There’s one rule in life, just one.  Don’t sin.  That is all.  If you choose not to carry on in sin, then God will carry you through every twist and turn that comes your way on the amazing journey this side of heaven.  Just consider: God thinks about you.  If you could number the sand on the seashore, then you could number the thoughts God has for you – which means God has already prearranged the best possible path for you to traverse and will direct you down that course.  “ ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  The most important thing you’ll ever do aside from accepting the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross is overcoming sin, finally.  You’ll celebrate God’s ultimate dream for you.  Resolving in your heart that you will never go back and that you will be faithful until death will, in return, cause the Author and Finisher of your faith to pen-in the most delightfully-wonderful chapters you’ve never imagined.  You’ll walk about with the crown of life, because, “The righteous will receive their reward upon the earth” (Proverbs 11:31).  Overcoming sin, finally, will put an end to your drawn out wilderness wandering stories and bring you into God’s promised land, flowing with milk and honey.  Friends, enough wandering.  It’s high time to buckle down and be faithful until death, and receive the crown of life.



Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11) and, without question, you will have a post-Adamic garden paradise if you choose to abstain from the big fall – it’s biblical.  Sorrow and anguish to the soul who sins, but righteousness, peace, and immortality to those who persist in righteousness.  Ultimately, keep yourselves in the love of God.  Rejoice always in Jesus’ name.  And, walk in the Holy Spirit whom God gave us as a Helper.  Now, I believe someone is saying, “We are all sinners and abstaining from sin is impossible.”  And, I would agree.  We are all sinners by nature, yet I am not speaking about your natural shortcomings or commonplace errors.  I’m speaking about your horrendous sins, and you know what they are.  David said,You have rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in Your sight because I have kept myself from my sin” (Psalm 18:23-23).  David knew what his sin was and simply put, you know what your sin is.  You are completely aware of your transgression.  Avoid it until your death and you will be heavily rewarded as you log-in the years and decades with the Master.  I’m convinced that the only way you will indeed see the complete tantamount goodness of the Lord in the land of the living is by logging in the decades, and the scores of years until your heavenly homecoming; and God knows those who have purposed within their heart to desert and abandon the life of sin and backsliding – and God will begin pouring out continual favor and contiguous blessing now!  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:13).  You’ll walk through life with a heavenly bestowed, invisible crown and celebrating spirit that others desperately desire, yet, they don’t completely receive because deep down they love their occasional backsliding – you’ll be the one with a sterling quality of life and an enthusiastic, exciting-adventurous way.  It’s true.  Oh, it’s true!

 

A monumental life changing key to overcoming every possible sin which rears its head in your life is found in one phrase and perhaps one of the mightiest scriptural tools you have in your battles against the flesh.  Are you ready?  James 4:7 states, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  This passage changes everything.  Know it.  Love it.  Breathe it.  This biblical passage allows you passage through hardships which result in God’s endless favor.  If you know this verse and breathe it, you will always have an advantage against the enemy.  Why?  Because you know how he maneuvers and you know he is going to flee soon enough.  We are not ignorant of his devices.  This spiritual insight into conquering sin resounds in the Psalms when the Psalmist wrote, “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity” (Psalm 125:3).  In other words, your temptation won’t remain in front of you very long or else you’d reach out your hand and succumb.  The devil flees when you resist.  It’s the most powerful weapon you have in your cognitive arsenal against sin.  Apply it, whether it is a 4 minute long denial or 40 day grueling battle against temptation – it always works.  Yet, when we resist the devil we cannot do so in our own strength.  That’s were walking in the Spirit comes in.  I say then, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).  The man or woman who spends their time exercising their senses in the Holy Spirit can discern what the Spirit is speaking quickly and definitely.  Resist the devil while doing everything the Spirit is leading you to do, and you will never fail–it’s a promise.  You will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

 

Enough prefacing, let’s get started.  Familiarity and continually poring over the verses that pertain to temptation will ultimately give you complete victory in times of testing.  Verses such as, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” and verses such as “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh,” and verses such as “Make no opportunity for the flesh to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14) are critically-staple exhortations which are alive and active during times of Satanic seduction.  In other words, if there is an opportunity to fall during a cosmically intense battle against the flesh, you will take it – so cut off any provision.  Cut off every chance the flesh has to fulfill its lusts.  That is going to look different in the lives of every one of us because we have each been given a measure of faith, but my testimony for choosing to “Make no opportunity for the flesh to fulfill its lusts” ran parallel to what Jesus did.  Jesus remained isolated in the wilderness.  I can identify with Jesus because I found myself a lone wanderer in the wilderness for years, and especially when the battle to sin was hot against me.  Jesus was literally expelled into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1).  In Matthew chapter four, when the Bible says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days,” the word for led there is literally expelled into the wilderness.  My exhortation to you who walk in the Spirit and live in the presence of God is to go with it.  Let the Spirit lead you or expel you into the wilderness places where there is no way the flesh can gratify the sinful nature.  Maybe that is going into the wilderness, maybe that is ditching your car keys, money, and the very shoes on your feet with a trusted friend!  Do whatever it takes to take the escape that God gives every one of us during times of temptation (1st Corinthians 10:13).  Be reckless and bold in your war against the flesh.  Cut off every provision using drastic spiritual measures.  Yet, it all boils down to one thing: “Make no opportunity for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”  Strategize blockades which prohibit the sinful nature from manifesting.

 

Two words: Deal drastically.  Deal drastically with the flesh.  When God came to Abraham, He requested that he would walk before Him and be blameless; and He would make an everlasting covenant with him and prosper and multiply him.  I believe that if you and I choose to be blameless before God the same sort of promise would apply to us.  Walking blameless before Him would require a drastic dealing with the flesh; it was called circumcision.  It was the removal of the foreskin from the male part.  It was an unthinkable request, yet Abraham didn’t delay in the fulfillment of God’s petition.  In fact, Abraham didn’t waste time in offering his son Isaac as a burnt offering either.  Anyway, the Abrahamic covenant was outrageously outlandish for the time.  Circumcision was unheard of.  Abraham would be the pioneer of this practice.  Now, as a male, just think of the horror of circumcision as a completely grown man.  The thought of splitting the foreskin from the delicate part of manhood was unthinkable.  Yet, Abraham, the man of faith, proceeded to do so.  Our faith overcomes the world (1st John 5:4).  Sometimes, as I tell my children, God will ask you to do something drastic in the removal of the flesh, and however crazy it may seem…go with it.  Just do it.  No questions and minimal delay, except to bring it back to Him for prayer.  What has God put in your heart as part of your faith.  Proceed with it, for, that’s the only drastic personal calling and measure you have against the flesh that desires to master you.  Satan sought to sift Peter as wheat, but Jesus prayed that his faith wouldn’t fail (Luke 22:31).  Satan desire to sift you like wheat, yet God asks you to sift the flesh all the way around – just like circumcision!  Go with measure God has placed upon your heart!  Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  Abraham goes down in history as a blessed, mighty warrior, and prosperous leader of men.  He was pure, though not faultless, Abraham was just and righteous.  You can bet he was pure.  All the men in his household did everything Abraham commanded them from God, and they too were all circumcised, which, at the time was over 318 men.  Your obedience multiplies!  The type of man you are is the type of doppelgangers you will produce!  “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.  And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain’ ” (2nd Samuel 23:2-4).  It blows my mind that Abraham did something extremely outrageous, and his household didn’t question him at all, but followed in the same fashion.  If it all comes down to something, the exhortation would be to be faithful to God and deal with the flesh drastically – you will be noted as a leader and others will rise up just like you!

 

 

Every situation is different.  One time I recall asking my wife to get in the car and drive with me to San Francisco.  Now, I know San Francisco probably is a sinful place for many, yet for me it wasn’t.  We got in the car and drove, and drove.  I took the escape.  Now, that was where God led me once.  San Francisco is not the key to escape.  In fact these days, it’s probably the opposite.  Another safeguard I recall taking was purchasing a code-entry safe and only my wife knew the code to it.  The code-entry safe held everything that could cause opportunity for the flesh.  It even held my shoes.  Many times I found myself alone in the Los Angeles San Gabriel mountain range and it was where the presence of God was for me.  My daily schedule was to go there and routinely go back to the wilderness.  It seemed torturous at the time, I was there for years, sometimes alone, sometimes with my darling bride, but looking back, those were the most spiritual times in my life.  I found myself in good company.  Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness when He was tempted, and I was tooAnd now, I believe, one says, “I’m curious, what was tempting you Michael?”  And based on the authority of the scriptures I say, “The same thing that tempts everyone.”  Paul said, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1st Corinthians 10:13).  Our temptations are all the same.  “But Michael, I’m tempted by heroin and robbing banks.  Are you tempted by heroin and robbing banks?”  My answer is, “No, absolutely not.  But the same seduction, the same draw, the same allurement to sin is universal to every one of us.  It's all the same.”  And it’s all beaten the same way: by knowing the scriptures and using them in times of warfare.  One can never say, “Oh, my temptations are harder than your temptations because I’m addicted to hardcore sins.”  That’s a lie from the devil.  All of our temptations are exactly the same because the satanic enticement is the same for each and every one of us–it’s biblical.  It’s very freeing for me to know that I don’t have to suffer or struggle more than anyone else.  God is fair.  We all get the same tests.  “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

 

In California we have an earthquake readiness program called, “The Great California Shakeout.”  The Shakeout informs California residents regarding how to maneuver the next big quake with an intense magnitude on the Richter Scale.  The idea behind the program is that the big one is coming and to always be ready for it.  It’s going to come unexpectedly, which is how our big trial is coming.  Since we aren’t ignorant of Satan’s devices, we know that he will seek to strike when things are flowing swimmingly and when we don’t desire to do battle; when we are extremely comfortable.  Ecclesiastes 9:12 states, “For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.”  Evil times come unexpectedly.  Now, I honestly have been continually celebrating life and the decades have been slipping by.  I wonder if I’ll ever go through temptation again.  It seems like I haven’t been intensely tempted by anything since my previous battles against the flesh.  The devil has fled.  Yet, I know and God has trained me to hit my knees and taste floor for another 40 days if need be.  Satan can come unexpectedly.  I always readily keep the mentality to disconnect and disengage from everything I would rather be doing and wage war against the flesh.  Both me and my wife are ready.  And, though arduous temptation hasn’t been the recurring case in my situation anymore (because it was), I’m always ready for it; You should be too–it’s biblical.  Be ready for the big one.  1st Peter 1:13-16 declares, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ ”  There’s a war between the spirit and the flesh, and we cannot become disillusioned by quiet times or decades.  Celebrate the years of rest and enjoy, but always have a mind that is ready to do battle.  Rejoice always!  Yet know, the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.  Our enemy will again bring the big one our way when he has the chance.  When Jesus finished His 40 day battle against sin, the Bible declares, “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).  Now, friends, I guarantee you that Satan’s opportune time is the most inopportune time for you.  Many powerful and godly men fell in the last third of their lifetime, when they had rest on all sides.  “If anyone thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1st Corinthians 10:12).

