- Romans 6:1-14
- 1 Peter 4:1-6
My dear friends in Christ,
Has it struck you that many contestants in TV shows, when they are knocked out of the game, might express regret, but find consolation in what they call fun. “It is sorry to go, but I had a lot of fun.” “Whatever you do, have fun”, is the advise of some parents to their teenagers. Our society is one of fun-seekers. Fun is the principle, not moral uprightness. We find the Bible’s advice in Ecclesiastes 7:2 then strange, “It is better to go to a house of mourning Thant to go to a house of feasting.” Why this advice? The next part of the verse helps us:
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2, NIV)
There’s only one thing more sure than life, and that is death.
The time of death can’t really be postponed to create opportunities for the person who is dying or for the close relatives to put things right. It is only in very rare occasions that people have this opportunity. But once death has arrived, it’s all over. Those who are left behind can speak, but there is no reaction from the one who just passed away.
Death is decisive and absolute. There is this final moment of moving from this world into the next. There is the final heartbeat and the final breath. Once death has stepped in, it’s over; nothing can cheat death; it always has the last say, and it leaves human beings powerless in its power.
Death has a 100% success rate. It’s inescapable. It was not so from the beginning, but man’s rebellion and sin against God brought death into our world, and life on earth has become a painful place. If God left man to himself he would live in misery and he would die in misery. Nothing would have any meaning, not even meaning itself.
Spiritual death – a life without Christ
Apart from dying physically, every person born into this life has to reckon with spiritual death. Not only does our physical heart stop beating, and do we stop breathing, and do our bodies become lifeless, but sin brought spiritual death, and without salvation in Christ Jesus we face eternal death.
The non-Christian is someone who is controlled by human desires. This is the “me”-life. It’s about what I want for myself; it’s self-termination; a life governed by what my heart desire.
It’s a life of thumbing the nose at God. When it’s all about me and my desires, it quickly blossoms in immorality. I become the standard of who I do and what is right.
Verses 3-4 of 1 Peter 4 refers to this life. There are three outstanding characteristics:
- sexual sins—indecency, lust;
- sins displaying a lack of restraint—drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties; and
- depraved religious practices—the detestable worship of idols.
Let’s go back in history. God called Moses to the mountain to give him the Law. Moses stayed away too long for the people and they soon wanted to have some for of worship. What did they do?
… and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (Exodus 32:6, NKJV)
Don’t for one moment that “play” was having a game of ring-o-ring-of-roses. It was revelry in an idol and openly mocking God; it surely, dancing around an idol of fertility there was ore involved.
They fell into idol worship and made a golden calf. What did this calf represent? Fertility! So they engaged in an orgy of lust like the heathen. This was almost the first thing recorded about God’s people did after they we rescued from slavery in Egypt. All three things Peter mentions manifested in sinful Israel.
Drunkenness in 1Peter 4:3 conveys not only excessive drinking, but habitual intoxication. Orgies describes the result of excessive drinking; another way of expressing it is “excessive feasting,” “wild parties”. There is but a small step between drinking parties and orgies; one is result of drunkenness, and the other provides the occasion for it. Included in the word is the idea of drinking competitions to see who can drink the most. I get a vision pub crawls.
To better understand what Peter is conveying here one can combine the meanings of orgies and drinking parties. It’s not uncommon in our day for people to habitually and specifically create occasions to get together to drink a great deal and then act in a shameful manner, and almost consider it as a human right to be drunk and become immoral and disgustingly silly.
Peter refers to a flood of dissipation. It literally means pouring out, or to overflow, like a river; here, an overflowing of immorality. Reckless translates the same word used to describe the way of life of the prodigal son (Luke 15:13). Paul uses the same word when he writes:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, NIV)
Applied to elders, Paul writes:
… a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (Titus 1:6, NIV)
The flood of dissipation describes a person who no longer cares about anything as long as he can enjoy the pleasures of life. In reckless living he lives a life without any limits, or living in such a way as to fulfil every desire of his body. We live in the “who cares” generation. In other words, living without concern for the consequences of what one is doing and the consequence for oneself and others are. Do we find it strange then that ambulance personnel get beaten up?
Living such a life is to be worthless in the eyes of God. Peter writes in 2:10:
Once you were not a people … once you had not received mercy … (1 Peter 2:10, NIV)
This leads to judgement.
