“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 in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God”- 1 Peter 4:1-2
With the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we are also allotted a portion of suffering—and part of that portion is the body we remain living in through the duration of this life. Our sinful flesh is no longer a home that we enjoy, but a home that we loathe. Every day our regenerate spirit groans in longing to be free from this body of death….you know what I’m talking about. We all feel it. We all know this suffering.
And there is no escaping this suffering—because hating the presence of sin is not voluntary. Hating sin is part of who we are because we have been made spiritually alive through being born again to a living hope! Being cleansed by the blood of Christ and made alive by His Spirit, we now hate the sin we once loved because a greater love controls us—the love of Christ. Of course, this hatred of sin is not at an automatic level 10—it grows stronger as our love for Christ grows stronger—but even the freshest of Christians contain this holy hatred because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in them. So even when, in a moment or season of weakness, we stop fighting the sin we hate and get hooked by the lure of our flesh, our suffering will not be alleviated—but it will become more intense as we incur the godly guilt (the painful, yet blessed pull of the Spirit) that brings us to our knees in sorrowful repentance.
Though our suffering is inevitable, we must remember our suffering is not in vain. In fact, there is joy all up in the midst of our suffering… because as we suffer, we gain Christ—who is our joy. As we reject our flesh and the desires of the world, the deathly weight of sin that restrains us from enjoying God is lifted off of us as we step with a pure conscience into His presence. I know that the Blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, for all time, and secures our good standing with God eternally….without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, without it we are destined for destruction. Praise God for the salvation He has accomplished for us through the life, death and resurrection of His incarnate Son. But it is important that we remember, in this life, when we neglect to fight our sin and wholly submit ourselves to God… we neglect larger amounts of joy. So while we may remain forgiven in our lack of effort to battle the flesh, we also remain miserable. And I don’t think God wants any of His children to have a joy-less life in this world. I believe He calls us all to fight—to stop playing games and make war against our sin.
As we engage in the fight against sin, it is imperative to remember that whether we choose to fight or we choose to succumb, we will suffer either way. We can choose the suffering of surrendering to our flesh and enduring the feelings of confusion, doubt and separation from God… or we can choose the God-appointed suffering of telling our flesh “NO!” and gaining more joy, assurance and intimacy in Him.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”- 1 Peter 5:8-9
From our perspective, putting off our old man is a daily task, not a one time event—but it’s a task that if embarked on, brings forth much joy. Satan will lie to us, telling us that waging war against our flesh is pointless. He’ll feed hopelessness into our minds by luring us to doubt that God will be on the other side of each battle offering us more of Himself as we put to death more of ourselves. Satan wants us hopeless, because without hope, we won’t fight. But the God of hope is faithful. May we hold onto the promise of 1 Peter 5:10 as we encounter the sure enticements of our flesh and the even more sure fiery darts of Satan.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.””- 1 Peter 5:10