Your Desires Want to Kill You

Lessons on Living as Exiles, Part 6

I felt really rushed last night to get through 1 Peter 2:12, and I do not feel rushed at all now because I don’t care how far we get, because it’s new to all of us, me included. I’m happy with that, but I went so fast over 1 Peter 2:9–12. There are two things there I want to go back to, and that will set the stage for 1 Peter 2:13 as we get into the issues of government, state, and Christian that Peter’s so concerned with in that passage.

Three Analogies

Here we are in 1 Peter 2:9–12. Do you remember? I began last evening by asking the question of how you ordinary folks can know with well-grounded confidence that the Bible, and 1 Peter, in particular, is the word of God.

I drew your attention to the analogies: you can know that God made the world, and this is his world by the fact that the heavens are telling the glory of God. If you have eyes to see, you’ll see that. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s real because the Bible says so. It’s real. There’s a real divine glory being communicated through stars, moon, sun, clouds, the whole ecostructure of the universe and earth, and the human body and the human soul and the human consciousness. It’s just radiant with the glory of God.

Then the analogy of the Son: “We [beheld] his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). Some saw it. Some didn’t. Some knew, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). They had been given eyes to see. They saw it. It was real. They didn’t make it up. They saw what was there. Others didn’t see it. They knew he was the Son of God.

Then the third analogy was the gospel from 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Those three analogies, that there’s a glory, a radiance, a self-authenticating light shining from nature, shining from the gospel, shining from the Son of God.

The New Birth into Marvelous Light

Now, look at 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” Summing up those glorious things that have happened to us and that we are for a reason, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

What’s that? Clearly, it is not the sun and not these bright lights. It is another kind of light, and it’s real. If you were born again, you were called, like God saying to Lazarus in the tomb, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43). Lazarus is dead. Dead people don’t obey unless the word creates the obedience. “Lazarus, come forth,” and the dead man came forth. That’s what the word did. He saw light again.

When we are born again, we see light, another kind of light. What is that? I just listed off the things we’ve seen that I think are the shining of this light: living hope; sanctification by the Spirit; imperishable inheritance; salvation ready to be revealed; fire-refined faith; praise, glory, and honor at the coming of Jesus; inexpressible joy; ransom by infinitely valuable blood; purified heart through obedience to the truth; tasting that the Lord is good; a precious cornerstone on which the whole church is built. All of that is radiant with divine light.

That’s how you know 1 Peter is of God. That’s how you know the gospel is true. That’s how you know the Bible is his word. You were called out of darkness into his marvelous light. The light of God’s glory shines through the truth of the Scriptures. You would do well to linger along in prayer to God that he would make plain to you what this marvelous light is because that’s what we are supposed to do, proclaim the excellencies of this God of light. That’s what life is for, speaking them, showing them.

God created the universe and human beings as the apex of his creation in his own image for this. This is why you exist, your family exists, Brook Hills exists, Birmingham exists, America exists, the planet exists with all of its structures exist for this. If families, churches, cities, and nations are not doing this, they are in treason against God, their Maker. They’re not doing what they were created to do.

The whole world is treacherous and deserves, therefore, condemnation and is under condemnation and the wrath of God unless they be delivered by having their eyes opened, being born again, to see what they were made for and joining God in the purposes of the universe, which is to have his excellencies proclaimed. That’s why the world exists. Don’t waste your life doing other things. Do this in all that you do. That’s the first thing I wanted to pick up on that I passed over so quickly, the connection between this light right here and the way we began.

The next thing, and the last thing before we move on, is moving into the next paragraph, so keep going here. You are this that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous, excellent, distinguishing, self-authenticating beauty and glory in all the things that he’s revealing in the new birth and salvation.

