How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? How can you survive the election without losing your faith, your friends, your witness, . . . or your mind? Those are the questions we’re answering this week by examining six truths about exile citizenship from 1 Peter 2:11-17.
Here’s the second truth: know yourself. Peter continues in verse 11, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Now what does this verse teach us about ourselves?
First, it teaches us that we’re exiles. This world is not our home. This country is not our home. We’ll love America best by loving her less than Jesus and His church. It’s hard to allow the election to affect you the way it affects your neighbors or your Facebook friends if you remember that you’re just visiting.
Imagine that Covid-19 is over and you’re on a month-long family vacation in Tahiti. When you booked your trip, you didn’t realize that you’d be there during a contentious election. Political signs are everywhere, the people are angry and uptight, commentators on the local news are calling this the most important election in their lifetimes. How do the Tahiti elections affect you? You may care somewhat, especially if you get to know and care for some of the locals and hear how the issues affect them, but by and large you’re not going to be consumed by the election. Why not? Because you know you’re an exile. Tahiti may be your temporary residence, but it is not your home.
So too for you, Christian. The United States may be our temporary residence, but it is not our home. Christian, to know yourself means to know that you’re an exile. But there’s more we need to know about ourselves.
Second, this verse teaches us that we are at war. “Now you’re talking, pastor! This is a war! We’re in a war for the very heart and soul of our nation! That’s why this election matters so much!!!” Not so fast. Look again. Peter pleads with us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” We are at war, and we do have an enemy. But it isn’t a donkey or an elephant. Your greatest enemy isn’t in the White House or a mansion in Delaware. Your greatest enemy is you.
When you became a Christian, God gave you a new heart. But you still have a sinful nature, and it won’t go away until you meet Jesus face-to-face. Paul tells us about these sinful passions in Galatians 5:19-21—Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Peter is urging us to abstain from all these sins, but I want to focus on some that are particularly tempting this election season: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions. Doesn’t that sound exactly like a political ad or a debate soundbite? These things may be commonplace in the political arena, but they should be foreign to a Christian. These sins wage war against your soul. They will steal your joy, so let’s put them to death.
By the way, look at your battle against sin and you get discouraged. Maybe you have even begun to doubt your salvation because of your struggle. “How can I be a Christian if I keep battling with sin?” Christians are the only ones who battle with sin. The unbeliever is completely content to live a life yielded to sin. He doesn’t fight. She doesn’t battle. Only the Christian is at war with sin. Let’s keep fighting.
How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? By knowing you’re yourself.