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Why Should We Seek to Do God’s Will?

Why Should We Seek to Do God’s Will?

1 Peter 4:1–6 – Perspective: 1 Peter – April 3, 2022

Introduction

A reading of 1 Peter 4:1–6.

The harder something is, the more important it is to answer the WHY about it.

  • “Why do I have to do math?”
  • “Why do I need to keep disciplining my children?”
  • “Why should I keep working on this marriage? We’re never going to work things out?”
  • “Why should I keep going? Why not just end it all right now?”

Answering this WHY question is really important.

Our WHY today: Why should I keep doing the will of God when it’s so difficult?

  • Why not just give in and live like the world around me?
  • Why not just give in and do what I really want to do?

In this series called PERSPECTIVE, the apostle Peter is giving us Perspective.

  • Today, PERSPECTIVE on why persevere in doing the will of God.

His readers: We get a pretty clear sense of his readers in this passage. These readers aren’t converted Jews. They’re converted pagans who lived like the pagans around them. In this passage their lifestyle is very clear. They were partyers and over-the-top idolaters. Things not said of converted Jews.

But after they get saved their lives get a little difficult. Christianity has brought some suffering. Their new lifestyle doesn’t get them rewards but difficulties.

Sermon: Why keep doing the will of God? (1) The Example of Christ’s Suffering; (2) The Reality of Our Conversion; and (3) The Certainty of God’s Judgment.

Prayer

I. The Example of Christ’s Suffering

Peter is calling us to live out the rest of the time in the flesh for the will of God—not human passions.

His first reason is the example of Christ’s suffering.

A. Christ’s example of suffering is a thread throughout Peter’s letter.

1 Peter 2:21 (2:21–24):

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Pet 2:21)

And then again in 1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. (1 Pet 3:18)

When we turn to 1 Peter 4:1–2, you can hear the echoes of these two verses.

  • Read 1 Peter 4:1–2.
  • Points us to Christ’s example
  • Christ’s suffering = doing God’s will even if it brings suffering and persecution.
  • We’re to “arm ourselves with the same way of thinking.” “Arm yourself” = Miltaristic term. Reminder the Christian life requires GRIT.

B. Christ’s suffering showed he had “ceased from sin.”

  • We, too, are to SUFFER in this way and show we have “ceased from sin
  • Ceased from sin” doesn’t mean “have stopped sinning altogether.”
  • It means you’ve made a clean break from it.
  • You’ve turned away from it, a change to no longer be governed by sin.
  • Chosen the path of obedience—even if it brings suffering.[1]

From 1 Peter 4:2 it means choosing the “will of God” over “human passions.”

That’s a way to summarize the obedience of Christ—and the obedience we are to live out.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34)

It is a continual choice to live according to “the will of God” instead of those “human passions” in us and around us.

Shows us that HOLINESS and OBEDIENCE are relational.

  • We know God so we do what pleases him.
  • We know his will so we do what pleases him.
  • Not following a policy document.
  • Some impersonal list of laws.
  • Like Jesus—“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

C. APPLICATION: The truth is, God cares how we live.

It’s not legalism to believe this.

It’s like any relationship in your life that has real value, real weight.

In any relationship where the other person means a great deal to you, you care what their “will” is. What pleases them. If you don’t care at all what pleases them, it’s questionable whether you care about them at all.

II. The Reality of Our Conversion

Second reason to live according to “God’s will” and not “human passions” is the fact we’re not what we were.

Read 1 Peter 4:3–4.

He points to THE REALITY OF OUR CONVERSION.

A. Peter reminds his readers what they were like before they became Christians—in “the time that is past.”

Their lifestyle was characterized by:

  • Sensuality, passions” (V3)—sexual passions expressed outside of marriage.
  • Drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties” (V3)—all night parties which involved a lot of alcohol and a lot of behavior that was out of control because of that.
  • Lawless idolatry” (V3)—“Lawless” makes it sound a little tame, like it just means idolatry that violates the word of God. Peter means “detestable” (NIV) or “abominable” (KJV, NASB), behavior that was seen as inappropriate even by the standards of the culture around them.
  • The same flood of debauchery” (V4)—then he uses this sweeping phrase.

His readers were pagans living as pagans, living without any boundaries from God’s Word.

A lifestyle where you violate your God-given, hard-wired conscience so often and so seriously that eventually you don’t even feel bad about it.

That’s what Peter’s readers were saved out of. God reached down and pulled them out of that lifestyle.

Good to remember that we’re not the first generation of Christians to look at the culture around us and think they’ve totally lost their way.

He says “the time that is past suffices” for that kind of sinful lifestyle—don’t need any more of it. Understated but true.

B. How does the culture feel when Christians make this break with their past?

Peter describes the reaction, and it should feel familiar with our own day—V4.

First, “they are surprised” (V4) you don’t join in their sinful ways.

Second, “they malign you” (V4)—the word is blaspheme. They verbally attack you.

