Fighting Temptation

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. -James 1:14 (NKJV) There are two sources of temptation I know of: us and the evil one. Either it is something we are desiring to do or we are being tempted by the devil. James chapter 1 makes it clear that God does not do the tempting, we bring ourselves into it. often this is because we leave doors open in our lives to spirits that would lead us away from God and His will for us into paths that ultimately lead to death– if we don’t deviate from them. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. -James 1:15 (NKJV)

It is unwise to fight Satan or his demons by ourselves with our own “power.” He isn’t omnipotent, but he is certainly more powerful than we are alone. God has given us the tools we need as a result of our faith in Jesus: The Holy Spirit and the Word of God (Scripture). How did Jesus answer Satan when Satan tried tempting Him? let’s see what the Bible says:

Matthew 4:1-11 (NKJV)

Satan Tempts Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”[c]

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

What did Jesus say twice in this passage of Scripture? How did He begin His response to the devil? Answer: “It is written.” Our LORD has shown us by His example that we are to speak the Word of God to the devil. The power contained within God-breathed Scripture is too much for the devil and the best tool to use in resisting him.

Temptation Explained

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. -Matthew 6:13 (KJV)

I was watching an older broadcast of Robert Morris teaching on the subject of temptation last night and thought I’d devote a post to the topic. He cleared up a little confusion I have had as to why the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13 says “lead us not into temptation…” Clearly in James 1:13 we are taught that God does not tempt us, so why would we ask God not to do something He wouldn’t do, anyway? See the confusion? Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: -James 1:13 (KJV)

We are dealing with translations. Thank God we have many really good ones to choose from and compare. One of my favorite sources as a study tool is the NET Bible (lumina.bible.org). Sure enough, there is a note attached to the word “temptation” in that verse that suggests it may mean lead us not “into a time of testing.”

We all know that tests are not generally comfortable, but there are necessary and have great potential to bring us into a closer walk with the Lord as our faith increases. The rewards are well-known to men and women of faith who endure trials and temptations. So what do we do when we are tempted? Where do we find the strength and willingness to resist? I suggest turning to our Lord Jesus. He can and will help us. He was tempted and endured. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. -Hebrews 2:18 (NIV)

In a following post, I’ll address the topic of how our Lord was able to resist the evil one.

Power For Living

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. -John 14:17 (KJV)

For the longest time I lived as a carnal Christian, often doing what was contrary to God’s will and, thus, would often experience a giant guilt-trip for whatever the problem was. Satan loves that sort of thing, as it renders the believer ineffective in their witness for Christ. Just because I got saved did not leave me immune to the temptations of the flesh in their many manifestations. Being born again does not mean that we don’t have to contend with selfishness, gluttony, greed, pornography, marital conflict, substance addiction, etc. How often did I repent over and over again for the same sins, asking for forgiveness while Satan or some demon whispered in my ear that there was no way God was going to keep forgiving me for the same thing and I might as well hang it up? The answer is way more times that I care to count.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. -Galatians 5:16 (KJV)

Is there a way to achieve victory? Was it just me, or is this something every believer must deal with in their faith walk? The answer to those questions is: yes, there is a way to victory– and it was not just me. Every believer must deal with temptations and struggles in the flesh as they walk with the Lord.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. -1 Corinthians 2:12 (KJV)

The next logical question: Where do I find the power to change and serve God as He wants me to? How do I resist temptation– while keeping an attitude of praise and worship? For the longest time the answer was right in front of me and I just didn’t want to see it. It involves fully yielding myself to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to fill me and immerse me in His power and glory, working through me to glorify God and serve others for Christ.  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. -James 4:2 (KJV)

What’s it going to be?

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24:15 (NKJV)

Most people in this modern age, if they are theists at all, will tell you that they believe in one God. As Christians, we mostly acknowledge the existence of one God in 3 persons, known as the Trinity. Three persons, yet one God. That makes us monotheists by our own admission. But, is that always the case?

We might tend to think of gods as things expressed by idols with special form and function, such as those expressed by Greek mythology. However, they may come in many forms we often don’t notice. The enemy is a master of subtle attacks on us, eroding the fabric of our relationship with Christ whenever he can. Perhaps your “other gods” might be money, sex, the idea of power or special privilege? The thing is, while we may serve other gods and not even realize it, we cannot serve both them and the one true God at the same time. Jesus made that perfectly clear:  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. -Matthew 6:24 (NKJV) Some translations, such as the NIV, say “money” instead of “mammon.” I like to use the word mammon as the KJV or NKJV renders it, because it denotes much more than just that one thing. It means the god of materialism and wealth. It speaks to me of the fact that I can’t allow anything to come between my Creator and me.

