Becoming A Winner

Grantley Morris


Living a holy life is simply letting Christ, who now lives inside you, express himself through your actions. Itís letting run wild the divine genes (the new nature) you inherited when you were born again into Godís family. Living a Godly life is not about exercising will power, but reveling in Godís love, living the supernatural; doing all manner of things that were previously impossible for you.

Being free from enslaving and degrading habits is a wonderfully fulfilling and liberating way to live, but donít imagine it is the way to gain Godís approval. You won that approval the moment you trusted Jesus for your forgiveness. You canít get any more forgiven, and any more the object of divine favor than the moment you first trusted Jesus to do it all for you Ė when you had nothing but sin to offer your Lord.

Natural men suppose that by cutting sin out of their lives they could reach a holy God. It could never work. Lifetime perfection is Godís minimum standard. We cannot even start with a clean sheet, because none of us can remove our past failures. Because of Jesus, however, followers of Christ have already reached God. They can live a holy life because God lives within them.


Temptation

Do you think Jesus Christ was tempted to lust? Was Christ tempted to punch someone, to hold a grudge, to be lazy, to swear, to get drunk? The answer is yes, Jesus suffered temptation (Matthew 4; Hebrews 2:17; 4:15; 5:8-9).

Temptation occurs when an evil intelligence violates your mind, invading your inner person with its filth. The temptation could be anything that is not in your highest interest. It might be to hate yourself, to over-indulge, to doubt, to smoke, to get drunk, to take drugs, to hold a grudge; to commit fornication, the list is endless. It is something that, in the short term, seems right or desirable but in the long term ends up robbing and hurting you. For brevity, I call the source of temptation our own lust (i.e. the adversary, the devil, satan, the deceiver, the faker, the crafty serpent, evil, etc.):

James 1:14, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

To understand the nature of spiritual rape, letís briefly consider physical rape. A virtuous woman could be forcibly raped in a manner that induces pleasurable physical sensations within her. Her mind would be repulsed, she would hate what is taking place, but her body is designed to respond to certain stimuli by sending pleasure signals to the brain. This physiological fact has nothing to do with her purity or morality. It simply means she is normal. And yet, for years afterwards her sensitive conscience could be tormented with false pangs of guilt, wrongly imagining she must have the morality of a harlot to have had her feelings of horror tinged with the slightest pleasure.

As she remembers her response, she could so despise herself as to become convinced that her husband must now secretly loathe her, even though he sees his darling as being as pure and as faithful to him as ever. Despite all her husbandís loving assurances and tenderness, this poor woman could so focus on that awful event that she continues to feel immoral, unloved and unwanted. Overwhelmed by that illusion, she could start telling herself that she has so ruined her life that she could not be more immoral if she became a prostitute.

Tragically, after years of such thinking, convinced she is doing her husband a favor, she could leave the man she thinks can no longer love her. Finding no other means of support and imagining she has no purity to preserve, this highly moral woman could actually end up the harlot she mistakenly saw herself as being. Sadly, such a route to promiscuity is not uncommon for sexual abuse victims, harassed by false feelings of guilt.

When Jesus was being tempted, the purest man ever to walk this planet was being spiritually raped. The Holy Lord was subjected to the inner urge to sin; a craving to do wrong. His mind and spirit were repeatedly and shamefully violated. You know he emerged from the horrific experience with his purity intact.

So do not despise yourself when evil thoughts come to you, or you find yourself longing to do wrong. It simply means that, like Godís holy Son, and all his saints, you have been spiritually molested. And like the most despicable child molester, the adversary tries to make his innocent victim feel guilty for his crime. Itís only if you cease trying to resist those evil thoughts and urges, that the harassment could touch your purity. And even if you totally gave in, you would have no rational basis for continuing to imagine you are impure, because the instant you return to your Savior with genuine regret, you are again spotless in the eyes of God.

Does the crafty serpent often appear and speak to you face to face? Heís far too cunning. He speaks in your mind, pretending to be your own thoughts. Disown those thoughts. Refuse to cave in to false guilt.

