to face that adversity? He was able to do so because of the power of God’s Word, first and foremost. He understood the thinking and the mind of God because He had studied the Bible since He was able to first understand it and read it in His humanity.
Second, He was dependent on God the Holy Spirit in His ministry in the same way that we can be dependent on God the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our ministries. As a result of His dependence on the Word of God and on the Holy Spirit, He grew in His humanity to spiritual maturity. He developed in His humanity an intimacy with God that went beyond anything that any other human being could do because of our fallen nature.
He was able to face this because of those same resources that God has provided for us. What limits us is our carnality; we get everything really messed up. In order to follow Him and to imitate Him in this area, we have to develop in those same areas: in our dependence upon God’s Word, our dependence on the Holy Spirit, our spiritual maturity, and that intimacy, that fellowship, that rapport with God that we call fellowship. It is an active state in that relationship.
This is all background and part of what comes up in 1 Peter 4:1.
It starts off with the word “therefore,” which is a conclusion in the Greek. This first word is drawing a conclusion. As I often point out in Bible study methods, when we hear a “therefore,” we have to see what it’s there for. It’s drawing a conclusion from everything that goes before.
Then it says, “… since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves.” That’s the command that we have here; that’s what we want to focus on in terms of application. “… arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
Now when we look at this verse and read it, if we stop to think about it, one of the questions that should come to our minds is, “What does it mean that ‘he who is suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin’?” Does that mean if we reach this point, whatever it is, we won’t ever sin again? Is that what Peter is saying? It sounds like that’s what he is saying in the English, but that isn’t what he’s saying when we look at the structure of the Greek grammar.
We have to stop and understand what that means. Part of that answer involves determining if the “he who has suffered in the flesh” is talking about Jesus.
When we go back to 1 Peter 3:18, it says that Jesus was “put to death in the flesh.” That’s one form of suffering. Suffering is a broader category; therefore, is that what he’s talking about when we get to 1 Peter 4:1, “he who has suffered in the flesh?” Is that Jesus or is that us? That’s what we need to address.
Of course, you see that it’s a lowercase “he” in the translation, but that just reflects the translators. There’s a question there; there’s debate over that; and as we get farther into the paragraph, and we look down to verse 2, it talks about “doing the will of God.” What exactly does that mean?
What does it mean to be “doing the will of the Gentiles” in verse 3? What is the significance of that word “Gentiles”? Many people think the word “Gentiles” is just a synonym for unbelievers, but is that true? We will look at that. That’s an important question to answer.
Then, as we come to the end of these six verses, we learn that there is a judgment mentioned in verse 5, that we are to “give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” I always like the old King James translation, and a lot of people have also, apparently, over time. The King James said, “the quick and the dead.” That became a title for a Western movie and a Western novel. It entered into mainstream language. In the Western mythology, the “quick” would be those who are quick on the draw. If you weren’t “quick,” you were dead; so they would play with that phrase a little bit. It actually just means those who are alive and those who are dead.
As we look at this, we need to take it apart a little bit and look at the grammar. We will find some interesting things.
As I said, it starts with this conclusion. The main verb, which is translated “since suffered” or “because He suffered” is a participle. Because a participle doesn’t have an article with it in the Greek, that means it’s translated like a verb. It’s an adverbial construction, and adverbial participles can have different nuances. The nuance here is a causal nuance that’s translated “because” or “since.”
For those who are—and we have several—studying Greek, this participle is in the genitive and “Christ” is also in the genitive. When that occurs, it’s a somewhat rare construction known as a genitive absolute, where the genitive phrase actually stands as the subject for the sentence. It is accurately translated as the subject: “since Christ suffered for us in the flesh.”
When we look at the phrase “in the flesh,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? You probably think of the sin nature because that’s how Paul uses the term “flesh,” but the term “flesh” can refer to the physical body. It can refer to meat that one eats. It has several other nuances. Paul used it to refer to the sin nature in many cases. We “walk according to the flesh,” that is, the sin nature, or we “walk according to the Holy Spirit.” There’s that contrast between the sin nature versus the Holy Spirit.
