Arm Yourselves With a Way of Thinking
I am very excited to get into this passage with you. And if you’re visiting, my name’s Peter, the teaching pastor here, and I’m thrilled you’re here, joining us for our journey through 1 Peter. Whether you’re doing it here or online, we’re glad to have you. Let’s pray.
Father, we ask that your Spirit would open our eyes this morning to how much better your way is even if it’s a way of suffering. With you it is better than a way of sinning without you. Help us see what we naturally cannot see. We’re asking that your Spirit move among us and speak through your Word. We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.
I am fascinated by the way one decision between two different ways of thinking can make all the difference between the success and the failure of an entire enterprise. Let me give you an example — the building of the Panama Canal. When the canal was being built, thousands of workers each year were expected to die of yellow fever or malaria. The French attempt at building a canal had already failed due to mudslides, cash shortages, and especially disease. And the Americans were going to fail as well. How do you recruit workers when they know they’re going to die?
David McCullough chronicles in The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal that the prevailing way of thinking about the transmission of yellow fever and malaria at the time had to do with filth. The solution was sanitation. Clean up the streets, you’ll clear up the disease. But it wasn’t working. In steps the new medical officer, Dr. William Gorgas, Colonel William Gorgas. Dr. Gorgas was known in medical school as
“a devout Christian, a careless speller, too poor to go home for vacations, the most likable man in the class, and imperturbable,”
… unable to be perturbed. So, he was a steady, not easily bothered person, and he had given his life to eradicating yellow fever.
While serving in Cuba, he became convinced that he was wrong, along with everybody else, about how the disease was transmitted. He watched. There were several doctors who actually allowed themselves to be infected by mosquitoes, and some even died doing it to prove that it was the mosquitoes that transmitted the disease. He learned who the real enemy was, and he was determined to eliminate the mosquito breeding grounds and to provide safer living quarters and work sites. He hired teams to fumigate and put, imagine this, screens on the windows. There were no screens on the windows. But all of this cost a lot of money and a lot of manpower, and it was about to come to an end. Theodore Shonts, who was the head of the Canal Commission, did not believe the mosquito theory. And he went to President Theodore Roosevelt to get Dr. Gorgas fired. He actually liked Gorgas. He just disagreed with him on the mosquito theory. And President Roosevelt consulted with two medical doctors prior to making his decision. One of them, Dr. Alexander Lambert, said these now famous words.
“Smells and filth, Mr. President, have nothing to do with either the malaria or the yellow fever. You are facing one of the greatest decisions of your career. You must choose between Shonts and Gorgas. [Remember Shonts is trying to get Gorgas fired.] If you fall back upon the old methods of sanitation, you will fail, just as the French failed. If you back up Gorgas and his ideas and let him pursue his campaign against the mosquitoes, you will get your canal.”
Guess what Roosevelt did? Well, he told Shonts to back Gorgas, and to Shonts’s credit, he went all in and gave Gorgas everything he needed. And within a year and a half, yellow fever was gone from the canal region, malaria was in major decline, and the canal construction continued.
President Roosevelt had to make a decision between two different ways of thinking. One of these ways of thinking was extremely familiar. Everybody believed it. One of them was very foreign. Hardly anyone believed it. And the decision that was made between these two different ways of thinking would determine the success and failure of the entire enterprise and have repercussions across the world because hundreds of thousands of people were dying every year from yellow fever and malaria.
And this kind of crossroad is what Peter is referring to with much more at stake in 1 Peter 4:1. Let’s look at it.
“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.”
Now, start at the end of verse 2, and let’s work our way back. Two different ways of living are described here. We either live for human passions, or we live for the will of God. And these come with two different ways of thinking — either the way Jesus modeled, which is foreign to us, or the way we naturally think, which is obviously familiar to us.
Let’s look at those two. Living for human passions, the familiar one, assumes that sinning is better than suffering. Sinning is better than suffering. I would rather be silent if it means keeping my job. I would rather fit in if it means not being thought of as weird. I would rather have fun than follow what God says is true. Sinning is better than suffering.