This isn’t true everywhere, all the time—Sometimes your new integrity will win you new respect.

But Peter helps with our EXPECTATIONS. Don’t EXPECT that your new Christian faith will be seen as a good thing by the world around you.

C. Application: Battles being fought today.

  • We can see how right Peter is by looking at the battles being fought today.
  • Battles being fought today aren’t with swords and burnings at the stake.
  • That’s progress!
  • More and more battles fought in courtrooms and legislatures.
  • Christian organizations being sued for hate speech or discrimination of some kind—because they aren’t step with certain progressive viewpoints—typically gender and marriage issues.
  • And Christians and Christian organizations are suing to protect freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
  • Which means, suing to be allowed to live out our Christian convictions without punishment.

Peter could make the same observation in our day. Here is his Verse 4 only slightly modified:

With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in their causes and convictions, and they malign you.

1 Peter 4:4, Daniel’s modern paraphrase

Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

III. The Certainity of God’s Judgment

A third reason to live according to God’s will and not human passions is the certainty of God’s judgment.

  • If you take away God’s judgment, one of the enormous motivators to holiness disappears.
  • Like the difference between taking a class for AUDIT and taking it for CREDIT.
  • Not graded at all? Not nearly as motivated to do hard work.
  • But if there’s a final exam that covers all the material? Motivation!

Read 1 Peter 4:5–6.

 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. (1 Pet 4:5–6)

A. First, the Reality of Judgment (V5)

Future—but certain!: “They WILL give account.”

Detailed: “Give account.”

Imminent: “To him who is READY to judge the living and the dead.” 1 Peter 4:7, "The end of all things is NEAR."

Universal: All people and all time. “Judge the living and the dead.” Phrase that means “all people throughout all human history.”

B. It’s this judgment that helps us see the gospel more clearly.

This is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead”!

It’s the reality of death and the reality of judgment that are key reasons why the gospel is preached.”

Peter makes the curious statement: “preached even to those who are dead.”

  • By “dead” here he means those who have physically died
  • For the first Christians death was actually a problem to solve.
  • They had watched Jesus raise Lazarus and then escape death himself.
  • Jesus had taught that he was the resurrection and those who believed in him would “never die” (John 11:26).
  • He had taught that he was returning soon and this generation wouldn’t pass away before he did.

But now Peter’s writing in the AD 60s. 30 years after the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

  • Hundreds had died—some of natural causes but others like Stephen were killed for their faith.

C. How is the gospel “good news” if Christians still keep dying?

The answer is that physical death is not the end of our story.

  • It’s just the way we get to the next part.
  • It’s the door you go through to get to the show.

Because of the gospel we can “live in the spirit the way God does.”

  • Become what we were meant to be.
  • Experience fellowship with other people way were meant to.
  • Experience communion with God the way we were meant to.

Because of the gospel we don’t need to fear God’s judgment—Christ the Judge is also Christ our Savior:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet 2:24)

Because of the gospel DEATH doesn’t get the last word—Christ’s victory does!

  • In this life we might be maligned and persecuted by people—even to the point of death.
  • But the gospel triumphs over death.
  • Death isn’t the last word, Christ’s victory is. We will live on!

Ed Clowney:

We must remember that the death of Christians created a problem for the church in the time of the apostles…. The death of Christians seemed to confirm…skepticism. This would surely be heightened if some of the Christians who had died had been martyred. They then would have died under human judgment. Peter gives a strong answer. Christ the Judge was preached to those who are now dead. He was preached, and they believed…. Although they might be judged in the flesh in the eyes of human beings, they live in the spirit in the eyes of God.
Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter[2]

Conclusion

WHY persevere in doing God’s will—even if it brings suffering?

  • Because that’s what it means to follow Christ and his example—who did the will of God even if it meant suffering.
  • Because of the reality of our conversion—we aren’t what we were, so we shouldn’t live how we lived.
  • Because of the certainty of God’s judgment.

Application: “Where do I start?”

  • #1 – Acknowledge your emptiness—knowing WHAT and WHY, you still need the HOW—“Father, have mercy on me for not doing your will. I can’t do it.” “But YOU in me can.”
  • #2 – Pray for God’s help—“Help me to do it.”
  • #3 – Read the Bible to know what to do.
  • #4 – Go and do what it says—knowing it’s Christ IN YOU doing the work.
  • When you fail, when you sin, go back to #1 and repeat.

Application: Think about your death.

The young Jonathan Edwards famously wrote down a list of RESOLUTIONS.

  1. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
    Jonathan Edwards, Resolutions[3]

Prayer and closing song, “In Christ Alone.”

[1] See the 1 Peter commentaries by Thomas Schreiner (NAC, his notes in the ESV Study Bible) and Wayne Grudem (TNTC) for full explanations and the alternative views on this verse.

[2] Edmund P. Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, BST (InterVarsity, 1988), 175–176.

[3] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-resolutions-of-jonathan-edwards

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