Here, we have a different author. One of the most important principles in doing word studies and understanding the text is to realize that every author doesn’t use words the same way. Some words may be used the same way by every author, but certain words are not. For example, Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” to refer to our position in Christ that is true for every believer at every time, but when Jesus is talking in John 15, for example, and He talks about “every believer in Me,” He doesn’t mean the same thing that Paul means when he talks about being “in Christ.” John uses the phrase “in Me” or when he’s speaking, “in Him,” to refer to fellowship. If you try to impose Paul’s meanings on John or John’s meanings on Paul, you end up with problems.
The same thing would be true with Peter. Peter doesn’t use the phrase “in the flesh” the same way as Paul. He uses it six times, actually, in 1 Peter. The first time he uses it is in 1 Peter chapter 1:24 in a quote that comes from Isaiah 40:6, “All flesh is as grass.” Obviously, it’s used there with a meaning that is not the sin nature. He is not saying, “all sin nature is as grass;” that wouldn’t make sense. So, obviously, he’s using “flesh” there in the terms of living bodies, that all living bodies are corrupt and eventually die. They’re not permanent; they’ll fade away with time.
The next time he uses “in the flesh” is in the verse we’ve looked at already, verse 18 of chapter 3, that Jesus was put to death “in the flesh.” Again, it’s obvious that’s not the sin nature; that’s talking about in His human body, in His humanity.
Also, in 3:21 there’s a baptism that’s not the removal of the filth of the flesh. In other words, it’s not washing the dirt off your body. Again, Peter’s use of “flesh” talks about your physical, human body. When we get to 4:1 and 4:2, we would interpret “flesh” in the same way. He says, “Christ suffered for us in the flesh” just as “He was put to death in the flesh” talks about His physical condition, that He suffered in His humanity, in His physical body.
That would be the same thing that we would understand in verse 2, which says, “that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh,” that is, in his human body. Just so, you should understand “flesh” there. Don’t read Paul’s meaning into it; he’s just talking about in the human body.
Then, he says, “arm yourselves.” Christ suffered for us in the flesh, the just for the unjust, back in verse 18. Now, the command is to “arm yourselves also with the same mind.”
That phrase “arm yourself” is from the Greek word HOPLIZO. Listen to what I say. HOPLIZO is the verb. There’s another word used that comes from the Greek word HOPLITE. HOPLIZO—HOPLITE. A HOPLITE was the term for, basically, the buck private infantry soldier in the Greek army. He was called a hoplite, so right away we know this is a military term. Instead of using the noun describing a soldier, it’s using the verb that describes what the soldier does—he fights. This word has the idea of preparing yourself for combat, to arm yourself, to get ready, or to be equipped would be the basic idea, the basic meaning. But it’s part of a whole complex of words that relate to the military, relate to combat, relate to warfare.
As we look at that, that’s what this passage is talking about.
And here are a series of words that we have in the New Testament. This first paragraph up here, all these words are cognates of the noun POLEMOS, which is the word for war, battle, fighting, strife, conflict, quarrel. It’s where we get our English word “polemic,” which describes a debate or an argument. You have then POLEMOS and POLEMEO.
Then, you have another larger group of cognate words from which we get our English word “strategy.” I underlined this in the English translation; S-T-R-A-T is the root, and you have various endings that are added to that root. This can refer to an expedition, a military campaign. It can refer to an army or a detachment of troops. Another form of the word means serving or acting as a soldier, acting as a general or a chief magistrate, gathering together an army, or being a military commander. All of these are just cognates.
I looked this up in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. That’s a dictionary that came out back in 1975. It was just coming out when I started seminary. When that came out, you looked up the English word instead of a Greek word. You would look up a word like “army” or “military” or one of those, and it would list all the various synonyms in the Greek that related to the military.
That’s where I copied this list from. The word HOPLIZO fits within that whole block of synonyms that all relate to fighting, to being involved in a war. What we conclude from a study of this word, HOPLIZO and its usage, is the idea of preparing for combat. And to prepare for combat, one of the most important things you have to do is to prepare your mind to be ready to engage the enemy and, if necessary, to kill the enemy.