We Are Desire Factories

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:10–11)

The word “passions” here, epithumia, is simply the word for desire. Sometimes very positive; sometimes very negative. When you translate, sometimes it’s translated lust; sometimes translated desire; sometimes translated passion. It’s all the same word in Greek, which should alert you to something: that desires, until they’re attached to something, are kind of neutral. If I desire to bless you, that would make me happy to do something good for you; that’s a wonderful desire. If I desire to use you, manipulate you, that’s an ugly desire.

Desiring, though, is just what we are. We’re a desire factory. The human being is a desire factory, and whether you go to heaven or whether you go to hell depends on whether the factory is producing desires that are in accord with Christ and His gospel or desires that are in accord with the world and anti-God. Now, this says “abstain,” “get away from,” “put to death,” “don’t make provision for” — those are all biblical phrases — desires of the flesh, fleshly desires, because they wage war against your soul.

How Desires Kill

Now, my question is, how do they kill the soul? How are they warring? If these desires are in you, they are killing your soul. They are making war on your soul, and if they succeed, they’re going to bring you to ruin forever. I just want to suggest that they are desires that keep you from seeing that. That’s how desires kill you. Desires kill you by making you blind to this light.

Now, let me support that with a few thoughts. Do you remember back in 1 Peter 1:14 where we said you have been ransomed from the passions of your former ignorance? Same word: “desires of your former ignorance.” There are desires that are in sync with lies.

What did Paul call them in Ephesians 4:22? He called them deceitful desires. Ephesians 4:22. What is a deceitful desire? Deceitful desire, it’s a desire that is lying to you. What is it saying to you? It’s saying if you steal, or if you look at pornography, or if you speak mean and get the last word today at work and get back, you’ll be happier. Life will be better. That’s a lie. All sin flows from deceitful desires. They lie to us. How do these passions here make war on our soul? They lie. They keep us in the dark. They tell us things that put shades over our eyes so we can’t see light, we can’t see truth, we can’t see glory, we can’t see beauty.

Mark 4:19 — I was working on this this morning. This was my devotions this morning. I was just reveling in this because it’s so relevant to my daily walk. Do you remember the parable of the soils? Some on the path, some on rocky ground, some on thorns, snares, and then some on good soil. What’s the third soil? What does it say about them, that the snares grow up and they choke the word? What are they? Desire. Cares of this world, desire for riches, desires for other things. What a sweeping statement. Desires for other things choke the word.

What does “choke the word” mean? You can’t see light when it’s preached. You see something exciting in the word. You come to church. That sounds good, and then later that week you were just overwhelmed with desire for advancement at work, or a new computer, or some sexual illicit act, or, or, or, and this desire just goes, “That’s not light. That wasn’t light.” Just blinds you. First Timothy 6:9: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” That is war against your soul. “I want money. I want more money. I want to look like I have more money, I want to drive like I have more money, I want to want to dress like I have more money, I want to live where it looks like I have more money, and I want more money. I want more security. I want more power. I want more freedom. Money, money, money.”

You will go blind overnight, blind. You can’t see. You cannot see this light, wonderful light. That’s how desires make war on the soul. This is what I deal with every day. I taste this like it’s just two inches away every day. Get horny, “I’m hungry for sexual stimulation.” What happens to your spiritual sight? What happens? Clear, beautiful, gloriously satisfying—they can’t coexist. When this thing is taking you over, when desires are taking you over, it’s making war on light, and if it makes war on light and succeeds, you go dark. If you go dark, you’re dead.

Or covetousness: “I want this thing. I want that new phone. I want that new pad. I want that new car. I want that new deck on my back porch where it’s rotten. I want, I want, I want.” Just get consumed with “I’ve got to have this,” and you wake up thinking about it, you go on the internet constantly thinking about it, and you realize, “Huh, light has just gone way into the background of my life.” Spiritual impulses are fading as covetousness is creeping, or anger.

