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Why You Need to Win This Next Spiritual Battle

Overcoming

Small victories matter!

I was reading in Luke’s gospel a story I’m familiar with, which is why I was surprised when a couple of verses stood out to me in a way they hadn’t before. Right after Satan had finished his spiritual assault on the resolve of Jesus, the Bible says this:

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.

– Luke 4:13-14 NLT

Maybe it’s because these two verses are almost always divided from each other in our modern Bibles by a subheading of some sort, but I’d never quite caught the significance of the order and flow. Let me point it out…

  1. Jesus won over temptation…
  2. Satan was already planning for the “next opportunity”…
  3. Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.”

In other words, today’s victory prepares us for the next battle, and there will always be a next battle. Why is this? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of consecration. We “win” only because we take shelter in the God who wins, and taking shelter in Him teaches us that there is no other way to win. I think it also boosts my spiritual morale, but hopefully not to the point of pride.

The next time you battle temptation, remember this simple challenge: Win! No matter how small the victory, winning now will set you up to win again. And if you’re in a pattern of losing, stop it! Look to Jesus, talk to a friend, read the Scriptures, and pray your way through this next onslaught.

The Real Source of Our Temptation

Relish In Grace

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It isn’t a sin to be tempted. It’s simply human. Temptation to sin may be the result of living in a sinful world, but experiencing temptation to sin isn’t, in itself, the same as committing sin. That doesn’t mean temptation isn’t dangerous though. James, the half-brother of Jesus, described the natural progression we experience when we sin in this way… “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NLT)

We like to blame things on the devil, but while he may so order the worldly system around us to deliver visual and mental cues, actual temptation to sin doesn’t come from Satan, or the world around us. Temptation comes from our desires. As broken and sinful humans, we naturally want the wrong things. Temptation is a matter of these desires being stimulated in some way so that they motivate us to act in a way that is spiritually destructive.

Christians are delivered and saved permanently from the penalty of sin, so even our sinful desires and actions will never separate us from God’s love. But they can certainly stunt our spiritual growth and hinder our friendship with God. Being tempted isn’t sin. Acting on temptation is sin, and it’s destructive. And to expand the issue further, Jesus made it pretty clear in the sermon on the mount that desiring to be sinful and wishing to sin represents the same motive as the action, making it sin. In fact, that’s what lust and greed represent – the desire to give into temptation rather than to flee from it.

So if temptation is really an internal issue, what do I do about it? How do I stop it? Here’s a good plan for starting:

  1. Begin and close every day in prayer and with Scripture. Pray for God’s spiritual protection and fill your mind with His truth to meditate on throughout the day.
  2. Declare yourself dead to sin. Raise a hand in the face of temptation and say, “I’m sorry, I’m dead to you. I’m born again and I choose to reject my desire for you.”
  3. Flee. Run. If you think you can stand temptation, take heed, you’re about to fall. (See 1 Corinthians 10:12-13). Avoid situations that cause you to desire to sin or which fill your mind with temptation’s ammunition.
  4. Relish in the grace of God. You’re going to fail and mess up. It’s not a matter of going ahead and messing up so you can experience God’s grace, but it is a matter of magnifying the grace of God, which is absolutely inexhaustible.

Remember that when you are a brand new creature in Christ, absolutely nothing will ever break the Father-child relationship that exists between you and our infinitely gracious God. But for the sake of maintaining a close friendship with God and a steady trajectory toward spiritual maturity, realize that temptation comes from within you, and it can be resisted in the power of the Holy Spirit when you run to God.

As a final note, remember that the Christian life isn’t about “sin management.” Not sinning isn’t the goal. Christlikeness and intimacy with God is the goal. So cultivate and feed the desire you have to be like Jesus today!

It’s Your Turn to “Rawr!”

RAWRMy three-year-old son, Sam, loves to play and has an active imagination. Lately, he’s been obsessed with bears and of course, wants me to be the bear. He invites me into this game, which usually ends in my demise by tackling, by saying, “It’s your turn to ‘RAWR!'” So… I “RAWR!”

The Bible describes our enemy, Satan, as one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). He’s loud and ferocious, but also sneaky and slinks his way up to a prime pouncing distance before ensnaring us. But Peter didn’t stop with this description of Satan. He went on in the following verse to say…

Resist him, standing firm in the faith…

– 1 Peter 5:9 (NIV)

In other words, in the confidence of your identity in Christ and your empowerment by God’s Holy Spirit, RAWR back! We’re never told to resist temptation, since the power of the human will is bound and broken. When we try, we wind up fixating on the very thing we’re trying to resist. But we are told to resist the tempter, Satan himself. And when we resist, he flees.

Practice it now… RAWR!

photo credit: ucumari

I’m Sorry Sin, But You Have the Wrong Person

Return to Sender“The number you are trying to reach has been disconnected.” Ever hear that? It means the people you’re attempting to contact have closed, or moved, or died, or gave you a wrong number, perhaps even on purpose. How rude! The same can happen with the mail, according to Elvis, whose postman brought his letter right back saying, “Return to sender, address unknown. No such person, no such zone.”

The Apostle Paul described the Christian life in a strange way in his letter to the Galatians, which was apparently delivered successfully…

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

– Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

This verse is complex. It’s filled with meaning too deep to explore in a short devotional. But there is one very simple, practical truth contained in it that we really need to grasp. The old me – the one that was pinned to the mat by the law and knocked out for the count by sin – is dead. 

The old me had his chance, and he blew it, so he was nailed to the cross and buried with Jesus. Now, Jesus lives in and through me. That is, I’m now living a life supplied by Jesus and guided by faith in Jesus.

So when sin lures us, when temptation comes knocking, when defeat threatens us, when evil crouches at our door… we can declare, “I’m sorry, but you’re trying to reach a person that isn’t here anymore, and there is no forwarding address. But if you’d like to talk to Jesus, He lives here now.”

photo credit: when i was a bird

Put On the Whole Armor

ArmorEvery notice how a snowflake can find that tiny little spot on your neck between your hat and your coat so it chills your skin on contact? That’s how attacks often come from Satan – like flaming arrows into our one blind spot, our one week area. So Paul encouraged us to…

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

– Ephesians 6:11 (NIV)

There are six aspects of the armor of God, which we’ll look at one at a time each day this week, but before we do, it’s important to note that our preparedness for spiritual battle needs to be well-rounded and multi-faceted. It’s not enough to decide that since I enjoy studying the Bible or there’s a particular cause I support that I’m prepared since I’m strong in one area. Satan’s strategy is to focus on my weak areas. If I’m pure, he’ll hit my faith. If I’m bold, he’ll steal my peace, etc.

Here are the six pieces of armor we’ll be looking at in detail:

  • Integrity (the belt of truth)
  • Purity (the breastplate of righteousness)
  • Serenity (the shoes of the gospel of peace)
  • Certainty (the shield of faith)
  • Security (the helmet of salvation)
  • Maturity (the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God)

Are there ways you need to commit to growing in multiple aspects of the Christian life to stay balanced?

photo credit: Dunechaser