by Joseph Franks
In yesterday’s devotional thought, “Praying Past the Ceiling”, we considered three reasons why our prayer life might be stagnant: Failure to pray; Failure to pray correctly; and Failure to love one’s neighbor prior to praying. Today we treat a fourth obstacle to prayer: Failure to live righteously. Bottom line, we cannot enjoy Holy Spirit inspired communion when we have quenched the Holy Spirit through our unrepentant hedonism.
Peter teaches us this truth in the fourth chapter of his first letter:
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (1 Peter 4:1-7)
When Jesus came to earth, he suffered in many ways. His suffering in the garden, at Caiaphas’ house, on the road to Golgatha, and on the cross are very well known. However, he suffered throughout his earthly ministry. Jesus was subject to wicked authorities, temptations from the world and the devil, and the malicious taunts, jeers and ostracism of the populace.
The disciples of Jesus are to follow his model and expect similar suffering. All Christ’s disciples, who were formerly hedonists, are now to be holy. They are to worship God by devoting themselves no longer to human passions and lusts, but to those things which are holy, pure and noble. And while purity is beautiful, best, and expected, it comes with a price. Forsaking hedonism and being holy is neither pleasurable nor popular.
Satan offers us real pleasure. Oh, it comes with a price, but it is highly enjoyable for a season. Sin is fun, and Scripture attests to this fact. (Hebrews 11:25) Because of the immediate payback of sin, our flesh longs and yearns for these forbidden delights. Some can almost feel the buzz right now. We want to, one more time, give in to “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” We long to swim again in the “flood of debauchery.” It seems so natural and normal to imbibe, and after all, we only live once. The temptations differ, but all of us desperately want to sin. It often pains us to be pure.
Not only are we pained; so too are our neighbors. They have no appreciation for those of us who do not pursue the high-life with them. They view us a wet-blankets, dull and puritanical kill-joys, or holier-than-thou cultural prudes. First they are “surprised when we do not join them”, then they are angry. Our forsaking of hedonism is neither pleasurable nor popular.
However, Peter gives us four motivations to pursue purity. First, we have a Savior whom we love. Holiness is worship, and we want to make our Savior and Lord proud. Second, we can only find peace and joy through living spiritually after the model of Christ. This is the goal of preaching, that men might “live in the spirit the way God does.” Third, we have a Judge who demands holiness. In response to the hedonism of man, he pours out damnation on the unbeliever and discipline on the believer. We all must walk in the fear of the Lord, for this is true wisdom. Fourth, we forgo hedonism and live “self-controlled and sober-minded” lives for the sake of our prayers. Peter repeats what God declares consistently throughout the Old Testament — God does not hear the prayers of the unrepentant hedonist.
So now it is time to go to prayer.
Let us confess our sins. God sees our hedonistic actions and attitudes. There is no need trying to hide our transgressions. Talk about them openly and honestly with the Searcher of your soul
Let us adore and thank Jesus Christ who died to save us from damnation and ongoing depravity. We are saved from everlasting judgment, and we are also rescued from our sinful passions. Through the Holy Spirit, we can walk in purity and no longer live as slaves or addicts to sin.
Let us request divine grace to say “no” to the popular pleasures of sin so prevalent today. The world, the flesh and the devil are relentless. Until we are glorified, we will always wrestle with sin. Therefore, we need to put on the armor of God today. Ask God for twenty-four hours of purity. I think he would love to say “yes” to this supplication.
Let us continuosly commune with God. Let us talk with him openly and honestly about all our lusts, fears and desires. Let us enjoy him and know that he hears us because we are no longer quenching the Holy Spirit through our unrepentant hedonism. God is silent towards the hedonist, but very responsive towards the unholy who long to be holy.