1 Peter 1:13(b)


Sermon preached on October 20, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 1996. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was in university I worked at the docks loading ships that were going to Newfoundland. I mostly worked what we called the backshift, beginning work at 11 p.m. and working until 7 a.m. Usually I worked with a guy who would often show up for work drunk. Before he went to work he would be out drinking with his buddies. And very often he would be so drunk that the first thing he would do when he got to work would be to throw up. Sometimes during the first fifteen or twenty minutes at work he would throw up two or three times. It was absolutely disgusting.

Another time we took a trip to Boston with a guy and I remember that every morning when we started driving he would have to tell us to stop the car, and then he would throw up hanging out the car door. And that would happen two or three times each morning. And it was because he had been out drinking the night before. Every morning he would chuck up. It would make me feel kind of sick. I mean, I just had breakfast and then you had to be right next to someone who had to throw up two or three times.

People that are drunk are disgusting. They are to be pitied because they're on a downward spiral and unless they get on the road to being sober—they're heading for ruin.

And the same is true in the spiritual realm. Our text this morning tells us that we are to be sober. And the Holy Spirit is referring to
a spiritual quality. He's not talking about merely avoiding extremes with alcohol. He has a much wider application in mind. You can never touch a drop of alcohol in your life and still not be sober spiritually.

And what we see from our text is that

God wants you to be sober.

Our text this morning is from the middle part of verse 13. The apostle Peter writes,

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action;
be self-controlled;
set your hope fully
on the grace to be given you
when Jesus Christ is revealed."

We are to be self-controlled. A literal translation is that we are to be 'sober'. I actually like the 'sober' translation better than the phrase, 'self-controlled'. Although there is nothing wrong with saying that we are to be self-controlled, and when we say it we are using it in a good sense, I like the thought that the apostle Paul in Romans 8:9 where he writes,

"You, however,
are controlled
not by the sinful nature
but by the Spirit..."

In the ultimate sense we are to be controlled by the Spirit, not by ourselves. The Pharisees were self-controlled. They exercised great self-restraint and self-discipline. But they went to hell. It's not just self-control that is in view here. It's self-control in the sense that we are controlling ourselves so that the Spirit will work in us. We are to be sober. We are to be self-controlled. Rather than let the things of the world control us, we are to control them and make sure that they contribute to our growth in godliness.

What is in view here is being
so in touch with the Holy Spirit that nothing in the world will be able to control you or lead you away from Him. He wants you to live in this world but not to become trapped or ensnared by anything in it. Quite the contrary, He wants you to be judicious in your use of the things of this world, so that you will make wise choices and only indulge in the things that will draw you closer to God or help you to serve Him better. Being sober involves seeing things as they really are and acting accordingly. It means that we know God's Word so well that we will be able to evaluate things in light of His Word and make the correct decisions.

The opposite of being sober is being drunk.

When someone is drunk to a certain degree they've lost touch with reality. They're not in control of all their senses. You could say that they're stupefied. They're not able to evaluate things correctly. And that's what it's like with spiritual drunkenness as well.

Samson

Think of Samson. You all know that story of Samson and Delilah. Now you'd think that Samson would have been able to see right through her. Every day she asked him the secret of his great strength. Delilah was working for the Philistines and you'd think that Samson would have been so suspicious that he would have nothing to do with her. But Samson did not evaluate things correctly. He was intoxicated by Delilah. And finally he told her the secret of his great strength. And then she delivered him to the Philistines and they seized him and gouged his eyes out.

Samson was not sober. He did not see things clearly nor evaluate them according to God's Word. It led to his destruction.

Balaam

Balaam is another example. God told him not to go with the messengers from the King of Moab. But Balaam's heart was set upon the treasure the messengers offered. Even though God had told him in no uncertain terms that he must not go with the men, that he must not put a curse on the people of Israel—Balaam wasn't convinced. When Balak sent a second group of princes to summon him, Balaam wanted to go with them. And he did. You know what happened. An angel of the Lord stood on the road to oppose Balaam. He was standing on the road with a drawn sword in his hand. When Balaam's donkey saw the angel he moved off the road. Balaam didn't see the angel and so he beat his donkey. Next, the angel stood between two vineyards, with walls on each side. The donkey pressed close to one wall, jamming Balaam's foot against it. Again Balaam beat his donkey. The third time the angel of the Lord stood in a place where the road narrowed and there wasn't a place to go around. So the donkey just lay down, refusing to go any further. Balaam beat her again.

Now Balaam was not seeing things correctly. He was disobeying the Lord. When Balaam's eyes were opened, the angel of the Lord said to him,

"I have come here
to oppose you
because your path
is a reckless one..."

Balaam's path was reckless. His actions weren't one of a sober man. Indeed, 2 Peter 2:16 refers to the donkey speaking and says that the donkey,

"restrained
the prophet's madness."

The Holy Spirit calls it madness. It was like he was intoxicated. His actions were reckless and mad. Why? It was because he loved money and prestige. As 2 Peter 2:15 says, he

'loved
the wages of wickedness."

Amnon

Another example is David's son Amnon. He wanted to marry his half sister Tamar. He became obsessed with it. The Bible tells us that he became frustrated to the point of illness. He couldn't sleep. He couldn't do anything productive. He looked terrible. Finally one of his friends said to him, (2 Samuel 13:4)

"Why do you,
the king's son,
look so
haggard
morning after morning?"

