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Holiness, Suffering and Mutual Support
Thistletown Baptist Church
January 4, 2009

I Peter 4:1-11

Martin Luther – for a man to stand true to the faith in everything except in those areas where the predominating pull of the culture takes him is to be faithful in nothing at all.

Those areas of life that the culture demands we surrender up the teachings of the Scriptures, become the areas that most define us, whether or not the Scriptures emphasize them as much as other things. In other words, where we are tempted the most to forsake the teachings of the Bible is the most crucial issue of the day.

In our day – Two primary areas of contention 1) Jesus Christ – who He was/is, what He did, did He exist, is He the only way to God, what is His Gospel, … 2) Marriage and family life – the definition of gender, gender roles, definition of marriage, divorce, remarriage, role of mother and father, role of the family versus the state in the rearing of children, sexuality – when sexual activity ought to take place, with whom, sexual activity in and outside of marriage, abortion, … . In these areas of life we need to be particularly careful to be faithful to the teachings of Scripture or, as Luther pointed out, we are not being faithful to Christ and the Gospel at all.
This is where the rubber meets the road. It is far too easy to gather in here on Sunday morning and not have it effect us tomorrow. Sing here and sleep with the boyfriend/girlfriend tonight. Pray here and watch the porn on television tonight. Enjoy fellowship here and completely ignore what the Scriptures say regarding your role as a husband and father to lead your home. The examples can go on and on. The point? Being a believer in Jesus Christ necessarily means being counter cultural in the areas of life where the culture is most likely to tempt us to forsake the Scriptures.

The point of the message this morning is to encourage you to live, in 2009, a consistent Christian life of holiness in the area of life that suffers the most from a lack of it in our culture.

verse 1 – Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of
Suffer with the same attitude that Christ had – It can never be said that Christ deserved to suffer in any manner at all. We are called to suffer with Christ, first of all, in attitude. And His attitude was that He was willing to suffer unjustly.

Since Christ suffered, you should have the same attitude – that it is better to suffer for doing what is right than to sin. This was the attitude of Christ. This is what we see in the garden of Gethsemane on the night He was arrested. “Take this cup, nevertheless …”. In other words “What I want more than anything is to be in your will and if suffering is part of that, then that is what I would rather.” The question that this causes to arise is – which one do you fear the most?
1.One of Peter’s great concern in this whole Letter is that if Christians are to suffer, and they are, then they
ought to suffer unjustly and not because of anything they have done that is wrong. Dear ones, we are called to suffer unjustly. 2:12, 19, 3:9, 14, 17 – Rejoicing in the Christian life is tied to its cause. If you do what is wrong and suffer this should not make you happy. But if you suffer for doing what is righteous then you can rejoice … .

2.The notable thing in this is that we are exactly the opposite. We complain when we suffer unjustly and
feel somewhat better when we deserve it. Dear ones – we should never deserve to be opposed, to be maligned, to be persecuted. Suffering at the hands of others should never be our fault. And suffering justly should never make us content. And suffering unjustly for the cause of Christ should never make us unhappy. But in North American Christianity when an injustice is committed against a Christian because of his faith in Jesus Christ we don’t rejoice because we are counted worthy to suffer for Hm. No!! We do what the world does. We sue. What we do not do is 4:19. A Christian is found guilty of violating the human rights code when he refuses to print a flier promoting something in the gay community related to the gay lifestyle. How much rejoicing went on in the Christian community when that happened? None. What did happen was cries from within the Christian community talking about a) the end of Christianity as we know it, b) people saying it was a sign of the end times, c) counter suits, d) the unfairness of it … At no time did I hear anything even approaching someone saying “we should rejoice because to this we were called.” Consider Hebrews 10:34.

Verse 1 – whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin
This verse is not teaching that we are saved because we suffer. It is teaching that we suffer because we are saved.

1.There is a clear choice put to believers here – suffering or sinning. See verse 2. Suffering is a given for
all believers. Suffering is the default position. This is just simply the call of the Gospel – Take up the
cross, Love me more than father or mother, give up everything you have. … The Bible is crystal clear – where there is no suffering there is no saving faith – Romans 8:16f, II Tim. 3:12

2.But it is not just suffering. Everyone suffers. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists – all
suffer. All people suffer. This is a given – Job 5:7 is as true now as it has ever been- sparks still fly upward … .
Peter is not talking here about disease, accident, … . All people suffer those things. (He talks about that in 1:6) What he is referring to here is the suffering that specifically happens because you are a believer. Again, God sends the sicknesses, accidents, setbacks … upon His children for their sanctification, and in that sense all suffering is because of our faithfulness to the Gospel. But we are talking about suffering opposition from others because we are seeking to be faithful to the Word of God.

verse 2 – “… no longer for human passions…”

1.They used to live like this – what happened? They got saved. Saved people do not live like verse 4 –
period. A Christian is a person who no longer lives for human passions. These passions are contrasted in this
verse with “the will of God.” You either live for God or for human sinful passions.

verse 3 – 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.