But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5, NIV)
But there is grace. And this grace is wrapped in the Gospel about Jesus Christ. Some of those to whom Peter wrote had lost family members and friends; they had once been part of those who lived in the “flood of dissipation”, but they heard the message of the Gospel respond to the grace of God before they died. Peter says:
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6, NIV)
What does it say? They heard the Gospel; they received the grace of the Gospel call; they die; judgement for them is no terror. What they did in their bodies no longer stand as judgement against them; and at the day of judgement God will deal with them applying the standards of his eternal judgement, but now with Jesus Christ as their advocate.
Not giving heed to the Gospel call is to continue in spiritual death which leads to the second death: it’s eternal irreversible, and certain.
Where do you stand with the Gospel? Where do you stand with Christ? Death may walk into your door today and the consequence of living as someone who either turned God’s grace away, or someone who received that grace and turned towards Christ for salvation will make an eternal difference.
The verse we look at now is 1Peter 4:1
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1, NIV)
It’s the last part of this verse we need to look at now. “… whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” Paul helps us to understand this better:
We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 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—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:2, 6–7. NIV)
… count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:11–13, NIV)
Back to 1Peter 4:1-2. One of the marks of a Christian is his union with Christ. He is willing to suffer with Christ, for Christ and like Christ – but thank God, not the same way Christ suffered, and surely not for the same reason.
This verse means that anyone who in this life turns his back on sin, suffers physically:
- As he/she no longer has any desire to keep on sinning. He has said no to sinning and has turned away from sinning.
- The Christian is not controlled by his own desires, but now lives under the control of God’s will.
This life-changing event makes to non-Christian wonder. Why not enjoy the so-called good things in life? You chose to become one of those who can’t enjoy yourself! What’s wrong with you? And you call what we do wrong? Come one, just one night of wild parties, what can go wrong? Do you really tell me that you will forever be satisfied with one woman or man? Are you keeping your body from enjoying what everyone enjoys?
But living under the grace of God changes everything. It changes the way I look at things, the way I laugh and what I laugh about; I changes the way I choose my friends and who I hang out with; it changes the way in which I spend my money; and moreover, the saving grace of God changes the way I spend my time. My previous life was a waste of time, it was a waste of oxygen and energy. God loves me in Jesus Christ and gave me eternal life, and I owe my life to Him: I need to love Him with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength and all my mind.
I met this lady in Sydney. I was billeted to her during one of the Assemblies. She was well into her seventies. I was surprised to see many theological and other very good Christian books on her bookshelf in the sitting room.
The way she spent her day also intrigued me: every day of the week was filled activities connected to the church of which she was a member – Bible studies, hospital visitation, caring for those in need, feeding the hungry.
I asked her one night to tell me more about her life in the Lord. She told me her husband became very ill and ended up in hospital, terminally ill. At that stage he was not a Christian, but the pastor of the church of her daughter came to visit him and led him to Christ. He died in peace knowing that his sins were forgiven. At his funeral the same pastor preached. Next to her were her daughter and son-in-law, a minister himself. The pastor told the story of how her husband repented of his sins, confessed it to the Lord and asked for forgiveness, accepting God’s grace in Christ. He then said, “We will join him in heaven one day.”
My lady-host said God worked it in her heart to understand that if she wanted to see her husband again, let alone see Christ and God and heaven, she must do the same: before the sun set that day she confessed her sins to God and received the grace of Christ. She was a new person.
Then she said to me,
“I have wasted a lot of time in my life. There is so much to know about God, and I can’t stop reading about Him; there are so many people who do not know God, and I can’t stop helping them to learn more about his love and forgiveness.”
Her life without Christ was spiritual death, aimed at herself – but it led her nowhere. Her turning to Christ was her spiritual funeral – there she said no to sin and she became obedient to the will of God; she learned to reckon that she was dead to sin. She heard the Gospel call and she responded with her whole life. Her life in Christ was the beginning of her walk to eternal glory. She was prepared. She knew better things were coming.
I enquired about her when I saw her son-in-law last time. He told me she went into glory with God.
The big question now today: have you been to your spiritual funeral? Have you started living? Are you living a life to the glory of God where only his will counts? Can you face the ridicule of the world and the sufferings of a Christian? Please, make sure of it. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 24 June 2018