For just a moment, I want to invite you to do the impossible: get inside the mind of a freshman in high school. Think back to this fascinating era of your life and try to remember what you were thinking about . . . what mattered to you . . . who mattered to you. This afternoon, I journeyed into my own personal adolescent abyss, and what I saw was not pretty.
When I was 15 years old, life was simple. Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” was the greatest album ever recorded, “Hoosiers” was the greatest movie ever made, and my greatest goal in life was for my hair to stick out the back of my football helmet so friends and family could see how “good” it looked during games.
For those of you who know me now, two of those three statements make perfect sense. Just last week I heard “Livin’ on a Prayer” being played over the loudspeaker at our staff lunch, and I proceeded to announce that it “just didn’t get any better than that.” Also, I still stand and cheer at the thought of Coach Norman Dale running the “picket fence” to free up Jimmy Chitwood to hit the state championship clenching shot (still a top 5 cinematic moment IMHO). Though some things stay the same, others change drastically. For going on 20 years now, I have not let my hair get longer than an inch in any direction, but in 1988 I was all about the mullet (business up top with a party in the back). I had made this my goal the previous year when I saw how “cool” the varsity quarterback looked with his long-haired ‘do. When we took the field for two-a-days that summer, indeed I had curly locks hanging out the back of my helmet.
For my adolescent mind, having that hair was part of the reason to even go out for football. Sure, I liked the game, but I loved the look. As anyone who has ever played football knows, though, the helmet is far more than a piece of eye candy. More than an accessory, it is a life-saving device. Playing football without a helmet is about as safe as surfing in a hurricane . . . do it long enough and your life won’t be so long! Therefore, before each practice I would arm myself with that helmet and head “into battle.”
In 1 Peter 4:1, Peter invites all of us into the victorious Christian mind. The mindset found here is not original – it is borrowed from Jesus Christ Himself. Though He experienced persecution and struggle in His earthly life, Jesus maintained a life of perfect and total obedience to the will of God. Jesus did not fear what the world wanted Him to fear (1 Peter 3:14), but instead sought to obey God at all costs. Though it would eventually cost Him His earthly life, God would glorify Jesus and lift Him up, placing Him in authority over all things (3:22). This mindset of following God regardless of the cost, trusting for God’s greater reward is the mindset Christians are to “arm” themselves with today.
1 Peter 4:1 says this, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” In the first half of that verse, believers are called to “arm” themselves with the attitude of Christ as they seek to live a holy life. The word “arm” in the original language is used only here in the entire New Testament. Outside the New Testament, this word was used to refer to a soldier putting on their armor for battle. It is not advisable for a football player to play the game without being “armed” with their helmet. In the same way, it is not advisable for a Christian to try to live a holy life without “arming” themselves with Christ’s attitude. Jesus knew there would be opposition to His radical obedience to His heavenly Father, but He persisted in obedience anyway, trusting that God would provide a greater reward. If Christians are to stand a chance today at living a life honoring to God, they must strap on this same perspective.
Our greatest hopes as Christians at times revolve around seeing victory in some area of weakness. For some this means finally being free from an addiction to pornography. For others it means resting in their beauty in Christ, instead of their waist size. For still others it means being more generous with the money and resources at their disposal. When confronted with these issues (and many others) our great desire is to see obedience show forth from our lives. What this passage reminds us of, though, is that one of the keys to obedience is to arm ourselves with the mindset of Jesus as we seek to obey. Far more than just a mental accessory, arming ourselves in this mindset is essential to our survival in obedience. When we have strapped on His attitude, then our obedience flows out from underneath for all to see.
In many areas of the Christian life, obeying Christ will not lead to an immediate improvement in circumstances. In the short-run, following Christ might lead to short-circuiting a carnal desire. If our mindset is anchored only in the moment, then many times we lack the necessary perspective to take the self-denying step into obedience. However, when we are armed with the long-term attitude of Christ, we can deny ourselves in the moment knowing that God is being honored as we lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven.