Category Archives: Temptation

What Moses Also Saw

When you promise yourself you won’t repeat (whatever wrong thing you struggle with) and then blow it – yet again – how many times will God forgive you and give you another chance?  If you are sincere, it will seem unlimited.  But is there any hope for you?  Will you ever break free of that cycle of despair?  

There is.  God showed Moses how He would ultimately fix us.  He showed Moses that He would bless the His Chosen People abundantly in the Promised Land, so long as they remained faithful to Him.  He showed Moses how they would mess that up and be banished.  This would happen again and again.  But the cool thing is how God also showed Moses what He would do to fix that cycle of hope followed by failure.  For them.  And for you.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” ( Deuteronomy 30:6)

Circumcision is a perfect metaphor, if you think about the tough exterior that forms around our sinful hearts.  The first time we deliberately sin it bothers us.  The next time?  Not so much.  And God’s plan is to remove that callous and make us responsive to His ways. He will do it so we can live!  How will He do it?  God gave another glimpse to Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezkiel 36:26-27)

When God causes His Spirit to be born into a calloused heart, He lives there softening and removing that tough, unresponsive exterior. This “reborn” heart becomes responsive to God. 

Jesus promised to give new life to anyone who trusts Him, through the birth of God’s Spirit in their hearts.  Their sins are forgiven, their souls are cleansed and they receive God’s Spirit.  Ultimately, the cycle of failure is broken.  They are set free.  

Mo and Zeke saw it coming.

Daddy’s Shoes

Little boy comes clomping around the corner with his tiny feet in Dad’s huge shoes.  It’s an unselfconscious act, cute, but with a profound heartbeat.  It says, “One day, I want to be just like Dad; when I get big I want to fit in his shoes.”  Same thing with girls and Mom.  
This pertains to a verse of Scripture that initially makes me recoil.

And everyone who thus hopes in him [Jesus] purifies himself as he is pure.  (1 John 3:3)

The word I most readily associate with purity is “boring.”  It reminds me of being forced as a child to wear an itchy wool suit and sit at the dinner table with my hands folded and my mouth shut. Why would I want to do that to myself now, as an adult?  Give me jeans and fire up that motorcycle…

The problem is twofold: 1) we don’t have a good understanding of what purity is, and, 2) we don’t understand the right motivation for purifying ourselves.  

Jesus modeled perfect purity but, as far as I’ve been able to determine, never wore a wool suit.  He was not One to follow pointless, restrictive rules derived from other people’s inhibitions, but lived with an easy and attractive “rightness.”  When you think purity, think about how comfortable Jesus was inside His own skin, how He effortlessly lived in harmony with God’s perfect design.

The verse that preceeds the one I quoted puts the motivation for purifying ourselves in the proper perspective.  John began his thought with these words:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.   (1 John 3:2)

We tend to think of reluctantly struggling to be pure so God won’t be angry with us.  Instead, think about happily clomping around in Daddy’s shoes, with the childlike hope and trust that says, one day, I’ll be like Him.

Hardly Fair

Bambi vs. Godzilla was hardly a fair fight.  Haven’t seen it?  Here’s the link:  https://youtu.be/8s3UogfAGg0    Go ahead and check it out; we’ll see you soon…

There would be no betting on Bambi vs. Godzilla because the outcome would be absolutely certain.  Same thing if you spot a spider in your bathtub.  Stomp, splat, the end.  Cool way to start a devotional blog, eh?  

But there’s a point coming.  Keep the certainty of those outcomes in mind the next time you find yourself struggling with the devil.  Temptation seems so strong but, when you put your whole trust in Jesus, He promises to come and make His home within you. 

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  (John 14:23) 

When you remember He is there and turn Him loose, it’s not a fair fight.  

1 John 4:4

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

I heard a guy say, “Whenever Satan knocks on my door, I say, ‘Jesus, it’s for you…'”   That’s good advice, but the outcome is hardly fair.

Futility

It is futile to keep doing something that does not work. It is futile to push the elevator button after the first time.  It is futile to attempt to clean up your act and connect  to God by following religious regulations.  Religion that consists of do’s and don’ts doesn’t work. Like the elevator button, however, it seems like it might work if you just keep at it.  That kind of religion reminds me of people using slot machines.  Futility.  They do the same, ineffective thing, over and over, hoping for a better result next time.

Strict religious rules, Paul said, “… have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”   (Colossians 2:23)

I mean no disrespect.  I am not criticizing sincere motives of people who practice religious ritual.  But, what they do is futile.  If you are trying to close the gap between yourself and God, trying to repair what has been broken in your soul, there is a better way.  One that works.  God has promised to fix what is broken, freely and thoroughly, if you will trust His Son.  

Peter said it like this:

“… [Those who trust Jesus have been]  ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…”  (1Peter 1:18b-1:19a)

Practice Makes Perfect

Dad installed a chinup bar in a doorway and used it everyday.  He challenged me to a contest when I was visiting.  I was amazed at his stamina but still beat him – hey, I was 30 years younger.  But now, at the age he was, there’s no way I could measure up to what he did then.  Unless I practiced.  The training regimen of olympic athletes is scary intense.  They punish themselves with every greater challenges til they know they can push through them.

