1 Peter 2:9 (Part 1) – The believer’s new identity

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people. This post is about the disciple’s new identity.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

Our study text above begins by Peter telling us about our new identity, and the apostle gives us four characteristics that are now true of us that were not true of us before. But the presence of a new identity requires the existence of an old identity. And this is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that “the old man” can and must die and “the new man” must rise to take his place. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to convert a human soul, to “rescue us from the domain of darkness and transfer us into the kingdom of Christ” (Col. 1:13). Only by bowing the knee to Jesus and trusting Him alone for my salvation can I receive my new identity.

But before we explore the four characteristics of our new identity in Christ, we need to look at the old identity we had without Christ.

THE OLD IDENTITY OF “SINNER”

Formerly, unrepentant sin was the dominant and defining characteristic of our life. It may seem strange for me to say that, because, for the sinner, sin is just not that big a deal, and for someone to say that “sin is the defining characteristic of your life” seems like hyperbole. But keep in mind that we are now seeing the issue of our sin from God’s point of view. From God’s point of view, unrepentant sin defines a person’s life. From God’s point of view, unrepentant sin results in condemnation and judgment. So, sin is big deal to God. Having unrepentant, unforgiven sin gives us the identity of “sinner.”

So, formerly, with our old identity as “sinner,” our sin established a separation between us and God, the Holy One (Isaiah 59:2). On our part, we sinned with delight and we sinned without remorse (Romans 1:28-32; 6:20-21; Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Peter 4:3; etc.). We sinned without regard to consequences and without regard to “the wrath of God revealed from heaven against our ungodliness and our unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Regardless of the degree of our sin, whether small or great, we were defiant rebels who willfully remained ignorant of our sin. We were happily oblivious to the fact that we were “storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).

Then came the day when those who were happy in their sin heard the gospel. An ambassador for Christ proclaimed to them that God is holy and that they were sinners and that God’s wrath abided on them (John 3:36) because of their sin. But Christ, the Son of God, had exchanged heaven’s glory for the agony of the cross so that anyone who believes in Him would not perish, but would have eternal life (John 3:16). They had believed that message and embraced that Christ and had passed from death to life (John 5:24).

THE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST IS “SINNER” NO LONGER

Recall that, before we had repented and trusted in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we had our old identity of “sinner.” But now in Christ, believers are sinners no longer. This is the amazing reality of our new life in Christ. While it is true that we continue to sin, we are no longer “sinners.” Even though we will not be free from all sin until we die, when we finally shed the flesh that indwells this mortal body, our old identity as “sinner” is no more. God now relates to us as saints who are wrapped in Christ’s robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Our sins, which were as scarlet and which were on proud display for all to see, have been made whiter than snow (Isaiah 1:18).

The Bible does not refer to believers as sinners because heaven no longer sees our sins. All our sins – past, present, and future – have been nailed to Christ’s cross (Col. 2:14) and are, therefore, no longer a barrier between the believer and the living God. All the believer’s sins, whether flagrant or mild, whether intentional or unintentional, whether acknowledged or unknown, are as far from the believer as east is from west (Psalm 103:12). Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the Lord has cast all my sins behind His back (Isaiah 38:17), yes, He has cast all my sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Those whom the Lord has declared as righteous can no longer be “sinners.”

NEW IDENTITY

So, if we are no longer sinners and our old identity has been buried with Christ, who are we now? Who have we become? That will be the subject of the next post on 1 Peter 2:9 as we look at the four characteristics of the disciples of Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 4/27/2022                   #522

Isaiah series: Principles of Isaiah’s prophecy (Part 2)

“ISAIAH” SERIES INTRODUCTION. One of the fruits of my conversion to Christ, now more than thirty years ago, was an almost immediate love for His Word. As I became more familiar with the Bible, even as a young Christian, I was fascinated by the power and beauty and mystery of the prophecies of Isaiah, and that fascination has only increased over time. As a result of my love for the book of Isaiah, I have decided to begin making occasional but regular posts about passages from the book, trying to capture the beauty of the writing while also attempting to interpret the complexity of the prophecies.

PRINCIPLES OF PROPHECY. Before writing in detail about particular passages from the book of Isaiah, I wanted to take a few minutes to examine Isaiah’s writing in general. Isaiah covers a broad range of themes but knowing some basic principles about how Isaiah wrote should be helpful in grasping his ideas and in benefiting from his prophecy. This is the second of two posts on these principles. (See post #520, April 25, 2022, for the first post.)

THE IMPORTANCE OF IDENTIFYING THEMES IN ISAIAH

Thirdly, a helpful approach for interpreting a passage from Isaiah’s prophecy is to begin by identifying the main “big” theme of the passage. Although Isaiah writes on a broad range of themes, identifying the specific theme of a given passage is usually not difficult. The chapter breaks in the book often serve as theme breaks or as theme identifiers. Identifying the theme also helps identify the time frame of the prophecy, whether the passage is talking about the sin of national Israel in 700 BC or about the first advent of Jesus or about God’s call to come to Him for salvation or about the day of the Lord, “that day,” when the glorified King Jesus comes back to gather all His people to Himself forever and to judge the wicked. Correctly identifying the theme of the passage will greatly help your interpretation of the passage.

