Since Jesus Christ has suffered for our sins, how then shall we live our lives?
This is the question that confronts us today and, Lord willing, next Sunday in the Word of God. It is the question that confronts every child of God who, by grace through faith, knows that Jesus Christ has suffered for his sins. The great knowledge that is given to the child of God in this world is this, namely, that, as we read in I Peter 4, Christ has suffered for us. Those words express the heart of the whole gospel. Those words express the truth that upon the cross Christ actually stood in the place of our sins. They tell us that God did not and could not ignore our sins, but that He placed those sins upon His Son Jesus Christ and punished those sins upon His own Son. Christ has suffered for our sins. The Scriptures declare to us in I Peter 3:18 that Christ hath suffered once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He may bring us to God. Did you hear those words? It is the word “once” that is very important. The Scriptures declare that there is one place where sins are to be forgiven. That is the cross of Jesus Christ. There is no other possibility for the removal of any sin except in what Christ once did upon the cross. That is the full forgiveness and atonement for the sins of the children of God, for those whom the Father hath given to Him out of mere grace.
Now Christ has suffered for us. That is our salvation. The question as a result of this is: How shall we live our lives? This is the question that the apostle Peter brings to us. He brings it to us in chapter 4:3-5 in his first epistle. And he explains to us how we are to live our lives since Christ has suffered for us in the flesh.
You see, child of God, the question concerning how you should live as a believer in Jesus Christ, and how you should behave yourself is not: “What is going on in the world?” That is not the question that determines how you live. The question that you should govern your life by is not: “What do I see others doing, or what’s going on around me?” The question is not: “What do the movies and the television programs and the magazines present as to the way of life and pleasure and enjoyment?” That is not the question. That is not what governs how you live as one for whom Christ has died. The question for you as a young man or woman, a teenage boy or girl, a little boy or girl is not: “What are the other young people doing? (By the way, teenagers, little boys and girls very often want to determine what they do by what they see you do.) But the question is not, “I determine my life by what others are doing.” That is not the question. Nor is this the question, “What are all of the churches of the land approving of?” That is not how we determine how we live as Christians, either. That is not the question. If the day ever comes that any of these questions decide how you are going to live, that is the day that your godly living dies. If your life is governed by those questions that I just went through, then it is going to be only a little while and all appearance of godly living is going to be absent form your life.
But this is the question: Since Christ has died for me, and since in that death God has declared what sin is, and since Christ by His death has freed me from the punishment and power of sin to rule over me, what kind of a life now flows out of that? That is the question. The apostle Peter is directing us in the passage I referred to (I Peter 4:3-5) to the practical use that we must make of the great truth of salvation that Christ has suffered for us. Peter, in this epistle, speaks so wonderfully of the cross as the payment and pardon of our sins. If you look at I Peter 1:18, 19 you will find it to be very similar. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ….” And the result? The apostle says, This must be the result: pass the time of your sojourning here in godly fear. The Scriptures, then, are giving to us a motivation and an encouragement for godly living. The Scriptures are teaching us what a godly life is rooted in. It is rooted in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Because Christ has suffered for us, we are to arm ourselves. That is, the consideration in our souls that Christ has suffered for our sins ought to supply us with spiritual armament for our warfare against sin. By those sufferings, Christ has wrenched us free from a life lived now in the lust of the flesh unto the will of men. Now, says Peter, we must live unto the will of God. The time past, says Peter, in our life may have sufficed us to have wrought the will of the unbelieving. But now, every moment is important. And the rest of our time in life must be spent unto the pursuits of godliness. Why? Because Christ has suffered for us. Therefore, we must live our lives after the will of God.
Since Christ has suffered for us we must renounce forbidden uncleanness. The apostle Peter says in verses 3 and 4 of I Peter 4, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” The Word of God is describing there a certain way of life with the word “lasciviousness.” That word means “lewd, wanton, obscene, sexually unchaste, pornographic, revelings in sexual lust.” Then Peter, after that word “lasciviousness,” lists five or six more words. They are not intended as five more acts. The apostle Peter is referring to one dominant evil and the things that contribute to it. The wicked way of life that is being condemned is lasciviousness, sexual uncleanness, impure, suggestive, pornographic acts, the filthy speech and the indecent gestures and dress, the fornication, the adultery, and the lust-filled contact between men and women. “Lust, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” – these are the things that are associated with a lascivious life and contribute to it.
Lust, impure desires, excess of wine (that is, the liquor that has as its purpose to break down the inhibitions and pave the way to have lust freely satisfied), revelings and banquetings (that is, the atmosphere in which uncleanness takes place – a wild, rocking party, a party characterized by foolish hilarity, not in Christ, but a foolishness, an eating and drinking, a putting one on, a having a good time – all as it serves as an atmosphere to promote fornication or adultery). Peter says this is the will of the Gentiles. By Gentiles, he means here the heathen who have not the reality of Jesus Christ in their souls. Those belonging to the world surrounding the church of Jesus Christ, those who stand against the church, those in whom the power of sin has not been stopped – these think that this is the way to live. They may appear respectful. They may hold down a job. They may be “nice guys” and lots of fun. But they are those in whom the perversion of sin holds no horror. They delight in it. They run to the excess of riot, says the apostle, a riotous and dissolute life is what they think living really is. They have fantasies of their lust being fulfilled.
So, you see, Peter is not simply referring to a child-molester, or to sexual predators on the Internet, or to prostitutes. He is referring to those who are heathen, who know not the power of Christ in their own souls. They may be uneducated and poor and slovenly. But they may be the very opposite: successful, popular. God is describing the world in which we live, the world natural to our sinful flesh, the world that walks in lasciviousness.
