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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Mind of the Flesh

Recognize it. Resist it.

Toward a Strong Soul (3)

For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 2 Peter 2.18, 19

Look within
The first place to look in examining ourselves and making sure we are true children of God and followers of Jesus Christ is within, in our mind, heart, and conscience, to discover the perspectives, desires, and priorities harboring there. We want to be people of strong souls, not those who, because our thoughts, affections, and priorities focus mainly on ourselves, can be easily led away from seeking Jesus.

How we think about life and the world, what we desire in life, and what constitute our highest priorities, will give a good indication of where our true and ultimate loyalties lie.

Jesus said that the true condition of our soul can be discovered by observing what we most desire (Matt. 6.19-21). The false teachers who were threatening the churches to which Peter wrote knew what they wanted – followers to stroke their egos and support their worldly lifestyles. And they knew exactly how to appeal to such people, what to hold out to them, and how to approach them to win these unstable souls to their side.

Innovation, enticement, even entertainment – whatever it took to divert people’s souls from seeking Christ and His Kingdom as their highest priority, these false teachers employed with great effects. They continue doing so in our day.

Jesus for me!
Let’s not make the mistake, when we read Peter referring to “lusts of the flesh,” of thinking only in terms of sexual license. Whatever our flesh lusts for constitutes a “lust of the flesh.” While sex can be included in this, so can other things – wealth, success, the esteem of others, mere temporal happiness, unremitting good health, a trouble-free lifestyle, and much more.

The false teachers of Peter’s day sensed that many people had associated themselves with the churches just because they thought they might get something out of Jesus for themselves, something to soothe, succor, or satisfy their flesh. Jesus encountered such people throughout His ministry (cf. Jn. 6), so it’s likely many continued seeking Him for their own selfish reasons, rather than for His Kingdom and glory.

Such people did not really know the Lord, even though they were members of local churches; rather, they were people just like the false teachers, unstable in their souls, and trying to get something from Jesus for themselves; and these wily and charismatic usurpers knew how to draw such people away from the true worship and service of the Lord, even as they used the language and forms of faith to build their own followings out of those who had little interest in strengthening their souls.

Such people – unstable souls, as Peter called them – do not truly have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). They don’t think the way Jesus did – grounded in God’s Word (2 Tim. 3.15-17), set for serving others (Eph. 4.11, 12; 1 Pet. 4.10, 11), eager to make known the greater glory of God (1 Cor. 10.31; Hab. 2.14). They were ignorant of the true nature of the Gospel and the great teachings of the faith (2 Pet. 2.12,) and they made decisions more on the basis of whim and convenience, than on faith and sound reason.

Peter said they were like “natural brute beasts” (v. 12). They did not have a solid foundation of truth by which to direct their lives, so they lurched here and there for whatever appealed to whatever sensual pleasure they most desired.

Their primary concern was not the glory of God and the progress of His Kingdom, but the advancement of their own fleshly interests.

Dying to self
And the false teachers knew how to attract them: “Follow me, and be free of worry, fear, or want!” they cried. “God is here to meet all your needs, and I can show you how to get from Him what you want!” “It’s all about grace, my friends; no need to exert yourself in any so-called disciplines, or to worry about anyone other than yourself.” Those whose souls are not strong can be easily misled by such half-truths.

The people these false teachers sought to win were right in having come to the church. But they had not truly come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and so the diversions and distractions of the world were still the primary motivators of their hearts and minds (2 Pet. 2.19, 20). They were unstable souls, and their unstable souls betrayed the unreliable character of their faith, and the unsaved nature of their lives.

Being a Christian is hard work (Phil. 2.12). It offers no guarantee of a trouble-free life; indeed, the Lord and the apostles promised that trials and suffering would be the norm for those who took up Jesus’ cross and followed Him daily (cf. Jn. 16.33). Plus, working out our salvation in fear and trembling means long hours in prayer, reading Scripture, meditation, study, and learning together with other Christians, worked out in a life of good works (Eph. 2.10). Being a Christian is first about dying to self, not gratifying its every want.

In short, unless we are willing daily to work at the renewing of our minds, to learn Christ in how we think about faith, life, ourselves, and the world, unless we commit to nurturing stable souls by such means, we profess faith in Jesus in vain, and therefore falsely. 

They who have the mind of Christ and truly belong to Him do not follow Jesus to get from Him whatever they might want. They follow Him because they know Him, and they cannot do otherwise than take up His cross in service to others for God’s glory. If this is not your motive in following Jesus, it may be that you need some strengthening and stabilizing for your soul.

For reflection
1.  Paul says we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). What does that mean? How does one who has the mind of Christ think about faith, life, himself, and the world?

2.  Suggest some practical ways of examining the state of your thinking at any time.

3.  Is your time in God’s Word of sufficient length and quality to ensure that you will continue stabilizing your soul by growing into the mind of Christ? Can you see any areas where you might improve in this?

Next steps – Preparation: Pay attention to your thoughts during the day ahead. Be quick to thank the Lord for the good and wholesome thoughts He gives you, and to confess and repent of any that indicate instability in your thinking.

T. M. Moore

All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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