For example, we have talked already about Isaiah 24. The whole chapter is about the judgment that comes upon the unrighteous on the last day. Thus, the theme is the day of the LORD and the timeframe is the last day. Isaiah 53 is obviously about the life of Jesus the Messiah with an emphasis on His passion when He atoned for the sins of His people. So, the theme would be Jesus’ first advent.

The following chapter, Isaiah 54, the theme is about the LORD’s blessings that He will certainly pour out on His people. The chapter overflows with compassion and redemption and tells of the LORD’s demonstrations of His love for His people. This theme is as relevant today as it was when Isaiah wrote the prophecy.

Isaiah 55 sees the LORD calling His people to Himself and offering free pardon for all who come to Him. The theme, then, is the availability of a yet-to-be-defined salvation. Now that the gospel has been clearly proclaimed in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, this call to salvation and pardon is much more defined. We can see in the LORD’s call in Isaiah the call of the evangelist in our own day. This, by the way, is a common theme in Isaiah, that salvation and pardon for sin is available, but the exact details of that salvation are not made clear in Isaiah. In Isaiah 55, we see a hint in the mention of “David” being a “witness to the people (55:4), a leader and a commander for the people,” but this veiled statement awaits its fulfillment in the New Testament when the gospel is made visible in the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus, the Son of David and the Son of God.

The point is that identifying themes and then defining the timeframes of a given passage can be very helpful in interpreting the passage and grasping the meaning of complex imagery.

So, having spelled out some suggestions for understanding the prophecies of Isaiah, it is time to plunge into the ocean of this prophet’s writings.

SDG                 rmb                 4/25/2022                   #521

Isaiah series: Principles of Isaiah’s prophecy (Part 1)

“ISAIAH” SERIES INTRODUCTION. One of the fruits of my conversion to Christ, now more than thirty years ago, was an almost immediate love for His Word. As I became more familiar with the Bible, even as a young Christian, I was fascinated by the power and beauty and mystery of the prophecies of Isaiah, and that fascination has only increased over time. As a result of my love for the book of Isaiah, I have decided to begin making occasional but regular posts about passages from the book, trying to capture the beauty of the writing while also attempting to interpret the complexity of the prophecies.

PRINCIPLES OF PROPHECY. Before writing in detail about particular passages from the book of Isaiah, I wanted to take a few minutes to examine Isaiah’s writing in general. Isaiah covers a broad range of themes but knowing some basic principles about how Isaiah wrote should be helpful in grasping his ideas and in benefiting from his prophecy. This is the first of two posts on these principles.

HOLY SPIRIT INSPIRED PROPHECY
First, Isaiah did not write his prophecy from his own brilliance as a result of his own human insight. Isaiah, like all biblical writers, wrote what he did because he was “moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In his second epistle, Peter writes, “20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Isaiah was inspired by the Holy Spirit and so his writings are God-breathed. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes, “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV). Therefore, when we read from the book of Isaiah, we are reading the very words of the living God. This explains how Isaiah could pen for us with astonishing accuracy prophecies about events that would take place hundreds and even thousands of years after he wrote them.


CONSISTENCY OF A GIVEN THEME THROUGHOUT ISAIAH
Second, Isaiah’s prophecy about each specific theme is consistent throughout his prophecy, regardless of when in his prophecy he writes about that theme, and his overall concept of history is consistent throughout his prophecy. This is a complex idea, so I will explain below with some examples.
A frequent theme of Isaiah’s writing is the topic of the last day, also known as “that day” or as “the day of the LORD.” For example, in Isaiah 24, the prophet declares that “the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants” (24:1). The reader would identify this as a prophecy about the theme of the last day when the LORD returns to destroy the earth and render recompense to the unrighteous. But it should be noted that what Isaiah writes in chapter 24 is consistent with what the prophet writes in other passages about this theme of the last day. By consistent, I do not mean they are identical, but that they are complementary. They are obviously about the same event (in this case, the last day) and they share the same features. Passages about the same theme “fit together.”
Another of Isaiah’s prominent themes is prophecy about Jesus’ first advent, most notably in the passages on “the suffering Servant.” The best known of these is in Isaiah 53, where we see the suffering of the Servant with dazzling clarity, but there are numerous other passages on the theme of Jesus’ first advent (His birth, His earthly ministry, and His passion, etc.) and these prophecies are consistent with one another. They “fit together” and are obviously about the same person. The fact that there is consistency within a theme also makes it easier for the reader to identify the theme. That is, the reader will have the experience of thinking, “Wait a minute. This sounds a lot like what I read elsewhere in Isaiah.”