He looked haggard morning after morning. He was beside himself. He couldn't think of anything else.

He was acting like a drunkard. He wasn't thinking clearly. He wasn't evaluating things from the perspective of God's Word. And where did it lead? It lead to his death.

But we are not to be like that.

We are to be sober. We need to be like Joseph, who when he was tempted, said,

"How could I do such a thing
and sin against God?"

Joseph evaluated things according to God's Word. He took sensible actions, refusing to even be with her. He exercised self-control.

We need to be like that. As Paul said to Timothy, (
2 Timothy 4:5),

"But you,
keep your head
in all situations..."

Ephesians 4:13f speaks of us growing in unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then in verse 14 it says,

"Then we will no longer be infants,
tossed back and forth by the waves,
and blown here and there
by every wind of teaching
and by the cunning
and craftiness of men
in their deceitful scheming."

Instead of that, we are to grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ. We are to be mature. We are to be sober. We are to have a calm, steady state of mind that evaluates things correctly. We are to be rational and self possessed, in perfect control of all our senses.

We are to keep ourselves free from the stupefying effects of sin and self-indulgence. We are to be sober and exercise self-discipline. In
1 Thessalonians 5:7f the apostle Paul tells us that we belong to the day, in contrast to those who belong to the night and get drunk at night. So he urges us not to sleep, using it in a figurative sense, telling us not to be indifferent to spiritual realities. Peter uses the present tense here. We must maintain a continuing state of sobriety. What we are urged to do is to continually be sober. It is to be a constant state for us.

But the great question is

what are the keys to being sober?

What can we do in order to be sober? What can we do in order to attain this quality? What can we do in order to become sober?

The first thing is that


in order to be sober we need to have a good understanding of the relative worth of the things of the world compared with the things of God.

The main point of this verse is that Christians set their hope fully on the grace to be given to them when Jesus Christ is revealed. But while we are looking forward to the great things of the last day, we must not get distracted by the things here below.

After all, what are the things of the world worth? They are worth nothing compared to your soul. In
Matthew 16:26 Jesus asked,

"what can a man give
in exchange for his soul?
What good will it be for a man
if he gains the whole world,
yet forfeits his soul?"

Earthly things are nothing compared to heavenly things. In Hebrews 11:26 we read that Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. He was able to do that because he was seeking, (Hebrews 11:16)

"a better country,
a heavenly one."

After all, what are the things of the world? 1 John 2:16 speaks of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye. But none of it satisfies. As Ecclesiastes 1:2 says,

"Vanity, vanity,
everything is vanity."

So what this means for us is that we should have a good understanding of the relative worth of both worlds.

As the apostle John said in
1 John 2:15,

"Do not love the world
or anything in the world."

John Brown has said, "The heart must be emptied of the love of the world, that it may be filled with that love of God."

Don't be like
Lot's wife—who looked back. As Jesus said in Luke 9:62,

"No one who puts his hand to the plow
and looks back
is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

One commentator used the illustration from Gideon. God will not let his soldiers lie down to drink of the streams of earth's delight, but only those who, in passing, drink of them with their hand, as of the brook in the way.

Another has said, "The same eye cannot both look up to heaven and down to earth at the same time."

So what the Holy Spirit is doing here is telling us to get our values straight.

He is saying, "Look around you. All this is nothing. What's valuable is what's ahead. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given to you when Jesus is revealed. Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.

The second thing is prevention.

I think that we all know something of the intoxicating effects of sin. It's very easy to say, "Stay sober." But it's another thing to actually do it.

If you had the chance to go back in time and talk to Samson or Balaam or Amnonyou could talk to them all day and there would be very little chance that they'd come to their senses.

You see,
sin has an intoxicating effect. We are not able to control sin. We think we can. But in reality it ends up controlling us. Once a person becomes intoxicated with sin it is very difficult to get them to see thing clearly. Think about David after he sinned. He could not evaluate things correctly. It was like he was stupefied. It wasn't until Nathan came to him that he could see things properly.

So I would suggest is
that we must stay away from temptation and sin. Don't let them anywhere near you. Avoid them like the plague. Take seriously the petitions of the Lord's Prayer.

"And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."

Thirdly,

recognize that Satan can use the things of this world that you love—to lead you away from God.

Jeanette Li tells how some of her acquaintances tried to entice her to depart from the Lord. They used every scheme in their effort. When they learned that she liked beauty, in pictures and in scenery, they invited her to go out with them to view beautiful scenes and to take pictures- especially on Sunday. Often on Sundays they would make a special trip to see her and to invite her to accompany them. Because six of them had come specially to see her- sometimes she went with them. From Jeanette Li. p. 81.

Solomon's wives led him astray. Ananias led Sapphira astray. Diotrephes wanted to serve the Lord in a position of prominence, but it led him astray. He loved the limelight—and it was a disaster for him.

Fourthly,

we need to recognize that we need God's help.

Sobriety is basically it's a condition of the heart.

We can't do this on our own. We need to be praying that we would be kept sober. As David said in
Psalm 141:9,

"Keep me from the snares
they have laid for me,
from the traps set by evildoers."

Lastly,

Consider the example of Jesus.

He could have prevented his arrest. He could have avoided the suffering. At one point the people wanted to make Him king. (John 6:15) But He chose another path. He chose the future glory. And let us follow in His path. I'll close with the words of Hebrews 12:2,

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...
who for the joy set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God."