“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.” 1 Peter 4:1,2
How could Jesus suffer in the flesh like that, without retaliating and looking forward to the joy set before him? Joy? Peter tells me later that Jesus had given himself over. He had given himself over to God, fully. How do I find myself coming to the same thinking and actions as Jesus when I suffer?
I must arm myself. I must take up arms. This is a military term. I must be prepared with my weapons in hand because this is warfare. But it’s not warfare against men or even demons. This is warfare against my flesh, against my own thinking that is contrary to God’s.
We are at war against our own human passions. The Greek word is epithumia. It’s often translated as lust. What exactly is this problem with my passion or lusts? In this case, it’s something like a feeling or desire that controls me. I don’t control it. It controls my very thinking and therefore it controls my every action and response. Peter exhorted, “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and exiles, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) Skip Moen describes the meaning behind epithumia this way, “Lusts— the Greeks knew the underlying essence of lust. Lust is what makes you boil over. Lust is that force that grips you with its power and causes you to explode. Lust is passion unbridled. In fact, the Greek word itself shows us this background. Epi and thumos combine to mean ‘out of violent movement of the mind’. Lust is the volcanic reaction that occurs when your mind says, ‘I’ve got to have that now!’ It isn’t accidental that the word thumos is also associated with wrath and anger. Lust drives us insane.”
It’s the problem that Adam and Eve were overcome by in the garden when they couldn’t stop thinking about eating the fruit. It’s the whole process of the thoughts they entertained that brought them to that point, that led to not thinking about what they knew as true. It’s the problem that Cain had when he wouldn’t control his thoughts about God and his brother Abel. Cain was just boiling over, wasn’t he? He just kept letting his thoughts dwell, and dwell, and grow and grow. “So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” (Genesis 4:5) Do I ever get like that? Do I take someone’s response to me, whether it was mistreatment or just a response I don’t like, and dwell on it and dwell on it in my thoughts? Do I let my thinking focus on someone else’s actions? Do I let my mind, my thinking, let its guard down? Do I set down my weapon of my mind, and stop thinking about Your truth You have given me?
That is dangerous territory. That opens my passions to the same path as Cain. God warns me as well, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7) I’m a soldier in a battle right now. So was Cain. As soldiers, we don’t have the right to lay down our weapons until the war is over. And it’s not over. If I care about being a good soldier, a faithful warrior, a good and faithful servant, I can’t be driven by my desires, lusts, and passions. I must be driven by the truth. I must let my mind control my heart, not my flesh. I must let You be in control. I need to submit my thoughts to You.
It’s not easy. Naturally, sin is just waiting for the opportunity to control me. It’s just waiting for me to lay down my weapon for one second. Like a crouching beast of prey, it’s lurking for that opportunity to attack when I’m not thinking rightly, when I’m letting my feelings reign, instead of the mind of Christ. It’s not easy, but what is impossible for man, is “possible with God.” (Mark 10:27).
It’s a reality that as a believer, God, through His son Jesus, has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to think and do according to His will. Lord, You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7) And here is the reality, here is what that self-control looks like. It looks like me, surrendering myself to You by surrendering myself within the suffering. When I experience this sensation or expression that causes me to feel pain, I surrender that experience or sensation to You. I don’t respond without thinking first. I don’t let my flesh or my desires or my pain do my thinking. I take up the weapon of my position in You. I remember who I am in You. I remember how Your word shows me to respond. I lift up the weapon of Your Word and Your love and Your life and Your resurrection and Your Holy Spirit. And when I stop relying on my feelings to guide me, I come to the point of ceasing to let sin control me because my passions aren’t in control, but You are.
This is serious business. This is what I am called to as a believer. I am called to divine warfare and the battle is played out in my mind! It’s real, not psychological, but if I can’t control my thinking, then my part of the battle is lost! “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” How? “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:4,5) My thinking must be lined up with God. I am responsible to take every thought captive, to submit it under the authority of Christ under God. I am responsible to rebuke and cast away and destroy every thought that is contrary to You. Then, I will be able to obey You, to think like You, and to act like You in these situations.
I want to cease from sin. I don’t want to be controlled by anything but by You. I want You to be my Lord and Master, my God, not by word alone, but I want my actions and responses to be a living testimony to what I believe about You. I don’t want to lay my weapon aside and let my emotions rule over me. I want to be fully surrendered to You. Let the same way of thinking be in me that was also in Christ Jesus.