1 Peter 1:14f



Sermon preached on November 3, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 1996. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
Practice makes ___________? Who can finish that line for me? Practice makes perfect. That's right. But there's another variation of that phrase that I like and it relates to Christian living. It goes, "Practice makes permanent." In other words, what you do over and over soon becomes part of your character. It becomes a permanent part of your behavior.

And in our text Peter is telling
us to take care on how we shape our lives. He writes,

"As obedient children,
do not conform to the evil desires
you had when you lived in ignorance."

And the great lesson you are to learn from it is that

you are to shape your lives according to God's Word.

You are not to fashion your lives according to the evil desires that are within us. Peter puts it negatively. He tells us that we are not to fashion ourselves according to the evil desires of the old nature. You are to say "No!" to your evil desires.

You see, what Peter is referring to here is how we shape our lives. And to my mind
he uses a very interesting word to describe the process. The Greek word refers to the practice of adopting for oneself a pattern or mold. The Greek word is actually a compound word and the first part of it is 'with' and it suggests that there will actually be a personal shaping of our lives to the pattern that we adopt. What Peter says here makes me think of our lives as being like something liquid that you pour into a mold. It's like he's telling us that we're liquid jello and we need to be careful what mold we pour ourselves into. And the mold that we must emphatically reject is the old nature.

Indeed, we need to remember
Galatians 5:19f where the apostle Paul compares the end product of the old nature to the end product of following the Spirit. Here's what the old nature leads to.

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
idolatry and witchcraft;
hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition,
dissensions, factions
and envy; drunkenness, orgies,
and the like.
I warn you, as I did before,
that those who live like this
will not inherit the kingdom of God."

But where does the Spirit lead? Galatians 5:22f,

"But the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control...
Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified the sinful nature
with its passions and desires.
Since we live by the Spirit,
let us keep in step with the Spirit."

So we need to be careful how we fashion ourselves. And what I want you to note in particular is that

the mold you are to reject is the old nature.

Even born again Christians have evil desires. What Peter says here implies that the evil desires do not simply vanish when we became Christians. He is warning us not to conform to certain evil desires, specifically, to the ones that belong to the old nature. When we become Christians, these evil desires do not vanish. Just because we become Christians does not mean that we will have no evil desires.

Now it's important that you understand this because

some Christians look inside themselves and they see evil desires and because of that they think that they are not Christians.

They see the evilness of their hearts, they see how the old nature is still there and they begin questioning their conversion. They think of 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says,

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone,
the new has come."

And they conclude that their conversion was not real. They conclude that they Spirit of God is not really living in them. And that can lead them to depression and discouragement. It can greatly hinder their relationship with Christ—because they think that Jesus doesn't love them, that He didn't die for them. They feel alienated and separated from Christ. And all the while Jesus loves them very dearly. All the while Jesus is their Good Shepherd.

And this
can especially happen to Christians who are quite old. It can affect Christians who are in their late 70's, 80's and even 90's. Perhaps they have more time then and they become more introspective. They look into their hearts and they see that there is still sin there. They still see the remnants of the old nature there. And it shocks them and they think, "I can't be a Christian. If I was a Christian these things still wouldn't be in my heart. They would have gone by now."

But what we must realize is that Christians can and do have evil desires.
David was a man after God's own heart, yet he had great evil desires. And those desires led him into sin. Job said that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a girl lustfully. Why? Because it could lead to evil desires. Job, the most righteous man on the face of the earth—he was not immune to evil desires. We see the same thing in Ephesians 4:22f, where the Holy Spirit says,

"You were taught,
with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted
by its deceitful desires;
to be made new
in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must
put off falsehood and speak truthfully
to his neighbor, for we are
all members of one body.
'In your anger do not sin'
Do not let the sun go down
while you are still angry,
and do not give the devil a foothold.
He who has been stealing
must steal no longer,
but must work,
doing something useful
with his own hands,
that he may have something to share
with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk
come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful
for building others up
according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with whom you were sealed
for the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness,
rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you."