 

David was known as the man after God’s own heart and was on a spectacularly big roll, winning victory after victory.  My heart burns with rejoicing within me when I read his exciting catalog of conquered enemies.  In 2nd Samuel chapter 8, we read about David’s list of defeated foes.  After destroying the Amalekites, the Jebusites, and the Philistines, David continues his striking spree and destroys the King of Zobah, the Syrians, and puts garrisons in Edom.  God keeps giving him victory after victory, as God will give you victory after victory when you battle against the flesh and its manifestations.  Then my heart sinks, when I thumb over just a page or two I read, “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem” (2nd Samuel 11:1).  Stop right there.  It was the time when kings go to war and David remained at Jerusalem?  In other words, David should have been busy fulfilling his calling, but he chose to forego his duties and the flesh got the best of him, which was his first error.  The scripture declares, “Commit your works to the LORD and your thoughts will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).  Stay busy with God’s purposes and your thoughts inevitably remain pure.  Thoughts are where sin begins (James 1:14).  If you aren’t working or fulfilling your calling, your mind becomes a battleground; and it is only a matter of time before your desires become temptation and you ultimately depart from the Lord.  How do I know?  Because the sin of Sodom was, “Fulness of food, pridefulness of heart, and idleness of time” (Ezekiel 16:49).  Concisely speaking, a recurring biblical theme which courses throughout the pages of heavenly wisdom is to beware and watch for complacency.  Deuteronomy 6:11-13 states, “So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant – when you have eaten and are full–then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him….”  Service, works, duty, labor, calling, and the like, run the gamut of synonymous terms and all mean the same thing for you and me – purity.  It’s no secret that David fell when he began to have rest on all sides.  David wasn’t desperately clinging to the Lord as he was previously.  He was lifted up on all sides.  His bank account was full (so to speak), his bills were paid with plenty for the future, and he was no longer a fugitive in the wilderness running from Saul.  One danger of prosperity is a laxity in our approach to clinging to the Lord like we once did when we were so desperate we had to or we’d crash and burn.  The secret is to cling to the Lord and seek holiness all the more during seasons of richness and blessing.  David was lifted up and he fell.  The devil was lifted up and he fell (Ezekiel 28:17).  Uzziah was lifted up and he fell (2nd Chronicles 26:16).  Hezekiah was lifted up and wrath was looming (2nd Chronicles 32:25).  Herod was lifted up and he died (Acts 12:23).  The Landowner was prosperous and began to drink, and his life was required of him (Luke 12:20).  Friends, do you see a common theme?

 

Let’s continue with David.  As he walks on the roof of his palace, when he should have been at war, he sees a woman bathing.  His friends, then, remind him that she is married.  Now, I believe that his first look was free.  It wasn’t a sin.  You have to know what is around you.  Yet, his problem was when he continued to develop an adulterous idea that would end in a sinful manifestation of the flesh – and it surely did because a somber tone enters the rest of David’s story until his death.  It’s just not the same anymore.  David forced the Hand of the Author and Finisher of his faith to pen chapters of anguish into his life’s story to keep him depending of God.  Notice his hardships; how he barely makes it out of all his happenstances by the skin of his teeth:  His daughter is raped, his son is murdered, his newborn child dies, his harem is stolen by his own son, his throne is in jeopardy, he runs from his own nation who divides and turns against him for war, and finally, when the nation’s heart turns back to him, a rebel cries against him and all Israel forsakes him as result.  The sword never departed from his household for all the days of his life.  And all this was the prophet Nathan’s pronounced judgment against him because David chose to indulge in one night of sin.  I must emphasize one night of sin.  How many times have you chosen to indulge in sin for one night?  I wonder how many blessings we have forfeit as a result?  Look at the lifelong ramifications for one night of indulgence!  But friends, there is grace.  The Author and Finisher of our faith can pen-in your life’s story beautiful chapters for obedience or He can pen-in sorrowful chapters for dependence!  I’m guessing you are opting to be faithful until death in order to see the goodness of the Lord on this side of heaven!  See, there’s a fascinating biblical principle that every seasoned Christian may know, but may not have seen it in this light: “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2nd Peter 3:8).  God’s timetable is different than our timetable.  When you choose to go out and fall for the day, could it be that it was noted as a thousand years of iniquity in His sight?  Yes it could, because a day is a thousand years in His sight.  Or, when you chose to live godly, could it be noted as a thousand years of godliness in His sight?  The answer is yes!  Imagine what God will do for a thousand years of obedience.  God records your goodness and obedience as a millennium of magnificence!  Please pardon this rhetorical device, but God readily rewards righteousness remarkably!  When you turn to God in righteousness, none of your wickedness is remembered!  “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live” (Ezekiel 18:21-22).  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him during tough times of testing and through your trials, and especially through your temptations!  Oh, the crown is coming to those who chose to overcome sin finally!  And praise God through Jesus Christ that none of our shortcomings are remembered ever again!  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).  Friends, there’s grace.

 

The ramifications of David’s story continue.  When Joab was doing David’s work destroying the Ammonites and besieging Rabbah, he sent word back to David.  In my terms, Joab said, “Quit messing around out there in Jerusalem or I’m going to take this city and name it after myself” (See 2nd Samuel 12:28).  Then David gathered all of Israel and finished it off.  Then he took their king, his crown, and all the spoil in abundance.  Then, David’s people set the sixty-six pound golden crown adorned with precious stones on David’s head.  David’s just finished committing adultery, murder, lying and deception, and just look at him; he’s adorned in royal majesty.  Please note:  Just because you are still prospering after or during committing sin, don’t perceive that as a reason that God isn’t going to judge or bypass your actions in any way.  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7-9). 

 

Dear Saints, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1st Peter 5:8-9).  When we receive the crown of life here and now on the earth, we will rejoice after we have denied ourselves for but a little while.  Jon Macarthur translated the phrase “Crown of Life” for “The Crown which is life.” The Greek term for “Crown,” which the Bible uses for the reward we receive when resisting temptation is “Stephanos,” which, by definition, is a mark of royal or an in general exalted rank.  When you resist and overcome sin finally, you will have an invisible mark of royalty and exalted rank – I’ve always said it.

 

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1st Corinthians 10:12).  God’s ways are holy and He is a shield to those who walk in them.  The do as I say, don’t do as I do cliché screams nothing.  Our effectiveness is what matters.  Satan seeks to keep us out of the game.  If we slip, we will find our testimony and witness ineffective.  I find it interesting that Jesus’ ministry didn’t start until He endured His rigorous 40 day temptation.  When He overcame, He got started.  You’ll find yourself a useful tool in the hand of the Master after you’ve endured the galvanizing heat of temptations and the seemingly endless intervals of the formative pounding steel hammer of trials in your life.  If you want to be deep, you will go through deep things.  Annihilate your 40 day boot camp and be marvelous, be mighty, and be a master at overcoming sin once and for all.  Back in Genesis we are commanded to be masters at overcoming sin finally.  Remember with me when God exhorted Cain for his actions, “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it’ ” (Genesis 4:6-7).  We should master sin.  We should rule over it.  We should control our flesh by the fruit of the Spirit, which is self-control (Galatians 5:23).  Notice, with me how Cain’s countenance fell.  There is a direct link to depression and sin; there’s also a direct link to holiness and happiness, blessedness, and beauty!  Earlier we saw how when we commit our works to the Lord our thoughts are established.  When God is behind our works there’s a beauty and majesty that we hang upon; sort of a hanging upon His robe while He gets the glory!  Moses knew this.  Moses concluded Psalm 91 by saying, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the works of our hands for us, yes establish the works of our hands.”  Committed works in righteousness burgeon pure thoughts; pure thoughts result in worship, and worshiping the Lord in the beauty of holiness drives out the desire to sin against the Lord.  Why would anyone want to sin at this point?  When we are so caught up in worship, sin appears…enticing as rotting vomit on the sidewalk.  You’d have to be out of your mind to desire vomit!  When a man or woman is enraptured in His love, everything else is rubbish.  And, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so is a man who returns to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).  Backsliding doesn’t just happen.  The man who falls into transgression fell somewhere else, usually in a small disobedience somewhere.  The one who returns to folly chose to disobey the Spirit somewhere along the lines and forfeit the power, peace and self-control that the Spirit endows upon us.  Yet, we who have chosen to be faithful until death hold the title of water-walkers, mountain movers, and grave skippers!  Rejoice O’ man or woman who has resolved to be faithful until death!  You are the ones who have the majestically-royal crown of life as a result of walking in the Spirit!  We all see it, even if you don’t!  And, if I still haven’t convinced you…remember Pentecost.  When the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 in the upper room, there appeared tongues of fire on each ones head.  What if you were part of the 120 in the room?  Could you see the holy fire burning upon you?  No, everyone else would see your fire, but you wouldn’t because no matter how hard you try, you cannot see the top of your head!  We all see your fire!  You’ve been proven by your temptations and you are effective, and, if not, get ready for your 40 days of temptation!

 

Our seductions, our temptations, and our satanic-fleshly desires can be overwhelming at times.  There was a period in my life when I felt that I had no choice but to sin.  It called out to me.  The satanic draw and seduction was so strong that I felt I had to give in.  I was wrong and misled.  I have discovered over time that no matter how loud the temptation gets, you do not have to give in.  When I continue walking in the Spirit, I always have the upper hand.  My flesh is always kept under as I submit to the Spirit while the enemy is screaming for me to succumb and to crash and burn.  Knowing this is both pivotal and crucial.  You don’t have to cave-in no matter how overwhelming the temptation is: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).  And, if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law that condemns your sinful way.  Stay in the Spirit, even if, as the biblical precept states, you would resist temptation to the point of bloodshed (See Hebrews 12:4).  I doubt too many of us will have to be overwhelmed with temptation to physical bloodshed, but the mental and emotional battle against the flesh transcends the physical the world, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Your battle is spiritual, and to overcome sin finally, you must resolve to walk in the Spirit to avoid fulfilling the lust of the flesh.  I’ve made this resolve until my death.  I emphasize resolving to be faithful until death because I believe that is the only way to receive the crown of life which the Lord, the righteous judge, has promised to those who love Him.  We will be rewarded here and now, and it’s much better than periodically dabbling in sin because we think ‘we’ve been good’ for a while.  Remember, occasional backsliding results in a life of wilderness wandering that culminates in a life that never enters the promised land of milk and honey.  Most of them fell in the wilderness, but if you and I dare to be a Joshua or Caleb and take the giants of temptation, we will indeed enter the promised land.  Dearly loved ones, periodic and occasional sin, or ‘once in a blue moon’ sin results in a life with sob stories.  Remember David’s one night of indulgence.  I’ve met too many of them.  Take the giants!  In the words of Caleb the conqueror, “They are bread for us” (Numbers 14:9). 

 

You and I have a giant.  I don’t want to spook you, but the devil has studied you throughout your entire life and has found the feeling and fleshly-fancy that makes you buckle and cave.  He knows what makes you weakened and tempted.  God told Satan, “ ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that he is an upright man upon the earth and there is none like him?’  Then, Satan answered, ‘You’ve blessed everything he has and have placed a hedge around him’ ” (See Job 1-2).  The word “considered” is a military term.  It denotes scrutinizing, studying, and overthrowing in war.  In other words, the devil has studied you and knows your weaknesses.  He is strategizing your destruction.  I do not believe it is very hard for the devil to know what makes you cave, after all, he has studied mankind for millenniums and we pretty much fail in the same fashion.  Now, folks, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  We aren’t ignorant of Satan’s devices.  We can eat our giants alive (Number 14:9). 