But then there’s this second way of living and thinking that we could call living for the will of God, which assumes, and this is the way of thinking, that suffering is better than sinning, that suffering in the will of God … We’re not talking about just loving suffering, we’re talking about suffering, if God wills, is better than sinning outside of his will. Look at verse 1 again. “For whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” Do you see the tension between suffering and sin? It doesn’t mean you will never sin again. But it means the dominion and control of sin is shattered when you embrace the fact that suffering is better than sinning, that there’s something worth more than getting what I want immediately.
And what Peter is saying, and this is the main command, the main point in this whole passage. “Arm yourselves with the same way of thinking,” this way-of-Christ thinking. When Jesus said to the Father,
“Not my will, but yours,” [Luke 22:42]
he was saying, “I would rather suffer with you than sin without you. Even if I could avoid suffering, I would rather have the suffering if it means having you.”
The command there, “arm yourselves,” has a rich history. It’s the Greek verb “hoplizo,” and it comes from Hoplites, who were the Greek elite infantry soldiers who dominated the battlefield from 5th century B.C. to Alexander the Great. Hoplites are named after their hoplon, which is the round, big shield that formed part of their armor. So, when Peter says “arm yourself/hoplizo yourself” with a way of thinking, he is saying this way of thinking will make all the difference in the battle between success and failure, between life and death. So, arm yourselves! He’s like a Greek general preparing his forces to not be wiped out or like Dr. Lambert, who was telling President Roosevelt that if you choose this way of thinking, you’re going to lose a lot of men, and you’re not going to get your canal. If you choose this way … One way, success and save a lot of lives; the other way, failure and lose a lot of lives.
So, what do these two ways in 1 Peter 4 actually look like? Peter’s going to spell it out for us quite specifically. He mentioned two options at the end of verse 2, the “for human passions” and the “for the will of God.” Now he’s going to describe these. First, the “living for human passions” in verses 3-5. And you’ll notice he begins with a time reference in verse 3.
“for the time that his past suffices”
And one of the ways we know he’s going to describe the will of God next is he, in verse 7, begins with a time reference again in verse 7, and then describes that other way of living.
So, let’s begin. “For the time that is past suffices.” The word “suffices” simply means “is enough.” Whether you trust Jesus at five years old or ninety-five years old, it’s enough. It’s enough thinking according to human passions. It’s more than enough. Well, if I’m living in human passions, what does that look like? And he outlines three characteristics.
First, those who are living for human passions do what we want to do. We do what we want to do. You’ll see it in verse 3.
“For doing what the Gentiles want to do”
And you can tell what kind of lifestyle these believers were saved from by looking at the examples Peter gives. Let’s look at these —
Living in sensuality, which is unrestrained living, and this can come in endless forms, but it’s when we order our lives around our appetites;
Passions are all kinds of cravings, urges that drive my priorities and decisions. My passions are my principles;
Drunkenness, which is excessive alcohol consumption, where I’m using alcohol to dull the pain or to counter the boredom;
Orgies are celebrations devoted to sensual pleasure;
Drinking parties are immoral and excessive amusement. Now, don’t think from this list that the Bible’s anti-fun. Remember, Jesus began his ministry with a multi-day celebration. So, he’s not saying, “If you’re having a good time, you’re not being a Christian.” The opposite is true. What he’s outlining here is there’s a kind of fun that is counterproductive;
Lawless idolatry — profane, false worship.
When we worship our passions, limitations feel wrong. We begin to say things like “Why would God give me a desire he didn’t want me to satisfy? So, if I feel an urge to buy something or beat someone or a sexual craving, that had to come from God, and that has to be satisfied.” That’s the way we think when we’re living for human passions.
