Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Closer You Grow to Christ, the More Desperate Your Need of Christ!

It shouldn't come as a surprise to Christians.

But it nearly always does.

In fact, one can describe it as a predictable element of the Christian life.

What is it? Being tempted to intentionally sin against the will of God as revealed in Scripture despite a fervent faith and a heartfelt desire to live according to God's will.

As R.T. Kendall writes in God Gives Second Chances: How to Get Up, Dust Off and Be Used Again By God When You Fall:
You should know that if you are a chosen vessel, you also are a target of Satan. Jonathan Edwards said that when the church is revived, so is the devil. The closer you get to God, the more devil will be aware of you. [italics added by me]
That's why prayerful reliance on and surrender to Jesus becomes more important as you grow closer to Christ!

The closer you grow to Christ and, God forbid, the more self-confidence you have in feeling that you know what you need to do each day in order to maintain your closeness to Christ and to avoid the temptation to sin, the greater the danger you are in.

This is why, in The Small Catechism, Martin Luther says that we should remember our baptism--the moment when God crucified our old selves in order to let our new selves to come to life (John 3:3-8)--through repentance and renewal in Christ's Name every single day. Luther writes that baptism signifies that:
"the old Adam [our old sinful selves], together with all sins and evil desires, should be drowned by daily sorrow for sin and repentance and be put to death and that the new person should come forth every day and rise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever."
Don't ever get smug or self-satisfied about your spiritual progress!

Belonging to the "Christian club" is not going to save us from sin, death, or temptation.

We are saved from these things only by God's grace, given to those with faith in Jesus Christ, to be sure, but only "provided you continue in [God's kindness, given through Christ]; otherwise you will be cut off [from God]..." (Romans 11:22) Jesus says: "the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13).

Jesus' words to the disciples who fell asleep in the face of temptations to betray and abandon Him, apply as much to us in our everyday lives, filled with similar temptations to turn our backs on Christ: "Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

Peter was one of the disciples who fell asleep, didn't pray, and so, turned His back on Jesus on the night of Jesus' arrest, on the day before Jesus' execution. It may have been with this bitter experience in mind that Peter later wrote to the churches in Asia Minor: "Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

As long as Christians are living in this world, the devil, the world, and our sinful selves will hound us, striving to separate us from the new life all who believe in Jesus have. Don't ever think you can fight off those temptations your own! We can "resist" the devil, as Peter puts it (1 Peter 5:9) through daily submission to Christ. We then let Christ fight for us.

Luther in his hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God:
No strength of ours can match his might [the might of the devil]
We would be lost, rejected.
But now a champion comes to fight
Whom God Himself elected.
You ask Who this may be?
The Lord of hosts is He!
Christ Jesus, mighty Lord,
God's only Son, adored.
He holds the field victorious.
Christ fights for those who surrender to Him. We need to rely on Christ's grace and God's forgiveness as much each day we age in Christ as we did "the hour [we] first believed"!

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