Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus

The Joyful Struggle

I have a theory.

It will sound ludicrous at first: We do not have to fight temptation.

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.


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.

The first 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 the Lord.


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 presence.

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 engaged.

"Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on the earth." (Colossians 3:2)


"The Joyful Struggle" by Matthew Bryan was first published at on November 22nd, 2017. All rights are reserved.