Week of: February 28, 2011
Sharing by: Pam Crawford
1 Peter 4:1-4
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they, heap abuse on you.
It was during a particularly painful time in my life when I began to understand the importance of living for God. The Life’s Application commentary says, “when we are in pain or our life is in jeopardy, our real values clearly show up, and sinful pleasures seem less important.” By experience I have to agree. Things I once viewed as being important really began to loose their appeal when my life hit a bend in the road. I had a choice to make and it was going to require a radical transformation that is still in progress today.
As a young woman I would describe myself as a bit of a rebel even though I really didn’t yet understand whom I was actually rebelling against. When I got to that established legal age I just decided I was going to do life my way. I really wasn’t concerned about pleasing anybody except myself; it was time to start living for me! I was hearing the message that life is too short so you have to make the most of it. Society was definitely portraying the importance of taking care of you because no one else would. And, “party hardy” well that was the wording used back in the day to describe having the time of your life. These messages definitely became my excuse to feed the desires of my flesh. Hey, since I wasn’t committing that so called “unpardonable sin” that I was taught about in my religion classes, I believed I was ok. For the most part I viewed myself as a relatively good person, I just liked to have a really good time and sometimes I chose to overlook the possibility of any consequences.
God willing, this week I will celebrate two major milestones in my life; my birthday and the tenth year anniversary of my Spiritual rebirth (John 3:3-8). Like some of you who have decided to make changes in your lifestyle to better align to God’s Word, “strange” might be a common word used to describe the new you. There is also “Jesus freak, religious fanatic, and lunatic in the arsenal of those who do not yet get it themselves. May I encourage you to accept those words as flattery because in the end you do not stand before man (1 Peter 4:5)? Celebrate and listen carefully to these words of Peter: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)
“When you stand before God on the last day, do you understand that you will be called to give an account of how you lived your life between your dash, and how you responded to the trials He set before you?” This was a question posed to me by someone who cared enough to challenge me. As I reflect back, it was definitely a question that helped to change the course of my life. If you don’t mind, may I ask you to stop a moment and ponder this question for yourself? Then, imagine being asked the question when all you really know about God is what you have heard on Sunday mornings, and for the most part you think you’re living ok.
Ten years ago it was a deep sense of despair that brought me to my crossroads. There I had to determine what direction I was going to take. I had to finally decide what I truly believed and I had many questions. Thankfully, I have discovered it was God’s Word that offered the life changing answers. I learned rather quickly that God is more than willing to allow you to come to the end of yourself. He allows tests, trials and consequences to enter ones life for the purpose of getting your attention. Why? Because He loves us too much to let us stay lost.
At this point God now had me at a place where I had been doing things my way for over 40 years, and frankly it wasn’t going very well for me. God’s Word tells us that He wants no one to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He waits patiently for us to willingly repent of sin. God gives us a choice and when we agree to do life His way, we receive an eternal blessing.
I do believe it is important that we better understand this “born again” statement in order to refrain from being offended when people persecute us for our faith. Let’s eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus found in the Book of John chapter 3. I encourage you to study the entire account and pay special attention to verse 3 where Jesus himself declares, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus was one of the few religious leaders that believed in Jesus, but he had questions like many of us do. He appeared to be attracted to the character of Jesus and although there is very little known about Nicodemus, we know that he leaves his encounter with Jesus a changed man. He not only allowed Jesus to give him a whole new perspective on God, but he allowed Jesus to change him. He understood these words, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (V21)
Nicodemus walked away understanding that eternal life begins the moment of Spiritual rebirth (John 3:36). When we receive Christ we are reborn (John 1:12-13) and this is something worth celebrating. However the celebration involves dying to self (Romans 7:4-6), making changes, and setting new goals. When you discover God’s character you can’t help but fall in love with what He represents. How can you know you’re on the right path? “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he had been born of God (1 John 3:9). Does this mean you will be perfect, absolutely not because you are still wrapped in human flesh. What it does mean is when you do sin, you will recognize the conviction and you will desire to repent to please your Heavenly Father (Romans 3:25).
Life’s Application Commentary:
We are “born of God” when the Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us Jesus’ new life. Being born again is more than a fresh start; it is a rebirth, receiving a new family name based on Christ’s death for us. When this happens, God forgives us and totally accepts us; the Holy Spirit gives us a new mind and heart, lives in us, and begins helping us to become more like Christ.
Our perspective changes, too, because we have a mind that is renewed day by day by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24). So we must begin to think and act differently.
Additional Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 2:9-10 and 1 John 3:9
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham