Don’t look down!

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.I think a lot of times we take a passive and defensive approach when we fight temptation. This powerful draw or pull we experience towards the carnal and wicked desires of our flesh is something we must “not give into” instead of something we must overcome.

Temptation is a powerful foe. And it is a powerful force. But the approach of “to not give in” leaves us with very little to do but to concentrate on both our potential and desire for sin, and ourselves. Ironically focusing on both of these can actually lead us to fall to temptation.

The word of God illustrates temptation and sin in many ways. One of them is the idea of falling. The first sin ever committed is known as the “fall of man.” And we say it all the time. Falling into sin. Falling to temptation.  Now think about falling. It’s allowing gravity to have it’s way. That force is always pulling on us, but we don’t fall all the time. We fall when we become unbalanced. But more importantly, we fall when we cease to stand.

I’ve never started my day thinking, “I hope I don’t trip on the stairs today.” or “I hope I don’t loose my balance when I’m walking.” And I doubt you often think such thoughts either.

No, we simply think about all the things we have to do. We have tasks of varying importance and responsibilities to fulfill. We’re not focused on the idea of failure, we’re focused on the idea of success.

Why is it then, that in our Christian life, we can become so focused on “not messing up.” I know for myself, I can become easily involved in that defensive approach to life. I don’t want to give into eating that cookie, or having that lustful thought. I don’t want to give into covetousness, or allow pride in my life.

The Bible tells us again and again to resist temptation. Resist the devil. Fight against sin. And we must do all of that. But we must remember that our Christian walk is more than just learning to say no to things. The focus is so much higher and the purpose is so much richer.

Colossians 3 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Did you notice to focus of this verse? Seeking what is above. Our key to defeating temptation is not wrapped up in saying “no” to wickedness as much as it involves saying “yes” to righteousness.

Saying no to that cookie will only get you so far. Contrast it with being wrapped up in healthy meal planning and intentional nutrition.

Saying no to lustful thoughts will only help so much. Contrast it with purposing to meditate on God’s Word and direct your thoughts towards honoring God.

The illustrations can go on and on.

When we continue reading in Colossians 3 we see several verses which touch on leaving behind and taking off sinful lifestyles, but the vast majority of verses following continue to focus on righteous and holy living. I would submit to you that this is the balance that our lives require.

Realizing how Christ has called us to focus on things above. Putting off what is filthy. And putting on the righteousness He has prepared and provided for us.

You don’t shout, “Don’t fall” to a tightrope walker, and you don’t say, “Don’t miss” to your buddy trying to shoot a basket. Don’t tell yourself- “Don’t sin!” in your Christian walk.

When you’re up high and in danger of falling, you don’t look down, because focusing on failure will make it harder to succeed. Don’t make such a fatal mistake in your Christian walk. Don’t focus on the temptation you must overcome or the sin you must avoid. Focus on the King of rightesousness who provides a way of escape, the One who died to make you a new creature, and the wonderful life of purpose He has planned for you.

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You weren’t in the trenches

I was being tempted to waste my time, and the temptation was strong. Considering the position I found myself in, I gave up. Temptation being that strong, I just decided right then and there I wasn’t going to fight it. I know it sounds convoluted, but I found I could muster up enough strength to do my devotions first and I had sorta decided I’d waste my time doing purposeless things later.

In my devotions God spoke to me. I found new strength and will to fight my selfish desires, and I did not waste my time afterwards.

That day I learned a lot about myself. You see, I didn’t have the strength to make the decision to fight the temptation head on, but I knew where to find it. God strengthened me, and I escaped. But my whole attitude was off.

I had convinced myself that I was helpless against temptation once it became strong to a certain extent. It’s almost as if I had courage against little trials, but I couldn’t imagine putting in the effort to overcome big ones.

It reminds me of a verse in Hebrews 12, it says,

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Think about that.

The word “resisted” there, means to line up for battle.

Imagine coming back from a fight, a battle, a war- without a scratch. Usually, if a person doesn’t have a scratch on them, they weren’t involved. Essentially, the writer of Hebrews is saying,

“You didn’t get in the trenches”

“You didn’t fight”

“You haven’t begun to fight”

I think that applies to many of us. A lot of times we sin because it’s convenient, or because we feel like it. The addiction is too strong, we say.