Secondly, we not only do what we want to do, but we are surprised when others don’t do what we do. Verse 4,
“With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”
So, think of the young Christian man playing college sports. He’s on a team training with the same guys, traveling, eating, enjoying. They love each other, you know, they’re (true story) in a restaurant after a game on a road trip, and the guys around the table are talking about marriage “Why would we want to? When we can sleep with all the women, why would we want to limit ourselves to one? Maybe when we’re thirty, thirty-five, somewhere around then, after we’ve had enough fun, we might think about it.”
And then, all the faces turn to you. You’re the Christian, and they know how you live, and they start questioning you. “What in the world? Why are you waiting? Why are you not having all the fun that’s here to have? Why do you want to get married so young?” And they begin to mock you, as Peter says, “malign” you.
Now, first of all, you’re not offended, and you’re not surprised. How can you be? If I were living for human passions, I would do and think exactly what they’re thinking and doing, right? And you’d be crazy not to. But if you’re living for the will of God, then you’re coming at the world from a completely different direction. And as you seek that night to share some of that, they’re going to think you’re crazy. And it’s okay, what Peter says. They are surprised when you don’t do everything they do because they’re coming from a way of looking at their desires in the world. What is most shocking is that so many people who claim to follow Jesus live the same way as those who don’t. That’s the shock! That’s the scandal! Not when someone who is devoted to human passions does what they do.
Third, we’re not only surprised when others don’t, we will give an account to God. Verse 5,
“But they [that is, those who live for human passions] will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
So, people who follow their passions assume that their passions are the ultimate authority. “I only answer to me for what I feel. It’s my body. I am ultimately accountable to me, and I define who I am.”
This week I was reading in Isaiah, and God was speaking to Babylon, which symbolizes the cities of the world. And listen to what he said. This is sobering.
“You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’”
Do you see? God is not the I am. I am the I am. “And there’s no one besides me.” I’m not going to give account to anyone. There’s no authority over me. Who are you or anyone else to tell me what to do with my body, my life?
“But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing.” [Isaiah 47:10-11]
That is terrible. That is terrifying. Brothers and sisters, if you are a follower of Jesus and you are tempted, like we all are, to go back and live for human passions, that alone should wake us up to remind us that who else is going to show a different way of living and a different way of thinking? Who else if we aren’t loving our coworkers, our neighbors, our lost friends in a way that warns? You don’t want to stand before your maker and suddenly realize that you are not the I am. He is.
Peter then transitions in verse 6 from describing what it’s like to live for human passions to describing what it’s like to live for the will of God. Notice this transitional verse, verse 6,
“For this is why”
What is why? The reality of judgment that you’re not the ultimate judge.
“This is why the gospel was preached [so we won’t be condemned] even to those who are dead now”
Who weren’t dead when they heard the gospel but are now dead.
“That, though judged in the flesh the way people are,”
In other words, though, whether believers or not believers, we’re all mortal. That’s what he means “judged in the flesh.” We’re going to die unless Jesus comes.
“That they might live in the spirit the way God does.”
So, what Peter is getting at is those who live for human passions can look at the world and they’ll say, “Hey, there’s so much fun here. Why would I want to give up this and follow God? And besides, you’re going to die; I’m going to die. We’re all going back to dirt. So, what does it matter?” And Peter is acknowledging yes, whether you’re a believer or not a believer, unless Jesus comes first, you’re going to die. But that’s where he ends “they might live in the spirit the way God does.” Death is not the end. There is a resurrection that leads to a kind of life that is God-like, and that prompts him, the way God does prompts Peter to begin describing what this different way of living according to the will of God looks like. He’s described what it looks like to live for human passions, and now he’s describing what it looks like to live for the will of God. And he begins in verse 7 with a time reference, just like he began back up above,
“the end of all things is at hand.”
What does that mean? “The end of all things is at hand.” Some people think that Peter believed that Jesus was going to come back right away and that basically, he got it wrong, he was mistaken.
I have a hard time believing that for many reasons. Let me just give you two. One is Peter was there when Jesus said very specifically in Acts 1:6. All the disciples came together. They asked him,
“‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know.’”
