ďArm YourselvesĒ†††††††††††† 1 Peter 4:1-6††††††††††††††††††††††††† July 31, 2011

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO:Weíre continuing our study of 1 Peter.

†† Itís a very intense letter that focuses like a laser on one thingó

†† Christian suffering.

How as a Christian, you can live in such a way that the troubles, pains,

†† and sorrows that inevitably come, donít crush you, but make you better.

 


 

INTRO:My dad had an old college friend who we would sometimes visit when I

†† was a boy.He was a bit on the heavy side.

And he would talk quite openly and humorously about his weight

†† and how he wanted to lose weight and look better.But he had a big appetite.

†† So he was always looking for an easy way to do it.

One time we went to visit him and he had purchased a weight loss machine.

†† Now itís not what you are thinking.It wasnít a treadmill or stair-stepper

†† or a device with cables and weights for a hard workout.

 

Maybe some of you my age and older remember this contraption.

†† It was a very heavy metal stand about three or four feet tall with an

†† electric motor on top.Running through the electric motor was a wide belt.

You would put the belt around your waist, around your love handles,

†† lean back and turn on the motor.The belt would begin violently gyrating.

And the theory was, that without doing anything at allóautomaticallyó

†† your fat would just jiggle away.

My sister and I loved it.It was like a ride at the fair.

†† We would do it so long that our skin would be red and tingling.

 

Of course, my dadís friend did not lose any weight.

†† In fact, over time, the machine had more and more to jiggle.

Because he would tell himself after a good shaking,

†† that he had an excuse to eat whatever he wanted.

 

Peterís main point in his letter is that if you are a Christianó

†† suffering can make you better.It can refine you.

†† Instead of being burned to ashes, you can come out pure gold.

Thereís an old hymn that says:

†† For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

Thatís the theme of Peterís letter.

†† Itís not that God keeps all troubles awayóhe blesses the troubles.

†† Itís not that he keeps you from distressóhe sanctifies your distresses so that they

†† donít crush your or burn you to ashes, but make you more beautiful and holy.

 

But (and hereís the point of these verses) it doesnít happen automatically.

†† Suffering doesnít automatically make you a better person.

Itís not like suffering jiggles you and you get to keep eating what you want

†† and you lose weight anyway.Not at all.

In fact, if you arenít careful,

†† your suffering can actually become an occasion for you to regress.

Your pain can actually become a trap, pulling you into an old way of life.

 

Now, thereís another dimension to this that Iím not denying.

God is sovereign.He does promise that all things work together for good

†† for those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.

That promise is true whether you respond well or poorly to your suffering.

†† As Paul says in Philippians:ďBeing confident of this, that he who began

†† a good work in you, will carry it on to completion to the day of Christ Jesus.Ē

 

If you are born again, God will perfect you, he will compete you,

†† he will get you in shape for heaven.He will jiggle your sins off of you.

And neither the Devilís hatred nor your failure

†† will keep him from accomplishing his work in you.

All your suffering will serve his sovereign purpose in your life.

†† So we believe that, and can talk that way.

 

But we also believe, that sanctification requires us to do the right things,

†† and make the right choices.And as a Christian you can regress and backslide.

You can waste your suffering and come out in worse shape than when you went in.

†† So itís from that perspectiveóour responsibilityóthat Peter speaks.

 

And he doesnít mince words, heís so blunt here itís embarrassing.

†† He says:Before you were some of you Christians, when things were hard,

†† you responded in pagan ways.He doesnít mince words.Tells like it is.

Thatís how you used to handle pain before you became a Christian.

†† Now as believers, thatís in your past but itís still a temptation.

†† To think, Iím hurting and this sure would ease the pain.

†† Maybe even to say:I deserve this.I need this.

No, Peter says.You canít.Youíre done with that.

 

But he doesnít just say no.ďJust say noĒ is not a biblical motto.

†† There is something you have to do, something positive.

If you do it, youíll have something strong to keep you steady in suffering,

†† so that you do come out a better Christian.

Two points for you note-takers:

†† 1.The danger of suffering

†† 2.The defense in suffering

MP#1The danger of suffering

The danger is that you use it as an excuse to revert to an old way of life.

Sometimes when Christians suffer, they feel like itís a blank check to sin.

†† I got dumped, I get to sleep around.