Imagine how hard it was to tempt Jesus. The adversary had to try to persuade the Son of God to act totally out of character. And yet it is exactly the same when the adversary tempts you. He tries to inflict you with a desire to do something utterly contrary to your nature. From the moment you were born again, Christ took up residence inside you. You gained his goodness, his holy character, his purity of motives, his inexhaustible love. You might have committed a certain sin hundreds of times a year since childhood, and continued for the many years you have been born again. Nevertheless, every time you commit that sin, you are acting out of character. The crafty serpent will muster all his brainwashing skills to try fooling you into thinking that sinning is your real nature. You will be like a rape victim plagued by a wrong self image. This is more than just unpleasant; keep believing that false self image, and you will end up acting as if it were true.

Facing temptation is engaging in spiritual combat in which victory depends on whether we can trust God to love us enough to be our personal bodyguard. It would be highly dangerous to go into battle, tragically handicapped by imagining you are one of Godís less loved children. Before engaging the enemy you need the assurance that Godís love for you is so intense that he is fiercely devoted to protecting you. You need to know you are one of Godís favorites, and that he has made you so pure that he is proud of you.


How do we Beat Temptation?

James 4:7, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

The answer is to let Jesus rule in your life. Let God control your life.

At first thought, this seems so oppressively restrictive that itís frightening. And weíre scared weíll be told to go somewhere awful and do something embarrassing. In reality, for you to fear Godís commands is as unnatural as a much loved baby fearing its motherís breast; as a shivering child fearing sunshine; as someone sick fearing health. To obey God is to say good-bye to mistakes and regret and open the door to excitement and achievement.

No one understands you like your Maker. No one knows your future like your Father in Heaven. No one has your best interest at heart like the One who shed his blood for you. No one can bring you happiness like the Inventor of sex and sunsets, sight and sound, touch and taste, life and beauty. He alone offers heaven.

When you really analyze it, nothing could be more exciting, fulfilling and rewarding than Godís desires for you. Fearing Godís will is as irrational as worrying about what the worldís best mechanic might do to your car, and as stupid as insisting on defusing a bomb for fear that experts will not do it properly. The Almighty, your Creator and Savior, is selflessly devoted to maximizing your happiness. Moreover he has infinite knowledge. When God asks you to do something, he is granting you the unique privilege of tapping into the greatest Mind in the universe. You have the opportunity to do something infinitely smart. It could add a whole new dimension to your life.

Disregard your Makerís right to tell you what to do. He merely gave you life and everything youíve ever touched. He holds your atoms together and gave you the brain cells you think with. Forget that Christ purchased your allegiance by trading his life for yours, becoming the devilís plaything on the cross so that evil couldnít touch you. And overlook the power of God to determine your eternal destiny. Consider merely Godís infinite knowledge, perfect goodness, and self-sacrificing devotion to your highest good. That alone is enough to force the conclusion that disregarding Godís slightest suggestion is the height of stupidity.

Yet another exhilarating thing about Godís will for you is that it is not only perfected by infinite love, it is backed by infinite power. It is not only achievable, it is unstoppable. For as long as you let Jesus rule your life, nothing can thwart it. Do you believe God is all-powerful? Then you believe he could over-ride your every weakness. He could ask nothing of you that he couldnít do through you. And if he has a speck of love, or any respect for his reputation, heís not going to command, and then abandon you to your own resources. Itís exciting when God asks the impossible of you. A miracle is around the corner!

Since God, in his love, longs to see you reach your highest potential, his desires for you will stretch you to the limit. But no matter how the adversary tries to distort that thrilling truth into something scary, there is always something more frightening than doing Godís will Ė not doing Godís will. The mere fact that we could fear Godís beautiful will is clear proof that God has a spiritual enemy who carpet bombs our minds with malicious untruths. Nothing could be wiser, or better, than obeying the God who has a sacrificial commitment to giving you the very best.

God telling you to do something is the Almighty Lord expressing his desire for you to enjoy his best. And obedience is simply receiving that love, delighting and rejoicing in the beauty, perfection and security of Godís yearnings for your welfare. We only disobey when we secretly believe we are smarter than God, that his love for us is inferior, or that he is so weak that our inadequacies could nullify his power. Obedience is love made real.

Submission

Note that submission to God is letting God be God Ė allowing Jesus to assume his rightful place in your life. The emphasis is not on you trying to obey, but on Jesus ruling. It is letting him do the work. It is avoiding taking upon ourselves responsibilities that donít belong to us. The crafty serpent would love to distort this into a dreary put down, but it is actually a glorious relief. Weíre free to enjoy life as Godís children and leave all the hard work to Jesus. We donít have to prove ourselves to God, Jesus has already done it. We donít have to defeat sin, Jesus has already done it.