I would suggest to you, that we aren’t feeling the pain that our sin causes.

We’d rather live comfortably, than live purely.

Our sin is tolerable to us, our discomfort is not.

This is the crux of the issue.

I challenge you to follow after God. Make Him the ultimate need in your life. Don’t live comfortably with sin.

Resist. Unto blood.

 

 

Feel the burn!

“No pain, no gain.” This saying is quipped by many as as a catchy way to explain how improvement comes through uncomfortableness. It is the mantra of sportsman, bodybuilders, and all sorts of physical competitors. They pride themselves on the difficulty they embrace to perfect their skills or deepen their abilities. I’ve seen guys pounding each other’s sore muscles leaving the gym- “Feel the burn!” they chant as they leave a particularly intensive workout.

Runners, weight lifters, athletic trainers all speak about that “good” pain. That “good” ache. Their body screams in agony, but they themselves fill with joy- they know that they have pushed themselves farther. They know they will be stronger. They know that their ultimate goals are just that much more in reach.

It’s funny how such a thought could be so obvious on a physical level, but completely escape our minds on a spiritual one. James tells us,

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

The temptations and trials you face- even your failures can be stepping stones to the victory you seek in Christ. When we are surrounded by pain, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, and temptations of all sorts- We should rejoice! The Christian life isn’t about comfort. It’s not about having everything just so. It’s about going through all of life’s hardships with confidence in Christ’s ability to bring us through stronger.

Every fear you face, every trial you endure, every temptation you forgo- you are growing. You are maturing. The pain of failure, the ache of regret, the weariness that you feel- all throw you into the arms of the Savior. They drive you closer to your God.

Be encouraged by it all! Every trial is a reminder of how much you need Christ! In Christ, you can be encouraged that your failures are not the end, and they don’t define you. Your regrets can be wiped away by joy and hope in God’s plans. Your weariness can be replaced by His strength.

Be encouraged by pain. Be joyous in tribulation. Be elated at the sight of trials.

Without such we might never feel our need for Him, we might never experience His power to perfect us, and we might never see how much He loves us and wants to empower us.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

Equal Opportunity

We’ve been told since we were young that life’s not fair. That time we didn’t get the toy we wanted. That time we thought we deserved better, and someone less “deserving” in our eyes, got what we desired. Over and over, it seems the entire human race cries out in outrage at the unfairness of life, and then repeats “life’s not fair” like it’s some kind of motto.

Perhaps you have never heard that phrase before, but believe me, it is very common in many circles. It’s commonality will not be discussed here, only it’s error.

If you look at your life as one that is deserving, you are wrong. You as a sinner, deserve to burn in Hell for all eternity. Your case requires no gifts or benefits. Only punishment. But God in His grace has allowed you to live on this earth for a time. He has given you the chance to accept His grace, and if you do so, you will live forever with Him in glory.

That’s not “fair.”

But let’s take another look at the fairness of things. Aren’t there people who have it better than others? I mean, those who have certain backgrounds surely have it better or worse when it comes to serving God right. Well, not really.  You see, God makes it very clear that, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:” Luke 12:48 So God measures a person’s life not necessarily by what they did, but by what they did with what they had.

Another thought: Wouldn’t some people have it worse when it comes to temptation? Well, if we look at one passage that deals with temptation, it says, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13 God always leaves a person with a choice. He never allows them to be tempted to the point where they cannot resist.

So what does this all mean to us? Well, First, Life’s better than fair, it’s gracious. God gives us the opportunity to live forever with Him despite our sin. And second, God judges us by what we do with what we have, not what we do. And third, whatever comes our way, we make the decision to sin or to walk in righteousness.

So my friends, no matter what comes your way, or what “disadvantageous past” you may have, remember this: You have an Equal Opportunity to follow God’s will. You make the choices, and God will reward you according to what you have done. Also, if you are one who has been given great things, and you have a solid “advantageous background” also remember that God won’t judge you in comparison to others, He judges you in comparison to what you have been given. No matter what, You have an equal opportunity to follow God’s will for your life. Won’t you take it today?

