As we move through the season of Lent, it is good to take a hard look at our lives and all the ways we fail to live out our faith. Not to punish ourselves, but to deepen our commitment to the way of Jesus, if we don’t look at our struggles honestly than we cannot never grow into the kind of person God would have us be.
Last Sunday, I looked at sin. Sin is not my favorite subject. I would much rather reflect on love and grace than concern myself with sin. Yet, I am challenging myself this year to look hard and deep at what it means to follow Jesus. I am being saved. I have chosen Jesus. That is only the beginning. I want to explore and discover what it means really to follow Jesus. If you want this too, maybe this reflection will help.
Temptation is our theme today.
All of us have been tempted by something. It could be as mundane as doughnut or as harmful as an illegal substance or turning to another person or video screen instead of working on a current conflict. We could even be tempted to turn from the way of Jesus due to some life disappointment. Each day, cravings and detours beg us to go against the good, true, and beautiful.
I have been tempted too. I have stumbled. I have had victories. I am fully committed to following Jesus, yet there have been times I have stumbled.
Our temptations should not stop us but should embolden us. It is risky to follow Jesus. Often, we will have to go against everything and everyone we have ever known to stay faithful to our faith commitment. Even the initial step to respond to the love and grace of God found in Christ Jesus will cause to turn from all we know.
Jesus calls us to come and die so that we may be born to eternal life in God.
We may be tempted to go back to our old life. To give up Jesus. The old way that seems so tempting and easy. The world will give you every reason to give up eternity as wishful thinking. We may be accused as heretic or as hateful. I have been there. Saying yes to Jesus was risky. I was raised Mormon and by becoming a Christian and taking steps to become a Pastor, I have had relationships ruptured and been pressured to give it up and return.
It’s not easy. It shouldn’t be though. Dying to self is not meant to be easy. It’s costly, yet the reward is life to the full.
Paul writes in the tenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthian Church, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
God will not let you face anything alone. All the things we face we can overcome. God lavishes his faith, love, and grace on us to equip and empower us the live the life we were created to live. Jesus died, so that we might live life fully. We are not alone in our temptations. Jesus faced sin, yet was without sin. Jesus knows all that we face and wants us to live with him for the glory of God. Praying that God will lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, means as we face temptation God will be with us and lead us through it that we will move from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ.
James in the first chapter of his epistle writes, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I don’t about you, but that does not seem like joy. I don’t see my difficulties as joy. I have faced the dark and while I will not give up, I am not quite there at rejoicing in my troubles. Yet James is saying that we will ultimately find joy in our troubles. By embracing them, our faith will flourish and teach us to endure. True patience will help us finish the long journey strong and complete. I want to finish strong; I want to face temptations and sin and overcome them.
I trust that God will bless me in my temptations. As A W Tozer said, “God cannot bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply. God actually rises up storms of conflict in order to accomplish that deeper work in our character.”
Therefore, when we face temptations and trails don’t think you are being punished or that God hates you, but know that God loves you and is testing you, so that He might bless you greatly.
Grace and Peace
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