We bow together today before the Word of God as we find it in I Peter 4:3-5. We began an exposition of this passage of holy Scripture last time. We want to conclude it today. Open your Bible now and read the passage.
Last time, you recall, we noticed that the Word of God here is answering a question: How shall we live our lives? How shall we live our lives in light of the truth that Christ has suffered for our sins? The answer to that question is, first of all, negatively, we shall not live our life in a way of lasciviousness, of sexual uncleanness. Since Christ has suffered for our sins, it becomes very plain to the child of God that we are called now in Christ to put away such sin. Certainly not to defend it, either in others or in ourselves: but to call it what it is, namely, sin, that which brings bondage, separation from God. Christ has suffered for us in order that we, by His grace, may walk in repentance, walk in fleeing form such ensnaring and deadly sins.
How shall we then live, since Christ has suffered for our sins? How shall you live? That is the question.
Shall we live in parties, in drinking, rocking music, dancing, and drugs? Since Christ has suffered for us, shall we do that? Can we?
I have sometimes heard it said, “Well, we’re going to go to these different places where such things take place because we’re going to be a witness for Christ.” If that is your intention, I will tell you what your witness is. First of all, as you walk in, your witness will be written across your forehead in these words: “Foolish Christian.” Secondly, your words of witness will be this: “I don’t take Christianity seriously and you don’t have to either.” That will be your witness.
What about our eyes – what we read and what we watch? There is one thing that I pray that you will remember (especially as men and boys). I pray that you remember a truth about your eyes. That truth is this: They are the window to your souls. Everything you see leaves a mark upon your soul. The human eye and soul is far more magnificent than any computer. Everything you have ever seen leaves a mark upon your soul. Yes, it does! Movies, TV situation comedies, magazines filled with every kind of sexual innuendo. Is that what you look at? Since Christ has suffered for us? No. How can we?
This applies to friendships and dating. You have no business as a young person, unmarried, being physically intimate, touching and fondling and arousing one another sexually. The Lord said, in Matthew 5, “Whosoever looks on a woman with lust hath committed adultery.” So serious was He about these words that He said, “If your eye offend you, pluck it out. If you hand offend you, cut it off.” Do not play. Do not toy with this.
Then the apostle says this in that passage we read; “Abominable idolatries.” He connects idolatry to a life of sexual uncleanness. We ask, “What does that have to do with sexual uncleanness? That doesn’t seem to fit.” Abominable idolatries – is that just thrown in there? But among the Christians to whom Peter writes it made perfect sense. Drunkenness and fornication were part of the religious services of the pagan idols. In the temples of the pagan idols were not only priests, but prostitutes and sodomites. Part of the worship of Baal and Moloch, part of the worship of Apollo and Zeus, was that the worshipers were incited by gyrating and dancing women. You remember that this happened also to God’s people in the Old Testament ( Ex. 32), when Aaron made the golden calf. Then, we read, the people of Israel, after they worshiped, ate, drank, and rose up to play. And they danced naked. There was a connection. These sins go hand in hand. When one gives his soul over to sexual uncleanness, he gives himself over to the worship of the body, the worship of the flesh. Not the worship of God, but of their own pleasures. That becomes the most important thing. They are worshiping their own pleasures. That is idolatry. Therefore, along with fornication, whenever fornication is advocated as the right of a society, that some society will outlaw, banish, and consider oppressive any reference to God. The same society which advocates freedom of sexual expression and says that all of what the Bible calls sexual perversities may be freely practiced and no one may condemn it, that same society must call God and His Word bigoted. It must engage in an all-out battle against the living and true God.
Now since Christ has suffered for us, and since, by the grace of God, we are the same by nature, how shall we live? We shall live by rejecting this way of life.