” they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” – 2 Corinthians 10:12

At every corner

Choices are everywhere in life. We make thousands of them every day, many without even realizing it. Sometimes our choices are a result of ingrained behavior, sometimes they are conscious. Our choices determine our direction and ultimately the general success or failure of our lives. Proverbs 7 gives an example of someone who makes one of those life changing decisions.

In Proverbs 7:6 a narrative begins. It appears that Solomon looks out his window and sees a young man who lacks understanding. This “simple” man is found by a harlot and is persuaded by her to commit adultery. Solomon makes it very clear that this choice will bring the man complete misery and ultimately death.

The man in this story was simple. He did not have his wits about him, and he was destroyed. The harlot in this story was subtil, loud, and stubborn. Since this man was not guarding himself, he was destroyed very easily.

While this account is mainly about how a person should guard against adultery, I would like to point out some things it teaches about temptation. Notice in verse 12 that the scripture tells us, “Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.” This woman, this personification of temptation is outside. She is in the street. And she is at EVERY corner.

Think about this situation metaphorically.

First, temptation is in the street. Streets are means of travel. Everyone uses them. You use them. I use them. As we travel through this life, we will meet temptation, because temptation is in the street. We cannot avoid it. We must be prepared, unlike the man in the story who obviously wasn’t.

Second, temptation is at every corner. When you think of a corner, what do you think of? Let me give you a clue, think of a crossroad. When someone says the are at a crossroads in their life, what do they mean? They’re talking about a choice they have to make of course! A street corner is usually made when two roads meet. Think about that. Not only is temptation unavoidable (being in the street), it also presents itself at every choice you must make.

Every time you travel on this road (or street) of life, you will encounter temptation. You cannot avoid it. You must prepare yourself.

When the disciples were about to be tempted, Jesus told them, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

The Bible warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” – 1 Peter 5:8 Let me put this in common English, the devil wants to destroy you, so keep your wits about ya!

Remember, every time a choice for right presents itself, a choice for wrong presents itself also.

Temptation is at every corner.

“Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:27

Keep your wits about ya!

Temptation, and the escape clause

Many times when we are faced with temptation we forget that we have the victory. We may be afraid of temptation. In this devotional, I would like to remind you about the victory you have through Christ.

We should rejoice in temptation. James 1:4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;" James is not saying to be happy when you fall to temptation, but when you are tempted. When we stand strong against temptation, it will strengthen our faith and bring us patience that will allow us to endure through trials.

We don’t have to fear temptation. God promises that He will only allow us to be tempted so far. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." No matter what comes our way, we have the ability to choose a more abundant life with Christ. No matter how much we have fallen to temptation in the past, we don’t have to fall ever again in the future. God has made a way that we do not need to fall to sin. Christ has given us the victory.

So I would like to encourage you, rejoice in temptation. It does not hold power over you. You do not need to fear temptation. God has made a way for us to walk in righteousness continually.

"But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Isn’t that a great promise!

Are you sleeping in the garden?

Do you have that one thing that you can never conquer? You try again and again but it seems you will never have victory over that sin? Christ has a solution to temptation.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. He commanded them in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus understood temptation. He knew His disciples had seen Him work miracles, and had been with Him for years, but that was not enough to stand against temptation. They needed to pray. Jesus was about to face lashes, crucifixion, death, and rejection from God. He knew that He needed to pray. He told His disciples to do the same, but they slept. When we read further in the scripture we find that Jesus stood strong through His trial, as His disciples failed to have courage. Mark 14:50 tells us “And they all forsook him, and fled.” When it was time to pray, Jesus prayed alone, so when the tribulation came, Jesus stood alone.

Do you stand strong against temptation? Have you discovered how crucial prayer is to the fight? In order to have true victory we must learn to pray ourselves strong. Our spirit may be willing to live for Christ, but we must submit our flesh.  That surrender can only come through prayer. So I would like to encourage you, pray. God is the source of our strength. He can fortify us so that we can stand. Jesus was in agony as He wrestled His flesh into submission to His spirit. We must follow His example in order to conquer temptation. We must accept the challenge to crucify our flesh. We must fight in prayer until we are purposed to do God’s will. When we do, we will walk in victory, and enjoy the blessings that Christ provided by His victory.

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,”

-Jude 1:20