1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. 3You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. 5But they will have to give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.6For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. (NASB)
The desert mothers and fathers were Christians of the first centuries of the church who were the forerunners of monks and nuns of today. One of the most famous was Macarius the Egyptian (or “the Great”). Many of his sayings and stories have been passed down to us and one tells of a journey he took from Egypt. Along his journey, it grew late and dark and nearby were the ruins of a pagan temple. He sought shelter there. Macarius found a few coffins and decided to use one as a pillow and laid down. The demons who dwelt in that temple were greatly offended by Macarius’ actions so they plotted to make him afraid. They called out as though they were addressing a woman in the coffin, “Sarah, come to bath with us.’ But another of the demons had moved underneath Macarius and cried out, ‘ I have a stranger on top of me, and I cannot come.’ But Macarius was not afraid, on the conrary, he knocked on the coffin with assurance, saying, “Awake! Go take a bath, if you can!’ The demons cried out, ‘ You have overcome us!’ Filled with confusion, they fled. (‘The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 130).
When you read Macarius’ sayings, you find a wise and sly disciple with quick wit but with humble wisdom. It isn’t hard to see parallels with Jesus’ own teachings and words. Many of the sayings tell of how the fathers and mothers faced the demons in desert too and how they found best to defeat them. John Wesley made the observation that in the early centuries, demons “tormented their bodies, as well as souls and...without any disguise; now he torments their souls, and that as covertly as possible.” In those days, the enemy was about superstition but today the goal has changed. Today it is to lead us into infidelity so the enemy works in secret (Sermon 38, “Caution Against Bigotry).
Macarius is an excellent example of a militant Christian. There is not jihad involved in the life of a militant Christian but there is warfare taking place. Macarius and Wesley understood that the supernatural is natural but our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this present darkness (see last week).
Peter’s letter points to an important causation: Since Christ suffered in the flesh (and dealt with sin) - then arm yourself with the SAME INTENTION or a SINGULAR THOUGHT and that intention or thought is to be DONE with SIN. Which, of course, the enemy does not want. Their attempt to scare Macarius was to cause fear and doubt, to sow seeds toward sin. Peter points out we’ve all have spent plenty of time there: drunkeness, crazy parties, idolatry, lust and the like. The enemy likes to keep us there too.
On Friday, as my daughter and I were hiking part of the Appalachian Trail, we talked some about this. When we look at TV, it used to be (and sometimes you still find it) a couple would be seen kissing, the camera would fade to black and then fade in from black with the couple getting up and fixing coffee. My imagination had no problem with that! Now, it seems like producers think we have no imagination at all anymore, they have to show most everything. Actor Kevin Bacon thinks there still isn't enough nudity either. How about we just don't do any nudity of anybody?!?! This is what Peter is saying: we've been there and done that.
And Peter says, part of the journey toward having a mind of Christ means we’ll face suffering. In my experience that suffering can comes in this world in at least three ways
1. As we resist sin
2. As we live faithful to following the great commandment
3. And simply by living the human experience.
Paul says something similar in his letter to the Philippians that we are to, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Paul describes the extent of Jesus’ suffering and says, Christians are to be of ONE MIND as we face false teachings and temptations to go back to our old lives. As I pointed out last week, our calling is to “Stand -hold our position.” Have ONE MIND, a mind like Christ, with one intention: Stand firm. Hold your ground against the enemy but also against our OLD SELF. We do it by:
1. Humble in posture
2. Faithful in prayer and
3. Loving in practice
The militant Christian is armed with the mind of Christ, in union with all believers in Jesus suffering, death AND resurrection. We stand firm with the full armor of God. We are...
NOT arrogant but humble,
NOT angry but at peace,
NOT loaded with doubt but full of faith,
NOT giving up but sharing hope,
NOT hating anyone but loving everyone!
The supernatural is natural. All we do, feel, think, say, it is all supernatural. Before we stress too much on what is out there - we need to face what is in here, in our hearts and (as both Peter and Paul stress) in our minds.
MAY I ASK? How singular is your thought toward Jesus? Are you not only striving to be done with sin BUT also seeking to give of yourself for others?
NOTE: Thanks to Mark Copeland at http://executableoutlines.com/ for ideas used in the preparation of this sermon.