To be written:

 

David’s giant is your temptation.  It is your giant.

Your sling and stone; your gifts will defeat sin as you continually walk in the Spiritual gifts bestowed upon you.

You can’t use your own clever measures to defeat the giant – recall Saul’s armor being bulky and uncomfortable.  Some think it is rehab, clever ideas, even going home to take a shower!  Ha ha!  No, our weapons aren’t carnal.

I must confess that I began to think sin was part of life and it must be normal to slip away and fall every once in a while and it was just part of life.  I was dead wrong.

 

I have spent a lot of time researching through the past lives of actors and celebrities who have already gone ahead of us.  They may or may not have known Jesus, but one thing is for sure, they weren’t Spiritual people.  Most of them have a unifying theme.  They lived lives dabbling or even dependent on substance and alcohol.  They also have had multiple marriages and divorces.  They often suffer from depression and need psychological counselors.  Many are usually a mess and I wonder why the public praises them and even desires to be like them.  It’s most likely because their gifts shine on the screen, and, for some reason, the recipient audience believes that’s who they really are; nothing could be further from the truth.  They’re train-wrecks.  Yet, praise God who gives gifts that work no matter what the Spiritual condition is of the person! “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29 ESV).  These people lived lives of insignificance and they will be paupers in heaven – if they even got there.  They weren’t spiritually-minded, but personal agenda-minded.  And dear friends, though there is nothing wrong with ambition or dreams, anyone who wishes to keep his life will lose it;  And, he who loses his life for the kingdom’s sake will keep it for eternal life.  In God’s identity we find our desires, our duties, and our dreams after all!  And, they didn’t resemble anything in verisimilitude we originally imagined.  

 

God commanded us to circumcise the foreskin our hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16).  In other words, God requires us to walk in the ways of our hearts, but some aspiring ideas, masterful skills, and would-be plans which make our heart burn with excitement must be cut off and forfeit or they’ll destroy us.  Dear brothers and sisters, we just can’t do everything we want to do.  Though they are ‘good ideas,’ they aren’t all completely Spirit led or purposefully inspired.  Every one of our imaginations is Father-filtered.  “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).  Solomon was gifted with a heart as large as the sand on the seashore, which means he loved everything!  Unfortunately for Solomon, that was his downfall.  His heart loved the things God would have had him cut off such as multiplying wives, horses, gold, and, eventually he was snared by paganism and idolatry.  Now, all this long-winded preface is to deliver one powerful-pivotal and monolith-monumental key that everyone who wishes to overcome sin finally must adhere to: “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).  It’s by walking in the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, will we finally put to death the misdeeds of the body once and for all.  Friends, meandering in the Spirit sometimes or being sparsely faithful once in a while won’t cut it.  “If we walk in the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  Purposing to follow His everlasting peace for the rest of your days will produce the desirable-sterling life which everyone desires and honestly delights!  Walking in the Spirit is the one and only path to overcoming sin finally!  And Praise God!  He made it easy to discern divine-direction!  God promised He would give us the “Parakleitos” or the Helper, which is the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is peace, forever.  In other words, we should never desperately struggle to find answers in obscurity or hopelessly seek direction with an uncertainty of finding an answer – No, we always know the way to go.  It’s simply searching out peace.  It’s following God’s peace – that’s the direction, whether you get an answer to your situation or not!  This rule governs the life of every solid Christian!  “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field clap their hands…and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:12-13).   God’s everlasting sign to us is going out with joy and being led with peace.  Friends, follow this rule forever, regardless of what your situation is.  You’ll never go wrong, and if you are walking in the Spirit you’ll never fall.  It’s a promise.  Most cases have an original provenance that ultimately points to leaving their first love.  They missed a wave and flow of the Spirit somewhere.  At one time they were walking in the Spirit of love and let something in that took it away…and they just kept on going.  They found the strength of their uninspired hand and eventually took a spill.  And remember, it was a glorified and resurrected Jesus who said, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil…and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent” (See Revelation 2:2-5).  Maybe you haven’t yet fallen, but you are on the road to losing your light because somewhere along the lines you stopped flowing in the Spirit of glory to glory.  Remember, repent, return and repeat if necessary!

 

I can remember musing and wondering at my depraved condition.  I can remember thinking, “Is this the story of my life?  Will I ever get past this?  The decades have past, but for some reason I can’t seem to reckon the old man dead.  He keeps calling out for a resurrection, and I give it to him.  No, it wasn’t the obvious story of my life, I was probably noted as an American ‘mover and shaker,’ and I don’t think anyone would know it really, but I did and I didn’t think it would ever end.  Then, I discovered something about Pharaoh in the Old Testament that I believe applied to me.  I noticed in Exodus, that the Pharaoh of Egypt kept hardening his heart against God and it became a repetitive pattern throughout Exodus.  Then, I couldn’t help but notice that instead of the phrase, “And Pharaoh hardened his heart,” it said, “And God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.”  This Old Testament truth hit me like a ton of bricks.  Pharaoh ultimately made a choice so many times that eventually God made the decision for him; couldn’t he do that for me?  What if I kept choosing righteousness?  Couldn’t God do that for the good?  Couldn’t God sort of ‘harden’ me in righteousness?  For instance, if I was to make a decision in my heart to repent and return and follow righteousness as a consistent pattern, couldn’t God eventually solidify me in my decision?  The answer is yes.  Yes!  I believe I am at the point where I’ve chosen to follow him and have turned from the flesh on so many occasions that it has become who I am.  I am hardened in righteousness!  I believe it and I’m senile about it!  This is who I am.  This is how God works and I believe it, no one can tell me otherwise because it is my testimony!  Praise God!  Oh, I know I’m not infallible or bulletproof but, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:24-26).  Friends, I’m not prideful or conceited about it, but my plan is to follow after my Consuming Fire until death, until I appear in His likeness!  I advise you to make a covenant with God to do the same; to be faithful until death.  Would God have you do anything else?!

 

What I often tell others who are maybe living contrary to the things of God is that I love having a Deliverer.  I love my Savior.  I love knowing that when I call upon the Lord, He hears me.  From time to time, I find myself in an impossible situation that is bigger than me.  I’m occasionally at an impasse that requires prayer and the hand of God to move – or I’m done for.  In the Lord’s prayer we read, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen” (Matthew 6:13).  Satan’s attack against you is temptation.  Notice, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us....”  Deliver us from ‘what’?  No, not from what, but from who.  Satan’s attack against you is temptation and you should frequently and sometimes religiously be praying the Lord’s prayer to be delivered from it.  It’s how Jesus taught us to pray.  Why?  because among many tenets in the Lord’s Prayer, it corners a very needful and special cry to avoid temptation in its many forms and temperatures.  Praying to avoid Satan’s snare is critically crucial to your Christian walk.  Though God Himself doesn’t tempt anyone and we are allured by our own desires, God uses temptation to prove you and refine you as gold.  “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10) and, “If need be, you have been grieved by various trials for the testing of your faith” (1st Peter 1:6).  Yet, is it possible to avoid some temptations altogether?  Is it possible to sort of skip some?  The answer is yes.  Absolutely, yes!  The gospel writer, Mark said, “Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:37-38).  Pray, or else you will fall into temptation!  The choice is ours. 

 

Okay, finally, we have learned that if we pray we can avoid various temptations, but there is a second methodology that most skip over in the temptation chapter.  Notice this second biblical precept that will give you the privilege to avoid an unnecessary temptation with me: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.  I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say” (1st Corinthians 10:12-15).  If you are caught up in idolatry; i.e. television, internet media, movies and the like…you continually see images that provoke your flesh to temptation at the wrong times!  You will find yourself in unnecessary temptations.  It’s a biblical promise.  Did you catch Paul’s most profound and ultimate concluding statement regarding temptation?  He said, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”  When you see the word “Therefore,” it is always good to ask, “What’s ‘Therefore’ there for?”  It makes perfect sense that Paul would say to flee from idolatry because even when you momentarily see images that draw and seduce your flesh, you feel the pull and then, of course, you change the channel or look away.  You are a good Christian and that’s what good Christians do.  And, being the good Christian you are, you change the channel or turn it off or look away when you notice a bad image.  And, though your actions are commendable, they fall drastically short.  Friend, here’s why – and this is big, if you can stay with me on this and grasp this concept, the very course of your destiny will change!  Here goes: Remember when Jesus was being tempted by the devil.  Recall when, “The devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’  And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!  For it is written,’ “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” ’ ” (Luke 4:5-8).  Notice how the devil was able to show Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment.  Once again, he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment.  I’m sorry, I’m not hyper Pentecostal by any means, but I must state this one more time: The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment.  Know this.  Never forget it every single time you turn on the television or see a movie or observe whatever on internet media.  Your enemy, the devil, has an insidious angelic capability.  Satan has a weapon: an ability to download cosmically fast world-size chunks of seducing material, that will sprout in your future.  How long does it take him to do it?  A moment of time.  It’s his gift.  He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory even, in a moment!  That’s a lot of ground to cover in a twinkling of an eye.  Friends, cognitively know and understand that the devil has the ability to put ‘a lot’ of information in your heart in the nuance of a partial second.  In a moment, Satan can cover more ground than you have ever imagined in your wildest dreams.  Now, you thought you were a good Christian soldier because you changed the channel, or looked away when you saw or heard that bad thing on T.V. or the internet.  Wrong.  The devil did what he needed to.  You have underestimated what he could do with a moment.  By the time you looked away, it was too late.  You already gave him a moment.  And, during the time of your temptation, all those lustful images and desires have an opportunity to wage war against your mind.  According to Paul, your temptation is a direct result of idolatry.  Recall with me the Corinthian verses on temptation, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.  I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say” (1st Corinthians 10:12-15).  I dealt a deathblow to television and movies over a decade ago and haven’t dared venture back.  It’s become progressively rotten.  I won’t accept it.  It wasn’t or isn’t holy.  And, I believe what the Bible says.  I’m probably noted as too radical by the majority and, friend, if this seems too far fetched for you, then please do not be offended, but keep watching T.V. and movies, and like a good Christian boy or girl just choose to turn your head away or change the channel after you have already seen or heard something bad.  After all, you’re a good Christian!  And, just keep giving Satan his moment after moment.  Yet, I guarantee you, you will struggle with mediocrity for the rest of your lifetime.  But, please, go ahead and change the channel.  Why?  Because you aren’t willing to deal a deathblow to flesh and its lusts.  Why not consider being radically reckless and aim to be holy?  Remember what Satan can do with a moment – the very moment it took you to see it and change the channel.  It’s too late by then!    

