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1 Peter 2:11-12 Sermon Notes

By April 30, 2023May 1st, 2023Sermon Notes

A week ago, two of my grandsons, Oliver and his little brother Ellis had a sleepover at my house.

Christy was with their sister, Norah, so it was just us guys.

We went to HTea0 and they mixed some weird tea combinations, then to Qtrip for an excellent dinner of pretzels and pizza.

Then home for a movie.

After the movie we got into a deep, and meaningful discussion.

Oliver, who is in the fourth grade…said, “I have a lot of questions, but I don’t know how to ask them.”

“Just talk” I said.

“It’s all kind of hard to believe” he said…it’s not that he doesn’t believe…he was being honest.

“It is hard to hold in our minds” I said…. but “Everything is to hard believe, not just our faith in God.”

“The universe, US…all of it, hard to believe…but here we are.”

“Yeah” he nodded.

I said, “If you saw a picture Norah drew, would it make more sense that it happened by pure chance or that someone drew it?”

“I couldn’t believe it just happened to be there ” He said.

“Yes, and think about how much complex your body is, or other things in the world.”

Then, once we had discussed how something had always been…and the evidence is that the world is designed by a designer…that clearly God has always been.

And Ellis kept raising hand with a side question

We finally talked about Jesus, his uniqueness.

Then, I told the boys stories of my faith…we went personal.

I told of my experiences with God.

They sat up, eyes brightened, they ended up on my lap…they call me “G”

Ellis, who is in Kindergarten said, “I believe you G” Oliver nodded his approval.

Our lives are not the gospel…the life, death, resurrection of Jesus and what those things mean is the gospel.

Our lives, can, and should make the gospel appealing, or even more compelling to others.

People do not become Christians through our example but rather through putting their faith in Christ.

People often pay attention to who Christ is, by the way Christians live their lives.

Let’s read 1 Peter 2:11,12

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11, 12  

Structurally, Peter begins the “practical” part of his letter here.

Thus far he has built the theological foundation, now he begins the practical applications.

It’s not that what he has said thus far is not practical or what he says going forward isn’t theological.

It is just that there is a clear shift from general encouragement to live holy lives of faith in God and love for others to specific applications in a variety of life situations.

Look at verses 9,10 again, from last week…so we can make the connection…because this is a letter with a seamless flow of thought.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9,10

Here is the big “why”…our larger purpose.

The church is now the chosen people of God, and we are called to declare the praises of God to others.

Now, he marks the transition to the practical…now as sojourners we are to pay close attention to our personal lives so that “Gentiles” (a word for non-Christians, that is applied to all those outside the church) will see our lives and though they may want to slander us, they will see our faith in practical action and come to give glory to God through their own faith in Christ.

You are God’s chosen people, live that way, so that others will be drawn to Christ.

Now, that we see how Peter has tied this together…let’s walk through these two verses that transition us into the practical application of good theology.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11, 12  

I don’t personally use the word “beloved” in my day-to-day life

Nothing wrong with it…it would just feel weird coming from my mouth…but I get the idea.

Translators are trying to capture Peter’s passion here.

I could say something like this…and I have before, “I love you and I beg you…please!”

That’s the tone…and the message…”Live with your true home in full view…what matters most at the end, matters most now…live that way!

The word translated exile isn’t equivalent to what we think of today as forced displacement or war refugees.

The word is not used that way in the NT…it would be more like willing travelers, foreign nationals.

This is not our homeland…but this is where we are faithfully living as God’s people.

This doesn’t mean we are not to be devoted and grateful citizens of the country God placed us in.

In fact, to head off the misapplication of his statement that we are strangers and exiles…to mean that we are not to be good and faithful and grateful citizens of our own countries.

Peter writes in the next verses about how we are to live as good citizens of our physical homelands.

The idea that it is not good for Christians to be “Patriotic” is not well-founded in Scripture.

But neither is the idea that Christians are to conflate America (or Africa, or Sweden) with the Kingdom of God.

The Bible presents Christians as having a dual citizenship…and our ultimate allegiance is to the Lordship of Christ…which makes us, ideally, the best citizens of our earthly nations.

We will discuss this more when we get to the verses 13-25 at a later date.

But let’s go back to 11 and 12 and dig in a bit.

What is Peter so urgently begging his friends to do?

“To abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul”

Again, we can miss his intensity in the simple reading of this sentence.

He is using military language.

“Wage war” is the translation of a word used to describe the service of a soldier…they go to war.

“Abstain from sinful desires” without understanding this “warfare theme” can become muted, “Be a good person.”

Kind of a “wink, wink”…don’t be naughty…but we all know that boys will be boys (girls will be girls) …it’s all part of being human, harmless fun.

It’s not harmless…the war on the soul is real…so let me go dark, with a purpose, for a moment.

*I recently went to a home where the police where carrying the body of a young man, who had just taken his own life down the stairs as I went up the stairs to talk to a family member.

This is war and it is against the soul…the stakes, literally could not be higher.

