Devotional for Tuesday, April 28, 2020

“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.” (I Peter 4:1-2)

Apart from Christ, the human existence is comprised of this simple rule: avoid pain at all costs and add as much pleasure as you can.  That is what everyone is so intently focused on at every moment of their lives.  This is what we ourselves were before Christ, which means that we have the same natural tendency to think this way apart from our surrender to God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s work on our minds and hearts.  The Christian life is, of course, a constant battle between our “old self” (focused on our “human passions”) and our “new self” (focused on “the will of God.”)  The biggest battle ground where this war is waged every day is our minds.  Simply put, physical or emotional pain is registered in our brains, and the brain immediately enacts its contingency plan, which is to pull out the fire extinguisher (or, “pain extinguisher”) and put out the fire/pain.  This is the instinctive, reactionary process of human flesh:

  • Touch a hot stove: remove hand.
  • Punched in the face: fight or flight.
  • Yelled at: yell back or leave.
  • Accused: attack accuser.
  • Given criticism: defend yourself.
  • Taken advantage of: fight for your rights and seek revenge.
  • Ignored: start a pity party.
  • Made fun of: lie and fit in.

How in the world do we counteract this very natural, reactionary tendency that is so set on avoiding pain at all costs and adding as much pleasure as possible?

Believe it or not, the answer according to I Peter 4:1-2 is to “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking” concerning how Jesus accepted suffering.  First of all, notice the word “arm” – it is indeed a battle that you wage in your mind.  The battle is over what you believe, and therefore what you do.  And this belief is that it is better to suffer for doing good, just as Christ did.  Whereas we used to think that it is better to extinguish all pain, now we believe that it is better to endure pain even for doing good as we grow in Christ-likeness.  When we do that, then Peter declares something marvelous: that “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin!”  Praise God that He proves Himself faithful to us in this counterintuitive truth.  This would not work if Christ were not alive and if the Holy Spirit were not confirming our adoption as God’s children: when we accept the pain and suffering that comes from doing good as we follow Christ, it hurts our flesh and our egos, and we are therefore left with more space in our hearts for Christ to reign.  As this happens, we fall further into our kingdom identity, and so are filled with greater and greater joy!  And as this joy grows, so does the strength and desire to fight that battle in the mind (cf. Neh. 8:10).  So,

  • Punched in the face: turn the other cheek. (Matt. 5:39)
  • Yelled at: listen for truth in their words and answer calmly with love. (Prov. 15:1)
  • Accused: admit to guilt and trust God to defend false accusations. (I Pet. 2:23)
  • Given criticism: accept it. (Prov. 15:32)
  • Taken advantage of: give them more. (Matt. 5:40)
  • Ignored: reject pride/pity and give special attention to others who need it. (Jon. 4:10-11)
  • Made fun of: receive it, and rejoice that you are special in God’s eyes. (Acts 5:41)

Do you believe it?

Posted by Luke Ellison on 4/28/2020