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The Nature of Suffering and Desire

Peter uses some very interesting grammatical constructions in 1 Peter 4:1-2. The first thing he does is point to Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, and reminds Christians that they should “arm” themselves with the same voluntary attitude that Christ did in regards to suffering. Such martial language implies we should have a willingness for violent battle against the sins that wish to seize and hold our nature. But the really interesting part of that verse is in the next half where he argues that a person who has suffered in his body has ceased from, or is finished with, or is done with sin. All of these linguistic constructions convey that the person who suffers in his body is no longer controlled by sin. This is because the person who is able to accept suffering over the indulgence of sin is a person who’s nature has changed. To suffer against sin is evidence that Christ now lives in the suffering person (Galatians 2:20). Peter reinforces his point in the second verse by observing that such people no longer live for their own desires, but instead live for pursuing the will of God. Again, this reflects a changed nature. James illustrates this truth by outlining for us the reverse process when he says that we are tempted by our own desires, and that it is our desires that morph into sin, which then morph into death (James 1:14-15). What our nature desires is what motivates us toward the endurance of pain. A crack addict will endure great pain and trouble, and will do abominable things to fulfill the desire and craving for crystalized cocaine. The woman who desires to be at the pinnacle of power in her company will endure the pain of separation from her children to obtain that goal. The christian with a changed nature will endure death and the humiliating pain of a cross to please the God to whom he belongs, and to fulfill his desire and craving for intimacy with his Lord.

You’ll notice in 1 Peter 4:3-4 that Peter uses the continuous tense to describe pagans. He says they enjoy – or choose – living in debauchery. Their nature chains them to a life that desires the indulgence of sin over godliness and good. The irony of such a life is that what they enjoy in this life is as good as it ever gets for them. One day the good will cease, and they will be left to the consequences of their fallen nature, and they will forever only endure the pain they have chosen. For the followers of Christ, the troubles of the world are as bad as it will ever get, and one day their pain will cease, and they will forever enjoy the peak of bliss, delight, and satisfaction in the house of the one who created and sustains everything that is rightly called good.

What does your willful suffering reveal about your nature?

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