52. Clear Minded

Meditations in 1 Peter : 52: Clear Minded

1 Pet 4:7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray

Living in the West in the early twenty-first century, one could perhaps be excused for NOT being clear minded, for we are bombarded with information and opinions from every media outlet possible. Youth magazines portray a particular culture and it is a strong young person who dares fly in the face of that culture. Magazines and newspapers all portray a particular view or culture and the unwary will find their mind being shaped by those. TV, films and subsequently videos (not to mention the whole music industry), all convey lifestyles that are godless and often unrighteous. And all of these things impact our minds. The government carefully manages its agenda through the media to persuade the public to their way of thinking (which may or may not be right) and so it is no surprise that many people live in a state of confusion.

And then Peter calls upon Christians to be “clear minded.” The mind is where the battle is waged and the tactic of the enemy is to confuse and sow doubts. No wonder so many young Christians don’t know where to draw a line in the sand and so find themselves still living like occupants of the dominion of darkness rather than citizens of the kingdom of the Son.  The call to be clear minded is to first of all to be clear in your basic beliefs. If we are a Christian, can we state basic beliefs about Jesus, God and our salvation? But it is also a call to have understanding. We aren’t to just accumulate facts of our salvation, we are to understand why things work as they do, why God calls us to a certain path and why is it dangerous to walk a different path. But there is also the matter of the will. Unless we are completely committed to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we will find ourselves prey to the enemy’s attacks. In all of these ways we are to be clear minded.

But Peter doesn’t leave it there; he also calls us to be “self-controlled.” Self control is about being able to determine your own actions and not get carried away by desires. We are not to be those driven by desires or emotions. Our control starts in our mind but is then worked out as we direct our body to do things or not do things. We shouldn’t make excuses here, for the New Testament is quite clear: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (Jas1:13,14). If we allow our minds to feed on wrong thoughts, it is no wonder that Satan can help them to come to fruition by us succumbing to wrong desires. If we read novels involving sex or we watch films with plenty of sex in, no wonder our minds will dwell on sex and when a sexual temptation comes along we are then all the more vulnerable to it. Watch you mind, watch what you see and read, watch what you think and feel otherwise you are vulnerable to a fall which may result in your destruction!

Now at the end of this verse Peter provides a motivation to do these things: “The end of all things is near.” Now this was the often felt belief in the early church that the kingdom of God would come and God would wind up this earth soon.  Well, two thousand years later He still hasn’t, but it is still a good warning, because we just don’t know when He will do it!  Whether He will wait for another two thousand years, or whatever, the truth is that God is going to one day wind up all things, but more than that we all live with a limited life span and one of these days we ARE going to have to stand before Him and account for the lives we have lived.  If Jesus is our Lord and Saviour we need not fear that time, but if he is not, then there is genuinely something to be feared if not dreaded! There WILL come a time of accounting is what Peter is warning us, to help us check our thinking and our behaviour in God’s sight.

But that is about the future and at the end of the verse Peter gives us another motivation or encouragement: “so that you can pray.” i.e. the way we think and the way we behave dictates our ability to pray and talk to God. Now prayer is the most wonderful privilege we have, this access to God, but if we are confused in our thinking or if our behaviour is more appropriate to the dominion of darkness, then it is obvious that we will neither feel like praying, nor be able to pray, and that means we are in isolation from God, feeling alone and vulnerable.

These are very simple but very practical exhortations that Peter gives us. They should be easy to understand and easy to put into practice. May that be so!

9. Action Stations!

Meditations in 1 Peter : 9 :  Action Stations!

1 Pet 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen old war films, especially ones at sea. The ship is cruising quietly, then the lookouts spot enemy aircraft approaching and suddenly ‘Action Stations’ is sounded. Instantly the ship is transformed. One minute is was quiet and at ease and the next people are rushing to their places ready for battle.

Our verse above starts with a Therefore indicating that what he now says is a response to what has gone before. In verses 10-12 he had spoken about how our present salvation was been hinted at throughout the Old Testament.  Prior to that he had spoken about our invisible faith which was yet so real and had concluded, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v.9)  Did you note the word, ‘receiving’ which speaks of action or an ongoing activity. We tend to tend think that salvation is all about what happened on the day when we came to Christ and were converted (Acts 15:3, Rom 16:5) but Peter here said we are receiving our salvation which is in the present but ongoing.  Day by day we receive what God has got for us and this is our salvation.

You may have heard the old illustration about people being shipwrecked at sea. The lifeboat goes out and winches them off the boat. They are saved! As the lifeboat makes its way back to the shore they are being saved. When it arrives back in the harbour and they get off onto dry land, they are well and truly saved!  Those three stages correspond to our lives. When we came to Christ we were saved. Today we are being saved, and when we go to heaven we will be well and truly saved!

So Peter said we are receiving our salvation, it’s coming to us from God, but now he’s saying “prepare your minds for action.”  Now that could be taken two ways. Get ready to use your minds, or get your minds ready to cope with the action that is coming. Both are right!

Christians ARE people who should be using their minds. In some quarters there has been the idea that once you move into the area of faith you switch off you mind.  Is it a coincidence that God chose a very bright intelligent guy called Paul to take the Gospel across Asia Minor?   Was it a coincidence that God chose an educated doctor to write one of the gospels and the Acts of the apostles?  If you have a mind – use it!  But hold on, some of us say, I’m not clever.  No, it’s OK,  two of the other gospel writers started out as uneducated fishermen. Perhaps there is more in your head than you realise. Every time we teach, we are asking you to use your mind.  When Paul challenged the local elders of churches to be prepared to counter the heresies of the day, they did it with their minds!

But it is ALSO about getting your minds ready to cope with the action that is coming as an expression of your salvation.  In the crisis that brought us to Christ we may have come to the place where we recognised our failure and our need of saving – in fact if we didn’t we probably haven’t been saved!  At that point we died to our old lives, we gave up on them, but then we had to learn that the Christian life is a life of resurrection, of God imparting new life to us so that we live new righteous lives.  Then we hear that God wants to take and use our lives to bless His world.  When we hear both these things, our natural way of thinking says I can’t do that, I can’t be a new righteous person, I can’t be used of God.  We have to learn to believe God and not our own inadequacies.

We have to learn that as God empowers and directs us, we can now take control of our lives.  No longer do we let ourselves get swept along by our emotions, or by things people say to us, or even the things going wrong around us.  That is why Peter says, “be self controlled.” Part of this salvation that we are receiving means that we learn to resist the devil, resist sin and purposefully live for God. Those are all choices we make and actions we take.

But there is something more:set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” When is Jesus Christ revealed? As he speaks and acts today and when he returns on the last day!  Toset your hope” simply means to think rightly and with assurance about tomorrow and realise there is more to come. What you have is not all of it.  God’s grace is God’s provision of ability and it comes as Jesus draws near and imparts his ability to you. Yet there is the distance (eternity) element to it, but we don’t have to wait until eternity to receive God’s grace, because receiving this salvation is all about receiving God’s grace – now.