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Willing Saints - 1 Peter 4:1-6

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 11th July 2021.

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1 Peter 4 v 1-6 “Willing Saints”

Intro:

“I’ve finished with him”; That sentence would be music to the ears of a concerned father whose daughter had finally dumped her no-good, messed up, selfish, domineering, useless boyfriend. Music to the ears of her concerned friends as well – ‘what did she see in him anyway, he was so bad for her?’ Music to the ears of her teachers because maybe now she will begin to learn and grow and excel without him dragging her down all the time. But mostly, what a relief for the girl herself – wonderful to be out of a toxic relationship which only did damage to her and those around. SHE MUST NEVER GO BACK FOR MORE! She is finished with him.  

 

That is to be the firm position and practice of Christians when it comes to our dealings with sin. We are to be finished with sin. Sin wrecks our relationship with our father, sin messes us up and seeks to domineer and bully us, sin in our life has an awful impact on the lives of the people around us, sin has death rather than life to offer. Christians, that is, people who have come to Jesus for forgiveness from sin and a new life of following him, they are done with sin and are to live completely differently than they did before. And the wonderful truth of the gospel is that we have been set free to do just that, we have been made into new people who, with the Holy Spirit within us, can live special, strange, different lives, wholeheartedly serving God even in the middle of a seriously messed up world.     

BUT… since we have already admitted together in the confession our sins and failings from this week, it is obvious that though we have said to Mr Sin “You are dumped (I am finished with you)”, and although Jesus has done everything needed to break sin’s hold over our lives, the reality is that we are still dabbling in that toxic relationship that we have no right nor sense to be going anywhere near. Sin hangs around outside our window throwing little pebbles and hoping we will give in and get back together with it.

How many of you are fed up with your own sin this morning? Sick to death of the presence and power of temptation and sin even when you are at your best? (Looking out the window while I wrote this – sitting still writing a sermon and yet can be battling with pride and anger (terrible driving), lust (pretty girls), greed (Lidl and crisps), sloth (distractions) etc). If you are sick of sin and yet still prone to dabbling with it then I praise God you are listening to this sermon because in todays passage Peter offers us a powerful weapon that can change everything in our battle against sin.

 

            1) The Cross means we are done with sin

Verse 1 (and I am going to spend nearly all my time in this verse); “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin.” The suffering of Jesus Christ from his incarnation to his death on the cross is the ultimate answer to the problem of sin. It is the ultimate answer because it covers both our position AND our practice.

Our position as Christians (if that is what you are!) is one of justification – declared righteous in God’s sight. Jesus’ life of walking straight into the howling storm of temptation and never giving in (suffering), Jesus’ death on the cross in our place (suffering), that suffering means that our guilt and condemnation has already been fully dealt with – Jesus suffered in his body and as a result we are done with sin in this legal way (so we are now God’s elect, we have been chosen, given new life though Jesus’ resurrection, given an inheritance that we cannot lose – kept and guarded). Christ suffered in his body and he put an end to sin (Hebrews 12v1&2 “for the joy set before him he endured the cross …”).   

 

That amazing position means that our practice as Christians is to arm ourselves with the same attitude as Jesus had to suffering and sin. I love those moments in movies where the goodies open the door to the gun cabinet and get ready for the battle (Arnie in Commando – bazooka/rocket launcher). The weapon that will change everything for Christians who are sick of sin in their lives is the weapon of a Christ-like attitude to suffering and in suffering.

Suffering then, for Christians, has the potential for real value in their lives (Suffering roundup?) That might shock you but I hope it really encourages you. Because if you are suffering in general right now, but in particular, if you are suffering because you are a Christian right now, the circumstances are perfect for you to make progress in your walk with God, progress in killing the sin that still lurks in areas of your life.

Jesus suffered and through his suffering sin was killed. As Christians suffer, through their suffering sin can be finished with (indeed without that suffering sin may well go unnoticed and sin always leads towards spiritual death). But it is so vital to see that it isn’t suffering alone that puts the final nail in sin’s coffin (grumbling/resentment/anger and bitterness towards God) but rather arming yourself with Christ’s attitude in suffering is what is so powerful and effective; Joni-Eareakson-Tada, Corrie Ten Boom, believers in persecuted countries whose lives now shine with holiness. These Christians think properly about sin and suffering, they have armed themselves with the sin-killing machine gun of a Christ-like attitude.