WORLD HISTORY IS LINEAR WITH A DEFINITE END
But also, Isaiah’s view of world history is consistent throughout his prophecy and is in agreement with the rest of the Bible. That is, Isaiah sees history as linear, with a clear beginning and a definite end. Isaiah’s worldview has the LORD as the ruler of the universe He created. The LORD is in sovereign control of all events, and He directs history according to His perfect plan. Isaiah’s world is a world where the LORD is Holy, Holy, Holy (6:3) and man is ruined (6:5). The LORD is merciful, and man is in rebellion against the God who created him. Man is, therefore, subject to God’s judgment. But Isaiah also envisions the LORD sending a suffering Servant (Isaiah 53; etc.), the Messiah, who will bear their iniquities (53:11). This One will be crushed for our iniquities (53:5) and on Him the LORD will lay the iniquities of us all (53:6). Remarkably, by His scourging, we are healed (53:5).
Additionally, Isaiah’s prophecy tells of a God who is merciful to rebellious mankind. The LORD calls us to come to Him for salvation (Isaiah 55:1-3). The LORD is Redeemer, Savior, the Holy One of Israel, your Husband is your Maker, Creator, the LORD of hosts. For Isaiah, the LORD is the patient Holy One of Israel, calling rebels to repentance and inviting sinners to draw near to their God. In Isaiah’s worldview, there is redemption, forgiveness, and atonement.
Finally, a linear view of history means that there is coming a last day. Isaiah’s prophecy is full of warnings to the unrighteous, calling them to repentance and telling them of the disaster that awaits all who will not forsake their wicked ways. And these warnings are not to no purpose, for as surely as there was a beginning, there will certainly be an end. Isaiah writes about Jesus’ first advent, but he also writes about His Second Coming. There will be a last day, “that day,” when the LORD’s patience will end and will be replaced with His wrath poured out on the unrighteous. Isaiah writes of the suffering Servant coming back as the crowned and conquering King. Isaiah knows that history will end, and that end will be terrifying for those who have not rejoiced in the LORD. But for those who have known the LORD and who have been wrapped with the robe of righteousness (61:10), the last day is a day of rejoicing as they will finally and forever be redeemed by the LORD.
In summary, Isaiah is consistent in the way he presents each of his themes throughout his prophecy and his view that history is being directed to a definite end “on that day” is consistent with the clear teaching of the rest of Scripture.

In the next post, we will look at a third principle for understanding Isaiah, that of beginning our interpretation by carefully identifying the theme of the passage.

SDG                 rmb                 4/25/2022                   #520

Psalm 116:4 – I called upon the name of the LORD (Part 4)

INTRODUCTION. My fourth and final post on Psalm 116:1-4. These four verses of this psalm tell why every believer prays and how every believer was rescued. (see previous Post #518, 4/19/2022)

Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!” – Psalm 116:4

Psalm 116 is an outpouring of thanks to the LORD for His amazing grace extended toward the psalmist. The LORD has taken all the initiative in rescuing this helpless sinner from his sin and from the cords of death and has dealt bountifully with him and has placed in his hand the cup of salvation. The psalm, then, is thanksgiving for the goodness of the LORD. In this post we will be meditating on the fourth verse. .

116:4 CALL UPON THE LORD – “SAVE MY LIFE!”

When we had last seen the psalmist at the end of Psalm 116:3, he was in a desperate place. Having been convicted of his sin and having realized the wrath of God that was directed upon him because of his transgressions, the writer felt the awful weight of condemnation. His sin must be punished and so, he appeared doomed. Who but himself could pay the penalty?

THEN . . . MERCY!

“Then . . .” (116:4) It is such a simple word, but in the right context, it can have life-changing significance. “Then . . .”

Then I thought to myself that the Holy One of Israel may also be merciful to me, the sinner (Luke 18:13). Then I dared to think that perhaps ‘the Lord GOD takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live’ (Ezekiel 33:11). Then I imagined that it could be that ‘while I was still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:6). In the depths of my sin, I had looked within, but there was no salvation in me. I had looked to the Law to see if I could obtain forgiveness there, but the Law could only condemn and show me my sin. The Law’s sacrifices could not remove my sin. ‘Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil?’ (Micah 6:7). Ah, but then I turned to the LORD for His mercy. ‘I confessed my transgressions to the LORD, and You forgave the guilt of my sin’ (Psalm 32:5). Could it be that simple? Could it be that ‘If I confessed my sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9)? Then I remembered that ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:13). And so, what would be the only reasonable thing to do?”

To call upon the LORD!

Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!” – Psalm 116:4

THE CRY OF INITIAL FAITH

When I had no reason to receive mercy and deliverance, when I had lost all hope, then I called upon the name of the LORD. Out of the depths I have cried to the LORD (Psalm 130:1). I cried aloud with my voice to the LORD (Psalm 142:1). “In my distress I called upon the LORD and cried to my God for help” (Psalm 18:6). In an outburst of initial faith and with a cry to the One whom I cannot see but whom I suddenly trust and believe for my salvation, “Then I called upon the name of the LORD” (Psalm 116:4). Hopelessness is vanquished by faith, and I am compelled to call upon the name of the LORD.

And what do I cry out to Him? “O LORD, I beseech you, save my life!” Lord, rescue me from sin and death and bring me into Your kingdom! Save my life from death and Sheol!