Submitting to God must never be thought of as obeying a set of rules. Thatís dull and cold. And God is neither. Following a list of dos and do nots is not following God, but something impersonal. It brings with it the great danger of shutting God out. Submitting to God is loving God, getting as close to him as you can, and drawing strength and comfort and direction from him. It is driving with God in the front seat with you, enjoying his companionship.

An important aspect of submission involves avoiding battles God has not authorized you to fight. We are winners, provided we are not so foolish as to engage the enemy on a front where we have no right to be. Some situations God permits no servant of Christ to enter. Some situations he permits only certain servants of Christ to enter. Donít be influenced by what other ĎChristiansí can get away with. Listen for your Commander-in-chiefís personal orders. We live in a war zone. Various areas are subjected to differing types of attack, and some areas are more heavily protected. The Commander-in-chief knows his troops, and he has equipped them to engage in different types of warfare. All of us are safe, provided we each follow his orders, staying within our designated areas.

Sin has you in its deadly sights. Itís about to pull the trigger. Jesus steps in front of you and takes the bullet, so that you can live and enjoy life. To try fighting sin without your Saviorís constant help is to slap Christ in the face, then walk out of his protection into the devilís hail of bullets. If we face temptation alone (without Christ), sin will mow us down. But we need never be so foolish. We need never face temptation alone.

The moment Joe Ordinary becomes a police officer he gains special power over evil. Heís no stronger, nor smarter, yet suddenly law breakers fear him. His extraordinary power rests entirely on him submitting to his superiors. Disregard their orders and he would be suspended from the force. His powers would immediately vanish, and law breakers could walk all over him. Likewise, our power over sin hinges on our submission to God. Because your power link with God is critical to the defeat of evil, the Enemy will do all he can to drive a wedge between you and your Savior. Heíll do his best to make you feel that God is harsh, thinks lowly of you, and so on.


Resist The Devil

Resisting is refusing to be cheated out of something our Father has given you. Itís preventing a con artist from walking off with things that cost your Father greatly. Over and over, Scripture affirms our need to take action against sin (Proverbs 28:13, Matthew 5:6; 16:24, Mark 9:45,47, Romans 13:12,14, I Corinthians 6:18, 2 Corinthians 6:17, Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4:22,27; 6:11, Colossians 3:2,5,10, Titus 2:12, Hebrew 12:1 , James 1:21, 1 Peter 2:1; 5:8-9, 1 John 2:15, etc.).

Notice, itís not all God. We would have to cut our Bible to shreds to produce one that says God does it all. We ourselves are expected to put in an effort. This surprises many people, and others get it wrong, so letís see what is involved.

Sin kidnapped us, and our effort does nothing to pay our ransom. Only Jesus could pay that exorbitant price. Innocence was nailed so that we, the guilty, could go free. All we do is stand up for the rights Christ paid for in blood. Resisting the devil is simply cooperating with God; choosing to enjoy the freedom Christ has won for us. All the hard work has already been done for us, and even then God is with us every step, to ensure we make it.

But thereís a spine tingling reason why God wants you to play a part. Like the proudest father, our Lord wants you to be like him. The Almighty actually wants to share his throne with you! This is serious, and glorious. You are being readied for a heavenly crown, not a party hat. Thatís why God has entrusted you with a role in resisting the adversaryís attempt to trespass on your turf. You are being trained to rule.

Youíve probably heard of people being effortlessly freed from sinís grip, such as heroin addicts delivered from addiction without a single withdrawal symptom. Thatís the mighty God we serve! For God to forever do everything for us, however, would be like a teacher never trusting us to sit for a test, but always taking the test for us. Eventually, like the devoted parent he is, our heavenly Father wants us to begin to grow up and start exercising the authority he has proudly entrusted to us. Maturity must never be confused with lack of intimacy with God, however. We exercise spiritual authority only by maintaining our power link with the Almighty, and letting his power flow through us.

The Weapon

If youíre looking for a soft religion, dump Christ right now. The Bible never promises that our fight with sin will be painless, just that surrender would end up being significantly more painful.

Ironically, the more prepared you are for a long, tough fight, the shorter it usually is. Once you uncover one of the serpentís schemes, and become determined to hold your ground no matter how strong the pressure gets or how long it lasts, the Enemy quickly senses he is wasting his time persisting with this tactic, and he usually backs off soon after.

