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Archive for the day “April 1, 2014”

Lust and Holiness, Part 2

1 Peter 1:13-16

Perhaps you remember the admonition of Paul in Romans 5:20-6:2:

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 5:20-6:2 ESV)

What Paul is saying is this: While it is true that if and when we sin, God meets us with his forgiveness, there is a problem if we are satisfied with this scenario. A life of sinfulness is simply not who we are. We have been justified. That old person outside of Christ is dead. We have a totally new identity – a new name, a new ethic, a new membership in a new community that gives us a totally new significance. Paul declares, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” How can we who are married still live like we are single? How can we who are born again still live like we are not? To sin so that grace may abound is simply an unthinkable suggestion.

But what about those of us who experience a chain to sin but we are not satisfied with it. Instead, we are completely conflicted. When this issue of lust raises its ugly head and ruins our relationship with our wife or husband or with anyone we might want to date, we experience it as a private war with ourselves and we know that God is not smiling on us. We want to break free but we seem powerless to do so. Here is a factor that is often overlooked. The chains of lust are broken when we realize the power of grace.

Before I share the passage of Scripture that describes this truth, I want to clarify what I mean by grace. Grace is certainly God’s undeserved favor for salvation. But grace is also God’s undeserved favor for sanctification – growth in Christian maturity – to use the term in this passage, Christian holiness. Sanctification is holiness or freedom from the dominance of sinfulness. Let me illustrate. Imagine a young woman who has a very close relationship with her father and, on her 16th birthday, dad takes her out on a special date and gives her a purity ring. As she begins to date, she always has this ring to remind her that she made a commitment to God and to her dad that she will remain sexually pure. But, as often happens in this fallen world, she got involved with her boyfriend at college and one evening they went too far. Full of shame and remorse, she called her dad and told him she was going to send her purity ring back to him. She was a failure. Here is what her dad said. “Sweetheart, do not send back that ring. You keep it and wear it and start a new season of purity in your life. I forgive you and God forgives you.” That is grace. That is grace that breaks the power of lust. Notice how Peter describes the power of grace.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  (1Pet 1:13-16 ESV)

According to Vs. 16 – The subject of this passage is holiness or freedom from lust. Vs. 14 -Challenges us not to live according to the passions (lust) of life apart from Christ like our old self. Vs. 15 – Challenges us to live according to the holiness of the Christian life – our new self. The main verb in this passage is found in Vs. 13, where Peter says to us, “set your hope upon” something. This is an imperative, a command. It tells us to focus on something that is worthy of your hope, a goal that when achieved will be wonderful. Hope is an expectation that is good.

Now, notice that there are several modifying phrases that clarify this command. “Prepare your minds” is a verb tense that speaks of a completed action (aorist participle). Peter says, “Get this settled once and for all in your thinking. Make this commitment. Decide right now – set your hope on something.” Then he says, “Be sober.” This is a verb tense that speaks of a continuous action (present participle). Always keep your thinking along this line. Renew your mind, remind yourself every day, as often as you need to. Now, putting these two thoughts together, here is the message of Vs. 13: “Make up your mind and continually remind yourself of this hope.” Make a commitment to keep this hope at the forefront of your mind all the time. Commit to think about this hope regularly and not forget about it.

So what is the goal of our hope? Vs. 13 says, “Decide right now and continually remind yourself to set your hope on grace.” Grace is the goal in our sight. Grace is the hope that drives all of our efforts. This is not the grace that brings salvation – although this is in view. This is the grace of a loving father who gives his daughter, who betrayed him and God, a second chance.

Vs. 13 continues, “The grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is a present tense (present participle). Even though in English, it appears that Peter is focusing on the future, the time when Jesus returns (the revelation of Jesus Christ), the grammar is a present tense, not a future tense. What does this mean? Peter is talking about the grace that is being brought to you now but will be brought to you in its fullness when Jesus returns. It is an already but not yet phrase. Here is the point. The already is no less real because it is not yet in its fullness. My love for my wife 40 years ago was profound and genuine and a powerful influence on my life. But it wasn’t even close to how powerful my love for her is now. And 20 years from now, it will be even more powerful. However, all along the way, it is powerful. God’s grace is powerful now, but it is not even close to how powerful it will be the moment He returns. When Jesus comes in the clouds and that trumpet sounds, and when the dead in Christ rise and we who are alive are caught up with him in the clouds, the power of God’s grace will be at its height. However – and this is the point – God’s grace is powerful now, powerful enough to break the chains of lust. John Newton says it well:

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

Grace is a constant and present reality that will continue till Jesus returns. Set your hope on that grace. Make a decision that you will think about that grace all the time and not forget about it, especially when you are faced with the lusts and passions of the fallen nature. I am suggesting that Peter is telling us that the present reality of God’s grace becomes the power that breaks the chains of lust. Therefore – set your hope on it.

OK – but that is still a bit fuzzy. That still seems like a mind game. I’ll continue to unpack this concept in my next post.

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