The Word of God brings out to us that this way of life, this sexual uncleanness, is rooted in a false notion about life. If we do not see that today, then we are just like the gardener who kills the weed by chopping off the top and leaving the roots in the ground, and then thinks that his garden is weedfree. You must understand that Christianity is a faith in the truth, in the principles of God. Christianity is not just a code of conduct. It is not just learning the right things to do and the wrong things not to do. But it is a faith which sees, and sees to the heart of a thing. It sees why men and women, in their sin, do what they do – why a person acts the way he does. It sees to the heart of what a godly life is all about. That is what our children and our young people need. They do not need just the do’s and don’ts without ever getting to the heart of the matter.
Why? The Word of God answers. The Word of God says that the life of sexual uncleanness, what Peter calls lasciviousness, is rooted in a false view of life. Peter says, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles.” The “will of the Gentiles” is, literally, the counsel or the plan or the thought process of the unbelieving. That is, behind the life of lasciviousness, behind the life of uncleanness, is a thought process, is a frame of mind. It is not just animalistic urges that come up once in a while. The way of sin and wickedness is not something in the chromosomes. It is not something towards which you have a predisposition. No. The Word of God traces it to the heart, to the hidden thought, and to the hidden counsel of a man. And God uncovers those hidden thoughts in His Word. That is why we need the Word of God.
The way of sin, the way of a life of sexual uncleanness, the way of a life of giving oneself over to a sin comes from a plan, from a thought process in the heart. When that thought process is worked out, it leads to a life of lasciviousness and uncleanness. The way of sexual uncleanness is foolish, but it does flow from a thought process.
What is that thought process? Apart from faith in Jesus Christ, a man asks the question, What is life? What is the way to live? What is there for me? What do we have? Why? The answer he comes up with is: Me, myself, this life. Therefore, the way to live is by satisfying, as much as possible, the desires and the cravings that I have. That is the plan. In ignorance and spiritual darkness and hardness of soul, men say, “There is no God, there is no sin, there is no judgment. There is just me. Just me and what I want. And I ought to be able to have whatever I want so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody (whatever that is supposed to mean). Just me, and right now. The time of the moment and my present desires that I may not be cheated out of. The worst thing in the world,” they think, “is this, that I would be denied the urge I have right now. The greatest good is to have whatever I want.” Therefore it makes sense to them. Denying God and denying that He must be served as the only good, they make themselves out to be God and they determine what is right and wrong. And they conclude that this life is for the taking. Why should they not follow their own passions?
But the Christian has a different view of life. That view of life is this: “There we should no longer live,” says Peter, “the rest of our time in the flesh to the lusts of men but to the will of God.” We too have a secret thought. We too have a mind-frame, a plan in the heart. But that, now, is this: the beauty and the love of God is planted in our hearts. And our great desire is to please Him. That is what controls us. The love of God controls the child of God in his heart. Therefore, the whole view of life is radically different. What is the way to live, what is our view as children of God? Not to the lusts of the flesh, but to the will of God. We know the holy God, our Maker, in love for us has nailed His Son to the cross, to pay for our sins and to deliver us from its cruel vanity. Now our life is different. Now our life is lived to please Him. That is joy. That is peace. Not self. We were not created to make ourselves the end. That is bondage. We were created to serve God and to delight in Him through Jesus Christ. The heathen, peter says, will sense that in us. He says, “wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” They think you are strange. They think you are an alien as a child of God. You are out of this world. They are amazed. They are perplexed. They cannot figure it out. They are astounded. They cannot get hold of it. What makes you tick?
Is that true of you as a child of God? Is that the world’s impression of you as a child of God? Is that what they say of you, man, in the office or at the lab or on the job-site? Is that what they say of you, children and mothers, in the neighborhood? Is that what they say of you in the school, in drivers’ training class? Is that what they say of you on the hospital staff, on the college campus? Strange. Why do not these people run with us to the same excess of evil? Do they speak evil of you?