 

Jesus’ temptation yields powerful ramifications and instruction for our temptations.  Okay, remember how when Jesus was taken by the devil?  Yes, it’s true. The scripture declares that the “Devil took Jesus upon a high mountain” and I don’t know about you, but when my mind is flooded by the enemy, I almost feel taken by him; though he can’t possess me, my heart turns desperately wicked in thought.  It sounds sacrilegious, I know, but the devil took Jesus and when our mind goes south during temptation we can feel taken too.  We who are Spirit filled believers can never be possessed, but our flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.  Sometimes I wonder at how wicked my mind becomes, but I remember that thoughts are not sin – acting on those thoughts are sin.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; Who can know it” and “God saw that the imagination of man’s heart was evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  Our flesh lusts against the Spirit of God.  The devil took Jesus during His temptation, and, friends, don’t marvel if you feel taken too.  You’re not.  That is, you’re not in sin unless you act upon those unwholesome and gross-perverse imaginations.

Those whos are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions!

 

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.  And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people, I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace” (Leviticus 10:1-3).  Nadab and Abihu offered profane smoke in the temple and, as a result, they were burned by Yahweh.  God prohibited any kind of foreign fire or smoke in the temple.  In the Old Testament the temple is a metaphor and type for your body.  In the New Testament, your body is the temple of the Living God.  How does God feel about foreign smoke in the temple?

One sure fire way to anger God and bring his wrath down is to allow a foreign passion, outside feeling, or profane smoke, into the temple.  “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1st Corinthians 6:19-20).  At this point, I’m going to address the topic of intoxication, substance, sorcery and any induced superficial feelings in the second person.  Let’s develop this:  God loves you.  He has your best in mind.  He speaks to you in a still small voice.  The Spirit of God places impressions on your heart and loves to guide, lead, and direct you.  That is what the Holy Spirit does.  It’s His purpose.  Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13) and “He will convict you of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8).  Let’s keep developing this because it’s big: God will never leave you nor forsake you; He’s there to direct your paths forever.  Now, with that in mind, it’s possible to conclude that God is often speaking to you.  He isn’t a chatter box, but He speaks to us frequently and I believe God speaks to me throughout the day just about every single day.  All this is to say one thing: when your head is densely clouded with the smoke of whatever, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t speaking to you or that He isn’t leading you – it’s that you can’t hear Him because your mind is fogged!  Satan has cast a smokescreen!  Your fuzzy and nebulous reasoning block-outs God’s loving direction towards you because you can’t hear him.  He is still speaking.  You just can’t hear Him.  These are the very thoughts that prosper your individuality, your material wealth, and, most of all, the spiritual man within – and you blocked them out!  Smoked out minds miss the very moment that God wanted to impart an idea or notion that would have changed the course of your life for the good!  Yet, you missed it because Satan came and tempted you and you fell.  That’s why the devil came and tempted you with the Nadab and Abihu bowls that you thought were golden at the time.  Satan knew that God would plant the fruitful seed in your heart that very day and sought to tempt you with some form of substance that would cloud-out and fill your mind with nebulous thoughts that wouldn’t amount to anything.  The flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).  The adversary stole the fruit you could have had.  Why?  All because you wanted to smoke whatever it was.  The devil is a thief.  You missed out on the very idea that would have changed everything!  Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).  He still loves you.  He is still speaking.  You just can’t hear.  God never left Adam.  Adam left God and hid because darkness snuffed his light.  God called out, “Adam where are you?”  Adam was distant, removed, and ultimately hidden behind the green bushes.

 

The following is an excerpt from “Light’s and Perfections.”

 

“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14).

 

Notice that sin is personified as having the life of a human being:

 

Conception- “When desire has conceived....”

 

Birth- “It gives birth to sin....”

 

Growth to Maturity- “And sin, when it is full grown....”

 

Death- “Sin…brings forth death.”

 

Sin is personified as having humanistic attributes from conception through death.  Sin is referred to in scripture as the “old man.”  Paul said, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin…Likewise you, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:6-7; 11).

Your old man - your old sin nature is dead.  You are a brand new, avant-garde, personage in Christ, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

Does this mean my old carnal man will never come back?

 

He doesn’t have to, but, he will try!  You don’t have to obey him! It’s like this:  I was on the football team at Ambassador Christian High School.  My coach, Coach Sherman, was pretty tough on us.  He yelled out laps, push-ups, sit-ups, and every other imaginable miserable disciplinary exercise.  Years later, I left the Ambassador Bulldogs and went on to become a Montclair High School Cavalier.... 

 

Now, if I happened to be leaving campus to stop by the local Burger King on Central Ave. and Coach Sherman walked in, I’d greet him.  If Coach Sherman said, “Mike, what do you think you are doing eating two Whoppers with a soda?  That’s not what winners are made of!  Get down and give me 50!  Get to it!  Go!  Go!  Go!”

 

Guess what?  I don’t have to obey him!  Though I may be very compelled, I’m not on the team anymore.

 

Sin is the same way.  The flesh calls out for a resurrection, but, guess what?  You don’t have to obey the old man any longer.  You’re free in Christ! “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Romans 6:12).  No matter how loud the temptation gets, resist the devil, submit to the Holy Spirit, and you will, indeed, keep the old carnal man under – where he belongs.  

 

Dear reader, throughout this text, I plan on being both repetitious and redundant through the rhetorical device of reiteration.  I’m going to repeat the very tenets, rules, and verses that cause us to overcome.  It’s the only way I have overcome sin.  I have repeated to myself maybe hundreds or thousands of times the very biblical verses that could deliver me.  Then, I do them.  My goal is repetition because ultimately my ideas and explications, I know, fall short of God’s word – and they always will.  Only the word of the Lord is inspired.  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2nd Timothy 3:16).  Every elucidation, explication, exegesis, exposition, and explanation I could formulate doesn’t hold a match to the light of the Sun’s brilliance – the Son’s brilliance.  And, the word of the Lord to us is, “I say then, ‘Walk in the Spirit,’ and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).  In the back of your mind or your heart, deep down, know that as long as you walk in the Spirit, the works of the flesh will never manifest or reveal themselves in your walk.  The works of the flesh are:  adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, drug-use, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions,  heresies, envy, and murders.  If you walk in the Spirit, these manifestations of the flesh will never reveal themselves.  They will never happen.

 

We live in this body which Paul calls the body of death.  And, we will always have a sinful nature while in the body.  Yet, I know that the yoke God places upon us is easy and light.  I also believe that arduous temptations shouldn’t be the story of one’s life.  We will always have to deny the flesh because as long as we are in the body, our fallen flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, but denying the flesh becomes simpler over time.  When your big battles against the flesh are over, it becomes virtually easy to overcome our common daily denials of the flesh.  I guess what I mean is that, once in a while, throughout the day, I sigh when I feel my mind and flesh lusting and warring against the Spirit throughout the day.  I sight aloud because I feel the flesh lusting against my Spirit.  It’s easy though, it’s simply an obedience to the Spirit.  That’s why James 4:7 states, “Therefore, submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  There’s a sigh, then there’s an obedient submission that chooses to follow God, to heed, and to remain subservient to the Holy Spirit.  Then, we resist sin as a common practice.  It’s not hard anymore.  It’s the story of my life now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always ready for a big trial.  I’m always ready to war against the flesh and suffer if needs be, but I must confess that my daily life of submission is not hard.  In fact, I’d say it’s easy and light.  Once the big wars are over, daily denials are limited to groaning sighs at the most!  Then, you go about your day as if it means nothing!  Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  When you are crowned with life, that is, when you begin to celebrate life as a reward of overcoming sin finally, you will find the words of Jesus true, and it almost feels like you are being carried through life!  I love it!  I often cry out and tell my wife and children, “Ya’ know what guys, it feels like I’m being carried through life!”  It feels like God is doing it all for me!  His yoke is easy and His burden is light!

 

It was king Ahab who didn’t have a very good reputation.  Ahab was very worldly and murderously sinful, yet every once in a while I marvel at God’s goodness to Ahab.  One instance was when he had victory over the drunken Syrians.  I marvel because this wicked king, Ahab, could defeat an army due to their drunken behavior.  And, I’ve learned from his story that those who drink lack discernment.  They miss God’s whispers.  They miss His direction.  When they go out to battle, they’ll run away in defeat in their biggest battles.  They’ll find the moral fabric of their marriages ripping, they’ll ultimately find their businesses tanking or yielding mediocrity, and throughout the Bible, those who drink alcohol believe they have it all together, but they lack discernment and spiritual judgment.  Recall with me the story.  Ben-Hadad sent to king Ahab requesting his gold, silver, wives, and children.  And, King Ahab didn’t refuse him.  He said, “All that I have is yours.”  Then, Ben-Hadad said, “Tomorrow, about this time, I will send my servants and they will search through your house and your servants’ houses and they will take whatever pleases the eye.”  And Ahab said, “Everything you have asked the first time I will give you, but you cannot search through my house.”  Finally, Ben-Hadad declared war on Ahab as he was drinking with the thirty-two other kings who were joined with him in battle.  Obviously, Ben-Hadad arrogantly thought he’d win the war.  And, if I may make an observation, those wall street movers and shakers arrogantly believe that they have it all figured out.  I also find it interesting that when I read the wiki’s on their lives that they are suffering from depression, legal pharmacopeia, multiple broken relationships, and woes that come from their disillusionment of thinking they have life by the horns.  That disillusionment comes from their lack of discernment.  The lack of discernment or judgment or spiritual wisdom comes from alcohol.  Period.  Anyway, the scripture finally records, “So they went out at noon. Meanwhile Ben-Hadad and the thirty-two kings helping him were getting drunk at the command post.   The young leaders of the provinces went out first. And Ben-Hadad sent out a patrol, and they told him, saying, ‘Men are coming out of Samaria!’  So he said, ‘If they have come out for peace, take them alive; and if they have come out for war, take them alive.’

Then these young leaders of the provinces went out of the city with the army which followed them.  And each one killed his man; so the Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them; and Ben-Hadad the king of Syria escaped on a horse with the cavalry.  Then the king of Israel went out and attacked the horses and chariots, and killed the Syrians with a great slaughter” (1st Kings 20:16-21).  Life changing decisions come from the Spirit, not the spirits.  I guarantee that if you are a casual or professional drinker, you are going to miss it somewhere.   You’ll miss a gentle whisper from on High; a whisper that could have changed everything. 

 

Check this out: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!  Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man!  therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them, and the hills trembled.  Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.  For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still” (Isaiah 5:20-25).  Notice the attributes of a professional drinker.  He is wise in His own eyes and prudent in His own sight; calling evil good, and good evil; putting darkness for light, bitter for sweet, taking away justice, etc. are all attributes ascribed to the professional drinker.  Namely, to the drinker who can ‘hold his own’; to the hard working American who shops at Costco and purchases their weekly bottle of hard whatever.  Solomon the king was charged by his mother to stay far from drinking’s mediocrity because it would cause him to pervert justice and forget what the laws of God were.  Now, there are some intense biblical excerpts here, but please be patient with me and read on:  “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.  Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.  Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more” (Proverbs 31:4-7).  But as for you, yes you the reader, be mighty in God’s sight and abstain from wine or similar drink (See Luke 1:15).  Drinking produces mediocrity and it doesn’t matter if you are prospering financially or wealthy according to man’s standards while you casually drink because the things that are highly esteemed in the eyes of the world are an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).  I do not care what anyone says – drinking is mediocrity.  I’ve seen too many compromised Christians accept the lie that it’s okay to casually drink.  Don’t believe it.

