Following Jesus is Bizarre
And so whether you’re joining us in the vehicle, online, here at the church I just want to welcome you. We’re going to be in first Peter chapter four. So if you brought a Bible with you, you can turn to 1 Peter 4. I’m only going to look at six verses today, but a significant passage of scripture for us as it relates to following after Jesus. And one of the things that we looked at last week, we ended 1 Peter 3. And what we saw in 1 Peter 3 is really the vulnerability of our spirit apart from the Lord, the need for God to carry us through that, really, when it comes down to it, we don’t have the ability to save ourselves. You can try all the great works that you want, but no matter how hard you try, nothing can undo any sin that you have against God and nothing can guarantee within your own power where you’re going to go beyond this world.
You need the grace of God to rescue you, the grace of God, to carry you through. We have that dependency as people being created for God’s purposes to need and depend on him to sustain us. And the great news is God created you to know him. God is a loving God. God is a gracious God. God is a forgiving God. And to find that grace and forgiveness, we must come to him. And the end of 1 Peter 3 shows us how Christ carries us through really the destruction in this world and what sin causes, even in our own hearts, and to carry us through it, to enjoy his presence. So there is a dependency for us to rely on him, even in these moments as we gather together. And one of the reasons that we worship as a church, is we recognize that dependency that we have on him as God’s people, we need the Lord daily in our lives hourly, minute by minute, we need him.
We at Alpine Bible Church, we’ve been building a church. We got construction going on at a church facility right now. And if what we’re doing is being done apart from God’s strength, it does not matter, if we’re not here resting in Jesus, but rather resting in ourselves, what we do it’s useless. God calls us to connect him. And we saw last week, as we looked at the passage of scripture, as we consider the needs of this world, that the reason the church exists isn’t to just accomplish a task. The whole point of ministry is to care for people. God creates ministry in order to reach hearts, it’s not about just doing busy work. God doesn’t need you to do busy work. God is more than capable of doing those things on his own, but rather God has created you to know him, to enjoy him, to delight in him for all of eternity.
And he’s called you on a mission to draw this world to him as a light in this world. And so we looked at it last week in terms of injustices. And this is why the book of Peter is even written. As we’ve studied this together, we’ve seen Peter is writing a letter, to what is in modern day Turkey, to the churches in modern day Turkey who are facing hardship. And Peter himself is about to be crucified upside down for his faith, and just before he’s crucified, his wife is crucified. And he’s writing to a church that’s facing persecution, they’re facing suffering, and he shows them in the midst of that, how to let the light of the gospel shine forth, how to not circumstance dictate who you are, but rather in the midst of the adversity that you’ve faced, how to rise above that and stand as a light for Christ. You can go through difficult circumstances and on the back end of it, come out stronger because of your faith in Jesus.
That is why this book is written. And Peter is encouraging us to think about, in the trials that you go through in the life and circumstances that you may not like, how you can walk with Jesus in that to not only strengthen yourself, but to draw other people to him. And when we think about injustices in our culture, Peter’s writing about those things, right? We looked at the value of women in the first century. It was something that the women were treated more as property than people, where the idea of slaves or oppressive government, and Peter saying, “Look, no matter where you find yourself now, no matter how oppressed you may feel, you have a voice.” And he’s shown us how to exercise that voice, to see a difference made.
And as believers, this is what’s important for us to know, when it comes to the gospel, you don’t lay down the gospel to go address the social issue or an injustice to then come back and pick up the gospel again, but rather the gospel is what brings the reconciliation to every injustice in this world. It’s because of who you are in Jesus, that you have identity. That is the foundation for why you can stand. It’s why you have worth, value, meaning, and purpose. This book is a significant book to the life of a believer in the midst of adversity. Now that’s the best introduction I can give.
But 1 Peter 4 is where we’re going to look at today in light of that, because here’s what Peter says. When you live this kind of life, people are going to look at you as bizarre. And so what do you do? What do you do in light of that? Now, Peter is going to address that for us. And I’m going to read the first six verses, and I’m going to go through this pretty quickly. And then I’m going to go back and just really highlight verse one and talk about what verse one says, but well look at these first six verses for us.
