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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The War Against the Soul

Peter writes, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." (1 Peter 2:11) A nice, solid, straightforward beginning to a rather large set of instructions (1 Peter 2:12-3:22).

Who is Peter talking to? Well, clearly it is Christians, but he describes them (us) as "aliens and strangers". Interesting description. We are not part of this world anymore (Gal 6:14). As aliens and strangers to this world, he has a simple instruction: "Abstain from fleshly lusts."

It's funny. I know lots of Christians that try to tell me or, at least, try to live as if "fleshly lusts" aren't all that bad. They're bad if you do the "wrong thing" with them, but not if it's not so bad. Lusting after your own wife, for instance, is perfectly okay. But Peter appears to disagree. Strongly. Indeed, so dangerous are these fleshly lusts that Peter warns that they "war against the soul." I would hope at this point that he would have your attention. This isn't minor. It's serious.

What kinds of "fleshly lusts" is he talking about? That's what the rest of the book is about.There is the temptation not to be a shining example of a Christian (1 Peter 2:12). There is the misconception that we don't have to submit to human authority (1 Peter 2:13-14). There is the false notion that our freedom makes us free to do whatever we want instead of bless people as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16). Servants think they don't have to submit to masters. Servants, abstaining from fleshly lusts will cause you to serve even bad ones (1 Peter 2:18). Our "fleshly lusts" might make us think we deserve to be well treated. Abstain from that lust; it will enable you to endure being treated unfairly with patience (1 Peter 2:19-21). The "fleshly lusts" of wives would make them wish to control their husbands, at least if they're bad ones. Wives, abstain from that fleshly lust; it will make you more concerned about their own submissive character (1 Peter 3:1-5). Husbands' "fleshly lusts" cause them to believe they can lord it over their wives. Husbands, abstain from that fleshly lust; it will push you to be understanding, to honor her (1 Peter 3:7). When operating in our lusts, we think we should treat others badly when they treat us badly; we shouldn't (1 Peter 3:8-9). Our lusts cause us to rule our own lives, but when we abstain we set Christ apart as Lord (1 Peter 3:15). The lusts of the flesh would even lead us to believe that bad things shouldn't happen to us, but the truth is that we may indeed "suffer for doing what is right" and it would be God's will (1 Peter 3:17).

One little command. We are not of this world. We are aliens and strangers. Therefore, "Abstain from fleshly lusts." Doesn't seem that bad. We must because we are commanded to. We must because these things "wage war against the soul." And when you start to delve into what they are, I'm pretty sure we all have a lot to work on.


Bob said...

Good Morning Stan
so i see that you have put the "fleshly Lust" as a broad category, that includes most if not all sins of the flesh. that's OK, because i was stuck in the idea that it meant only sexual lust. which is bad enough. so if i understand you correctly, lust of the flesh is any idea that subordinates our submission to God's commands. love, patience, service, obedience, and holiness. i like the point you made about freedom. now we are free to serve. i used to think that i was free to do as i pleased. see i am no longer under the law, i am under grace, so i can do what ever i want. Wrong..
i heard somewhere that if we are filled with the Spirit we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. funny how that works...

Bob said...

Ok i had to write one more thing, by using your explanation of the Lust of the Flesh, I realize that my understanding was very narrow. and this narrow view created all kinds of confusion for me. you see if the lust of the flesh is just our sex drive (my view) then i fail the litmus test every time. but if as you have said it is a broader view. then filling of Spirit will address all the lust of the flesh. cool. sometimes we want to be perfect in all things with respect to performance, too bad its not going to happen. but i love the idea that the Spirit is in control in the area's that matter to Him most for each individual. i read somewhere the despite all the seemingly noble religious efforts and their mutilation of the body, they still could not subdue the desires of the flesh. i guess this is because they did not have the Spirit. i think the coffee is kicking in now..

Stan said...

"Fleshly lusts" in Peter's terms would include any desires that serve the flesh rather than God. So, yes, it would be much broader than "sexual lust".

"i used to think that i was free to do as i pleased."

I think what pleases a believer changes. What a believer wants to do changes. Thus, there is a sense in which it can be said, "I can do as I please" and "I can do what I want" when what pleases me and what I want have been altered by the Spirit in me. As such, the "be filled" (continuous) with the Spirit issue will indeed solve this problem of "fleshly lusts". That's actually what Paul says: "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Gal 5:16) Very true.

Bob said...

sometimes i wonder if all the radio theologians are working to the same schedule. this week it seemed that no matter what station i was listening to, they all were talking about " walking in the spirit." interesting how this worked out. i guess it demonstrates that not only is the spirit working in us. but he is also working to clean up the networks. way cool... i also love the way the Spirit uses people to demonstrate his love for us. i used to laugh when old people fell down, now not so much. especially now that i am an old person myself. so if i fall down and some smart alack laughs at me, i can in the spirit of kindness just forgive them, then kick them in the shins.
i apologize for this less than serious string of nonsense, just relieving a little nervous energy