†† I have troubles at work, I can get drunk.

Maybe old friends say:You need to go drink with us.

†† You need to get out and have a good time.

†† Letís blow off some steam, youíve earned it.

Peter asks:How are you going to respond to suffering?

†† Are you going to go back to the old waysóor out into your new life with Christ?

 

Remember Peter was writing to first-generation Christians.

†† To people who had converted out of pure paganism.

†† A society without any restraints of biblical morality.

First century Roman Empire was in many ways very different from Cullman.

†† Thereís a general Christian influence here.

Most people in Cullman who are professing Christians did not grow up in an

†† unrestrained pagan setting.They grew up in homes and a society where there

†† is at least a general approval of biblical morality.

 

So it seems when you first read these verses

†† that Peter is talking about things that donít apply to usóorgies?

But human nature does not change.

†† What Peter wrote to these first-generation Christians who had come out of pure

†† paganism, applies to us here.No matter what your conversion path, even if

†† raised on the Bible at your motherís kneeówe all have an old way of life.

Itís your old self.Your sinful nature.Itís as old as Adam.As old as Eve.

Thatís what Peter is warning about.

†† These old patterns are there in you, even if you didnít have a wild, immoral

†† pre-conversion lifestyle.Because, Peter says, the root is deeper than the behavior.

Whatís the root?Itís at the end of that list of ugly things in verse 3ó

†† detestable (or lawless) idolatry.

 

Idolatry is distorted worship.

The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have, from all eternity loved,

†† adored and celebrated one another.We are made in Godís image.

So we are ceaseless, incurable worshippers.

 

All people worship.They pour themselves out to cause, an experience, a lifestyle.

†† A hobby, a sports team, to pleasures, to drink , to GPA, to marriage, to work.

We are always giving ourselves to something in worship.

†† So the question is not if you worship, but who or what.

We are made to worship the Creator and to use, steward, and enjoy created things.

†† Idolatry is an inversion of that order.

†† Paul says in Romans:They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped

†† and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised.

 

Idolatry is usually taking things that are good in themselvesó

†† like food, work, friends, beauty, intellect, expertise, likabilityó

†† and deifying those thingsóso that you live for them and not for God.

You trust them to give you what God alone can give.

†† Your joy.Your hopes.Your sense of security, approval, and worth.

And to the point here:The thing you turn to for comfort, solace, relief in suffering.

 

If itís anything but Jesus Christ, itís idolatry.

They may be good things, that properly used, provide lots of help in lifeó

†† but if they are given godlike status in our life, if you look to them to give you

†† what Jesus along can give, then they are idols.

Itís going back to the old dead ways.Youíve spent enough time there.

 

Peter is so practical here, such a good pastor.He helps us find our idols.

Five wordsóugly, embarrassing words.

†† Are these words for Christians?Yes, heís writing to suffering Christians.

†† Do you see these things in your life?Be honest with self and God.

1.Debauchery.Also translated sensuality.

Where do you lack restraint, particularly when you are hurting?

†† Food, alcohol, gambling, internet, TV, anger, gossip, exercise, shopping?

 

2.Lust.Also translated passion.

What evil desires dominate your thoughts?

†† What fantasies do you play out in your mind, especially when you need relief

†† from suffering?What do you crave, even if never act on it?Idol perverting mind.

 

3.Drunkenness.I told you Peter was blunt.

People who drink too much donít have a an alcohol problem, worship problem.

†† People who spend too much or eat too much when hurting donít have food

†† or spending problemsóthey have worship problems.

They are treating these things like their functional Saviors.

†† Looking for little bits of heaven in these things.

Iím depressedóhereís my salvation.

†† Life is hardóhereís my reward.

Iíll tithe a percentage of my income to it.

†† Iíll offer my body to it, sometimes sacrifice my dignity to it.

†† Even sometimes sacrifice my job or family to it.

This will be my god in my suffering.A savior that canít save.

 

4.Orgies.

What sexual sin entices you when weakened by suffering?

†† Pornography, promiscuity, adultery?

Sex is not a sex problem, itís a worship problem.

†† The worship of the body for some, the worship of pleasure.

†† For others itís the worship of intimacy, approval, affirmation.

Sex in marriage is a gift from God to be enjoyed.

