Tis’ the season for Christmas cards. If you would like to know what my family’s experience has been at producing a Christmas card over recent years, then please read my wife’s recent blog: When life isn’t like your Christmas card. We received a card from some family friends yesterday and on it was a great verse. It was so great that I wrote it down to use in a sermon soon. However, I wrote down the wrong verse. When I sat down at my desk today, I looked up the verse I had written down.
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
When I read the verse, my first thought was: “That isn’t the verse I read yesterday.”
I mean, who would put that verse on a Christmas card? I guess if you are really trying to freak out your unsaved relatives that could be a good verse. Can you just imagine your unsaved aunt opening a card with your cute kids or new puppy on the front that reads about a hungry lion trying to eat people? However, what a great verse to remember.
I thought next that this is a very familiar verse, but I rarely think about the commands associated with the verse. I have even quoted the second half while ignoring the first part of the verse. Be self-controlled and alert. Be self-controlled because the enemy (the one who is seeking someone to devour) will use your decisions to be the very things that devour you. Be alert, as opposed to naive, that you have an enemy who actively seeks people who lack self-control. That very lack of self-control could be the thing he uses to destroy you. Recently, I’ve been talking with one of our daughters about self-control. It is more than self-discipline. It is a fruit of walking in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-17 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Life in the Spirit is a life surrendered to God. Here is a liberating realization too: life in the Spirit is a moment by moment experience. When you are out of step with the Spirit, your very next step can realign you with the desires of the Spirit. It is this continual walking in the Spirit of God that allows us to control ourselves, rather than simply doing whatever feels good in the moment. That self-control keeps us from the grip of our enemy who seeks to destroy us and our lives.
It is a sobering reality that someone smarter than us and more powerful than us wants to ruin us. It is a greater realization that there is one far more powerful than him, who wants the best for us and has given us Himself, His Spirit and His Word to lead us to that life.
Oh, and the verse our friends sent. That was a good one too.
1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,