The adversary is furious at having lost you. He knows he has no hold over you, but if he fools you into thinking he can still boss you around, youíll make his day. Heíll try every dirty trick he can dream up to bluff you out of all that is rightfully yours, and to cast doubt on the extent of Christís stupendous victory. To stand up to someone as persistent and conniving as an adversary, you have to thoroughly know the rights Christ won for you, as spelt out in Godís Word.

Think of it this way. Through a life and death struggle, Jesus disarmed the adversary and handed you a loaded weapon. Donít expect Jesus to pull the trigger. Thatís easy. Heíll let you have the fun of scaring off the adversary. But if that diabolical cheat can fool you into thinking the weapon Jesus gave you is unloaded, he knows you wonít bother to use it. He then has nothing to fear, and heíll walk all over you.

Because you have given Jesus control of your life, you have the upper hand whenever you meet evil. Resisting is simply realizing that your enemy is beaten, and acting accordingly. It is refusing to let a defeated enemy steal back your precious liberty and dignity that cost Christ everything. The almighty Son of God let the devil nail him, so that you could walk free. Live in that freedom. And no matter what happens, keep seeing yourself as God sees you Ė powerful, holy, victorious. It is this faith that makes you a conqueror (John 5:4-5).

By ignoring the serpent's lies and letting Christ do all the hard work, we have the firepower to put the devil on the defensive. With Jesus in us, we make demons quake. But temptation will not vanish. Just as Jesus won every time against temptation, through him, you too can win every time. Thatís Godís promise (Luke 10:19, Romans 8:37; 16:20, I Corinthians 10:13; 15:57, 2 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 John 4:4; 5:4).

Thereís not the vaguest hint that you wonít feel like giving up. Nor the slightest suggestion that you wonít feel as helpless in the teeth of temptation as a mouse trapped in a lionís cage. But thereís a divine guarantee that no matter how weak you feel, no matter how horrific your past failures, no matter how impossible it seems, you can beat every temptation that comes your way. If you ever meet a temptation too strong for you, the God who raises the sun each day has suddenly become unreliable, the God who didnít spare his darling Son for you has suddenly lost interest in you, and the moral integrity of God has collapsed.


The Devil is the Deceiver

The adversary is a con artist. He wants to rip you off, cheating you out of everything that is rightfully yours. Heís the enemy of everything good, hating you with all his filthy fury. He offers the soft, warm bomb that will explode your life into a million pieces. He generously gives momentary relief and fun that leads to deeper bondage and torment; the shortcut to heavenís ecstasy that ends in the grave.

With Christ having rendered all of evilís weapons inoperative against the servants of Christ, the Enemy has nothing left but psychological warfare Ė illusions, false accusations, attempted brainwashing.

Suppose you were a soldier at war, and an evil enemy had the opportunity to attempt brainwashing you. The enemy would try to wear you down by repeatedly putting thoughts into your mind that the side you serve is wrong, or not worth serving, or will lose the war, or is not strong enough to protect you, or has rejected or abandoned you, or does not care about you. The enemy would also try to isolate you, make you feel useless, and destroy all hope.

Thatís the diabolical enemy you face everyday. Heís the master of the half truth. Yes, sin is delicious Ė like candy laced with poison. Itís true that sin is exhilarating Ė as exciting as skydiving without a parachute. And heís right when he hisses that Godís ways can feel annoyingly restrictive Ė as confining as a parachute harness when you are plummeting to earth.

The Seducer makes giving up seem the easy option, but the real cost is enormous. Sin is never the easy way out; the attractive alternative. Take the bait and youíll feel the hook. Swallow the lie and youíll writhe in regret. The best defense against cunning lies is to fill your mind with truth. Immerse yourself in Godís Word.


Strategies

Feel defeated? Chances are that you could be weaker than you are, and still have total victory over the temptations that presently defeat you. How? By taking temptations more seriously, and drawing the line against them much earlier.

Morally, there is a huge difference between sin and mere temptation (even the holy Son of God was severely tempted) but the crafty serpent loves to muddy the difference. It's enjoying wrong thoughts - deliberately entertaining them Ė that is wrong.