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. 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. For the time already passed is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, and lust, and drunkenness, and carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In all of this, they are surprised that you do not run with him into the same excess of dissipation and they malign you, but they will give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose, been preached 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.
Now I’m going to look at verse three to six for just a minute, just to highlight this so we can see what Peter is arguing here for a basis. But what he’s doing in verse three is he’s shaping an unbelieving worldview. There’s an unbelieving world view in verse three to six, and verse three here’s what’s interesting to acknowledge, is that when Peter starts to talk about an unbelieving world view, you first do it as Gentiles. He describes the way the Gentiles are living, but here’s what he does for you, Christians, and this is what’s important. He describes the believers he’s writing to, in what is modern day Turkey, as people who have participated in this type of lifestyle. He just says that this is a given. Before you were with Jesus, walking with him in your life, in order to glorify him as your King. This is just who you were. And he describes it this way, right?
So this is not a casting stones of people that don’t agree with you. This is actually saying, look, you belonged to that same people. It’s the only by the grace of God, you are what you are today. And so it’s not to look at other people with disdain or a judgemental attitude as being less than you, but rather in a place of humility that says apart from the grace of God, me too. Me too. And so we talk about, in this section of scripture, an unbelieving worldview and how now we live in light of that, knowing that people might call you bizarre in following after Jesus, or just odd or strange, or even malign you because of that. It starts on the basis of understanding, look, you’re not too far distant, having been removed from that same circumstance and living that type of way in your life.
In Titus 3, Paul writes it this way. He starts in verse two. He says slander no one to avoid fighting and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people for we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice, and envy, and hateful, and detesting one another. But when the kindness of God, our savior, and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy.
A few things this should do with us as a people here today. If you don’t belong to the Lord, I mean, this place should give you a pause to see how the grace of God embraces us no matter where we are, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how dark we may feel in our life, we’re never too far from the grace of God. And if you are a follower of Christ, this shows us the type of response we’re to have in this world. It’s not this distance in the sense that we push the world away, because we don’t want to get the darkness of the world on us, but rather we understand this only because of the grace of God, that he pursued us as light in the darkness that we’ve been rescued, and thank God for that grace. And knowing now we’ve been called, in this same way, to demonstrate our Lord and savior in this world. So go into this darkness and to fight for people not to come against them.
That doesn’t mean we always agree with what people do, but this gives us a place to carry a heart of compassion. As we understand the worldview that’s shaped here from an unbelieving life. And Peter gives us this key word in verse four, he says this, “And in this they are,” and this is if you’ve got sermon notes, this is in your blank, “and they are surprised.” Peter gives this idea that they are surprised. There is this visceral reaction to you because really you’re not agreeing with what they’re doing. You may love them where they’re at, but they don’t understand why you’re not choosing to follow after them to live a life about self-made pleasure, to wake up tomorrow and just say, whatever makes you happy you do what makes you happy because you’re King of this world, and what you want is what matters most. They’re shocked by that to the point, to the point they even malign you in it. It tells you in the same verse that they come against you in this circumstance.
But in verse five, he says this, look, but don’t let that determine what you do because verse five, he says, “Everyone’s going to give an account,” right? So circumstances, don’t dictate who we are, Jesus does. So just because from when it comes against you, just because they’re surprised, there’s this reaction where they look at you as just odd and maybe even they don’t want anything to do with you, and because of that they malign you. I mean, every one of us, we meet some sort of challenge in life. We’ve got to figure out what to do with that and how to define that. And sometimes as people, it’s just easier to push it away, or even act aggressive towards it because we don’t want whatever it is and we don’t understand it. And so we might even get violent about it. And that’s what Peter is saying in this passage. Look, the world is going to respond different because your identity is different, but don’t let that determine what you do.