That is a mental attitude. It is fortifying yourself to do that which you would not do under normal conditions. That’s what the idea is here. It’s not just simply preparing. You can prepare to do a lot of things. You can go home tonight, and before you go to sleep, you can prepare your coffee pot so that you can just plug it in in the morning when you’re bleary-eyed. It’ll automatically make your coffee. You’ll set out other things that you’ll have for breakfast so you’ll be prepared when you get up to do those things and get ready to go to work or whatever you’re going to do during the day.
This is a special kind of preparation. It’s a preparation for combat. It is a word that brings us into a doctrine of Scripture that is very important; that is the doctrine of spiritual warfare, not the idea popularized since the late 60s and 70s in the charismatic Pentecostal camp, where spiritual warfare has a lot of mystical theology with it—going out and fighting with the devil. I just cringe now when I’m in certain circles of Christians, and they use this term “spiritual warfare” in ways that show they don’t have a clue what the Bible says.
Ninety percent of spiritual warfare takes place between your ears—and between my ears. It has to do with our mental focus on Scripture, application of Scripture, the faith-rest drill. It’s not going out and giving the devil a black eye or binding Satan or casting Satan out of somebody. It’s not taking dominion over something in the name of Jesus, which is how it’s often presented.
Spiritual warfare is keeping focused on the Lord, doing what God says to do in difficult circumstances, trusting Him, applying His Word, keeping your mind focused on God. That is what is going on here.
When we have this passage, we are to arm ourselves with the same mind. It is mental! It is probably 99 percent mental—what’s going on between your ears. Very little has to do with something external. It has to do with what’s going on between your ears.
We could look at Ephesians 6:10 and following where it talks about “putting on the full armor of God,” and that’s all just spiritual growth. It’s all learning what God has provided for you in the Scriptures and then living and fighting in light of that. Fighting is a metaphor for dealing with the struggle in a fallen world.
This idea here emphasizes that we are to have “the same mind.” The “same” indicates a comparison with somebody. The “same mind” as Whom? The same mind as Jesus! We are to think like Jesus did. We are to prepare our thinking as Jesus did to go to the Cross so that we’re not thinking about the nonessentials. We’re not thinking about what we’re missing out on. We’re not focusing on, “Oh, it’s terrible! Those people don’t like me! They’re mean to me! They’re persecuting me! They’re kicking me out of the company! They’re doing this; they’re doing that.” It’s all about focusing on the Lord and all He has for us.
This is an interesting word. If you’ve read your Bible through a few times, you know that many times in the English you have this phrase “the same mind.” Here we have this word, ENNOIA, and it means thought or knowledge or insight according to the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. According to Bauer–Danker–Arndt–Gingrich Greek Lexicon, it’s the content of mental processing. It’s thought or knowledge or insight. Actually, we can refine it a little more than that, which I’ll do in just a minute.
When we think of how this word is translated, this idea of having the same thinking and the emphasis on the Christian life in terms of the same thinking, we think of passages like Philippians 2. In Philippians 2:1–4, the focus is on how believers are to have unity. They’re to be like-minded. They’re to have the same love for one another. They are to be in one accord and of one mind. The verb there is the word PHRONEO, and that’s the most common word translated “mind.” It has to do with thinking—having the same mentality, the same attitude, the same way of thinking.
Three verses later, Paul says about Jesus, “Let this mind—that is, this mindset, this thinking—be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” That’s talking, once again, about that mental focus, and in the context, it comes around to being humble, being submissive to the authority of God.
In Romans 12:16, Paul says, “Be of the same mind toward one another,” and that is related to the use in Philippians 2:2 and 2:5. It’s the same word PHRONEO, and it emphasizes also a humble mindset. Paul goes on to say, “Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” PHRONEO there has to do with humility, which has to do with submission to the authority of God. Philippians 2:6 and 2:7 talks about Jesus humbling Himself by being obedient to God. That’s what humility is—submission to the authority over you.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, there’s a different word for “mind,” the word is NOUS. Now this word, if you look at it, is E-N—that is a preposition in the Greek, and then the root is N-O-I-A. That is a form of the noun, NOUS, which is the word for “mind.”
