Thank you so much for your ministry.
I came to understand the doctrine you share in your message “Sin No More” six years ago and have walked in peace and freedom since that day just as you describe. I had been in Christian ministry for 23 years and this new understanding revolutionized my ministry. I began to see people understand and walk in the power of grace as never before.
As I looked around for materials to help communicate these truths, I was disappointed at what I found. I eventually wrote a Bible study series that I could use with university students and an article to try to convey the truths you taught which changed my life.
I am attaching the article entitled “Confidence When Facing Temptation.” I would greatly value your input for improving it. I have a heart for Christians in my situation described in the article: those who try to follow all the standard advice and continue to struggle.
When I became a Christian at nine years old, I didn’t have a drug dealing/gangster past from which I was being delivered, but the change in my life was real to me nonetheless. I trusted Christ to pay for my sins and he in turn made me alive to God. As I grew in my faith it was obvious to me that I belonged to God. I loved His Word and was even compelled to tell other people about how they could know Christ too.
I led a friend to Christ in high school and I was hooked on telling others about Christ. I wanted to be involved in seeing people’s lives changed by Christ. I led Bible studies in college, led dozens of fellow students to Christ and upon graduation I joined the staff of one of the largest worldwide evangelism ministries.
Soon I was married to an awesome Christian girl and together we were leading a team of committed young people doing evangelism and discipleship. Within five years of my graduation we were leading a team that was reaching students for Christ on one of the largest campuses in the former Soviet Union. I was living my dream.
However, as I taught others of the grace of God and the power of Christ, I was constantly aware that I was not free myself. Many materials we used didn’t focus much on how to stop sinning per se. The idea concerning sin was that you made sure that when you did sin, you confessed it as soon as possible, which would help keep you “in fellowship” with God, which should, in turn, incrementally lead to sinning less.
Periodically, we would ask students at our conferences to make a list of their sins. We would acknowledge the sins and God’s forgiveness of them, then tear up the lists as an illustration of Christ having completely forgiven and forgotten them. Once was great, but the nagging question for me soon became, “Why did my list of sins always look the same year after year?”
No matter what I did, lust was a constant hindrance to a consistent walk with God. I listened intently as other Christian speakers talked about sin and their own struggles. I followed their advice and did everything that I knew to do from our materials and other Christian books. I read the Bible, shared my faith, confessed my sins, confided in others, and yet nothing helped. I could get busy and be distracted for long periods of time, but lust always laid dormant ready to reappear in moments of weakness and discouragement.
Ultimately, the message I was getting from my own Christian culture was that everyone struggled with sin, and that I was basically to expect my struggle to continue throughout my life. They never used the term, but looking back I was being taught a form of “sin management” and was never given hope that I could be free from this sin.
Finally, after 34 years of trying to manage this sin—keeping it a secret and trying to not let it damage my reputation or relationships—I began to hear a message of freedom and power that I had never heard before. I heard from another Christian who could identify with my problem and yet had found freedom himself that had lasted him more than 40 years. I was so hungry for a real power that was stronger than my best efforts.
I heard the Bible taught as I had never heard it before. In particular, Romans 6 and 7 were opened up to me in a practical way that brought me to a crossroads at my next big temptation. In a moment of trial my choice was: to continue as I had been—struggling and failing—as my culture around me had told me was normal and that my sin only needed to be confessed so that I could keep “short accounts” with God, or, for the first time in my life, I was to consider/reckon myself, based on my baptism into the death of Christ, to be “dead indeed unto sin.” At that point, I made a choice that has changed my life from that moment to the present. In a moment, I chose to break with my culture and was set free with a real freedom that has lasted for over five years at this writing. The failure is gone. The struggle is gone. The fear is gone. I am free.
