If we are committed to Jesus Christ, our lives are different.
That is what our text is teaching us. Listen!
Peter was well acquainted with many of the churches in his day. Some of them, he started; Others, he visited many times. Many of the people in these churches were committed to Christ, and Peter was thankful for that. Others, who had not received Christ as their Savior and Lord, attended with their Christian relatives or friends. However, they became a bad influence in the church. The world was in the churches.
This disturbed Peter. You might wonder how we know this was happening in the early church. After reading today’s text, I am convinced that it was happening in Peter’s day, because it happens today as well. Listen to what he writes.
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do Ð living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:1-5).
These are strong words. Peter had presented the Gospel to the people and was anxious to share the message that God loved them. He emphasized that not only could their sins be forgiven, but they could also have a different attitude toward these sins. When they slipped and fell back into some of their old ways, He would pick them up. However, their attitude toward these sins would change and many would disappear. We are sinners, but we do not rejoice in living in the cesspool of immorality contrary to God’s will.
The Bible teaches both the Law and the Gospel. In my early years, we had a strong emphasis on the Law. In many cases, congregations began to interpret the Law in various ways.
The Law said, “Thou shall not steal.” Gambling was considered to be stealing, and it was related to playing cards; therefore we were taught, Thou shall not play cards. To the best of my knowledge, we never had a deck of cards in my childhood home. I have to confess that, as an adult, my wife and I have enjoyed many evenings playing a game of bridge with other couples. This is legalism.
The Bible teaches, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” Some interpreted dancing as a method to arouse the sexual drives, which could lead to adultery. The fear of this happening gave us another law, Thou shall not dance. The result was that many of us, who belonged to the same church, could not go to our freshman reception at high school for fear that we would dance and fall into adultery. As a result, my wife and I have never danced a step. Now she is unable to dance, and sometimes I wish we could have had that opportunity throughout our married life. I believe the people who danced on The Lawrence Welk Show were enjoying themselves and not entertaining impure thoughts.
The legalists meant well. They thought their man-made laws would protect God’s Law from being broken. However, the danger of legalism is that it robs people of their assurance of salvation. They believe Christ has done 99% of what is necessary and the sinner has to contribute 1% by keeping this man-made list of dos and don’ts, which he is unable to do.
Having said all of this, it is not our main problem, for today it seems that anything goes. Some teach an adjustable Christianity. Peter writes against this thinking. God’s Word tells us that when a person receives Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to make him a new person. The Christian is challenged with these words: “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:7b-10).
The Scriptures make it clear that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ who did it all for us on the cross and at the empty tomb. When we have this assurance of salvation, we desire to live for that Savior. He becomes our Lord.