To be honest it amazes me when people refer to things I have said in sermons or talks from some time back. I remember very little of sermons I have heard, and cannot particularly remember my own for that matter. However some truths I have heard over the years seem to stay with me with the passing of those same years. Today I was remembering Rev Eric Alexander speaking about resisting temptation. I have a feeling that he was probably speaking about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He asked a question: In a tug of war who is it that feels the full strain of the fight and the battle? Well, of course, the answer to that is the winning side. The side that falls to the ground have resisted the strain, but not for as long or as fully as those who have stayed on their feet. No one therefore understands the full power of temptation other than Jesus Christ, for as God become fully human, He alone in the history of humanity stands without sin.
I have not written a blog for a while. A few people have been asking the reason for that break! Part of the reason is I feel I owe it to you not to write a blog when I feel my mind is palpably under the influence of some of the medication I am on. As well as that, my own spiritual life has seasons as does yours. For me my illness makes my mind and body tired at some times more than other times, for reasons I don’t fully understand. I have been finding this is a season for my spirit being built up through worship and praying in tongues, so my mind has not been as fruitful to say anything intelligible to you!
However another reason is some of the conversations I have had lately with some believers. From these conversations it seems that for some Christians the idea of “Yield not to temptation” is thought of as being a bit passé. It is as though such a note is considered a bit old fashioned, just a tad religious. In these conversations a cliché is often voiced; “We are only human,” as though holding to any standard of what it means for someone to truly be a follower of Christ is a bit unreasonable, a bit religious or legalistic. To be honest, such conversations have depressed me, genuinely depressed and saddened me, and it has taken a while to get over it.
I am not officially a pastor of any congregation any more, but I still am by calling. My blogs are pastoral in their intent. Paul spoke of the travail, the pains of childbirth he felt as he longed for Christians to come into a place of maturity in Christ. It is a pastoral sort of thing! I don’t know how to put this without it sounding judgemental or naive, but I did not know that much of the church of Jesus Christ was in such a bad way when it comes to living in God honouring, Christ enabling holiness and obedience. As Christians we are not only baptised into the name of the Father, into who God is as Father, but we are baptised into the Son, into the sonship of Jesus. He helps us, gives us the power, the right, the authority to live His life, as sons and daughters of God, through being baptised into the Name of the Holy Spirit, into who The Spirit is as the One who indwells believers and seeks to share His passion with us, namely to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today I read this astonishing verse in Hebrews Chapter 12: “After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” (NLT) Older translations speak of having not yet shed our blood in our struggle against sin. Whoever the writer of Hebrews was, he or she clearly saw it as the norm that a Christian should sooner die than give in when fighting temptation, particularly the temptation to give up on The Way, which is Christ.
Last night I heard in church a phrase in the sermon that has stuck with me. “You are the battleground.” I so want to keep that phrase in mind. It matters who I side with. It matters, the choices I make each day. I wonder if we take seriously and practically the truth that there is a God who is for us but also a devil who is against us and who is out to steal kill and destroy all that is of God within our lives? Each of us is a battleground. Whether we enter into our full Kingdom inheritance here on earth depends on a day by day choosing to stand firm in Christ, resisting temptation. Is there no forgiveness if we fall? Of course there is, but that should not make us accept falling as the standard we are aiming for! “But do you not fall yourself, Kenny?” Yes, but my longing is that by the powerful life giving grace of God and the Spirit of God, my life will become more and more like crystal clear water for Jesus glory. At my best moments I know I want to be as holy as it is possible for a redeemed Kenny to be this side of eternity. “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” So said Robert Murray M’Cheyne. It is true. It is true for all of us, for all of us are ministers of Christ in some shape or form, if we are born again of the Spirit.
So I guess I leave you with three phrases to think about:
“After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.”
“A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”
“You are the battleground.”