Can’t I follow Jesus, but still hold onto sin?
1 Peter 4:1-2: Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
In light of a suffering Savior, in light of the pain that Jesus went through for our sin, in light of the brutal death that He died for us, we better understand of how we are to put off or put to death our old lives.
He was put to death in His body, and so we arm ourselves with the same attitude of Jesus toward sin. The same attitude that understands sin is not taken lightly, that there are consequences to sin, and that our God is a holy God. When tempted by the enemy, He resisted and avoided falling to temptation. So we as Christ followers are to take on that same attitude (see also 1 Peter 1:14-16 and 2:1).
So when our flesh, or the culture, or our spiritual enemy wants us to think that we can still hold onto sin and yet love God supremely and with everything we have, the Lord says that we are to be done with sin. That doesn’t mean we no longer sin, but it does mean that when we do sin, we don’t remain in it. We have a growing disdain for our sin. We don’t live the rest of our earthly life for earthly desires, but instead for the will of God, and what He wants.
And this is a moment by moment, day by day, season by season choice we make. And that choice is anchored in the new identity we have in Christ.
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We now live for Him. It is Christ who lives in us. This is the attitude that we now arm ourselves with. So when our flesh says to hold onto our sin, our new identity in Christ says, no, be done with sin.
Romans 6:7: For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Through the cross, the power of sin has been broken.
1 Peter 4:3-4: 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.
Peter is writing to people, like you and me, who have a past. Debauchery means a lack of restraint or actions that are uncontrolled. You’ll notice that the culture in Peter’s day wasn’t much different than our own. Or the things that were in the past of those Peter is writing to, are often in our past too. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve got a past. Things I am not proud of in the least. And you’ve got a past as well.
And our temptation when we think about our past is to feel an abundant amount of shame and condemnation. But again, we must go back to our new identity in Christ which reminds us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1) and that we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The beautiful thing about the cross, is that you can’t outrun it. You can’t sin so great, that the Father doesn’t welcome you home and throw a party for you when you repent, turn around, and agree with how God calls you to believe and live (Luke 15).
All through the New Testament, we are given this picture that we’ve all got a past, but that God has the power to save us. And not only save us, but transform us, and give us a new identity, and put a new heart and Spirit within us. Here are two passages that speak to this truth (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Colossians 3:5-8).
We are saved by the grace of God alone, not by our own works. So for those who are in Christ, when we look at our past, it then should lead us to worship and gratitude toward the God who has loved, forgiven, and who has broken the power of sin in our lives.
Peter is writing to these people who have a past, and he’s addressing the tension they are feeling. They have a new identity in Christ, and they are also a light to those yet to trust in Jesus. They are in the world, but no longer of the world. They have a past, but their past is no longer their present, nor the focus of the direction they are going.
And so when you live in light of your new identity in Christ, it will lead you to different choices and actions than you used to make. It will lead you to avoid the people, places, and things that you know will lead you toward temptation, rather than away from it. And Peter is saying that those around you who are not following Jesus yet as Lord and Savior will be surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.
Some of you understand this reality. You’ve gotten saved, but now the people in your house, your friends at school, your co-workers, your extended family members, and/or your friends are taking shots at your new way of life, and ‘heaping abuse’ upon you. They are gossiping about and mocking you for your new faith in Christ. Peter is saying that you will experience people slandering you because you are unwilling to follow them down a path of sin.
And in those moments, you might be thinking, “Well can’t I have it both ways. Can’t I hold onto sin, and still love Jesus supremely?” And God’s Word is saying, no, be done with sin. And when given an opportunity, when they heap abuse upon you, tell about the love of God found in Christ Jesus. That salvation from judgement, forgiveness for sin, freedom from the power of sin, true joy, ultimate satisfaction, peaceful rest, living hope, and eternal life is possible through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone.
When we are tempted to think we can hold onto sin, the Spirit reminds us that God calls us to be done with sin. Because His Son finished it on the cross through His suffering, so that we might be die to sin, and live for God’s glory and mission in this world.