 

Let’s think about Jesus’ attitude to sin and suffering, and there is nowhere where this is more evident than in the garden of Gethsemane – here is how we can think the way Jesus was as he suffered in that garden before the cross;

  • Suffering must lead me to prayer
  • God hears me when I cry out
  • God is with me in my suffering
  • God thinks this suffering is necessary
  • God will use this suffering for the benefit of his people
  • I can entrust all my circumstances to God knowing that his judgement is right
  • There is a day coming when suffering will be gone

That is the cross-shaped attitude we are to arm ourselves with, the attitude that puts a big X over the sin-chained sin-stained life. The attitude that will kill sin and do good for the church.  

Let’s ground this in a basic example; Imagine you are at work and in the staffroom a tasty bit of gossip is announced. You pray quietly and ask God for help to resist joining in and with his help you stop that conversation and move it on to something positive. But then later you overhear your colleagues bitterly attacking you for being a do-gooder, thinking you are better than everyone else, simply because you wouldn’t join in the gossip, simply because you were living for Jesus. You have suffered twice – suffered in resisting the sinful urge to join in with the gossip and then suffered the scorn and opposition of the people you work with because of your devotion to God and his goodness.

How are you going to respond? If you respond in the Gethsemane way, by praying and knowing that God hears you, taking comfort that he is with you and that he thinks this suffering is needed, remembering that God will be using this very situation for the good of his people, acknowledging that God judges better than we do and setting your eyes on the day when Jesus returns and all wrong will be put right, each of those thoughts is a nail in the coffin of your temptation to gossip; by arming yourself with a Christ-like attitude in the middle of that trial, you are far less likely to gossip again – you have suffered for it and persevered and shown that you are finished with gossip.    

This is what we are offered today in all areas of our lives as we battle with sin. The cross of Jesus Christ allows us to be done with sin because only there our position and identity is changed and our practice and obedience enabled – no return!

            2) The cross means sin is replaced with godliness

Being done with sin can be a big barrier to people before they become Christians. The thought of what they might have to give up can really put people off coming to church and sitting under God’s word. But verse 2 should help us to help the people in our lives who may be in that position. Because verse 2 shows us just how brilliant it is to be done with sin;

“As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

 

The cross means that sin in our lives is replaced with godliness and that is what this world needs and what it longs for, that is what creation itself is groaning for as it waits for Jesus to return and make everything new. Christians who think like Jesus about sin and suffering get rid of the rubbish in their lives and fill them instead with beautiful things that come from the God of love and righteousness.

 

Verse 3 gives some of the stark reality of the sinful lifestyles that many in the churches he was writing to once lived. And the list is pretty grim – hedonism, sexual sin, idolatry. Though these offer short-term satisfaction and pleasure, they are toxic and destructive and are really bad for individuals, they break human relationships, they offend the God who made us, and they lead to destruction, death and judgement.

 

Think of people who once smoked and now constantly battle to remain ex-smokers. Their once tar-filled lungs are now clearer and filled instead with oxygen, their once yellowed fingers are now healthy and clean, their once smoke-stained clothes now smell of washing powder and softener. Yes of course they still battle, and yes you might have seen them having a sneaky cigarette in their back garden, but their general pattern of life is one freed from the chains of smoking and embracing health and vitality. That is quite like the Christian experience when it comes to sin.

 

These verses give us the wonderful news that Christians who are done with polluting sin now have an amazing purpose to live the rest of their lives for, a purpose full of health and vitality and goodness – the will of God. In fact, rather than thinking about ex-smokers, perhaps the ex-gambler is a better illustration. The man who once lost his house and put his family through misery because of his gambling habit now freed from those chains so he can use his money to send his kids to college and give it away to people in need. Where there once was gambling, now there is generosity.  Christians are to build up a whole list of “where there once weres” throughout the rest of their earthly lives. In fact if you are surrendering again and again to sin in a certain area it may probably be linked to you not trying to replace the negative sinful behaviour with a positive godly behaviour instead. So what about some of these “where there once weres” in the CC Riverside context;

  • Where once I read books and watched media that led me into envy and lust I now am serious and hungry about reading and listening to things from God’s word that build me up and equip me to share with others.
  • Where there once was a lazy attitude to getting to church on a Sunday morning or Home Group during the week there now is a determination to be there to build others up and worship God.
  • Where my home was once a place to shut the door and indulge myself, it is now a place with open doors where I try to bless and encourage the church family.
  • Where once my house, my car and my holidays received most of my financial investment, now lots of my money is used to invest in gospel initiatives.
  • Where once only my nuclear family got the best from me, now the church family gets my energy and service.

