1 Peter 4:1-2 "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, 2 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."
Meaning, value and purpose are among the great methods for demonstrating God's existence. If God does not exist, then discussion about life's ultimate purpose is pointless. On naturalism, all that exists is this physical space-time universe and all of its physical contents. Naturalism espouses that all things were brought about by natural causes. Consequently, on naturalism, the universe is either eternal or was brought into being by self-creating quantum fluctuations. One of the ways to evaluate a worldview is to see if the world around us is what we would expect if such a position were true. If naturalism is true, then meaning, value and purpose are illusory.
Yet, we find again and again the desire for a life that counts as ingrained deep inside all of us. Atheism asserts the meaningless of life while urging its devotees to embrace, in the words of 20th century thinker Bertand Russell, "unyielding despair". Russell's own atheism was inconsistent, since he himself got involved in social causes. If there is no meaning and purpose in life, why fight for injustice? So then, naturalism, atheism and any worldview based upon it are disproven. There is a real purpose to life. Living a life that counts is a worthwhile pursuit. The question is: where then do we look to live such a life?
Today’s main point
Whenever you and I aim to find life’s purpose – the search can only end at one place: the feet of Jesus. The Christian-life counts for eternity by noting the purposes for living it as spelled out in 1 Peter 4.
1. The purpose to fight sin. 1 Peter 4:1-7
Sin means to fall-short, to transgress the law of God. Sin acts like rot in a piece of fruit - it eats away the goodness of the thing. Prior to conversion, the only thing the sinner wants to do is justify sinful thinking, actions and human autonomy against God. After conversion, the principle of the new nature in Jesus Christ begins to take over (see Romans 6:4-14; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Indwelling sin remains, and must be fought (Romans 7; 1 Peter 2:11). Peter's text in 1 Peter 4:1-6 can be outlined in the following way in describing the purpose to fight sin.
a. Fight sin on the inside (the flesh).
The flesh represents that internal tendency to sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2. “cease” = “restrain oneself”. Rom 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
b. Fight sin on the outside (the world). 1 Peter 4:3-6
The world is anything to do with the external network dedicated to temptation to sin. The Apostle John notes in 1 John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
c. Fight Satan (our enemy). 1 Peter 5:8-9
The World is Satan's turf and the flesh is his target. Ephesians 6:11-18 urges the believer to put on the full armor of God so as to withstand the wiles of the evil one and his parasite kingdom. So living a life that counts first entails the fight against sin.
2. The purpose to pray. 1 Peter 4:7
But now we consider the chief purpose of life and salvation: to know God. Knowing God orbits around the life of prayer. Passages such as Philippians 4:6-7 urge us exercise prayer in everything. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.” We know that in prayer, my mind and my innermost being (i.e - my spirit) are the two contact points in prayer. Proverbs 20:27 “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.”
Prayer is the jumper cable I connect from my spirit to my seat of judgment, the mind. In prayer, we are inviting the indwelling Holy Spirit in our human spirit to illuminate our thinking (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The 16th century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther once noted:
“The first stone in prayer is that of confidence. Whoever pray must do so while believing God.”
3. The purpose to express His love. 1 Peter 4:8-11
Truly without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and relationship with Jesus Christ, God's love cannot flow un-constricted. Living a life that counts (i.e the Christian life) involves the purposes of fighting sin and prayer. Now we consider the third main purpose: expressing God's love. The purpose of the Christian life is to make the sinner into a saint (see 1 Corinthians 1; 1 Peter 2:7-12). The title "saint" refers to one that is set apart from God at salvation to progressively grow in their sanctification. The goal of being a saint of God is to have an uninterrupted walk with God.
Whenever Christians drift off into directions opposite of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are living outside of their redeemed purpose (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). God ever beckons the believer to live as His vessel by which He can express His love. Such love is brought to the Christian by the Holy Spirit, Who is portrayed by Jesus as a fountain of living water (see John 7:37-39). In thinking on this important purpose of God's love, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 -
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."
Every believer in Jesus Christ is a dry river-bed apart from Him. To summarize the Apostle Paul, one could have eloquence (rhetoric); prophesy (mystics) and be a martyr. Yet, without (God’s love), a person is a clashing gong, nothing, profitless. We’re dry river-beds without God's great love flowing through us. The Apostle John writes in 1 John 4:16 "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
4. The purpose of godliness. 1 Peter 4:12-19
As we close out today's post on living a life that counts, we note once more the purposes we have considered. There is the purpose to fight sin. There is the purpose of prayer. We then considered the purpose of expressing God's love. The final purpose that enables us to see a life worth living is that of godliness.
1 Timothy 4:8 "for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." Godliness is a pattern of life that aims to be like Jesus in thought, word or deed. (see 1 Peter 2:21-25).
Godliness is the goal of the Christian life and explains why Christians often have to undergo hardship (1 Tim 4:12-19; 6:12). Remarkably, Peter's final section of 1 Peter 4:12-19 traces out a pattern that resembles the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. Jesus in His temptation. 1 Peter 4:12-13; Hebrews 4:15
b. Jesus in His earthly ministry. 1 Peter 4:14-16; Acts 10:44-48
c. Jesus to the cross. 1 Peter 4:17-19; Hebrews 12:3
One friend of mine recently told me that we ought to be Jesus with skin on to a watching world. Truly that is a memorable way of keeping in mind the godly life. Living a life that counts entails then these four purposes: fight sin; prayer; express His love and godliness.