Not for you to know. Apostle Peter, big dog in the church.
“Not for you to know times or seasons that the Father is fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power.”
So, Jesus doesn’t answer his question, or basically says I’m not going to tell you, and then focuses on his calling.
“You’re going to receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Peter, that’s what I want you to focus on. Jesus made clear your call is to proclaim, not to prognosticate. It seems hard to believe that he believed that Peter believed this was going to happen at a certain time.
Secondly, Peter uses the word, this word “end.” It’s “telos” in the Greek. We get our word teleological, which has to do with design or purpose. It can mean “limit or completion,” but it also means “aim or design or purpose.” And so, Peter is saying, even though for God one day is as a thousand years (so, it’s really hard to figure out timetables with God), even though that’s true, all things are coming toward a consummation, a climax. That’s what he means by “the purpose of all things is at hand.” The culmination of all things is at hand, moving toward its design.
And so, in light of that, how should we think? Should we think that following human passions is better than suffering? In other words, getting what we want is better than suffering. Or should we think that following the will of God, even if it means suffering, is better?
And Peter goes on to describe three characteristics. He’s shown us three characteristics of living for human passions, and now he’s showing us three characteristics of living for the will of God, and they are remarkably practical. Look at what they are.
Number 1, we think clearly. Verse 7,
“Therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
This, again, is a beautiful picture of what we’ve been calling “Christian mindfulness.” Let’s look at each one of these words. They’re key. “Self-controlled” means “sound in mind.” It’s the opposite of being hotheaded or irrational. It’s a kind of psychological symmetry. In other words, having a sense of proportion to things. And it includes keeping your head when everyone else is losing theirs; being self-controlled.
Being “sober-minded” is the next one. That is “clear headed, free from delusion or intoxication.” And both of these are (4:7) “for the sake of your prayers.” It’s like, what? What is the connection between clear-headedness and prayer? There does seem to be a tight connection here that warped thinking will lead to warped praying. And James picks up on that and touches on something similar when he says in James 4:3,
“You have not because you ask not. When you ask, you ask wrongly, [why?] to spend it upon your passions.”
What he’s alluding to here seems to be that you can actually be living for human passions and warp your prayer life right into that so that you’re not thinking clearly. You’re actually just praying according to your human passions, not according to God’s will.
This is one of the reasons we started our year with two Formations. Do you remember the very first two Formations this year were praying God’s Word back to God? Because I’ll just tell you (and I think this is a big part of arming yourselves, which is the main command here), when my mind is feeling chaotic and my emotions are swirling and I’m not sure exactly what to think about something, the thing that helps me more than anything is to pray God’s Word back to God. It doesn’t mean I’m not spilling my guts because I think God wants to hear our guts. He wants us to share it all, raw, unfiltered. He just wants you to come. But as we share, having these ruts of truth that we’re crying back up to God is a way in which our minds are cleared of the fog of human passions. And my prayers are brought to God in a way that I know He’s going to answer because I’m praying his promises back to him. So, Peter says this is one of the big differences between living for human passions and living for the will of God, the way we arm ourselves. We’re thinking truthfully, clearly.
Secondly, we’re loving earnestly. Look at verse 8.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Peter called us to love one another earnestly back in chapter 1, but here, he adds, “above all” and “keep,” implying that it’s easy to start loving earnestly. It’s hard to keep loving earnestly. I’m really good at starting, but as soon as you disappoint me, my love can shrivel up, hmm? He’s saying, “No, keep, keep loving earnestly.” And do you notice what Peter’s doing here? Christian mindfulness, yes, begins in the mind and heart, but it doesn’t stay there. Peter is saying essentially, “Get out of your head. Stop trying to figure him out. Stop trying to figure out what they’re thinking. Stop trying to measure who’s giving more in the relationship. Keep loving one another earnestly.” Why? “Since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Now, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that our love can cover sins in the way Jesus’s sacrifice atoned for sin. But he means that when we keep loving earnestly, the disappointments, the resentments, the misunderstandings, the offenses that tend to build up like sediment and destroy marriages and friendships and ministry relationships, those are spoken where appropriate, confessed, forgiven, covered. And in that sense, love covers a multitude of sins.