This freedom is real; it is daily and it never goes away. I am free when I am alone. I am free when I am discouraged, tired, disappointed. This freedom has nothing to do with encouragement or accountability. It has nothing to do with trying harder or being more disciplined. This freedom was not found in the list from which I had been trained to operate. Looking back, I can say that this freedom was the result of a paradigm shift in my understanding of how the Bible presents the problem I was experiencing and God’s ultimate solution. The freedom was instantaneous. The paradigm shift had taken several weeks leading up to that.
Since then, I have seen dozens of people set free after walking them through what the Bible teaches about freedom from sin. This article is an effort to put into writing the key points that brought me and hundreds of others to God’s intended freedom for each Christian, from any sin.
Before I go any further, let me clarify several things. I want you to know that I am not talking about a state in which it is not possible to sin. Of course, it will always be possible, living on this earth in this body, to sin if one so chooses. Nor am I talking about a guarantee that you will never sin again;. It would be easy to dismiss claims like these. I’m not talking about sinless perfection.
One way to say what I am talking about might be that the norm in the Christian life should be to wake up every morning confident that any temptation that will come your way today is well within the borders of the power that God has supplied to you in the finished work of Christ. You should expect to want righteousness more than you want sin. You should be at peace choosing purity instead of struggling against sin. Does this sound too good to be true?
Would you like this confidence in the face of temptation?
If you were to survey Christians from denomination to denomination, one would find that confidence levels vary widely from topic to topic. Some are confident in God Himself but not confident in His forgiveness of their own sins. Many aren’t tempted by other religions, but have no assurance as to their own standing with God in eternity. Finally, some are confident in their forgiveness, but are not confident enough in their daily walk to be consistently victorious.
God loves to see His children confidently walking in His forgiveness and confidently walking in a victorious new life. He wants us to know that both are possible, because neither is generated through our own resources. Confidence in both forgiveness and new life are available to the believer as a gift from God. This gift is external to the Christian, not generated in our experience. This gift is that Jesus Christ gave His life in exchange for ours, in order to both forgive us AND give us a new life of victory over sin.
Our confidence in God’s forgiveness comes in understanding that God accepted Christ’s blood in place of our death as a payment for our sins. God’s full judgment of our sin was completed when Christ died in our place, and because of this, our sins will never be brought up again. Our sins have been both forgiven and forgotten.
In much the same way, our confidence that we have new life in Christ comes by taking God at His word when he informs us that our old sinful self was crucified together with Christ and that we were raised with Him as a new person. From now on, God considers us to be as pure and holy as Christ, and asks us to think of ourselves in this way as well. (Hence the title “saints” used to refer to Christians in the New Testament.)
The strange thing is that none of us saw our baptism into Christ happen or lived through our co-crucifixion with Christ in our experience, and yet, God declares it to have happened as a fact. What are we to make of this?
Many Christians may simply be unaware that God has placed them into Christ’s death at all.
When Paul writes, “Know ye not…?” he’s about to tell us something that we certainly wouldn’t have known without being told. (Who would have guessed that we would judge angels? I Corinthians 6:3In Romans 6:3 he says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know this before I was told. However, after hearing it, I have one of two options. One is to deny that my baptism into the death of Christ is meant to make any practical difference in my life and continue my life as if it were never mentioned. If I did this, then the burden of my sanctification would still rest on my obedience as its foundation. I could agree that I had been forgiven but the task of becoming holy would be on my shoulders, because the “old man” would still be alive and present, ready to contend with the Holy Spirit for my attention. My sanctification would be partially my responsibility and would be all ahead of me. In other words, I would have to skip what is taught in Romans 6 which tells me that I am dead and raised to new life, flip to the end of Romans 7 and find myself as a defeated Christian, “carnal, sold under sin” and mournfully agree that often within me, “how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:14, 18). With this view I would expect struggles and at least periodic defeat for the rest of my life.