By faith, Bartimaeus asked Jesus for the impossible, to receive his sight (Mark 10:51). By faith, the leper asked Jesus to make him clean (Matthew 8:2). By faith, Jairus begged Jesus to save his daughter from death (Mark 5:23). And Jesus responded to their faith and granted their requests.

In the same way, the sinner comes to Jesus in repentance and faith, requesting the impossible: “Save my life!” And Jesus assures us that “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). And we know from the rest of this psalm that the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises.

Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death. – Psalm 116: 7-8

SUMMARY OF THE STUDY OF PSALM 116:1-4

In this brief study of Psalm 116:1-4 we have seen there are sound reasons to pray to the Lord. To those who know Him, the Lord has inclined His ear to hear their calls for help. And to those who do not know Him, the Lord has promised to hear them when they beseech Him in faith and ask Him to save their life.

SDG                 rmb                 4/20/2022                   #519

Psalm 116:3 – Rescue from death and Sheol (Part 3)

INTRODUCTION. My third post on Psalm 116:1-4. These four verses of this psalm tell why every believer prays and how every believer was rescued. (see Post #517, 4/15/2022)

The cords of death encompassed me
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow. – Psalm 116:3

Psalm 116 is an outpouring of thanks to the LORD for His amazing grace extended toward the psalmist. The LORD has taken all the initiative in rescuing this helpless sinner from his sin and from the cords of death and has dealt bountifully with him and has placed in his hand the cup of salvation. The psalm, then, is thanksgiving for the goodness of the LORD. In this post we will be meditating on the third verse. .

116:3 CONFRONTED WITH DEATH AND SHEOL

The psalmist now speaks of the consequences of years, maybe decades of godless living.

THE CORDS OF DEATH

“The cords of death encompassed me.” These cords have not come upon the writer for no reason. Rather, the accumulated sins that were once so delightful and offered their wicked pleasures for my enjoyment have borne their bitter fruit of hopelessness and despair. Having walked in the path of anger, greed, hatred, selfishness, lust, strife, lying, deceit, and pride, I have reaped the fruit of fear, loneliness, and emptiness. Now suddenly death appears on the horizon as a dreaded specter, threatening a just recompense for my myriad transgressions. Like a stick floating irresistibly toward the brink of the towering waterfall up ahead, I float toward  my own death unable to slow the progress and unable to change the outcome. The icy fingers of the cords of death are tightening around my soul and in a panic, I search for an escape from this pit. “The cords of death encompassed me.”

THE TERRORS OF SHEOL

With the cords of death inevitably come the terrors of Sheol. Instinctively I know that physical death is not the end of my existence and that my sins must be punished, for the Lord will not allow His righteous Law to be trampled with impunity. I know “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4), and that verse has a very personal sound to it. “The terrors of Sheol came upon me.” As my death steadily approaches day by day, the terrors of Sheol grow more acute. The Lord has prepared a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:48) and I realize with horror that my sins have purchased that place for me. And so, “the terrors of Sheol came upon me.” But regretting my sins now does no good. The crimes against the Holy One of Israel have been committed and they cannot be undone. Blood is on my hands and guilt is on my soul. The terrors of Sheol await and how can there be any escape for me? God is just, and how can He acquit the guilty and still remain just?

And what must be the inevitable result? “I found distress and sorrow.” The cords of death grip my throat and the terrors of Sheol threaten my eternal soul, thus distress and sorrow ensue. There is vast misery and horror as I see that I must reap the harvest of the sin that I have sown. “Woe is me, for I am ruined!” (Isaiah 6:5). Who can deliver me from my deserved condemnation? I look within me and know that this sinner cannot save himself. I look around me and know that all others are in the same boat with me and cannot save themselves and certainly cannot save me. And so, I am hopeless and my doom is sealed, for where else can I look? I am condemned before a holy God, and His justice demands punishment for sin. And is there any answer to God’s justice?

THE PERIL OF EVERY SINNER WITHOUT CHRIST

This is the situation and the peril of every person who remains outside of Christ. For every soul who does not worship Jesus, there will be eternal “distress and sorrow,” unending misery and ruin. God’s justice must be satisfied, and every sin must receive a full recompense. God is infinitely holy and, in His universe, all sin must be punished. If God were only a God of justice, every child of Adam would have no hope. And as we finish examining Psalm 116:3, we are in a hopeless situation. We have “found distress and sorrow.”

IS DISTRESS AND SORROW THE FINAL ANSWER?

But the good news is that God the Judge is also the God of mercy. The good news is that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). The good news is that “God is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). The good news is that God is perfectly just and the Justifier of sinners (Romans 3:26). The good news is that God “justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). And the psalmist who wrote Psalm 116 had experienced this God of mercy.

The next post from Psalm 116:1-4 will tell of how the unrighteous can receive mercy from the Lord.