 

Why not encourage each other with some more “where there once weres” as you talk together at the end of our service today? Be warned though, living the rest of your life this God-pleasing, people-building way won’t be easy – in verse 4 Peter says that people will be surprised by you and have abuse for you as a result. So unfair! But as we see God changing us, helping us to stay done with sin and filling our lives with good desires instead, we can even praise God for the abuse we will receive – because more suffering, and more arming ourselves with the attitude of Christ as he suffered in life and death, will result in a more holy and obedient church family. God wins!

            3) The cross means life instead of death under God’s judgement

And one day, maybe one day very soon, Jesus is going to return and everyone is going to see clearly what we are trying to make clear now with our lives and words as a local church in this area. On that day everyone will see that God reigns and that Jesus Christ is Lord. On that day everyone will see that the cross offers life instead of the death we all deserve under God’s judgement.

Verses 5 and 6 are the destination for every human being who has ever lived, who is alive now, and who will ever live. We are all going to give an account of our lives to God. That will be a good day for Christians, a day when gratitude for the cross of Christ fills us as never before, a day when we get to share in the blessings Jesus has won for his people, a day full of life and delight, a day of celebration. Keeping that day in mind will fill us with determination to keep being done with sin, to be completely finished with it and to never go back.

But also on that day, many people are going to have to explain to God why they stayed in their toxic relationship with sin despite Jesus’ death on the cross. Why they laughed at his people for trying to do good just as people laughed at Jesus and spat at him while he hung dying on the cross. Some people living around us who we eat with, whose children we know and who we count as our dear friends, they will have to explain why the witness of CC Riverside was something they could ignore, snigger at, or even oppose. It is a frightening reality.

And it is a reality that fills me with determination to pray and work and labour so that our witness becomes impossible to ignore – Imagine someone from Parkstone road standing in front of God on that day and saying “What do you mean the witness of CC Riverside, who are they?”   

CC Riverside, with God’s strength let us live as a Holy people, let us be serious about sin, devoted to doing good, urgent in prayer and determined to speak the gospel. That is a church that has hope for the lost they love.   

 

 

1 Peter 4 v 1-6 “Willing Saints”

Intro: The end of a toxic relationship

 

          1) The Cross means we are done with sin

 

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin.”

 

Our position:  Justified. Sin is done with in a legal way.

 

 

Our practice: Take up arms!  

  • Suffering has value for Christians

 

 

  • Not suffering alone but attitude in Suffering

 

The Gethsemane way:

  • Suffering must lead me to prayer
  • God hears me when I cry out
  • God is with me in my suffering
  • God thinks this suffering is necessary
  • God will use this suffering for the benefit of his people
  • I can entrust my circumstances to God knowing that his judgement is right
  • There is a day coming when suffering will be gone

 

 

Real-life example of gossip:

 

          2) The Cross means sin is replaced with godliness

“As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

 

Sin replaced with godliness - CC Riverside “where there once weres”;

 

  • Envy and lust replaced by a hunger for God’s word

 

  • Laziness replaced by commitment

 

  • Self-indulgence replaced by hospitality

 

  • Materialism replaced by gospel investment

 

  • Closed family focus replaced by open church family service

 

Unbelievers full of surprise and abuse? More suffering, more holiness!

 

          3) The cross means life instead of death under God’s judgement

 

We are all going to give an account of our lives to God.

 

  • A good day for Christians

 

  • A frightening day for our friends who don’t know Jesus

 

Home Group Questions for 1 Peter 4 v 1-6

 

1) What is the position of Christians with regard to sin? Why is this so important to know for certain before we think about being finished with sin in practice?

 

 

2) We looked at “The Gethsemane way” and applied it to gossip. What would a Christ-like attitude to sin and suffering look like as we deal with different types of sin members of the home group are battling with?

 

(“The Gethsemane way”:

  • Suffering must lead me to prayer
  • God hears me when I cry out
  • God is with me in my suffering
  • God thinks this suffering is necessary
  • God will use this suffering for the benefit of his people
  • I can entrust my circumstances to God knowing that his judgement is right
  • There is a day coming when suffering will be gone)

 

3) What other “where there once weres” can we come up with to encourage us and challenge us to holy living? How does the coming judgement help us to be serious about this?

 

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