Winning the Battle for Personal Holiness

  • Home
  • Resources
  • Sermons
  • Winning the Battle for Personal Holiness
  • 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, so as to live for the rest of the time int he flew no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, fries, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this thy are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 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 sprit the way God does. 1 Peter 4:1-6

    1 Peter 4:1 records the only command in this passage: “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” The rest of the passage explains why we should obey this command. This call to armpictures the Christian as a soldier ready for battle. Victory requires weapons. An unarmed soldier will suffer defeat. He must be dressed for battle with armor to fight. The language assumes conflict. Christianity is a battleground, not a playground. We are at war against the flesh, the world, and the devil. 

    • The flesh fights for you to be happy without God.  
    • The world fights for you to fit in without God.
    • The devil fights for you to be religious without God

    If you determine to live for God, the enemy will fight bak. But there is good news: You can win the battle for holiness. 1 Peter 4:1-6 teaches four principles for winning the battle for personal holiness.

    The Mindset of Christ 

    We struggle to do Romans 12:1 when we do not do Romans 12:2. We do not present our bodies as living sacrifices because we are not transformed by renewing our minds. Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Strong emotions do not bring spiritual victory. You must arm yourself with the mindset of Christ.  

    The way of Christ. Verse 1 says, “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.” The verse begins by pointing us back to 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” This is the basis for Peter’s call to arms: Christ suffered in the flesh. He does not give a lesson in morality or ethics. He points to the Lord Jesus Christ. Beholding Christ transforms life. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another.”

    Because Christ suffered in the flesh, “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” Your attitude, outlook, and mindset determine victory or defeat. Note the grammar: “arm yourselves.” Arm yourself with the way of thinking of Christ who suffered in the flesh. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This mindset brings victory because “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” There will be many times you have to decide between sin and suffering. The one who arms himself with the mindset of Christ will be able to no to sin to say yes to God. 

    The will of God. Verse 2 states the reason and result of arming yourself with the mindset of Christ: “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Life is brief. Psalm 90:10 says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble, they are soon gone, and we fly away.” The brevity of life should motivate the battle for holiness. We should cease from sin for the sake of “the rest of the time.” Time is gone, past, and lost. A limited amount of time remains. How much time do you have left? The rest of it.

    You can use the rest of the time one of two ways. You can use it for “human passions.” Paul would call it “the flesh.” It is the interests, desires, and cravings of our fallen nature. The plural indicates multiple passions competing with one another. We are walking civil wars. You can live for human passions or “the will of God.” In contrast to human passions, the will of God is singular. God’s will is unified, righteous, and beneficial. You cannot live for human passion and God’s will at the same time. With the time you have left, do God’s will. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

    The Stewardship of Time

    Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Everything belongs to God. We are only stewards. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” We will answer to God for our stewardship. The Bible teaches total-life stewardship. The stewardship of time is most important. Time is more valuable than money. Fight to win the battle for holiness because time is short. Verse 3 says, “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.”

    • Verse 2 looks ahead: “the rest of the time.”
    • Verse 3 looks back: “the time that is past.”

    What do Gentiles want to do? They want to live in “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” This catalog of sin is representative, not exhaustive. These six vicesconsist of personal and social sins. Each noun is plural, indicating the varieties and intensity of these sins. They represent a sinful lifestyle, not merely sinful acts. The world calls it having a good time. The Bible calls it detestable sin. The terms speak for themselves. But the last vice demands attention. After mentioning partying, drinking, and sleeping around, the list ends with idolatry. Sin is sinful because sin is worship. 2 Timothy 3:4 calls it “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” The last vice is the only one qualified by an adjective: “lawless idolatry.” Nature, conscience, and scripture may say it is wrong. But the sinner is determined to do what he wants. 

    To use the rest of your time wisely, consider the time that has passed. Philippians 3:13 says, “Forgetting what lies behind.” Paul’s concern is that the good can become an enemy of the best. Peter’s concern is that the sin of the past should lead us to the holiness in the present: “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do.” “Gentiles” is a spiritual term, not an ethnic one. It refers to unbelieving people. They are sinners who want to do what they want to do. The verb “want” is more than desire. It is human passions mentioned in verse 3 in contrast to the will of God. 