 

In fact, don’t even look at it.  I teach my children that it is a sin to even look at it.  “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper…” (Proverbs 23:31-32).  For those of us who have a high calling – it’s a sin to even look at it.  There’s a spiritual wall that God has given every one of us towards alcohol and its lush advertising, and we’d have to jump it and push the Holy Spirit back just to gaze upon it.  Don’t even look at it.  Alcohol recurringly surfaces its head in the bible with devasting results: David and Uriah, Nadab and Abihu, Noah and his shamefulness, Lot and his daughters, and, Oh how I could go on proverbial warnings and New Testament condemnations! 

 

Jonadab the Rechabite knew how to overcome sin, finally.  He was blessed upon the earth.  When I first heard about this unique character in the Old Testament I felt like I found gold.  The following night I gathered my family together and charged them in the same manner.  Jonadab made his children declare that they would never be under the influence all their days.  It was a resolve and oath.  It’s important to know the final outcome that God promised to Jonadab and his children.  God promised that Jonadab would never lack a man to stand in His presence forever; and when a man or woman continually, perpetually, and indefinitely dwells in the presence of God, he or she has continual self control.  All this by a simple resolve to abstain from alcohol.  Jonadab charged his children to never be under any influence for the entirety of their days (See Jeremiah 35).  His message was like Jesus’, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).  It’s the only way you’ll reap the fullness of God’s favor upon your life.  Look at it this way, If you knew your spouse periodically cheated or played the harlot on you, what kind of relationship would you have?  It wouldn’t be very deep.  In fact, I’d say that occasionally the monogamously challenged party would experience wrath.  You are the bride of Christ (2nd Corinthians 11:2).  The LORD your God is a jealous God.  He’s crazy about you.  Commit to a lifetime of faithfulness and watch how you experience the goodness of the Lord like you never have!  Your goal isn’t a 30, 60, 90, or one year chip, as so many anonymous groups promise.  Your goal is to get to your death without sinning or backsliding or falling away – that’s your goal!

 

“So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.  The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven.  And the Lord would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law” (Deuteronomy 29:18-21).

 

 

God is good all the time.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  We have to log in the decades before we see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  When we continue with the Lord through the decades of doubt, perennial poverty, and seemingly endless affliction, we will come out as mighty conquerors dwelling in rich fulfillment – and we will reign as kings.  I believe it.  I know it.  I’ve seen it.  I live it.  The Psalmist said, “Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:12 KJV).  This verse means a lot to me.  I recall the years of following Him with my whole heart and despairing, yet following close behind Him through trouble.  Year after year, nothing seemed to be happening.  Now, Hezekiah wrote, “O Lord, by these things men live; and in all these things is the life of my spirit.  So You will restore me and make me live.  Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; but You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:16-17).  And, finally, we see Jesus content with His disciples when He said, “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials” (Luke 22:28).  God is pleased when you spend those wilderness years chasing Him.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  We have to log in the decades before we see the goodness of the Lord.  If your prayers are unanswered, if you feel like you’re wandering through the wilderness, if life is torturous and oppressive, just keep following through all those extremely long durations, you will see the goodness of the Lord.  It’s coming.  David ran for ten years, Moses was isolated for forty-years, Jeremiah never had one single convert, and Joshua and Caleb patiently endured the generation of those condemned to die in the wilderness before they entered the promised land of milk and honey.  And all these characters go down in historicity as extraordinary powerhouses; righteous men of whom we study today just to glean a lesson or two that we can implement into our own journey.

 

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).  Notice, there is a short lived pleasure in sin for a season, but afterwards those pleasures yield harmful repercussions; and, notice, there is a reward for choosing to suffer through it.  Albeit, there is a question about how fleeting the season of pure indulgence is.  I recall Jesus’ parable of the Barren Fig Tree.  A certain man planted a fig tree on his vineyard and for three years he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  Then he said to the keeper of the vineyard, “Cut this thing down, why does it use up the ground?”  Then the keeper of the vineyard answered and said, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize.  If it bears fruit, then good, but if not, then cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).  Now, God seeks to find the fruit of the Spirit in our life.  He may patiently wait for years.  Yet, know for certain that God will say, “Cut this tree down.  I’ve come seeking fruit and there’s none.”  Then, through the lovingkindness of the Lord He will draw you back to Himself with His lovingkindness.  He’ll fertilize you with feelings of love, He’ll water you with the washing of the word, and do everything without violating your free will to draw you back to Himself.  Rehoboam always reminds me of this.  Yet, three-years-before-judgment-comes is not a formula, it was only two years for king Rehoboam the son of Solomon.  After seeking God for three years, in the fifth year of his reign he forsook the LORD.  Then, God raised up Shishak the king of Egypt against him and he took everything; everything.  All the wars David fought to gain multiplied billions in gold – all gone.  In one day, everything Solomon invested his driven life into: the creation, fashioning, and construction of a glorious temple seen from space – all gone.  Sin is pleasurable for a season, but I do not believe the Lord will let the devil outdo Him.  God’s pleasures and experiences by far surpass anything Satan has to offer.  There’s more pleasure in following the Lord, but it comes after we’ve denied the flesh for decades.  “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).  “Since, therefore, Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1st Peter 4:1-3 ESV). 

 

Sin is timeless.  Satan has used the same old stuff and it’s the same old game for millenniums.  In fact, He is referred to as “The Serpent of Old.”  Back in 2003, I used to teach per diem a science class at Canyon View High School in Ontario, Ca. and I recall having to instruct the students concerning the dangers of smoking marijuana with the standard text they gave me.  The high school curriculum had a section that showed what a brain looked like from smoking marijuana.  It had dark-grey welts all over it!  But now for some reason, in 2020, marijuana became legal?  The governmental curriculum warned of the danger of smoking illegal substance, but now it’s legal.  What happened?  Did it change?  And the answer is no.  It’s still a mind altering, corruptive substance and it’s harmful – it’s sinful.  Alcohol still destroys 10,000 neurological dendrites per ounce – it’s harmful.  I bring it up because the devil is referred to as “The Serpent of Old.”  It was sinful then and it was sinful now.  The devil uses the same devices and material.  And, although society deems drugs and sin legal, it’s still the same in God’s sight.  The spirit of the world screams its acceptable and okay – it’s still sin.  Fight and condemn it until the end.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  The spirit of the world is strong.  It screams and envelopes us for a lifetime, but greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  The enemy sways the whole world.  The entire world is under his sway, but his future is bleak.  Notice, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:1-3).  The Serpent of old deceives the nations.  He tells them what to wear, what’s acceptable, and continues screams in your heart that sin would be the most pleasurable experience you can have.  He is a liar and the father of lies.  Friends, you are the restraining force in the world and even though days will become darker and darker, you must continue to adhere to your position as a restraining force in the world and slow the corruption all around. 

 

Here’s a favor you can do for yourself and the world and your family.  This is big.  Please develop this with me.  Okay, is the devil omnipresent?  The answer is no.  He walks to and fro (Job 1:7) and he crawls on his belly (Genesis 3:14).  Now, don’t get me wrong.  He is fast.  He is fast enough to, recall, take Jesus and show Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment.  And, that is faster than you can even imagine.  Okay, now, when you are tempted by the devil, it’s just you and him.  He’s not omnipresent.  He is only there with you and he is trying to get you to fall through seducing your flesh.  Now here is the kicker:  when you resist the devil and choose to abstain, you hold him up!  The longer you resist, the longer you keep him in an isolated place.  You are actually keeping him away from the rest of us!  Keep resisting the devil!  Do us all a favor and hold him up!  Celebrate how beneficial your resistance to the devil is to the rest of humanity and the world!  Count it all joy!  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1st Peter 5:8-11).  The devil walks about like a roaring lion.  He only walks.  He’s not omnipresent.  When you resist temptation you are keeping him detained, held up, and distracted with you!  Thank you!  Resist, and do us all a favor!  Keep him away from me as long as possible!  Take one for the team!

 

All grotesque sin is resisted the same way regardless of the form.  It doesn’t matter if it is faithfulness to your spouse or seeking to abstain from substances or a desire to do the wrong thing in any way.  The key is to resist while walking in the Holy Spirit.  And yes, there are levels of sin.  When Jesus spoke to Pilate, He said, “Therefore, the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11).  And, no doubt, one thing is universally sobering-sure, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7-9).  Saints, you’ll suffer and wait out the sin of committing adultery with the sweet talking honey-lip drippin’ woman the same way you suffer and wait out the sin of giving into a temptation to drink or smoke or snort or jab or whatever.  It’s all the devil behind it.  Resist the devil and he will flee.  And, by now you’ve probably noticed a repetition of a few select bible truths.  It’s because that’s what it all comes down to.  Memorize a few of these powerhouse precepts and practice them during the time of burning trials and you’ll overcome sin finally – and every giant in the faith knows it!  Joseph, the associate ruler of Egypt, knew it.  Recall when Potiphar’s wife would badger him daily to commit adultery with her.  When her call became an intense cry for Joseph to succumb, the rubber hit the roads.  Joseph fled.  He didn’t discuss other ideas to change the subject.  He didn’t hang out there.  He fled sexual immorality.  Now, I find it interesting that Joseph didn’t stand around and resist.  He fled.  How many would-be conquerors went down because they decided to stand around and hang with bad company.  In every situation as such, they all went down.  I’m convinced that if you take God’s escape during the temptation, you’ll be crowned as a king in this world!  You’ll rule your little empire with joy and celebration!

 

So often, men and women who are depressed and distressed feel they need to run to an endurance activity or a drink or a drug to satisfy their discontentment or boredom, when worship is the cure.  The bible has a remedy and instruction for anything and everything!  Feeling sad or depressed?  The remedy is Psalm 43:5 – “Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”  Worship makes your face bright!  In the Christian walk there are quiet seasons, but there’s no such thing as boredom.  The Old Testament speaks about the righteous man, saying, “For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:20).  In other words, the righteous man or woman should never be bored!  Another remedy for distress is worship, once again!  Recall when, “Saul’s servants said to him, ‘Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp.  And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well ’ ” (1st Samuel 16:15-16).  Depression and distress are remedied by worshiping the Lord.  It’s that simple.  It’s a lifetime of worship.  The problem, however, is idolatry or sin.  When I’m caught up in the deceptive riches or things that distract me from the Lord, I no longer desire to worship.  When I’m unspotted by the things of the world, I desire to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, and I celebrate His mighty peace in my heart!  If my soul is spiritually hungry and desperately thirsty I can either fill myself with things of God or things of the world.  The man you feed wins.  Feed the spiritual man for a lifetime and keep the flesh under!  Make a lifetime of never departing from His presence!  You’ll be so caught up in love that the desire to sin or fall looks about appealing as eating dung on the side of the road.  You just won’t have a desire to fall!

