“No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
I heard a great sermon in church last Sunday. The topic was almost as hot as the near record setting temperatures outside. It was on temptation. The message was a real eye opener for me and deeply convicting. But it wasn’t anything the preacher said. It happened that I was an audience of one listening to what the congregation was saying to me as I stood behind the pulpit. Through feedback from six interactive questions I gained some incredible insight into the insidious power of temptation and most effective ways to combat it. When Paul said that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” he wasn’t just talking through his hat. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Nine out of ten people in the room told me that they are presently battling temptations in their lives. And eight out of ten admitted that it is a reoccurring temptation that they have not been able to resist. Seeing those polling results brought home the stark realization that at any given time, most godly people are locked in a spiritual battle against an enemy of their souls.
It really should not be a surprise when we consider that from the very beginning of time a colossal war been waged between the forces of good and evil, righteousness and sin, God and the devil. From Genesis chapter three onward the devil has been scheming up ways to tempt us to eat forbidden fruit and rob us of an intimate relationship with our creator.
But his insidious strategies are not limited only to the lure and captivity of sin. He also is a relentless “accuser of the brethren” who works with might and main to keep those who confess their sin imprisoned in guilt and shame. (Revelation 12:10)
Over half of our congregation this past Sunday said they were still battling guilt and shame for a sin they had confessed and been forgiven. That is a disquieting yet not surprising fact as well. All of us at one time or other has those same struggles and we are not alone. (For more on this see “Dealing with the Stain of Sin”)
If the devil cannot separate us from God through sin, he will try to convince us of our estrangement from God through shame. Of course most believers know in their heads that confession of sin secures both God’s forgiveness and cleansing, and a freedom from guilt and shame. (1 John 1:9) But having that promise find an anchorage in our hearts is often a different story. The winds and waves of the devil’s accusations seek to dislodge that anchor and cast us afloat in the churning sea of doubt.
But here is the good news.
1) Fully two-thirds of the congregation told me that in the face of such a struggle, they have found that remembering whose you are, a son or daughter of the most high God, silences the storms of temptation and accusation like nothing else. They made it clear, that is the number one strategy they’ve found for dealing with the devil’s lies. It is by affirming their identity in Christ as His prized possession, purchased with the highest price that can be paid, His precious blood. (James 1:18, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) (For more on this see “The Secret to Getting Up Again”)
And that’s not all. Two thirds of the congregation also said that 2) knowing their own weaknesses and 3) choosing to flee temptation, rather than entertain it, are two of the most effective ways for staying free from sin and its poisonous bite. (Proverbs 4:23 & 22:3) That confirms the powerful truth that with every temptation, God always “will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) We simply need to be alert for the escape hatch.
And that brings me to the last major point the congregation deeply impressed upon me.
An equal number, two thirds, also said that staying alert by 4) watching and praying was a critical strategy for avoiding temptation. Jesus told his disciples that very thing in the Garden the night when he was praying just before His arrest. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41) Is it any wonder that He also taught the disciples and us, in the Lord’s prayer, to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Luke 11:4)
I came away from the Sunday’s services both sobered and encouraged: sobered by the honesty of God’s people in acknowledging the commonality of our battle against temptation and sin, but encouraged by the declaration of God’s people that there is victory over it through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. “In all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
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