Jesus Was a Terrible Salesman
1 Peter 4:1,2 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking… so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
We often try to convince people how easy it is to be a Christian. Just say this prayer and it’s done… Jesus comes along however, and says, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). He insists that if we want to live, we have to die first. Jesus was not a good salesman.
Likewise, Peter commands in this passage that I am to purposefully put my flesh nature through what Christ’s body went through. Jesus death was not just a sacrifice for my sin, but also a model for what I am to do to my flesh nature. As Jesus said, I am to daily to nail my flesh nature to the cross so I will be free to follow him.
Who would want to sign up for this? Only those, who are desperate to leave the destruction of the old nature, will find Christ’s offering desirable. Those who are not ready to leave behind the flesh will find the words of Christ repulsive. Those of us losers however, who have come to hate the decay of our flesh, will find Jesus offering of death to be our sweet salvation.
All indications from Jesus, Paul and Peter are that this crucifixion of the flesh nature is a radical and violent process. Jesus commanded, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away (Matthew 5:30). This is not optional for a Christian. I am to be killing my flesh daily or it will be killing me.
How then, does this process work? The New Testament writers were insistent that we do it, but I feel they were a little light on the details of the process. I think that is because the process is different for each flesh defect. I am to do whatever it takes (which will be different things with different problems) to crucify self and follow Christ.
So, if I am addicted to drugs, I go to treatment. It is not wrong to use techniques ordained by God that the world has discovered. If I am a food addict, I should sign up for weight watchers or some other diet plan to learn how to do away with the old habits. If I am addicted to pornography, I may need treatment, and I certainly need to get rid of my phone and computer. I need to do whatever it takes to change and I need to keep following Christ through it all.
The common error here, I think, is to make the crucifixion of the flesh a god in itself. I think this is the objection that many Christians have to Alcoholics Anonymous or other self-help programs. Some will, in recovery, make sobriety their false higher power. In all things, I need to remember my entire purpose is to follow Christ. The death of my flesh nature is necessary to get there, but it is not the goal itself. We die to self so we can live in Christ.
We all die. How many of us will truly live?