The Church and Temptation

Tonight wraps up the November blog series on temptation and the tools God has given us to fight back against it.  We close by examining the importance of the church and Christian friendship in our fight for godliness.

Being a part of a local church and having godly friends is something that we can easily take for granted.  Having people in your life who trust Christ and are committed to Him is a wonderful gift from God, and one of the reasons God gives this gift is for our holiness.

While Jesus and Jesus alone saves me, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the man I am today if it weren’t for the influence of Godly men and women in my life.  There’s something about being around God’s people that helps us trust, love and reflect God more.

So how does having friendships/relationships within the local church practically make us more like Jesus, and help us fight against sin?  First, we understand that in order to fight sin and follow Christ, we need each other.  You will not make it in the Christian life alone.  God’s plan for your Christian life was never just you and Him.  Does a father adopt a child and tell him to stay as far away from His other children as possible?  Of course not!  That would be awful, and that child wouldn’t experience as much joy and love as he or she could if they were part of the rest of the family.

Paul lays out part of what it looks like to follow Jesus in Colossians 3:12-16: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Paul is not here commanding just individual Christians to be more like Jesus.  Paul is writing to the church as a whole.  Obviously, the church is made up of individual Christians, who should absolutely learn to walk out Christ’s righteousness.  But in addressing the church as a whole, Paul has united the church around a common goal: Grow in Christ and glorify God TOGETHER.  Your growth in godliness is never a solo project.  We are all in the same fight, trusting the same Savior, following the same Lord.  This binds us together.

Sanctification happens in the church.  How could we say that we’re learning to love and listen to others more if we aren’t involved in their lives?  How can we be patient and humble if we don’t have Christian friends, the church, to be patient and humble towards?  According to God’s Word, we are very involved in each other’s growth in Christlikeness.

Paul makes this clear in verse 16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”  We are to help each other.  We do this in three major ways:

1) Teaching: This isn’t necessarily talking about the spiritual gift of teaching, as in small group/Sunday School leaders or people who have an actual job in the teaching field, but about the task we all have of teaching God’s Word to each other in the context of relationships.  Example: You’re at lunch with a friend, and your friend is showing a tremendous amount of anxiety about his or her future.  As a believer, we have the promise of Matt. 6:25, where Jesus tell us to not worry about tomorrow, but to trust God.  You have that opportunity to “teach” your brother or sister in Christ.  No deep discussion of doctrine or $8 theological terms, but simply reminding each other of the promises of our God and the truth of His Word.  While we certainly need teachers in the church, and that role is a part of teaching one another, every Christian has the responsibility to remind other Christians of God’s Word.  This gives us opportunities to help each other know and believe God’s Word and use it in fighting sin, whether it be anxiety, lust, anger, idolatry, etc. 

2) Admonishment: We hold each other accountable and lovingly rebuke each other when necessary.  Christian love does not equal “not judging someone,” at least not in the way the world defines it.  We absolutely judge those who claim the name of Christ (1 Cor. 5:12-13).  We judge each other, not in prideful bashing or gossip, but in lovingly calling each other out when we see sin in our friend’s lives and when our friend seemingly fails to see it.  We judge each other because we love each other and want to help each other be more like Jesus.  There is no room in God’s church for bashing one another, because we all need Jesus.  There is no room for gossip, for that is worldly and divisive.  There is room, and lots of it, for judgment that pronounces condemnation on sin and grace for sinners who repent and trust Christ.  Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”  I’m grateful for friends that lovingly show me where I fail and where I need to repent.  As we lovingly correct each other, we help each other fight sin and grow to be more like Jesus.

3) Modeling godliness: We learn by listening and hearing from others, but we also learn much from watching them.  Example: I’ve grown up around my grandfather.  For 23 years, I’ve watched him fix things, pick people up when needed, help others financially, give advice when requested, and love and encourage others consistently, especially within his own family.  I’ve watched him be faithful to his wife and to his church.  We haven’t had a tremendous amount of discussion about these things, though we have had some, but he models what it means to be a godly man.  As we live our Christian lives in the presence of others, we are showing others, especially those that are younger in the faith, what it looks like to be a Christian.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  As a man, when I spend time around godly men, I learn, just from being in relationship with them, what it looks like to be a godly man.  And as I’m influenced by them, I start to look more and more like Jesus.

A note here: Being influenced by Christians and hanging around them does not make you a Christian.  Submitting to Jesus as the authority in your life and trusting His salvation makes you a Christian.  But after we do that, as we spend time with others who have been saved by Jesus, we learn to be more like Him.

This isn’t to say that in fighting sin, we just need to spend all of our time around other believers.  Being in relationship with other believers helps us fight sin because we’re sharpening each other, we’re helping each other grow, and as we do that, we’re more and more able to say no to sin.  But this should drive us outward to others who don’t believe so that they can believe the gospel and start fighting their sin, too.

As we grow individually, we see the church grow, ultimately reaching the goal laid out in Philippians 1:9-11: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

All of the growth that we have ultimately comes from Jesus.  As we set out to fight sin, we need to remember that our righteousness is in Christ.  We are in the business of bearing the fruit of that righteousness.  So let us remember the cross, read the Word, walk by the Spirit and help each other as we fight sin and follow Jesus.

Lord, may we remember all that you have given us in the fight against sin.  May we remember that you are Lord, that we have trusted you, that we have been forgiven, and that you lead us now to be more like you.  May we continue to help each other grow.  May your church be united in this goal.

