“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul… I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.” (1 Peter 2:11; 2 Peter 3:1-3)
As an older single woman, I struggle with particular passions of my flesh—wanting to do what is convenient or comfortable rather than serve sacrificially, not say anything to someone who is gossiping, eat whatever I like, or watch one more episode on Netflix. Family members struggle with setting examples for each other in the way they treat each other, priorities in the use of their time, and seeking God together. Couples may have similar challenges, while also facing the issue of mutual decisions and effective, loving communication as they move through different seasons of life. Millennials and GenXers are finding that they are expected to take stands on issues previously relegated to the older folks, like gun control and abuse of prescription drugs. All people, including Christians, will struggle with our passions until the day we die.
Peter lovingly offers warnings to remind us that we used to be just like those he warns us against But we have been transformed from the inside-out, starting in our hearts. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)
Our minds and hearts are to work together as we tussle (or brawl) with conflicting desires. The more time we spend thinking about, praying about, and being encouraged in holiness, the less time we will seek to fulfill the desires of our flesh. On 2 Peter 3:1 Matthew Henry wrote, “The purified minds of Christians are to be stirred up, that they may be active and lively in the work of holiness.” I think of the passion fruit juice in Uganda when the rich fruit nectar drops to the bottom of the glass. If the juice is unstirred, the top tastes like water and the bottom is undrinkable, due to its thick sweetness. Our hearts are often content to be left alone with the good stuff of the gospel lying dormant until Sunday comes around and we are reminded of who we are in Christ. We need to have our hearts and minds stirred up, to apply the truth of Christ in us, and in others, to be useful to the Lord. Then our hearts are sweetened, and our minds are ready for action by the work of the Lord.
Are you willing to be stirred up, for your heart’s desires, to be more wholly Christ’s?