James 1:14-15, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

If the serpent succeeded in actually getting you to sin in your mind he would then try the lie that you have blown it so much that you might as well sin physically. However, no matter how much mental sin corrupts the fantasizer, it leaves the other one pure. To sin with someone else doubles the evil because it corrupts the other person as well.

If few of us have this fear of sinning against God, it is not because we live in the age of grace, but because we barely know God. The point is that we rarely view any sin with the seriousness that God does.

Over and over and over, Scripture insists that, like nothing else, sin has the power to destroy you (1 Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:8). Sin is the most fearsome thing on this planet, worse than a ferocious wolf lusting after your blood. When a blood-crazed beast is on the prowl, the only sensible thing is to put as big a distance as possible between it and yourself. Thatís how we should treat sin. Yet, instead of seeing sin as a ravenous wolf with deadly fangs, we often treat it like a smelly stray pup Ė rather disgusting, basically harmless, at times almost cute. The thought of dabbling with sin should terrify us. If it doesnít, we are toying with disaster. We need to flee from sin, as the Scriptures say.


Increase the Distance between You and Sin

At all costs, avoid the horror of following a set of rules, rather than a living Savior. This double tragedy ends both in arrogance and deserting Christ. Ugly pride, even bigotry, festers when you discover you draw your line further from sin than someone else. And you are in danger of abandoning your Savior when you begin to trust your homemade rules for salvation (your holiness and protection from temptation) rather than seeding your entire faith in your crucified Lord.


Burn your Bridges

What would you think if a husband told his wife he wants to be faithful to her, but explained that just in case temptation gets too strong, he will program his former girlfriendís phone numbers into his phone? Well what does your Lord think if you deliberately make it easy to access drugs, alcohol, or some other thing you are trying to give up? Donít you think God sees right through someone who asks for forgiveness for something, and keeps a tiny supply Ďjust in caseí? Romans 13:14, "...make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." In other words, store up nothing, make no allowances for sin.

When Jesus spoke of hacking off a hand or foot, or gouging out an eye (Matthew 18:8-9), he was not speaking literally, because he would have advised the removal of both members. Removing, for instance, just one eye would have little effect. We could still see quite well enough to sin. But he was describing the need for radical, painful and costly sacrifices in order to make it harder to sin.

Your collection of things that help you sin might have cost you a lot of money. If you donít destroy it, however, youíll find it will cost you a lot more still! Note the circumstances in which you are most vulnerable to temptation and do all you can to avoid those situations. If, for instance, when you lie awake in the morning, your mind wanders to things it shouldnít, try your hardest to avoid that situation. Set your alarm earlier and make sure you get up. If you find you are more vulnerable when alone, avoid that situation as much as possible. Would it help to share accommodation with someone? Alternatively, would it help to move out? When you feel vulnerable to temptation, get your mind off it by visiting or phoning someone. Go for a walk or a drive, if it will help.

Resolve that if ever you sin against someone, you will confess it to that person and put it right. If, for instance, you steal, youíll restore what you stole, with an additional 20% as compensation. If you lie, confess it to the person you lied to. Make yourself accountable to a mature, trustworthy disciple of Christ, who is unlikely to be tempted by the knowledge that you have fallen (should the unthinkable ever happen). Be sobered by the knowledge that if ever you sin, you will have to endure the shame of confessing to your accountability partner.


Friends

Pray for godly, faithful, praying friends who will spiritually motivate you and support your every step forward with Christ. And be such a friend to others. No matter how strong you are, choose the wrong friend, and youíll be corrupted (Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 14:7; 20:19; 22:24; 24:21, 1 Corinthians 5:11; 15:33, 2 Corinthians 6:14). Since the Bible insists you have little chance if you chose ungodly people as close friends, you must choose between God and wrong friendships. When choosing close friends, especially where there is a chance of romantic involvement, remember this simple fact: one either belongs to God or to the devil. There is no middle ground.

Weíve noted that most people fall into temptation because they donít start the fight soon enough. They give the adversary too many early victories Ė easy, uncontested wins Ė by playing with thoughts, keeping deadly friendships, phone numbers, contacts, etc., and viewing/hearing/reading things that weaken them.

Suppose you are in a leaking boat. You are lounging on deck as the water seeps in a few bucketfulís an hour. No problem. Any fool can bail that out. Hour after hour you continue to snooze until you suddenly find yourself plunging towards the ocean floor. You then bail furiously but itís too late. The disaster was not the product of some momentary weakness or inexplicable lapse the last five seconds. It was all so avoidable, if only the danger had been taken seriously.

