THE WAY OUT

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

As we continue in the pursuit of holiness for our lives, this verse is quite appropriate for us to study and put into action.  Let’s break it down and examine it more closely:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.

No matter what you are going through … no matter what you face in the battle against sin in your life … there is someone else who has waged the same fight. The sinful human nature is common to the human life we experience here on earth.  And if you have been “overtaken” by the sin that so easily ensnares you (Cf. Hebrews 12:1), know you are not alone.  What you have allowed to become a stronghold in your life is common to all mankind.  And I believe the greatest temptation that has overtaken any human is the sin of unbelief because I think when most sin occurs … when we are most vulnerable to its deception … is when we fall into faithlessness toward God … when we ignore His invitation to intimacy … when we lose the awareness that God sees all!  David asked: “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7) There is no place we can go outside of His presence.  When we wander from God, in a sense, we do not leave His presence; rather, we leave His divine power and His hand upon our lives.  Unbelief weakens us!  Unbelief paralyzes us!  It renders us powerless to overcome sin rather than being mighty to the pulling down of strongholds.  Yet, there is an answer to this plight of temptation!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (of the flesh) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

The reason temptation can overtake us is because we try to fight the battle in our flesh and not in the Spirit realm.  Our weapons to resist … to flee …  are not natural but spiritual. And those weapons are fasting, prayer, and the sword of the Spirit … which is the Word of God! (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) Paul instructed us to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil (temptation) comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13). For this is what Jesus did when He went into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan.  With every high and lofty arrow of deception aimed for His heart, Jesus responded to Satan with Scripture: “It is written….” (Cf. Matthew 4:4-10) Do we know the Word of God well enough to fight or resist temptation? Are we equipped to do battle and to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ?  Jesus warned His disciples on the night of His betrayal: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Cf. Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38) This is real warfare, folks!  And on the battlefields of our minds, the war will be won or lost….

God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

What an encouragement to know that even when we are tempted … even when we are weak … even when we are faithless … God is still faithful to us.  Yet, too often we lose a battle.  And it appears that we wave our white flags of surrender far too soon at times.  When we “cave to crave” we have not reached what we can bear. Remember, God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear! So what happens? Why do we fail?

James 1:12-18 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created.

So we see that temptation comes from within our hearts. We just read about the condition of man from the beginning … when the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) So it follows that we need clean hearts and right spirits in order to find the path to triumph.  David asked, “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Psalm 20:9) Paul observed that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) But God is faithful!  His kindness is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4)   And David found the path of repentance that we would do well to carefully observe.  I encourage you to read all of Psalm 51 … but this excerpt is what came to my heart: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The truth of the matter is you and I WILL be tempted.  The text does not read, “But IF you are tempted….”  No human is or has ever been without temptation.  It is part of the human experience God created.  And even though God has shown Himself mighty and powerful on behalf of His people … they have wandered and rebelled against Him.  God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) Yet, Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Cf. Luke 18:8) Faith is essential in the battle against temptation, because faith determines whether we will engage our human will to act upon the temptation presented.  “For without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6) I am reminded of where Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to Him and revering Him.

God took His people into the wilderness and then He led them through it.  God caused His people to hunger … and then He fed them.  The Lord declared through Moses, “Man does not live on food alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  God provides for both our physical hunger and spiritual hunger! No, the testing and trials that the Lord allows are not temptations; rather, they reveal the truth of what lies with our hearts.  And when we decide to face the truth … when the discipline we receive of the Lord is discerned and understood … then we will discover that God has provided a way out of the wilderness.  We find that God has made provision to sustain us.  Oh, yes!  When we completely surrender everything to our Lord and Savior … when we enter into intimacy with Him … He will change the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts.  He will renew a right spirit within us.  God will give us His divine power; and His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who call us by His own glory and goodness. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

Another thought that just occurred to me on the issue of temptation:  I believe the more we pursue intimacy with Jesus … the more He disciples our faith in Him … then the more we can expect to experience trial and temptation in order to test our faith.  I considered what Jesus said to Peter at the Last Supper in the Upper Room:

Luke 22:31-34 (NIV)

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But Peter replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

It was not only Peter who would be sifted as wheat in order to separate the valued, true seed of faith from the worthless, deceptive outer covering of chaff … that made faith appear larger than it was in reality .  It would be all of the disciples … just as it will be all of us.  We will all be sifted!  We will all be subjected to temptation … to test our faith! Even Jesus was not immune from being tempted by Satan.  And the Apostle James advised us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Cf. James 1:2-4)

But I want us to notice how Jesus said He had prayed for Simon Peter.  Jesus prayed that Peter’s FAITH would not fail…. Now we know from the narrative that Peter did in fact fail during the next battle he faced … and the rooster crowed.  But we also know that Peter later triumphed … being baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit. Because the Lord was with Him, Peter persevered in faith, and he went on to win the war … to “finish the race.”  His faith did not fail!  And this is something for us to grasp, that even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God … seated at the throne … interceding for us. (Hebrews 7:24-25) God may send you into the wilderness, but He will lead you through it to the Promised Land.  God may allow you to hunger, but He will fill you and sustain your life.  God may allow Satan to sift you with temptation to test the genuineness of your faith, but Jesus will intercede for you … that your faith may not fail.  Peter would later share and express his experience:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Romans 8:31-39 (NIV)

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Cf. Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!  God provided us a way to endure temptation.  His name is Jesus!  And I pray that we will realize that Jesus is ever interceding for us that our faith may not fail.  I encourage you to take some time and read the “Hall of Faith” presented in Hebrews 11.  Then, let the triumphs of those faithful people of old resonate within you.  And then, after your meditation, continue to this passage:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer (author) and perfecter (finisher) of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart….