Because in verse five, everyone’s got to give an account to the Lord, including you, as well as in them. And then in verse six, he tells us this. He says this in verse two and in verse five, he says, that rather where to act according to God’s will, that’s how he ends verse two and how he ends in verse five, that our job in life, what God calls us to, is to live out his will in this world and not the will of the world. And so what is the believers defense then? Let me go back to the very beginning because this is where I want to spend the rest of our time. Verse one and two, this is what becomes important for us. How do we respond in this world? When people see you as bizarre, right? When they may malign you, or act aggressive towards you, or assault you, or even abuse you, how are we to live? What is the believers defense?
Well, the answer is in verse one, and the result of that you find in verse two, and then in the reality of verse one and two is contrasted in verse three and four. So when you look at verse one, he gives us the secret to enduring despite the pressure of the world, and here’s what we learned. Verse one, we learned that there is a relationship between truth and the way that you live. He shows us this with the next key word, if you’ve got a sermon note there, verse one, the very first word there, he says, therefore, therefore. Now, any great hermeneutics or studying a scripture is going to teach you, and you probably already know this, that when you’re reading the Bible, when you come to the word therefore, it is always a place worth stopping and just asking the question, what is therefore, there for? That person loves you.
What is therefore, there for? That’s the question you ask. Anytime you see that passage, okay. What is the word, therefore, there for? And when you look at this, this word is a connection between who God is and what we should do. It’s a connection between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, meaning when God makes this statement, therefore, he’s not about to just give you something to do in order to give you busy work. He’s connecting who God is to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Therefore becomes that transitional place, in light of everything in this doctoral stand and the identity of God, this leads to the way that you live. It answers the question, why? It’s just not this mind numbing response to what you just do things in order to do things, but rather God is very much rooted in why you should do what you do.
It’s this cause and effect. This reality that we live in connected to fact, therefore it exists to teach your mind, to guard and direct your heart. I said it in this couplet sort of phrase for you to maybe consider this, guard your heart with your head, not your head with your heart. You get that? Guard your heart with your head, no your head with your heart, and here’s why. They’re here going to be some days where you just don’t feel like it. And I can tell you those days are going to happen when someone maligns you, when someone comes against you, because what you’re going to feel, it’s probably going to be a little bit different than how Jesus calls you to behave. And so that’s why he roots this therefore not in your heart, not in your feeling, but in his identity.
Who he is. That truth because the truth is what sustains. You start following your emotions and you’re going to get lost, and you might come against someone in a way that God does not desire. But when you understand what God says in his word, that everything that we do is connected to the truth of who he is, it gives us an understanding as to why we do what we do. And so this is what we find in this passage of scripture verses one to six. He’s contrasting the believers defense with an unbelievable worldview. I know we live today, we stand for Jesus when you interact with people in this world, sometimes you might find that people disagree with you and they try to make it sound like it’s an intellectual argument. Like I don’t follow after what Christians believe, because here’s what they’ll say.
I think too much, I believe in science or something like that. There’s some sort of intellectual basis as to why they reached this decision and the decision that you have, obviously can’t be intellectual. You just base it off faith and faith is this wishy washy, guessing thing, but we know as believers that God tells us to worship him with all of our mind. That God created you as an intellectual being and that doesn’t mean because you have a faith that you check your mind at the door, but rather that God wants you to be a thinking people. And you continue to think, you think about how living for God interacts with this world. We’re constantly thinking about how to live in light of who God is, the truth, the foundation of what life is in light of where we are in this world today.
I would say more than anybody, Christians are called to be thinkers. And so what Peter is doing is he’s getting us to understand that in this passage of scripture, that really what you were previous to Jesus, wasn’t truthfully one who thought intellectually towards these things, because what drove you was you and what you wanted. It was all about you regardless, really of truth. Now I will say anybody that believes anything they do so because they believe it genuinely, and they think it’s true, but as a believer, this becomes an important place for you to challenge the worldviews that we experience. Why do you believe what you believe?
What really gives people value? Why do you think you should hold to a moral ought? Without a moral law giver, what makes right from wrong? How come it’s not just subjective between person to person if there is no God? What makes murder an atrocity? What makes these sins that we read about in this passage important not to do in verse three? Without a moral law giver, there is no universal ought that people should obey, but yet within us we’ll claim that. We’ll claim that people have value, right? We’ll claim that taking a life is wrong, but why? If you just exist randomly, what makes you so important? Where do you find your value? As a human being, if there is no God, where is your value? How do you even begin to discover that? Is it based on what you do?
