“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). There is truly nothing I desire more than to be obedient to my Lord, but there is a problem: my ego. It is my ego, and its disordered desires that have become habitual in my life, that too often gets in the way. At the same time, I know that I cannot conform to God’s will by my own strength alone.
It is God’s grace that makes me aware of the habits that I have developed that prevent me from conforming to his ways. It is God’s grace that causes me to see the error of my ways and, in turn, it stirs my desire to be obedient to him. Those old habits are hard to let go of for most of us. But it is God’s grace that brings about our conversion, or our slow recognition that we have been walking in darkness. Everything that is contrary to God’s law is the result either of the darkness of our ignorance, or the darkness of our pride (read arrogance). And Jesus Christ is the light that shows us the way out of that ignorance, that darkness.
How do we conform ourselves to God then? Peter tells us, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (verse 13). The first thing that we must do is to practice the habit of “being awake,” that is, alert to the will of God. How do we do this? We must develop the habits of prayer, and the reading and contemplation of the scriptures. Prayer is the habit of placing oneself in the presence of God. Prayer is not just petitions to him for this or that, though that is part of prayer. It is conversing with God. It involves developing the virtue of “listening.” All of our prayer should begin and end with thanksgiving and praise. This becomes a part of one’s habitual prayer when one begins to realize that everything: our lives, our loved ones, and the graces we receive to be able to handle the difficulties of life, are all pure gifts from God. It is when we realize, deep within ourselves, that he is our truest friend, always present to our needs, never abandoning us in times of trouble, that we see the wisdom of beginning and ending all of our prayers with praise and thanksgiving. This happens to us when we begin to practice the discipline, the habit, of being “alert” to the workings of God in our lives.
Peter tells us that we must also be sober in this. He is not just talking here about a sober attitude. He was addressing the idea of temperance in all things as well. If we do not have temperance, if we do not attempt to develop the virtues of self-discipline, we will not be able to see, or to break away from the habits that keep us in the darkness of our ignorance. And Peter points out that all of this is possible through the generous grace of God, when we turn our desires toward him. It is through these virtues, recognized, obtained, and practiced, by the grace of God, that we are able to conform more and more to God’s ways and to turn away from the old desires that kept us in the dark. It is these virtues that will make it possible for us to receive the ultimate grace of being in the eternal presence of God at the time when Jesus comes again.
Lord, Help us to see the wisdom of obeying your laws, rather than the prideful desires and demands of our own egos. We desire to walk in the light of your wisdom, but we are weak and in need of your generous graces. Give us hearts and minds that are always alert and sober to your will for us. Grace us with the gift of humility so that we may see the wisdom of bending our wills into joyful conformity with your own. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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