Beloved, I beg you as foreigners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. 1
You've been a Christian for a while now – years, maybe decades. At times you've found yourself longing for a perfect heart, one where you continually live in the Spirit, you're unfazed by temptation, you never have to struggle with the flesh, and where it's a joy to always obey God immediately because you love Him so much.
You know God wants you to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), but sometimes you wonder why He doesn't make you perfect right now. You know when you reach eternity God will have completely removed your sin nature, but why not now? What purpose does the never-ending struggle with the flesh serve?
The answer is that God wants to teach you something you can't learn apart from this struggle. He wants to teach you to submit to Him based on His authority alone.
Think about it. If you were perfect, if it were always a pleasure to obey God, then your obedience would be due to love (which is a good thing), but not necessarily due to His authority over you. If you do right because you always want to do right, you'll never learn to do right just because God says so.
Now I know for many of you this sounds contrary to what you've been striving for, but it's not. I truly want to obey God more and more because I want to – because I love Him. But there will still be times when God tells me to do something I don't want to do. I must also obey Him in those times. Even Jesus obeyed when faced with something that was a horror to Him.
"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." 2
God does not make us practically holy right away. Life is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit, and this internal conflict will continue to our last breath. It is necessary to teach us to humbly submit ourselves before our God.
The next time you struggle with temptation, take it as an opportunity to submit to God anyway, just because He wants you to – because He deserves it!
…though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered… 3