Thatís what itís like with temptation. Act soon enough, and youíre safe. Take no action as temptation begins to seep in; do nothing to block the temptation, keep open doorways to sin, and the danger slowly mounts until finally not even the strongest saint could survive the onslaught. Itís not what happens in a moment of weakness that is critical. What matters is what you do right now to protect yourself from those moments. Almighty God dwells within you. If ever sin defeats you, itís not because you are weak. Plain stupidity, laziness and disobedience are the most likely culprits.

Prayer is important. We should look daily to God to sensitize our consciences so that the alarm bells will sound whenever the adversary slips us his sugar-coated poison. Prayer is bringing ourselves under Godís authority; submitting to God. Itís recognizing our utter dependency upon God; reminding ourselves that we will win, but only with Jesusí power flowing through us. One strategy that could prove very helpful is to, with Godís help, train yourself to pray in the Spirit, or begin praising God, the moment temptation hits. If a particular temptation becomes your cue to act more spiritual, the adversary should quickly tire of using that temptation!

Keep reminding yourself that you fight a defeated enemy. He can do nothing but tell lies and hope we are silly enough to believe him. One of his highest aims is to discourage us. Whenever you feel discouraged, you can be sure who is behind it. You need never fail again, but even if you failed continuously, for as long as you keep wanting to beat sin, and keep looking in faith to Jesus, God is proud to call you his child. In his eyes you have the purity, holiness, and self-control of Christ himself. Everyone else might give up on you, but God wonít. He believes in you. Heís staked his reputation on you. Heís invested everything in you. What matters is not how many times you hit the dust, but how many times you get up again.


When Habits continue to Dominate

A brother once asked, "Can you shed any light on what I am going through with this habit Ė why God would so dramatically set me free of other things, but leave me to struggle with this one?"

Although the Israelites were guaranteed eventual total victory, God deliberately chose to give them only gradual victory as they entered the promised land. If much of the land were left vacant, the Lord explained, wild animals would multiply and become a problem (Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-23). If someone were given sudden and total victory in every area of life, what dangers could there possibly be? Pride was the obvious answer Ė feeling superior to others who are still battling with problems, and/or losing sight of oneís need for constant and total dependence on the Lord. I felt this brother could reach the point where he need no longer be defeated in this area, by doing two things:

1) Build himself up in the area of humility and in his awareness of his total dependence upon the Lord.

2) Desire victory for the glory of the Lord, not so that he could boost his pride by proving himself to others, or so that he could pat himself on the back, or even for lesser reasons than God's glory, such as saving money.

An effective way to become strong in humility is to repeat with conviction many times a day for several weeks, 'I can of myself do nothing.' This truth is found in John 15:5. What is even more powerful, however, is that Jesus said it of himself (John 5:19,30; 8:28). If that is true of Jesus, how much more true is it of ourselves!

Having received insight from that incident in Israel's history, I began to wonder about other things that kept the Israelites from defeating and removing the Canaanites from their land. Was there any point in looking at Scripture in this way? On the surface there seems little similarity between a believer ridding his/her life of habits and Israelites ridding their promised land of the enemy. However, the same players are involved Ė God, his people, human nature, God's enemies.

The presence of the same players opens the possibility of similar principles being involved. This possibility is strengthened by the fact that considerable space is allocated to these battles in a book given by God not for historical insight but ". . . for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Indeed, the New Testament writers frequently used the history of the Israelites to draw spiritual lessens for individuals (1 Corinthians 10:1-13) and they often used the metaphor of warfare for spiritual life (Ephesians 6:13-17). So let's look at things that stopped the Israelites from experiencing victory over their enemies.

1) They did not even try to attack the enemy. Rather than obeying God, they chose to believe that the enemy was too strong for them (Deuteronomy 1:26-32). We, too, can choose to believe a habit is too strong for us.

2) They engaged the enemy in their own strength, rather than in humble dependence upon the Lord (Deuteronomy 1:42-44). This is a most dangerous move because the inevitable defeat seems to confirm that the habit is too strong to resist.

3) They attacked the enemy (the city of Ai) while there was unrepentant sin in their midst (Joshua 7:11-12). If we are deliberately disobedient in one area of life (stealing, for instance) we have no right to expect God's empowering in another area of life (such as giving up smoking). This is not a Catch 22. It's not that you must give up sins you find impossible to give up before God will empower you to give up those sins! I refer to willful disobedience in matters where you could easily obey.

