Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your 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. (1 Peter 2:11–12, ESV)
There is a war for your soul that rages this very moment. Today’s passage tells us that the “passions of the flesh” are on the offensive against you. Sinful desires want nothing more than to occupy territory that has been given over to Christ. Satan would absolutely revel in the knowledge that longings for righteousness and holiness and been substituted with ugly cravings of the flesh.
Those sinful cravings may be different for each of us. Where one struggles desperately another won’t give the temptation a second glance. Pride, lust, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, gossip, idolatry – we all fight our own battles. We must never allow ourselves to be deceived that this is anything less than a war. Satan and his minions never sleep. Our sinful desires don’t go on vacation. We must be ever watchful lest we be caught unawares by the “deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
Besides personal holiness and living God-glorifying lives, one reason to do this (as the passage notes) is that we have an audience. We are on stage and the audience is the unbelieving world (here called “Gentiles”). When we abstain from our sinful desires, we point them to the One who can offer victory over sins’ enslavement. The ultimate goal is that they would be captivated by the God we worship, be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ and offer praise to him when Jesus returns.
By God’s grace, may we be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).