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind.” In other words, “Think the same thing,” and it’s the word for NOUS, very close in meaning to PHRONEO.
Philippians uses this word group a lot. In Philippians 3:16, Paul says, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained—that is, attained maturity—let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind—again, that’s PHRONEO.”
Then there was a personal conflict between two women in the congregation, Euodia and Syntyche, and Paul said to them, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind—the same thinking.” All this has to do with humility and submission to the authority of God.
That’s all related to those words, but this word has a slightly different nuance. In fact, when it’s used in the Old Testament, it often translates the word for “discernment” or “understanding,” which is the application of knowledge to life situations. It has the idea of a mindset or disposition that results in right moral action—doing the right thing—a mindset to do the right thing.
In other words, the idea of this word group is to have a mindset, to be mentally prepared and focused to handle any hardship, any suffering, any persecution that might come your way. That happens when you’re walking down the street and this difficulty comes out from around the corner and you know how to handle it. The question then is, “How do we become mentally prepared to do that?”
The first thing we do is we practice! How does a SEAL team become proficient in what they do? They practice, practice, practice. They drill, drill, drill. A SWAT team for a police department, how do they excel at what they do? It’s drilling and practice over and over and over again.
How does an athlete become excellent in what he does? It’s practice, perfect practice. Remember, bad practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. You do it over and over again. That’s why we confess sin—keep short accounts—constantly. It reminds us that we’re sinners. You know, some people say, “Oh, it’s just so depressing to have to confess sins! I just have to focus on myself all the time!” I said, “You don’t understand the concept. The concept is based on grace orientation. It’s not making you get embroiled in a lot of self-examination where you’re just self-flagellating all the time. Jesus was the one Who was flagellated, not you!”
You remind yourself, “I’m a sinner. I need God’s grace. Christ paid for my sin.” You admit your sin, and you’re instantly forgiven and cleansed. We practice it, and we have to accept God’s forgiveness. Many people think that somehow, someway, they’ve done something, and “How can God use me again? How can God still love me?” It’s because Christ died on the Cross for those sins. When you continue to feel guilty over some sin you committed, you’re basically saying, “Christ didn’t do quite enough. I have to help! Somehow, I’m going to impress God by my guilt, by my remorse, by my sorrow.”
Now that doesn’t mean that there’s something necessarily wrong with remorse or sorrow. Sometimes when we sin, and it’s something that shocks us, we feel sorry. We may have remorse, but we don’t have to have remorse. Maybe you’ve committed some sin 25,632 times. When you did it when you were 20, you thought, “How can God love me?” Well, when you’ve done it 25,000 more times, it doesn’t have quite the shock value that it did the first time you committed that sin, but that doesn’t mean your confession is any less significant. You’re still admitting that you did it, and God still forgives you and cleanses you of all unrighteousness.
The second thing we need to do is to hide the Word of God in our hearts. We memorize the Scripture! We learn it over and over again. I heard a story not long ago. I was talking with another pastor, and we were talking about memorizing Scripture. One of the great preachers of a previous generation was Harry Ironside, who was the pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. He went to be with the Lord in the late 40s. In the context of our conversation, we were talking about verse-by-verse preaching and how that’s fallen by the wayside. So many pastors just teach topically now, which won’t mature anybody at all. Ironside became blind in his last years, but he continued to teach verse by verse. He had memorized books of the Bible, and he could stand up and preach verse by verse through a book of the Bible because he had memorized that whole book. He had hidden it in his heart.
We need to challenge people, not just to read—like we do on our website—but to memorize Scripture because that’s the foundation, those promises that we hide in our heart. That’s the foundation for the Faith-Rest Drill, that’s the foundation for grace orientation, and that’s the foundation for doctrinal orientation. We orient our thinking. The more we wash our minds with the Word of God, the more we focus and understand truth.
