11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
The Outworking of Character
When we become more aware of our true selves and eliminate aspects of our false selves, a new life breaks out. We often talk about new life in Jesus Christ, but do we really embrace it; do we really experience it? Are we really exiles from the culture around us? What do we think we should have for all our hard work? We want a comfortable house which requires little maintenance. We want our privacy. We want freedom from family pressures and responsibilities. We want freedom from stress. We want a secure future with a healthy 401k and maybe a place in the sun. We want obedient children who turn out better than we have. We want security and significance.
Is what we want in line with what God wants for us? Some of the things above are compatible with our identity as exiles in the land. However, we can not pursue these things too passionately, because many of them will be left behind. Many of them will be left to people who are foolish with what we have built up for them. In fact Ecclesiastes reminds us that any pursuit of gain is folly because life is so fleeting. Our eternal destiny is both our hope and our home. With eyes fixed on our identity in God, the false identity will fall away.
The result of a heavenly focus is a contentedness and peace that we rarely see in this world. I saw people on the way to work in Chicago who looked busy and focused as if their time here was about getting to work and accumulating wealth for an early retirement. I didn’t see anyone who had a face of redeemed joy. We might do well to learn from Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins who ultimately chooses his family over his career in the bank. It is in living a joyful, peaceful life, that people who are attached to this world and its stress, business, and emptiness will marvel. The question is whether you are digging deeply into the daily relationship with God to which he has called you, or whether you feed the false self that obscures the joy and relationship that we have.
God, my father, I am not my stress. I am not my anxiety. I am not my sadness. I am just passing through this world and my true identity is in heaven. I am hidden in Christ, who knew sorrow and embodied joy. May I rejoice and be law-abiding. May all who follow you be model citizens for the good.
- What desires might have waged war against a Christian’s true identity?
- When you let go of false desires, what stops the craving?
- What good might the ancients have done that would cause their neighbours to praise them?
- What do you want?
- How might living as an exile and embracing your true personality bring about praise for God?