1.It is time to stop living like the world – but what does that have to do with suffering? The very question
reflects a problem. This is what the problem is with the North American church. It cannot make the connection between faithfulness to Christ and suffering for Christ. The New Testament could not be plainer – faithfulness ot Christ and easy living/pain free living/opposition free living – are mutually exclusive. You simply cannot have opposition free living and faithfulness ot the Gospel. The two will not, cannot, and are ordained of God that they will not – co-exist at the same time in the same heart.
I Peter abounds with words that prepare us to suffer for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Why then does it surprise so many believers?

verse 4 – ” … they are surprised…”

1.They are surprised because you used to do these things – verse 3. But you do not do them anymore. They
are surprised that with all the problems in the world that anyone would make an issue of sexual morality, abortion, gay marriage, adultery, drunkenness … . Dear ones, get this. A Christian simply does not live like this. The surprise of the world is not so much that we believe certain things (although that is certainly part of it). It is more that we live according to what we believe. It changes us. II Cor. 5:17. Dear ones – can God speak to you referring to your sins in the past tense like He does to these people Peter was writing? …

2.They are surprised because issues such as adultery, common-law marriage, sex before marriage,
homosexuality, drunkenness, abortion … … are just accepted ways of life today – and you don’t want to be the odd man out do you? But the sad truth is that these things are far too acceptable among believers as well.

3.So, you are the only one in a conversation at work who believes that divorce and remarriage is wrong
and you dare to say so – now look at the last three words of verse 4 – “they malign you”. Has that ever happened to you dear ones? If not – – – – WHY NOT!!? Was it because you just didn’t want to be the odd person out?

4.Consider this very carefully dear ones. There are many ways to live the Christian life that do not surprise
the unconverted world. The fact that you do not support murder is not surprising. No one is particularly surprised when we teach that Jesus … or … or … . Christian charity works are known the world over for their alleviation of suffering. This is a good thing. It is a great thing. Then in what situations does this verse prove itself to be true in our experiences?

5.What gets them surprised is when people they have come to respect prove themselves to be less than
what they expected. You are nice to work with, you help people … . then one day the subject of same sex marriage comes up at work – you are known to be a nice person … and in your nice way you say, without any rancour or ill will ….

6.Make no mistake dear ones – living and speaking the Christian Gospel is not going to be popular. Many
Christians in north America live in the delusion that we can be respectful and talk the language of the people and .. And … And people will respect us and just agree to disagree and everyone remains everyone else’s friend. That is a lie. Living for Jesus Christ is going to bring opposition. The Bible is crystal clear about this.
I have not been invited to give the prayer at Barack Obama’s inauguration this month. I know that is a shocker, but it is true. But an evangelical pastor has been invited to give it. His name is Rick Warren. He is famous for the “Purpose Driven Life” book. If there were only two candidates for giving the inaugural prayer – Rick Warren and me, Warren would get it hands down. He’s nicer. He popular. He is what a lot of believers say an evangelical ought to be. When he speaks people listen. He gives to the poor. He has a relief work for people with AIDS in Africa. He’s hip, cool, with it and knowledgeable about what is going on – and a believer too. There couldn’t be a nicer man to be asked to pray.

But Mr. Obama is getting a lot of flack across the United States for asking Warren to do the prayer at his inauguration, because he opposes Gay marriage and abortion.

I am no great fan of Rick Warren, but the point here is that someone as nice as him can get roasted the way he does because he disagrees where it is not allowed to disagree. Don’t think that you can win the approval of the world at large. The only way to do it is to surrender or shut up about the issues that matter to the world at large.

Verses 5 & 6 – but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

1.Why join in with those who are going to have to answer to God for their wickedness? You want to be judged like them? All people will be judged but Peter’s point here is that if you behave like them, you will receive the same judgement as they do.

verse 8 – “Above all”
– above all?? This is the most important thing he is going to say? This, in a text of warnings about sexual immorality, drunkenness, idolatry … Peter can say “above all”??

2.This does not mean that loving one another is more important than worshipping God, or more
important than purity … It means that if we are going to obey the injunctions of verses 3f we are going to have to love each other, because it is impossible to live a transformed-from-the-world life alone. Just picture this – you go to work and get ridiculed for your faith, maligned for your stand for truth, considered a prude … . And then you come to church and find no welcome, no encouragement, no “we are praying for you”… That is a recipe for disaster. It is a sure method to going back to the lifestyle that Peter is warning them to stay away from. This is why Peter says “above all”.

3.The cure for immorality … is Christian love/fellowship. How often do we find ourselves shaking our
heads and wondering what in the world went wrong that someone left the church and returned to his/her old lifestyle. And it is a wonder – but we need to be open to the possibility that we could have been more loving, more interested in their lives …

4.The solution for immorality?
V. 7 self control
v.8 love
v.9 hospitality to one another
v.10 use of gifts for the common good
v.11 all for the glory of God.

Dear ones. Let us go into 2009 more holy than we have ever entered any year yet. Let us not be marked by the predominant sins of the world and let us, above all, be a loving support to one another in our quest for holiness.