Hello and welcome back to the podcast on this Wednesday. So “the passions of the flesh . . . wage war against [our souls].” That’s 1 Peter 2:11. That’s what we looked at in-depth with Pastor John on Monday. The desires of the flesh draw away from the all-satisfying fullness of Christ.
That’s a huge point, and I want to return to that text and to that verse and to the verse after it, because in them we encounter the two greatest questions faced by the universe. No joke. The universe’s two greatest questions are answered here in 1 Peter 2:11–12. There Peter wrote,
Beloved [writing to Christians], 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.
These two verses answer the two most gigantic issues faced by the universe. To make the claim and defend it, here’s Pastor John in a 1994 sermon.
In those two verses, two issues are seen to be massively important. In fact, I would say they are the two most important issues in the world, in the universe. They are the two issues that the whole Bible deals with throughout. And one of the ways that we know that we are aliens and exiles and strangers, like verse 11 says, is that the world, by and large, does not think that they are important issues. If the world did, the newspaper would look different, television would look different, radio would sound different, university classes would sound different, advertising would be different, business would be different. But by and large, these two issues, which the Bible treats as the most important issues in the world, are non-issues in our world. This makes aliens out of us who get our bearings from the Bible.
The two issues are these: the salvation of the human soul and the glory of the name of God. Or to put it another way, the two big issues in the Bible and in the world are these: How do you save the soul so that it’s not destroyed? And how do you glorify God so that he’s not belittled? Those are the two huge issues in these two verses. Let’s get that before we even talk about any details.
Salvation of the Soul
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). The issue here is whether the soul is going to be so fought against that it dies, that it is lost. There are anti-soul forces in the world. The world, by and large, doesn’t even think about its soul. But this text says that there’s a war going on, and there are desires in the world that are waging war, trying to bring my soul to ruin. And if it succeeds, if the anti-soul forces win, my soul is lost. And if my soul is lost, everything is lost, and there is no recovery.
Remember what Jesus said? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36–37). Which means, if the soul has been lost, there’s no negotiating anymore. If the soul is lost, you don’t buy it back — it’s gone. If anti-soul forces win, they win. It’s over. Jesus said so in Luke 16, when he was talking about the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich man went to Hades and Lazarus went to Abraham’s lap. And they were granted for a moment to see and commune in word. And the man in Hades said, “Just send him over with a drop of water. I am in torment in these flames.” And Abraham said, “There is a gulf here that is so big, so wide, so deep, that God has ordained nobody crosses either way, ever” (see Luke 16:19–31).
It’s over. That’s an awesome reality. This is a reality that has to do with everybody. It has to do with everybody forever, and it has to do with everybody forever in huge ways that have to do with hell and heaven. And yet, there’s no column in the newspaper, there’s no public-service announcement on the radio, there’s no sound bite on television, there’s no values-clarification course at the university or in our schools, there’s no government agency, there’s not even a welfare pamphlet that gives one hint as to how to fight for our souls.
“Our world is passionately committed to the inconsequential.”
The biggest issue that our souls face is a non-issue in the world, which is why you’re an alien and a stranger. They, the world order, teach us how to fight AIDS and how to fight mosquitoes and sunstroke and drunk driving and pollen and depression and rape and fire and theft and cholesterol and dandelions. But they don’t teach us how to fight for our soul. Our world — you must get this — is passionately committed to the inconsequential. One of these days that will not be the case. The eyes of the world will be opened, and our obliviousness to what will then be seen to be so obvious will so stun the world that we will have no explanation for the way we lived in America. How the eternal condition of the human soul could be a non-issue will be absolutely inexplicable. It will boggle the mind as we stand before our Judge. We are aliens.
That’s the first great issue. “How shall the soul of man be saved and not destroyed forever and ever?” That is a big issue.
Glory of God
Here’s the second one. “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 2:12). The first issue is how the soul shall not be lost. The second issue is how God shall not be belittled. Or to make it positive: how the soul shall be saved, and now, how God shall be glorified.
The salvation of the soul and the glory of God are the two biggest issues in the universe. And they’re non-issues for most people in America. This text says, “The goal of all human behavior is to be the glory of God.” Isn’t that an incredibly sweeping statement? The goal of all your behavior, from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, is to draw attention to God. That’s the significance of human life. The positive significance of human life consists in our capacity to deflect attention from ourselves to God. That’s the meaning of human life as God intended it to be.
“If we don’t live for God’s glory, we become simply a little echo of a God-neglecting culture.”
You see that. I’m not making that up. That’s right here. “Keep your conduct honorable so that the Gentiles might glorify God” (see 1 Peter 2:12). Live, conduct yourselves, act, behave with a mind that asks, “How can I direct their attention to God by the way I live?” That’s what life is for. We live in order to get attention for God. If we don’t — if we don’t live for God’s glory — we become simply a little echo of a God-neglecting culture. We fit in so well to this world that we can’t direct anybody’s attention out of the world, which is where God is.
I just have the feeling that we’re so afraid of being Amish: dressing wrong, riding a horse-drawn carriage, being anti-modern, or getting the wrong tie, or not having a tan. We’re so afraid of not being in step that we blend in too well so that nobody’s saying, “Wow — look at God” anymore. And it’s because of the church.