The High Stakes of Your Testimony
The stakes have never been higher for the power of a godly testimony among unbelievers.
I have heard recently of multiple occasions where believers have severely compromised the glory of Jesus Christ through their indulgence in sin. The glory of Christ is placed on display through the transformed life of the believer as the believer walks worthy of his calling by exhibiting genuine godliness generated not by resolve, hypocrisy, and projection, but by love for and conformity to Jesus Christ by the operation of the grace of God through the believer walking in the Spirit.
In 1 Peter 2, Peter emphasizes the very things that ought to be on the forefront of all of our minds as believers. He begins by providing an objective and simple instruction - that we must be diligent to suppress lust in order to demonstrate the reality of our identity in Christ. He immediately identifies two specific means of allowing our identity in Christ to be genuinely displayed:
- “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts …” – He is speaking here of giving internal attention to those desires which violate the purity of holiness, something that we have some ability to manage (we are not helpless victims of our flesh).
- Peter then indicates that the attendant circumstance in abstaining from fleshly lusts is that we will be able to “… keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles ….” This refers to the external efforts to keep conduct respectable and honorable.
It is by means of abstaining from fleshly lusts that one’s behavior is “excellent” among the watchful eye of unbelievers. Of course, he also provides us the significant incentives for doing these things. He reminds us that we are “… aliens and strangers” in a hostile land. We need to act like it and not allow ourselves to be absorbed back into the corruptions of this world. We are “aliens” - foreigners in a place that is not our home. Also, he calls us “strangers,” conveying the idea that we are temporary residents and are merely passing through this world. To attach ourselves to the lustful “customs” of the world is completely inappropriate for us!
Yet another incentive to do these things is that the “fleshly lusts … wage war against the soul.” The desires of the body or the mind that seek to cause us to act contrary to the will of God in gratifying ourselves are purposefully seeking to destroy our souls! That is what he means when Peter says that they “wage war” - the mortal enemy of godliness and spiritual growth is the fleshly lusts from which we must abstain!
Finally, Peter raises the stakes of the eternal destinies of the lost around us who are observing the operation of the grace of God in transforming us into the image of Christ. A consistent, godly testimony has great impact – it will enable those unbelievers who witness our devotion to glorify God when they convert – “… they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” I believe that this “day of visitation” is not a reference to judgment as many assume, but to the occasion when the Holy Spirit brings the conviction of sin in their lives and “visits” them through the dispensing of saving grace. Peter’s concern was the evangelizing influences of lives that resist personal indulgence in order to remain submissive to the will of God.
May we realize the importance of a godly testimony - for the glory of God, safety of our own souls, and the eternal impact that it will have on the lost around us. Live on!