1 Peter #13 1 Peter 4:1-6 Mission over Comfort: Master the Tyrant of Egoism
1 Peter #13 1 Peter 4:1-6 Mission over Comfort: Master the Tyrant of Egoism
If you are a believer, you should expect that at some time in your spiritual journey, you are going to be persecuted for your belief, even when your belief compels you to do good to others. Persecution can become intense causing you to suffer physical, emotional, and financial pain. Peter has been instructing a congregation experiencing social ostracization for their faith. They were experiencing prejudice, suspicion, and slander; the culture rejected them. The world will punish you for you acting out the righteousness that God has worked into you. Peter has written that to combat this negative propaganda Christians are to live exemplary lives in public and in private. Even when our good works are despised, believers are to respond with love. Peter lifts Jesus as our example and writes “Be like Him.”
1 Peter 4:1-6 (MSG)
Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. 2 Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
3 You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. 4 Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. 5 They're the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.
6 Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.
The Father declared you to be holy when you bent your knee to Jesus. Your sins were forgiven, your relationship with God was reconciled, and you are now one of God’s chosen people, adopted into His family, a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and an heir to eternal life. In the instant that this declaration was made the Holy Spirit has been transforming and empowering you to become the person God declared you to be, a person like Jesus.
To be holy, to live a devout life, is to be like Jesus so Jesus is our example when we find ourselves in a situation in which we are suffering for doing good. Jesus had faith that He was doing the will of the One He called Father (John 6:38). Because Jesus was doing what He believed to be right, He endured the abuse that was heaped upon him (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus thought that the mission was more important than his comfort. There is a specific mission that God has for you, you’ll find it where your passions and talents, and experience lie (1 Corinthians 12:7). There is a general mission for every believer (Matthew 28:18-20). That mission is to live a devout and holy life, the exemplary life that Peter urges us to live. We can summarize that mission as being a lover of God, a lover of others, a lover of self, and a lover of the earth. To be a lover of God, obey His commandments, and do His will throughout your life. To be a lover of others, and seek to meet their need even at the cost of a personal sacrifice, that’s exactly what Jesus did. To be a lover of self is to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, it’s by doing so that you will live your life to the full (Matthew 22:37-40). To be a lover of the earth is to be a wise steward of all the material goods that the Lord has entrusted you with (Genesis 2:15). In Jesus’ way of thinking the mission is what is most important. Think like Him (Philippians 2:5).
Peter gives us another perspective on suffering unjustly. When you unjustly suffer but keep on keeping on with what God wants, staying true to the mission, it means you are exerting mastery over egoism, that constant temptation to do what you want instead of what God wants (Galatians 5:17). We know that egoism is to always be self-centered, what is most important is your agenda and your desires (Proverbs 14:12). When you willingly set aside your comfort to pursue a Godly objective you are doing exactly what Jesus did (Luke 22:42). Doing so is an assurance that you are living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).
Peter tells us that we are tyrannized by our egoism. In the study of addiction, you learn that what starts as a seemingly good thing, a behavior that has some sort of gratifying reward, but the behavior can progress until the point that you become controlled by your desires (James 1:15). The rational part of your mind says doing what you are doing has become a detriment to living the life you want to, that rational part of you, is overridden by the addiction. I was in the ER with chest pains and the doctor ordered fentanyl to relieve the symptom. To me it looked like a quarter of a syringe was injected into my arm and instantly, no pain, instantly a feeling of well-being, instantly all was right in the world, and I was ready to go home. That feeling of euphoria, wow, it was great. The natural response is after this wears off, let's do it again. I remember calling after the nurse, “Don’t go, isn’t the rest of that syringe mine too?” The drug spike my dopamine levels well beyond any naturally occurring joy ride. The high wears off, and the temptation is next time you feel down and out of it, a little shot will help you feel better, and before you know it, you are hooked and in pursuit of your next fix above all else. You’ll steal from your mother if that is what it takes to please the master.
In your life before bending the knee to the Lordship of Jesus, you lived by egoism Psalm 81:12, Romans 1:26). Maybe your behavior was not as detrimental as a narcotic addiction but look at your relationships, your relationship with God, with others, with yourself, and with the earth. The earth represents all things material, think resources. There is a resource called time. We don’t know how much time we have (Psalm 90:12). We expect that we have more time coming, with no deadlines ahead of us. So, we waste our time on trivial pursuits. It’s my time, I’ll do with it what I want. Egoism convinces you that this thought and the subsequent behavior are perfectly fine.
Consider what Jesus taught:
Luke 12:15-21 (MSG)
Speaking to the people, he went on, "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot."
16 Then he told them this story: "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17 He talked to himself: 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' 18 Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grain and goods, 19 and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!'