There are almost only two issues in the world: sex and anger. I mean, throw in money, and we’ve pretty much covered everything that we deal with, but anger’s huge. By anger, I mean little frustrations, and then medium-sized disappointments and frustrations, and then bigger angers, and then bitterness, and then longstanding grudges, and you die. You die to light. Can’t see light anymore. She makes you so angry. He makes you so frustrated. You can’t see anymore. Desires blind us. They’re deceitful desires, and you can’t see light, you can’t see wonderful, wonderful light.

Live in the Light, Not the Compost Pile

The remedy to most of our issues is not fixing them. They’re not going to be fixed, most of them. It’s too late. The remedy is light. That’s so wonderful. It puts the pain, the disappointment, and the frustration in its proper perspective so it doesn’t rule your life anymore. You can look at it, and it’s very painful, and you can cry every day. There it is.

I use the analogy in marriage. In my book on marriage, I said every marriage — and this would be true for friendships, churches — needs a compost pile. Now, compost piles stink. You don’t live beside a compost pile. You put it out back, and there’s stuff in the marriage till the day you die that you need to take there and leave there. You’ll always have a compost pile in a friendship and in a marriage, meaning stuff you hate. “It stinks. I wish it weren’t true. I don’t like that about this relationship.” You can divorce because of that, or you can build a compost pile, and you take it back there and you throw it in there. Here’s what will kill you: putting up a tent by the compost pile, which is what a lot of people do.

You know why? It feels so good to be angry. Justified anger is a sweet emotion. “I’m right, and since I’m right and you shouldn’t talk that way or act that way, therefore I’m going to stay right here by the compost pile and savor how right I am about that crap.” Oh, this is real, folks. This is real. I’ve been married 46 years. I intend to stay married until I’m dead, and it’s not been easy. Hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life is being married. Highest pleasures, lowest emotions.

I just testify for all you younger folks who think you’ve been married a long time at fifteen, it’s not going to get easier. Now, that’s my testimony. A woman came up to my wife at our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, which the church celebrated with us, and she took my wife’s hand and pushed against her. Older people in my church, they always take your hand and push it against their stomach. She said, “Take heart, Noël. The second twenty-five are better.”

We wouldn’t say that. I mean, you’re laughing, and you should, because you don’t want to make me feel bad, but that isn’t true for us. Compost pile, very needed in the Piper family, and the point of the compost pile is they will never be fixed. I mean, maybe they will, but I doubt it. If you think that’s unbelief talking, maybe it is. Come chastise me. Send me an email: “Shame on you. You shouldn’t have modeled unbelief like that.”

Here’s how to wreck a marriage: try for twenty years to fix something, and then keep trying for the next twenty. That’ll wreck everything. No. Some things you just lay down. She lays them down, you lay them down, you put them in the compost pile, because you’re still convinced you’re right. You put them in the compost pile, and you don’t live there. You’ll be in the marvelous light. We’ve got light in this family. We’re going to heaven together. She is a fellow heir of the grace of life. We’re getting to that, 1 Peter 3: She’s a fellow heir of the grace of life. She’s a queen in heaven. We’re going home together.

There’s light in this world. It is awesome and wonderful and gloriously all-consuming, and you don’t have to live by the compost pile, and you don’t have to deny that it exists like a naive, stupid person.

Satan Hates the Light

All of that to say, I think this war here is the war to blind you to the wonderful light, and these passions are Satan’s biggest means of keeping you from enjoying the wonderful light of God. He is keeping you from enjoying the certainty that the Bible is the word of God because the only way to have that certainty is to see that light, and the only way to survive in a life of great disappointment is to see a bigger, more wonderful light that puts all the darkness into its proper place temporarily and one day is going to consume and fill the whole earth like the waters cover the sea, and I would like that to happen for you.

I think 1 Peter is written to help 1 Peter 2:11 happen. It’s not like, “Oh, give me the ten steps to make me abstain. Give me the ten steps of abstinence from these passions.” Well, I probably could do that, but I think it might be just more effective if we just keep going in 1 Peter because that’s what this book and the whole Bible is. To live in the Bible is to live with God’s help to help you put to death the passions that blind you to his light.