Good morning and welcome to Tuesday’s podcast. My name is Alan and its my turn to lead us through this week of podcasts. Yesterday we joined with Peter as he taught us to know our enemy -his tactics and schemes – as we closed out his first circular letter to churches scattered across the region.
Today we begin his second letter, again it is written to the masses and although yesterday’s podcast and today’s are written at different times today’s thought is very much a continuation of a theme we began yesterday.
If yesterday’s reflection was about our enemy the devil, today’s reflection is about the enemy within… our own desires that, left unchecked, will pull us away from God.
The church fathers saw our battle as being against the world, the flesh and the devil. Yesterday we looked at the devil, today we look at our own flesh… our sinful nature… our drives and desires. These are things that we don’t often talk about… but we must.
Today’s reading is 2 Peter 1:1-11 but for now I am going to read v3-4
[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Yesterday we looked at our enemy through the lens of who he is, his tactics and his ultimate aim. Today we will do something similar, looking at us.
So first up, what are we aiming for?
Following on from yesterday, our aim is the exact opposite of our enemy. He is our opponent… he opposes what is good… Our ultimate goal is an ever deepening relationship with God and with others. This is the offer that is open to each one of us… to not just worship him, but to become like him. And not just him but the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit… we are invited to share the love, to share the connection, to participate in the divine nature.
But to participate more fully we have to partner with the Spirit to escape the corruption of our evil desires. How the heck do we do that?
I am a big fan of the teaching of John Mark Comer from Bridgetown church in Portland, Oregan. If you have some time during lockdown I would really recommend his series on the world, the flesh and the devil which you can find here (https://bridgetown.church/series/fighting-the-world-the-flesh-the-devil/).
He talks about how over the last 100 years or so, we in the west have lost much of our understanding of what it means to fight our flesh.
For almost 2000 years humanity has recognised that to grow, to mature and to flourish we have to overcome our internal urges, we have to win the battle against our desires that will, if left unchecked, lead us places we don’t want to go.
This isn’t sexy, this isn’t cool. In fact, it’s flippin’ hard.
John Mark Comer explains how our world has been infiltrated by the thinking of Freud, the renowned father of psychoanalysis.
Through Freud’s theories we as a society have come to believe that to deny ourselves is repression, it is unhealthy and will cause us all kinds of problems. Freedom is to be able to follow our desires and indulge them. True human flourishing is achieved when we throw off our shackles and follow our own way, doing what we want, when we want, with who we want…
This is what the Bible calls slavery!
Paul writes that we are either slaves to our sinful desires or we are a slave to righteousness. We can either follow our own path or we can walk in step with the Spirit, learning to do his will. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life; the mind controlled by our desires is death.
So, just as yesterday we were encouraged to know our enemy the devil, today we are encouraged to know the enemy within – that our own desires are in direct opposition to God, to our growth and our ability to participate in the divine nature.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to return to Victorian England, with its rules and etiquette. I don’t want to tie us down to a strict form of legalism, sucking the colour and fun out of life. I believe that as we follow Jesus we learn how to love like Jesus did, party like Jesus did, participate in the divine nature as Jesus did. We are empowered by the Spirit and enabled to change. We just need to know our enemy and what we are aiming for!
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a beautiful life. I want to love and care and have compassion. I want to bring joy and hope and peace into the spaces where I walk. I want to affirm life, to build others up, to enable others to flourish… but part of that is being willing to lay down our way – to take it to the cross… every day. To lose our lives… so that we might find it and walk the narrow path…
To do this we must recognise the enemy’s tactics and we must recognise that what we want is part of the problem.
What is God saying to you today?
Father help us! Help us to recognise the daily battle that we face. Help us, as this passage goes on to say, to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, [self-sacrificial] love. We know it will take time but we commit to your will for us today. Amen!
BIBLE READING: 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NIV)
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is short-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.