1 Peter 4:3-6
3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles,having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties andabominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose beenpreached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
Since this is one of those bigger passages that I’m dividing into segments, I feel it is necessary for us to reread the verse before these, “2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” It flows right into today’s part and Peter is explaining why he said to live the rest of time for the will of God and what he means by “the lusts of men.”
The one trend I have found interesting in studying the bible is the use of the word “gentiles”. In the Old Testament, it referred to (as we read the bible today) those who were not of the nation of Israel (ie non Jews). However, we find in the New Testament that the word Gentiles is used to refer to those “not of the faith”. The original Greek word used is ethnos and the Hebrew gowy meaning a common group of people. It is where we get the term ethnicity. Culturally, this was used to indicate the group or race of people who did not follow God. For too long we used “gentiles” to mean those who are not Jews, but rather the term better refers to people who are not followers of the will of God.
Peter talks a lot about lust. In his second letter he has a long passage (which I love and cannot wait to dissect) that discusses the lusts of deceit. Too often we equate lust with sexual promiscuity and while that is part of it, it isn’t the whole idea behind the word. We can see this easily since before the word “lusts,” Peter uses the word “sensuality,” an indication that sensuality and lust are separate ideas. I don’t want to entirely divulge into this topic just yet as there is more to this passage than just lust, but I mention this for us to look forward to what Peter has to say about it later on.
Taking Peter’s use of “gentiles” to mean “the ungodly,” he is warning us of what is to come as we pursue following Christ into the will of God. We must not restrict our thinking to the simple list that Peter presents, as I believe it is only a representation of what he is referring to just to give his readers the right idea. There are a few points he is making here:
We have already wasted enough time outside of the will of God.
Whether you have been a believer of Christ since you were 10 (like myself) or if you just now came to know Jesus Christ as your Savior, Peter is telling us not to waste time anymore chasing things outside the will of God. This is something I did despite my belief; it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally decided to start listening to what He has to say. Peter calls the past “sufficient” because he knows, I know, and you know that you won’t get any more satisfaction out of it than you already have. This is good to keep in mind when the enemy attacks us with temptations to return to our old ways of life. While it seems tempting to go back to sex, drugs, alcohol, fast food, or whatever your poison was, you know that it won’t be what you thought it would and once again you will be disappointed. This is what leads to the road of chasing your next “high” but not being satisfied.
Those closest to you will not understand your change.
I think this is the most difficult part of changing something in your life spiritually. A lot of times we will find that our old friends have fallen away. At the very least they distance themselves because now you have less in common with them. It’s difficult to explain to your friends why you now have a different set of priorities in life and your common routine is changing and may be even more difficult for them to understand it. Some will hang on longer than others, hoping or thinking it is just a phase you are going through. Others will think you joined a cult. Some will take it personally and desert you all together. You may even get some who try to use peer pressure and pull you back into your previously destructive life. Becoming a disciple of Christ is going to shake things up. This is what Peter is informing us about: it is to be expected. The good news is you won’t be alone; everyone who has made the same change understands and will be there right beside you to show you what true friendship is about. Friends who were friends just because you had a common hobby aren’t real friends; they were just as lonely as you were in your addiction or habits and needed justification and belonging. A true companion only cares about your growth and improvement.
There are no excuses.
I think this relates to what Peter was talking about earlier in Jesus’ proclamation to the spirits. Everyone will hear the truth and gospel of Christ and have an opportunity to accept or reject it. Peter indicates here a different kind of judgment, a different kind of life. He is talking about the spiritual side of things. Even though the world may judge us because of our flesh, the spiritual life is what is most important. Secondly, if all we live in is the flesh, then when we are judged by God, all He has to judge us by is our fleshly lives. This is why it doesn’t matter as much if you lose “friends” during your transformation. This is why we aren’t to worry about what others will think when you make efforts to put a stop to your destructive habits. This is why Jesus says, 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Jesus must be our first and foremost focus, despite our surroundings. The will of God must me our top priority and out of that our lives will flourish. This isn’t just because God deserves to be number 1 in our lives, it is because it is how He has created the creation to perform. I venture to say that I think He knows best how His creation was designed to behave; doesn’t the creator always know the purpose of his creation? Therefore, we are only condemning ourselves if we live outside of that. He has even given us His grace and forgiveness to make up for when we fall short.
Living in the spirit isn’t something we are obligated to do, it is what we were designed to do! It really frustrates me when others and myself look at what God says as commands that we begrudgingly have to follow because He says so. Certainly, His commands war against the desires of our flesh, but we have it all wrong! We get to do these things. It is for freedom that we are able to enjoy life in the spirit. The Spirit of God frees us from that atrocities of this broken world that holds us back, tears us down, and prevents us from living life to the fullest!
What is preventing you from living free today?