Our identity is in Christ and our inheritance is in glory

“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. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:1–5 ESV)

Since Jesus suffered, so too should we expect to suffer.  We should “arm ourselves with this way of thinking.”  We should expect suffering – we should not go looking for it, but when it comes our way we should not be surprised.  When suffering comes, we must remember that our identity is in Christ and our inheritance is in glory.  We must remember that this world is broken and that one day God is going to make all things right; He is going to make all things new (Revelation 21:5)

Peter says, “for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” which represents either Jesus as our sacrificial sin offering, our new “dead to sin” nature that Paul discusses in Romans 6:1-11 or the fact that suffering has a way of killing sin at its root.  All of these are true and regardless of how this is interpreted, Peter points us to abandon our fleshly, human passions and embrace the will of the Lord – which for this audience was suffering.  If God is really sovereign, as Peter emphatically says in 3:22, then suffering must be part of His grander plan.  Though we rarely see the reason during trials, and often times don’t after the trial (remember Job?), we must trust in His goodness & sovereignty and set our hearts toward heaven.  We are exiles, sojourners, aliens & strangers – this is not our home.  Our home and inheritance is in glory.

The believer that finds his identity in Christ & inheritance in heaven will readily abandon fleshly acts of debauchery.  This will surprise those around them who participate in these acts and they will likely malign believers for not participating.  This world is all that they have so they need to get everything that they can!  All people will have to give an account for what they have said and done.  All sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Jesus Christ or by the sinner himself.  Justice will be served.  This enables the saint to persevere when he suffers injustices.  So set your eyes upon Christ, trust in His sovereign goodness and know that you have an inheritance waiting that is grander than you could ever imagine.

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The Ultimate Sufferer will put our frustration & futility to an end

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:13–18 ESV)

Peter zooms out to give us a big picture vantage point on life.  He is not saying that we won’t suffer – his reader’s already were suffering.  But, ultimately all things will work for their good (Romans 8:28-31).  Peter reminds them of the Lord’s words:  ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV).  Peter urges them to dwell on Ultimate realities, on the bigger picture.  When we suffer, we can either be driven to God and His bigger eternal work or inwardly and bemoan our own personal hardships.  Peter calls us to run to God and see that He is work in the arc of eternity.

Peter argues here to be able to give a winsome response to people when they ask about our hope.  Hope is interesting here because the real pivoting point is where is our hope really found?  Is our hope really in Jesus or some other idol?  If our hope is really in the Lord, then people will notice the poise and ballast in our lives when they are squeezed and pressed by hardship and suffering.  Only grace soaked people will be able to endure with hope – for they know this is not all that there is.  Hope is the expectation of good as the Christian is confident & joyful that he has an inheritance that is certain & secure.  Some of the time, Christians will suffer for doing good – even though the claims against them be baseless.

Peter links the power to suffer well to our identity in Christ – He suffered on our behalf so that one day we wouldn’t have to.  This is a major verse on the atonement – Christ, the Righteous, suffered for us, the unrighteous, so that we may be brought to God.  He died in the flesh so that we could be made alive in spirit.  So regardless of where you find yourself today and regardless of the suffering that you face – financial, relational, emotional, physical or familial – set your eyes firmly upon Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  He was the Ultimate Sufferer so that one day our suffering would end.  Remember your inheritance as a child of God; there is coming a day when He will make all things new.  Our lives will be truly lived as they were designed to – no more frustration and futility.  We will live in perfect paradise in the presence of our glorious Father.

Only grace soaked people are able to walk in joyful obedience

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”” (1 Peter 3:8–12 ESV)

Finally.  Peter transitions now from instructions aimed at specific groups to general godly virtues that should accompany all believers.  The Greek word for “finally” is also translated “end” or “goal.”  So the end goal should be behavior that encompasses these characteristics.  These are internal, heart level traits that are Holy Spirit wrought.  Peter mentions:
• Harmonious (unity of mind) – sounds like meekness; willing to press God’s agenda and not our own.
• Sympathy – sensitivity or sorrow for the hurting, broken & down trodden.  Even for those who are depressed and suffer mental ailments.  For it is the grace of God that we don’t suffer the same way.
• Brotherly love – more than just love, but love like a brother – permanent, covental, familial.
• Tender hearted or compassionate – We have to see the bigger picture of our ultimate inheritance in order to be truly tender hearted towards others.
• A Humble mind – Thayer:  “the having a humble opinion of oneself; a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind.”  Humility is knowing one’s place in creation; we are created, He is Creator.