    These vices described some of Peter’s readers before they met Christ. These were mixed congregations. The religious upbringing of the Jewish converts would not have consisted of the vices listed here. But the point Peter makes applies to all Christians: Enough is enough. The devil whispers, “A little bit more won’t hurt anyone.” The Spirit whispers, “Don’t waste any more time with those sinful ways.” In the second plague against Egypt, the country was overrun by frogs. Pharaoh asked Moses to intercede that the Lord would remove the frogs. Moses asked when he wanted him to intercede for him. In Exodus 8:10, Pharaoh answered, “Tomorrow.” He should have asked for the frogs to be removed immediately. Pharaoh chose one more night with the frogs!

    The Judgment of Mankind

    “Only God can judge me” is the motto of many. That statement is not true. People judge others all the time. If it were true, it would offer no comfort to the life of sin. The judgment of God is final and eternal. Life is filled with judgment. This fact calls us to holiness. Do you want to be judge by man or God?  

    The world judges Christians. The world responds two ways to holiness. 

    Holiness provokes surprise. A sinner gives his life to Jesus. He tells his family and friends about it. They are indifferent toward his profession of faith. Then he starts to act differently. He no longer does what he used to do. He does condemn their activities. But he longer participates with them. Their initial indifferenceturns into shocked embitterment. 

    • What happened to you? 
    • Who do you think you are?  
    • Why are you acting funny? 

    Verse 4 warns: “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery.” “Surprised” indicates more than being caught off guard by something novel or different. It is shock, anger, and disbelief.  The unchanged person is offended by the changed person. They will be surprised that you no longer “join them in the same flood of debauchery.” They are not upset because you are trying to stop them from doing their thing. They are upset because you choose not to join them in the flood of debauchery. “Debauchery” is that which contradicts salvation. The danger is that it is a “flood” of debauchery. It may start small. But you will get caught up! 

    Holiness provokes slander. Verse 4 says, “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.” “Malign” translates the Greek word for blasphemy. It is used here for hateful, slanderous, and degrading speech against Christians. 1 Peter 4:12-19anticipates physical persecution. It was verbal abuse now. Because they loved one another, they were called incestuous. Because they did not participate in the cultic practices, they were called nonreligious. Because they did not participate in emperor worship, they were called atheists. This was ancient cancel culture. 

    Be careful of celebrating people being canceled because you disagree with their racial, political, or economic views. They are coming for Christians too! The world will celebrate you if you adopt their way of thinking. The world will cancel you if you arm yourself with a Christian way of thinking. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” You cannot be godly and popular at the same time. Christians are disowned, imprisoned, and persecuted. You may never face martyrdom. But if you do God’s will, they will malign you. Do not expect the world to treat you better than it treated Jesus. John 15:20 says, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master,’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

    Christ will judge the world. How should you respond when the world maligns you?

    • Do not give up the battle. 
    • Do not fight fire with fire. 

    Armed with Christ’s way of thinking, entrust yourself to him who judges justly. Pray for the lost. Love the lost. Witness to the lost. But do not take matters into your own hands. Verse 5 says: “but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Peter does not guarantee the wicked will get their due in this life. But they will have to give account at the final judgment. The language pictures a courtroom. The Lord Jesus Christ will be the judge. Sinners will give account to him. 

    Acts 17:30-31 says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” It may seem the enemy is winning. But the Lord will have the last word. He is ready to judge. It may come at any moment, without warning. He will judge the living and the dead. You may get by. But you will not get away. Not even death will get you off the hook. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

    The Hope of the Gospel 

    Verse 6 says, “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.” This has been called the most difficult verse in the Bible. But it is not that difficult if you read the text in context. Peter says, “The gospel was preached even to those who are dead.” He is not talking about dead people who get a second chance to repent and believe by hearing the gospel after they die. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

    Peter is talking about Christians who heard the gospel, trusted in Christ, and died at some point. The death of Christians was a troubling matter in the early church. They expected Christ to return any day. And they wondered what would happen to those who died before Christ returned. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18directly addresses this concern. Likewise, unbelievers used the death of the believers to question the Christian faith. If Christ gives new, abundant, eternal life, why do Christians die? Peter answers this is why the gospel was preached to those who are now dead: “that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” Here is the purpose of preaching. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

    Death entered the world because of the sin of Adam and Eve. If the Lord tarries his coming, every one of us will die. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” But death does not have the last word. We may be judged in the flesh as people are. But we will live in the spirit the way God does. John 14:1-2 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.