Souls Unstable in Their Commitment to Moral Living
“Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children” (2 Peter 2:14).
As Peter warned of those who would “beguile unstable souls,” he focuses particularly on the immorality of such beguilers and on how such beguilers will encourage unstable souls to commit immorality themselves (2 Peter 2). The beguilers are described as “having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin” (verse 14). While such utter depravity is lamentable, it is all the more so because this description is of people who claim to be Christians. Furthermore, this description is of people to whom other professed Christians look for guidance and instruction. When leaders of the church lack a sound moral foundation, spiritual chaos follows: “And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of” (verse 2, American Standard Version).
Sadly, temptations to commit immorality have shaken many Christians from their spiritual moorings. A Christian who has faithfully attended services and participated in the work of the church suddenly finds himself attracted to a co-worker, and forsakes his family and his Lord to begin an ongoing adulterous relationship. A young Christian lady conforms her attire to the immodest attire of worldly young ladies, which leads to further sexual immorality, and finally to a life characterized by wickedness and rejection of the Lord. Another Christian succumbs to peer pressure to try alcoholic beverages or other drugs, leading to a blurred life of intoxication and addiction.
A Christian’s tilt to immorality typically affects more than one person. Preachers, preachers’ wives, elders, elders’ wives, and others who have proved themselves faithful for decades have made foolish indiscretions that have ended up destroying so much good that they had previously done. One act of moral impurity can have very far-reaching effects, shaking the spiritual foundations of family, close friends, and other members of the church and community, even though they had no involvement in the sinful act themselves. King David brought numerous severe hardships against himself, against Bathsheba’s husband and noble soldier of David, against his own family, and against the people of Israel because he foolishly committed one act of immorality (2 Samuel 11-12).
Peter spoke of certain immoral professed Christians, “by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2:2). One can observe at least two ways that such people cause “the way of truth [to] be evil spoken of”: First, because such people claim to be Christians, and some will blame Christianity for their conduct.i Immorality among professed Christians is a black mark on the Cause of Christ, even to those who are quite worldly and ungodly themselves. Some will say, “If that is how Christians act, I do not want anything to do with Christianity.” Others will say, “Christians obviously do not believe what they say if they don’t do what they say—why should I believe what they say?” Others will use the immoral conduct of professed Christians as ammunition against Christianity, saying, “Look! Christianity is obviously not true because [some] Christians are immoral!” There are certainly flaws in such arguments, but that does not stop enemies of Christ from using such arguments and often finding success with them.
A second way in which immoral professed Christians cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of is because such people claim to be, and some believe them to be, authoritative teachers and preachers of the Gospel; causing people to follow lasciviousness rather than holiness.ii There are false teachers today who openly encourage immorality. But the church more typically ignores immorality, thus encouraging it more subtly. Many preachers refuse to address essential moral subjects from the pulpit, including dancing, “social drinking,” modest and immodest clothing, mixed swimming, homosexuality, and marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Sadly, churches often allow erring brothers and sisters living in adulterous “marriages” to remain in good standing in the congregation, refusing to practice commanded discipline and withdrawal (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). So immorality goes unchecked, despite Scripture’s dire warning, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).
The church desperately needs a renewed commitment to moral living. Faithfulness to the Lord is impossible without moral purity, and moral purity is impossible without commitment. Scripture commands, “Keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). This is no small task. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). Temptation to sin is part of the human experience, so much so that even our Lord had to endure it, that He might be “like unto his brethren,” and that He might be “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Paul spoke of the struggle that takes place within even the most determined child of God: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:21-23). When temptation comes, it is often accompanied by a little voice that says, “What will it hurt if I just commit this one sinful act?” Resisting temptation and avoiding immorality requires resolve.
External pressures make moral purity all the more difficult. So-called “friends” pressure us to do wrong. Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and numerous other agents of Satan seek to inundate our minds with sensual images and self-serving thoughts. And today’s culture and mindset allows immorality unprecedented free course to our minds and to govern our actions.
The world is immoral largely because it is amoral, acting as though no moral standards even exist. We live in an amoral age. People no longer believe in choosing an action because it is right, or in shunning an action because it is wrong. They choose or shun an action based on whether or not it “works”—for them, and by their own personal assessments. Everyone is now told, “Choose whatever works for you.” Some people want attention, and they find they can obtain attention by immodest dress or rebellious acts—it works for them. Some people are afraid of loneliness, and they believe they can avoid loneliness through sexual promiscuity. Some people do not like their reality, and seek to escape reality through beer, drugs, and wild parties. Some people might find that they can climb the corporate ladder by telling occasional lies, or by having sexual relationships with key people—it works for them. In turn, some churches find that ignoring immorality from the pulpit and eldership puts more people in the pews—it works for them.
One can indeed answer such “stinkin’ thinkin’” by showing how doing wrong really does not work, certainly not in the long term (cf. Job 4:8; Proverbs 1:31; Galatians 6:7). However, whether or not something works is not the primary issue—the primary issue is whether or not something is right in the sight of God. As one denominational writer aptly put it, “Christian morality is not true because it works; it works because it is true.”iii Churches need to quit doing what they think “works,” and get back to doing what is right. This is the only way to be faithful, and the only way to be built upon a stable foundation: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). If the Lord is to receive our souls into eternal life, we must return them as spotless and unblemished as He gave them.
To find stability in moral living, one need look no further than Jesus. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Having endured temptation, He can fully empathize with our struggles with temptation, and He wants to help us through them. When a Christian goes to the Father in prayer, Jesus serves as the Christian’s Mediator and Advocate—a role that only He could serve (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). He also serves as the great example of overcoming temptation—He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). This gives us hope, that we are not forcibly doomed to fall into the trap of immorality. And the word of Jesus gives the Christian direction: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Why would Christians be conformed to this world’s immoral mold when the Christian’s true home can be found nowhere in this world? “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Remembering that the Christian is a stranger and a pilgrim, wandering far away from his true home—his heavenly home (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 3:20)—certainly aids in abstaining from destructive fleshly lusts. And this leads us to the final way we will consider in which souls are dangerously unstable…
To Be Continued
i Albert Barnes, Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the General Epistles (New York: Harper & Bros., 1850), p. 271.
iii Timothy Keller, “Preaching Morality in an Amoral Age,” in The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching, eds. Haddon Robinson and Craig Brian Larson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), p. 169.
- The Bible (37)
- The Church (33)
- Holy Spirit (2)
- Bible Authority (11)
- Calvinism (7)
- Nature of God (9)
- Faith (19)
- Family Matters (7)
- Denominationalism (10)
- Attitudes (46)
- Christian Living (57)
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