11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
A staggering statistic was released last week. The United States apparently dropped over 26,000 bombs in combat during 2016. For many Americans, that number serves as a jolting reminder that we are a nation at war. Yet most of us are not keenly aware of this reality. Imagine: there were 26,000 moments of deadly force in the last year, and many of us didn’t feel a thing. If we are oblivious to war in the physical realm, we can be even more oblivious to war in the spiritual realm. Are we aware of how many spiritual attacks were launched against us in 2016? Do we realize that we have an adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)? Do we realize that we are a people at war?
On Sunday, Mark Davis alerted us again to the “soul war” that we experience as sojourners. Peter urges us “to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war” against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). Our flesh preaches the ancient lie of Genesis 3 – “Your life will be better without God.” And if we do not resist, our flesh will carry us along in its current, away from the Lord and into deeper and deeper darkness. Are you aware of this conflict in your own life? In what areas are you tempted to believe that life apart from God will bring more joy, peace, and fulfillment? The war starts with realizing that there is indeed a war. Being called out of darkness brings with it the call to abstain from the darkness that once defined us.
But how? The easiest way to lose a war is not to realize that we’re in a war. But once we wake up, we need a winning strategy. Abstaining from the passions of the flesh is a strategy, but if that’s our only strategy, it’s not enough. Do you ever feel like your fight against sin is no more than an effort to “stop doing that”? Defensive strategies need to be partnered with offensive strategies to be effective. So Mark reminded us on Sunday that the best way to abstain from the passions of the flesh is to avail ourselves of all the means of grace that God has provided. Whether we focus on God’s word, prayer, the sacraments, or other means, we find that these are the ordinary ways that the mind-renewing, heart-transforming, sin-conquering grace of Jesus Christ flows into our lives. The means of grace make Jesus more real and the passions of the flesh less alluring to us. Are you availing yourself of all the spiritual resources God has provided?
If we realized that we are in a war, how would that change the way we engage with God's word? How would it shape the way we pray? How would it affect our hunger for worship, fellowship, and service? As we sojourn together, we have the opportunity to help one another fight, to abstain from the passions of the flesh, to remind one another that the Lover of our souls is more satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ has already won the victory, and He has promised to be with us to help us in the fight.