*I’m reading a book that talks about the multiple failures that led to the destruction of Pearl Harbor and the lesser known and even more unforgiveable destruction of our forces in the Philippians in December 1941.

They had warning, they had time to prepare…Pearl had already been attacked.

It is still a debated mystery as to why more decisive actions were not taken…but lives were lost because action was not taken…war was real and it was not seen as such.

Servicemen and leaders were casual, not proactive… taking their time to respond…as if it wasn’t real, the war could not be real…then they were dead.

I hate to be this dark…but that is the serious tone of Peter here.

“Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”

I would say it like this… “Go to war against the things that are at war on your soul.”

The sinful nature, or the flesh, he writes about…is the human soul in opposition to God.

So as Christians, our souls are at war with themselves.

For Christians the sin nature is defeated already, but it’s not yet powerless…our flesh, our sinful nature is “zombie like.”

We can still live in the old life but we do not have to do so…we are to proactively act against the old way of life.

John helpfully elaborates on what these cravings of the flesh can look like…he gives three big categories.

For everything in the world (human life in opposition to God)—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

1 John 2:16

  1. The cravings of the sinful man: The habits we have allowed to form in us. (remember last week, we choose our cravings)
  1. The lust of his eyes: The perpetual discontent that can and must be dealt with through making gratitude habitual…otherwise we the desire for more or other than what God provides will wage war on our souls.

(Proverbs 27:20, ” Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.)

The grave never says, “I’m full, no more.”

Neither do the eyes of men of women, apart from the work of God, stop reaching out and seeing all that they want to grab.

  1. The boasting of what he has and does. (Making life about self, failing to realize that all is a gift, and all gifts are for the praise of God’s glory not my own.)

This, in summary, is what Peter means by “Abstain from sinful desires that wage war on your soul.”

It includes what we normally think of…sexual immorality…but it’s much more than that.

-Discontentment is a sinful desires that makes war on our souls.

-Bitterness and unforgiveness and demandingness…these are passions of the flesh that wage war on our souls.

We are not passive observers in this; we are not civilian non-combatants…we are to be active in the fight.

We have a say in what we desire…what shapes us.

We may, today, be captive to wrong passions (emotions) because of how we lived our lives up to this point.

But we are not merely at the mercy of our feelings.

If you have trained your mental, emotional reflexes in unhealthy ways…you must retrain them, and you can.

When we were young children, we were at the mercy of our “desires/craving”…the largest part of growing up and maturing…is to learn to not be at their mercy.

A baby only responds to cravings…it has no capacity, yet, for self-control.

A young child is trained to not be captive to their cravings…teens are trained to not just respond to mental/physical impulses.

Why?  Because humans can be trained to have self-control and because we know from experience that failure to train is disastrous.

Happiness, good relationships, maturity, physical health…all depends on not staying at the mercy of our “cravings/desires.”

This is not to say all desires are wrong…but that wrong desires are wrong.

Yet, it has become common to believe that “freedom” is synonymous with doing whatever I want…what I desire is good simply because I desire it…and it is evil to oppose my desires.

When this idea is coupled with desires that are fully untethered from the will of God (desires of the flesh) …then tremendous personal brokenness follows.

And the evidence is clear from experience that this is absolutely true.

The gospel gives us the freedom (power) to do and become what is good…not whatever we want.

More and more as we train for godliness…the good is what we want…our hearts, our “wanters” are changing.

So, we are not to play around with these sinful desires that are waging war on our very souls.

We are to decisively act against them.

These sinful desires that Peter is talking about are not to be confused with Satan.

Though he is certainly happy to collaborate with our sin nature.

This is not about him…this about the desires that are in our own hearts and minds…a civil war.

If we turn this into simply “Rebuke Satan”…we will miss the training aspect here.

These sinful desires are not coming outside in… they are inside out.

When we became Christians, we choose our side…and now we are to continually choose the side of Christ in this fight.

Historically Christians have had a hard time finding a balance in all this.

We are to abstain from the passions of the flesh what wage war against the soul…in order to effectively engage the people and reflect Christ to them.

The imbalance has taken two forms:

  1. Not paying attention to the need for personal holiness, allowing our inner lives, our passions, to be shaped by the culture around us rather than by the Word of God.

This first imbalance has been called “Christ under culture”

It’s where Christians capitulate and allow the world around them to shape them more than Scripture.

The second imbalance has been called “Christ above culture”

Not as in “he is Lord” but as in, Christians trying to live outside the world.

  1. Living in fear of being overwhelmed by culture…withdrawing from the world around us so as to not be tainted by it.

Either imbalance will negate our missional calling.

If we do not wage war on sinful desires we will not make the gospel attractive…because we will not live as free people.

If we hide from the world, as our strategy to wage war on sinful desires…we will not have impact on people who are far from God.

The biblical balance is neither “Of the world” nor “out of the world…but as Jesus put it is, “To be IN but not OF the world.”