If it’s based on what you do, what if you did something that you don’t even want to admit? Or what if someone next to you can do it better than you? Does that make you worth less? So Peter wants us to begin to understand that from the worldview that we had previous to Jesus, that really what drove us was just this emotional response where we sought what we wanted within ourselves and what it ultimately leads to is the destruction of others. Now, I know there are plenty of people in this world that may believe in no God and live a decent life, but I think the place for us as Christians is just to simply stop and say, but why? What leads you to even think that it’s important to lead a good life? Where does good even come from without God?
On what basis do you honor things in this world without a God who’s written that intrinsically within you? How is it we as human beings hold to these universal values, this ethical way of living if there is no creator? I would suggest to us that the only way that that makes sense is because of a divine design within us. And this is what Peter’s saying. If you look in the contrasting of this as unbelievers, and in verse three, this is another key word for you. He says, here’s what we did together as people, apart from God, for the time already passed is sufficient for you to have carried out the desires of the Gentiles. Look at what he says, having pursued a course of sensuality. So he’s identifying for us the behavior that we lived. He’s generalizing behaviors as people. He’s not saying, look, everyone did this, but look, this was the general basis for you apart from God.
The general behavior before the Lord was to make life about yourself. And now that we’ve began to recognize the significance of who God is, it’s really given us a basis to understand why things are wrong in the first place. Why we should do what God calls us to do and not do the things God tells us not to do. He’s showing us, as Peter has talked about in this book, why slavery is wrong, why racism is wrong, why women have value. It has everything to do with your creation in the image of God. And so as Christians, we have a basis. It’s not the pursuit of sensuality, that he says here, but it’s the therefore, that’s the phrase that gives us understanding. You look, that’s exactly what Peter is saying in verse one, chapter four, if you want to know what your defense is in this world, that may treat you as bizarre. It’s the foundation of everything that you are in God, regardless of what the world says, because this is truth.
People around you could say things, it could contradict you, but they could be crazy, right? They’re blaming you for being that way, but the reality is, is you’re rooted in the foundation. And that foundation is what gives us worth, value, and meaning as people. And Peter has made that argument throughout this entire book so that when something comes against you and you feel something rise up within you, this emotional response, that rather than live out that emotion, you stop and say, “Wait a second. I’ve got a basis that transcends just this visceral reaction to this moment.”
It’s a truth for which matters for all people and a truth that I need to live, because this is where all people find the salvation that they really need. And it’s important that I live this out in this moment, because if I don’t, who will? We are made in the image of God. That’s what gives us value. And I think whether we believe in God or not, we know that within us as human beings. It’s why we have this war within us when we see an injustice happen against a person. You’re arguing for the image of God made in you with or without the acknowledgement of God in your life. If I gave it to you in an illustration, Tim Keller uses this illustration, he says, suppose, you really love, let’s say, because today’s Father’s Day. Let’s suppose you really love your father, right? I hope you do. But let’s say in loving your father, that you decide that you’ve got this picture of your father, and it was such an important picture.
You decide to get it made into a painting. And so you hang that painting in your house. And someone comes into your house and they see that painting, and they grab that painting off the wall and they pull it down and they decide, I’m going to enhance this painting, and they grab a permanent marker and they decide to draw a more fantastical mustache on your father than he already has. And they start the black out some of the teeth, and they start to… Who knows, just go to town, give them some different type of haircut, and they just mess up this painting. And all of a sudden you get angry about this and why do you get angry? Well, because that painting reflects the image of your father. And you say to them, “Do you know what you’re doing?” And you get frustrated. They say, “Well, I’m sorry. I just wanted to enhance the painting, but I’ll pay to cover it.” And you said, “That’s not the point. The point is, is this is made in the image of my father, it was to honor my father, and to attack this painting is to attack him.”
