Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
—1 Peter 1:22–25
We discovered in John’s epistle yesterday an exhortation to walk in the light, but it is good for us to remember that we are not capable of doing this in our flesh. Walking in the light is the work of the Spirit. It is not a goal attainable through personal self-discipline, though self-discipline is involved to a degree. The self-discipline needed is not beating ourselves into submission, punishing our bodies into fearful, lifeless masses of flesh. The self-discipline involved is self-denial, not self-mutilation. It is dying to self that the Spirit may flow freely through us, looking to the Word of God to explain the life of self-denial and then dying to the things inconsistent with a purified soul.
The Spirit of God is the incorruptible seed now living in us. This means His desire is not just to give us a list of things not to do, but to replace our desires for the things we used to do. This is a product of the new reborn nature, a love for the things of God, a love for the ways described in His Word. Therefore, obeying the truth is a work of the Spirit as defined in God’s Word.
Yes, there are indeed things that Christians ought not to do, but if that is the emphasis of our Christian lives, we will struggle with a negative perspective on the will of God. However, if we look at the Christian life as a series of things we can now accomplish by the power of the Spirit within us, then the old things we used to long for will seem undesirable. That is because walking in the Spirit is an unmatched majestic manner of living that makes everything else seem substandard.
I used to drink and get high—a lot. But I have never experienced anything greater and more fulfilling than knowing that God has used me. It makes the things I once longed for look dark and ugly, and I find myself amazed that I once thought I was “livin’ large.” If we allow the incorruptible seed to grow in our lives, we will soon have no room for the things that corrupt. I have often said, “A life emptied from its past is still empty,” meaning we need to be filled with the works of God done through the power of the Spirit.
So don’t look at walking in the light as “You better or else,” but rather as “I can by the Spirit who lives in me.” There is nothing better than living for Jesus as defined in the Word and being empowered by the Spirit. Don’t look at today as a day where you better not do thus and so, but look at today as a day where you can do all things through Christ (Phil. 4:13). Then the “thus and so” won’t even have time to happen in your day!
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