My other option (whether I understand it or not) is to agree with God, and consider my baptism into the death of Christ to be true and expect it to be effective. In other words, with respect to my death with Christ, I would begin to live my life by faith in what God says about me, and not by my experience. This option leads to practical change in one’s Christian life. Because God has immersed me into Christ, I am told that I am now in Christ and that Christ is in me. God’s purpose of this is that Christ would live His life through me; that I would live, and that He would live. I am to live as one alive from the dead and as a member of His body and He is to live His victorious life through me.
You might ask, “But what about temptation?” Aren’t Christians going to be tempted?
We certainly are. We face temptations every day. But so did Christ.
“But I’m a man,” you say.
So was Christ. Christ was tempted in all things as we are. And how did He do? We, He never failed, did He?
“But, I can’t do that,” you say.
God doesn’t ask YOU to do that. He asks you to let Christ do it. You live by faith and Christ will live in you. If you trust Him, the two of you will enjoy a union that “brings forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:4).
So what would happen if Christ were to “live His life in us?” How would temptations be faced? Would He fail or would He succeed? Would the resurrected Christ struggle or be confused in the face of temptation? What do you think?
Christ wouldn’t fail, but Christians do. So how do we explain struggle and failure in the lives of Christians, those through whom Christ is supposed to be living His life?
Do you remember the verse in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love/Charity never fails”? It is true that love/charity never fails, but it’s also true that we, at times can fail to love. In the same way, Christ never fails but we can fail to trust Him and can fail to let Him live His life through us. We fail, not because of our inability (we are all unable, for without Him, we can do nothing) but because of our unbelief that we have died and are risen with Christ and that He lives in us.
If this in some way describes your Christian life, don’t be discouraged. The victorious Christian life is available to all and, best of all, it is not generated by the Christian. The whole gospel is outside of you. The gospel that saves is the same gospel that sanctifies.
Understanding our new life in Christ can provide confidence and victory in the face of temptation.
If we want to live a life pleasing to God, the best way to begin is to look at the life of the man who did please God, “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Although Christ is fully God, He is God “made flesh” (John 1:14). If we attribute Christ’s perfection to His deity, we can miss the point and forget that His overcoming of sin was achieved as a man. You see, the notion that man and sin always go together is the very idea that God wanted to dispel in the incarnation. He demonstrated to the world that the intended state of man is living free from sin. It is important to note that it is Christ’s humanity which is emphasized as we are told that He lived without sin, and it makes Him able to understand and assist us in our weakness.
It is because Christ was also of flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14), and made like us in all things (Hebrews 2:17) that He is able to be our great high priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15) and able to be a source of grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Note that this grace is to be found in “time of need” that is, grace to overcome when we are tempted, and not just a grace that is given only to accept us back after we have sinned. (Though the grace of God does this as well.) In other words, Christ’s life and death are to provide for us a new life with real power to overcome sin in our daily lives.
So what does it look like for a man to resist temptation and overcome sin?
The Bible records for us an account of the temptation of Christ in Matthew chapter four. Before Jesus begins His ministry, He is led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. During this time He is alone and fasting for 40 days. Think about your own times of temptation. Being alone and hungry always greatly increases the odds against us when it comes to overcoming temptation. Because we are told that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are (Hebrews 4:15), we could easily imagine Him being alone and _________ (you fill in the blank). What would it take for Jesus to relate to you? Would He have to be alone and rejected by others, alone and bored, alone and looking for sexual stimulation, alone and wanting easy money, alone and prideful, alone and wanting to bend the truth? What is it that tempts you to sin? In any case, the Bible assures us that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, and yet without sin. “As” here means that Jesus felt like you feel when you are tempted; wanting things to be easy and to feel good. “Yet without sin” means that Jesus never allowed the feelings and desires that he naturally had as a man to trump the decisions He needed to make to do the right thing in any situation.
Now let’s observe how Jesus begins His response to the tempter. In each of three temptations Jesus starts his response in the same way by saying, “It is written…” Then Jesus proceeds to quote an appropriate verse from the scriptures.
