First Peter 4:1 to 6 “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. 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. For the time already passed is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation and they malign you, but they shall give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached, even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
The lessons that Charles e Whisnant, Pastor/Teacher has been teaching at Rivers of Joy Baptist Church in March 2016.
In his rich book called The Plagues of Plagues written in 1669, a godly man by the name of Ralph Venning, wrote this paragraph about sin, listen to it.
“In general, sin is the worst of evils, the evil of evil, and indeed the only evil. Nothing is so evil as sin. Nothing is evil, but sin. As the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be reveled in us, so neither the sufferings of this life nor of that to come are worthy to be compared as evil with the evil of sin. No evil is displeasing to God or destructive to men, but the evil of sin. Sin is worse than affliction, than death, than the devil, than hell. Affliction is not so afflictive, death is not so deadly, the devil is not so devilish, hell is not so hellish as sin is. This will help to fill up the charge against its sinfulness especially as it is contrary to and against the good of man.” Then he says, the four evils I have just named are truly terrible. And from all of them, everyone is ready to say, good Lord, deliver us. Yet none of these nor all of them together, are as bad as sin. Therefore, our prayers should be more to be delivered from sin and if God hear no prayer else, yet as to this we should say, we beseech thee to hear us good Lord.”
In a unique way, with a strange but interesting choice of words, does Ralph Venning help us understand the evil of sin. It is worse than affliction. It is worse than death. It is worse than the devil. It is worse than hell.
Now it is true that a believer hates sin. It is true that a believer desires to flee from sin. It is true that a believer longs to be freed from sin. All of us at some point or another in our lives in one way or another in some words or another have cried out, “Oh wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” We have all cried against our own wretchedness. We have all longed at some point in time to be delivered from the bondage of sin. Now the question comes, since sin is the evil of all evils, yes indeed, the only evil and since we hate it and long to be free from it, how can we avoid it?
What is required of us if we are to stay away from sin? Well, obviously, it is the major effort of our life, would you not agree to that? It is the major effort of the life of every believer to avoid sinning.
Now in order to avoid sinning, we must have three perspectives, in a sense we have to live in three tenses, future, present, and past.
- Some would say to us, in order to avoid sin, you have to have a future look. What we do mean by that? You have got to be watching for that temptation that hasn’t arrived yet. But you’ve got to be ready so you are not caught unawares. You have to look into the future. You need to do what the disciples failed to do and Jesus said to them, watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. We have to be on the alert. We have to be watchful, careful, always looking ahead, anticipating what might come, walking circumspectly, walking wisely in light of the danger ahead.
2. We also have to have a present look. Not only are we looking ahead anticipating what might come, but we are looking at the present tense, what is surrounding us so that we are not duped unwittingly into sin. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:9, he says, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” That is present tenses, whatever you see that is evil, hate it. Whatever you see that is good, cling to it. Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Paul said in Romans 13:14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision of the flesh in regard to its lusts.” So we are constantly looking to the future anticipating what might come of sin. We are also very carefully assessing the present so that we may shun sin.
3. But there is the need as well, to look to the past. One of the most important faculties for dealing with the evil of all evils, indeed, the only evil is a good memory, a good memory. And that is really what’s in Peter’s words here. He is calling on us to remember some things that will enable us to shun sin. The key to the passage is in verse 2 where Peter says that we are to live the rest of the time that we are in this flesh, no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. We are to live the rest of our lives, shunning sin and living out the will of God.
Now, in order to do that, yes, we must look ahead and anticipate watchfully that which might come and yes, we must apprise ourselves of the present tense, but Peter’s main point is, we must look back, we must have a good memory. was triumphing over sin.