FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT TO THE END
A pastor I once knew had been freed from a life of rug
addiction. After almost two decades of freedom, however, he
experienced a terrible struggle. He awoke one night with a
desperate craving for a "fix" - a shot of heroin. The craving was
so intense that he was dressed and on his way out before he fully
realized what he was doing.
At the door, the man realized that finding a fix would be
his ruination. He trembled, completely caught up in the wrenching
temptation. At any second, he would open the door, walk out, and
be completely lost.
Recognizing that he was a mere second away from being
consumed, this pastor fell to his knees and clung to his Lord.
Jesus assured him, "Cling to Me, and this will pass."
Had there been other cherished sins in his life, he could
not have clung to the Lord to obtain power. Doing so required
complete concentration of will to stay kneeling and praying
rather than succumb to temptation. The need for a fix was so
overwhelming that only the power of God coupled with his
determination to cling to God could produce victory. As long as
he refused to yield, he was secure.
At dawn the craving passed. Half the night the pastor had
spent in desperate prayer, establishing his freedom in Christ.
When he told me this story, many years had passed without the
return of that temptation.
Brothers and sisters, every temptation is just like this
pastor's in one crucial respect: If we determine to slaughter our
sins and make no alliances with any of them, regardless how
strong the temptation, we shall have victory. This is a truth
that the Israelites failed to believe - and they paid dearly for
Faltering in Fear
The children of Israel stared across the river at the
Promised Land, the place their ancestors dreamed about for
hundreds of years. God had promised to give His people the land
and enable them to utterly destroy the inhabitants. Yet the
Israelites stood at the river, afraid.
Their spies had returned with a fearful message: "The
inhabitants of the land are giants; they are fierce and mighty."
The spies explained, "We were like grasshoppers in our own sight,
and so we were in their sight" (Numbers 13:33).
Caleb and Joshua cried out against this doom-saying report:
"The Lord is with us! Surely He will give us this land. The
protection of the inhabitants is removed, and we have nothing to
fear from them" (see 14:6-9).
But the fearful spies prevailed. The people stared across
the river at the land they would not possess and were afraid.
Angry with His fearful people, the Lord cursed them to die in the
wilderness. Except for Caleb and Joshua, all died in that desert
place. They disbelieved the promises of God, rejected the
Promised Land, and died in their wanderings.
Giving up the Fight
After forty years, a new generation of people crossed the
Jordan and began to destroy the inhabitants and possess the land.
Though they experienced one miraculous victory after another, the
Israelites grew weary of the struggle. They intermarried with
God's enemies; they formed alliances. A generation of wandering
was followed by generations of rebellion against the Lord as His
people assumed the character and perspectives of the very enemies
God had commanded be destroyed.
The Lord had said:
"Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the
Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and
the Jebusite. Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant
with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be
a snare in your midst" (Exodus 34:11,12).
"When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then
you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before
you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded
images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess
the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you
the land to possess" (Numbers 33:51-53).
The Scriptures repeatedly express God's intended procedure
for possessing the land: destruction, extermination, genocide
(Deuteronomy 2:34; 7:1,2; 20:17). It is not politically correct
to even think it today, but the Lord had judged those nations and
appointed His people to execute His judgments upon them.
"Slaughter the Canaanites" was God's command.
At first the Israelites were afraid to fight these enemies,
and later they concluded that they had fought enough. In both
cases, their failure to utterly destroy the Canaanites resulted
in their ruin.
Possessing the Land
How is it with you, brothers and sisters? Are you completely
possessing the land as the Lord God has commanded?
What "land" am I talking about? It's what Jesus says in
Matthew 5:48 and Paul repeats in 2 Corinthians 7:1:
"You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting
holiness in the fear of God."
The "land" that needs transforming is our character - to be
set free from sin, now that we have been forgiven. To accomplish
this, the Lord has promised us the gift of the Spirit and the
mind of Christ. Christ's mind in us is our hope of glory and the
transforming power of God in us (John 8:34-36). The ultimate
intent of the gospel is to transform us - to save us from our
sins, not in them.
God intends that we employ His power forcefully and with a
single mind to confront and overcome our sins and defects of
character. Each of them, one at a time. We do not confront them
all at once, just as the Israelites did not know every battle and
enemy they would face. But God intends that we march through our
land from victory to victory in His power.
Hindrances to Victory
Why do we not enjoy more victory over our sins than we do?
Could it be that we feel like grasshoppers in the face of them?
Do we disbelieve the Word of God when it commands and promises
victory over all filthiness of the flesh and spirit?
Brothers and sisters, if you won't start the conquest
because you're convinced of ultimate failure, then you won't have
victory. Insipid little efforts will never be effective against
particular sins when you really don't believe in total triumph,
by God's grace.
Another hindrance to victory is taking up the fight in the
power of God but later tiring of the struggle. So people end up
forming alliances with their sins, willing to live in peaceful
co-existence with them. In this they minimize the importance of
ongoing victory by stressing the second part of 1 John 2:1 more
than the first. But the first part is the emphasis as John writes
it: "These things I write to you, so that you may not sin." Tired
of the fight, they ignore the exhortation: "You have not yet
resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin" (Hebrews 12:4).
Here is the secret: James tells us that a double-minded
person cannot expect anything from the Lord. We will not have
victory until we are committed to victory by clinging to our Lord
through the darkest hours, as the pastor did that night.
Fight to Win
Slaughter the Canaanites! Show them no mercy! Or as Paul put it,
"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the
flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:14). It is your God-given
privilege to entirely possess the land, to enjoy victory over
each and every temptation to sin, and thus to live out your
freedom in Christ.
You need not be a slave to sin. Fight every battle to win,
and you shall move from victory to victory. The grace God gives
you is not only forgiveness in Christ but also power through the
Spirit to possess the land - a change in character that will let
you live free till Jesus comes.
Dr.Richard Jensen lives in College Place, WA, with his wife,
Dana. They attend the Walla Walla church. His latest book is
titled "Miracles, Faith, and Unanswered Prayer."
Taken from the September 2008 "Bible Advocate" - a publication of
The Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO.USA