And Peter keeps moving outward. Look at verse 9,
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,”
without gongysmos-ing. That’s that onomatopoeia word. It means what it sounds like. Gongysmos. Keep showing hospitality without complaining. And this is very important that Peter anticipates this because if you don’t have a reason to complain, join a life group, get in community. And as soon as you’re in community, as long as you isolate yourself and only associate with certain people that you are really close to, you’re fine. But as soon as you get with a group, that’s a little beyond that.
And you know, in almost every life group, you’re going to have someone who wants to bring up politics and destroy every discussion. You’re going to have someone who dominates the conversation. You’re going to have someone who won’t share. You’re going to have someone who will take someone else’s sharing and somehow, amazingly, make it about them. It’s a gift. You’re going to have someone who, when you’re looking at a particular text and everybody’s talking about “yeah that’s what it means,” and they’re going to give an interpretation where you’re like, “Really? Are you reading the same Bible?” And so, there’s going to be a temptation to stop loving earnestly, to pull back and to look for a different church maybe, or a different life group because “I’ve got to find a life group with real community.” What is real community? “Well, it’s not having anybody who wants to go political. It’s not having anybody who talks too much. It’s not having anybody who shares wrongly or misinterprets the text.” Are you talking about heaven? It doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist.
And so, God calls us … And Peter had been a part of lots of house churches, I’m sure, and had heard people sharing. I would have just loved watching his face as people are talking about Jesus, and he’s like, “I was there, and that ain’t it.” And so, that’s why he adds these words — “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.” It’s not going to be automatic. It’s not going to be easy. And at times it’s not going to feel spiritual. And when you show hospitality, you’re going to get lots of reasons to grumble. Open your home up, open your heart up, and you will have reason to complain. I’m not picking on us. I’m just saying this is life as Peter is describing.
But here’s the beautiful part. Right in the middle of that mess — that group of imperfect people who are coming together to pray for one another, to learn to love one another — that’s where God does his biggest miracles. That’s where he changes us if we won’t bolt. So, keep loving one another earnestly, and keep showing hospitality. You’re so good at this! Without complaining. Love earnestly. Do you see the difference between following human passions, which is so ingrown and cesspool-ish, and loving earnestly, which is moving out? It can be very uncomfortable.
And then finally he takes it one more step out — serve. We serve dependently. We serve dependently. First Peter 4:10,
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another”
So, Christian mindfulness doesn’t stay in the mind.
“as good stewards of God’s varied grace: [God’s multifaceted, multicolored grace] whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies”
That’s what I mean by “serve dependently” in the sense of “I know if I’m going to do anything to bless God’s people, it has to be with the energy He provides. I can’t do it on my own.”
“In order that in everything”
we may be well thought of. Is that what it says? “In order that in everything” people will appreciate what we’ve done and see how … No.
“In everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
That’s the goal. And that’s the difference. A life lived for human passions ends up turning in on itself. A life lived for the will of God brings glory to God and joy to us.
Liz Wiseman has written a Wall Street Journal best-selling book many years ago called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. And in the revised edition, she describes how leaders either drain capacity or amplify the capacity of those on their teams. And near the beginning of the book, she tells of a time when she joined a senior executive of a technology company in a brainstorming meeting. And this company employed over four thousand highly educated knowledge workers from top universities around the world. And Liz was in a meeting with the senior management team with twenty people, and they were troubleshooting an important go-to-market problem, one of their key products. And as she and this senior executive were walking out of the meeting, they began talking about the discussion and the decisions of the meeting. But suddenly he stopped, and he turned, and he looked at her and said, “In meetings, I typically only listen to a couple of people. No one else really has anything to offer.” He saw the shock on her face. So, he added, “Well, of course you’re one of these people.” Liz is thinking “that kind of misses the point.” But she goes on to write,
“I doubted it. Out of the top twenty managers representing a division of four thousand people, he believed only a couple had anything to offer. As we walked down the hallway, we passed by rows and rows of cubicles and offices occupied by his staff. Seen through new eyes, this expanse now suddenly looked like a massive brainpower wasteland. I wanted to make a public announcement, tell them all that they could go home since their senior executive didn’t think they had much to offer.”
