Splinters

I don’t know about you but sometimes I struggle. Yeah, I sincerely love Jesus and have given myself to him, trusting him, seeking him, consistent in fellowship, service, prayer and bible study; but, I still have areas in my life in which I struggle. If you’re like me; it starts with a thought. The “splinter” enters the mind, and there are times when I let it fester to the point that it brings about the disgusting pus of sin. BUT all praise be to God, as I walk with him, I am experiencing the truth that Jesus not only forgives sin, but is perfectly willing to share with us his victory over sin!

The reality is that as believers in Christ, God has declared us justified. Positionally so to speak, we are in Jesus, holy and blameless. Experientially, we are being conformed to the image of the Son as the Holy Spirit works within us on a daily basis. We exist in the tension between what God has done for us in Christ, what he is doing in us as we grow in him, and what he is going to do on the day salvation is fully realized.  As we grow in grace, we find that we no longer live a lifestyle of habitually practicing sin; but, we are still very much capable of sinning. Because we have been born again by God’s Spirit and given a new nature, we are grieved by our sin as we sincerely long to be perfect, complete, and mature as he has called us to be. I haven’t got there yet, but I’ve learned a few things and I’d like to share one of them with you now.

Regarding that “splinter in the mind,” the Bible tells us, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14, 15 ESV) You can see the progression: temptation, sin, and ultimately death. I believe it’s usually at the point of that first thought (temptation) that the battle’s won or lost. The verses on our victory over sin are too numerous to cite here (google ‘em), but it is evident within scripture that, because of Jesus, we are/can be victorious. The thing is, when that first temptation comes we have all kind of twisted, pseudo-religious ways by which we respond. When tempted, have you ever offered up some kind of half-hearted token prayer like, “Lord please help me.” when you know you plan on giving in? Have you ever purposely hardened your heart to the voice of the Spirit, knowing you could escape temptation, but turned a deaf ear to the call to prayer because really you wanted to give in and didn’t want him to stop you? Sadly, I have to answer yes to both of those questions. “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When temptation comes, you must understand that you have been given victory in Christ. At the first thought, as soon as you feel that “splinter” enter your mind; call upon the Lord in sincere prayer. Take to him the temptation that has beset you! By the grace that he has given so freely to you, BE WILLING to let him give you victory. Our problem is that sometimes we simply aren’t willing for him to do it. Cry out to him understanding that “God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” The only prayer you may be able to muster is, “Lord, I’m willing to be made willing.” but willing he will make you! As you come to him in the hour of temptation, he will fill you freshly with his Spirit through whom “you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature.” My friend, we are victorious in Christ!

I remember being a kid and getting splinters from time to time. I knew Mom could get them out. She would heat the needle until it glowed and then carefully, lovingly extract the thing that was causing me so much pain. You know, I remember there were times I wouldn’t go to her, even though I knew she could help, because I was afraid. Looking back now, that seems really foolish, but don’t we do the same thing regarding the splinters of temptation that are in us. We know Jesus is more than able to help, but for whatever reason; we don’t allow him to. Foolish, huh?  I’ll leave you with this:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

The Way of the Cross

I think if you look at the way in which Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness you’ll find that perhaps his primary objective was to circumvent the cross. As I have thought about this, and considered the current climate in the Church today, I believe that the body of Christ is being tempted in much the same way: There are other ways than the “way of the cross” to achieve God’s purposes.

Jesus  had come, assuming the brokenness of his creation, and this meant going to Jerusalem, and dying on a cross (Matt. 16:21, 20:18; Mark 10:33; Luke 18:31).  After being baptized by John, the Bible tells us that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, and that the Devil tempted him. Jesus had been fasting in this barren place, he was hungry and tired, and it was at this point (and probably all during the 40 days) that the Tempter confronted him.

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” The Devil is telling the Church the same things today. The Tempter comes and says to the body of Christ, “Look guys if you really are the Church, if you really have his Spirit and are full of God’s power, use it to meet your needs. Hey, you’ve got needs and rights, the Lord wouldn’t want you to suffer. Use that faith of yours to manifest what you need to sustain you. It’ll increase your faith when you see your needs met. After all, you’re no good to any one else if you don’t survive.”

The enemy knows that like Jesus we are to be submitted to the purposes and the will of God. Like Christ, we are to willingly lay down our rights, denying ourselves, existing off of the very “bread” that comes from having heard God speak. Satan knew that if he could get Jesus to give in at this point he was one step closer in diverting him from the cross. And the Tempter seeks to do the same thing to us.

“Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

   ‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

“Jesus,” the Devil was saying, “the cross can be avoided altogether with one big miracle; just show them who you are.” We are offered the same alternative today. The Enemy comes and says, “Hey, this cross business is going to be really painful and messy. There’s no need for you to suffer like that. What better way to get people to see than a miracle! They’ll believe, and you don’t have to suffer! Let’s concentrate on miracles, spiritual gifts, and stuff like that. Ah, think about it. A ‘bull’s-eye’ word of prophecy would blow their minds. They’d have to believe.

Here again we see the enemy offering an alternative to the way of the cross.  The Church is being tempted to bypass the way of the cross for the miraculous.

“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’”

Here we see the devil again tempting the Lord to bypass the way of the cross. He tells Jesus that he’ll give him all the nations if Jesus will simply worship him. “Look Jesus, if it’s nations you want, I can give them to you. There doesn’t need to be a cross, just do it my way, and they are yours.” We learn in scripture that Satan’s way is primarily the flesh way. When Peter told Jesus that he (Jesus) should not have to suffer and die, Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” See, Jesus knew his was the way of the cross, and this way is always contrary to what man or Satan would pursue. I think the Church is tempted (regarding the nations) in much the same way today.

The Devil comes and whispers, “Listen Church, no need for this cross business, take the nations by influence and power. Take over the political arena, get the right laws passed, infiltrate the culture, and I’m out of business.”

We are called, as followers of Jesus, to the way of the cross. It is in our weakness that the strength of God is made manifest. As we lay down our lives, take up our cross, and follow him, the life of Jesus and power of God will be made known. Are we to do justice, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and disciple the nations? You betcha! But, these things are the result of the way of the cross, not a substitute for it. Remember when Jesus fed the 5,000? Did it make everyone a believer? Did they all repent and follow him? No, they tried to take him by force and make him king. What did Jesus do? He left, and then later rebuked them for not truly wanting him. They were only seeking to use him. Jesus had his face set towards Jerusalem and the cross.

The Apostle Paul knew that the way of the cross was the way to really touch people for Jesus. He told the Corinthians that true ministers are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.” (II Cor. 4:10-12)  Friends if we are ever to truly know the power of Jesus’ resurrection we must first be conformed to the image of his death. This is the way of the cross, and the means by which we are to make disciples.