Suffering and Sacrifice

Daily Devotions

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Suffering Destroys Sin (continued)

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 4:1  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.

Do not take this as cynicism. It’s about me first and foremost. I just wonder how many of you are in the same predicament. After reading yesterday’s devotional we went back to our normal routines of life and, whether consciously or sub-consciously, we did everything we could to avoid suffering and enhance our lives according to the world’s standards. We went right back to the lives we have established in the flesh, and by the end of the day we were already wondering why we aren’t done with sin. My mind has been working non-stop all night trying to figure this out. I’m getting close. Let me share with you what I’ve learned so far.

To start with, we have defined suffering incorrectly. When we think of the suffering of Christ and our willingness to do the same, we think of death. Most of us, if a gun were pointed at our head, would not deny that Jesus is Lord. As a result, we believe we are really willing to suffer for Christ. Trouble is, not many of us are actually suffering in any way. So we thank God that we live in a free country, and then we exploit the opportunities we have in this country to satisfy the desires of our flesh. We are not free from sin because we don’t really understand suffering.

Let’s look at the life of Jesus, our model of suffering and freedom from sin. Maybe we can learn something about an aspect of suffering we have denied – the concept of sacrifice.

  • As God in the flesh, He was willing to be born in a manger to poor people who couldn’t even afford a lamb for a sacrifice.
  • While being fully God in human flesh, he was willing to live an obscure life for 30 years, demanding no recognition or affirmation from the world.
  • When told by a wannabe disciple that he would follow Him, Jesus asked the man if he was sure because Jesus had no place to call home and no bed to crawl into at night.
  • When instructing His followers about the priorities of life, Jesus said that the tendency for all of us would be to worry about how we were going to feed and clothe ourselves and the family. Then He told them not to worry but to trust the Father in Heaven. If their priority was right – to serve  the King in righteousness and advance the Kingdom of God – then God would provide everything they needed to accomplish His will, not their own.
  • As a result of doing the will of the Father and speaking the words of the Father, Jesus was rejected by the people He came to save. Yet He did not live for the approval of people. In fact, He told His disciples that it was hypocritical to try to serve God and please people at the same time.

I cannot begin to list all of the ways emotionally and materially that Jesus must have suffered because of what He was willing to sacrifice to honor His Father. I also cannot begin to list all of the ways we continue to pursue emotional and material stability rather than suffering the loss of those things for Christ’s sake. I am overwhelmed with the thought of how much time is invested and how many resources we spend on satisfying the desires of our flesh, whether it’s through our possessions, our position in life, or through personal relationships. Let me say clearly that I am not opposed to success or wealth. What I am opposed to is the idea that we think we need that stuff to validate our lives as meaningful. I am opposed to anything from which we gain value that should be coming from Christ alone. And friends, we try to gain a lot of value for ourselves through our possessions, our success, and our relationships.

We have fallen prey to materialism and we don’t even know it. We claim that we would suffer death for Christ, but don’t want to be asked to sacrifice the life we now have. Yet Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” If only we would discover that the key to being done with sin is to deny the flesh and walk according to the Spirit of God. Yet the desires of the flesh still dominate our decision-making.

It’s time for change. It’s time for sacrifice. It’s time to truly prove we are people of faith in the Father by renouncing the dreams we have for this life and reclaiming the mission Jesus gave us to be the living representatives of His resurrection and victory over sin. Please don’t brush this off. This is the transformational message of the Gospel, and we should be living it.

Pastor John

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