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Desires of the Flesh Wage Soul-War

Two decades ago, Woody Allen caught the media’s attention when he began dating the adopted daughter of his then-partner, Mia Farrow. The odd couple married five years later. When pressed by a reporter from Time magazine, Allen remarked, "The heart wants what it wants." Though offensive to some, the words were nonetheless true. Whether a child secretly drops her veggies into the garbage, a college student polishes off a bag of cookies, or an older man turns to liquor for comfort, the heart—the flesh!—wants what it wants.

In writing to believers who were scattered geographically, Peter reminds them of their truest identity. They are both a "royal priesthood" and a "holy nation," belonging to God. Specifically, he wants to encourage them to live good lives so that others may glorify God. Knowing how "the heart wants what it wants," Peter urges his fellow Jesus-followers to "abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul" (v. 11). Peter recognizes in our human nature a pull between what the flesh—the sinful desires of our hearts, minds, and bodies—wants and the godly way. He knows that, as in any war, when one side gains ground, the other loses it!

To identify the sinful desires of the flesh as those that wage war against our souls is always very different than saying the body itself is bad. Peter is warning that following sinful desires will lead to death—but these desires do not define our identity. We are God’s chosen people! We are God’s holy nation! When we live in the direction of our true calling, we are able to live lives that testify to God’s love and power.

Apply the Word

Self-esteem has been a topic of national conversation for years. Where should Christians find self-esteem? This passage tells us. If you struggle to know how and why your life is valuable, write 1 Peter 2:9 on a note card to carry throughout the day. This verse tells you who you are—God’s special possession!—and your life purpose—declare His praises!

BY Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck is a writer and speaker who cares deeply about what it means to follow Jesus in the sneakers, pumps or Doc Martens in which we find ourselves. She is passionate about communicating God's great love for the world--inextricably bound to God's love for individuals--in print and in speech.

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