In fact, the very scripture quoted in this first temptation is: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
This brings us to the point that living by faith starts with living by the words of God.
But living by the words of God can actually put us at odds with the things we see. God has a way of calling those things which are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). In this way, God is able to force us to make a distinction between walking by faith and walking by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
For instance, when God told Abraham that Abraham’s seed would be numbered as the stars (Genesis 15:5), what was Abraham supposed to do? He could have looked at his situation—a barren wife and an aging body of his own—and said, “No way!” Or he could have taken it upon himself to do what he could (with Hagar) and call it “doing his part” to fulfill God’s plan. Most people would defend either situation as being a natural response.
However, Abraham becomes a model to us in how we are to relate to God because, “...Abraham believed God...” (Romans 4:3). This scripture is not telling us that Abraham believed in God; of course he did. It says that Abraham believed God, meaning that he believed what God said and because of that, God “...counted [it] unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). God wants us to take Him at His word.
God wants to relate to us by speaking truth and having us believe Him before we see the results of His promise.
And so it is with our immersion into the death of Christ. God says that the believer has died with Christ, has been buried with Him and has risen with Him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
Thanks to the account of Abraham, we can understand that we do ourselves a favor by believing God first and foremost and by embracing His description of us. The “show me and I’ll believe” attitude is the opposite of faith. God works with those who believe, and then He is ready to show amazing things to the person of faith.
By embracing God’s description of us we are able to begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Only then are we able to live by faith, reckoning God’s declarations about us to be true as opposed to simply living by our experience.
Man was originally created in the image of God to relate to Him in trusting friendship—man’s spirit to God’s Spirit. And, because every love relationship involves a choice, man was put in a body of flesh and blood with pulsating appetites which served as a daily competitor to God for each person’s choice of service and devotion. We are told that it was the appetites of the flesh by which Eve made her choice in the first sin, deciding to choose that which was good for food...pleasant to the eyes, and...to be desired to make one wise, rather than to obey what she knew to be the will of God (Genesis 3:6). These are the same appetites listed in the New Testament summed up in “all that is in the world...the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life...” (1 John 2:16).
This choice of satisfying the flesh, instead of obeying God, was the first sin of man. At that point the first innocent animals died in order to provide a covering for Adam and Eve. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and from the presence of God. Not only were both Adam and Eve separated from God but all of their posterity were born into the world separated from God as well.
Because of our birth in Adam, we each experience alienation from God. Now because of our separation from God, the soulish inner man no longer relates to God through the spirit, but relates to the physical world around us through our outer man/our flesh. Cut off from God, our soul--mind, will and emotions--begins to answer to the demands of the flesh and with that, our flesh becomes the most powerful thing in our life. Because of this orientation, man is said to walk after the flesh by minding the things of the flesh. Being in this state we are at enmity with God, cannot please God and are in a state which leads to eternal separation from God.
By catering to the flesh from birth, the focus of a person’s attention and service becomes their own self. We each tend to favor self, even though we each have a built in awareness of right, wrong, justice and fair play. This consciousness of universal good and evil is simply called our conscience, which gives us a sense of guilt when we choose self over others. It is this favoritism for self that repeatedly puts each of us at odds with what is right. Serving ourselves quickly comes into conflict with God’s best for us, as well as God’s best for others. By choosing our own will instead of God’s will, we sin. By sinning we miss God’s best and we miss God’s glory. Of this, we are all guilty. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
When God created our body with all of its passions and drives, He was intentionally creating His own competition. Every soul has both a body and a conscience. Our conscience represents God’s interest and our body often in opposition representing, as always, its own interests. A temptation is any choice that leads away from what our conscience tells us is right. A temptation can only be a temptation if there is first an appetite, of which the body has an abundance. Our appetites originate in our bodies as God-given appetites. The devil can’t create an appetite in you. He can only twist the ones that God put in you in the first place, tempting you to satisfy them inappropriately. It’s only a natural appetite in our flesh that becomes a want. As a want is indulged it becomes a craving. Cravings become addictions. Eventually addictions trump all other considerations in the life of a person who is serving themselves by serving their flesh.