 

Once again, the devil isn’t omnipresent.  When he’s tempting you, please resist him so that he stays with you longer on his quest to get you to fall.  You’ll do us all a favor by keeping him unsuccessfully preoccupied!  If he’s with you, then he can’t be anywhere else at the same time!  Aim for a 40 day resistance like Jesus.  You’ll bless the whole world!  When Satan tempted Jesus he used the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life.  1st John 2:15/Matthew 4

 

Overcoming sin finally defines you.  Beating temptation is all that matters.  Going out and finding work and getting established is necessary, but if your heart hasn’t overcome your own demons, then getting rich and famous can be a death sentence.  God will reward you according to the cleanness of your hands and according to the cleanness of your hands in his sight ().  The riches, prosperity, and inheritance of the Lord appropriately comes with diligent faithfulness to God.  You’ll get to enjoy wealth the way God intended.  You’ll have a profound peace in your heart because you know that everything that you have established has been done by His Spirit.  The work of righteousness is peace and quiet assurance forever.  Now, if you just go out and make it happen apart from His Spirit, then it’s all going to crash.  Let His Spirit establish your heart first, and, as a by-product, everything else falls into place.  “But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; then all these things shall be added unto thee” (Matthew 6:33).  I see timebombs from afar.  I see men and women who are all set up for a fall and it’s going to be horrible.  “Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

 

I declare that this book isn’t simply about dealing with substance or intoxicating drink, though there is a section on these horrible flesh manifestations.  It’s more than that.  This piece is about overcoming all sin, finally.  Every sin mentioned throughout the scriptures must be roped, wrangled, and subdued; from the likes of pride and immorality to grotesque shortcomings such as substance and drink.  We often associate sin with the wanderer on the side of the road who cannot control his life, and, though it is that too, in Hebrews we are henceforth introduced to the concept that reveals impending temptations in many forms.  In other words, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).  We cannot say, “It’s too hard, Lord, I’m tempted by a sin that others just don’t know about,”  When God knows because He Himself endured temptation’s allurement in every seductive form and draw.  Jesus overcame and having come in the likeness of human frailty, gave us the touchstone pattern and paradigm to follow forever.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1st Corinthians 10:13).  God knows you can overcome sin finally because He did it too.  God said to be holy because He is holy.  He was fully man.  And, we don’t have to accept the body of death’s lust, inclination, and overwhelming propensity to periodically fall.  We can master sin because Jesus did.  Jesus was, in all points and in every way, tempted as we are, yet without sin.  We can war and overcome, and subdue the old man or woman and keep the flesh with its lusts under!  And when you do, when we do, we will find its resurgences curiously weaker and weaker because you have become mightier and mightier!  And, the freedom of life you will enjoy knowing that you no longer have to obey sin with lusts is ineffable!  I’m no longer a slave!  As the Spirit leads me, I call the shots!  Jesus said, “The thief doesn’t come except to steal and to kill and to destroy, but I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (See John 10:10). 

 

This brings us to our next major piece of biblical ideology:  Guard your heart.  It can be stolen.  The heart of man is what governs and dictates the roads of life.  When we allow disillusioning ideas or uninspired idols or incorrigible sin into our hearts, we lose the desire to do anything else except to do whatever it is the idol wants; that’s the problem with idolatry.  It has nothing to do with statues.  Whenever an action or material object rules our desire and makes the things we once loved seem boring or undesirable – we’ve got an idol.  And, It needs to be crushed.  As we allow the Holy Spirit back into our hearts to flood us with the presence of God the idol comes down.  Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.  Recall, “When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon.  And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the Lord.  So they took Dagon and set it in its place again.  And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it.  Therefore, neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day” (1st Samuel 5:1-5).  The biblical typologies and metaphors denote the Ark of the Lord as the presence of God.  When we allow the presence of God back into the temple of our hearts, those fishy things we’ve set up will come crashing down.  They’ll have no more hold on us – notice how the hands were broken.  They’ll no longer dominate our thinking – notice how the head was shattered.  The Spirit of God is a cure-all panacea for overcoming every single sin.

 

My children are teenagers, and they are living both godly and righteous lives in the midst of this crooked and perverse darkened society.  It’s a joy to see!  They are innocent and undefiled by anything this world offers.  They’ve had straight – A’s their whole lives and would never even consider sin and it’s perversity as they’ve been with me.  They have a sin nature like the rest of humanity, but my wife and I have kept them close to us for their whole lives and have not allowed anything contrary to the standards of God to permeate their innocence.  I’m seeing them unfold very successfully and bypassing those around them thus far.  My eldest daughter started college when she was 14 years old, and, I don’t recap any of their awesome character traits to boast, but that you may know that persistence in the Spirit produces godly offspring and stellar lifestyles. They’ve never cussed or watched television or listened to wicked music, they are moral-pure, they’ve been blameless and undefiled from the world thus far.  Yet, for the sake of this text, the one zenith godly notion that I instill in their hearts is that the heart must be guarded.  It can be stolen.  And, the problem with the things of this world is that they, upon inception, consume the thoughts of man.  They dominate the feelings and actions and thoughts of man, which is why I teach my children that drugs are extremely bad too.  In other words, I tell them, “Doing drugs aren’t bad because you’ll be an idiot or overdose… it’s that too, but the reason drugs are bad is because they’ll steal your heart.  You’ll lose the passion and desire for every good thing God has given you.  You’d rather be doing the idol thing, than the things of God.”  It was king Solomon who wrote, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:20-23).  The idols of men speak delusion.  Saint, once again, idolatry isn’t statue worship.  Who cares about statues?  If any man or woman wants to kiss the toe of a venerated statue, let them.  It’s pointless.  There’s nothing there anyway.  The statue was created in a warehouse by some dude named Brutus who was smoking a cigar while he was doing it.  If you think it through, there’s nothing holy about it.  True idolatry speaks of actions.  Notice, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).  The Spirit of Iconoclasts is love.  The denotative meaning of an iconoclast is one who destroys venerated idols.  The Holy Spirit is the cure-all for overcoming sin finally!  It’s by the Spirit that we put to death our members on earth.  By the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body!  Praise God!  He left us the “Parakletos” who, by definition, is the Helper or the One called to your side!  He will convict the world of sin and lead us into righteousness and gives us good judgment!  Oh the love of walking in the Spirit keeps us far from the paths of the destroyer! 


There’s much to be learned about the way we are tempted when we look at the temptation of Jesus.  The three devices used  entice the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Notice with me: Satan told Jesus to command the stones become bread – the lust of the flesh.  Then, Satan told Jesus that he would give Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory – the lust of the eyes.  And finally, Satan told Jesus to jump off the pinnacle, both prodding and provoking His pride.  In other words, he was saying to Jesus, “If you are really who You say You are, then do this.”  We aren’t ignorant of Satan’s devices.  He uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1st John 2:15-17).  We aren’t ignorant of Satan’s devices.  When trials come, they’ll come in these fashions.  If you find yourself living close to the Lord and experiencing His glory, then you are in good company.  Before Eve fell, there she was.  She was living life as God intended in the garden.  Then you know who showed up and tempted her.  When the serpent allured her, he used the same three techniques that caused a glorified person to succumb!  Notice with me:  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.  And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:6-8).  Notice, she saw that it was good for food – the lust of the flesh.  Then, the forbidden fruit  was pleasing  the eyes – the lust of the eyes.  And finally, a tree desirable to make one wise – the pride of life.  In other words, “Check out how wise I am.  I’m a lot like God knowing the difference between good and evil.”  Friends, he’s called the Serpent of old for a reason.  Our adversary continues to use the threefold age-old tactics and finds success.  But not anymore, we aren’t going to let him who stole steal any longer.  We aren’t giving the enemy anymore territory or anymore footholds or anymore anything!  We’ve discovered the scriptures that give us the ancient wisdom of the ages to beat the enemy!  We are doing them with all of our heart!

 

God has made me the man I’ve wanted to be.  My affection is natural and those around me honor me.  It’s not because I’m a man’s man or anything, but God has done it.  I just stay close to Him.  There’s something highly satisfying when you deny the flesh and walk with God through temptations – it’s kingly and that’s the best way to describe it!  “Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying:  ‘I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,” He said, “you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel” ’ ” (1st Kings 2:1-4).  You won’t lack outgoing kingly-leadership characteristics and your doppelgangers will multiply.  David was a giant slayer and those who followed David were giant slayers.  Overcoming sin finally installs you into another office, and that of kings!  Prove yourself a man!

 

In order to remain a glorified man or woman, please consider your adversary, “For we are not ignorant of his devices” (2nd Corinthians 2:11).  Earlier we discussed that Lucifer is not omnipresent.  We learned that by resisting him, we do everyone else a favor because he can’t be in two places at once, and when we abstain from his temptations we actually keep him preoccupied with us longer – which gives the rest of our brothers and sisters a reprieve.  Yet, in the book of Job we are introduced to another clandestine tactic our enemy.  In Job 1 and 2 we read concerning the study habits of the enemy and how he studies us.  We read, “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’  So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’  And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’  So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:8-12).  Now, remember that Satan studies you.  The Hebrew word for considered here is sum (pronounced zoom) which is used in the book of Job to study, ponder, premeditate, and overthrow a city in battle.  Satan zooms in on you.  Yet, here’s the kicker, and a most refreshing, counter-verse.  Jesus said, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8).  As we develop these notions of being born again which drastically causes one to be uniquely-unreadable, we discover that the Holy Spirit is your number one line of defense against the enemy!  How can Satan study and predict your patterns if you are born of the Spirit because no one can tell where the Spirit comes from and where it goes!  And though Satan will periodically bring heart wrenching trouble into your life and into mine, God allows him to for the purpose of shaping our character; yet our enemy can never get a solid lock on you and ultimately destroy you.  You’re born again.  You’re as wild as the wind!  The enemy can never figure you out!  And, as he was wrong about Job, he’ll be wrong about you.  You and I will utterly and completely conquer his works in the strength of the Holy Spirit whom God gave us as a main line of defense.

