Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fighting Temptation

Salvation is a free gift from God, however it must be received by faith. It comprises all that God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. Paul in writing to the church at Ephesus declared; "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). The moment that a person believes on the Lord Jesus, he/she becomes a new creature in Christ - "old things are passed away and all things are new" (see II Corinthians 5:17). Because of the life of God within us, victory over sin and the flesh is possible for every believer who abides in Christ. Sad to say, but there are some Christians who think that doing good deeds, or having good conduct is the way to a victorious abundant life. However since salvation is a gift from God, no amount of work or self-effort, i.e. doing good deeds, studying the bible, fasting and praying, giving, etc. can merit it. Christian activities or works of righteousness are important. However they are the fruit of salvation, and not the way to salvation. After a person receives Jesus into his/her heart, all of their activities are (or should be) the result of the Holy Spirit working in them. Therefore just as it is by grace that God brings us into His family, it also by His grace that He continually work in us to accomplish His purpose. The apostle Paul in II Corinthians 5:17 wrote; "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." However to simply say that we are new creatures without the underlying understanding that we are new creations only because we are in Christ and He is in us, will ultimately lead to much frustration in trying to live the Christian life. The very moment that a person believes on the Lord Jesus, he/she is placed in Christ and becomes a new creature in Him. Thus through this union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, He (Jesus) lives in the heart of every believer. This too is salvation, and not just the new birth. Since we are saved by grace through faith, there must always be a continual look of faith unto Jesus to live His abundant life in us. In so doing, we can have and enjoy His abundant life in our daily experience. There are some Christians who suppose that since they are new creatures, they have under their control and within their ability power over temptation and sin. However they fail to see that only through the empowering gift of God's presence within them alone is Christ's victorious life experienced. These dear believers somehow think the Holy Spirit is a special gift or ability from God that they possess and control which also helps them to live the Christian life. They see the Holy Spirit as a power, aid or support to their (independent) lives, rather than the Spirit of Christ living within them expressing His life through them. This type of believing fails to recognize that we have no power in, or of ourselves. We (Christians) are not independent of the Holy Spirit. The only power we possess is through Christ, and He is a person. He is the power of God, and is the Lord and ruler of our lives. Therefore the Holy Spirit within us is not some special power that we possess or control, but rather Christ living in us, and thus He possesses and controls us. We are not our own! There is nothing that we can do in our strength to make the abundant Christian life a reality. It cannot be obtained through discipline, or by spiritual activities such as prayer and fasting, praise and worship etc.. Hear this friend, "no amount of discipline will ever produce the life and character of Christ within us." The life of Christ within us is only made possible by the Holy Spirit revealing to us the reality of who we are in Christ and He in us. Thus by submitting ourselves to the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ lives His victoriously life in and through us according to the will of God. God tells us in I John 5:4: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith." Jesus defeated Satan for us, and His victorious over-coming life comes inside of us the moment that we believe on Him (Jesus). However our victory is made possible by faith not only in Jesus death, but also His resurrection. This means that not only did Jesus die for the sins of all, but He was also raised from the dead and lives unto God in all who receive Him (see Romans 6). In other words without Jesus' death and resurrection, the Christian life would not possible. If there were no resurrection, there would be no Christianity. Christianity is not just going to church, and doing good deeds. Neither is Christianity modified behavior based on the bible. The essence of Christianity is the person of Jesus living in our humanity (us). That is why Paul declared in Galatians 2:20; "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." He also said; "to live is Christ." So our victory over sin, Satan, and the world is made practical through faith in Jesus living in us moment by moment - here and now. There is a slogan that society has coined in the fight against drugs that says; "say no to drugs." That is the same attitude that many Christians have taken toward sin. However our victory over sin is not simply saying no to it, but rather saying yes to Christ within us. You see the truth is that we are not over-comers of anything in ourselves. Jesus is the over-comer living in us, and we over-come all things through Him. Jesus said in John 16:33; "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]. Jesus overcame all things through His death and resurrection. Therefore we are made over-comers in all of life by believing that He overcame everything for us, and is the one who overcomes all things in us. Knowing this is a firm foundation to believe that Christ in us is the strength and ability to overcome any obstacle that we may face. This means that no matter what our circumstances may be, the Spirit of Christ in us is greater them all - Jesus is Lord! It is a tragedy that so many believers have misunderstood the purpose of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. For example, some Christians recognize that the Holy Spirit made (past-tense) them new creatures, but fail to realize that it is the indwelling Holy Spirit who also maintain and keep (present tense) them new creatures. They see themselves living the Christian life with God's help, instead of seeing the truth that Christianity is in essence the life of Christ manifested in them through the Holy Spirit. This kind of thinking places them as the pilots in control (so to speak) of their lives, and God as their co-pilot. However if we are led and guided by the Spirit, and if it is God who is all the while working within us both to will and do of His good pleasure, what position does that put God in our lives???.......... Give Up? He is the Pilot! He is the Ruler! He is the Master! Jesus is Lord!! Some Christians quote James 4:7 when they are faced with temptations. They say; "you've got to resist the devil and he will flee from you." The problem here is that they are leaving out an important part of that scripture. God's word tells us in James 4:7; "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." First there must be submission before resistance, i.e. submission to God before resisting the devil. According to Merriam-Webster Thesaurus the word "submit" means; "to give up and cease resistance (as to another's arguments, demands, or control)." It also means; "to yield to the control or power of....." Another meaning for the word "submit" is "to