The third thing that we do is we grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; we have to mature. A lot of people have a resume, and it looks like they’ve had twenty years in doing the same job. People will think they’ve had twenty years of experience. Well, for a lot of people, all they’ve had is one year of experience twenty times. And they never grow! That’s what we have to do as believers, grow beyond those basics. We have to do that, and that comes through application of the Word in times of difficulty.
Then, fourth, we have to pay attention to how we think and what we think about. Back in October when I was on vacation, John Williamson gave an excellent talk about thinking and logic. He did a very good job with that, and if you haven’t listened to it, you ought to listen to it. John’s just a newbie. He’s a freshman, and he’s just learning how to communicate, but he really understands his topic, and he did a great job with that. I’ve listened to it, and I need to go back. He made some profound arguments that you need to just listen to more than once or twice to really capture the significance of what he said.
Along with thinking, we have to realize that the Christian life is a life of thinking. That’s what all these other verses point out, not a life of emotion. For most Christians today, it’s all about emotion, about how I feel about God. “I need to go worship, and I need to sing these feel-good type choruses because that makes me feel like I’m worshiping!”
Feelings are not the criteria; thinking is the criteria. You just go through the Scripture some time and do word studies on words like “thought” and “thinking” and “mind” and then realize there’s not a word for emotion. There are words for “joy,” but it’s not an emotional joy. An emotional joy goes up and down. Biblical joy is based on the immutability of God, and so it is stable. We have to recognize that. It’s about thinking Scripture.
Then, we just have to drill, drill, practice, practice, and apply, apply!
A couple of verses talk about thought. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Now, that’s not the best translation. The word that is translated “world” isn’t KOSMOS, which is often translated “world.” It’s the word AIONIOS, which has to do with time. It’s the spirit of the age, what the Germans call the zeitgeist. And it’s thinking in the spirit of the age, in our postmodern, relativistic, secular mindset. What Paul says is, “Don’t be pressed into that way of thinking, but be transformed, be completely overhauled, by the renewing of your emotions.” Wait a minute—it doesn’t say that, does it? By the renewing of your mind, by changing how you think. We need to think about our thinking.
I had one professor in seminary who said, “It’s as hard enough to think, but it’s really hard to think about your thinking.” John did a good job helping us get a handle on how we think about thinking, and we do that—we transform our thinking—so that we can prove through how we think that the will of God is “good, acceptable, and perfect.”
In the next verse, Paul goes on to say, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” There’s that arrogance problem again. “… but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” “Soberly” doesn’t mean a lack of alcohol; it means to think objectively, to think with a clear head, to think in terms of truth and not in terms of error, not in terms of fantasy.
Then, Philippians 4:8, a great verse to memorize, says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” When your mind wanders off to whatever it wanders off to, and you ask yourself, “Well, here’s the criteria. Oops! I can’t think about that,” it teaches us to discipline our thought life so that we focus on the Word.
We arm ourselves with the same mind. Then we get into this interesting phrase: “for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” Now, it starts off with “for”; in the Greek, it’s a HOTI. Without getting into the weeds on the grammar, it can be translated “because,” but another major use of that word is what grammarians call epexegetical, so what it is identifying is the content of the mind, the content of the resolution.
Arm yourselves with “a certain resolve in your thinking.” What is that resolve? The resolve is that I’m not going to suffer in the flesh by handling it with sin. When I’m going through adversity, I’m not going to handle it with anger, with bitterness, with resentment. I’m not going to handle it by escaping into some fantasy world. I’m going to handle it through the truth of God’s Word, and if I am persecuted for that, fine. I’m going to do it the right way.
I paraphrased it the following way. This mentality I’m expressing as someone who says, “I’m done with solving life’s problems with the solutions of the sin nature. I will do the right thing, come what may. I will trust God and He will sustain me.” That’s that resolution.
You arm yourselves with a certain resolve, a certain mindset, a mentality to face combat so that when you suffer, you’re going to cease from sin; you’re going to cease from using the sin nature to handle the suffering or the adversity. That’s the point of this verse, and that’s how it should be handled and expressed grammatically.