Do you see what he's telling us? He's telling us that we have two choices. We can live according to the old nature or we can live according to the new nature. Our old nature is still with us. It is not yet completely gone. Paul verbalized his struggle in Romans 7.

Christians can have many and varied evil desires. James wrote to Christians and said to them, (
James 1:13-14)

"each one is tempted when,
by his own evil desire,
he is dragged away and enticed."

We're tempted because there are evil desires in us. Temptation often does not have its source in the outer lure but in the inner desire.

We all have evil desires in us. I've heard it said that
there is no sin, except the sin against the Holy Spirit, in which Christians are not capable of falling. Every sin except that sin is something that we could, possibly, fall into.

The second thing that I want you to see from this verse is that

you can choose the right path.

It's very interesting how Peter puts this. If one was to translate the beginning of this verse very literally, it would be, 'children of obedience'. Peter didn't really say, "As obedient children..." We only translate it that way because if we put as Peter actually wrote it, it wouldn't flow well. So our English translations actually changed it a little bit. But that little change hides an important truth. Peter uses a Hebraic expression that is common in both the Old and New Testaments, 'children of obedience'. The genitive 'of' denotes the characteristic and ruling nature of the individual; a child is of the same nature as its parents. This phrase designates our character. We are God's children. Our true character now should be like God's.

But at the same time, Peter tells us that if we don't watch that we can fall into the trap of living according to our old 'evil desires'. The implication here is that these evil desires should be past for us. They are the desires 'you had' when you lived in ignorance. The past tense is used to show that they should be part of our past, not our present.

But you see, there a
dichotomy here. We are 'children of obedience', yet we have evil desires. It's part of the 'already' and 'not yet' of the Christian life. Our true character is that we are 'children of obedience', yet we have not yet been made perfect.

So what Peter is telling us to do is to live according to our true nature. You all know the expression,
'out of character'. If someone you know does something that is very unusual for him, you say, "That was out of character for him." He wasn't acting according to his normal character. And what the Holy Spirit is doing here is urging us to act in accordance to our true character. We are children of obedience.

You are to say, "No" to your evil desires.

What Peter says here reminds me of Romans 12:2, where the apostle Paul wrote,

"Do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind."

We are to be renewed and to put off the image of the old Adam. Say no to anything belonging to the old nature.

Now the great question is—how do you do this? How do you make sure that you do not fashion yourself according to the old nature?

I would suggest that we should all realize that

the little things that you do are so important.

The little things count so much. The little decisions that we make, the little behaviors that we indulge in. They are all important because they shape and mold us. They determine what kind of character we will develop. Little behaviors and habits lead to other behaviors.

Little behaviors often determine a whole direction, a whole course of action.

I'll tell you a story about my dad and my brother. One time they went to Boston with some other guys my dad worked with. They went up for a few days to see some hockey games. As they were leaving Boston they were driving up the Expressway and at one point you come to a Y in the road. They were supposed to go right, on Route 95. But they didn't see the sign and they went left, on Route 93. Now it's real easy to make that mistake. I know that section of road and one can easily do it. But they didn't realize they had gotten off 95. And my dad just kept driving. I don't know what it is about dad but he doesn't like to stop and look at a map or ask directions when he's driving. Some men are like that. The rest of them were all having a good time, smoking cigars etc. And they weren't paying attention. They drove about five hours before they realized their mistake. And at the end of five hours they were no closer to home than they were when they left Boston!

Anyway, we still tease my dad about that. It wasn't long after it happened that my brother got my dad a compass for the dash of his car. No real harm was done.

