Peter writes both succinctly and with astute observation of mankind when he states, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11).
“Which war against your soul.” We are in a daily battle. We constantly fight to keep our minds and hearts focused on God, Christ, and the Spirit of God. But what are these “passions of the flesh, which war against my soul?”
- Satan is an obvious answer. He is busy in the world trying desperately to destroy and to kill all that is right and good. Yet, he is a master of camouflage. He does not dress in a bright red coat, but in a BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) in order to blend in and go as unnoticed as possible. We must be vigilant to see his activity and do our best to flee from him.
- Recreation / Fitness. I heard this morning about a fitness device that will be released to consumers just before Christmas this coming year. This device is similar to a fitness watch but clips onto or is built into your belt. It will tell you when you need to sit up, drink more water, stand up, walk, or just get moving. The fitness / recreation market is booming. Every other corner in town has a gym or work-out area. Every other weekend there is a run for fitness and fun. Being healthy is good, commendable, and even good in God’s eyes, but when fitness or recreation becomes our driving force and we do it to improve our image we are on the verge of if not already allowing our physical body to be more important that our spiritual lives.
- Entertainment. I like to be entertained. I like movies that are action packed. I like movies that are emotional (what I teasingly call a “stupid movie”). I like comedies. I enjoy music, musicals, plays, good books, sporting events, TV shows. Entertainment is not bad – not completely. Yet, when that entertainment glorifies things that are ungodly then I have a dilemma. When entertainment takes precedent over God, it becomes a problem. I knew a minister that nearly lost his job over a concert. He shortened a sermon so he could attend a concert featuring what is now a “classic rock” group. Ironically, other Christians completely skipped worship to go the same concert.
- Success in the World. When success is our goal we run the danger of neglecting what is more important – being true to Christ. While this is definitely true of worldly success when we do not care who we destroy on our journey or we choose to act unethically to achieve that success it is also true of preachers and church leaders who choose to ignore biblical truths or preach a popular message so they can rise to the top.
- Accolades. We all like to be recognized for our accomplishments and for what we do. We want to be employee of the month, father of the year, wife of the year, or student of the month. Being the best employee, father, mother, wife, child, or student is not wrong, but why we want that is the heart of the matter. Are we reaching for the accolades because we want to please men or are we getting the accolades because we are pleasing God? There is a difference.
- Sensuality. Let’s just call it what it is – sex. Our society is saturated with messages of sexuality. Fast food places use sensual models who have never eaten a burger in their lives to sell 1/2lbs heart-attacks on a bun. Pornography is a serious problem for teens and adults – male and female alike. TV shows have scantily clad people dancing in what is a nothing more than simulated intercourse set to music. Even a proclaimed Christian family famous for a different TV show allowed their teen daughter to parade her body in sensual ways on a dancing show. Commercials run advertisements for drugs for enhancement or parade women in what my grandmother would call “unmentionables.” The Hebrew writer tells us that such has an undefiled place and that is marriage. Marriage is where that should stay.
- Family. Family? Yes! Jesus made this abundantly clear, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). When family time takes priority over God or even family time with God we are allowing something that is good to become more than it should.
- Church. Yes, I said church. When we use church as a “time-clock” or as a substitute for a deep relationship with God church becomes a idol. God told the people of Israel during the time of Amos, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.” (Amos 5:21-22). Be active in Christ’s Kingdom, His Church? – Yes! But do so because you are a servant of God not because you are punching a clock. Live for Him daily and assemble to worship Him with His people. Do not think that 3 hours a week will suffice as honor for God who gave His best for you.
- PRIDE. Ultimately, this is the main issue. Pride leads us to be fit for ourselves. Pride chooses entertainment for self. Pride wants success no matter the cost. Pride seeks out accolades. Pride feeds our desire for sex. Pride puts stickers on our cars about our family’s accomplishments and brags about how great we are. Pride screams, “Look at how often I go to church!” Pride. John writes about this, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).