Peter ups the the ante by telling his readers not to repay evil for evil, not to keep score.  People who keep tabs mentally are miserable people, let us not be numbered among them!  On the contrary bless those who curse for you are a blessing.  Only grace soaked people will be able to execute this.  It seems to be imbedded in the human psyche to get even and keep score and unless God rebuilds that we always will.

As believers, there will be a longing for the word of God because we have indeed tasted & seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8 & 1 Peter 2:3).  If there is an absence of desire for the word of God, the person has to ask if they have ever really tasted & seen that the Lord is good – does he really have a regenerated heart?  Peter connects his thoughts to the truths in Psalm 34:12-16).  Do you a desire to love life & see good days?
• Then don’t speak evil & deceitfully.  A life of daily obedience to God yields the blessings of God.  But our obedience must be a joyful obedience, a glad submission.  If we obey to get the blessing then we don’t love God, we love ourselves!
• Turn from evil & do good.  Obedience, in glad submission, yields the blessings of God (not always external) while disobedience yields the discipline of God, for the Lord is against those who do evil (Psalm 34:16, 21 & Hebrews 12:4-11)
• Seek & pursue peace.  Peace with God & peace with others.  Sounds like the words of our Lord:  ““Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 ESV)
• The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous & his ears are open to their prayers.  Wow!  The sovereign Creator of all things has open ears to hear the prayers of the righteous!  That is amazing.  But, who is righteous – none are, no not one (Romans 3:10).  The righteous live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

As Christians, these should be growing in our lives.  It is interesting that Peter highlights the blessings of God while writing to suffering Christians.  How are they blessed while suffering, how are we blessed while we are suffering?  We are chosen children of the Creator with an inheritance beyond our wildest imagination.  That should produce wow and worship in our souls.  We should meditate upon and be moved by the fact that the divine, holy, perfect, sovereign Creator would determine before He formed the world to adopt you.  We were His enemies, objects of His holy wrath and He chose to make us new: He chose to regenerate us, forgive us and adopt us.  We weren’t good, we didn’t seek Him – He sought and saved us.  That is the fuel to suffer well.  When we have this perspective we begin to sound like Paul when he wrote:  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18 ESV)

Being like Jesus involves believing like Jesus

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:13–25 ESV)

If the gospel has transformed us internally then it will necessarily transform our social interactions.  We are to submit to governmental authorities which promote order & justice.  It is interesting that Peter is telling a group of dispersed (and likely persecuted) people this.  For as we submit (in attitude in action), God is glorified and the accusations of others become increasingly baseless.  We are free people and should live that way – not as a license to sin, but rather as an expression of good for God’s glory.  We don’t have the need to make ourselves into something in this world because God has already made us His chosen children; therefore, we are free to trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty.  The fuel for living free is tied back to our identity as sojourners in this world.

We are to honor, revere, glorify and respect everyone, even those who persecute us.  This honor is to be extended even by slaves to their masters – whether good or harsh.    It is a gracious thing to endure suffering while being mindful of God.  Enduring harsh treatment is viewed as a credit to the account – a credit that will be redeemed in the life that is to come.  God’s grace (which includes His favor and blessing) are what enables & empowers us to suffer graciously.  Jesus is the greatest example of suffering – unjust suffering at that!  We normally don’t suffer unjustly because we often times bring on our suffering by our own sinfulness.  Regardless of the cause of our suffering, Jesus is our example.  Jesus endured to redeem us, so too should we endure.  When Jesus was reviled & suffered, He did not retaliate.  Instead He entrusted that God was a just Judge, who is able to bring about ultimate justice.