In a similar way, we are encouraged to accept the various trials of life as opportunities to train our faith and develop our capacity to patiently push through.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

To test a diving board, you jump on it, tentatively at first but then with greater and greater force.  If you can’t break it then you know it will hold you.  You trust it  Same thing with faith; you jump on it to know if it will hold.  You test faith with trials.  As you learn your faith will hold, you become more able to endure life’s trials with steadfastness.  You become “perfect and complete,” in the sense that you are “good to go” in the faith department.  The faith is not in your own toughness but in Jesus’ ability to hold you safe, no matter what.  Like this:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

Draw Near

Direct deposit of your paycheck is convenient, but it lacks the personal touch between you and your boss.  Imagine how different it would be to stand before him and have him ask how things are going and then open his wallet, pull out a few twenties and settle up with you. That would feel different.  How would it feel to ask your boss to pay you for work that you had not done – perhaps you had gotten sick or maybe just couldn’t accomplish what he wanted?   You go stand before him and ask him to please pay you anyway.  There are some things about that interaction – both awkward things and good things – that could not happen by direct deposit.  

It strikes me that when it comes to receiving mercy and grace from God, it’s not a matter of direct deposit into our accounts.  It’s not impersonal.  God invites us to draw near to Him in the throne room.  Not hesitantly or fearfully, but confidently.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)
It’s personal, this mercy thing.  Face to face.  It’s not, “Check’s in the mail” or, “You don’t need to ask, I’ve got you on autopay.”  It’s, “Come on in, I’m glad to see you.  Let’s talk about how you are doing.”  That’s a bit of why you hear people say, “God is so good…”

Firm in What?

Wars and rumours of war aren’t indicators of Jesus’ return.  Neither are famines and earthquakes.  Jesus called those things “the beginning of birth pains.”  First labor pains ordinarily indicate the start of an unstoppable progression of events but not the imminent conclusion of them.  So what indicators did Jesus say would tip us off the time was drawing close?   Among other signs, Jesus included this troubling thought:

 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  (Matthew 24:12)

The more we encounter wickedness, the more  tempted we are to respond in kind.  The recent sniping murder of Dallas policemen is a sad case in point.  Somebody thought, “Enough is enough; I’m going to make someone pay.”  That’s an extreme example.  Maybe you would never go that far.  But Jesus taught us to actually respond in the opposite way:

27 “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  (Luke 6:27b-28)

When most people find it too tough to respond to wickedness with love, that is a sign the end times are drawing to a close, that Jesus is coming soon.  What do you think?  Are we there yet?  Has the love of most grown cold?  If you had to make the call, based on your own attitudes, what would you say?  For me, that is a sobering question.

But don’t give up!  No matter what, don’t abandon love.  That first quote above is only the beginning of Jesus’ sentence.  Here’s the whole thing:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

Stands firm in love.

Know Better

You say, “I’ll pray for you,” but then, what do you ask in your prayers?  “Lord, please bless Amy, please heal her foot…”?  Something like that?  Me too, most of the time.  That’s what makes this prayer of Paul so startling and attractive to me:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  (Ephesians 1:17)

Here’s my hunch:  When we need prayer, when we struggle or suffer or lack certainty, if we could somehow really know God as He truly is, know Him at that moment of need, it would make things much better.  It might satisfy us.  I suspect Paul understood that from personal experience.

Chew on that.  See if it doesn’t taste good and nourish.

On Belay

You look at the yawning chasm, the thin rope bridge and think, “No way!” But, it turns out, there is a way. Rope courses are designed to show how much more you can do than you thought possible.  You can muster up the courage to try if you trust the safety harness.   They have you “on belay.” The instructor shouts, “Go ahead; I got you!  You can do it”  And if you trust him, you just might screw up your courage and give it a shot.  If you fall, the harness keeps you safe (hopefully…).

With that in mind, read this:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  –  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

A big reason people fall from rope courses is their fear that they can’t make it.  When they trust the harness and step out in confidence, they discover they can make it. In a similar way, in our struggle against various temptations, frequently the belief that we will fail becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  But when you trust Jesus, His Holy Spirit lives within you. I’m a very real sense you are “on belay. ”  In that condition, God may allow you to experience temptation, but only in a measure you can withstand.  The trick is to trust His “harness” will truly keep you safe.  Trust Him, and with each step across the temptation, focus on how God has provided a way of escape.

Notice, the “escape” is not from the temptation, but from failing.  The “escape” allows you to withstand the temptation.  To endure it.  To not fall.

Next time you face that familiar temptation – the one that has come to your mind right now, the one that has caused you to fall so many times in the past – picture God calling out to you, “Go ahead; I’ve got you on belay.  You can do it!  Trust Me!”  Then screw up your courage and give it a shot…