 

The one who would continually remain happy for a lifetime and perennially procure a celebrating spirit; to remain glorified in your sphere of the world with the crown of life, the choice will always remain with you to sin and you’ll simply abstain from backsliding until your heavenly homecoming.  It’s that simple and it has to be that way.  God didn’t make robots without a choice.  He didn’t program you to behave a certain way.  No, God gave you freedom of choice.  Yahweh told Adam, “Of every tree you may freely eat, but of the tree which is in the midst of the garden you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Adam, or man, had autonomous options.  True love is choosing Him although you may not necessarily always feel it and your faithfulness will always be rewarded.  Just to juxtapose the two, a baby doll with a pull-string cord that automatically says, “I love you” isn’t what God intends.  When you choose obedience with your freedom you please the Lord.  I tell my children that they are free, but they know there is plethora of pitiful junk on the internet and if they engage in it in any way they’ll lose their privileges.  They’ll lose freedoms.  It’s funny because there is a bitten apple which is dead center at the bottom of their computer screen as a reminder – the day you eat of it, you shall surely die; they’ll lose their computer privilege while under my roof.  Saints, perpetually before you are two trees.  Your personal-sin will always be there either whispering to you gently whereby you can barely or no longer hear it, or it will blare in your heart.  Regardless, it is there to prove your love for God.  When you resolve to overcome your sin once and for all, it will still be there – the choice will always be there.  Yet, you will always keep the flesh under by the Spirit.  As your life unfolds, the dense forest of beautiful trees of options and opportunity will surround you – and the single terrible tree too.  There’s the tree of life which produces life, which the Bible describes saying:  “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding, for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold.  She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.  Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her” (Proverbs 3:13-18) – and that’s tree number one and it’s a forest of grace.  Please notice, how “Happy they are who retain her.”  Following the Lord and resisting temptation must be a steadfast resolve.  We must clutch and grasp, and remain and retain our place in the love of God!  As I’ve said before and say again (before I say it again), we must log in the years with the Lord and we will see His deepest goodness on the earth!  Now, the second tree is a single, skinny gaunt tree with rotting-sweet fruit.  It’s pulled up by the roots and is a tree of death; ‘tis the very same tree Adam and Eve were seduced into eating although God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17) – and that’s tree number two.  You’ve been to that tree before and it burned you, bit you, and broke you every time.  It was going to shut its jaws on you.  It never delivered and it never will.  It’s the tree that keeps you in desperate want and a pernicious planting that won’t be satisfied until you die.  The preceding won’t.  The tree of life won’t be satisfied until you both obtain and experience eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!  The tree of life continues to produce new fruit every month (and every day) and there’s always a new and exciting experience with the Lord.  It’s freeing to never know what you’ll experience next because the Holy Spirit is innovative, novel, and cutting-edge in the course you run!  It’s the tree Satan cannot zoom in on because he is uninspired and dark – and light excels darkness as wisdom exalts folly!

 

There shouldn’t be anything evil in your house.  You should not have a secret stash or hidden baggie of whatever.  You’re the high priest of your home and you set the spiritual temperature.    If there’s anything temporarily hidden as you seek to rendezvous with occasional sin, I can guarantee your family or close ones will be affected.  Remember Achan?  If you don’t I’ll recap his short vignette, but allow me to preface by quoting the Psalms.  “Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them.  As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me” (Psalm 55:15-16).  When your house is holy and blameless, you, like the psalmist, have a God who responds and saves you.  I would never want to relinquish the privilege of having a God who answers when I call.  Achan did, he forfeited the privilege of God’s protection.  First off, Joshua conquered the city of Jericho and won a famous victory for Israel.  Then, when it was time to attack the next city, Ai, he sent out two spies to canvas the area.  They returned to Joshua and said, “This is a little city.  Do not trouble all the people by sending them all to war against the city.  Just send some of the people.  After all, we just conquered Jericho and this should be a breeze.”  Folks, wait here one moment.  There’s a monumental truth we can glean, which is to never look at the situation with your own eyes, but with spiritual eyes.  It may seem ostensibly and obviously do-able, and it will wipe you out – and they did.  Israel was struck down and the hearts of the people melted.  Then, Joshua cried out to the Lord and God answered and said, “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.  Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you” (Joshua 7:11-12).  How often I tell people that the hand of God is not short that it cannot save and ear of God is not dull that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God.  Anyway, Joshua sought the Lord to find the perpetrator and the lot fell on Achan the son of Carmi.  See, God commanded all the accursed things from Jericho to be utterly destroyed.  Achan saw a Babylonian garment and a wedge of silver and gold he just had to have.  Achan took it.  He hid it in his tent.  Achan actually dug a hole in the ground of his tent and stashed it.  And as you know, he was quickly found out and we finally read, “Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.  And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.  Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day.  So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day” (Joshua 7:24-26).  Everyone is going to pay for your hidden stash.  The household will begin to respond to the voice of the flesh rather than being in tune to the Spirit.  You set the spiritual temperature.  Folks, never bring anything contrary to the things of God into your dwelling.  When you are completely in tune to the Lord and worshiping him in Spirit and in truth, the fragrance of your sold out life permeates to the whole household.  Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).  Your close ones are directly affected or devastatingly infected by your Spiritual walk.  Oh that we would remember again the woman who broke the alabaster perfume flask and worshiped at the feet of Jesus!  The fragrance of her sacrifice permeated the entire house and honored the Lord Jesus Christ!  God curses the house of the wicked, but blesses the home of the just!

 

I believe Joshua’s stories recapitulate didactic text concerning temptations.  As Joshua circumvented the walls of Jericho over and over, I have gone around in circles seeking to battle my own temptations with no avail and without gaining ground.  And as the psalmist said, “Iniquities prevailed against me.”  I’ve been there, year after year asking myself if I would ever get a grip on this and failed again.  Then after going around in circles as the consistent story of my life, one day I noticed that my desire to spend years with the Lord apart from gross transgression started to happen!  Walking in the Holy Spirit’s peace worked!  All one has to do is resist the devil and he will flee!  Then I started counting the years in righteousness!  Praise God, He was training me for battle.  “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now my heart keeps your word” (Psalm 119:67).  In this battle of flesh vs. Spirit I’m an overcomer and victor and champion and any other crowned warrior terminology applies as I submit to the Holy Spirit’s peace resulting in self-control.  When we actually apply and do the word of the Lord we are, in essence, striking the enemy with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Every step of our lives must be lived out in the Spirit of love.  Let all that you do be done in love.  Jesus said, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13).  

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).  I once recall working for an apartment complex in San Bernardino and exhorting my boss to walk in the Spirit in order for him to get his smoking under control and he said, “I meander into the Spirit.  Sometimes I walk with Him and sometimes I leave, and then I come back again and repeat.”  And I guess I can sympathize because I’ve been there in a different fashion, and I believe most have.  Yet, I also remember how mediocre life felt when I chose my own agenda rather than walking in His.  My plans just aren’t big enough and my ways are not His ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, even so are His ways higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts!  My ultimate wants, cravings, dreams, and desires will be fulfilled in His Spirit.  “If we walk in the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”  God slowly transforms you into the man or woman you have always wanted to be when you continue walking with Him through temptations and valleys; and mountain tops and dancing on the moon; and waves and waters; until you’re a grave skipper celebrating eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Continuing with Jesus through harsh temptation pleases Him exceedingly and yields rewards eternally (See Luke 22:28).  

 

I recall listening to a radio program where callers would ask questions about the Bible, the Christian faith, and seek prayer for circumstances.  I remember, on multiple occasions, desperate people calling in to ask for prayer because they couldn’t stop smoking.  One question I recollect was, “Will I still go to heaven if I smoke cigarettes?”  And their generic answer was, “Yes, I think you will go to heaven, in fact you’ll probably get there faster.”  Then the radio hosts would go on and on about how unhealthy it is and give a trite health related answer that left me unsatisfied.  I told my wife, “These people need biblical answers and guidance to overcome and they do not need nonsense blather, and they need to know one thing: He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.  It just takes a little battle of suffering and denial and resisting – then they will lose all desire and craving.  It’s a shorter abstaining circumstance than we think!  Then, it goes away.”  The Bible tells one how to overcome smoking, or anything for that matter.  The scriptures say that it will not be easily done: no one is discharged from time of war in the middle of a battle and wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it (See Ecclesiastes 8:8).  In other words, if we engage in wicked behavior, it will not easily let us quit.  It will not release or relinquish its grip without a fight.  It requires a hot battle and some suffering in the flesh.  This is critically key to overcoming the flesh and its various forms:  “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.  In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.  They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1st Peter 4:1-6).  Those who have died already heard the good news and now it’s our time to hear that those who live according to the Spirit will no longer live for the lusts of the flesh!  I know it’s redundant, repetitive, and a recurring rule:  Walk in the Spirit and you will not give in.  Praise God He made it that easy for us to comprehend!  Just a short time of denial and suffering produces a lifetime of freedom!  You’ll perceive future temptations as petty and puny, as weak and wobbly, as frail and feeble, as minute and minor, as….as a very small and insignificant thing.  I love the freedom of knowing that I completely control the flesh by the Spirit and I don’t have to be afraid of once again falling during the time of sin’s seduction or temptation’s taunting or desire’s draw and seduction.  I’m in control now.  I have complete self-control because it is the fruit of the Spirit; controlling your faculties and conquering your flesh is a by-product of the Spirit!

 

When Jesus finished His forty-day temptation, the devil fled…until an opportune time.  “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).  And, Satan’s opportune time is usually an inopportune time for us.  Please let me repeat this:  When Satan returns during an opportune time, it is an inopportune time for you.  Ultimately, Satan will come when you are feeling blue, when life’s circumstances are critically crushing; when you just can’t fathom going through temptation at this time because you’re just not ready for it – temptation comes still.  It won’t fit into your schedule.  This idea is biblical.  “Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab.  He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day.  And he killed an Egyptian, a man of great height, five cubits tall. In the Egyptian’s hand there was a spear like a weaver’s beam; and he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear.  These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among three mighty men.  Indeed he was more honored than the thirty, but he did not attain to the first three. And David appointed him over his guard” (1st Chronicles 11:22-25).  The lion is a type, metaphor, and picture of Satan.  When did Satan come to Benaiah?  The answer is on a cold and dreary,  grey and snowy day.  The Egyptian is a type, metaphor, and picture of the world’s constituent representatives and ambassadors.  How did the world attack Benaiah?; with a spear that Benaiah ripped out of his hand, and, by the way, killed him with his own spear.  He took the enemy’s device and used it against him.  You can do the same!  See, when the enemy rolls temptation your way, you can take the very same time to use his temptation against him by declaring, “Every time I’m tempted to smoke or drink or do this whatever, I’m going to pray.  I’ll pray for me, of course, and others – every time I’m tempted!”  You’ll take ground just like Benaiah!  Notice, Benaiah went into the pit to attack the lion.  He took ground.  He took the spear.  Benaiah’s victory over the devil and the flesh won a name for Benaiah!  And, without over spiritualizing this text with metaphors, those spears are the temptations meant to knock you out – but you turned the tables!  The gates of Hades shall not prevail against you! (See Matthew 16:18).  If a gate is prevailing, then it is doing what it was meant to do by keeping you out.  In other words, in the name of Jesus, you will take ground, storm gates, and cover the enemy’s territory when you preach the gospel and adorn the gospel with your gifts and the crown of life which comes from overcoming sin finally!

 

Don’t believe the false idea that since you’ve been good for a long time and since you’ve been working hard for months or years that you are entitled to an indulgence of the flesh.  And don’t believe the false idea that since you seem to go astray every few months or so, that this is how you are and you cannot stop it because it is who you are.  These are lies that seem right to a man, but the end results in death.  These are the ways that seem right to a man, but result in sorrow and anguish.  There’s no idea for explaining away or justifying why you fall except one: The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another.  If you find that you often fall when a seductive spirit or sorcerous spirit accosts you, then you may need to fast.  Remember when Jesus’ disciples could not cast out a spirit?   Jesus called them a “Faithless and perverse generation,” because this kind or type or genre of demon will not leave except through prayer and fasting.  Are you willing to go to war against your flesh?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get the flesh under?  Then, you may want to dedicate one day, from evening to evening, presenting everything in your heart to the Lord.  Why not try it once a year at least during Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.  I would think that would be an ideal time because the entire nation of Israel is doing it the same day.  You wouldn’t even have to mark it on the calendar – it’s already marked as a national holiday.  Your mainline of defense is walking in the Spirit and I believe that the fast you choose must be a Spirit-led fast, rather than your own set time.  Although, I believe God would even honor that because He binds Himself by His laws; and the man who works these laws receives wages as a debt.  God will set you free from periodic backslidings.  You may need to fast and show God you mean business.  Moses was fasting forty days and secluded while the children of Israel were dancing around the cow, which is a type of celebrating the flesh.  “Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’ ” (Hebrews 3:10-11).  If you find that you go astray periodically, every few months or so, or yearly or so, please friends, take it serious.  Maybe you should fast like Moses.  Could you imagine never entering His rest on the earth and wandering for your lifetime.  If you choose to overcome sin finally, you will celebrate your life on the earth and when it’s over you’ll enter into heavenly wonder.  Wouldn’t it be satisfying to know that you’ve done what God says to do and accomplish a fast at least once in your lifetime and spend the day praying about overcoming this recurring sin finally?