SDG                 rmb                 4/19/2022                   #518

Psalm 116:2 – Why every believer prays (Part 2)

INTRODUCTION. One of several posts on Psalm 116:1-4. These four verses of this psalm tell why every believer prays and how every believer was rescued. (see Post #516, 4/14/2022)

Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. – Psalm 116:2

Psalm 116 is an outpouring of thanks to the LORD for His amazing grace extended toward the psalmist. The LORD has taken all the initiative in rescuing this helpless sinner from his sin and from the cords of death and has dealt bountifully with him and has placed in his hand the cup of salvation. The psalm, then, is thanksgiving for the goodness of the LORD. In this post we will be meditating on the second verse. .

116:2 CALLING ON THE LORD AS LONG AS I LIVE

116:2a. – “Because He has inclined His ear to me”

What does it mean that “the LORD has inclined His ear to me?” It means He continually hears my prayers. Unlike man, the LORD never slumbers or sleeps. Psalm 121:4 – “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Once He has inclined His ear to me, He is always attentive to my cry. Because He has inclined His ear to me, He does not become irritated at my persistent cries, but patiently listens to my voice as a father does to his beloved child. Psalm 103:13 – “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” In the midst of the cacophony of the noise of the world, the LORD distinctly hears my voice and inclines His ear to my cry.

In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus inclined the golden scepter to Queen Esther (Esther 5:2) because she had found favor in his sight. In the same way, the LORD has inclined His ear to His child because we have found favor in His sight.

After granting Esther favor, King Ahasuerus then listened carefully to her request. “What is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you” (5:3). Just so, after granting me favor, the LORD listens carefully to my voice so that He can answer my request. “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Matt. 20:32). “Ask and you shall receive” (Matt. 7:7).

The LORD whom I love has graciously inclined His ear to me. What shall I do in response?

116:2b. – “Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.”

The sovereign LORD of the universe has inclined His ear to me and has given me free access into His presence. I have the opportunity to delight myself in the LORD (Psalm 37:4). “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). All of these have been made available to me and are mine for the asking. “The LORD has heard my supplication. The LORD receives my prayer” (Psalm 6:9). He is with me always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). With all this available to me, how will I respond?

“Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.”

As long as I draw breath, I shall call upon the LORD!

When times are good, I will call upon Him with prayers of thanksgiving, thanking Him for giving me seasons of peace and rest. When times are difficult, I will call upon Him with prayers of thanksgiving, thanking Him for His presence and His promises of heaven, and thanking Him for giving me His Spirit who gives me strength to persevere and for giving me His Word, which reminds me of the LORD’s sovereign power over all things.

I will call upon Him when I grow old and feeble and gray, when my hands shake and my memory has faded, and I will give Him praise for having sustained me thus far.

I will call upon Him at all times, asking Him to make me more useful to the Master and asking Him to continue to purify me with hyssop and to remove any wicked way from me. I will call upon Him for a cleaner heart and a steadfast spirit. I will call upon Him to grant me the ability to love people well and to forgive my enemies and to let my speech be seasoned with salt and to let no unwholesome word proceed from my mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear.

I will call upon the LORD as long as I live because there is no greater delight than to fellowship with the LORD of the universe.

Yes, “I shall call upon Him as long as I live.”

My next post on Psalm 116 will consider 116:3 and the condition from which the LORD delivered us. SDG                 rmb                 4/15/2022                   #517

Psalm 116:1 – Why every believer prays (Part 1)

INTRODUCTION. The first of several posts on Psalm 116:1-4. These four verses of this psalm tell why every believer prays and how every believer was rescued.

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications. – Psalm 116:1

Psalm 116 is an outpouring of thanks to the LORD for His amazing grace extended toward the psalmist. The LORD has taken all the initiative in rescuing this helpless sinner from his sin and from the cords of death and has dealt bountifully with him and has placed in his hand the cup of salvation. The psalm, then, is thanksgiving for the goodness of the LORD. In this post we will be meditating on the first verse.

116:1 THE AMAZEMENT AND THE PEACE OF THE ONE WHO LOVES THE LORD

116:1a. – “I love the LORD.”

First, this love for the LORD is required to be a believer. Every believer loves the LORD and only believers love the LORD. Every believer cries out with the psalmist in an unashamed shout, “I love the LORD.” This is the deepest possible love of emotion and passion, a love of heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the believer’s love for the LORD.

But second, “I love the LORD” defines the believer. There are many ways to describe a Christian. Born-again. Saved. Converted. Repented. Trusted in Christ. And, of course, there are others. But “I love the LORD” is the most unambiguous. This expression clears away all the mists and all the doubts. A believer is best defined as one who loves the LORD.

Third, “I love the LORD” demolishes any lukewarm counterfeits. The question that blows away the smoke and breaks the mirrors is the question, “Do you love Jesus?” Don’t tell me of your church attendance or of your giving to the church, of when you “prayed the prayer” or of how religious your grandmother was. Don’t impress me with your good deeds done for the church or with how you feel about Christmas. The question on the table is, “Do you love Jesus?” And, if you claim to love Jesus, how do you demonstrate that in your life? The life that overflows with love for Jesus will broadcast that love to others and will serve as an ongoing testimony to Jesus. This is what the psalmist expresses when he say, “I love the LORD.”

