INTRODUCTION. This post will be the first in a series of articles designed to give the disciple of Jesus biblical tactics and strategies to fight the sin of sexual immorality in its various manifestations.
THE PASSAGE: 1 PETER 2:11
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. – 1 Peter 2:11 (NASB)
QUICK BACKGROUND ON 1 PETER
The original readers of Peter’s letter were scattered believers from the northern part of modern day Turkey. They were formerly involved in worship of false gods (1:18) and had indulged in lusts (1:14) and “abominable idolatries” (4:3). But they had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and had been “born again to a living hope” (1:3), and now they were receiving instruction from the apostle Peter about what it means to be “a holy nation” (2:9) of obedient disciples.
Therefore, Peter speaks very frankly and directly to his readers. There is nothing ambiguous about the apostle’s message nor is there any room for confusion. These believers desire to know and deserve to know what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus, and Peter’s clear instruction does not disappoint.
ONE CLEAR COMMAND WITH FOUR MOTIVATIONS
A careful reading of 1 Peter 2:11 reveals that the apostle gives one command supported by four motivations or reasons for obeying the command.
The command: Abstain from fleshly lusts.
The motivations to obey:
- You are “beloved”
- The word of God “urges” you to abstain
- You are now “aliens and strangers” (“sojourners and exiles” ESV) in this sinful world, and are no longer slaves to your former passions
- These lusts and passions “wage war against the soul”
THE CLEAR COMMAND – ABSTAIN FROM FLESHLY LUSTS! This is the point of the verse and comes as a command. Peter tells us TO ABSTAIN. In other words, “Do not start doing this! If you are doing this, stop it right NOW! Discontinue this activity. Avoid this. Prevent this. Shun this. Reject this. Detest this. Don’t even think about it!” Peter intends a vigorous action that is taken to avoid serious danger.
To his original readers, the apostle uses the verb “abstain” because their activity prior to conversion was probably “indulge.” These believers were formerly Gentiles and thus lived without the restraint that the Mosaic Law and the Jewish moral culture provided. “Fleshly lusts” were a normal part of their former life (see 1 Peter 1:14; 4:3), and they had developed these filthy immoral habits from years of practice.
But now they are no longer to behave “like unreasoning animals” (2 Peter 2:12). Now they are commanded to abstain from fleshly lusts. The old sinful habits are to be immediately abrogated and new, Spirit-controlled behavior is to replace it. Obedience is not to be a gradual weaning off of sin but is to be an immediate, complete cessation. Any engagement in fleshly lusts represents disobedience. We are commanded to abstain.
If all Peter did was issue this command, we would still have no excuse for any further disobedience, but our God is gracious and gives us four motivations for obeying the command.
BELOVED. The first motivation for obedience is the fact that we are BELOVED. Peter has just talked about our being “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (2:9). At one time, we “were not a people, but now we are the people of God” (2:10). But now, in this verse, he calls us “beloved.” Of course, the question is, “Beloved by whom?” We are now loved by someone, but who is that someone? The startling reality is that we who love the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:8) are beloved by God the Father. We are the beloved children of the Lord of the universe, the glorious Creator God. We have been adopted as His own and are eternally joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:15-17, 23). And since we are BELOVED by God, we are obligated to behave as His holy children, obey His commands, and abstain from fleshly lusts.
URGED BY THE WORD OF GOD. The second motivation is that the word of God URGES us to abstain from fleshly lusts. We know that the Bible is God-breathed, and that it is profitable for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Thus, when the Scripture urges us to do anything, it is as if God Himself is urging that same thing. The Bible is the word of God and carries all the authority of the actual voice of God. When Scripture tells us to abstain, God is telling us to abstain. Since the word of God URGES us to abstain, we are compelled to abstain from fleshly lusts.