 

What if I told you, you could live forever just by believing it mentally?  The gospel of eternal life isn’t based on works but by a childlike faith.  If we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead we will be saved.  The work of God is simple belief in the finished work of the cross.  The problem with temptation is the confusion it brings to our childlike faith.  Children can be swayed easily.  When someone is doing drugs they have allowed the devil to cloud their mind and obscure their thinking.  I don’t believe someone practicing and habitually engaging in drugs believes they are saved anymore.  They just don’t believe it.  Eternal life is based on belief.  The author of confusion, the devil, got in there and robbed them of their childlike faith.  Drugs cause one to become weak minded and man’s puppet – and Satan infiltrates their mind.  Maybe at one time they were pillars in the faith, but they looked back.   Now, they are pillars of salt.  Remember lot’s wife?  “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  It’s imperative that we remain with the Lord through our fiery temptations or we may not see Him at all.  The three in the fire saw Jesus unlike any of us have.  They remained steadfast and refused to give into Nebuchadnezzar’s call.  When we resist, refuse, and rebel against this world’s standards we’ll see another in the fire.  We’ll see Jesus, the Son of God, who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin!  He left us an example!  Be holy as He is holy.  Go and sin no more!

 

I wonder at how many Christians try to get as close to the darkness as they can while asking themselves, “Is this okay?”  Saints, ultimately the safest place in God’s kingdom and army is smack dab in the center.  There is safety in the multitude of counselors.  The tribe of Gad decided to stay as close to the pagan nations as possible.  They wouldn’t cross the Jordan, but chose to stay on the outlands of the children of Israel–and they were the first tribe to be picked off and they are renown for powerful demonic activity.  Recall Jesus in the area of the Gadarenes?  Recall how legion could bend iron?  It inevitably comes down to one thing:  Are you going to celebrate God’s abundant life as you walk with Him or will you ultimately be a man or woman with multiplied sob-stories; with continual sorrow and anguish as you perennially dabble back and forth with the flesh.  The one who goes back and forth isn’t approved in God’s sight.

 

I see many people who haven’t overcome their sin finally.  I see many people who haven’t been approved.  The question is:  Have you been approved or have you not been approved?  What I’m speaking about is James the half-brother of Jesus saying, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).  Notice the phrase when he has been approved with me.  Has God approved you or has He not?  What I am saying is has God tested you with burning temptations and perennial refining trials yet?  Did you overcome?  Can you look back at the decades and say, “I have kept myself from my sin?”  Does God approve of your genuine unyielding resolve to be faithful to Him until the end?  It may seem impossible to some, but we who have been approved can boldly say, as David did, “I have.  I have indeed kept myself from my sin” (See Psalm 18:23).  It is possible to overcome sin finally.  God wouldn’t have said, “Be holy, for I am holy,” if it weren’t possible.  We who have been approved boldly say, “My plan is to be faithful until my death.”  When God sees your resolve to be faithful to Him until your death, He places an invisible crown on your head as you genuflect to Him, and He declares, “Hold fast your crown, that no one may take it” (Revelation 3:11).  Don’t let anyone take it and anyone includes you.  Now, when you resolve to be faithful to God and one hundred percent sincerely mean it, God will give you His approbation, His approval, and His acceptance.  The man or woman who is approved, as a result of overcoming their secret sin, celebrates his or her way through life, and though we all have trials because the corruption in the world and the sin nature, they celebrate how God causes everything to fall into place for them.  They rejoice in the light of being carried through anything that comes their way!  I look around and see many people who carry on in the professional world, yet they have not been approved.  Yet, oh the joy of those who have been approved!  Those are the ones I love to be around!

 

I’m aware that if I was to say, “Just don’t think about,” when your mind is flooded with perverse and ungodly thoughts, you’ll only think about it more.  It’s just how it is.  If I said, “Do not think about a pink and purple elephant,” slowly the silhouette of multiple elephants imbued with pinkish-purple begin to take shape.  That never worked for me.  Yet, that doesn’t mean I should quit trying to cleanse or clear my mind because those sinful thoughts are pestly and pervasive.  I have to continue to shake myself free of the onslaught of horror.  I have to begin to think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, praiseworthy, etc. (Philippians 4:8).  God is all those things.  If my mind drifts, I must come to myself and make a choice.  Either I am going to enjoy dwelling on these sinful thoughts which will ultimately lead to a fall or I can snap out of it.  Snap out of it!  Do not be entertained by your sinful desires or you’ll surely fall.  Thoughts lead to temptation and temptation leads to sin!  Continually keep turning your thoughts back toward God.  His holiness drives away depraved thoughts.  Micah said, “Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds!  At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand” (Micah 2:1).  This verse is powerful.  It changes the way I think with a simple word – woe!  In other words, there is going to be an earth shaking terror around the bend if I don’t snap out of it!  It’s time to simply redirect my Corinthian thoughts over and over again.  Paul told the Corinthians, “ For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2nd Corinthians 10:4-5).  I pointedly take captive those thoughts and disallow their reign.  I keep turning my thoughts pure and get to work if need be, although many battles against temptation require one to abstain from work and taste floor; head down and on the knees, getting to work is life changing because there is a promised attached to the one who gets busy working.  “Commit your works to the LORD and your thoughts will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).  Yet, as we have learned and know, every ordeal is different.  I have also seen work or agendas or personal plans be counterproductive to the one who seeks to defeat a war in the flesh.  Walking in the Holy Spirit will give us the discernment, direction, and distinct ability to know the proper course of action forever.

 

On the subject of working and walking in the gifts God has given us, I can’t help but recall David to mind.  He should have been at war in the spring of the year when kings go out to war.  Instead, he stayed home and was moseying, meandering, and meddling with flesh.  This was his problem – his lack of work.  And, evidently, idleness of time is a conducive atmosphere to take a plunge into perversion.  The sin of Sodom was pride, fullness of food, and idleness of time.  Ezekiel wrote, “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).  Now, I guess there is indeed some credence to the phrase, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

 

Every mighty oak was once a nut that decided not to give up its ground.  “If anyone thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall” (1st Corinthians 10:12).  The evil day, according to the Bible, will come at a time when we least expect it, as fish are happily swimming and are viciously caught in a cruel net (See Ecclesiastes 9:12).  My usual modus operandi when I water my ground is to pinpoint dry areas in the grass and give them extra care by flooding those dry areas.  I’m usually remiss when the grass is rich-green, that is, I usually don’t flood those parts but lightly fan the water over them.  In other words, when we are strong in an area or we believe we are standing tall, it is possible to collapse to vulnerability and weakness because we don’t feel the need for God.  We can err here because the Holy Spirit should guide every aspect of our lives from the can of soup we buy at the grocery story to the job we perform or the marital and social relationships we have.  To overcome sin finally, every man or woman must be completely given over to the Spirit of God.  Be the nut without any dry ground.

 

Friends, I cannot emphasize enough the imperative importance of avoiding temptations altogether.  Jesus taught us to pray to be delivered from temptations (Matthew 6:13) and Jesus also said to watch and pray lest we fall into temptations (Mark 14:38).  God knows how to deliver the godly away from, out of, and around temptations altogether.  “If God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.  They are presumptuous, self-willed…” (2nd Peter 2:4-10).  Succinctly, as Jesus told us, watching the move of the Spirit and praying in the Spirit bypasses various temptations altogether.  Though, we cannot avoid all temptations, else, how will God prove us?  When God created Adam and Eve and put them in paradise, He had to prove their genuine love for Him with a choice.  He essentially said, “Everything is permissible except this tree’s fruit and the day you eat of it you will die; we will be separated from each other.”  Love is always a choice.  If there was no choice then how is that true love?  If there wasn’t a choice then God would have created pull-string-dolls.  You know the dolls that have a little cord on their back when you pull it, it says, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”  How is that satisfying love in any way!?  Though God does not tempt anyone (See James 1:13) or create stumbling blocks to tempt us in anyway because that is the work of the enemy.  Yet, God does work everything for good for us.  The adversary means it for evil, but, of course, God means it for good.  When you are suffering temptations and you keep your eyes on Him, He sees your obedience and rewards those who diligently seek Him with the crown of life that will not cease until you directly decide to condescendingly choose corruption and ultimately fall from your little paradise.  What about saying, “God, I love you and I’m going to show you how much I love by resisting this evil even though my flesh is desperately drawn to it.”  What obedience!  What love!  What a majestic crown you will receive on earth!

 

Samson was always on the border of playing and dabbling with sin.  He was a waste of anointed potential and power.  He loved experiencing and testing the boundaries of doom.  Maybe you ask yourself the Samsonite question, “How close can I get to sin without sinning?”  Samson was a Nazirite from birth who was commanded to abstain from the vine or intoxicating drink, from dead things, and from cutting his hair.  Yet, Samson found himself in vineyards and eating honey out of a dead lion’s carcass; and attending engagements where the wine and alcohol flowed while partying in Philistine towns among those who were spiritually dead.  Samson thought, “I’ve crossed the line with the vine and the dead, why not transgress the final prerequisite for a Nazirite?  God hasn’t taken away my anointing?”  These were Samsonite questions.  Samson wasn’t as dense as we think.  He knew what he was doing.  He kept pressing the patience and boundaries God established for him, until he met a woman in the Valley of Sorek.  Sorek means “Border” or “Boundary Town” which was appropriate seeing how he kept crossing the line.  Unfortunately, Samson met Delilah in Sorek, and Delilah means “To weaken” or “To impoverish.”  He finally indulged to his own destruction as she lulled him to sleep.  She had his hair cut and men came in to torture and arrest him and poke out his eyeballs.  And as you know the story, he found himself a grinder in the Philistine prison and a theatrical joke at Philistine gatherings.  Until one day he finally died in anger and revenge as he collapsed the Philistine pillars upon them at their victory party.  It was a sad, yet entertaining story.  Today, don’t try to ask questions such as, “Can I listen to this?” Or, “Can I watch this?”  Or, “Can I drink this?” Or, “Can I hang with them?” Or, “Can I wear this?” Or….  Don’t try to be on the border or get as close as you can to the world.  As the old saying goes, “There is safety in the multitude of counselors,” and the sheep at the back of the pack get picked off first.