By J.R. Miller
1 Peter 4:1-8
"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." It was not easy for Christ to be our Redeemer. He was in this world as the Captain of our salvation, and His work here was a conflict. He came to destroy the works of the Devil. He met sin and sin's influences everywhere. It was not easy for Him to fight the battle. He resisted unto blood, striving against sin. He went to the cross for us, bearing our sin. We are His followers, and should be inspired by His example--should arm ourselves with the same mind.
Jesus taught that not only He must bear His cross--but that every one that would follow Him--must likewise take up the cross. He taught that the only way to save one's life--is to lose it, to hate it, to be ready to sacrifice it. We never can get through life victoriously, unless we fight. The armor we need is not something to put on outside--but a holy heart and mind within. That was Christ's armor as He went through life. He had no helmet of brass, no sword of steel; His holy purpose was His armor, and He was victorious. If we have a pure heart and a holy life, the world will have no power over us. The best armor--is the armor of the soul.
We are not to understand that the Christian who has died with Christ, shall never sin any more--but that he has given up his sins, repented of them, and renounced them. He used to make his sins part of the aim of his life. He loved them; his heart ran to them greedily. Now he is a Christian, he has taken Christ as his Savior, he has found mercy. Hence he gives up the sins which he used to commit. Instead of following the devices and desires of his own evil heart--he now lives according to the will of God. This is the way every Christian should live. We should crucify the flesh--the old evil things, and let Christ live in us. This is the change that Christ works in every life that is given to Him. That is what the new birth means.
There is an old legend of an instrument which hung upon a castle wall. Its strings were broken and it was filled with dust. No one understood it, and no one could put it in order. But one day a stranger came to the castle. He saw the instrument on the wall. Taking it down, he quickly brushed the webs of dust from it, and with gentle hand reset the broken strings and began to play upon it. The chords long silent awoke, beneath his touch, and the castle was filled with rich music. Every human life, in its unrenewed state, is such a harp, with broken strings, tarnished by sin. It is capable of giving forth music marvelously rich and sweet--but first it must be restored, and the only one who can do this--is the maker of the harp, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He can bring the jangled chords of our life--into tune, so that when played upon, they shall give forth sweet music. If we would make our lives beautiful, we must surrender them into the hands of Him who alone can repair and restore them.
"As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." Not a moment of life should ever be given up to sin. Life is too precious to be stained and wasted in evil. Those who are thus throwing away their life--should instantly abandon all that is wrong, and turn to God and to the life to which He invites them. The time past which has been spent in sin--is surely enough for such a ruinous waste. Few things are sadder, than the story of one who lives in sin all his days and then, at the last, creeps back to God's feet to find mercy. One such, lying in a hospital, and near unto death, was very happy, for he had found Christ and had the assurance of eternal life. A friend said to him, "You are not afraid to die?" "No," answered the man, "but I am ashamed to die." He was ashamed because he had nothing to bring to God but a wasted life--forgiven at last--but of no service in the world.
The words used in the third verse, which describe the life of wickedness, are black with shame. We turn away from them with loathing, if we are walking in Christ's way. But we must not forget that these very words describe what is going on continually in thousands of places. Modern life is no better than was the life of men nineteen hundred years ago. This is the end to which sin leads. We need not go to the slums to find this picture realized; we can find it in many places which are regarded as respectable and high-toned. The encouraging note in this sad verse, is that the evil things he named were things of the past of those to whom Peter wrote. The gospel of Christ saves men. It turns men's Sodoms into Edens!
"They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you!" Those who find their pleasures in sin's evil and debasing ways, cannot understand the secret of the Christian's joy. They think it must be dreary and dismal to be a Christian. They cannot conceive of any happiness in the life which turns away from sinful indulgences, which restrains evil appetites and passions, which curbs the natural sinful desires. To them it seems impossible that there should be any real joy in living a holy life, in walking with God, in prayer and Bible reading and hymn singing or in Christian work and fellowship. The blessedness of the Christian life--is all a mystery to those who know only this world's detestable life, and find their pleasures in lust or passion. A prayer meeting would be to them intolerably dreary, because they know not God and have no fellowship with Him.
"But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." It is not only in this world, that the superiority of the Christian's exalted position is seen; the world to come will also reveal this. This world does not mean the end of life; it goes on into the unseen future, and things begun here--are finished there. We are sowing now, and there will be a harvest by and by, when we shall reap there what we have sown. Those who sow in the flesh--shall reap corruption from the flesh. Those who live in unrestrained lust and unbridled passion--must give account to God.
They are without excuse, for the gospel was preached "even to the dead." Some people trouble themselves about the heathen who have died without hearing the gospel. But we may safely leave them in God's hands. We need never fear that He will be unjust to any soul He has made. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right!" We need not fret ourselves over any such questions. Our only care need be that we who have the gospel--shall live worthily of the gospel. We, too, shall have to give an account of our privileges and how we have used them. We must remember, too, that to whom much is given--of the same shall it be required.
"The end of all things is near! Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." In view of the eternity on whose edge we are living all the while, we should walk thoughtfully and prayerfully. We do not know when the end of this life for us may be. This should not sadden us and spoil this world for us--that is not the way God wants us to be affected by thoughts of eternity. But we should look at life seriously and learn to live earnestly. If any day may be our last, we should make every day beautiful enough and complete enough to be a fitting last day. We should leave none of its duties undone, none of its tasks unfinished. We should live unselfishly and kindly, so as to leave no pain or bitterness in any heart. Then, we should live in constant communion with God--a life of prayer. We need God at every point, at every step, and no day can be beautiful or complete, without its portion of divine help. A day without prayer--is never a good day.
"Above all, LOVE each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Above all things, we must be loving. Love is always the most important thing. One may be honest and truthful and just and upright and diligent and sound in the faith--and yet if he has not love--his life shows a great lack. Paul tells us this in the wonderful thirteenth chapter of Corinthians. Christians should be affectionate among themselves. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples--if you love one another." Love makes us patient with others. We all have our faults--our friends have their faults--but if we love them--we do not see their faults. We overlook the things that are not beautiful, and see them as Christ sees them.