Before I knew Christ, I could love no one, for all I had was the twisted, selfish love of self. But now my heart overflows to the point of bursting with my love for the Lord, and that love for the LORD pours out in my love for others. But this love for others is strictly secondary for the psalmist in this psalm. This is a love-psalm from the disciple to the LORD. If this phrase were the entire psalm, the psalm would be complete. These four words express a complete thought and contain enough truth to fill entire books. How is it that the LORD would set His affections on this wretched man (Luke 5:8) and would make it possible for me to love Him (1 John 4:10, 19) “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). “I love the LORD!” I long to shout it from the housetops. The Holy One of Israel is my King!

Next the psalmist adds the reason He loves the LORD.

116:1b. – “because He hears my voice and my supplications.”

How can it be that the LORD of the universe bends down from His holy throne to hear the pathetic cries of His feeble servant? Why would one so great pay any regard to one of such immense insignificance? How can we explain such grace? Consider these verses.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry. – Psalm 34:15

He (the LORD) heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. – Psalm 18:6

How can these things be? The answer is that God hears my voice and my supplications because, before time began in eternity past, He chose me in Christ to be His adopted child (Eph. 1:4-5) and because the Father sent the Son into the world to be the propitiation for my sins (1 John 4:10), and because God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, at a point in time, made me alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4-6) and He made me His child (John 1:12); God hears my voice, I say, because I am His child.

My next post (on Psalm 116) will consider Psalm 116:2 and what the believer does in response to the amazing news that the LORD hears my voice and supplications.

SDG                 rmb                 4/14/2022                   #516

These must not even be named among you (Ephesians 5:1-6)

INTRODUCTION. An exegesis and exhortation from Ephesians 5:1-6. This post will be the second 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. (See also Post #513 from 4/5/2022 and Post #511 from 4/1/2022.)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:1-6

These are all part of the worthy walk from Ephesians 4:1: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” In Ephesians 5, the apostle continues his exhortations by instructing us about the more fleshly sins. But he begins by reminding us of our family heritage.

5:1-2. Paul has told us in the doctrinal section of the epistle that we have an adoption as sons (1:5) and therefore we have an inheritance (1:11, 18) from the Father. Since that is true, then we will live lives that demonstrate our adoption and that testify to our being heirs.

Children naturally imitate their parents. God has wired us that way. Children are constantly observing all the parent’s behaviors and mannerisms to try to imitate everything the parent does. One clear example is that a son will observe how his father walks and he will imitate that walk. (See John 5:19.) One of the clearest indicators of sonship is that he walks like his father.

Likewise, the beloved children of God strive to imitate God. And the glorious, good news is that we now have been adopted by a perfect heavenly Father whom we long to imitate. So, if we are, indeed, children of God, we will imitate God in all our behavior and will thus give evidence of our family ties (1 Peter 1:15). We will walk in love, like our Father.

APPLICATION: Therefore, consider these things the next time you are tempted to engage in some kind of sexual sin. “I am a beloved child of God. I long to be an imitator of God by walking in love. Therefore, all my behavior, in public and in private, will glorify my older brother, Jesus, and will bring glory to God.” In the power of that truth and resolve, then vigorously reject the temptation.

MOTIVATION: 5:1-2. Since we have been adopted as sons of the living God, the Holy One of Israel, let us live holy lives at all times, in our minds and with our hands.

5:3. (This verse is a pure command.) These are the sins that should not even be named among believers. What Paul is saying is that these sinful behaviors are doubly dangerous. First, they defile the professing disciple, and second, they defame the name of Jesus. Continuing in this sin causes believers to begin to question the truth of your testimony. “Does a true believer continue in these sins that are not even to be mentioned?” And continuing in these sins causes unbelievers to mock and ridicule the name of Christ. Unbelievers know that believers claim that Jesus is holy and that He came to set His people free from sin yet here we have a professing believer who continues in overt, “unmentionable” sin. This causes the mockers to say, “Does Jesus really set you free from sin, or is this just another religion?” In 2 Samuel 12:14, Nathan rebukes King David, saying, “By this deed you have given occasion for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” In Romans 2:24, Paul declares, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Both of these verses are declaring how the sin of the believer calls into question the power and the holiness of our glorious gospel.

Immorality. This “immorality” is specifically sexual immorality. Also mentioned is all (any) impurity or greed. These behaviors should never be mentioned among us or ever be said about us. The worthy walk (4:1) and the life of the heir (the one with the inheritance) exclude these things. Those who display these sins bring scrutiny on their inheritance. (Refer back to Ephesians 1:11, 18 which talk about our inheritance in Christ as part of what God has given us because of our election.) If you evidence these sins that are not even to be mentioned, you may be testifying that you are NOT an heir and you do not have an inheritance.

It is possible to think you are an heir, but to be wrong. You think you are an heir of God with an inheritance, but your behaviors and your sins betray you. Hebrews 12:16f gives us a drastic warning about Esau who despised his birthright and lost his blessing through his carelessness. So we must not throw away our inheritance through our sins.

