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!

10. Tempted

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 10. Tempted

Mk 1:12,13 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Theologians debate whether Jesus, as the Son of God could ever sin. Satan obviously thought, as a man at least, Jesus could, otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered trying. Moreover, if this hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have had Jesus’ example of how to overcome temptation – speak out the will of God in answer to every temptation, because that is what Jesus did every time when he was quoting Scripture.

Does temptation only happen when Satan is around? James stated that, each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (Jas 1:14). It is ultimately our sinful nature that Satan appeals to, so in that respect, he was on a losing wicket with Jesus! Yet he still tried.

What is always fascinating in these verses is that it was the Holy Spirit who initiated this episode. The Holy Spirit initiated a time of vulnerability and weakness in Jesus, (being hungry from a forty day fast) so that Satan, seeing that vulnerability, would come and try to bring Jesus down. God clearly wanted to show us that it is possible to overcome even when we are feeling very weak. Our cry that “Satan made me do it!” is revealed by this episode to be a groundless and false cry. If Jesus, in his humanity, and in his utter weakness, could overcome, by simply declaring the will of God each time, so should we.

Our vulnerability comes, however, from the fact that we allow wrong thoughts or wrong attitudes to prevail in our minds and it is these that Satan plays upon, and because we have accepted them for so long, it makes it doubly difficult not to give way to his wrong suggestions. Our insecurities and our fears make us negative about other people and so Satan can tempt us to speak out badly against them, or even act against them, and when we do, we sin. In this sense Satan simply reveals our sin or wrong attitudes or, in Jesus’ case, his absence of them!

Lord, thank you that you overcame temptation, even at your point of greatest weakness. Thank you for the example you gave us. Thank you that you have clearly revealed your will. May you find in me one who sticks steadfastly to it and, by the help of your own Spirit, overcomes and thus resists the works of the enemy.