God bless,

Neal E.

The Holy Spirit and Temptation

After a break last week, the series on temptation and the tools God has given believers to fight sin continues.  Tonight, the role of the Holy Spirit will be discussed.

Before we jump into the way the Holy Spirit helps us fight back against temptation, we need a quick reminder of who the Holy Spirit is.  The Holy Spirit is not simply an aide sent by God, nor is He an “it.”  The Holy Spirit is God the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  At Jesus’ baptism, described in Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus sees “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”  This is one of the clearest, definitive pictures of the Trinity–God in three persons: Father, Spirit and Son.  The NT clearly says God sends HIS Spirit, not A spirit, or a guidance counselor.  He (God the Father) sends God the Spirit to indwell each believer to obey Jesus as Lord and do the Father’s will.

The Holy Spirit is crucial not just for fighting sin, but for salvation.  The Bible is clear that if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you are not saved, and if you are saved, regardless of how you feel or how much you may be struggling, you have the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14, Rom. 8:14).  Just like belief in the cross comes before using the cross as a weapon against sin, so the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a result of God’s grace through faith, comes before our walking by the Spirit in fighting sin.

If we are Christians, then, we need to understand WHY we have the Holy Spirit.    We now know how we received the Spirit, but why?  Ephesians 2:22 says, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  The gifts the Spirit gives (1 Cor. 12), the spirit of adoption we receive (Rom. 8:15), the help and teaching the Spirit gives (John 16), all help us be more and more like Jesus, growing in our knowledge of and conformity to godliness.

When we look at the New Testament, especially the writings of Paul, the Spirit’s role is one of assurance and teaching.  Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:14-17, which almost mirror each other, say that part of the Spirit’s role is to “bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” to teach us that because we are children of God, we “are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  The presence of the Spirit gives us the comfort that we are saved, that God is not just Father, but that He is OUR Father, OUR God, and that Jesus is OUR Savior and OUR Lord.  He takes the objective truth of the gospel and makes it personal.  Why is this so important in the moment of temptation?

Temptation often tries to make us believe that God does not love us.  One of the lies of sin is that we aren’t really His, that God’s not as good as He says, and that the gospel isn’t really true.  The Spirit reminds us of the gospel we have believed, and that those who receive Jesus are children of God.  The Spirit reminds us that, as we discussed in the first post in this series, we have believed Christ, have been forgiven and are now free in God’s love as His children.  In this knowledge, we are free to say “no” to sin, and “yes” to the Lord.

The Spirit is also involved in changing our desires.  A reading of Romans 7 reveals that the Christian no longer desires to sin, but is content to trust his/her Savior and obey Him alone (though we struggle and fail often).  Galatians 5:17 says that “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.”  One day we wanted to do our own thing, to live for ourselves and not care about the things of God.  Then, by God’s mercy and grace, we trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, to forgive us and give us new life, and the Spirit changed us, from the inside out, to have a desire for holiness, for God’s Word, for joy in Him, and to love Him above all things.

Our struggle with sin is lifelong, but our desires have changed, and in the moment of temptation, one of the strongest reminders the Spirit gives is a simple reminder that this current temptation is not what we want to do.  It’s ridiculously freeing to be able to look my sin in the eye in the moment of temptation and say, “I’m going to do whatever I want,” knowing that what I want is to trust God and honor Him.  This is a gift of the Spirit, who changes us from the inside out.  While we may change some behaviors, it is only the Holy Spirit who changes our desires.

Lastly, let’s look at what Jesus says about the Spirit.  John 16:4-15 describes Christ’s telling of the work of the Spirit to His disciples right before He is arrested.  He says that the Spirit is a “helper.”  Every Christian can testify to this truth.  We’ve all experienced those times where we’ve needed an abudance of God’s grace, the strength and power of God’s presence, whether it be in temptation or another moment in life, and we know that God brought us through that through the Spirit, who never leaves us. 

Jesus also says the Spirit convicts us of sin.  Now, in this passage, Jesus specifically speaks of the sin of not trusting Him as Savior.  This is, of course, what we need both when we initially come to Christ and after, because we still sin.  We have changed, and Jesus is Lord, but there’s a struggle to live out this faith.  The Spirit convicts us, leads us to repentance, to acknowledge our sin and our desire to obey Christ, and leads us to trust Christ to forgive us and stand in our place and continue to change us.

The Spirit is vitally connected to the Word.  The Spirit teaches us to follow Christ and fight the lies of false gods by using the Word of God.  We cannot separate the role of the Bible and the role of the Spirit.  Without the Bible, there’s no ammo.  But without the Spirit, the Word is worthless.  We need the Spirit to change our desires and to help us know and apply the Word of God.  Ephesians 6:17 describes the Word of God as the “sword of the Spirit.”  The Spirit wields the Word of God and allows us to use the truth of God’s Word and His goodness to fight back against the lies of sin.

I hope we see how vital the Spirit is.  Let this lead us to worship God the Father for giving us God the Spirit.

May we continue to lean on your Spirit in our fight against sin, Lord.  May we trust what you’ve done for us, and by the power of the Spirit, grow in godliness.  May we seek to live by the Spirit and not the flesh, until you come back and finish our salvation, bringing us home safely to perfect holiness and joy in your presence.

God bless,
Neal E.