*My church recently started a sermon series on the book of Luke. Yesterday, the passage we read was the passage on the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. In small group last night, we discussed how to withstand (or resist) temptation and what that should look like. I think the problem in our fights against sin is that we ultimately rely on formulas, rules and to-do lists instead of ultimately relying on Christ. Rules and formulas aren’t bad, but they do not change hearts. On the way home, these thoughts came to my mind, and out came this blog.
There is no such thing as “the last little bit”.
There is no dichotomy between parts of our lives where we need God and parts of our lives where we can depend on ourselves. It isn’t right to say that I depend on myself to make most of my rent and on God for the last little bit. It isn’t right to say that I can provide most of what I need for myself and then put the last little bit in God’s hands. And that last little bit God provides should not be waited for in anxiety with gritted teeth and crossed fingers. I think sometimes we also feel it is our faith that will get us through that last little bit. If we have enough faith, then we will enable God to provide.
This thinking is wrong and replaces God, in our hearts, with self. Thankfully, God has so much grace and compassion that He continues to meet our needs despite the fact that we believe we are the ones meeting our own needs.
The truth is, every single thing we have in life is because of God’s provision. Sometimes I feel proud when I feel I have trusted God to take care of the last little bit. But this really only reveals a complete lack of trust and understanding in God’s provision. I trust in myself to meet most of my needs and then only half-heartedly trust God to meet the last little bit.
In reality, it is only because of God’s grace that I can work and make money. It is only by God’s grace I have friends and family. It is only by His grace that I move and breathe and live and work and play. It is only by His grace that I am justified and no longer have to worry.
All I have is from God.
I think the first step in withstanding temptation is to admit complete, total dependence on God and His grace to provide us with all we need. We have to do away with the idea of self-reliance in any part of our lives. God created me and gave me life and my sustenance is in His hands. I do not have the power to sustain my life anymore than I have the power to create myself.
I also do not have the power to save my soul or justify my soul. My salvation is a gift from God by His grace. It is He who saves me and sustains my soul. It is God who causes my heart to love holiness and find my deepest joy in Him. Without Him, I am only evil through and through. So, I acknowledge that it is God who sustains me in every way, even in my striving.
The idea of withstanding temptation makes more sense when we acknowledge that all we have is from God and that all self-reliance is only delusional thinking.
Grace is free.
In A Godward Life, John Piper says, “Gratitude is a joyful emotion for worship but a dangerous motive for obedience.” He has 3 reasons for this: 1) It is impossible to pay God back for His grace; 2) If we succeeded in paying Him back, it wouldn’t be grace; and 3) focusing on gratitude as an empowerment for obedience tends to overlook the crucial importance of future grace.
The problem with gratitude as an empowerment for obedience is that it nullifies in our hearts the very thing we are grateful for. We are thankful for grace and then try to pay God back for a free gift. Do we truly believe it is free?
God has promised to make you pure and holy.
It’s not that we are justified by the grace of God, and then we have to rely on ourselves for our sanctification or growth in holiness. Every part of our salvation from justification to sanctification is a gracious and miraculous act of God where He Justifies a sinner calling him righteous and holy and then works in him to cause the sinner’s heart to cling to Him for eternity and works in him patiently and lovingly to do good works through him.
God did not save you to sit back and impatiently watch you fumble around in sin. He didn’t save you because He was obligated to and now He has to deal with you because you are His. He saved you because he loves you and wants to pry your heart from death and cause your heart to cling to what it was meant to cling. We find life when our hearts do what they were meant to do: glorify God.
God will not grow tired of you. He knew you better than you will ever know yourself when He first made your heart and soul come alive to His grace and immeasurable love.
When we understand that our souls are in the hands of a very good God and that He has promised to give us the grace to move us from sinfulness to holiness, we can have faith in God’s future grace.
Rely on His grace for obedience.
When I believe that God has promised to make me holy and will continue to sanctify me, I can go before Him daily and receive endless, life-giving riches. He gives me peace, contentment and joy which lead to holiness and love that should overflow to the people around me.
Withstanding temptation comes from a heart change that we are completely dependent on God for. There is no formula or willpower strong enough to change our hearts. We simply come to Jesus Christ and drink living water and take all the riches He graciously blesses us with.
Obedience comes from a faith that God is making us holy day by day and making us a little more willing every day to repent and entrust our hearts, souls and lives to Him.