†† But when a good thing becomes the ultimate thingó

†† when itís used outside the boundaries God intended,

†† to fulfill cravings it cannot fill, then it becomes debased.

 

5.Carousing.Drinking parties.

What social sins tempt you?Peter specifically mentions drinking buddies.

Woman, do you have clothes you would never wear to church,

†† but there are places you do sometimes wear them when you go with

†† certain girl friends to have a good time?

Men, do you have a certain way of talking and joking that you wouldnít ever

†† use in your Covenant Group, but with certain other friends, when feel like

†† have to let off some steam, these things come out.

 

Look, Peterís using the most obvious, blunt examples to make a point.

There are other, more sophisticated social sins.But youíre with people,

†† doing and saying things that donít go with who you are as a Christian.

And oftentimes itís the suffering times of life, where the walls come down.

†† Not that itís wrong to have non-Christian friends.But remember, Peter says:

†† When you say no, they are going to think you are strange.Think you are weird.

Are you ready for that?Or will their disapproval be to much for you?

 

In all of this, Peter is saying.

Christian, when you suffer, You have a decision to make.

Do you go out and participate in idolatry?

†† All these dysfunctional saviors.All these false heavens.

God and Jesus are not enough.Iím looking for purpose and solace and help

†† in other things and people.Are you going back to the old way of life?

 

Thatís not who you are.Your identity is in Christ.

†† Maybe some of you need to have a heart to heart with the Lord today.

†† God, please forgive me.Iíve been so wrong.So stupid.

And he will.But he doesnít want you to stop with repentance.

†† Something for you to do.Brings us to the second point.


 

MP#2The defense in suffering

What do you do to defend yourself against the powerful appeals of idolatry

†† when you are weakened by suffering?

ďJust say noĒ doesnít work.

†† You caní just tell yourself no when it comes to your idols.

The human heart doesnít work like that.

You will fall into it again or just switch over to another idol.

†† There has to be a positive action on your part.

 

Itís in verse one

†† ďTherefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude,

†† because he who suffered in his body is done with sin.Ē

Arm yourselves.

†† To stay away from idols when suffering, you have to arm yourself spiritually.

What does that mean?How do you do it?

 

A few years ago, our next door neighborís son moved to Cullman.

†† While looking for a house, he put his pit bull on a chain in his parentsí back yard.

†† This was a very mean looking dog.Tail was docked, ears clipped.

†† Very muscular.Very lean.Could see its ribs.Itís name was Vicious.

I realized that if Vicious ever attacked somebody, I would need to move

†† as quickly as possible.So I started keeping a loaded pistol in convenient place.

One evening we were eating supper on the back porch and we heard noises in our

†† neighborsí back yard.First we heard a child screaming, we heard a man shouting,

†† and then mixed with the shouting was the horrible sound of Vicious snarling.

I leaped up, ran inside, grabbed the gun and ran back outside and to neighbors.

†† The kids said later that my penny loafers slipping as I tried to get traction.

 

(Iím sure you want to know what happened.)

Fortunately, I didnít have to shoot the dog.

It had gotten off its chain.Started to attack a child playing in yard.

†† Knocked her down, she screamed.A man visiting charged the dog.

†† It turned and attacked him.The child scrambled to top of swing-set.

The man got bitten but he got away and over the fence.Owner put back on chain.

Hereís the point.Peter says that if you are going to defend yourself against

†† the appeal of the old way of life, the pull of idolatry, then you have to arm

†† yourself.Heís talking about some kind of spiritual arming.

 

Two steps to arming yourself, both physically and spiritually.

First, you have to have a weapon.You have to understand it.

†† It has to be quick to reach.Has to be ready.A sword, sharpened.A gun, loaded.

And then, when danger comes on you suddenly, you have to pick

†† it up and be prepared to use it.That means you have to have an attitude,

†† a mindset that knows there is real danger and that you must act.

 

Well, itís exactly the same spiritually.

You have to have a weapon that ready and quick to reach.

†† That means you have to prepare yourself with the Gospel.

†† You have to know the depth of your sin and love of God for you in Christ.

Christians in earlier times talked about regular use of the ordinary means of grace.

††

You read the Bible.You ask yourself, what is God showing me today.

†† Why do I need this Bible verse or this devotional reading today.

†† What problem emotions do I have?What challenges?

