Peter seems to be unrelenting in delivering very difficult texts to adequately interpret. I find myself yet again struggling to find the most accurate way of understanding what he’s trying to say. But it’s not just Peter speaking here - it is God speaking through Peter’s writing to the believers of his own day and by extension to us. God is communicating something important to us here and we want to make sure we listen as He teaches. So Father we pray for understanding and wisdom as we approach our text this morning. We pray for the guidance of Holy Spirit that He would enable us to understand clearly what has been transmitted to us here. We pray that we would live in the way you have called us to live and to think in the way you have called us to think that we may glorify you in word, in thought, and in deed. These things we pray in Jesus name - Amen.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Peter continues his letter to our first century brothers and sisters and us saying that we need to arm ourselves. This language is used by Paul as well when he speaks to the Ephesians about Christian living and how we are to put on the full armor of God. We as Christians if we are to live the lives we are called to we must take up the proper armaments - we must arm ourselves and equip ourselves. But with what? Whereas Paul chooses to use an entire suit of armor, shield, and sword to specifically and with precision talk about various aspects of mentality and spirituality Peter chooses to focus on the one thing that affects everything. Peter goes to the root from which Paul’s metaphorical armor springs. Peter focuses on our thinking, our minds, our intentions, our desires, our will - the mental seat of our being. Peter says we are to arm ourselves with a manner of thinking. What manner of thinking? Peter is very specific - he says we are to arm ourselves with Christ’s way of thinking - Jesus will, intentions, thoughts, and desires. We are to have the mind of Christ - as believers we have the ability to think Jesus thoughts after Him - for our desires to align with His desires. Paul says as Christians we are already possessing of it - though we may not understand it or have developed this way of thinking yet. Paul specifically says in:
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:
We are by no means perfect people, but we are a people who benefit from Christ’s perfection and because of His perfection imputed to us we who are Christ’s sheep, His people will be declared perfect. This does not give us license to sin. To the contrary Paul and Peter are both extraordinarily clear on this point - that the truth of what God has done and what He is doing in us will inherently change us. Our DNA, the makeup of who we are deep down will be changed and radically altered, including how we think. And we are to not only embrace this metamorphosis - we are to cultivate it and develop it. We are to intentionally arm and equip ourselves as best as possible to glorify God and to obey Him.
Then Peter says this phrase that we get all twisted up in - for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. It’s a difficult phrase to translate to be sure. It does not mean that everyone who suffers ceases to sin ever again. First, Peter isn’t talking about everyone - he is talking about Jesus sheep, the elect exiles, believers - the people that he’s actually writing this letter to. Second Peter is in no way making a claim that suffering absolutely produces sinless, holy living. We must look at the full context of not only passage, paragraph, letter, but also the totality of scripture as well. We know from all scripture together that when people suffer, even when Christians suffer there are holy and unholy responses and we still sin. So what does Peter mean? Remember our context is specifically to the elect - Peter is writing to believers in particular who are under increasing amounts of persecution, that fluctuate by location and time period, but who are undoubtedly wondering why if they are obeying Christ they are not receiving the blessings of God that they associate with obedience. Many may wonder, have I done something wrong? Is God punishing me? Why are bad things happening? Peter clearly shows that suffering falls on both righteous and unrighteous, no person is immune. Even Jesus Christ - the God-man, suffered in the flesh. He who was perfect suffered - but we should share the same mind of Christ that He had in the midst of suffering - that it does not matter how terrible the suffering becomes, it doesn’t matter how intense the persecution that is heaped upon us, it does not matter what people say or do we will not fail - we will not falter in trusting in the Father’s good and sovereign will. We are to have faith - to trust, even when hardship comes. We don’t abandon righteousness because the going gets tough, we are to stay the course, we are to hold fast, we are to keep our hands on the plow and never look back.
And make no mistake - it’s difficult, nay impossible for man to do this. We need to power of God to enable us and to inhabit us and to empower us. We need God in order to follow God and in order to obey God. You will never cease to sin apart from God. You will never have any desire to depart from sin apart from God’s work in your life. Those who are not in Christ - you love your sin. But for those of us coming unto Christ - there is a clear break with sin. Not an utter cessation, but rather a departure from sin as not only the norm, but the desire. And that’s exactly where Peter’s focus shifts to - the desires of man.
We just saw that Peter says we should arm ourselves with the mind of Christ - the same way of thinking as Jesus - but to what end? Why do we arm ourselves? What is the end goal - the objective if you will of arming ourselves?
Peter says why in verse 2
so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
We are to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ so that our lives are changed. Belief affects behavior, we are to believe, to think as Christ thought and as we do the deepest desires of our hearts will change. As the Holy Spirit indwells us there is a metamorphosis that occurs, a transformation that has already and is continuing to take place. And Peter says it affects the deepest desires of our being, our passions are reshaped. This doesn’t mean that we loose all passion and all desire. Far too often our tendency in Christianity has been to align ourselves with the pagan Buddhist philosophy of purging desire rather than the teaching of the Bible that our desires are not to conform to the world’s desires and intentions, but rather that we are to have desires that coincide with the will of God. We aren’t to have the same lusts and cravings as the world, we are to have a desire to see God’s intentions, God’s plans, God’s purposes, God’s goodwill, and want for joy for His people.
When the Holy Spirit begins His regenerative work and be begin our coming to Christ we are radically and fundamentally altered, not just for a time, but the entire course of the life of God’s elect changes. Peter says that the rest our time in the flesh - the rest of this bodily existence is now for the will of God, which we now desire to see done and to be instruments of.
Some people see this and think how restrictive this is to man’s will and passion, but it’s actually quite the opposite. God’s will frees our passions and perfects our desires making them holy and righteous and no longer enslaved to our sin. And make no mistake man’s will is either enslaved to sin or it is freed by God’s power to align with God’s will. There is no free agency. For far too long in the church we have embraced a lie from the enlightenment that man is a free, unbiased, unbound agent, that man is utterly and completely autonomous, but that is not what the Bible teaches. That is a teaching of secular humanism, not Christianity. You will either be a slave of sin, a slave to your own passions and lusts and desires and cravings or you will be a bondservant of Christ whose desires have been and are being transformed in Christ Jesus to be holy and righteous aligning with His own intentions and plans.
My question for you today is have you been set free by Jesus, to serve and follow Him or are you bound and enslaved by sin and death? My friends if you Christ has not set you free than you are not free, but if He has set you free than you are free indeed.
So how can you be freed? You must believe and trust in Jesus, you must throw yourself upon His mercy. You must come to Jesus Christ who clearly says that He is the only way to the Father, the only one who can give salvation, and the only one who can raise you up on the last day. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved - trust Him and entrust yourself to Him completely and He will be good to His word.
If you are ready to trust in Jesus we’re going to have a moment for you to publicly declare that trust, to make a proclamation of faith right now. If that’s you, come forward as we stand and sing together.