Tomorrow morning I am going to be preaching from 1 Peter 4:1-6. In verse 3 Peter writes this:
"For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry."
Peter is writing to teach and encourage Christians how to live as people who are very different from the largely unbelieving culture around them. He gives them a list of the kinds of things that they may have done as an ordinary part of their lives before they came to have faith in Jesus. These are things that they did in ignorance of God's ways, because they did not have faith and so they didn't know, and didn't care, about the things of God. When Peter says that this list is what "the Gentiles want to do" he does not mean 'Gentiles' in the sense of referring to all people who are not Jewish, but in the sense of all people who do not have faith in Jesus.
And the key for us here is this phrase: "For the time that is past suffices." We have done these things, or things very similar to them. We have come to learn that they are sinful. And in Jesus we have been forgiven of our sins. Peter hasn't written a complete list of every sinful behavior, but he has given us a list that helps us to see the kinds of things that displease God. I think that this list is saturated in selfishness and living for the pleasures of the moment, without any thought or care for anyone else. But "the time that is past suffices."
Have you ever gone on a trip to visit someone that was very dear to you? The trip ends and you get into the car to drive home. You look in the mirror as you drive away and see them waving at you. If it was in your power you would turn the car around and go right back to continue your visit.
Our sin can be something like that. We are forgiven in Christ and heading in a different direction. We look in the mirror and see it calling for us. We remember how, in our ignorance of sin, we used to enjoy those things. We may feel a yearning, a strong yearning, to go back.
Peter is saying to us: "Those things are in the past. Drive on down the road and don't look back at them. Don't let desire for them arise in you again. They are left behind, and rightly so."
We can't remove any of our sin from our past. It happened and we can’t undo it. But, in Christ, we can leave it behind and be glad to be headed in a different direction.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.