And the same is true with every human being in this world. Every human being is made in the image of God and to attack a human being for any reason is an affront to the image they bear in God, and therefore an affront to God. And Peter’s argument here for us is to understand how important that therefore is. Why is that therefore, there for. It’s the foundation to belief that drives the way that you live. And Peter is saying in our lives, when you live this way for Jesus, people may malign you. In fact, count on it. Jesus said to follow after him in Timothy, there will be suffering, there will be persecution, and Peter’s making this entire argument in this book.
But what do you do? And the response is in this passage for us of how we participate as God’s people. And so he says this to us, that this is God’s will then, that he gives us this ethical prescription because it is what’s best for you. God, doesn’t give us things to do just to give you busy work, I said in the beginning, and God doesn’t give you things to do simply because he needs a favor. God doesn’t need us to do anything. God is more than capable of doing it all on his own, but he’s given you a place to connect with him in the way that you live your life and honor him, in the way that you honor life around you. These aren’t arbitrary things that God is saying to you. The reason that God tells us to do these things is that it reflects reality. And if you break them, you break you, and you also harm the people around you.
And so let me give you another key phrase in this passage of scripture. This is the last key phrase I want to give, and in the notes you’ll find it there. The last key phrase in verse one, he says this, so arm yourselves. Arm yourselves, because as a believer, this is what you’re to do. You’re to arm yourself in this foundational truth of Jesus that he talks about in verse three. That Jesus is our rescuer, that Jesus is making us in his image, that Jesus does pursue us for salvation in him, that we come to Christ and we’re made new in Christ, and we’re given that position that we saw him in 1 Peter 2:9. A royal priesthood living stones being built up into him. That is your identity. Arm yourselves in this, because this is the foundation to everything that you do as a believer. So arm yourselves in this, and so arming yourselves becomes important.
This arming yourselves, let me just contrast an idea for you. This is more than just knowing, if you in your house, if you have some sort of weapon, and you have an intruder in your home, and that weapon is intended to stop an intruder, and your weapon is in your second floor in your bedroom, and you find yourself on the first floor with the intruder, you are not armed, that does no benefit. Right? I’m not telling you to walk around with a weapon all the time. Don’t obsess that way, but you understand the difference there. You know about a weapon, but there is no arming of it. And so, as a believer in this world, you got to understand that the things of this world, the flesh of this world will come against you. And we’re not about attacking people. We fight for people, but people need to think through what they stand on, and why they even stand for it. And that is where we arm ourselves as believers in Christ. We arm ourselves with this truth. We need to arm our own lives because this becomes the place in which we stand.
When the world says things against you, there are a few ways that you can respond that are not healthy. Sometimes we can believe what the world says and we can get depressed, we can withdraw, become secluded. Sometimes you can believe what the world says, and then you get angry, right?
But there’s a third option in the way that we believe and that’s what Peter wants us to think through. You may know God is powerful and wise, but if you’re eaten with worry, you’re not armed with this truth. You may know that God is a gracious God, but if you walk in guilt and shame, and that’s what haunts you, you’re not arming yourself with his grace and forgiveness. If you care about what others think rather than what Jesus says about you, you may know what God says, but you’re not armed with it. If someone comes to you today and says you’re a nobody and you’re worthless. You can believe that and respond depressed, right? “You’re right.” Or you can get angry about someone’s statement like that. And you say, “You know what? I’m going to tell you something too.” Right? Or there’s a third option, and that third option is rather than embrace what others say, you embrace what Jesus says.
The reason we respond isn’t truly because of what was said about you. So if someone comes to you and says, “You’re worthless. You’re a nobody.” The reason you might respond depressed, or you could respond in anger, isn’t truly because of what they said. It’s because of what you believed about what they said, does that make sense? Words are powerless until they’re believed, but it’s when you believe what they said, that they have an effect on you. So people can say things all day long, but if you don’t believe what’s said about you, but rather you choose to believe what Christ says about you, then those words don’t weigh on you the way what Jesus says about you. And that’s what, Peter is arguing the circumstances, look, the world may say things against you as a believer. They may look at you as being bizarre. Arm yourselves this way.