I have come to realize in my Christian walk that God must be everything or He ends up being nothing at all to me. I cannot afford for the latter to be the case. I pray that you cannot, either.

Diversity

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. -Acts 16:30-31 (KJV)

This is a departure from the norm for me as far as content of this post. I usually try to avoid any sort of controversy– but enough is enough. I must speak out against this tendency many Christians have to attack each other when their resources would be better spent in service to God by spreading the gospel.

You can look up just about any group of Christians you can think of and come up with someone or some group that will malign them, call them satanic and be quick to condemn them to some damnation they have conceived especially for them.

Recently, I have taken an interest in the teaching of an evangelist named Doug Batchelor– who happens to be a Seventh-Day Adventist that has a ministry called “Amazing Facts.” I’m not a Seventh-Day Adventist, nor have I ever attended a worship service in one of their churches. I do appreciate the fact that they seem to take the Bible very seriously and spend much time studying it. (Of course, the same can probably be said for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose teachings I mostly reject and would caution anyone against taking seriously without doing some comprehensive study in the Bible first to validate their claims).

As far as I can tell, much of the Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine is largely in line with my beliefs. In fact, Batchelor’s teaching on the “lake of fire” makes sense to me and seems to have solid biblical ground. I have always had issues with some of the doctrine I have been taught to accept as “fact.” But I won’t get into that right now. My plan is to avoid the “Lake of Fire” –no matter what it turns out to be. Jesus made a way out for me and I am taking it!

I don’t know all of his theology, or that of SDAs in general. I’m happy with my local church and am not “church shopping,” so it is unlikely that I will even attend one of their services anytime soon. I just happen to enjoy and have benefited from what I have heard and checked out in Scripture.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, there are many who attack him with what seem to be baseless accusations and naturally associate him with some sort of satanic mission to undermine the body of Christ– mostly because of his association with the Seventh-Day Adventists. To any “accusers” I would say this: show me in the Bible where he is wrong or where he and/or the SDAs might be wrong. I am sure there are things I will take issue with as we go along.

Once again, I think it is crucial that we all take the attitude of the Berean believers: These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. -Acts 17:11 (NKJV)

I get a great deal from many teachers I have found online and on television that supplement the teaching I get from my local body of believers. They are from diverse backgrounds with differing theological views on some issues, but all agree that there is only one way: that way is Jesus. We must come to terms with that one most important thing.

Baggage

Hebrews 12:1-2 (CEB)

Let’s also run the race

12 So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Reading a devotional this morning called “Our Daily Bread” reminded me of the damage that carrying ‘baggage’ through life can cause. The baggage can come in the form of hurts that have never healed, guilt from past sins never confessed and repented from– or probably any number of other potential issues not coming to mind at the moment. Whatever it is and wherever it comes from, as children of God we must deal with it to be effective witnesses for Him and live the type of victorious life He intends for us to have.

My wife is fond of a game show called “The Family Feud” and often watches it when she has the chance. Immediately after the show airs, another show comes on that channel that deals with trying to match people up, shedding light on their ‘baggage’ and allowing them to choose what is tolerable and what is not in picking each other as possible mates. Sometimes, an individual might appear to be the obvious choice, but is not picked because their baggage is just too much. That said, it occurred to me that the baggage people carry can get in the way, robbing them of an opportunity that might have been beneficial and pleasant. While I don’t care much for the show, I am reminded that our baggage goes along with us through life and can often hinder us from being effective in carrying out God’s will– therefore robbing us from some wonderful things that might have come our way if it were not blocking our path.

LENT

Isaiah 58:6-7 (VOICE)

    No, what I want in a fast is this:
        to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice,
        to lighten the load of those heavily burdened,
        to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.
    A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none,
        giving those who are homeless a space in your home,
    Giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family.

The Voice (VOICE)The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Over the years, I have heard people discuss “giving something up for Lent.” I must confess I have said it myself more than once when attending a church more liturgical in nature. I have no issue whatsoever in Lent or the message it is meant to convey, especially when I think of what our Savior did for us– what He gave up.

Yesterday I read a devotional I like called the Upper Room (I was a subscriber and I should pick it up again). The title of yesterday’s piece referred to Ash Wednesday (for those who may not know: the beginning of the Lenten season). The author discussed how we are often interested in deciding what we will give up— when perhaps we should focus on what we can give. May God continue to bless us as we ponder the meaning of His Word. Have a blessed season.