That is what Peter says here on the pages of holy Scripture. This is what the world thinks about the Christian and that is what the world is going to say. I know it says that. But I am asking you, is this what unbelievers say about you? Are they saying, “How different, how strange. Here you are, a very attractive young girl, a very handsome young man. No parties? No drinking? No one-night stands? No dancing? How strange.” Are they saying that of you as parents – mothers, fathers? How different. You have been married how long? You mean all of these are your kids? You mean to say to us that you have to ask your husband fist before you are going to do that? Wait a minute. You have to go where straight form work – home? Do they say to you as a young person: You talk to your Dad? How strange.
That is what they ought to say. This is what must be. This is what is, by the grace of God, in us. Because, you see, the difference is the cross. And the cross does make a difference. By nature we walk the same path. We would walk in the counsel of the ungodly ( Ps. 1). But now, by the grace of God, the cross has made a difference. God made that difference in us. We can understand the way of the world. We see it within ourselves. We were that way. But no more. Now the cross occupies the central place in the life of the child of God. Christ has suffered for my sins. He has not suffered upon the cross as a martyr. He suffered there as a Redeemer. He suffered there to be the great chain-breaker, the great liberator, the living Lord Jesus Christ. Now it is different. Now life is lived unto the will of God. The time past of our life suffices to have wrought the will of unbelievers. That was enough. We want no more of that. It is too much. Now we are grieved by it that we once lived out of a principle of sin. We bury our heads in our hands when we think of these things – that we would go the same way. We find it yet within us. But now, by grace, we have right thinking. By grace the right thinking is the will of God. That is what I must have in my life. Why? Because Christ has suffered for me.
Then you understand that there is a judgment to come. In verse 5, the apostle says, “Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” That is something that men forget. And they want to forget it. But forgetting does not make it not so. Men shall give an account unto God. God is going to call into judgment. That means that everyone is answerable to God. Do not listen to the babble of this world or to your own carnal heart. You are accountable to God. Your life has been given to you for a purpose to praise and to serve Him. Everything you have is of God. He has called you to renounce evil and to live holy unto Him. You must give an account. Do not be fooled. Do not be lethargic. Do not be indifferent.
The Word of God tells us that that accounting begins right now. The Word of God tells us that for that empty way of life, that meaningless way of sexual uncleanness, there is an accounting already in this life. I see the accounting and I weep. I see the destruction spreading in our society – sexual abuse, broken homes, children brought up without fathers to discipline and to love them, society filled with suffering of the soul. Oh, but they will not see it. They will not say that all of this comes from sexual uncleanness. Apart from the grace of God, a man refuses to see the judgments of God upon the way of sin.
By the grace of God, we reckon with this. We see that, rather than that our sins should be unpunished, God has punished the same in His Son. And we see that, apart from the cross of Jesus Christ, there would be for us only fear, fear of God’s judgment. But He has delivered us from that judgment. He has suffered for our sins. Therefore, we shall live unto Him. And we call now to all men: Flee from the wrath that is to come.
You may call me narrow-minded. You may call me bigoted and outdated. And even in the church-world there may be those who smirk at such an old-fashioned idea of a judgment to come. This is the Word of God: Stand before the cross. That is the only way of redemption. Flee the wrath that is to come.
Your way, now, as a child of God may be narrow. Your way, now, may be ridiculed. But that way leads home. It leads to life eternal. In that day you and I will give an account. I will give an account as a preacher, as a father, as a husband, and as a brother in Jesus Christ. Shall I to you, to my own congregation, to my loved ones say: “It’s OK. Everybody’s doing it. There’s no sense bucking the stream.” Shall I say that? If so, what will I say to my Lord who died for me?
Shall you say that in your life – it’s OK? Shall you? You, for whom Jesus suffered and bled? Shall you live in uncleanness? You? Are you going to play with it? No! Christ has suffered for us. Therefore arm yourselves. Keep yourselves pure and unspotted from the world. And, by His grace, look forward to His coming when the battle will be over and we shall awake in His likeness. There shall be only pure and holy thoughts. And we shall be at rest at last.
Let us pray.
Father, bless Thy Word to our souls. Amen.