Resist Temptation…sure…but how?

Hello Everyone,
On Sunday I mentioned I would share with you all Jesus’ way of resisting temptation. From the Showdown story in Matthew chapter 4 – we see Jesus doing three things and in many ways – we can do the same to resist temptation when it comes to us:

Jesus shows us how to resist temptation:
1) Cling to Power and Presence of God’s Spirit
One of the most crucial weapons in our battle against temptation – is to cling to God’s power and presence. We live like He is there. We make decisions based on this fact. Some of us love to sing as we drive in the car. We have our music bumping and thumping – screaming out worship music and darnit; if we don’t sound good I don’t know what does!!! I don’t know about you – but I may be singing when suddenly someone pulls up next to me in their car and my natural inclination is to stop singing, or sing quietly. Why? Maybe it’s the idea that someone can see or hear me now – I’m not alone, I’m being watched… And then what do I do when they pull away??? Go back to singing!!! I think sometimes we live as if God isn’t really interested or present when in reality it is quite the opposite. Maybe knowing He’s there might slow us down or keep us from sinning; like knowing others are present makes me stop singing… Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert – His responses to Satan were very God centered. He was living like God was present! We also live in God’s power and presence through prayer. This is perhaps one of the most powerful weapons to battle temptation. Prayer invites God’s power and focuses us on God’s presence. When tempted – stop, drop and pray! First thing we do is cling to God’s power and presence.
In 1 Corinthians 6:13 the apostle Paul says: Be careful or you may fall for no temptation has seized you except that which is common to man – but God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear – but WHEN you are tempted he will provide you a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Do you see the presence of God in this verse? When I encounter temptation one of the biggest questions for me is: “what is my exit? Look for it… God where is the exit you have provided for me?” God is faithful – there is always an exit. Usually that exit is to run first to Him then to your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. To confess your temptation to them and ask for their help and prayers that you would make the decision God is calling you to make. This is where the body of Christ is really powerful – but unfortunately – many of us live completely ostracized from this. We don’t know the healing power of being part of the body of Christ because we never really let it do its job!!!!! Yet this is so often one of the exits God powerfully and faithfully provides. Look for the exit He provides and live like He’s there – because He is….

2) Cling to God’s Word and Will
Jesus’ response to all the temptations was directly from the Scriptures… He used the law to refute the false teaching and temptations of Satan. Why do so many Christians fall to temptation? Often times somewhere along the way – they begin to rationalize… Is that really that important to God? Really? I know the Bible might say that – but did it really mean me? Or they may simply not know God’s will for them on the subject. They’ve listened more to the culture than to the Scriptures. This can have devastating effects. Satan wants to tell lies and twist logic. He will take Scriptures and use them to help you rationalize sin. Just like he did in the temptation story. We must be dedicated to knowing the Scriptures and living upon them. Without this – we are doomed.. Truly…. doomed…
3) Resist the Devil.
James says: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 Jesus first submitted himself to God and then resisted the Devil. Often times we look at the second half of this verse – resist the devil and he will flee. It is very true – but not if we aren’t submitted to God. Let’s be honest friends – there is nothing you bring to the table that the devil fears. He doesn’t fear you. He fears God alive in you – empowering you to resist him and do damage for the kingdom of God!!!! The first step to resisting the devil is submitting to God’s grace, His leading, His call, His purposes. Your life is His now! The promise then is that we can resist the devil and he will flee!!!

I hope these three powerful behaviors will serve to help you resist temptation as they have for me. We can pretty much expect for the battle to come to us. Satan doesn’t want you to follow Jesus – to be fully alive and empowered – set loose to build the kingdom. He wants you hobbled and critically wounded. He’s going to tempt you – are you ready??

