Diane Staudte was quietly respectable; the organist for her church, a registered nurse – and she is a murderer! First, she killed her husband, then her son, and finally attempted to murder her daughter. The story is stunning, shocking, evil dressed in middle American clothing. This woman’s self-professed motive left me amazed in the worse kind of way. She just got tired of caring for those in her family that she felt were ‘pests.’ That is depravity. Even as we shake our heads at her sin, let remember that temptation is common to us all. I have heard all kinds of confessions over the years. And yes, I know the lure of temptation, too.
Paul reminds us that “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.” Tempted by doubt? Others have experienced it. Feeling the grip of greed? That is as common as a cold. Tugged toward selfishness? Yes, that is an ordinary kind of temptation, too. Some people conclude that since temptation is ‘normal,’ that is, a common human experience, we need not fight it, unless is one of the so-called ‘big sins.’ But, the passage I quoted a few lines ago completes the thought: “God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT)
Our natural response to temptation is usually two-fold – “I must be a terrible person,” and “I will redouble my efforts to resist this thing.” Tell me, how is that working out for you? Have you succeeded in eliminating temptation by focusing on it? I doubt it. More likely, you have a track record of broken promises and prayers of remorse and repentance. In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul describes the frustration of knowing about a better way to live without being able to actually achieve it. He writes “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” (Romans 7:21-23, NLT)
Before we hasten justify ourselves and make peace with whatever it is that trips us up, let’s see the further wisdom here. “I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 7:24-8:2, The Message)
It sounds too good be true, doesn’t it? There is freedom from guilt. Condemnation need not overwhelm us. Temptation can be defeated. How? By the intervention of the Spirit who enters our lives through faith in Jesus Christ. The one thing that the devil does not want us to believe is that God loves us, right where we are. Our natural mind is trained to think that only when we are “good enough” will we enjoy the love of our Father. But the truth is that “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8, NLT) If we really want to rob temptation of its power to control us, we will focus on His love, live authentically before Him and others, acknowledging our temptation and our sin as well as His amazing grace.
“Ah, come on, Jerry. You know that can’t be true. We need more rules. We need more accountability. We need to raise the stakes by heating up the fire of Hell.” No, friend, that is the natural mind speaking, not the wisdom of God! Sin cannot be regulated out of existence- not in society, not in you, nor in me. When we write more laws, we create more offenders. “All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.” (Romans 5:20, The Message)
Here is the truth. Whether your struggle is with some ‘ordinary’ sin – selfishness, gossip, for example – or much more dramatic – Christ Jesus is the answer. Of course, you will have to engage in the struggle. Understanding ourselves with the help of godly counsel is important. Coming to grips with the ways of the mind and the lure of sin cannot be avoided. But, baseline, victory comes through the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Meditate on this word from the Word. The Truth will set you free! “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” (Romans 8:1-3, NLT)
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” (Romans 8:6, NLT)
And Can It Be?
And can it be that I should gain,
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain,
For me, who Him to death pursued.
Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace.
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!
No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in Him is mine,
Alive in Him, my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne
And claim the crown through Christ my own!
Charles Wesley© Words: Public Domain