Christian Life II

Christian Life II

Topics dealt with in this lesson:

  • Dealing with temptation
  • Separation from the world
  • Christian suffering

Introduction

In BBT leaflet 7 and in this present study we are searching for answers to the question: What does the Bible tell us about being a Christian? How does our Christian faith manifest itself in our daily life?

Just as a reminder: In BBT 7 we dealt with the topics

  • The Victorious Christian lLfe
  • The Spiritual Armour
  • The True Meaning Of The Cross

While working through the next three topics it is of great benefit to read all the given Bible references.

Dealing With Temptation

Adam and Eve lived in paradise. They couldn’t have asked for anything more. Yet, a whisper of temptation to eat a piece of forbidden fruit was enough to shatter everything. We all know this voice, the one that makes forbidden things look so good and pleasant. Satan tries to persuade us that forbidden things won’t do us any harm, or that they are rightfully ours. It is often only as we look back from a place of pain and brokenness that we see; we have fallen again into a trap of temptation.

As Christians, we live in a constant battle against our enemy, Satan. He wants to tempt us away from God and into destruction.

For this reason the Bible says in 1 Pe 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. ”

We are not alone in this battle. Every believer who has walked this earth has also struggled with temptation. Jesus himself was tempted by Satan and He (Jesus) defeated him (Satan).

Sometimes we Christians get discouraged. We know all about Jesus and how he overcame temptation. We marvel at how he was able to silence Satan with the mighty word of God.

We too have the word of God, and yet, sometimes we fail and fall into Satan’s traps and are defeated.

If that happens to me, I ask myself, “Why this failure? What’s wrong with me?” At this stage, I think, the time has come to ask the fundamental question, “Why is it that I am still being tempted on a daily basis? I believe that I am a new creation because I am born again! I also believe that my heart has been and is being cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ! In God’s eyes I am righteous and holy! God has given me a new desire to please and follow him and do only what honours his name! So why is it that I am still being tempted on a daily basis? Why is it that I am so often plagued with unholy thoughts? Am I really still so wicked? Oh, Lord, what’s wrong with me?”

Nothing, really! However, we must not forget that we still live in enemy land. We have declared war on Satan and the whole range of worldly lusts. And Satan is not at all pleased with our decisions.

We are tempted by Satan

Satan hits back by tempting us as hard and as often as he can. To be attacked – that is to be tempted – is not sin. Jesus, our great high priest sympathises with our weaknesses. While walking here on earth he was tempted by Satan in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin (see Heb 4:15).

An old Chinese proverb says, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can surely keep them from building a nest in your hair!”

We cannot stop evil thoughts and desires passing through our minds but we need not dwell upon them nor accept them. Otherwise they will lead us to sin. In other words we need to defend ourselves by fighting these evil thoughts and desires.

We are tempted from within us

I think we all understand only too well that Satan and his demons are tempting us. It means that we are spiritually attacked by outside forces. However the Bible teaches us that we too are tempted from within us by our own evil desires. This is hard to understand since we believe that Christ made us to be a new creation. We have been justified by faith. Now we are children of God and belong to God’s family. We have received a new and clean heart washed by the blood of the Lamb. We have received a new spirit that wants to follow God and to please Him alone.

However we must understand too that we have not yet received new bodies. Our bodies are still the same we used to have when we rebelled against God. We still have eyes and ears and mouths that belong to the fallen creation, spoilt by Adam and Eve’s sin. Whether we like it or not, while living here on earth we have to put up with this body of ours. Some Bible translators call the nature of our body “flesh” or “corrupt nature” or “sinful nature”.

The Bible acknowledges our handicap and states that it causes us constant trouble.

Gal 5:17 reads, “For the sinful nature (or flesh) desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

In other words, the Bible states clearly that there is a constant struggle and fight taking place within us.

Who will win this constant battle?

The Spirit of God or our flesh (sinful nature)?

Praise be to God! He shows us how to overcome temptations and how to live a victorious life.

“So I (Paul) say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Gal 5:16).