5:4. (This verse is a pure command.) These seemingly “lesser sins” are forbidden because may simply be clues that point to uglier sins hidden in the dark or just beneath the surface. The person who “walks” in this way is at least immature and unsanctified and is at worst unsaved. The worthy walk is waging war against all of these sins, not just the “biggies.” Sanctification must ruthlessly attack all filthiness and get rid of it. Purge it out. Put it to death. There is no such thing as a “lesser sin,” because every sin sent Christ to the cross. But we also need to remember that any sin is food to feed the flesh and to strengthen the flesh and empower its lusts. Therefore we must put all sin to death. We need to starve it, choke it, smother it, or buffet it. Our approach must be a zero tolerance policy – no sin, no matter how “small,” is acceptable for the disciple of Jesus. As we have seen before in another lesson in this series, these sins “wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

APPLICATION. Be alert for and wage war against all sin, no matter how seemingly harmless. It is the little foxes that ruin the vineyards (Song of songs 2:15).

5:5. “This you know with certainty that no one who displays these behaviors has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” That sounds pretty strong! You may say, “Paul seems to be trying to frighten me.” Yes, exactly. That is exactly what Paul is doing! The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul would rather frighten you into casting all your sins far away from you than leave you falsely confident that because you are a professing Christian you can sin with impunity.

We need to think about this verse for a second. For Paul is writing to Ephesian believers and warning them that we know with certainty there are some people who do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. But we also know that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) and are secure in their salvation (1 John 5:11-13). In America we have been taught so much about the security of the believer that even apostolic warnings tend to be discounted and explained away. But like the author’s warnings in the epistle of “Hebrews,” Paul is issuing a stern warning to those who display ungodly behavior and saying, “Your immorality and impurity may indicate that you do not have salvation.” The principle is that BEHAVIOR TRUMPS PROFESSION. This should serve as a red alert for all professing Christians who are “struggling” with these types of fleshly sins, particularly sexual sins. Behavior trumps profession. The fruit reveals the root. “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So, if there is a disconnect between your profession and your behavior, then what the behavior reveals represents the truth. Your immoral behavior can disqualify your testimony.

And so, if others see you as an immoral or impure person, or covetous man, you have your warning and you know you are in danger. Be frightened, and immediately and radically change your behavior, or you may be lost.

APPLICATION. Make sure that your behavior and the thoughts in your head are consistent with the testimony you profess. Be open to be alarmed.

5:6. One of the consequences of the fall is that there are deceivers in the world who delight in destroying your soul. Some people will tell you lies and deceive you for no other reason than to bring about your ruin. Yes, Satan relishes your spiritual demise, but he is not the only one. There are people you encounter in books and on TV, and people who stand behind pulpits or parade up and down on platforms who are just as pleased as Satan when their deceptive words bring about your shipwreck. They are drinking the drug of power over others, and your ruin is their reward.

So, Paul vigorously warns about these deceivers. “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (5:6). The deceiver will tell you smooth things, that your sin is not really sin and that a token response is true repentance. They will say, “God loves you, so how can He be angry with you?” or “God does not expect perfection, just your best effort.” The deceiver will teach you things that sound good, but that do not appear anywhere in God’s word. “Let no one deceive you!” It is one thing to have received no warning and then to be deceived by a crafty charlatan, but it is another to receive apostolic warning about those who would deceive you and then still be deceived. Do not be a fool! Do not be deceived!

These deceivers will try to convince you that there is no consequence to your secret sins of lust, but the word of God tells the truth. “On account of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”

APPLICATION 1. Listen carefully to faithful, trusted teachers and preachers of the Word, and find a church where you trust the pastor’s teaching. Be discerning when listening to those who have not already proven themselves trustworthy. Reject wholesale those who deceive you and tell you lies to control you.

APPLICATION 2. Do not listen to anyone who tries to convince you that your fleshly lusts are not sin and that they are not deadly dangerous. That person is a deceiver and seeks your spiritual ruin.

SDG                 rmb                 4/10/2022                   #515

Imprecation and the apostles – Did they curse their enemies?

INTRODUCTION. (This is the 6th post and final on the imprecatory psalms. Last one #509, March 31, 2022.) We began our study of the imprecatory psalms in the hopes that these psalms, which call on the Lord to curse the enemies of the righteous, might offer us an outlet to cry out to the Lord when we see gross injustice taking place. The horrible massacre of the people of Ukraine by the merciless Mr. Putin prompted this search of the Scriptures for such an outlet. As we have journeyed from the Old Testament to the New and have learned more about what Jesus taught regarding our enemies and regarding those who persecute us, it has become increasingly apparent that, since Jesus has come into the world, the imprecation (cursing) of our enemies is no longer an option. This post will examine how the apostles related to their enemies when they were being persecuted. What was their response when the flames of persecution and hatred burned against them?

METHOD OF STUDY. I will use the same approach taken in the other posts on imprecation; namely, we will be examining Scriptures from the book of Acts, the epistles, and Revelation to discern the apostolic church’s response to opposition and hatred from the world.  The study passages have been chosen because they give us information about the church’s attitude toward their enemies. Did the early church imprecate (call down curses on) their enemies? That’s what we hope to discover.

