Sin and Temptation: A Lifelong Struggle
by: Al and Lisa Robertson
In our latest book, Desperate Forgiveness, we discussed another lifelong spiritual discipline that aids us in living a life of forgiveness — that is, understanding that temptation is a lifelong struggle. We like to tell people that just because you are through with Satan doesn’t mean that he’s through with you. He is relentless — he never gives up on us.
The good news is that neither does our Father in heaven. And the even better news is that he is far more powerful and capable of sustaining us than Satan ever will be. For those who put their trust and hope in Jesus Christ who was crucified and raised from the dead to save us from our own tendency to self-destruct, victory is assured.
However, we still have that fleshly side us — that old sinful nature that abides inside of us. And at the urging of the evil one, that nature is constantly trying to resurrect itself even though we put the old man or woman to death when we came to Christ.
Maybe that’s why Jesus said that his followers should commit to taking up their cross “daily.” The Hebrews writer admonishes us to encourage one another “daily” as we look forward to the Lord’s return. Paul said that he “beat” his body so that his fleshly nature would be submissive to the Lord.
Yes, we need to be aware of the fact that temptation is always lurking in the air around us because we don’t want to be blindsided by things that would destroy us. But we also need to know that God never promised to be a Father to people who had somehow achieved perfection. It’s not okay to sin; grace isn’t a license to do what we please. But it’s also true that God’s mercy is for people who need it — for people who mess up — for people who sin. You know, people like you and me.
Do you remember the two men praying that Jesus juxtaposed with one another? One of them prayed from a position of strength: “Father I’m so glad that I’m not like that ‘sinner’ over there.” The other one simply hung his head and begged God to forgive him for his filthy life. Ironically, it was not the “good” man that received accolades from Jesus, but the one who admitted his moral failures. The one who felt the dirtiest is the one who received the cleansing.
This is important because one of Satan’s dirty tricks is to remind us of our most recent failures. Well, he’s pretty good at reminding us of long past failures too. And when he does this, his purpose is to plant the seed of doubt in our minds — that God couldn’t possibly love someone who’s messed up as flagrantly and completely as we have.
What he doesn’t want you to remember is that walking with Jesus isn’t a one-and-done kind of journey. It’s just that — a journey. There’s a destination in mind, but it takes a lifetime to get there. And in the meantime, Jesus is always present to pick us back up after we fall.
So here’s the bottom line: In your striving to be someone who dispenses and receives forgiveness, you aren’t going to be perfect. And sometimes you are going to find it hardest to forgive yourself — sometimes for just having a tempting thought. But God is merciful and loving and the last thing he wants is for you and me to give up over some failure to be perfect.
Remember this promise: “If we walk in the Light as he is in the Light, the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” This promise is for those who stumble along the way even though they have a mighty desire to please God in every way.
Walk with him, and allow his sacrifice to take care of the rest. It’s a good way to live.