A New Way of Life
1Peter 2:21-25; 4:1,2
It seems to me that purpose is an important thing. Purpose is important because purpose motivates action.
As a teenager, my grandfather was fond of giving me jobs to do around his farm. Much of the time, however, I had no clue why I was doing a particular task—I was simply doing as I was told. It was only when my grandfather explained the purpose for why I was digging this enormous hole that I became interested in the task, and became more effective at digging the hole.
And as I stand up here to speak for the next twenty or so minutes, I’m guessing you would like some assurance that I have some purpose in speaking to you. Because if I have no purpose for speaking to you, then what is your motivation for listening? If the next 20 minutes holds nothing more than the capricious ramblings of Bryn MacPhail then we are all in deep trouble.
Mercifully, I do have a purpose. My hope is to expound upon, from God’s Word, His purposes for your life.
My task it made easier this morning by the tremendous clarity of Peter’s words. In chapter 2, verse 21, he writes, “For you have been called for this purpose”. Peter actually digresses for a moment, but there we have it—Peter is about to explain the God’s reason for call(ing) (us) out of darkness and into His marvelous light (2:9). Peter will soon set forth one of the purposes God had in making you and I a Christian.
The rationale employed by Peter is straightforward: since (2:21) this; then that (2:24). Since Christ . . . suffered for you, you have an obligation to Him. Since Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross, the expectation is that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
Now, please do not see this equation in terms of debt repayment. Our obligation to Christ is not tied to a requirement of paying Christ back for what He has done for us. Isaac Watts states this beautifully, in his hymn, when he writes,
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
The equation, articulated by Peter, is all about purpose. We must die to sin and live to righteousness because that is God’s purpose for calling us into His kingdom. And lest we forget that purpose, Peter repeats himself in chapter 4, “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, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but the will of God” (4:1,2).
What gets confusing here is that Peter talks about purpose on the heals of referencing Christ’s suffering—he does this also in 2:21. And while it is true that Christians should expect suffering, you’ll be glad to know that Peter is NOT saying that our purpose in life is to suffer. Peter is saying that the purpose of Christ’s suffering should be the purpose governing our life.
We ask the question then: ‘For what purpose did Christ die?’ Christ died for our sins—He died to forgive our transgressions and to make us alive with Him (Col. 2:13,14).
What that means for us is that we should not continue in sin, but rather, we should live according to the will of God. The idea being that it would be the height of hypocrisy and ingratitude to continue in the very thing that made Christ’s death necessary in the first place.
Beloved, we have a choice to make. There are two ways of life. One way is to live according to our own design and preference; the other way to live is according to God’s design and preference. Peter’s message is that God’s purpose for our life is to live according to His will.
If we look elsewhere in the New Testament, we see similar purposes stated. The apostle Paul explains to the Romans, “our old self was crucified with (Christ), in order that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6).
The new birth Peter spoke of earlier in this letter is not a comment about a starting over of the same thing, but a starting of an altogether new existence.
When I was attending the University of Western Ontario I remember attending a seminar on Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time. Now, my limited intelligence can glean only so much from a mind such as Hawking’s, but one thing I found interesting was his analysis of what are commonly called, ‘black holes’ or ‘singularities’. When an object reaches the centre of a black hole, it is a matter of speculation what happens next; whether the object continues to move through the ‘hole’ or not. However, one thing does appear certain: Black holes have such density and gravity that an object that enters the ‘hole’ cannot return to where it started.
As I think about what is entailed in becoming a Christian, the notion of an object entering a black hole seems to be an apt illustration—in the sense that, once new birth occurs, a person cannot return to their previous manner of living.
James Boice, emphasizing this same point, asks whether it is possible for an adult to become a child. Well, an adult can act childlike, though it would be an embarrassment to him and everyone around him. But, become a child again? It can’t be done. An adult cannot be a child. In the same way, if you are a genuine Christian, you cannot return to sin in the same manner you were in it previously.
Now, can a Christian still sin? Of course, he or she can. But what the Christian will find is that, in our new nature, we cannot enjoy sin the way we did before. Our new nature is accompanied by a new longing. Sin, which once was sweet to taste, is now bitter.
I hesitate to catalogue the sins of our old nature because I find that Christians are too often measured by what we don’t do. I recall meeting a Christian who boasted that he didn’t drink, smoke, swear, play poker, or dance and, what I was thinking was ‘Well, that’s fine. That’s fine that you don’t do certain things, but can you tell me: What do you do?’
Clearly there are things Christians should not be engaged in; 1Peter 4, verses 3 and 4 tell us that. But, again, I do not want you to equate Christian living with a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’. I would be happy, I would be overjoyed, if you simply submitted to being governed by one principle: If we have experienced new birth in Christ, our singular purpose is to live our lives according to the will of God.
Probably, most of you agree with that. What then, is the key to living according to the will of God? The key is living according to the Word of God. The will of God is revealed in the Word of God. If we want to know God’s purpose for our lives; if we want to know what God calls us each to do, we must study the Scriptures.
Knowing this, isn’t it interesting the longing that is implanted in every new Christian? Christians, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word.
Are you able to see, in Peter’s exhortation, God’s gracious provision? God has purposed that we follow His will, and He has graciously provided the means to help us do His will. Not only that, but He has given us the desires, the longings, which will motivate us to make use of the means.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes a wish there was such a thing as a marriage manual. Yes, I realize there are millions of books out there I could read—but what I mean is I wish there was an infallible marriage manual I could reference in difficult and trying times. A manual that would tell me exactly what I should do; a manual that would tell me which course of action would be most pleasing to Allie. Instead, I have to rely on my inept manner of asking Allie questions; I have to rely on my meager ability to read body language and observe her preferences.
Do you see how the situation is reversed in our relationship with God? He is not about to rearrange the stars to spell out His plans for you. It is unlikely that God will audibly tell you what is required. Instead, He has given us a manual—an infallible manual.
If we are to fulfill our purpose in life; if we are to live according to the will of God; if we are to please God in every respect, we must consult the manual. Without the manual our attempts to please God will be tainted by self-interest. It will be like trying to please Allie by cooking her a steak and taking her on a date to the Skydome. While that may be kind it is saturated with my self-interest.
So, who are you going to live for? Yourself? Or God? Whose will is to be followed? Yours? Or God’s?
Now, here’s the beauty of it: God’s will has your best interests in mind. God’s statutes are commanded for our own good (Deut. 10:13).
Fulfilling God’s purpose, living according to God’s will, is not simply the right thing to do; it is the best thing to do. The choice should be easy. Amen.