Living out our new Christian life

1 Peter 4:2 … live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. 3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. 5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

In our passage today, Peter highlights the difference between our old life and our new life – our old life governed by sensuality and worldliness; our new life guided by God’s will. And he writes about the pressures that come on us from our old lifestyle.

He continues a theme already mentioned by Paul in his letters to the Romans 8:13-14

13 let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

and his letter to the Galatians 5:19-21

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Notice the human desires in all the passages contain the same ingredients:

Licentiousness, which means promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters – and drunkenness are mentioned in all three lists.  Those two could also be identified as the woes of today too.  I don’t think I need to expand on why they are still the issue which divides Christian from non-Christian.

Unconstrained sex and substance abuse – they are the bane of our community.

The human desires and the will of God that Peter mentions are mutually exclusive. They cannot be blended. We cannot serve 2 masters. Human desires or the will of God, but not both.

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Our old life before we became a Christian is gone. Our new life is in Christ.  When we think of our old life, there should come over us a sense of embarrassment that we could have been that way in the past and it should resolve us to have a firm intention not to return to that way of behaving.

Remember the verses regularly used at baptism:

Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin—

We who have been given new life through Christ should look with revulsion at the lifestyle that once swept us along with the crowd. But equally those living in the licentious fast lane will look with scorn and contempt at the moral life of the born-again Christian.[1]

It was precisely the reluctance of the first century Christians to participate in the routine of the contemporary life, particularly … any function involving contact with idolatry or what they considered immortality, that caused them to be hated, despised and themselves suspected of illicit practices.[2]

Drawing the line in a new life will antagonise former friends. They will find our new behaviour bizarre, even threatening.

[Charles Colson story in Clowney p 173]

We will find that our old mates sometimes are no longer our mates because the light of Christ within us and our changed behaviour as a result of that light within us, shines into the darkness of their lives and we know that darkness shuns the light, and creatures of the night hide from the daylight.

Our changed life exposes the unsavoury life that they have, and they don’t like what they look like, so they attack the mirror that shows them up.

Does that mean that we are now perfect, and that sin is no longer a problem for us?  No, Peter in this passage is urging us to forsake sin, to say No to sin, recognising that we are not there yet.

As one writer put it, we have died to sin and we have gained the freedom to live according to the will of God[3].

We now have the freedom to choose our behaviours; we have the freedom to choose whether to follow the way of God or return to our old ways. We have the freedom to live according to the will of God or not.

Joshua at the time of the Israelites entry to the Promised Land, he gave them exactly that choice:

Joshua 24:14

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; cast aside the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15But if it is unpleasing in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!”

I hope that we all choose the way of the will of God. 

And although the new path will be hard, it is not impossible because we do not do it in our own strength. Remember, we do it in the strength of the Holy Spirit who resides within us.

As Larry Shallenberger wrote: We breathe in God’s moral nature because our own goodness is not enough to sustain us. We breathe in God’s wisdom because our own ideas leave us stifled. We breathe in God’s strength because our muscles have cramped from living an anaerobic life. [4]

The old man was crucified, but the patterns he established are still there in the soul and need to be corrected. The patterns on the soul are so strong that we may forget to listen to the spirit, and just react from emotion, will and intellect [5] The thought pathways in our brain that lead to behaviour need to be realigned to match God’s will. 

The super motorway of thoughts leading to addiction and wrong behaviour needs to be closed off and the little winding path of righteous living needs to be strengthened. Put up the road closed signs on that motorway and let the weeds grow there and let us turn and drive constantly on the new pathway, and every time we use it, it will get stronger.

Think of the Edendale road changes.  For years we have gone through Edendale, slowed for the school, bumped over the railway tracks, sat at 50, then 80 past the Cheese Factory, bumped across the factory railway line before speeding to our destination.

Soon we will bypass all that and keep on at full speed.

That is like our brain.  For years we have bumped along in our old man thinking. But when the new life comes, we bypass that pathway and speed along on the righteous pathway of choices.

The tug on our lives is to return to the old life, especially if we continue to surround ourselves with those who still relish those ways.

One pithy little observation: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

Who do you spend time with?

Now we have a new life and Peter reminds us that there is no turning back to our old lives.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer bluntly tells us that the disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead. He is called out and has to forsake his old life in order that he may exist in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered.[6]

To continue to live our old life whilst professing our faith in God is to give lie to our words. Paul was shocked when he discovered there were those who thought they could:

Romans 6:1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Our freedom in Christ does not give us freedom to sin.  The theological term for this belief is antinomianism. An antinomian is one who takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of asserting that the saved are not bound to follow the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments.

In other words, saved by grace, therefore free to sin.  Clearly this is wrong thinking.

It takes no account of today’s passage from 1 Peter 4

live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

There are behaviours that should not be in the range of acceptable things for Christians to do and Peter lists them:

debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (NIV)

sex sin, lust, getting drunk, wild parties, drinking bouts, and the worship of idols, and other terrible sins. (living bible)

That does not mean that Christians are boring.

Jesus said in John 10:10

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

He wants every believer to experience what he called the abundant life. Therefore, the Holy Spirit leads Christians into a deeper and deeper knowledge of him.[7]

As the people of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses gathered them together and reminded them of all God had promised: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deut. 30:15–16 NIV).

You choose!



[1] Edmund Clowney The Message of 1 Peter 171

[2] JND Kelly The Epistles of Peter and of Jude 171

[3] Clowney 171

[4] Larry Shallenberger Divine Intention: How God's Work in the Early Church Empowers Us Today  9

[5] Dennis and Rita Bennett Trinity of Man 110-1

[6] Dietrich Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship 58

 

[7] Henry and Richard Blackaby Hearing God’s Voice 68