If we live a life filled and directed by the Holy Spirit, we do not have to please our flesh with its evil desires anymore. We do not have to say “yes” to temptations anymore. As Christians we are in this process of sanctification and learn to live in obedience to the Spirit.

Carefully read the following Bible verse and try to grasp its important message. It shows us clearly where temptation stops and where sin begins.

 “When someone is tempted, he should not say, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ because God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Instead, each person is tempted by his own desire, being lured and trapped by it. When that desire becomes pregnant, it gives birth to sin; and when that sin grows up, it gives birth to death” (Jas 1:13-15 ISV).

A woman can become pregnant when she has sex with a man. The two come together and new life starts. Likewise the Bible says that when we are tempted and say “yes” to temptation, we become pregnant with sin. In other words, we have “conceived”. Maybe within seconds we “give birth” to sin, and sin’s wages is still “death”.

Praise God, we do not have to give in to temptation and say “yes” anymore. Let me use an example to illustrate it.

A stranger walks up to you and says, “Recently I lent you $100. Now I want you to immediately return this money to me!” You look in amazement at that stranger and tell him, “Man, I don’t know you! I am not your debtor! I owe you nothing! Get out of my way!”

This is exactly what Ro 8:12 teaches us, “Therefore, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (MKJV).

NIV and other translations say that we have no obligation to the flesh (sinful nature). There is absolutely no need and no reason why we should give in to temptations. In the same way as there is no need for me to return $100 to that man mentioned above because he never lent me any money. As a follower of Christ, I am a debtor to Christ. I am not a debtor to my old past and sinful ways anymore. Now I have an obligation to follow Christ and His Spirit. I have no obligation to please my flesh (sinful nature) anymore.

Ro 8:13 uses another picture to show us how we can overcome our flesh (sinful nature) with its temptations,

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the (Holy) Spirit you put to death (crucify) the misdeeds of the body, you will live”.

We can bring all our temptations to the cross of Christ and leave them there with Christ. Christ is able to deal with all our sins and temptations.

Here is another illustration used by a small girl. She was asked what she would do when temptations come. She replied, “Temptations are like Satan knocking at the door of my heart. When I see him there, I tell Jesus to answer the door!” Simple – and yet so effective.

Separation From The World

Just before Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane to be arrested by the high priest’s guards, he prayed to his Father. His disciples’ future and well-being was uttermost on his heart. Here are some of Jesus’ thoughts he committed to his heavenly Father,

“My prayer is not that you take them (the disciples) out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17:15-17).

Jesus fully acknowledges that we human beings have to live in this world with all its joy and pain. However Jesus reminds us that we Christians are not of this world. What is the difference between being “in” the world and being “of” the world? Maybe you have come across the following explanation.

As long as a boat swims on the water, there is nothing wrong with it. However when the water comes into the boat, the situation becomes dangerous and might end tragically with boat and people drowning in the sea.

The Bible states clearly that Satan is the prince of this world (Jn 16:11). He has polluted this world with his rebellious and adulterous behaviour. The Bible exhorts us Christians,

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15).

This does not mean that we should not love or enjoy nature with its beautiful mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, the sea and all animals and plants. Neither does it mean that we should not love and enjoy our families nor our daily lives with all its various activities.

But what it does mean, is, that we should not adopt Satan’s way of life with all its sinful pleasures and standards. The Bible spells it out clearly when using the expression “world”.

“For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn 2:16-17).

To be separated from the world is a real privilege

“God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14).

Since God himself has rescued us from Satan’s kingdom with all its blackest darkness, why would we want to return to it again? Why would we want to leave the kingdom of God’s dear Son with all its brightness and peace and joy and return to a life of sin and shame? No Christian in his/her right mind would want to do this!

Nevertheless, God, being aware of man’s weakness and Satan’s cunning temptations, issues in his Holy Word some warnings we should take notice of. Here are some important reminders.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Co 6:14a).