Pastor Ryan

Law vs. Grace

Hello Everyone,
I’m sitting here very excited. The last 7 weeks have been a very challenging study of the “law” portion of Exodus. I’m very grateful to God for His guiding in this time because as I said when we started this – I was not looking forward to teaching the law. He has been very faithful. With this said – let me invite you to not let your study end there. There is always something to learn from God’s Word and I invite you to go deeper with this. There are great online resources and commentaries out there that can help you grow deeper in your study of any passage of Scripture. I truly hope you have been blessed and challenged in this study. To be honest, I’m still being challenged from the sermon on murder and adultery. The study for that sermon – preaching it and my own reflections have continued to speak to me and it has honestly been unsettling to me at times. (I referred to this earlier in one of my 2nd looks.) I hope that God has touched your life through our study as He has touched mine.
    Okay – so what is our second look this week?  Well – on Sunday we spoke about a lot of things – basically we spoke of lessons we can learn from the law.  As Christians, the Old Testament law has a different significance for us than it did the ancient Israelites.  There are many wonderful things we can learn from the law but it wasn’t necessarily written to us.  The law doesn’t save us – it’s not designed to.  Following the law doesn’t make God happy with us so that someday we’ll go to heaven.  If anything, the law can show us how guilty we truly are.  The law for us as Christians – is a beautiful portrait of a perfect and holy God – calling His people – who He redeemed – to follow Him. This is a powerful lesson to learn from the law: to see the holiness of God in its words and to see that Redemption leads to a calling. Let me repeat that – Redemption leads to a calling.  This has been something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.  Like many of you; I’ve grown up in the church – grown up around Christianity.  For much of that time – I thought God was angry and displeased with me because I wasn’t following the “rules.” Then when I entered my late teens and early adulthood, I began to bristle against. this.  I was tired of feeling like a screw up – tired of feeling guilty.  I began to lean away from the law; to lean away from feeling obligated in my faith – to God. I didnt want to read books by anybody who made me feel bad about myself or my faith. In my early twenties I discovered “grace.” I became this big “grace” guy – God has given us grace and even if I screw up and don’t follow Him He will still love me…. So…. this means it doesn’t really matter what I do.
      But then addiction entered my life and there was this huge battle between grace that gives me permission to do whatever I want – and the law written in me that said I need to be perfect to please God. I couldn’t balance this. Is God mad at me for all the ways I stink and fail Him – or is He happy with me even though I hurt myself; Him and others?  Which is it???
      Now here I am in the last year of my thirties and beginning to see that my picture of grace can be destructive.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my heroes writes in his book- “The Cost Of Discipleship”; that there are two kinds of grace: Cheap and Costly.  He says Cheap grace is actually at war against the church and it is an incredibly destructive force.  Cheap grace basically is the kind of grace that says:  “It doesn’t matter what I do – God will always love me anyway – so I don’t need to follow Him or submit to Him.” Costly grace; the right kind according to Bonhoeffer; basically says:  “We didn’t deserve Christ but in His grace God gave Him to us and as a result we are no longer our own but we belong to Him.  We don’t live any way we want because we have received God’s costly grace and are His now.  Our redemption leads to a calling“.
     This is something we need to think about and ponder as Christians. The Apostle Paul writes about this when he says: “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The law reminds Israel and us that they were redeemed for a purpose.  Paul reminds us we have been redeemed for good works – to be God’s masterpiece. Think about it – when we don’t do these good works that God has set aside for us – we aren’t living the ” God’s workmanship” life that we were meant for. I can’t help but wonder the untold amount of good deeds left undone – all that has been lost.  Have you heard of the principle of compounding interest?  It basically says – if you invest a little bit of money in a savings account – or some kind of investment account; and you do this over a long time – the interest will grow and compound and you can become quite wealthy as a result. But if you don’t do this – it will be that much more difficult to raise money in the short time. You can likely lose thousands or millions of dollars in compounding interest! I can’t help but wonder how many good deeds have gone undone and have been lost – in my life; many of them small deeds that over time compound our impact for the kingdom – like compounding interest; and when we fail to do these small deeds – the impact is lost.  We are redeemed by Jesus for a purpose! The law teaches us that. What is your purpose? And what are the things that hinder you from pursuing that?
        Maybe this week is a great time to bring this question before God – Lord, what are the good works You prepared for me to do in advance? Is there anything hindering me in that process? Take this before God and let Him lead you in this; but be ready because this question usually results in action.  He’s got plans for you my friend.  Have a great week!
Pastor Ryan

Freedom in the Law

Hello SNC family,

In Psalm 119:45 the psalmist writes:
” I will walk about in Freedom; for I have sought out your precepts.”
Later he says that he loves the law of God.
     I have to admit – for much of my life I have looked at the law with an eye of suspicion.  Not because I felt it was a lie – but because I knew it was impossible to entirely keep and yet there was a part of me that felt it was necessary to keep this impossible law in order to please God and gain His blessing.  I thought God gave us the law to tell us all we couldn’t do – to erase our freedom and tie us down – to be a cosmic killjoy.  But Psalm 145 – in its entirety paints a completely different picture of the law.  It is the longest Psalm, all broken into stanzas that begin with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  It is a grand treatise on what the law can mean to us.
    And in verse 45; the psalmist says this incredibly puzzling statement – He says he walks in freedom because he has sought out God’s precepts (His law).  Is he actually saying here what it sounds like – that the law- enacted into every day life – actually brings freedom????  To be sure – we’re not free to just do whatever we want – but when we walk in God’s law we experience a different kind of freedom – spiritual freedom – emotional freedom – freedom of conscience.
      After I began to enter a phase of aggressively seeking to find recovery in my addiction – I began to become confronted with a question.  Why doesn’t God want me to do this behavior?   You can put any sin in there.  Why doesn’t God want me to lie – why doesn’t he want me to dishonor my parents – or to sleep with my neighbors wife – WHY?  Why doesn’t God want me to get drunk; or use drugs?  I remember a conversation I had with a guy who told me he didn’t want to  follow God – or go to church because he didn’t want to stop drinking alcohol or smoking cigarrettes.  Which prompted me to ask him: “Why do you think God wants you to stop drinking and smoking?” He said: “Because those are bad things.” I said: “alcohol use is not prohibited by scripture; being drunk is.  I think we know enough to know that smoking is a destructive behavior physically but so is eating pounds of sugar a day.  There’s a Scripture where the apostle Paul says:  ‘All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial; all things are permissible but I will not be a slave of anything.’ The biggest issue for God is if you become a slave of something – like alcohol or smoking because that is not beneficial.  Jesus drank alcohol but He wasn’t a slave to it.”
    The man told me he hadn’t thought of it that way. The point I was trying to make was similar to what we see in Psalm 145 – and I think what we find as we build our lives on the ten commandments and the teachings of God  – we find real life; freedom. When we look at God’s teachings we see a deep wisdom given to us for how life is meant to be lived – and that’s what makes the law so powerful. It’s blueprint for healthy living that starts with God’s grace offered to us freely in Jesus Christ.
Let me invite you to take some time this week to read Psalm 145.  This man who writes this doesn’t see the law as a big colossal bummer – but rather as a life-giving solid path to follow the God who has freely given him love and blessing.  Let me warn you though – this Psalm is a marathon – it’s quite long so give yourself some time to sit with it and chew on it.  Be blessed this week!
Pastor Ryan