“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” 1 Peter 2:11
Abstinence, or any form of self-denial is almost foreign in our society today regardless of which arena we could discuss. This New Testament command to “abstain” is a central discipline for the believer though, because yielding ourselves to things, which are not conducive to spiritual growth, actually “war against the soul”. Our concept of abstaining from something is wrong though, we think it means giving up something we like. In the Bible, this sanctification process involves substituting, or separating ourselves “unto” something better, rather than just separating ourselves “from” something.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” Romans 1:1
When we try to quit a bad habit or any form of sinfulness, it creates a void, or vacuum in our life, that if left unfilled, will inevitably leave us susceptible for that sin or others to come in and replace it. So we must first “submit” ourselves to God before we can “resist” our adversary and his temptations.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
There are several Bible words that enhance this truth, like “resist”, “deny”, “flee”, “refuse” and the ever effective; “thou shalt not”. But to “abstain” enters into our own volition, that part of our heart where our “will” resides. If we don’t “abstain” from what we want and choose what God wants, we will be brought under the “power” of that thing and it will have “dominion over me” (Psalm 19:13).
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Not everything is expedient for us friends, when will we wake up and consider what we are listening to, could we substitute something Godly in its place? Lamentations 3:51 says, “Mine eye affecteth mine heart…” could we substitute a good book or The Good Book in front of our eyes instead of what we are watching? What about the sexual aspect of “abstain”, are we doing the “will of God” there?
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:” 1 Thessalonians 4:3
The Greek word for “fornication” here is “porneiva” and is where we get our word “pornography”. In a world of unrestrained explicit sexual content, this is a plea for purity and restraint on the part of believers. But if you have never been saved, your ability to “abstain” will only have temporary benefits and is of no eternal value, your need is to substitute your life for Christ’s through heart belief and mouth confession (Romans 10:9, 10), and begin the process of spiritual sanctification! The word “God” is only one letter short of “good”, and the word “Devil” is only one letter more than “evil”. In this battle for the mind, in which we are conditioned to think wrong, we must overcome “evil” with “good” (Romans 12:21). We must have our brain washed by the word of God, replacing those evil thoughts with good ones, and start abstaining from even the very “appearance” of evil!
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22