This way of thinking is what Liz calls “the mind of a Diminisher,” and she goes on to just contrast that with “the mind of a Multiplier.” How do leaders who are Multipliers think?
“Multipliers hold very different assumptions. If Diminishers see the world of intelligence in black-and-white, Multipliers see it in Technicolor.”
It’s so interesting that she said it that way because Peter has just used a Greek word to describe us as God’s stewards of God’s “varied grace.” That word “varied” literally means multicolored.
“Multipliers have a rich view of the intelligence of the people around them. They don’t see a world where just a few people deserve to do the thinking or doing. In addition, Multipliers see intelligence as continually developing.”
So, picture Peter. He’s writing this letter to Christians scattered throughout what is now Turkey. Many of them have been marginalized, possibly even lost their jobs, mocked for not living for human passions. And he’s imagining them in their little churches throughout the region. And notice, he doesn’t see a wasteland of human resources. He sees a kaleidoscope of God’s grace. He sees a huge amount of spiritual potential, people who are not defined by their maligners, but by their maker. And he is saying in this passage, the main command, “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” What is that way? That way, first of all, has decided, committed to the fact that suffering in the will of God is better than sinning outside of it, in contrast to following human passions, which believes the opposite and will do anything to maintain security, comfort, and esteem. And the lifestyles that flow from that once you made that decision. He is saying at the beginning of this passage that making that decision will send you in two very different directions, a direction of doing what you want to do, shocked that other people aren’t, and ultimately leading to judgment, or a direction that moves in toward thinking clearly, loving earnestly, and serving dependently for the glory of God and the good of our brothers and sisters. Let’s pray.
Father, I’ve been imagining a wide receiver who keeps getting open and yet drops the ball because, out of the corner of his eye, he’s watching the safety come at him, and he’s afraid of getting hit. And that fear of being hit shuts down his ability to execute the position he’s been called to play. And I wonder, Lord, if this passage has been given to us today for that purpose. Some of us need to face our fear. We’re afraid of the what-if’s, the if-only’s. What would it be like if I really followed you and I might lose some friends? Or at least I might be thought of as weird, might not be able to do everything I enjoy? I won’t be able to carry out my life the way I think it should be? Whatever that is, we pray, Lord, that you would open our eyes to the insanity of that fear. For you have not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. You have demonstrated your love for us, and that love through Jesus is better than any kind of life without you. There’s no comparison!
So, Lord, my heart is heavy for people who just know you in a principle, as a set of rules, but they don’t really know you in your steadfast love. And so, when push comes to shove, when losing something might be the price of following you, Lord, they don’t have any sense of your steadfast love that overcomes that fear. So, Spirit, we ask that you would pour out on us such an overwhelming sense of your love through Jesus that if we have failed in any of the areas that Peter describes, you are in a posture of receiving us, of embracing us, of forgiving us. There’s no condemnation! Fill us with your love so that we can see clearly, love earnestly, serve dependently on what you provide.
We pray that there would be a clear break today. Some of us who are in bondage to human passions. That means taking concrete action. It’s worth it. That means disappointing people around us who we’re afraid might think we’re a pervert or not a Christian or a hypocrite. We don’t care what they think. We want to follow you. So, God, sever those shackles that are keeping some of us from getting help. Lord, do those miracles in drawing us to yourself, filling us with your love so that we would be armed with the same way of thinking, the way of Jesus. We pray in his name. Amen.