As with most words in the english language the words sober and intoxicating can have different connotations and definitions depending on the context. We would all agree (I hope) that being sober, i.e. not being drunk or high is a command of scripture and we should always be careful to be filled with the Spirit instead. But there are some nuances to sobriety that we need to explore here. Besides not being drunk, sobriety means (according to Webster); marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor; marked by temperance or seriousness. Intoxicate means to poison (toxic) or stupefy to the point where physical or mental control is markedly diminished. It is with this in mind that Peter is calling us to sobriety and holiness in our lives as believers. Peter is wanting to help us with the challenge of responding to a chaotic, intoxicated world. We live in a world that is intoxicated not only with substances, but with its own vain thinking and glory. So how are we as Christians supposed to wrestle with this? Peter tells us our response to a world hostile to Christ begins with staying sober minded about the hope we have in Christ.
Some older translations of this passage translate sober as ‘gird up the loins of your mind’. Kind of a strange phrase to us but it simply referred to the fact that they all wore long robes back then and in order to run or be unhindered in their movement was to pull up their robe and tuck it in so as to be free to move unhindered. Today we might use the phrase ‘roll up your sleeves’ as a way to get ready to go to work. Peter is saying you are going to run into a world that is anything but holy and is full of wicked passions and ignorance. In this context Peter is telling us to roll up our sleeves and be ready to respond as God reveals himself and to go to work in response to God’s working. We need to be thinking clearly, be thoughtful, earnest, and serious about the challenge God has put in front of us. In this context being intoxicatedcould be defined as something other than God and His Word affecting our mood or controlling our responses.
So...what can intoxicate us? Earlier Peter talks about trials and difficulties. These things can cloud our judgement and take our minds off our future in Christ. We can become dull or slow in our thinking and ‘go to sleep at the switch’ so to speak. We can be more concerned about what the world thinks of us and become dull, uncaring or unaffected by what God thinks of us. We can be poisoned by the world and its philosophy’s. We want to please the world instead of our Lord. We can lose sight of who we are in Christ and what He says of us. It could be a difficult marriage, or serious challenges with parenting or a job or school situation that surrounds us with an ungodly environment...these things can cause us to become spiritually dull or poisoned in our attitudes or finding our ability to hold on to the truth of scripture ‘markedly diminished’. We’re intoxicated. Poisoned with the trials of this life or the philosophy’s of this world and just flat out giving in to selfish desires and thoughts. Our spiritual control is ‘markedly diminished’.
So the question is what should be affecting us? How do we avoid this kind of spiritual intoxication? What are we supposed to be keeping our minds on? Well, Peter says we need to “set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. Why do people turn to intoxication or getting high? Obviously it can be just for fun or due to peer pressure, but when it gets to be a real problem, at the root of it, at its heart, it is a lack of hope; hopelessness. In order to combat this we don’t start by emphasizing all the things we shouldn’t do. “Don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle...” as Paul says in Colossians 2. The solution is to get your mind on the right thing. To set your hope on something better. That ‘something better’ is the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Peter is saying that someday Jesus will be revealed. We will see him face to face. What we experience as a ‘faith grace’ now will be fully revealed when he comes again. John says “when we see him we will be like him” (1 Jn. 3:2-3). Are you struggling with physical challenges that are causing you to be poisoned? When you see him someday you will have a new body! Struggling with emotional or mental challenges? Someday you will have fully put on the mind of Christ. There will be no sin or pain or confusion, or temptation, sadness or hopelessness. Only Christ. What is your hope set on when you don’t think your mate will ever change or your children continue to rebel? When you are faced with all the brokenness and injustice in this world? Only Christ! He will make all things new! Jesus said “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. . .”. Reward. That’s what we have to look forward to at the revelation of Christ. Until then we can also look forward to the revelation of Christ in us right now, as we see our own hearts and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, experience change in our own lives as a result of his grace at work in us right now. As we allow God to use all the circumstances of life to work his grace and will into our hearts and lives, and set our eyes on the grace to be revealed when he comes again we will be filled with hope. And as Paul said in Rom. 5:5 “hope does not disappoint”!
So then...let us live soberly. Let’s live clear minded, not being poisoned by this world or our circumstances. Let’s keep our hearts and minds firmly fixed on Him and his grace to be revealed at His coming. Let’s set our minds on and be filled with the hope that only Jesus can give. Rooted in this, then, let’s live holy lives as becomes those who confess Christ, not being conformed to the passions of this world, but filled with the Spirit!
(A review of the message given by Ron Boomsma on 9/20/15)