The Joyful Struggle
I have a theory.
It will sound ludicrous at first: We do not have to fight
Or to put it another way: Temptation can become simply
a reminder to instantly and easily enter into divine
bliss. Jesus came so that we might "have life more
abundant," not so that we could agonize all the time
about the possibility of sin.
I wager that every Christian has
experienced divine bliss. For one example, a good friend
spoke about a prayer meeting she attended, in which
the Holy Spirit's presence seemed remarkably strong:
"As soon as we began to pray, we were there. You know
how it usually takes time to enter into the Lord's
presence? But just as soon as we started praying, we
were there." Many Christians call such divine bliss
"the presence of the Lord," yet He is never
far away. We create our own spiritual distance from
God. We sing or pray, "Come, Lord. Fill this place."
Yet He never leaves His children, nor empties our
surroundings of Himself. It is we who numb ourselves
to the glory of His presence.
We numb ourselves to the glory of
His presence, when we substitute worldly delights or
worldly fears for the joy of the Lord and the fear of
the Lord. Such worldly delights and worldly fears
precede temptation, because they cause us to put on
the our old identities and unintentionally deny our
second birth. Temptation attracts the old man, not the
new one. Those who surrender to King Jesus have been
born of the Holy Spirit, and nothing born of the Holy
Spirit will desire sin. God does not desire sin, nor
do the children of God.
But someone will protest: "Paul
said he sinned in Romans 7 and practiced sin!" As Paul
described the struggle against sin in Romans 7, he
never claimed to desire it. He lamented that he did
not practice what he wanted and that he practiced what
he did not want. Paul distinguished in that passage
between the old man (the flesh) and the new "inner"
man. The old man says, "I am of flesh, sold into
bondage to sin" (Romans 7:14 NASB).
By his deadly rebellion, the first
Adam sold into bondage every one of us who is born of
his flesh. By His deadly obedience, the Last Adam
ransomed, rescuing from that bondage every one of us
who is born of His Spirit (Romans 5:12-21). So when
Paul claims to be "flesh, sold into bondage," he has
put on the old identity in some way. Yet he retained
the new identity too in Romans 7:14-25, displaying the
morbid struggle of born again Christians when they
wear the old identity.
THE JOYFUL STRUGGLE
Around the world, across every
denomination and tradition, Christians claim that
strange claim - to have been born again. Yet too many
of us fail to make daily use of our second birth,
which Jesus and His apostles commanded us to make use
of every day. We do not have to live in the morbid
struggle of Romans 7. If we will obey King Jesus'
command in Luke 9:23 and Paul's commands in Romans
6:11-19, then the morbid struggle against temptation
can become the joyful reaction to temptation.
message of the apostles is
the victorious kingship of Jesus. Their second
message is the command to prayerfully
identify ourselves daily as born again. Their third
message is to walk in the spirit (Romans
8), synonymous with abiding in the Vine (John
15). As we learn from the Holy Spirit how to
walk in His delights, we can begin seeing
temptations as reminders that we have slipped
into the old identity. Such reminders (worldly
temptations and worldly fears) can prompt us
with the Holy Spirit's help to put on the new
identity once again and thereby to delight in
Every moment of
every day, Christians can experience bliss, a
better high than any drug or alcohol can offer.
Paul commanded us to become inebriated in
Ephesians 5:18. If every day, I ask the Holy
Spirit's help and then tell God that everything
He said in Romans 6:11 is true, then I come to
realize that I really have been born again and I
no longer want to sin. Therefore when I feel
tempted, I realize that it is not the true self
who is tempted, but that old man.
In order to feel a
desire to sin, I must have put on the old
identity. I got caught up in worldly concerns,
and forgot who I was. Temptation can prompt us
to obey Luke 9:23 and Romans 6:11 and Romans
6:13 and Romans 6:19 and Romans 12:1-2 Romans
13:14 and Ephesians 4:20-24 and Colossians
3:1-17. We can pause and set our minds on
indwelling God and revel in His glorious
Such is ours:
divine bliss, in a moment, without effort, being
trained by the Holy Spirit to enjoy the intimacy
which is ours at all times, but all too rarely
your mind on things above, not on things that are on the
earth." (Colossians 3:2)
Joyful Struggle" by Matthew Bryan was
first published at www.matthewbryan.net
on November 22nd, 2017. All
rights are reserved.