How does this show me more about my sin and Jesusí love for me

†† and how God wants me to live?

 

Most days, itís not going to be profound.Itís not going to shake you.

†† Most days, just some simple encouragements and challenges.

†† Then you pray and face your day.

But sometimes, you see something powerful and your heart is warmed

†† and challenged and the Word of God speaks to you and you go out

†† into that day armed to the teeth.

 

Corporate worship and fellowship with fellow Christians.

Regularly, following the weekly rhythm that God his established,

†† that he knows you need.Most Sundays, just going to be average.

You are going to hear the Word preached, hear how Jesus loves you,

†† hear what God wants from you.Going to reaffirm your commitment to him

†† though your actionsósinging, praying, giving offerings, taking Communion.

Sometimes, occasionally, you might be very moved by something.

†† But most of the time, quite ordinary.Even so, you are being armed.

 

And then, you enter a season of suffering.

All these idols call you.Come to me.Serve me.

†† You feel rejected, Iíll make you feel accepted.You feel lonely, Iíll comfort you.

†† You feel scared and out of control, Iíll give you security.

†† You are hurting, Iíll numb your pain.

Itís then that you have to have to arm yourself.

†† Peter calls it arming yourself with the attitude of Christís suffering.

Isnít that interesting.He says that out of all the great truths in Scriptureó

†† the sovereignty of God, the Trinity, the Second Comingó

†† hereís what you need to bring into your sufferingóthe cross.

Jesusí suffering.And you must force yourself to conform your attitude to the cross.

†† No.Iím not going to think the way I want to think about my suffering.

†† No.Iím not going to respond with bitterness or fear or self-pity or hatred.

Those thoughts and feelings are there, but Iím going to push them out by forcing

†† myself to think about Jesus Christ suffering and dying on the cross for me.

 

Do you see how this is so much more than just bare belief?

When I heard the scary noises next door, I did not theorize about my pistol.

†† I did not say to myself:Yes, I believe I have a loaded pistol in the house.

†† Yes, I believe if someone is being attacked, my pistol could be of service.

†† I believe that if I had to shoot a dog, a .38 would do the trick.

If you asked a Christian who has fallen into drunkenness and sexual immorality

†† in response to his suffering:Do you believe Jesus suffered on cross for you?

 

And he will say:Yes.Of course I believe that.

So if he believes it, why didnít it make a difference?

†† Because itís more of a theory to him than a shaper of his attitude.

Because he didnít armed himself with it.

†† You have to face suffering armed with cross.

†† If you suffer without it, you will die.

†† If you suffer armed with the knowledge he died for youóbe done with sin.

Doesnít mean you wonít ever sin again.It means when you do, sickened by it,

†† ashamed of it, and that your Godward focus quickly restored.

 

Hereís how Dr. Timothy Keller explained these verses:

ďWhat this means is that the death of Jesus Christ, when understood, comforts me profoundly when I have fallen, but it can never, never lead me to temptation.(In other words, will never be able to use Godís grace as an excuse to sin.)To the one who is considering disobeying, Jesus cries out from the cross:I did all this and completely, so that you can die to sins and live to righteousness, how then can you do this sin?

 

Will you put your own hands around my throat? Have I not been struck enough by those who broke open my skin with their fists and said:Prophesy!Will you hit me one more time?Will you account what I have done of so little value, that you will do this to me?Will you seek to frustrate the goal and aim of all my suffering for you?

How can you deeply grieve someone who has done this for you.There is no more deeply powerful motive to fight temptation, to stick with holy living in dry and tough and painful times than to look at how he dealt with suffering and stuck with you.The incentive to live a holy life is not based on fear, but on his love.Not that his love is weak, and you might lose it if you sin.But because his love is infallible, and voluntarily set on you at great cost.And a true Christian finds that the thought of aggravating Christís pain fills you with such grief, that sin loses power over you.

 

Are you learning to suffer right?Are you getting Peterís message?

Hang in there, I know this is a tough letter.But itís good.

†† And we need it, whether life peaceful or painful at present moment.

 

Remember you can come out of suffering a better personó

†† but it doesnít happen automatically.There is a danger in suffering.

†† The very real danger of idolatry.Donít go back to the old ways.

†† Youíre done with that.

Instead, arm yourself with the attitude of Christís suffering

†† and be done with sin.