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Enemies and Allies

TOUGH ENEMIES (1 Peter 4-5)

We have formidable opponents in our quest to become more like Christ: 1) the unholy sinful tendencies that come from within us, 2) the unholy world all around us with its attractive bait that camouflages the hook of sin, and 3) the lies and deeds of evil personified—the leader of the fallen angels we call the devil.

The Flesh. Peter wrote, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). And later he added that we are not to live for “the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).

We carry the damaging effects of the disease of sin within us (1 John 2:16). Even though God has declared that we, as believers, have been forgiven of sin, are spiritually born again, and will never be condemned by Him (John 3:3,16-18), we will have a battle with sinful desires as long as we live (see Romans 6-8).

The term flesh refers to the sinful tendencies that rise from within us— lust, coveting, pride, self-centeredness—which lead us into sin (Romans 7:15-25; James 1:13-15; 4:1-10).

The World. The term world refers to the sin-permeated, fallen world-system of life on
this planet that draws us away from holy living. It is everything that has been distorted by sin and opposes what is good and holy. God’s word instructs us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

The unbelieving world around us can also be hostile to those who follow Christ. Peter warned about the likelihood that believers would suffer as Christians (1 Peter 4:16) and be objects of ridicule and attack because they identify with Christ (1 Peter 3:13-18). Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world … therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).

The Devil and His Lies. Just as Satan deceived Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3), so he continues to spin his web of deceit today. He is a liar by nature (John 8:44), and Peter wrote that the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us as his prey (1 Peter 5:8). He is called “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). He is doing his worst to lead people astray and hinder the work of God.

Peter instructed his readers to resist the devil, standing firm in
the faith (1 Peter 5:9). By knowing God, rooting our thoughts and actions firmly in the word, and relying on the Holy Spirit within, we will not fall easily into Satan’s traps or give him a foothold in our lives.

POWERFUL ALLIES (1 Peter 4-5; 2 Peter 1)

Praise God that “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). In contrast to the enemies of the flesh, the world, and the devil, we have the allies of: 1) new desires, 2) the church, and 3) the Holy Spirit.

New God-Directed Desires. At the moment we placed our trust in Jesus Christ and accepted His gift of salvation, God infused in us a new desire and a new ability to please Him (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Lord has transformed us at the very core of our being, enabling us to reflect God’s holiness and to be free from bondage to evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4). We now have Christ living in us and through us (Galatians 2:20), and we are challenged to die to sins and live for righteousness (Galatians 5:16-26; 1 Peter 2:24).

The Church. In contrast to the world that fights against us, as believers we are part of the church, a community that is designed to support us in our growth in holiness. Peter said, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

When we put our trust in Christ, we became part of the church, made up of all believers. God designed the church in such a way that we all have something to offer to everyone else. We each have a spiritual gift for building others up and working toward the goal of holiness together (Acts 2:41- 47; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:1-16).

The Holy Spirit. All of God’s children have the Holy Spirit living within them, working to produce holy, Christlike behavior (1 Corinthians 12:7,13; Ephesians 1:13-14). To resist sinful desires and become holy, we must live in reliance on the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:4-13). If we submit to God’s direction and rely on His strength and not our own, our lives will produce the fruit of holiness instead of the dead works of evil desires (Galatians 5:16-26).

The key to living a holy, Christlike life is not simply to attend church, try harder, read the Bible, or take a stand against Satan and his lies—as important as all those actions are. The key is this: We are to live the Christian life the way we began it—depending on God’s grace and placing all our hope and trust in Him. The apostle Paul put it this way, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

Jesus Himself used an analogy of a vine and branches to emphasize that we can do nothing to please Him if we are not close to Him. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

To be holy and separate from sin, we must be close to Jesus Christ. That occurs as we focus our thoughts on Him, speak to Him in prayer, and depend on Him throughout each day.

—Condensed from Why Would Anyone Want to be Holy? By RBC Ministries