Serving ourselves is the default position of all people born into this world. Although serving one’s self looks different in different people, all forms are summed up for us in “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life...” (1 John 2:16). In other words, when a desire within us for a physical feeling (the lust of the flesh), a desire for something nice to look at (the lust of the eyes) or a comparison between us and our neighbor (the pride of life), meets with an opportunity to be indulged, outside of the will of God, this becomes sin. “...every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).
The Bible summarizes this natural state into which we are born as being “in the flesh,” meaning, we live in the “lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind...” This doesn’t mean that we indulge every appetite that our body has all the time, but that we do, in fact, indulge certain fleshly appetites to an extent contrary to God’s perfect will for us. In doing this, we sin. Each one of us has developed a history of choosing our flesh over what’s right to such an extent, we are said to be slaves to our flesh. “...his servants ye are to whom ye obey...”
The dichotomy presented to us in Scripture is that of flesh versus Spirit. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other...” (Galatians 5:17). Each one desires our allegiance. We are unable to serve both because “No man can serve two masters...” (Matthew 6:24). Our problem is that we are, from birth, serving the wrong master.
How can we possibly make the transition to serve God instead of our flesh?
Deciding that I want to serve God instead of my flesh is a great thing. Yet, anyone will soon discover that the strength of one’s will is insufficient to make one holy. Knowing what’s right and being able to do what’s right are two different things. A resolution to devote myself to being better or to try to live a holy life can be rather disappointing. Any approach that looks to our self and our own resources to produce godliness will end in frustration. And furthermore, any approach that ends in frustration is an approach that was ultimately dependent on self to bring about the change. Any sin is an indication that you are, at the moment, depending on yourself and not on Christ.
God’s plan for our sanctification is perfect. And God’s remedy for our problem is the only thing that will actually work. His solution is not to discipline or improve our flesh in any way. You may have tried to discipline yourself in your pursuit of holiness by reading Scripture, praying, fasting, serving, and denying yourself things you want. Each of these disciplines has their place at some point, but none of these is the solution to a person’s enslavement to their flesh. These incremental methods are shared by all world religions. But God’s remedy for our enslavement to the flesh is nothing less than a crucifixion and a resurrection!
In a plan that only God could develop and carry out, He came to earth to die in our place. Christ took on flesh but was never enslaved to it. Christ then voluntarily experienced the death that we all deserve. Christ’s death on the cross was exactly what was needed to pay the debt we owe for our sins. But not only that, His bodily death also corresponds exactly to our need to be rid of our taskmaster, the flesh. Christ died in a body of flesh and blood and was resurrected in a glorified body.
A man who experiences a crucifixion and a resurrection undergoes a change. Before death, the flesh is alive and well with all sorts of wants and desires, all of which must be checked or they have the potential to become sin. After a resurrection, the original body, which was in conflict with the Spirit, is discarded and replaced by a glorified body, free from the pull of sin.
It is this glorified state that we all dream about; free from sin and free from the pull of temptation, free to serve and enjoy God as we were originally intended. Wouldn’t that be great! And all you have to do to get it is to die and be resurrected. Or...
...as Paul tells us in Romans, the same results can be obtained by being baptized into a death and a resurrection.
Because of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ we are to consider ourselves to be dead, buried, resurrected, alive from the dead, free from sin, free from our enslavement to the flesh, free to live for God as servants of righteousness.
As unbelievable as this all may seem, this is exactly Paul’s message to one who believes on Christ… one who is taken into Christ by the Spirit, and into His death and resurrection with the purpose of freeing us from the domination of the flesh and sin.
The flesh has been crucified we are told, “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).
