Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord who rules and reigns over all, is subduing us more and more to Himself, and is restraining and conquering all His and our enemies!
I remember reading an article not too long ago by a pastor counseling people tempted to various sins, including pornography and homosexuality. In this article the pastor explained how people in such sin, and pastors who counsel them, need to understand that these will be life-long struggles and temptations for the individuals currently facing them.
Throughout the evangelical world, including in several Reformed denominations, bloggers and book authors are engaged in heated battle over the idea that sexual attraction to someone of the same sex is not a sin but rather an acceptable attraction within Christianity. The term often given to people with this attraction is the term “gay Christian.”
It is becoming more common for a Christian to be identified, not by their Savior, but by their sin. In all of Scripture and church history, one is hard pressed to find a time where a Christian, one who is a believer in and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, has found identity in a sin he or she is battling. There is likely a close connection between the sin of same sex attraction and the desire to be identified by it, but that is a discussion for another time. How should we as Christians think of the contrast between struggling against sin and our identity in Christ Jesus our Lord? Should Christians think of those particular sins, which they knowingly battle regularly, as sins that will be equally tempting for the rest of their life? Should Christians give in and stop wrestling against prevailing sins? What are we to do?
Our Lord Jesus Christ told us how we should think about these questions when He taught His disciples how to pray. The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This great petition answers and addresses so many of the issues that are perplexing so many churches and so many Christians today when it comes to sin. Jesus tells us to pray to God our Father that we would not be led into temptation but that we would be delivered from evil. How can we pray this when sin seems at times to rage so freely within us?
At least part of the reason we face such challenging questions about sin is because the truth of Christ and His work has been so weakened in the preaching of many churches around the country and around the world. If pastors are telling people to expect to be dealing with the same temptations all their lives, they are diminishing the power of the Holy Spirit in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What did Christ accomplish for His people? What did Jesus come to do?
Remember Christ’s earthly ministry. He did three primary things in His work: 1) He preached, calling all men to repent and believe; 2) He healed the sick and cast out demons; and 3) He performed great wonders showing that all creation is under His powerful hand. Why did Jesus heal the sick? Why did He perform great miracles such as calming a great storm and feeding 5,000 people? Was it not to show a great truth? “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Luke 5:24). Jesus performed great signs and wonders so that all men might believe on Him as He truly is, the Christ, the Savior of His people, that all men might know that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. And what happens when Jesus saves sinners such as you and me?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (I Cor. 5:17).
“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” (I John 5:18).
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:15-‐16).
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:4-‐5).
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8).
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:9-‐11).
Brothers and sisters, when we are saved, something happens to us. The old man is killed. We are not the old creation but a new creation. We are no longer of the darkness but we are of the light. We are no longer slaves but children of the living God. We are not members with sin but members of the body of Christ. So then, we can no longer be identified with sin, which is darkness, but we are identified with the light, which is Christ Jesus. There is no overlap. The terms “gay Christian”, “drunk Christian”, “swindling Christian”, and the like are oxymorons. That which is darkness cannot be the Christian’s identity. Christ has made us, who once were dead in sin, to be alive in Him.
And yet, we still wrestle with sin. The things of the world still tempt us. Some of you reading this may face that fact like I do and wonder at times if you can truly be a Christian. Perhaps you cry out like the apostle in Romans 6:24 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And if you do, you must also cry out, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord…there is therefore now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ Jesus has destroyed these prevailing sins in our lives and has told us to pray to Him, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
There are many remedies against sin in our lives. Many good books have been written about these remedies. Primarily, God has given us His Word and Spirit and has told us to pray to Him for His help. This sixth and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer is teaching us to ask God to keep us from being tempted to sin. And it also teaches us to ask the Lord to support and deliver us from sin when we are tempted. He who has told us to pray this petition will answer it for His children.
Dear brothers and sisters, do not fall for the device of the devil that says, give in to sin, you cannot defeat it. Rather, pray to God your Father that He might deliver you from temptation and evil, that he might remove all sinful tendencies and temptations. Even the most scandalous temptation can be conquered through Jesus Christ who became sin for His people that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Those who are now called and identified by Christ’s name once were identified by very serious sins. But we were washed, justified, sanctified, cleansed by the washing of regeneration by the Spirit. So then, pray to God to deliver from temptation and He who is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or think can and will defeat the worst of sinful temptations within you. He who has called you to pray for deliverance from temptation will surely do it!
Almighty and ever-living God, our Father
Thank You for sending Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins.
Thank You for regenerating us by Your Holy Spirit.
Thank You for conquering sin and the darkness that we once were in
And bringing us into the glorious light of Jesus Christ
Our Father, we confess how prone we are to sin and temptation
At times we feel overwhelmed with the temptations that so easily beset us
But You, O God, are great and full of power and mercy
Have mercy upon us and lead us not into temptation to sin
May You make us to flee, even as Joseph, from every opportunity to sin
Cause us to hate that which is of the darkness and to love that which is of the light
We ask that You would deliver and support us when we are tempted
That we might not be given over to any sin
But rather delivered and freed from it
And brought to repentance and sorrow for our sin
Build us up in all holiness, righteousness, and truth
Even as we see the great day of the Lord approaching
We pray this trusting in You to fulfill this request
For it is in accordance with Your will
So we pray it in Jesus’ name Amen.
Ben Stahl, Elder