After a long, difficult hike that saw my companions and I ascend nearly 1,500 feet in about an hour, I was exhausted . . . and thirsty . . . but I kept on hiking. What string of events led me to this point? Was I being forced at gunpoint to hike ever onward? Was this the Baton death march or the trail of tears? No. This was vacation . . . and I was supposed to be having a great time.
In reality, I was having a great time, except for the fact that I was just about to the end of where my legs could carry me. Earlier that day, two of my friends and I had set out to climb halfway up Yosemite’s famous “Half Dome Trail” to see the scenic beauty of both Nevada and Vernal Falls. When we started our ascent we were all gung ho and stupid — a lethal mixture of testosterone and machismo that caused us to embark up that trail with no water in our canteens and with a firm commitment to not be the guy who requests that we stop and take a break. Growing up in mainly paved neighborhoods had convinced me that when you needed something to drink, you simply went to the local 7-11 and bought a slurpee . . . the only problem was that half way up Half Dome hill, there is no slurpee machine in sight. The combination of the thin, dry mountain air and the lack of water was beginning to wear me out.
When we finally arrived at the top of Nevada Falls, I was very excited to find a beautiful gentle pool of crystal clear mountain water. This was not 7-11, but it was going to serve just fine. I walked quickly over to the stream and peered deep into the water. I was just about to kneel, cup my hands, scoop up some water and take a drink, when my friend (and more experienced outdoorsman) told me some valuable information. “Don’t drink the water. There are all kinds of microscopic parasites inside that water that will make you very sick . . . for a very long time!” Suddenly I was faced with a dilemma. I was very thirsty. In front of me lay a body of water that looked like it could be filmed in an Aquafina commercial. I wanted to take a drink. However, my friend (who knew more than I did) warned me that a drink from that water would not be worth it. With a scowl on my face, I decided to not drink the water.
If I could not drink the water, however, I was convinced that swimming in that water would be the next best thing. The water felt cool to the touch and a few laps around this mountain stream would feel so nice on my skin. I was thinking about jumping in the water when I saw a sign. In big red letters, the sign read, “IF YOU SLIP AND FALL IN THESE WATERS AND GO OVER THE FALLS YOU WILL DIE.” Though the waters looked calm, just beyond this gentle pool the waters were picking up velocity, and tumbling hundreds of feet over Nevada Falls. Not wanting to die, I chose to not take a swim.
When I accurately assessed the situation I determined that I would rather be thirsty than a host for a parasite, and I would rather be hot than dead. When viewed correctly, those activities simply were not worth it.
I was thinking of that day in Yosemite National Park today as I was reading 1 Peter 2:11-12. In these verses, Peter discusses a real dilemma every follower of Christ faces. In the first two chapters of his letter, Peter has pointed out a number of times that his readers are “born again” in Christ. They have a new identity, a new life. However, Christians live out their new life in Christ at an old address – the flesh. In Christ, they have a new desire to obey God and glorify Him. However, in their old address, they have desires that tempt them do things that always over promise and under deliver. Peter says it this way in 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
Let’s be honest. The reason we sin is because at some level sin is attractive to us. Though God has placed warning signs in His Word the waters of sin still look swimmable to us. Though God’s voice through the indwelling Holy Spirit tells us “no,” we still want to take a drink. Why? Because the passions of our flesh try to convince us that we (not God) know best. Can you relate?
Alcohol, pornography, affairs, lying, theft, gossip, gluttony . . . all have an appeal to our flesh. We think that giving in to those desires will make us happy. In fact, however, these passions are at war with our souls. They want to suck the life out of us like a parasite. Taking a swim in their waters will cause us to fall to great harm.
In 2:11, Peter reminds his fellow spiritual hikers, that their true home is not of this world. They are merely sojourning in this land. We need to remember this as we live our new life at an old address. Our flesh (and the flesh of others) will try to convince us on a number of occasions that sin is in. However, we know better. Therefore abstain from the things that want to war against your soul.
But Peter does not stop with the command to abstain. He goes on to give a reason for obedience that goes beyond the personal to the corporate . . . goes beyond ethics to evangelism. One reason to abstain from the passions of the flesh (according to Peter) is that we would “keep (our) 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. (2:12).”
In other words, we live a life of obedience to Jesus, not just for us (and not even just for God) but in part so that non-Jesus followers would not have ammunition against us. Non-Christians see the good works of Christians and can be led to glorify God as a result. Part of the reason we keep our conduct honorable is for them, not just for us or Him. Have you ever thought about that? Your faithful lifestyle is a part of God’s plan to win your neighbor for Christ.
Therefore, as the passions of your flesh tempt you to sin, remember two things: (1) Giving in to that temptation leads to death as sin wages war on your soul. (2) Swimming in sin can sweep you far away from God’s desire to use you to lead others around you to Himself.
In light of these thoughts, it is never worth it to drink from sin’s streams, no matter how attractive they look to us. Remembering our new identity in Christ, we realize that we have a full canteen of Living Water with us all the time . . . and this is the only thing that truly satisfies our thirst.
This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church, join us as we will look more in depth at 1 Peter 2:11-25.
To access the entire “True Grace” study of 1 Peter, click here.