4) They entered into compromise with the enemy (the Gibeonites), having been tricked into thinking they were not the enemy (Joshua 9:14-19,22). We listen to voices that say "Other Christians do it; they do worse; Surely it's only natural; there's no harm in it; I can't see anything wrong with it," and so we let ourselves be fooled into allowing something to remain in our lives that God says should be eradicated.

5) God allowed enemies to remain to teach the Israelites warfare (Judges 3:1-2). If you were instantly delivered, you could miss out on learning principles of spiritual warfare, such as faith, persistence, obedience, and exercising your Christ-bought authority. Learn the principles and then prove you know them by using them to defeat the habit.

When we start winning over temptation we must beware the tendency to want to find out how strong we have become. For instance, most people who have had success in overcoming an alcohol problem will be tempted to walk into a bar to prove to themselves that they can now refuse alcohol. This is virtually putting God to the test, and must be strenuously avoided. It could be very awkward and threatening to one's career to avoid a work party where the drink flows, but this might be the very thing God requires of someone with a past drinking problem. We must be especially careful to seek God's direction before exposing ourselves to any temptations to which we have had a past weakness.


Bringing it Together

In the eyes of God, you are already the greatest winner the universe has ever known. You can see yourself that way, or you can reject God's revelation, malign all that Christ has done for you, and let the Deceiver dictate how you view yourself. That pathological liar says you will never win. Jesus says you have already won. The Enemy calls you a lowlife. God says you are royalty. The devil claims we are helpless victims; slave to passions, emotions, cravings and circumstance. God says we can rule over these things (Romans 5:17; 8:35-37). Who will you believe?

Your risen Lord has freed you from slavery to bad habits. Stripped of his power, the Devil can only resort to bluff, trying with all his evil cunning to fool you into believing the lie that a certain temptation is either too big to resist or too small to bother resisting.

To overcome, discover how wonderful Jesus is. The more you realize how much he loves you, how highly he thinks of you, and how much he has done for you, the more you will fall in love with him. That makes it easy to stay close to your loving shield. Knowing his wisdom and unselfish devotion to you, you will gladly obey him. And knowing he has committed his very life to your well being, you will trust him to give you all the resources you need to expose, and reject, the Faker's diabolical tricks.

Refuse to give in, knowing that your Savior has deposited within you all the strength you need to call the serpent's bluff, but you must exert every bit of that strength. So you must remain sober and alert (1 Thessalonians 5:6,8), prepared for what will sometimes be a long, hard fight.

It can hurt to resist, but keep persisting, inspired by the knowledge that Jesus endured still more pain to ensure that you would make it, and remembering that, despite the serpent's lies, the ultimate cost of yielding to wrong doing is always far higher than whatever it costs to hold on. Scripture is adamant that, through Jesus, we have full power over sin, provided we do not stray on to enemy territory without divine authorization. We must remember that the source of our power is in Jesus, not ourselves, and that sin is so lethal that we must keep as far from it as we can get.

Because you are spiritually one with Christ, when the adversary attacks you, he is attacking Christ. In touching you, the adversary will suddenly find himself facing the full wrath and might of the Almighty Lord. Evil does not have a hope, provided you do not jump into the fight ahead of Jesus. When the attack begins, instantly look to Jesus and by faith see him rushing into the battle. Immediately you can relax, knowing that the Almighty is shielding you with his own power, and that victory is certain because the invincible Lord is fighting for you. Then, knowing he's there despite what you may feel, take up your position behind Christ, prepared for a long fight, but knowing that Jesus is taking all the heavy blows. He loves you so much he wants to take you into battle with him, so that you get the thrill of sharing in his victory, but he is all the time protecting you, allowing only those attacks to reach you that he knows you can handle. He is training you for war because you will reign with him as conqueror forever.


Destined for Success

Are you a born failure? Who cares! You've been born again! Born once to imperfect parents, but born again to the Almighty Conqueror. Once a slave of sin, now a child of God himself. A slave no longer, you belong to the King. Royal blood flows through your veins. God's smile is on you, his victory is for you, his power is in you. God is unstoppable and he lives in you. Rise up and assume your rightful place of authority in the Royal Family; in Christ invincible.


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