“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Our sinful nature constantly wages war upon us. Our selfish will defies God’s good decrees and vainly seeks temporal pleasures instead. The corrupt flesh holds such power over us that we willingly forfeit true peace and lasting happiness for fleeting physical gratification.
One the one hand, as redeemed children of God, we deeply and sincerely desire to serve and glorify Him for the great gift of salvation He has given us through His only Son, Jesus Christ. But on the other hand, our wicked impulses drive us to flout the commands of our great God and Father, bringing shame and trouble upon ourselves and rendering our ministry flimsy and hypocritical at best.
We know that our own good works have no power to save us – that victory is complete and final, by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and triumphant resurrection. And yet, as God’s chosen warriors in a world filled with darkness and despair, we earnestly yearn to please Him through thankful service that extends the fruits of His love to those around us. Paul tells Timothy that “cleansing” is necessary if the Christian soldier is to be set to serve: “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
Paul doesn’t say, “Do this in order to be saved” – he says, “Do this in order to serve.” What child in a loving family doesn’t wish to please his or her parents? What student wouldn’t want to please and honor his wise, kindly teacher? What noble soldier wouldn’t willingly go above and beyond the call of duty for a faithful and caring commander who has saved the lives of his men time and again?
Perhaps you, like many others, long to do what is pleasing in the eyes of God, but find that your sinful flesh often gets the best of you. Some may even be at a point where they find very little desire to do what God wills, and are wondering what that means for their spiritual state. In either case, the answer can be found in the same place: the Word of God. The Law convicts us of wrongdoing, guiding and directing us in the way we should go. The Gospel of Jesus Christ shows us that God has taken our sins and placed them upon the cross of our Redeemer, making us free from the terrible eternal consequences of our sin and releasing us from the power it holds over us here and now.
If you desire to be prepared to serve God as a loving child, a faithful student and a noble soldier, turn to God’s Word for the weapons of faith. In an amazing, miraculous way, the Holy Spirit equips us with all of the spiritual armaments we need to fight evil wherever it may lie; in our world, in our nation, in our community, in our household, and in our own hearts. Through weapons like the love, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control which the Spirit imparts through the Word, God adds to the joy of our salvation by showing us true meaning for our lives in service to Him. And when faced with the most deadly attack that can be directed at our souls – the ugly accusations of Satan himself over our failures – our defense is in much more capable hands; it rests securely upon the breastplate of Christ’s own righteousness and the helmet of His salvation.
“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Prayer: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me – help me to know the fullness of Your love and mercy, that I may ever serve You joyfully; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.