This verse reveals that, more than just removing the penalty of sin through the death of Christ, it is God’s plan to also provide for us victory in the practical everyday battle with the affections and lusts of the flesh. It’s the affections and lusts of our body by which we are enticed into sin.
As I said before, a temptation can only be a temptation if there is first a desire or an appetite (James 1:14). Can you imagine being tempted by something you have no appetite for? No, it’s just the things that feel good to us, or look good to us, or that which we perceive would improve our image in the eyes of others that are the real temptations to us. How can I be delivered from these desires?
I think it is easy to agree that our body (or flesh) has an appetite for food, rest, sex, beauty, significance and respect. And as we have said before, all appetites in their original form were created by God. Although given by God, ANY appetite can become a source of temptation to be indulged and worshiped above God the Creator. In fact, without appetites, there would not even be a possibility for temptation.
Think about God’s solution this way: just as it is obvious that all living flesh has its appetites, it should be equally obvious that ALL dead flesh has NO appetites. There are no advertisements in grave yards. There are no brawlers, no gluttons, no thieves and no adulterers among the dead. Not only do the dead not sin, they are not even tempted to sin.
Along with this, I believe that all Christians would agree that after we die, we will be free from all sin. We won’t be struggling and failing on the other side of the grave.
Through baptism into the death of Christ, God provides us with the benefit of the death of our body, namely freedom from the slavery to sin...without the common drawbacks which accompany death!
God refers to this process as a “...circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead...for ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 2:11-12; 3:3).
So although we were bound to our flesh, serving our flesh and ruled over by our flesh; God put his Son to death in the flesh and placed each believer in Christ into that death. The result is as if He separated our inner man, (our soul and spirit), from the outer man (our body) that had been pulling us around, ordering us to do things we shouldn’t have been doing.
God then united our spirit to His Spirit, permanently joining them together (1 Corinthians 6:17). So, now, whereas before we served our flesh resulting in sin, now we are made free from our body and its controlling appetites by its death in the death of Christ. All controlling influences over us were broken by placing us into the death of Christ.
This one fact, when it becomes true of us has no rival. Paul wrote, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). In Christ, we are completely free from all obligation to sin and from any obligation to follow the ways of the world. We are as free from the world, in Christ, as a dead man is free from the world, in the grave...if we will only believe it. This is the message of Romans 6.
In order to clarify the impact of our death with Christ of which we are informed in Romans 6, we are given an illustration in Romans 7.
In Romans 7:2 we (the believer) are pictured as a woman married to a man. This union is called being “in the flesh” and this union with the flesh is one that “bring[s] forth fruit unto death” (Romans 7:5). There’s no way to get ourselves out of this relationship because we are bound by the law of marriage to this old husband (Romans 7:2). We are stuck in the marriage because the law forbids remarriage as long as the first spouse lives. There’s nothing we can do to deliver ourselves. Any move on our part to be joined to another without the death of the first, would result in an adulterous relationship (Romans 7:3). We can’t be married to the first husband AND to a second husband at the same time. Therefore, it is impossible for anyone to be both “in the flesh” and married to Christ at the same time. The point of the illustration is that the woman’s problem gets solved by the death of her first husband, the flesh.
In this illustration the old husband’s death parallels the death that God brought about when He baptizes us into the death of Christ. By being placed into Christ, we lost something that looks like a married woman losing a bad husband. Not only does she lose the bad, domineering husband, but she gains the freedom to marry a good husband. This second marriage, our marriage to Christ, is characterized by bearing fruit for God (Romans 7:4).
Our situation is presented as being so completely delivered from our flesh that it’s like a woman being delivered from a mean husband who dies. Christ is pictured here as marrying a widow, not a married woman or a divorcee. He is pictured as becoming a second husband to the woman with no rival. The first husband is dead.
For many, the mistake in trying to understand this is to start with their experience and try to find something that looks to be dead in their own life that fits the story. This approach will likely prove to be futile.