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Losing Your Soul…

Mark 8:36 (NIV)

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

We have read and studied this verse before; but in light of our recent series of Scriptures focusing on the spiritual health of men, I believe we should look at it again in that context….

Generally, I think men are more challenged with keeping a balanced perspective on their career and financial goals because we tend to be occupational or vocational centric … meaning we place a high value on what we do and accomplish in our jobs and professions – the money we earn from doing so – and the self-esteem we attach to our careers and bank accounts.  It is normal to have an interest or concern about household finances because of our deep-seated desire to be successful and consistent providers for our families.  But Jesus asks us a very pointed question: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  Another related question for men might be: “What good is it to “prosper” yourself in your work but lose your marriage or your children or your health in the process?”  In other words, Jesus calls us to give consideration to the greatest priorities we have in our lives and to not lose sight of what has more eternal impact on ourselves and those we love.

The Apostle Paul shared this perspective with a young man named Timothy – who he mentored and discipled in the faith.  Paul said, “For we brought nothing into the word, and we can take nothing out of it.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:7) Perhaps that is the sobering reminder we need to form a healthier view of the life God has granted to each of us. Life is a gift.  Everything we have is a gift. And while work and the enjoyment it brings to our lives is an important aspect of it … it is really only a context for us to discover, learn, and grow in the knowledge of God’s will for our us.  Consider a parable that Jesus shared with His followers:

Luke 12:16-21 (NIV)

16 And He (Jesus) told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” 22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek His Kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Men … we need to take this lesson and its wisdom to heart.  God wants to do so much in our lives and through our lives … not only to conform us to the image of His Son … but to develop us for the good and well-being of others; especially our wives and children.  So our spiritual health is critical; and we need to exercise it regularly each day in prayer and study of the Word.  Every once and a while, you and I might need to reset our mindsets as my pastor has often encouraged me to do.  And as the Apostle Paul admonished, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) So when life gets out of balance and when begin to focus more on work and career more than focusing on God, I pray we will set more time aside from our work and personal ambitions to rekindle His Kingdom in our hearts so we can truly flourish in our spirits for the positive influence it will have on our marriages, our children, and our relationships with others.  I assure you; it will be time well spent.  As the Apostle John wrote, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in good health – just as your soul prospers. (Cf. 3 John 2:2) Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Battle of the Selves

Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

This Verse is a “call” to us regarding our dispositions … our manners … our characters as new creations in Christ.  It reminds us that our redeemed lives are to be Spirit-filled with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  In this context we are to be forgiving … just as the Lord Jesus forgave us.  And over all these virtues, we are to put on love – which binds them all together.  The message here from Paul to the Colossians has quite the application for us because it describes the outward “physical” changes that should follow the inward “spiritual” changes that have caused us to become “holy and dearly loved” children of God.

So I think I will reprint this section of Scripture for your easy reference and reading.  I pray it will impact you and I in the 21st Century as deeply as Paul intended for it to instruct the Colossian believers of the 1st Century.

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And above all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

This is the new life we have been saved to live.  If you continue to experience conflicts with your earthly nature exerting itself above your inner man, you need to realize that the battle is now spiritual.  Verse 3 reminds us that the old person you were has died and the new person you are is now hidden in Christ.  But Paul instructs us that we do not wrestle against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) But I will encourage you in this, as you see the physical manifestations of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love in your relationships with others, you can know that the spiritual battles are being won.  Think of your earthly nature as a barometer of your spiritual nature.  It might not be an exact measure but I’d venture to say it is fairly close….

So what is our application?  Well, our bodies (flesh and blood) are not really the problem.  The greatest battle is within our hearts … our inner beings … our souls.  For as a man thinks in his heart … so is he.  It is our hearts that God must capture; and He did through Christ Jesus.  Do you not realize that it is the kindness of God that led us to repentance? (Cf. Romans 2:4) The love of God is why we submit to His transformation of our hearts … so that we might be conformed to the image of His Son.  And this is why we are called to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  This is why we are admonished to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. If we are not seeing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and in our relationships with others – then we need to do some serious introspection and start fighting those spiritual battles.  Paul tells us how to be winners:

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

This is how you fight those battles. This is how you put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.  There are several defensive pieces of armor in the list above – but there is only one offensive spiritual weapon you are provided by God.  It is the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God.  And, of course, we would include prayer.  Paul instructs that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit. If you want to win the battles – then you will need both the Word and Prayer!  Finally, I will leave you with a couple of parallel verses to encourage you in this fight.  They assure us that our faith in Christ Jesus can overcome our earthly nature and the trouble we have in this world.

John 16:33 (NIV)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!