Hope is a rare commodity these days. The fashions of the day are cynicism, anxiety and self-indulgence. With violence and discord stealing the headlines daily, we tend toward one of three different coping mechanisms (or a combination of the three):
- Our minds grow cynical in the midst of confusion and ideological impasses in the public discourse.
- Our hearts grow increasingly anxious in the face of uncertainties — both local and global.
- We indulge our bodies in behaviors that attempt to escape reality, numb the pain, or seek momentary satisfaction.
We are all driven by a combination of our head, heart and hands, or our thinking, feeling, and actions. Or, more accurately, our personal conduct tends to be a natural outflow of our thoughts and/or our feelings.
This is basic psychology. This is not new stuff. These inner realities have been at play as long as humans have walked this earth. Peter, a common fisherman and friend of Jesus, learned this stuff in Sunday School 2,000 years ago.
Peter is writing this letter to new Christians trying to leave their old life behind and begin to live a new life. Their old life, in most cases, was characterized by “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (4:2). They have now been “redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors” (1:18).
So, how do they begin to live this new kind of life? By training our minds to set our hope fully on God. In Peter’s words:
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Here Peter calls us to “activate” and clear our minds in order to experience and feel a deep sense of hope in Christ that results in living a new, holy life of obedience. How do we exchange feelings of anxiety for exuberant hope? Answer: Awaken our minds to the realities of salvation Peter has just celebrated in vv. 2-12. John Piper instructs us to “stoke the fires of hope by feeding our minds with the kindling of spiritual blessings of vv. 2-12.”
This kindling includes:
- We have been chosen by God!
- We have been given a new birth!
- We have a living hope!
- We have an inheritance awaiting us!
- We’re being shielded by God’s power!
- We have received things the prophets & angels longed for!
The alternative to stoking the fires of hope by feeding our minds with such breathtaking realities, is to dull our minds, let the fog of confusion intoxicate our thinking, to unthinkingly believe everything we here, or to just turn our minds off or onto autopilot.
More often than not, our minds/thinking takes a back seat to our emotions. Then our behavior continues to “be conformed to the passions” (strong emotions) based on “ignorance” (dull mind) of the things of God. Peter was schooled in the ancient wisdom of the Hebrew Scriptures. Contrary to our culture that tell us to “follow our heart”, Peter believed that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9)?
Straight-shooting Peter is just telling it like it is: How long will you let your strong urges and emotions be in the driver seat of your life? Isn’t it time to let your mind take control of your emotions that only lead you astray?
So, what’s driving your life these days? Uncontrollable behaviors? Strong feelings and emotions? Thoughts and beliefs that don’t accord with God’s wisdom revealed in Scripture?
Begin to set your hope fully on God by feeding your mind daily with the truths of God’s Word, and it will eventually result in more holy conduct. In the words of Paul: “Do not be conformed any longer to the ways and thinking of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Or, again, “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3).
Grace and peace!