When Sinful Desires War Against Your Soul
by Pastor Dan Delzell
Everyone is a stranger in one of two ways. You are either a stranger to God, or a “stranger in the world.” But you can’t be both.
The apostle Peter wrote these words to Christians: “I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) Christians are “strangers in the world” in the sense that heaven is our ultimate home. It is where we will spend eternity. We are just “passing through” earth right now on the way to our homeland.
And while we are here, we are in a battle. There is a spiritual war going on, and sinful desires are the enemy. These desires wage war against us, and there is only one way to defeat them. Abstain.
By saying “no” to sinful desires, we say “yes” to Jesus and His love. By not doing the wrong things, we remain in a healthy place where the good things continue flowing out of us. That is, after we are spiritually reborn through faith in Christ. And as we fill our soul daily with Scripture, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians.
The New Testament epistles were not written to unbelievers, but rather, to believers. God’s Word is His love letter to His children. And so in order for it to apply to you, it is necessary to enter God’s family. Without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, the Bible will remain a closed book to you. It won’t make any sense until after you receive Jesus as Savior.
Everyone experiences temptation and sin. Some people are forgiven, while others are not. Some are in God’s family, while others are only in His neighborhood. Once you are in the family, heaven is your eternal home. And God’s love letter to His children starts to make sense to you. You begin to experience the freedom of saying “no” to sinful desires, and “yes” to the things of God.
By abstaining from sin, we align ourselves with God’s purposes. But when we give into sin, we create a roadblock between ourself and our Creator. And it makes life miserable. That is, if you are in God’s family. People outside God’s family can sin and not even feel guilty about it. Such is the nature of man’s condition.
What is your greatest temptation today? It might be a thought, a behavior, an attitude, or even an addiction. But whatever it is, you won’t experience victory by giving into it. That will only bring bondage. The way to get free is to abstain. It’s to say “no.” And then to stick to it. Such is the life of discipleship.
“But I’m not perfect,” you say. This is true. All of us are sinners. But mankind has been offered a secret weapon, and it’s the Gospel. It is a message of hope, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. It provides peace with God, and it produces peace among men. Some people refuse God’s peace, and they refuse to be at peace with those around them. They dive into their sins of resentment, hatred, grudges, and even murder. And it all stems from sinful desires which wrap themselves around our heart whenever we give into them.
You didn’t choose to be born with a sinful nature, but you can choose to say “no” to sinful desires. You can choose to trust Christ today and ask Him to forgive your sins. And then you can choose daily to abstain from desires which war against your soul.
“What if I fall short?” It’s not “if” you fall short, but “when” you fall short. It does happen. But those sinful choices don’t have to take over your life. You can deal with them quickly. You can repent. You can chart a new course. Or you can just give into them and find yourself enslaved to those desires. It’s your call. It’s your life.
So do you want to be a stranger to God, or a stranger in the world? You can’t be both. God’s Word declares, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build friendships with people who don’t know the Lord. But it does mean that Christians are not to make an alliance with sinful desires. It should feel strange to us to indulge in anything which God forbids. And if it doesn’t feel strange, then we need to take a hard look at whether we truly have a relationship with God.
Once the Holy Spirit comes to live inside a believer at the moment of conversion, everything changes. “The old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) A Christian is a “new creation in Christ.” Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior. And He calls the shots now. That’s what it means to know Him as Lord. He never comes to a person to only be their Savior. He will either be your Lord and Savior, or neither. You can’t have one foot in the camp of Christ, and the other foot in the camp of deliberate sin. It won’t work. And it won’t connect you to your Creator.
So as the battle rages on, just remember: If you are a follower of Christ, your home is in heaven. You didn’t earn eternal life in paradise, and you know it. Instead, you are trusting in the death of Jesus as the payment for your sins. And it motivates you everyday to say “no” to sin as you abstain from sinful desires. These desires will war against your soul until the day your body dies, but the eternal victory has already been secured by your Savior at the cross.
So just keep your eyes on Jesus moment by moment. He will guide you home.