ALIENS AND STRANGERS. The third motivation comes from the fact that we are not who we used to be. Before we were enslaved to various lusts and pleasures. Before we were slaves of sin, we were obedient to the flesh, and we were comfortable with the desires of the flesh. We were “darkened in our understanding and had given ourselves over to sensuality for the practice of every king of impurity with greediness” (Eph. 4:18-19). As a result, we were completely comfortable with the world and the things of the world.
But now we have changed worlds. We have been rescued from the domain of darkness. We have died to sin. Now we hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are part of a holy nation and, as such, we strive to be holy in all our behavior. We long to be holy, as our God is holy. Since our citizenship is in heaven, we have become aliens and strangers to the lusts of this world. Since we are, in truth, aliens in this world, then we are to behave as aliens to this corrupt and lustful culture. We have become aliens and strangers in God’s sight through faith in Jesus Christ, so we are motivated to live as aliens and strangers before men. Therefore, we will abstain from fleshly lusts.
WAGE WAR AGAINST THE SOUL. The fourth motivation contained in this verse is the warning that, when I allow fleshly lusts into my life, they wage war against my soul. In a war, the enemy must be killed or it will kill you. In the war against lust and fleshly desires, you must always be alert to keep the enemy outside the gate. Once admitted inside, fleshly lusts will seek to destroy your soul. How? A little lust will attack your taste for holiness. Lust will dull your sensitivity to subtle sins. Lust inside the gate will convince you that sin is not really sin. Once lust enters the gate, it will attack your self-discipline and your self-control so that you do not buffet your body. Fleshly lusts wage war against the soul and stop you from mortifying the flesh. In short, fleshly lusts will destroy your holy behavior. How do we keep fleshly lusts on the outside? We abstain from fleshly lusts.
FROM COMMAND TO BATTLE PLAN
We have heard Peter’s command to us and seen how we are motivated to take action but the question is, “Will we take action?” The disciple who desires to be obedient will act on the commands of Scripture and devise a battle plan to vanquish their sin.
Let me speak to men and be clear. If you are looking at pornography, or if you spend time thinking about women from your past or women in your present (obviously other than your wife), or if your eyes linger on other women as pieces of “eye candy,” or if you feel both slightly excited and a little guilty about your interactions with women, then you are already in a dangerous battle that can result in the damaging of your soul and the shipwreck of your life. Peter is talking to you, and you need to abstain from all these forms of fleshly lusts. What action will you take to make sure that you “abstain from fleshly lusts”?
Here are some suggestions that have been helpful to me.
- Be very sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s warnings. The Spirit will make you aware of the sins of lust. Decide that you will listen to all those promptings from the Spirit and then resolve to take action EACH TIME you receive a warning.
- When tempted, refuse the temptation and do something else instead. Turn off your phone. Imagine Jesus is watching you (because He is). Recite Psalm 119:9-11 or Colossians 3:5-8. Picture the devil watching you and laughing at you as you fail to be pure again. If you have children, imagine confessing your sin to your son, who has you as his role model, or imagine confessing your sin to your daughter, who wants to marry a man like you. In short, whatever it takes, TAKE ACTION!
- Decide beforehand what you will do when tempted to avoid sin and then do what you decided immediately upon temptation and every time you are tempted.
- Saturate your mind with the Word of God so that the sewer of your lustful thoughts is washed clean and you have a pure stream of thoughts. “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean” (Psalm 51:7).
- Develop a daily discipline of repenting of your sins of fleshly lusts. By “repenting” I mean telling the Lord you hate these sins and you acknowledge them as wickedness. Declare your desire to be holy
- Ask one Christian brother to pray with you and for you, that you would be obedient to the commands of Scripture and not give the devil the victory. Let him ask you direct questions and rebuke you when you fail to obey.
Hopefully something give here will be helpful. Brothers, we are in a battle that is not about you but is about the glory of the Lord Jesus. He claims to save people from sin, so that longer we fail to be holy, the more ammunition there is for questioning our Savior’s power. Jesus saves us from sin. Therefore, we need to ABSTAIN FROM FLESHLY LUSTS.
SDG rmb 4/5/2022 #513