Dear friends, welcome back! I’m praying for you today. I am certain today that The Holy Spirit wants to use Peter’s words to call you and me to higher ground. Let’s go ahead before we start and invite Him to lead us and help us understand the Word of God.
Holy Spirit, I pray that you would open the eyes of our hearts today to see powerful truth tucked in these two verses. Help us be good soil so that the seed that is sown will produce a great harvest in our lives. We say yes to you! Please speak.
I love how Peter starts out this challenge, “Dear friends.” It’s almost like he is putting the novocaine in before he pushes them. You know he learned this strategy from Jesus, right? Jesus was the best teacher—always pushing and encouraging. Creating safe space, but calling people up to higher ground.
That’s what God wants to do with us today.
We all need friends like Peter, don’t we? I keep in close contact with a group of buddies; we are all lead pastors of churches across the country—one in Chicago, one in Seattle, one in Michigan, and me here in California. Twenty plus years later, our friendships are still going strong. Back in the day, I’m sure our church’s youth leaders were worried about our futures. For example, one Friday night when we were hanging out, we had to pick up my younger brother from some event at the church building. We decided it would be funny to strip naked in my parents’ minivan so that when my brother loaded into the car he would see four naked high school guys.
Sorry if I’m putting images in your mind. Erase, erase, erase. When I look back at some of the stupid stuff I did early in my teenage years, it gives me more hope for my kids. At any rate, here I am, over twenty years later, writing to you as “Dear friends.”
I guess it’s good to know that Jesus can change people’s lives and call them up to a kind of life that gains the respect and honor of people who don’t know Jesus. Most of the stuff that battles against a life that honors God is our internal “worldly desires.” We all have them, and they war at our ability to live the life God has called us to live.
I am feeling a little bold today in my confessions with you. I hope it’s okay. I can’t see your face, and you can’t see mine, so I’m just going to share another one.
When I was in high school, I smoked sometimes. Now if you smoke, please know that I’m not judging you. I know that relatively speaking that behavior isn’t super bad, but it’s worse when you think of me as a Christian kid who smoked in secret. Not packs a day, just one or two. I remember one time in seventh grade, I stole my stepdad’s Marlboros after he went to work. There were five in the pack. That was my first time smoking. They tasted gross, but then I started to think he might know how many were in the pack, so I proceeded to smoke the whole pack…by myself.
Why am I telling you this? Well, almost 30 years later, I still have a desire to smoke sometimes. Now, your issue may not be smoking, but I’m sure there’s something from your old way of life that you still desire—sex, money, pornography, gossip, or just plain ol’ laziness.
That’s not who you are anymore, but it still taunts you every once in a while.
What do you do with that? You distance yourself from it. You say, “Stay away.”
Because this life is short, because you are a temporary resident of planet earth, and because you have a mission, there are just certain places you don’t go anymore. There are certain friends you distance yourself from, certain parties that you don’t go to, certain apps you don’t put on your phone, certain websites you don’t visit.
Why? Because of vision, because of calling, and because of a new identity.
When you make the decision to follow Jesus, people immediately begin watching you. Your life becomes a billboard for God. Your words, your actions, the way you treat people, your engagement on Zoom calls, your response to emails, and your demeanor all testify about your character. They either point others toward Jesus or away from Him.
So now my life is different. My “dear friends” and I don’t go streaking anymore, and I gave up my little secret smoking habit. Why? Because my purpose trumps my preferences! I have stronger desires to do life with God and point others to Him. When fulfilled, these new desires are far more satisfying than those fleshly desires which wage war against my life in Jesus.
What kind of billboard are you? What desires are waging war against your soul? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to purify us and make us more like Jesus.