1Pe 2:11 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts (sensual urges; the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature), which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation (a man’s whole conduct) honest (attractive, lovely) among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Twice in the New Testament we are called strangers and pilgrims. The words describe temporary residents. It’s like having a visa to visit earth for a while, but our real home is in heaven. When we know that we are called to live for eternity here on earth, it puts everything that we deal with here in earth in perspective. Life is so short. We are here today and gone tomorrow. We want to know that our life has counted for something. We want to be sure that we didn’t waste it on things that don’t matter.
Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose His own soul?” (Mark 8:36). That’s a sobering thought, because it means you can be rich and famous and popular by the world’s standards, you can be at the top of the career ladder, and come to the end of your life only to hear God say, I never knew you. If you choose to live for this world, you will lose your soul.
Therefore, since so much is at stake, Peter says to his brothers and sisters that are displaced throughout the world; undergoing persecution; abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul. Don’t think the fiery trials are strange…don’t be surprised if you are being persecuted or misunderstood. You are aliens and strangers in the world. It’s not supposed to be easy here.
As resident aliens, we cannot and must not accept the world’s standards. As citizens of heaven, we will always be square pegs in a world of round holes. There is an ever present danger of trying to fit Jesus into this world system and He just doesn’t fit!
Jesus said in John 8.23 “ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” Likewise, you and I will never feel at home or fit in with this world system because we’re not supposed to be at home here either. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the altar of conformity and popularity.”
The call of God upon each and every professing Christian here today has been spoken of in chapter 1Pe 1:14 “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” Peter tells us to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul. The Greek word for war suggests to us that the objective and intention of every earthly and sensual desire is to fight against the soul and in doing so, either slay it, or to bring it into captivity.
What does the Bible have to say about fleshly lusts and our dealings with them?
- Ro 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
- Ro 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
- Eph 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.
- 2Ti 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts.
- Tit 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
We need to understand that the phrase fleshly lusts means much more than sexual sin. Paul’s list of the sins of the flesh in Gal.5:19-21, includes “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings…” It is easy to see that fleshly lusts is much more than hard porn or any other sexual sin.
It’s envy, strife (dissension or discord), drunkenness, witchcraft (Gr. Word is the word for drug abuse) and anger. The phrase fleshly lusts reminds us that there is a continual struggle in all of us between the will of the flesh and the will of God. We all live in the reality of Romans 7 every day. If you are a Christian, not only are you living in a war zone; you yourself at times are a walking war zone.
I have heard that soldiers serving in Iraq were told to always wear their bulletproof vest and helmet. Why? Because they were strangers and in enemy territory. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, you never go anywhere without your vest and your helmet because the enemy could launch mortar rounds from four or five miles away, any time of the day or night. That’s how life is in a war zone. You have to always be alert and you can’t afford to take any chances. Brothers and sisters, we are at war, but battle’s that we face are not only from the world and the devil, they are on the inside as well…fleshly lusts that seek to drag us down.
This battle with fleshly lusts begins in the mind. That is what Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount. If you can win the battle on the inside, you can win the battle on the outside. I think we can all hear what The Spirit is saying to us loud and clear….Whenever we are tempted with lust, it is out to kill us. Whenever we are tempted to cheat or lie, it is out to kill us. Whenever we are tempted to sow discord or backbite, it is out to kill us. Flee from it, don’t feed it; deny it, don’t dive into it.
And this battle inside the heart, those fleshly lusts we spoke about earlier, is one more proof that our true citizenship is in heaven. And if we are to be holy in this world and make a difference for Jesus Christ in the world, we must abstain from those fleshly lusts that war against the soul. This is a perfect time to be reminded of a fact of life for every Christian, the battles in the world and with the flesh doesn’t even begin until you come to Christ. And it doesn’t end until the day we die. So we are at war and we are to abstain from all evil desires. Where should we begin?
Here are some practical suggestions:
- Be honest about your struggles. Don’t give up just because you struggle.
- Cry out to God for his mercy.
- Mortify those deeds of the flesh by The Spirit, not your own power.
- Ask a friend to hold you accountable.
We will all spend a lifetime fighting sin in various forms. From that battle, there is no relief as long as we are in these bodies of flesh. But with God’s help, we can be substantially changed, and through grace we can fight and we can win the battle. Remember, before Christ, this was a battle we could not win. Now that we are in Christ, this is a battle we cannot lose.