For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things. —Job 31:23
So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God? —Genesis 39:9b
I hope I’m not alone in this, but for years I have struggled with falling into the exact same temptations. At first, I wasn’t even aware some things were temptations, but over time, the Lord showed me the reality of my path.
I don’t mean He showed me just how material things were keeping me from His purposes. He revealed even my inner responses, whether that’s anger, pride, lust or greed (to name a few), were wrong. Even then, I didn’t immediately give them up, I still struggle.
Job, in this passage, is defending his innocence to accusation of the sin of withholding charity from his neighbors. His reasoning here is because he feared God. He could not sin against God and others – he just could not.
Joseph, in our second verse, says the same. This is mindset the Lord wants to give all of His children. He wants us to choose His way, not out of blind obedience or fear of His wrath, but out of love.
By the power of His love for us, the Holy Spirit grants us the ability to love Him more than the things of the flesh that enslave us. He wants us free to live and love and do great things!
Over the last six months, the Lord has been teaching me how to overcome my ingrained sinful habits and responses (i.e. “my flesh”).
When I committed my life to Christ, it was no longer my flesh ruling. He broke those bonds, but living them out in the temporal world has sometimes been a hard and painful road. There are patterns of the flesh so deeply engrained I’ve despaired of ever changing, even though I’ve even more desperately desired just that.
I found the hope I need to keep going, as usual, in the Bible. It is living and active, God’s hand-written notes on living life His way; and it is able to divide flesh and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). It tells me when I’m going the wrong direction and what to do about it. It shows me when my flesh is in control.
Always the first step is to admit to the problem (repentance) but then, the Bible gives me words of power and strength to follow God instead. It shows me I can turn around and go the other way. It reminds me the Lord is doing some new in me and I can embrace that instead of any sinful pleasure of the moment.
When our flesh is weak, He is strong. We can rely on Him to deliver us from any temptation, no matter how long we’ve fought against it. The choice is ours. We don’t have to feed our flesh. We can know the difference and exalt the Spirit instead. We gain the eyes to see life God’s way when we live in His Word.
It is a radical and serious decision to cry out to the Lord instead of relying on willpower to overcome temptation. Yet in return, He gives us blessings in the natural world and strengthens our resolve to rely on Him further. It’s a hard fought win-win but eternally worth the effort.
What temptations are you facing today and what does God’s Word say about it?
Holy God – I know that You desire me to follow Your Spirit and not my own flesh. I want to desire that too, but I am afraid. Help me to find encouragement in Your Word. Help me to place my hope and trust in You instead of what I can do by myself. Show me that I can be changed and even if it is hard, it is so much better than continuing to walk a path away from You. I want to love You more than myself and seek the renewal only You can provide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Further Reading: Psalms 55:17, Psalms 32:6, Psalms 62:8; Matthew 5:3-8