The Cross of Christ and Temptation

If a 17-year old throws a fit in the grocery store because mom won’t buy them candy in the checkout line, you usually don’t hear the mom saying, “Become a 17-year old!”  You never hear the mom tell her son or daughter, “Why can’t you just become a 17-year old?”  Instead, the line we’ve all been told and overheard since we’ve been on this earth is: “Act your age!”

There’s a great deal of logic in this statement.  After all, you don’t need to tell a 17-year old to become a 17-year old, for that would be redundant.  It would be pointless for someone to tell me, “Neal, you just need to be 23.  That’s what you need.”  I am 23.  What I need to know is how to ACT like it.  In other words, we need to be who we already are.

This applies to our spiritual lives as well.  If you are in Christ, you are in Christ by God’s grace, through faith.  You do not need to work any harder to become in Christ.  You are in Christ–you need to act like it!  We are in Christ–we need to act like it!

Becoming who we are requires fighting sin that remains in us after we become Christians.  We are saved when we trust Christ as Savior and Lord, but there is still sin and temptation left to fight as we learn to be like Christ.  And it is this fight that I will focus on for the month of November here on Philippians411.

Today starts a blog series that will run on each of the five Sundays in November.  This series will cover five weapons we use as Christians against temptation.  My hope and prayer is that we use these tools to grow in our Christlikeness.  I hope we are more obedient to Jesus Christ because of this series.  But first, a gospel reminder:

The gospel is the grounds for our obedience.  We live for God’s glory, advance His kingdom, obey His commands, and seek to live holy not in order to gain salvation, but because Jesus is our salvation and He is our Lord.  We don’t earn righteousness, we live out His righteousness!  In fact, Jesus Himself commands that after He becomes our God, the first thing we do is believe the gospel (Mk. 1:15).  If we are following Christ seeking to earn God’s love, we are in disobedience to the Lord, who commands us through the apostle Paul to work OUT our salvation, not work FOR it (Phil. 2:12).

So, with submission to the Lord Jesus, trust in His grace, and joy in His love, we move forward, with a God-given, gospel-driven desire to be like Jesus and fulfill this high calling to reflect the glory and holiness of our Creator.

The cross is our first and foremost weapon against temptation.  But in order to wield it properly, we must understand what happened at the cross.  There are three key things to be discussed here (though we could spend our lives exploring the depths of what God has done at the cross and still not understand it fully).

1) Forgiveness: This is what we think of most when we think of the cross, because it is such a crucial part of our deepest need–being reconciled to God.  Jesus has bought our forgiveness for us at the cross.  Believer, your forgiveness and mine is not dependent on how good our prayers sound, how faithful our church attendance, or how far we have progressed spiritually.  Our spiritual progress is an indicator of salvation, but our actual right standing before God, and thus the motivator for our progress, is the finished work of Jesus Christ.  We know that “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).  We do not just trust God to forgive us through Christ’s blood, we can (humbly) expect God to forgive us our sins because God would be unjust in punishing the believer who has trusted Christ as Savior and Lord.

2) Death:  Not just His death.  But our death–our death to sin and our lives now bound to Christ.  There exists no room in Scripture, or in the kingdom of God, for those who would trust Jesus to “save” them without trusting Him as King.  You can’t possibly be in the kingdom if you aren’t for the rule and reign of the king in your own life.  Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  At the cross, Jesus was purchasing our death to sin with His death for our sin.

3) Ransomed to belong to God: Staying in Romans, Paul writes one chapter over: “You also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”  Notice the order laid out here: First, Christ dies for our sin and then we die to the law, trusting His righteousness, forgiveness, and Lordship, and in that, we know we belong to God, who is not dead.  All of this leads to bearing fruit for God.  When thinking about the order of salvation, we can overthink it, in questions like “Does repentance or faith come first?”  Honestsly, it doesn’t matter whether or not repentance or faith comes first, what’s important (eternally so) is that they both happen.  Don’t tell me Jesus is Lord if you aren’t trusting His salvation.  Don’t tell me you trust Him as Savior if He’s not Lord (because part of His work as Savior is to become Lord, to lead us out of sin and into holiness).  But we do need to emphasize that fruit for God and obedience to God comes AFTER salvation, because we now, through the cross, belong to God.

So now, how do we apply the cross?  We apply it by believing God’s promises and putting them into action.

If I am forgiven in Christ, why would I commit the very sin I’m forgiven of?  If Jesus has died for my sin, why would I go back to it?  It’s not being counted against me, so why go back to it?

If I’m dead to sin and alive to Christ (which is a reality and then a “reckoning” of this reality in our daily lives), then sin has no right to tell me what to do.  I am dead to it.  We use the phrase, “You’re dead to me” to express to someone we hate that they have no impact or meaning or significance in our lives anymore.  Instead of saying that to people, let’s say it to our sin.  We need to say that to our sin and not people.  If Jesus is Lord, and our hope is in Him for salvation, we have new spiritual life.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “anyone in Christ (is a) new creation!”  Paul understands the link between what Christ has done, our response of repentance and faith, and our new identity as a response to receiving salvation.  Let us understand it, as well.

Lastly, we are ransomed.  We are not our own.  Christ has bought us with His precious blood.  We owe Him our allegiance because of His cross, and we dare not listen to or go after another lover.  So when we are tempted, we remember that we’re forgiven, not under sin’s guilt or rule.  We remember that we have new life, that our hearts have changed because of grace, that we’re forgiven and following Jesus, and that we belong to our loving Lord.

May we never take the cross for granted, Lord Jesus.  May we never forget the price you paid for our sin.  May we be quick to repent, confessing our sin, submitting to your rule and trusting that you really are as gracious as you say you are.  May we use the cross as our boast before the Father, our defense before the enemy, and our weapon against our sinful flesh.  May we learn to love you more and more as we wait for the day where we sin no more, the day where sin and temptation die forever.  May you be glorified in all we do.

Next week, we’ll examine the Word of God and its role in fighting temptation.

God bless,
Neal E.

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