A yoke is a shaped piece of wood fixed across the necks of two animals, especially cattle. Ropes connect the yoke to a cart or plough. The Bible teaches Israeli farmers to use two of the same kind of animals only, when doing work. “Do not plough with an ox (male cow) and a donkey” (Dt 22:10).

The spiritual meaning for us today is that we as Christians should not be bound together with unbelievers, e.g, in marriage or in business.

Examples: It is not profitable for a Christian to own a car together with a non-believing brother. What if the unbeliever uses the car to transport people to drinking parties or other sinful activities?

It is not advisable that a trade store yokes (binds) together a Christian and a non-Christian. What if the unbelieving partner wants to sell cigarettes and alcoholic drinks and wants to keep the store open on Sundays?

Please, read what 2 Co 6:14-18 says.

Other activities where the Bible appeals to our spiritual judgement

In our own family, at school or work we have no choice but to live and work together with non-Christians around us.

However when it comes to our spare time we have more freedom in choosing the activities we want to do and the people we want to spend our time with. There are many activities involving our culture which the Bible does not comment on, e.g. traditional activities or sports, hobbies, entertainment and so on.

The following questions may help us decide whether we should get involved in certain activities and mix with certain people or not:

  • Would I be happy to bring Jesus along with me to the activity, or would this activity hinder me from following the Lord Jesus wholeheartedly?
  • By pursuing a certain activity would I have the opportunity to extend the kingdom of God? Will God be glorified through me and my activity?
  • Does an activity take up too much time and too much money, making it hard for me to attend prayer meetings and church services regularly or tithe my income?
  • Would I be strong enough to live up to my ethical standards when I mix with people who deny Jesus Christ and his lordship?

If we ask the Lord honestly and sincerely he will guide our steps to holiness and fruitfulness! We will also be willing to “cut off our hand that causes us to sin and throw it away” (Mt 5:29-30).

CHRISTIAN SUFFERING

Here, I am not talking about suffering caused by sickness, bereavement, spiritual bondage, natural disasters or wars. Here, I am only concerned with suffering in the name of Jesus. This topic is closely related to what we said previously on temptation and separation. Some Christians say we suffer the consequences of our own sins, and the righteous should not suffer. In fact, it is often the other way round: We all have fallen into sin because we were unwilling to suffer for Christ. We were unwilling to stand up for Christ and what the Bible stands for. A Christian is called to suffer for doing good (1 Pe 2:20-21, 1 Pe 3:13-14).

The Lord really needs to open our spiritual eyes to realize that:

Suffering for Christ is a privilege

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Php 1:29).

Suffering for Christ will keep us from sinning

“Christ suffered here on earth. Now you must be ready to suffer as he did, because suffering shows that you have stopped sinning. It means you have turned from your own desires and want to obey God for the rest of your life” (1 Pe 1:1-2, CEV).

“Road junctions” in our daily lives

Every day we come to “road junctions”. We have to decide whether we want to turn to the left or to the right.

Example: We meet some “friends” who invite us to a birthday party attended also by loose girls or men who are known for excess drinking and picking fights. Do we want to continue our walk on the road called “suffering” or on the road called “sinning”? It is our decision! If we do not want to attend this particular birthday party, our “friends” might mock and ridicule us and call us all sorts of names. But, praise God, on the road of suffering we stay victorious! However if we are unwilling to suffer for Christ we will find ourselves at the party. Soon we will be surrounded by fierce temptations – and no wonder if we commit adultery or get violent! This is why the Bible urges us to be willing to suffer for Christ. It will protect us from falling into traps laid down by the evil one.

Suffering for Christ will keep us separated from the world

”Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (Heb 13:12-13).

As a result we might lose old friends. As people in business we might lose customers. At times we will feel lonely, not attending parties and nightclubs anymore.

Let us copy the shining and brave example of Moses described in Heb 11:24-26.

Suffering for Christ will decide in all eternity on the glory we will share in heaven

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Ro 8:17).

Let us close these three topics with the tremendous promise that Paul gave to his young fellow worker Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Ti 1:7).

Robert Oppliger