With Jesus as our example of how to suffer graciously, it seems that our ability to suffer graciously is not tied to our own steady resolve or strong willed effort.  It seems that it is directly connected to what we believe about God.  Our endurance is connected to whether we really believe that God is capitol “S” sovereign and capitol “G” good.  Is He able to bring sense to our suffering, Is He able to deliver?  Only those who say “absolutely”, with no hesitation, will find true endurance to suffer well.  We should be like Jesus, but the way to be like Jesus is to believe like Jesus.

God will justly judge all sinfulness so let us leave vengeance to Him.  All people will have to give an account for what they have said and done.  All sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Jesus Christ or by the sinner himself.  Justice will be served.  This enables the saint to persevere when he suffers injustices.  Jesus takes our sins and gives us His righteousness.  It is by His wounds that we are healed.  We die to sin and live to righteousness.  We were straying sheep and now we have returned to the Shepherd & Overseer of our souls.  Let us rest in our identity in Christ and our inheritance in glory.  This life is brief and glory is forever.

Exiles with an Inheritance

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12 ESV)

Remember that this is not your home – we are sojourners & exiles – therefore abstain from the passions of your flesh.  The way to beat fleshly passions is to know (remember and believe) that we have an inheritance coming.  An inheritance that is far greater than anything the world has ever seen.  When we foster fleshly passions, they do harm to our souls.  We cannot foster fleshliness and holiness simultaneously.  We tend to think that we can have both, but we cannot.  You will be growing in one and the other will be loosing strength in your heart.  They are divergent paths.  What are you fostering?

Peter views believers as the new Israel and views non believers as Gentiles.  We have indeed been grafted in by the Vinedresser.  Live uprightly so when they accuse you of wrong doing, they will have no evidence to support their charge.  They will see your good deeds and glorify God for them.  This sounds like Matthew 5:16.  Though, not all will glorify God, some will come to repentance.  The way to walk in obedience is to dwell upon the goodness, mercy and grace of God – Who has adopted us.  We must remember our identity in Christ – a chosen people, adopted children, objects of His affections, co heirs with Christ.

Remember

“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:7–10 ESV)

Glory & honor is for those who are built upon the Cornerstone; it is not for those who reject the Cornerstone.  Jesus is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to unbelievers & especially to the Jews:  “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14 ESV).  But, God is an obstacle that people cannot overcome!  They stumble because they disobey – as they were destined to do.  Unless God regenerates the heart, we all walk in disobedience and blindness.  Peter sounds like Paul here in Ephesians 1:11 (“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”).  God works all things according to the counsel of His will.  The disobedience of unbelievers is due to their own disbelief & it is their responsibility.  This is not intended to foster fatalism, but to encourage the heart of true believers. Nothing catches God off guard; God has never said, “I didn’t see that one coming, what should I do now.”  So those who were persecuting Peter’s readers and pressing against them unjustly – those who were the source of their suffering will one day see ultimate justice.  One day, all sin will be justly paid for – either by the blood of Christ or by the sinner himself; justice will be served.

We don’t stumble about like blind men; we see the Cornerstone for who He is.  We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.  This is not because we chose God, but because He chose us.  He called us out of darkness and into His glorious light.  He’s the One that calls; He’s the One that saves, not us!  And why does He redeem us?  He saves us to glorify Him (proclaiming the excellency of Him who has called us).  We were nobody’s and now we are somebody because we are His children.  We had no mercy, now we have profound mercy.  Praise God!  Hosea speaks this way regarding Israel (Hosea 1:6, 9, 10; 2:23), but the church is the fulfillment of these prophecies – we are now a people – according to His sovereign grace.

Regardless of the situation that is currently staring you in the face, regardless of the persecution and injustice that you are facing, there is cause for rejoicing.  Don’t ignore the difficulty and pain and pretend that it does not exist; Christianity is not about producing cold, emotionless Stoics!  But remember that this is not your true home – you are a sojourner, an exile.  Remember that you have an inheritance that is far greater than anything that the world has ever seen.  Remember that you are a beloved, chosen child.  Remember that this life is short and momentary.  Remember that God’s approval and affection for you has nothing to do with how faithful that you are, but rather how Faithful Jesus was.  Remember…