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Posts tagged ‘besetting sins’

3 Things God Never Promised

SOURCE:  Ray Deck III/Faithlife

In Scripture, God makes a lot of promises. He keeps them all, but there are a few things he never promised that might surprise you. Here are three; can you think of others?

Justice on earth

God keeps score. He promises to heal the wounded, reward the faithful, and punish the wicked (2 Corinthians 5:10). But he doesn’t promise to do any of that until after heaven and earth are remade without the curse of sin. He promises justice. He does not promise swift justice.

God is patient with us all (2 Peter 3:9). That’s a great comfort until we realize that he’s also patient with those who harm, oppress, and offend us.

To my regular frustration, Scripture never gives permission for us to enforce our own interpretation of justice (Romans 12:9). Instead, we’re told to wait on God’s perfect plan to be carried out on his perfect time (Psalm 37:7).

Comfort

Many television preachers have built a personal empire on the false promise that obeying God will lead to material prosperity and success. But God never promised his followers an easy life. In fact, he warned us to expect the opposite (John 16:33)—hardship and persecution from the world, and even correction from his own hand (Hebrews 12:7).

The Christian life is not a comfortable life, but it is a fulfilling one. (Click to tweet)

Instant change

I love hearing stories of miraculous life transformation. They fuel my faith in the transformative power of God’s Word more than anything else. But they also plant a desire for the same sort of instant change in my own life. Yet still I still wrestle with entrenched habits and besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1). Much as I love to see instant change in others, and long to experience it myself, I must remember that God has promised to change me, but hasn’t promised to do it instantly.

He has promised to complete the transformative work that he’s begun in me (Philippians 1:6), a promise that implies this change is going to take a while.

Battle Plan Against Sin –> Act The Miracle

SOURCE: Adapted from a work by  John Piper

The battle plan

The link between the cross and the conquered sin in my life is my Holy-Spirit-empowered will. And that empowering by the Spirit is blood bought. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:5-6).

In other words, God intends that part of our experience of sanctification be the consciouswilled, opposition to specific sins in our lives. I only say “part” of our experience of sanctification because this is not the whole work of sanctification. In some areas of sin, God simply takes away the desire and the temptation is gone, and we don’t have to fight it any more.

Now here is what God showed [me . . .]: For decades I have applied this battle plan to sexual temptation but hardly at all to the sins of selfishness, anger, self-pity, blaming, and sullenness. I have engaged my will head-on with sexual lust. I have heard Jesus say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29). Nobody spontaneously tears out his eye. That is an act of will overcoming all kinds of natural disinclination. That’s what I do when any illicit sexual thought tries to gain the ascendancy in my mind.

I go on the attack with A.N.T.H.E.M.:

  • AVOID.
  • Say NO! within five seconds.
  • TURN to something magnificent, like Christ crucified.
  • HOLD the pure thing in the mind until the temptation is gone.
  • ENJOY the greater pleasure of the blood-bought promises of God.
  • MOVE on to meaningful Christ-exalting activity.

There is nothing passive in my will when the lion of lust comes out of the bushes. I don’t lie down and wait for a miracle. act the miracle. I will explain that phrase in just a moment.

What I realized was that I was not applying any of this same gospel vigilance—what Peter O’Brien calls “continuous, sustained, strenuous effort”—against my most besetting sins. I was strangely passive, victim-like.

I had the unarticulated sense (mistakenly) that these sins (unlike sexual lust) should be defeated more spontaneously—with less direct use of my will. It should all happen naturally from the inside out. And if I tried to attack them with my will the way I did sexual lust, it would produce external conformity, not internal change. But I never let that thought stop me from attacking lust.

The text that broke though my inconsistency was Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so
now, not only as in my presence but much more in my
absence, work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and
to work for his good pleasure.

Why should there be “fear and trembling” as I attack my sin and bring about salvation from self-pity?

The reason given in the text is not a threat. It’s a gift.

Work to kill your sin, and will to kill your sin, and do it with fear and trembling because God Almighty—Maker of heaven and earth, Redeemer, Justifier, Sustainer, Father, Lover—is so close to you that your working and willing is his working and willing.

Tremble at this breathtaking thought.

God Almighty is in you. God is the one in you willing. God is the one in you working. Your “continuous, sustained, strenuous” effort is not only being carried out in the presence of the all-holy God, but is the very continuous, sustained, strenuous effort of God himself.

I am not waiting for a miracle. I am acting a miracle.

God is the decisive cause, but my will is the agent. And it becomes the agent in obedience to the command “work!” For in your working, God is working.

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This is an excerpt from the revised edition of  Brothers, We Are Not Professionals  (B&H Publishing Group, 2013).

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