There is a foundation that transcends the emotional visceral response to this world. And the weight of that is far more important than what others say. It’s not about what they say, but rather it’s about what you tell yourself through what they’ve said. What words do you speak to your heart? What Peter is saying in this passage is let it be the truth of God. And in verse one he reminds us, and this is the last thing I’m going to look at, verse one here reminds us, therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also for the same purpose. And what he’s saying to us, is he’s acknowledging as believers in Christ, look, guys, there is suffering. There is. There is because there’s a system that opposes you and they want to try to manipulate what you do. And sometimes it even becomes forceful to the point that it’s physical.
There is a struggle in following after Jesus, but we don’t suffer… Not just the suffering. Let me just say, and I’m not telling you if someone does something illegal to you that you just need to put up with it. We have laws for a reason, you report those things. They’re there to protect you. God’s also giving a purpose to our life in the struggle that we have and just to suffer for the sake of suffering with no purpose behind it can do some inflicting to your soul in some awful ways. But how can we give of ourselves for the sake of Jesus, even though there’s a struggle? How do we do that in a way that’s pleasing to him? This is what Peter is saying.
Well, it’s not about just simply picking comfort for the sake of comfort. That was what the Gentiles did and making life about us, but rather we live for a bigger purpose now, and that’s the Lord. We seek to honor him in circumstances, even when it costs us and sometimes it should cost us. We should give for the sake of Christ, just the way Christ has given his life for you. And when you think about this idea of suffering, as a parent, as a spouse, as a Christian, you can walk in this world and sometimes we can blow it. We can mess up. But where do you go for your foundation? Do you go to the people which you messed up around? I think it’s important to apologize, but do you look for them and their ultimate approval over who you are? If so, you’re never going to find complete satisfaction because you’re always going to disappoint somebody.
Do you go to yourself? Well, you’re probably in some cases, sick of yourself, more than anybody, right? You know things in your life that you struggle with, and you’ve continued to struggle with, and you want to get past it, and you just can’t seem to get past it. What’s wrong with you? Or what’s wrong with me? Right? But where do we go for that change? And where do we go for that grace? And where did we go to find that identity in our failure? And the answer for us is Jesus, because we all struggle.
And I’m reminded of a… There’s a story of the Nabeel Qureshi, and this is where I’ll end. Nabeel Qureshi, he was a Christian apologist and he died at the age of 34 of stomach cancer, he worked with Ravi Zacharias’ ministry. And to the point of his death every week, he actually made video blogs of his life, and he talked about his walk with the Lord in the middle of that struggle. And he got to this place where his suffering was pretty significant and it wasn’t caused by anybody else, but it was challenging. And this is what he said in his circumstance, and this is why I think for us, the foundation’s important. He says, “I don’t know why the suffering has taken place, but this causes my emotions to go astray and question everything.” So here he is a Christian apologist in some of the most difficult days of his stomach cancer towards the end of his life. And he’s saying because of his pain being so severe, he is questioning everything, even in regards to his faith.
And then he says this, “So let me take a step back and remind myself of what I know.” Remember? You let your mind guard your heart, not your heart guard your mind. And this is what he’s doing. He takes a step back and he reminds himself of what I know. “I know the beginning of the universe points to a beginner or a supernatural cause. I know the fine tuning points to a fine tuner. I know the origin of life points to an author of life. The existence of consciousness points to a conscious mind. The existence of morality points to a moral law giver along with the evidence of the Bible and Jesus.” So what is he saying? He’s saying his emotions are impacting him, but what does he do?
He chooses to find himself in those moments, resting in the truth of what Christ says about him. In the midst of this turmoil, that’s what his soul chooses to believe. That’s the same as for us, in the world around us, you faced all sorts of circumstances and temptations that want to pull you from Jesus. That want to say his community doesn’t matter that his word isn’t a foundation, that to Jesus, others might be important, but to you who knows? But everything that Christ is, is exactly what you need. And the truth of who he is becomes that foundation for our lives to save our souls, to rescue us in him, and to delight in his presence forever. God created you for that purpose, not to just give you busy work, but he being your divine designer knows why your soul was made and where it was designed to find its delight.