However, if we were to start with what God says, “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him” (Romans 6:6), embrace it as truth because God said it, and live our lives as if it were true, we would find ourselves with a much different experience.
The further context bears this interpretation out as Paul describes the believer when he says, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). It’s either one way or the other. We are either “in the flesh” before knowing Christ or “in the Spirit” having received Christ, but we can’t be a combination of the two.
Just as a widow no longer has to obey her first husband, we no longer have to walk after the flesh and obey its desires. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh” (Romans 8:12).
But you may say, “Wait a minute! The last time I looked in a mirror, I was still in my body. How is it that I am supposed to understand that my body is dead?”
God has left each believer to continue to live on, for the rest of our time on earth, in the body, yet the relationship with the body through faith, is entirely changed.
Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Instead of serving the body as an instrument of sin, the body now becomes an instrument for service to God in righteousness.
“...for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Romans 6:19).
Allow me to illustrate it this way. Imagine yourself being attacked by a grizzly bear. Obviously you would label the substance of the bear as “bad” because it is against you, causing you harm. You would rather that it disappeared. After one small change to the bear, your perspective completely changes. What change? A bullet between the eyes. As soon as the bear is lying in a heap at your feet, you no longer want it to disappear. You would just as soon take it home and mount it on your wall as a prize. The substance is the same as seconds earlier. What’s the difference? One minute the bear was alive and against you, the next minute it is dead and at your disposal.
This is the way the Bible describes our bodies. Before knowing Christ, we are slaves to our bodies, obeying its lusts. Our willing union with the flesh, that is, sin in the members of our physical body, bears fruit for death (Romans 7:5). This is what Christians are warned not to allow anymore, in Romans 6:12. However, after being baptized into the death of Christ, our bodies become instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13) and the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). In order to experience God’s provision of new life, we are compelled to walk by faith in what God says about us as opposed to what we can see. “...we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
One minute our body is our “old husband” and “slave master” and the next minute after being placed into Christ it is the holy habitation of God Himself.
Note that this is a spiritual condition to be lived in as a walk of faith. Your body has not actually died and therefore its appetites have not died. Although some Christians have reported an immediate end to, for instance, an addiction to nicotine, after being born again...what a blessing!...many Christians can still struggle with previous addictions after trusting Christ. God never promised that temptation and desire would disappear apart from faith and therefore should be expected to continue. However, focusing our faith on the things God has promised, can lead to a completely different experience where victory over sin and the freedom of holiness become the norm.
These are a few things to know before and during temptation:
No temptation is from God. God does not seek your downfall as a believer at any time.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).
Every temptation which comes to you has been filtered by God so as not to overwhelm you but to enable you to be victorious in it.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This should be a significant motivation in our determination not to fall into sin. Imagine a teacher handing out tests. A student could easily think that some questions will be possible and some may be too difficult. However, if the teacher assured you that the test had been designed so that you could answer every single question, you could find new motivation for applying yourself to each question. God has promised that you will never see a temptation that you will not be able to bear or escape from and be victorious.
Temptation is allowed by God to strengthen our character and complete the development of our faith.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptation; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).
God has provided for you to be victorious in every temptation.
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations...” (2 Peter 2:9a).
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presences of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).
The dead are All free, from the pull, of All sin.
“For he that is dead is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7).
You are dead...and raised to new life.
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
“Now if we be dead with Christ...reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:8, 11).
As we meet temptations with these truths in mind, we will see that God has indeed already transformed us into a new person from the moment we trusted Christ. We are a new person who desires righteousness and a clear conscience. Only a clean, godly life will satisfy us from now on.
Look up the verses in this lesson and mark them in your Bible. As you become familiar with the way God describes you, you will be prepared to respond to temptation in the same way Jesus responded... “It is written...” (Matthew 4:4).