We are to abstain from the things that wage war on our souls, so that we more and more reflect Christ to others.

This requires active engagement with God and others.

We are to proactively deal with the sinful desires that wage war on the soul…and proactively engage with others who are far from God.

How do I know what “passions” are at war with my soul?

It’s a fair question…it’s not always immediately obvious to us for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes we have become hardend to things that are war against our souls…we have become accustomed to accepting things that are not helping us live as God’s free people.

Sometimes Christians can take different stances on issues…and it can become confusing.

Paul, in Romans 14 talks about disputable matters…areas where Christians can land in different places on important matters.

But keep in mind, he can only talk about disputable matters because of the reality of indisputable matters.

There are things that Scripture is clear on…we need to be clear on them as well.

If you are really in doubt as to what God may be wanting you change, deal with…talk to a mature Christian friend, be honest with them, and let them be honest with you.

If you are not really in doubt, you know the truth but just don’t want to deal decisively with an area of sin…then I will repeat Peter’s warning…

“I urge you, abstain from sin that is at war with your soul.”

This will position your to live your missional calling.

 12 Live such good lives among the non-Christians that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Like Abraham was chosen by God to represent him to the nations.

We are chosen and saved by Christ…to make Christ known to others.

We are to wage war against the things that undermine our ability to love God and reflect him to others.

So this is a war, but we are not to be combative.

This would not cause non-believers to want to believe the gospel and join us in lives that bring glory to God.

Sometimes, the church can get this all tragically wrong…the war inside of us becomes a war between us.

Remember James…

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you. James 4:1

When Christians attack one another…they are doing the opposite of what Peter is urging.

They are not waging war against ungodly passions; they are waging war on one another.

In addition to not being combative…we don’t want to look like combatants

Sometimes the use of “warfare” terminology in Scripture(which is fairly common) can make Christians think they are to look and act angry.

We are at a war…so we think need to look like we are in a fight all the time…this is not true.

*When I was younger pastor…I too often presented an angry, combative edge…it was not helpful for anyone, including me.

*It commonly believed that in order to wage  war soldiers have to learn to hate their enemy.

*I read this recently in a Pulitzer prize winning book…the author states it as a fact…that the army had to learn to hate to become effective.

It is true that in war, combatants often do come to hate one another…it doesnt make for better soldiers.

There have been many effective combat leaders who did not learn to hate the enemy…they hated war, but the alternative to war was unacceptable to them…so they fought and killed.

One of favorite examples of this kind of combat leader was Dick Winters, made famous in “Band of Brothers”…he did not learn to hate the enemy, but he was as effective a leader as we had.

There are multiple stories of opponents in combat who became friends after the war…for example, Hal Moore, who later in life became friends with the commander who led opposition forces against him in the Vietnam war.

Peter uses military language, and we have to take seriously his warning of the war on our souls.

But we must not become people whose approach to living their faith is not compelling…it looks dreary and unhopeful…angry, combative.

There is no way Jesus would have drawn people in like he did…if he had this kind of angry edge.

He was, he is joyful…but he was serious about the things that matter the most.

This war is a real war…our sinful passions can wage war on our souls…if we are not proactive, alert…we can be harmed, as can the testimony of Christ in our lives.

We must make war on the passions that are at war with our souls.

But we cannot let this turn us into combative people…or into people who portray a doom and gloom persona.

There is no way a non-Christian is going to look at a grumpy, combative, or a perpetually gloomy Christian and think…

Now, there is a good life, I want to know the God they serve.

Ellis, my young grandson, said “I believe you G.”

There is Peter’s balance in his statement of trust.

I am terrified to think of what it would mean to him if I allowed sinful passions to take control of my life…if I become a man controlled by passions he would not find me believable.

At the same time, would he find my testimony compelling if I acted like a grumpy, battle beaten old man all the time?

Of course, this doesn’t mean we fake happiness, or hide discouragement…we don’t.

When my daughter Corrie got married in 2009, I had recently returned from a deployment, my mom was sick, there were many other challenges in my life…I was troubled Corrie told me years later… “You know, you looked unhappy at the wedding.”

That was so sad for me to hear.

I was not unhappy…but I was in tough patch.

We are real people with real struggles…but we have a real hope in the gospel.

And we must be careful to communicate that hope with our words and our lives.

We do wage war on the destructive desires that are waging war on our souls…but, and here is where we will end this morning.

We cannot forget that ultimately, the battle is already won.

We have been saved…we are forgiven in Christ.

We are being saved…we are training to become more like Christ, we abstain from the sinful desires that wage war on our souls.

We will be saved…we will be complete in Christ; this is a settled fact.

We must keep the truth in the front of our minds…again remember that this passage from last week, this precedes the “wage war” passage from this week.

You are a chosen people, a people belonging to God, to declare his praises, you have received his mercy…this is all a settled fact.

Now, dear friends…live as sojourners, abstain from sinful desires which wage war on your soul.

Make God’s glory known through your life…this is our great privilege, this is our great responsibility.