Swansea Queen

But sometimes starting on a course that is a little off can have disastrous consequences. I remember once reading a book about the last voyage of a ship called the Swansea Queen. In the 1850's the ship was heading from St. John's to a port in northern Newfoundland called Tilt Cove. It was the month of December and some of the passengers were looking forward to getting home for Christmas. They were blown somewhat off course by a fierce storm. After the storm was over the captain used his compass to set a course for Tilt Cove. And they sailed on that course for a couple of days. And just when it was getting dark that evening they ran aground on a little deserted island called Gull Island. The ship was wrecked but they all got ashore before the ship was battered to pieces. The reason they hit Gull Island was because the captain was off on his compass setting by about one degree. When he set the course he was a little farther west than he thought. If the compass setting had been just one degree different, they would have missed Gull Island. And it meant disaster for them. Gull Island had no trees, no shelter. So the survivors salvaged what they could from the ship, they lit some fires, but no one came to rescue them. They finally used one of the sails as a blanket and they all crawled under it and froze to death. They were found by some fisherman the following May, still lying under the sail. One degree of the compass made the difference between being home with their families for Christmas, and freezing to death on a forlorn island.

You see, the point is that being just a little bit off can be disastrous. And it's the same in our Christian walk. Sometimes we look on a little bad behavior as no big deal. We think that a little sin, a little flaw in our lives is no big deal. We often think that little sins are okay, that they won't have big consequences. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Little actions mold and shape us.

Mark Furman

What kind of character do you think of when you think of Mark Furman? Most of you know who he is. He was one of the police detective who investigated the murder of Nichole Brown Simpson. He was the one who found the bloody glove outside O.J. Simpson's house. In the courtroom he got on the stand and said that he wasn't a racist and that he hadn't used the word 'nigger' in the past ten years. And then someone released a tape interview in which he used to quite regularly. He was proved to be a liar. Anyway, in many people's eyes he came out of that trial looking much worse than O.J. A few months ago I saw an interview with him and at the end of the interview he was asked what lesson he had learned from it all. He said, "You can make a mistake, and you have no idea how far it can go, how far reaching the consequences can be."

And it's that way in spiritual matters. In
spiritual matters little things can have far reaching effect and disastrous effects. A little look led David into sin. A little greed led Ananais and Sapphira into lying to the Holy Spirit. Little things can lead to great flaws. Our actions shape and form us. Practice makes permanent.

So we must say 'no' to the evil desires that belong to the old nature. They are not innocent and harmless. They shape us and mold us. You all know the saying, "
You are what you eat." In a spiritual sense there would be a great deal of truth in the statement, "You are what you do." It effects and determines your character.

So what this means is that

you should only desire things in accordance with God's Word.

Be careful what you desire. You should only desire good things. Don't set your heart on anything here below.

The Greek word that Peter uses here doesn't have a negative connotation to it. It's not like the word, 'lust' which has negativity written all over it. No, it just like our word, 'desire'. It can be used in a good sense or a bad sense. In itself it merely relates to a strong desire. So any strong desire that relates to the old nature is included.

In the book of Revelation 19:10 we read how the apostle
John fell to worship the angel. Was that an evil desire? Yes. To worship the angel would have been a great evil.

You may say, "But that wasn't an evil desire." But yes, it was. If you analyze it, it was a great evil that he tried to do. You see, evil desires are not just sexual sins, or sins related to drunkenness or things like that. Consider
pride. Pride belongs to the old nature and is something that Christians have to guard against. In 1 Timothy 3 Paul warns against pride and arrogance and warns the church against ordaining recent converts as elders. He said, (1 Timothy 3:6)

"He must not be a recent convert,
or he may become conceited
and fall under the same judgment
as the devil."

But that's not just a sin that new converts can fall into. In 3 John we read about Diotrephes- who wanted to be first. Like the devil, he wanted the position of preeminence.

So set your mind on good spiritual things. Desire them. Think about the gifts of the Spirit. Set your heart on them. Renounce the world.

We're like a
cup. In order to let God fill us, we need to empty ourselves of the old nature.

Calvin:

"The sum of the whole law and of all that God requires of us has this in view, that His image should shine forth in us..."



May God give us grace that His image would shine in us.