In your case, the verses you need may be, “It is written, I am dead and my life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). (Being dead frees from sin because dead men don’t lie to protect their reputations, dead men don’t steal, dead men don’t lust, dead men don’t get impatient and dead men don’t get angry.) Sin no longer holds any power over me. Sin has no power over Christ. Christ is in me (Colossians 1:27) and I am in Christ (Colossians 3:3). I am joined to Christ. Christ has replaced the old man, who is crucified and gone (Romans 6:6). I am now alive from the dead with Christ (Romans 6:13) and if one died for all then all died so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the one who died for them (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Have you ever asked God to free you from sin? Begged Him to free you from a temptation...and been disappointed as you fell for it over and over again? Every time I ask to be freed from sin, I declare that I am not yet free from sin. I am asking God to do something that I believe is not yet done, to free me from sin. However, God has declared that He has already done all that He is ever going to do in order to free me from sin. He also promised that He will never repeat the process (Hebrews 9:12-14, 25-28).
“Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29).
If we don’t acknowledge that the blood of Christ has sanctified us and freed us from sin, but seek another way, we end up by-passing the only way that God is offering.
God’s way is for us to walk by faith. God says I am free from sin in Christ. It’s your choice as to what you are going to believe. Is God’s “Plan A” to put Christ in you and you in Christ, sufficient to free you from sin, or are you still hoping that God, comes up with a “Plan B” which will incrementally reform your flesh as you bring your efforts to bear on resisting temptation?
Christ already let us know what He thought about incrementally changing our flesh for the better. He said, “...if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee...and if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee...” (Matthew 5:29-30). Christ is not into reforming sinful flesh. He’s into discarding it. Ultimately, to see any consistency in resisting temptation, the whole body of flesh needs to experience a crucifixion. A breakthrough can come for us as we acknowledge that a baptism into a death is the only solution. It is also the exact solution God has chosen for each believer in Christ.
If you are ready for a new approach, the next time temptation comes knocking, simply declare by faith, “I am dead, I am in Christ, Christ is in me, I am raised to walk in new life and this appetite has been crucified with Christ according to Galatians 5:24.”
God created man with a spirit, created in His image, and put the spirit in a body of flesh.
Each day was a choice of obedience to God or to the flesh.
The first man eventually chose the flesh.
We are all now separated from God as a consequence of the first sin.
Because we are separated from God, we each are weak to the desires of our flesh.
Choosing to satisfy the flesh over our conscience is “walking after the flesh”. This is sin, which each person has chosen.
The price for sin is death; physical death in Adam and eternal judgment for our personal sins.
The death of Christ pays the price for our sin which gives us forgiveness when we are born again.
Our baptism into the death of Christ promises a bodily resurrection for every believer in Christ.
Our baptism into the death of Christ brings about the death of the “old man,” an end to our old life walking after the flesh.
Our baptism into the resurrection of Christ raises us up as a new man, created to walk in new life as Christ; free to be victorious in any temptation which comes our way.
Each believer in Christ can choose to walk every day as a new man in Christ.
The alternative is ignoring our baptism into the death of Christ and asking God to deliver us by some other way. However, there is no other way offered to be free from sin besides a baptism into the death of Christ.
All believers in Christ have already been baptized into the death of Christ and need only to walk in it by faith to receive the full benefits of a new life in Christ.
Temptations will come. And when they come they force the choice of walking by sight or walking as God desires for us, by faith; by faith in His words that we are dead through a baptism into the death of Christ. By faith, we are alive to God, to walk in newness of life. “...because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
It was God’s plan to be the perfect man and then to baptize many into him so that we could live as him in this world. Christ, and believers in him are described in the same way as both crucified, dead, buried, raised, alive from the dead, seated in heaven, holy, acceptable to God, sons of God, joint heirs and free from sin. This is God’s plan that we are in Christ, and that we live as him in this world. This is God’s exciting plan to free us from the pull of this world. And what a relief that all is accomplished and that none of this is generated by us. With this plan we are more than conquerors and can be confident when facing temptation.