Aug 31, 2023
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:12-18)
There are significant enemies that we face in this Christian life, namely the world, the flesh, and the devil. We’ve mentioned them before.
Each of these three enemies was a good creation of God at the start though—especially our flesh with its desires and our world. The world and the flesh have not always been our enemies, nor will they be forever. God has set about in Jesus Christ to redeem all of creation, including our own fleshly humanity, our desires, and the culture that arises from humanity’s living and working together in this, our world.
So, our desires are not inherently evil—our ability to desire and the proper objects of our desire are good gifts of God. But within a sin-broken world, these desires fall out of proper proportions and we begin to desire good things too much or too little. Or, our desires find objects other than the ones they were intended to aim at, becoming idolatrous.
Some examples might be… A desire to succeed that keeps us from accepting God’s grace in failure. A desire to control our happiness or security that keeps us from surrendering to God. A desire for intimacy that finds its end not in desiring the consummation of the kingdom or even in a committed marriage relationship, but in pornography or adultery instead.
Now, we’ve begun this journey of redemption in Christ. God has given us new birth into this Christian life and God will crown us with life at its end. But between those two moments lies a lifetime of discipleship—that work of following Jesus and becoming more like him each day.
On the way, God reveals the motives of our heart which need to die in order for the new life of Christ to more fully take root. It’s a work of re-forming of our fleshly desires: re-aligning and re-aiming them to their proper ends and in proper degrees.
This is not just a journey of discipleship that we walk, but is the work of Sanctification that the Spirit works in us as we walk. The journey of sanctification is a lifelong cure slowly administered by the Holy Spirit for all that is sin-broken in our fleshly desires. The Spirit reveals the evil in our hearts, and together with Him, we participate in putting it to death through the power of Christ’s death: finding new life again and again on the other side.
With the Bible to guide, the Spirit to empower, and the Lord’s Prayer of “lead us not into temptation…” on our lips, we find this to be the daily prescription for the rest of our lives—dying and rising. Taking up our cross and following.
After giving us new birth into this Christian life, our loving Father hasn’t left us on our own to fight the world without and the temptations within. No, through the power of the Sanctifying Spirit He accomplishes it within us.