surrender to." Before we can resist the devil we must be first submitted to God, having ceased from resisting the Holy Spirit and totally yielded to His control or power. When we are submitted (yielded to God's control and power), we are led of the Holy Spirit. Thus being yielded to God's control and power, our ability to resist the devil is in fact God working in us, which guarantees us victory every time! Have you ever considered the fact that when we are not submitted to God, we are by default resisting Him? Or on the other hand, when we are submitted to God, we are by default resisting the devil? Listen to what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:14 KJV about submission; "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Our yielding/submitting to God or Satan puts us in the position of servants, thus making us subject to our master's power. In regards to temptations, let me point out that we were not called to fight them, but rather submit to Christ who has defeated every temptation for us. By submitting to God, we have entered into His victory by faith. So recognize that the only fight that we have been called to fight is "the good fight of faith," which means to believe in or accept the finished works of Christ. Therefore our focus should never be on the temptations of life, but rather on Jesus. As it is written in Hebrews 12:2-3; "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." This doesn't mean that we look at Jesus and try to imitate Him. Our looking to Jesus is simply recognizing that He is our sufficiency, and thus with expectancy we rest in that reality. This my friend, is the "yea and amen" for God to work in us according to His good will and pleasure. If we fail to see Jesus as the one who does all in all and through all, we by default will look to ourselves or others, and the cares of this life will overwhelm us. Many well meaning believers often make the mistake of thinking that they must discipline themselves in order to conform to a Christ-like life style. They think that by will power and resolve they can overcome sin and temptation, and thus live a life that is pleasing to God. "What would Jesus do," is a popular phrase that is often quoted throughout the Christian community. This slogan is the anthem of many well-meaning believers who see Christianity as a lifestyle that they must manufacture base on their perception of what Jesus might do. These dear Christians read the scriptures, and attempt to follow and obey (in self-effort) them. However sooner or later they realize that they can't do them. They arrive at the conclusion that this Christian life is too hard - no......, impossible! Who can love their enemies? Who can forgive those who despitefully use them? Who can rejoice and count it all joy when the trials and adversities of life rush in on us like a tidal wave? When the apostle Paul sought the Lord concerning the thorn in his flesh in II Corinthian 12, was he sincere when he said; "..Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities." ".......I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake?" Did Paul know something that the modern church doesn't know? My friend, theses are genuine questions that must be truthfully answered before we can fully appreciate and enjoy the abundant life that God has given us in Christ Jesus. Let us look again at what Paul said to the Corinthian church. He said that he took pleasure (i.e. enjoyment, satisfaction, or contentment) in weakness, or in his limitations. Paul also said that he was joyful when people criticized or accused him, and content whenever there was a need. He said that he delighted in persecutions, and was joyful in sorrow and suffering. Come on Paul, are you for real? If you are, what is your secret? Christians today continually seek God over and over again for deliverance from the crisis of life. God's answer to Paul in II Corinthians 12:9 is the same answer that He is giving to us today; "...He said...... My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." When Paul realized that his weakness was simply the springboard into God's sufficiency he declared; "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." It was after Paul recognized his total inadequacy that he finally understood that he was created to be weak - totally dependent and surrendered to God. Therefore he proclaimed; "Christ is our sufficiency." From the foundation of knowing that he was as dependent upon God as a branch given up in absolute totality to a vine Paul could say; "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthian 12:10). Let me emphasize again that Christian living is not us trying to imitate Christ, but rather Christ living in us. We have been made partakers of His divine nature through the Holy Spirit, participants in His life, and we live by Him, and from His resources. Hence being a Christian is not that we are in control of our lives - independently of God, but rather under His control through the Holy Spirit within us. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). We must be as thoroughly convinced of there being nothing that we can do (apart from God's grace) to live this Christian life as we are convinced that there is nothing that we can do to free ourselves from sin. The Christian life is of, and by God's grace which means that He is the one working in us. I heard someone say concerning prayer that; "God says yes sometimes, no sometimes, and sometimes my grace is sufficient." My friend God's grace is always sufficient! Whether He says yes or no, it is always His grace at work. For it is by His empowering presence through which we live in every circumstance of life. Paul came to realize that Gods' grace is shown most effective and powerful in and toward us, when we are weak (subject to, submissive i.e. yielded to the control or power of the Holy Spirit). The reason why this is so, is because we are no longer resisting or fighting God (though we may have been doing it ignorantly). Thus His will in and for us, is unhindered by us. It is always God's will for us to resist the devil because Satan is anti-god. However when we are not abiding in Christ, i.e. submitted to God, led of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit etc., we are submitted to and/or agreeing with the devil in some way. Therefore if we are submitted to Satan (even though it may be in ignorance), it is impossible for us apart from the grace of God to resist him. The reason being is that we have no power or strength in and of ourselves. This truth is made evident in II Corinthians 3:5 from the Amplified Bible; "Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God." Listen to the prayer of Jehoshaphat King of Israel to God when Ammon, Moab, and Mt. Seir came to fight against Israel, and God's answer to them. ".....For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You"........"Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's" (II Chronicles 20:12, 15B). Therefore beloved, submit to God, and cease from resisting Him. Stop fighting life's battles and temptations in the toil of human strength and effort for; "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Recognize that God created you to be forever weak and helpless as a branch of the vine. However also know that in your utter weakness and helplessness, God is the strength of your life. Therefore none of life's battles are yours; they all belong to God. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1142250

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