20 "Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?'
21 "That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God."
Peter tells us that a barn full of self is exactly how you lived before you gave your allegiance to Jesus. What did it get you? Not much compared to you now living your life to the full, knowing God as Father and Jesus as friend, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing life as God intended.
Ever been so hungover that you graced the toilet with the contents of your stomach? Ever been so wasted that you can’t leave the party because you can’t find the door (Joe Walsh, Life’s Been Good)? Because of the power of the Holy Spirit, you say enough is enough, this is not who I want to be, you engage that empowerment and stop that behavior. So, you tell your friends: “No, no, no, no, I don’t do that no more (Ringo Star, No-No Song). Do your party buddies say, cool, I’m glad you’ve made a change for the better? Of course not. They call you out, try to shame you into joining them, maybe beg you to come along, they might call you names, all to get you to join in again with them. They want you with them not so much that you have a so-called “good time” but rather if you participate you confirm that it’s OK for them to indulge in self-destructive behavior (Romans 1:32). When it comes to friends of the world, it’s all about them. That’s what egoism does for you.
You know how to master egoism though. When you bent the knew to Jesus God sealed your commitment with the Holy Spirit. Sanctifying grace is the grace that the Holy Spirit utilizes to transform you into thinking like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). There comes a point in your spiritual journey where you realize that egoism still can hijack your best intentions and you’re sick of it. You are sick of asking to be forgiven for the same things over and over. You are sick of not getting done the things you know God wants you to do. You are sick of breaking God’s heart, you know He loves you. Remember when you were a kid and a parent told you “I’m disappointed in you.” Or worse, dad turned his back on you, or your mom started to cry because of something you did, remember that feeling? Or maybe as an adult you broke a promise and hurt someone you loved, do you remember that look in their eyes? When we allow egoism to direct our behaviors we break our promise to God. You feel bad, there is a sense of guilt, but worse in the knowledge that you hurt the one you love. Since you have already been partnering with the Holy Spirit, you seek His power to repent, once again never to do it again, but this time you are so serious you make a deeper commitment. You consecrate your life to God, your life to be used for His purposes and His purposes only. You present yourself as that living sacrifice that the Apostle Paul writes of in his letter to the Romans (Romans 12:1). The Holy Spirit now has your permission to crucify your egoism, to break the power of egoism to hijack your best intentions. Now you have the power to say no to those inward desires that war against what you know to be right. In the Holiness Movement of the Church, we call this becoming entirely sanctified, entire in that now you have entire control over the choices you make (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Now you are master, you are in charge, you choose, not some sabotaging spirit within. It’s glorious freedom (Glorious Freedom [Live] - Gaither Vocal Band - YouTube). With this new empowerment, you don’t go with the crowd, you don’t give in to their pressure, and you do what you know is right. If you need this kind of empowerment, seek it from God, ask for it, and let me know when God gives you this second blessing. Second blessing holiness helps you think like Jesus and that leads to you living an exemplary life even in the face of unjust suffering.
Verse 6 is a tough one to figure out what Peter means. I’ve looked at the original language and I am at the mercy of the scholars. I am not sure how to interpret this verse. Dr. Daniel G Powers writes: “Peter assures his embattled readers that their faith is not in vain, Despite their rejection by unbelievers and the death that had overtaken some fellow believers, their faith is not futile. The same judgment that will call unbelievers to account for their blasphemy will vindicate Christians. Believers should not despair for the now dead Christians; God will bring them to life” (Powers, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, p 131).
If Powers is correct, then while death remains the judgment upon all humanity, even Christians die before the return of Christ, they still get in on eternal life. The author of the letter to the Hebrews writes:
“Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ's death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation”
(Heb 9:27-28 (MSG).
It’s safe to assume that the believers to whom Peter was writing expected Jesus to return at any moment, definitely within their lifetime. The question is what of those who had died before the second coming, what is their status, did they miss out? Those who bent their knee to Jesus before they died and those who believed the gospel in this earthly life are not excluded from eternal life. “Peter assures his audience that dead believers, whether from persecution or other causes, had not forfeited the benefits of following Christ” (Powers p. 130).
The lesson you can take home from this exploration of chapter 4 verses 1-6 is that when it comes to unjust suffering the way you endure is to think like Jesus. For Jesus, the mission was more important than His own comfort. Recall the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was betrayed. Jesus prayed: "Papa, Father, you can—can't you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?" [Mark 14:36 (MSG)]
Be encouraged to think like Jesus amidst unjust suffering, “not what I want, but what you want Father.” As a follower of Christ, you have already been empowered to do so. Keep your eye on the prize, and complete the mission (Philippians 3:14).
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