The Scripture reference for each passage will be given and then comments made with a verdict indicating the view of imprecation evidenced.

NOTE: Just as a reminder, “imprecation” in the Bible is when someone calls on God to curse someone else. The way we are using imprecation in this post is when a righteous person calls on the Lord to destroy or curse his enemies.

THE CHURCH IN THE BOOK OF ACTS

The church is born at Pentecost and the opposition comes almost immediately. In Acts 4:21, the Council tells Peter and John not to speak any more about Jesus.

Acts 4:23-31. The church leadership is made aware of the threat from the Council. They cry out to the Lord, but there is no hint of imprecation or of cursing of their enemies. Instead, the disciples affirm God’s sovereignty over all (4:27-28) and then pray that they would speak the word of the gospel with boldness so that Jesus would be exalted (4:29-30). In this whole passage there is no word directed against the Council. No imprecation.

Acts 5:27-32, 40-42. The Council again arrests Peter and the apostles and tells them to be silent about Jesus. Peter, however, will have none of this. Instead of being silent, he retells the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. After Gamaliel gives his advice, the Council has the apostles flogged and then tells them (again) to stop talking about Jesus. Do the apostles respond with anger, seeking revenge? Do they cry out to God asking Him to avenge this injustice? Actually, no. Instead, they left the Council “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (41). And then they continued preaching about Jesus. There was no threat or anger or charges of injustice from the apostles. They received the flogging with joy and went back to their work. No imprecation.

(I am going to have to be more selective on these passages or we will have a twenty page document.)

Acts 9:10-17. Saul the persecutor has come to Damascus, and the Lord calls Ananias to help Saul regain his sight. I want to point out in this passage that Ananias has no anger toward Saul, nor does he hesitate to obey the Lord. There is no hatred toward Saul. The church as a whole accepts persecution as from the Lord and they resolve to persevere, not protest or seek revenge.

Acts 14:19-23. Paul is stoned by those in Lystra, yet he evidences no feelings of hatred or injustice. In fact, after his stoning, he goes back into Lystra to again proclaim the word. Paul accepted persecution as simply part of the price to pay for following Jesus.

Acts 16:22-26. Paul and Silas are beaten with rods in Philippi and thrown into the jail, but in the jail they “were praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (16:25). Instead of seeking revenge against the citizens of Philippi for their unjust beating and imprisonment, these men are praising the Lord. Why would they do that? They do that because singing to God after being unjustly beaten commends the gospel much better than seeking revenge, just like everyone else.

HERE IS A CLUE

And perhaps singing when unjustly beaten gives us a clue to the new paradigm. Now that Christ has come and died and risen from the dead, and now that He has sent out His church into the world, all that the apostles and the church say and do is for the furtherance of the gospel and the glory of Jesus (Ephesians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31). So, for the disciple of Jesus, there is no longer any personal sense of injustice or any seeking God to avenge us on our enemies, because our persecution gives us a solid platform for proclaiming the excellencies of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). The church has been commissioned to preach the gospel and make disciples of all the nations, so our behavior has become constrained by our desire to accomplish the Great Commission that Jesus has given us. Thus, we see each situation as an opportunity to bring glory to Christ.

NEW TESTAMENT LENS

Because of this, imprecation and the imprecatory psalms must be evaluated under a New Testament lens. We have seen that Jesus explicitly teaches that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-29). Simply obeying our Lord rules out imprecating those who oppose us. But more than that, since we are “sheep in the midst of wolves,” we are to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Applying this teaching to opposition, affliction, or persecution means that, in any situation, we are to respond with the wisdom that “makes the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). When persecution comes, we respond strategically, asking ourselves what response the Bible commends and what response will advance the cause of the gospel. Through a gospel lens, imprecating our enemies fails on two points, for it is disobedient to the Lord’s explicit teaching on loving our enemies and is also a poor strategy for sowing the seeds of the gospel.

The same man who, with Silas, was praying and singing hymns of praise to God in a Philippian jail, also wrote 2 Corinthians. In chapter 6 of that epistle, the apostle Paul gives us instructions about how to have a flourishing gospel ministry. Consider his words below.

1we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. – 2 Corinthians 6

As those charged with Christ’s commission, our priority is to “give no cause for offense, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God” (6:3-4). “No cause for offense” means that, in all situations, we present ourselves as harmless. We are meek servants of God, vessels to be poured out for the glory of Christ. Personally, we may be sorrowful, but publicly we are always rejoicing because Christ makes us joyful. We may be materially poor, but our desire is to make many rich with the salvation that Christ gives (see also 2 Corinthians 8:9).

CONCLUSION

And so we conclude our study of the imprecatory psalms. We have seen that these psalms which called down curses on the enemies of the righteous are no longer useful to the disciple of Jesus. Jesus Himself commands His people to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, which renders an imprecatory psalm obsolete. But also, since we are to be wise ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), we realize that imprecating others is a poor strategy for sowing the gospel.

SDG                 rmb                 4/7/2022                     #514

Abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11)

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