Christianity 201

April 8, 2014

Overcoming Temptation

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James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Ben Stuart is part of Breakaway Ministries a non-denominational student outreach on the campus of Texas A&M University. The video runs 4.5 minutes.

“Do I believe God really loves me?”

This was an interesting quote at the end: “I dislodge a beautiful thing from the human heart by replacing it with a more beautiful thing.”

 

August 5, 2012

The Holy Spirit Prays for Us

I found this article through Dwight at the blog Strengthened By Grace.  I’ll let him introduce it:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26)

That verse should bring much comfort to every Christian heart. We have a Helper in our prayers!  Why is that so important. As this verse points out we are weak and we are ignorant.  And from other Scripture we know the Spirit is powerful and knows all things.

Paul Tautages expands on the above thoughts in “The Spirit’s Silent Prayer Ministry.”

 

Here is the article:

The Spirit’s Silent Prayer Ministry

by Paul Tautges

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Just as creation groans, waiting for the fullness of redemption; and as believers groan, waiting for redemption from their earthly bodies; so the Holy Spirit groans in prayer.

The Holy Spirit prays for us because we are weak.
The Spirit who resides within us as believers in Christ “helps” us, that is, He comes to our aid, rescues us, and helps to carry our heavy burden. This is the ongoing ministry of the Spirit in our “weaknesses,” our human frailty. It is significant for us to realize that physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness reveal human frailty, but are not necessarily the result of sin. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, experienced human frailty, which is partially what qualifies him to be our High Priest who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses,” yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:14–15). The omniscient Holy Spirit knows our weaknesses as well and it this same “Spirit of adoption,” whom we have received from God, “by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).

The Holy Spirit prays for us because we are ignorant.
Often we “do not know what to pray for” (v. 26). Sometimes we are aware of our ignorance¸ like the disciples who said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). And sometimes we are blind to our ignorance. For example, when the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with their mother to demand a position of leadership, Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matthew 20:22).

The Spirit prays for us because our knowledge is incomplete. Matthew Henry writes, “We are short-sighted…like foolish children, that are ready to cry for fruit before it is ripe and fit for them.” One of my young daughters loves to eat pears, but she does not know how to tell when they are ripe. As a result, she will often grab a hard, green pear off the kitchen counter, take one bite, and leave the rest behind, claiming “it is too hard.” We often do the same. We want the “fruit” that God is preparing for our future, but we want it now, before it is ripe. We do this because we are ignorant of what is best for us and, therefore, don’t know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit is not ignorant—and He prays according to perfect knowledge. He prays with “groanings too deep for words.” The Spirit pleads on our behalf in longings that are verbally inexpressible. This is his silent prayer ministry.

The Holy Spirit prays for us because God’s knowledge is perfect.
The passage continues, “he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit” (v. 27). The omniscient Father already knows what the Spirit is thinking. That explains why there is no need for the Spirit’s groaning to be verbalized. The Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:11), and the Father knows the thoughts of the Spirit. The two are always in full agreement. Since the thoughts of God are revealed by the Spirit in words (1 Corinthians 2:13), his prayers never contradict the written Word, the Bible, which he inspired (2 Peter 1:21). This is crucial for us to understand since we can be guilty of fleshly prayer that is not always in sync with the will of God. R. C. Sproul writes,

Professing Christians often ask God to bless or sanction their sin. They are even capable of telling their friends they have prayed about a certain matter and God has given them peace despite what they prayed for was contrary to His will. Such prayers are thinly veiled acts of blasphemy, and we add insult to God when we dare to announce that His Spirit has sanctioned our sin by giving us peace in our souls. Such a peace is a carnal peace and has nothing to do with the peace that passes understanding, the peace that the Spirit is pleased to grant to those who love God and love His law.

Here is where the Spirit helps us immensely. We often fail to pray according to God’s perfect will. We may pray with our mouths, “Thy will be done,” but mean in our hearts, “My will be done.” The Holy Spirit does not possess the same inconsistency. He always intercedes according to the will of God!

June 20, 2010

Sin Has Its Consequences

History doesn’t tell us who first came up with the notion that if you masturbate you will go blind. Neither I am aware of any scientific corroboration of this connection, though I am sure that it has acted as a deterrent to many a young man, especially in less-informed times.

Sometimes, though, there are times when, if we give into our lusts, cravings or desires, there are definite consequences.

Heather was the friend of a friend. I met her at least once, maybe twice. She was an extremely attractive girl in her late teens at a time before people said, as we now do, that “the girl is hot.” She got swept up by an older guy — some said he was in his 30s — and we don’t whether or not she was aware that he had AIDS before they had unprotected sex.

This was at a time — nearly three decades ago — before drugs could prolong the life of people diagnosed HIV positive and Heather’s life and beauty wasted away very quickly, and before much time had passed, my friend was suddenly telling me about “visiting Heather’s mom at her home the day after the funeral.” Consequences. Unavoidable consequences.

I don’t believe that today thousands of people have started down the road to blindness because of masturbation anymore than I believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. But I do know of one instance where the Bible makes very clear the possibility of physical penalty for something which is obviously sinful.

It’s the passage that is often read at The Lord’s Supper, aka The Breaking of Bread, aka The Eucharist, aka Communion. Perhaps you were raised with I Cor. 11: 28-30 in the King James:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Okay, I know. But for some of you-eth, the KJV script is all too familiar. Let’s try the dynamic-equivalence translation extreme of the NLT, adding vs. 27:

So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

Wow! It does seem a bit unmistakable, doesn’t it. [At this point I paused to check out the verses in four different commentaries, but there was no convenient opt-out at this point, none of the writers suggested the language was figurative.]

It all raises the possibility of consequences. I think the view would be of God striking someone with something, that the agency of disease or even death would be external.

But I have a whole other direction for our thoughts today.

I’m wondering if perhaps it is not the case that for some people — not all — willful sin creates a physical disconnect between the body and the mind, or between the body and the spirit. Perhaps it creates a tension that puts us in conflict between our actions and that for which we were created, or, in the case of believer, a conflict between our actions and the way we are expected to be living.

We already know that many diseases are brought on by stress. Is not the conflict between right living and wrong living a major internal stress, even for those who are not pledged to follow Christ? It can weaken the autoimmune system, or conversely, overstimulate it. And for the Christ-committed, would the stress not be greater since the internal conflict is greater?

I had a story cross my desk this week about a person who I knew was involved in something that I considered a lifestyle conflict. (Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that one; this was rather obscure.) This person was also involved with a ministry organization, so the degree of conflict would be more intensive, wouldn’t it?

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1 NIV)

Today, this person is fighting a rather intense physical disease. I can’t help but wonder if there was so much tension between what he knew and taught to be God’s best versus what he was caught up in, that it some how manifested itself internally as a kind of stress. But I know what you are thinking:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9: 2-3 NIV)

Not all affliction is the consequence of wrongdoing. But the I Cor 11 passage allows for the possibility of affliction as direct consequences of sin.

Do you ever find yourself internally conflicted? Paul said,

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. t happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (Romans 7: 15, 17-23, The Message)

The inner conflict is going to be there. The tension is going to exist. The question is whether or not it is going to absorb us into something that becomes a lifestyle with all its attendant consequences, including physical consequences.

You can disagree with this of course, but you don’t want to go blind, do you?


Today’s blog post is a combined post with Thinking Out Loud (Monday, June 21) and Christianity 201.

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Read more: Sin: It’s Kind of a Big Deal