There is nothing that stands out so plain in America today as the fact that it fits this description of God’s apostle. The way of life of the heathen two thousand years ago and today is the same. Many want the church’s stance on holy, separate living to change because, they say, the times have changes. Morality taught the youth a hundred years ago will not do today. They say, “We need to be up-to-date. Things are relative. We need to understand that really there is nothing that is right or wrong. There’s only that which is appropriate or acceptable.” That is not true. The Word of God tells us that man’s lusts do not change. Man’s way of life does not change. There is nothing that is so much the same as the life of the heathen. The only thing that changes is the depth and the perversity and the acceptance and the shamelessness concerning it.
God tells us that this way of life of uncleanness is very dear to a person apart from the grace of God. We must not think that the way of sexual uncleanness is incidental to the heathen around the church. We must not be fooled into thinking that they are merely interested in good times and that it is nothing, after all, so serious, and they are only interested in maintaining human rights. You must not be fooled by that. You must not believe that the defense of all of the uncleanness that is promoted today is simply a defense of freedom of speech and freedom of choice. That is not so. The reason these things are promoted is because it is dear to them. And, apart from the grace of God, they will not let it go.
First of all, we learn that from verse 3. The apostle says there, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness.” “Wherein ye walked,” says the apostle. The sinful nature cherishes this. It is not going to let it go. It will die holding unto it. The word, “wherein ye walked,” is not the normal word of “walk.” It means, “to plan carefully, to plan an expedition.” When you go on an expedition, you carefully lay out what you are going to need. You give it much thought. You think of exactly what you need and what you want to accomplish. This way of lasciviousness is not an indifferent thing. It is a walk, a carefully planned and plotted out way.
Secondly, we read in verse 4, “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” They run in these paths. They do not walk in these paths. They run. Their heart is in these parties. This is what their lives are about. This is what they think living is. This is what gets them excited. This is what they look forward to. They live for the weekend. They advertise jobs as, “You work hard but you make enough money so you can play hard.” Weekend drinking, debauchery. On Monday morning, they walk to work. They do not run. They walk with no interest. But they run to the excess of riot.
Thirdly, they speak evil of you. They love this life. When you show by our abstinence from this that you disapprove, and when you will not join with them, they speak evil of you. When you have the boldness to speak against getting high; when you have the boldness to show by your life that you have a disgust for sexual uncleanness; when you are in a group in a car and on the way home from what started out as acceptable entertainment, and someone says, “Let’s get some drinks and then we’ll go to the apartment and all the rest is going to follow,” and you have the strength as a young person to say, “Not me! Let me out! I’ll call my parents or whatever, but I’m not doing that” – when you have that true conviction in Jesus Christ, they will hate you. They will speak evil of you. They will call you a prude or whatever the terminology is now. They will say that you are out of it. They will see you as a threat. They will laugh behind your back at the office. They will make you the subject of their jokes and jeers. All around you they will bring upon you ridicule. Why? Because the flesh clings to this way of life. It is something that is dear to them. They believe that this is what life is all about and they feel threatened when a Christian by his conduct and words exposes this way of life as evil. They feel threatened that something dear to them might be taken away.
How shall you live in this world as one who has been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ? The answer is a loud and clear and passionate: No longer in this sexual uncleanness! Oh, it is a temptation. Part of sin and Satan’s tactics is to create in your spiritual life as a child of God a certain nonchalance. I mean, he wants you to think this way: “Oh, it’s not that serious, you know. It’s not that serious how I dress, Mom. It’s not that serious what I watch. It’s just once. It’s just a movie. It doesn’t matter. You’re simply being too prudish. Quit worrying. You’re warning me of these things. You can stop warning me. Quit it, preacher, we know all about this.” And maybe we even say, “All of these warnings against this way of life are because those who warn us have a dirty mind.” I have heard that said, too.
Now, beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, hear the Word of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, I warn you that if you think that way, and if you catch yourself taking a nonchalant attitude and minimizing how sharp and how deadly and how addicting this sin is, I warn you that sin lieth at the door and it is ready to spring upon you and consume you. Is that all that you think of when you think of your soul? Look at the cross. Do you see your Lord suffer for your sin? Why does He suffer so? For your sin – so awful and so powerful that nothing but the blood of Christ could remove its guilt and deliver you from its power. Now you belong to Him. And you do not belong to Him to take on airs and say, “Oh, but I’m above these things and don’t need to be warned about these things.” Do you see Him suffer? That means that you are His, as His child.
Therefore, the question in life is not, “Who am I?” Do not concern yourself with that question as a young person. That is not an important question. Here is the important question: “Whose am I?”
Another very beautiful passage is Acts 27:23, where the apostle Paul is being threatened. He is going to go now to Rome as a prisoner. In the midst of that dark time, he says this: “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.”
I am His. Therefore Peter does not take a great deal of time to prove that this way of uncleanness is to be utterly rejected by those for whom Christ has suffered. It is transparent. It is clear. To be a Christian means that you know that this is not approved of God. Sexual uncleanness in all of its forms is accursed of God. No longer shall we live in it. Why? Because Christ has suffered for us. We do not need a study committee to make a pronouncement in the church of Jesus Christ about homosexuality, about divorce and remarriage. We do not need a study committee to determine what the church ought to be saying to her young people about sex. We have the Word of God.
Oh, may our hearts not become dull and blackened and deadened in this world. Christ has died for us. These are sins that exist within us. But they are sins. They are all abhorred of God.
How shall we live? We shall live in purity. We shall live as those who are called out of this world to the side of Jesus Christ.
We will return to this next time, the Lord willing. May God be with you until them.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray for its blessing upon our souls. Amen.