It’s that mental resolution that you’re going to suffer in the flesh. You are going to face the adversity, face the hostility, face the persecution, with joy just as Jesus endured the Cross. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross.” You’re going to have that same kind of mentality so that rather than taking the easy path, the sin nature path, the path of least resistance as the way out, you’re going to do it the right way by applying doctrine, no matter what will happen.
Now, that leads to the next thought in Peter. It’s really unfortunate that you have this verse break here because this verse extends what’s been said in verse 1. Verse 1 says, “For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” He’s ceased from handling it through his sin nature, “in order that—See, there’s a purpose for that determination—that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh”—that is, the rest of his time in his human body before he’s taken to be with the Lord.
He’s going to quit living “for the lust of men.” The word here for “men” is ANTHROPOS, meaning mankind or humanity. He is going to quit living for the pleasure he gets from sin. That may be pleasure from getting angry at somebody, pleasure from thinking about revenge, or getting back at somebody. We make a determination that we’re not going to live anymore by handling life’s situations according to the lusts of the flesh, but we’re going to handle those situations and live the rest of our time fulfilling the will of God.
The lusts of man come out of the sin nature. In the sin nature, we have the area personal sins. That’s the area of our weakness. We’re just naturally attracted to certain sins, some people more so in some areas, other people in other areas. In an area of strength, we try to do good, to impress God by whatever we’re doing without depending on the Word or the Holy Spirit; that’s human good. You look at all kinds of people. The Pharisees manufactured human good. They were religious; they were moral, all of those things.
You have certain cults around that emphasize morality so much. They’re very moral. They’re hard workers! You get some Jehovah’s Witnesses, some Mormons—they work hard. They’re working their way to Heaven! I’ve told the story before. When I was in seminary, I did housesitting for people. I had one family say, “Every time we need a tradesman to come in—a plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, whatever—we always hire Jehovah’s Witnesses. We never get Christians! Jehovah’s Witnesses are working their way to Heaven, and they do a better job than any Christians we’ve ever had!” That is a sad commentary on a lot of Christians.
They are working their way to Heaven, so that’s human good. It doesn’t get them anywhere as far as God is concerned.
But then we have various lusts that will drive us towards licentiousness and lasciviousness and antinomianism, which represents somebody who’s just living for his own pleasure. Power lust can drive people in religion to asceticism and legalism. The Pharisees were guilty of moral degeneracy. Their lust patterns drove them to be very arrogant about their spirituality and what they had done.
Most people think of immorality as a product of lust, but you can also have morality as the product of lust. That’s what Peter is talking about here, fulfilling those lust patterns. To fulfill them, we have to understand what they are, so that we can identify them and quit living in light of those lusts.
So, as we wrap up with 1 Peter 4:2, I want to summarize what we’ve seen so far.
- First of all, the believer is to be mentally prepared for spiritual combat through dependence upon God, dependence on the Word, and to be fortified internally by the Word of God. We have to have that mental determination.
- The second thing is that we have to reach a realization that we’re just going to quit trying to handle it with our sin nature—living for the pleasure of our lust and then confessing it later—and just live for God. We’re tired of always trying to do it ourselves in our own power and our sin nature.
- Third, that’s going to lead to the believer living a separated lifestyle. He will think differently from those around him. He will, therefore, have different actions and different beliefs from the pagan world that surrounds us, and that will isolate him.
When we in America lived in a predominantly Christian culture through the 1960s, if you were trying to live a moral, spiritual life, it didn’t set you apart from the surrounding culture that much. But since the 60s, increasingly the culture rejects any kind of biblical values or absolutes, so that when believers take a stand, they get ridiculed; they are called all manner of names. There’s a lot of hostility directed towards those who believe in biblical truth, and that is suffering; that’s rejection; that is persecution.
It’s only going to get worse in this culture unless there is a phenomenal shift, like in the time of the Reformation, where there was a cultural shift turning back to the Word of God. To face it as believers, we have to have that mental focus and determination to fight the spiritual battle God’s way.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to come to an understanding of the mental discipline, the mental focus, the mental commitment that we need in order to grow and mature as believers, to fight the battle Your way, to fight the good fight the way You have taught us in Your Word, and to focus on fulfilling Your will in our lives. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”