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, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Jesus was tortured, He died a death which is said to be the worst death a person can experience. Death by crucifixion takes a long time, the pain, the inability to draw in breath, and the powerlessness to give yourself even a moment’s comfort by repositioning or stretching is excruciating. It can take days to die by asphyxiation and exhaustion. Before He was nailed to that tree, Jesus was beaten, whipped, ridiculed, stripped, and forced to walk bloody and bruised to His death. But because of His torment, because He suffered in the flesh, we do not have to live in the flesh! We don’t have to live in sin anymore! We get to live for God, walk in His Spirit and sin is a thing of our past.
We can consider the pain and tribulations we go through similarly. Each trial we undergo, helps us to step further away from our old selves, the flesh self and more into the image of Christ. With each step we take, we realize we no longer want to satisfy the lusts of who we used to be, instead we want to please God and walk in His Spirit, doing His will and living up to His Passion. Your suffering is not futile. Your choice to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh is not fruitless. Not only does the precious Spirit use each step to conform you to the image of Christ, He uses the fruit He produces in you to glorify God and bring the lost to the Father. Verses 3-6 reads,
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. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
People want to know why you’re too good to join them for bar hopping, have meaningless encounters, and poison your body with substances that alter your perceptions. They feel judged when we no longer behave the way they do because the righteousness of Christ convicts them. They often respond by calling us self-righteous, arrogant, or hypocrites. They knew the old you, not the new you. It’s okay if they get convicted because you are living in the Spirit, they need to see their sin in a new light so they can grasp that they need Jesus.
But whatever persecutions or injuries they throw your way, they don’t mean anything, they cannot touch you or harm you, really. You join in Christ’s suffering. His Crucifixion means that no accusation made at you means anything, you are forgiven. No shame can humiliate you, because there is no condemnation in Christ. Nothing they do can hurt you, their fiery darts can’t pierce your breastplate of righteousness. Their lies cannot stand up to your shield of faith. The truth has set you free. And because you have the Holy Spirit, you can have compassion on them and forgive them. Jesus forgave the people who were torturing Him and killing Him as it was happening. He said they didn’t know any better. If Jesus could forgive them for that, you can forgive any wrong done to you, even while it is still being done.
You have the chance to show them some things. First, you get to love them even though they hate you and hurl insults and injuries. Jesus loves them. Jesus loves you even though you sinned, even though He died in your place, He loves you. You get the opportunity to share the Gospel. They may ask you why you’re not the same as you once were or why you’re not offended by them. You get the chance to tell them about Jesus. How could anything they say, any weapon they use, any missile they hurl hurt you when God is with you, for you, and in you? They need Jesus, they need the truth, they need their eyes open. They don’t know; they deserve the chance to come to Jesus. Because Jesus will judge the living and the dead. The sentence they face if they are dead is not one we want them to face.
The Day is coming! I want it to come, I long to be home with my Lord forever, but I also want more people to come to Jesus and be saved. I have so many loved ones who don’t know Him and when He comes back, I want them to be raised up in the resurrection not realizing too late that Jesus is Christ the Lord. I want them to know now who Jesus is while there is time. Verses 7-11 reads,
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus is coming back. The Day of the Lord is coming. The extraneous fluff of the world is not important. Our walk with the Lord is. We need to walk in the Spirit, love each other, and use our gifts to build u p the church, equip the saints, and glorify the Lord. People need Jesus. Living in the Spirit, the way Peter describes here, reveals Jesus to the world and to one another.
We suffer and we will suffer, that is a promise. If we don’t suffer then it is a sign that the enemy isn’t afraid of us. If we live a Spirit-filled life, that coward is terrified of us. If we don’t suffer then apparently the world doesn’t see us as different from them. Suffering doesn’t have to be the terrible thing we fear. It can be good. It conforms us to Christ’s image, it glorifies God, and gives ample opportunity to witness to the Lord’s goodness. And really, what can hurt, offend, or grieve us if we have God who loves, defends, avenges, and protects us? God blessed you; can any curse stand up to Him? God chose you; can any rejection counter Him? God fights for you; can any enemy defeat him? Verses 12-14 read,
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Jesus suffered so much worse than any of us will ever have to endure. Our difficulties allow us to remember that and can encourage us that Jesus’ suffering saved us. As we answer suffering in the Spirit emanating the character of Christ, we reveal Him, we shine His light, and we can rejoice in our suffering. God is always with us, but we tend to appreciate Him more when we are forced to lean on Him. Suffering for the sake of Jesus’ name will happen if we are living and walking in the Spirit. But sometimes, our suffering is not because we are Jesus’ followers, but because of our own bad choices.
God is still with us then, He forgave our sins, but this kind of suffering doesn’t bring the same kind of glory to God. If I suffer because I am wrongly accused and persecuted the world can see the Gospel lived out in my life. If I suffer as the consequence for my sin, the world will see me get what I deserve and I should be convicted and repent, knowing that God is merciful and loves me and has already forgiven me. My response to deserved punishment is one of gratitude as God teaches me to walk in Him and not my flesh. But, the honor and privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake, to share in His suffering, and rejoice in it, that is where the true blessings pour down, where Jesus is revealed in all His splendor, and I know how loving, kind, and good He is. To suffer for Jesus is a reason to rejoice because the lost will see Jesus and come to Him and be saved. Verses 15-19 read,
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
When we suffer, we don’t walk around announcing our suffering to the world, ashes on our heads, and drawing attention to ourselves. We delight in the Lord, we continue to do good, love tangibly, and walk humbly under the banner of Jesus. We trust God to carry us through, fight for us, and work good. We hold onto our hope. We love one another, pray for one another, and use our gifts for the good purposes for which they were meant.