Dec 5, 2012
Following Jesus is like being 50 miles behind enemy lines with a mission of battling sin so you can get home with as many freed POW’s as possible.
But sin is a deadly enemy. It’s deceptive — camouflaging itself so you can’t see it. And it’s powerful — even when you see it, it can destroy you.
But there’s good news.
God gives us two weapons — one which exposes sin’s deceptions, and the other which overcomes sin’s power.
Sin can deceive us so we fall into it’s clutches without knowing it.
Let’s say you were hoping for a promotion at work. But last Friday someone else got the promotion — someone who lied to get the promotion.
So you feel bitter — and think your bitterness is absolutely right.
He lied to get the promotion, I’ve covered his mistakes, I’ve been here longer. Of course I’m going to feel bitter!
As we will see in a moment — that bitterness is sin.
But you aren’t seeing it as sin, because you’ve been deceived.
You walked into an enemy ambush without knowing it.
So how can we avoid such deception?
The word of God
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, or joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
The word of God is a sharp sword, slicing through our thoughts and feelings and rationalizations and justifications and discerning what is really in our hearts — belief or unbelief, sin or righteousness, obedience or sin.
But how does this work? Let’s take the bitterness about not getting the promotion.
You feel bitter all day Friday. But Saturday morning you sit down at the kitchen table, open up the Word of God, and read Ephesians 4:31 —
Let all bitterness … be put away from you.
And the sword slices through your rationalizations and justifications — and you see that your bitterness is sin.
Before — it felt so right. But now — you see it as sin.
The word has done it’s work — and you are free from deception.
But what do you do next?
Paul tells you to put away bitterness. But you can’t just WILL bitterness away.
So what can you do?
God gives us a second weapon — the throne of grace —
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:16)
The throne of grace will give me help — especially for overcoming temptation (see Heb 4:15).
But how can I draw near to Jesus when I’m bitter? I’m full of sin — how will He respond to me?
It’s because Jesus is —
Our forgiving high priest
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Heb 4:14)
Jesus is our high priest, which means He offered to God a sacrifice for our sins — the sacrifice of His own death on the Cross.
So if you are full of bitterness (or any other sin), as you look to Jesus, you will see Him offering you complete forgiveness.
But Jesus is also —
Our sympathetic high priest
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)
Without ever sinning, Jesus was tempted in every respect as we are. And he sympathizes with us in our weaknesses.
So when we come to Him in our bitterness (or any other sin), He says —
I know. It’s hard. I feel for you. I understand.
See how that helps?
Our sinfulness can make us stand back from Jesus, because we think He’s condemning and reproachful.
But everything changes when we see Jesus as our forgiving and sympathetic high priest.
Because as high priest He’s offering us forgiveness, not condemnation — and sympathy, not reproach.
So the next step is to turn to Him and draw near to —
The throne of grace
If you were bitter, you could draw near to the throne of grace by —
- turning your heart towards God,
- acknowledging your bitterness as sin,
- confessing it as sin,
- being assured of His complete forgiveness through Christ,
- asking for help to overcome your sin,
- and praying over Scriptures which the Spirit will use to free you from bitterness
God promises that when you do this you will receive grace and mercy to overcome your bitterness (and any other sin).
But how can bitterness be overcome?
After all — it’s a feeling, and feelings can’t be changed by will-power.
That’s true. But feelings can be changed by a different power.
Imagine you just heard about the promotion and were filled with bitterness. What would happen to that bitterness if an hour later you heard that you won the Powerball lottery —
$165 million after taxes.
How would you feel? Happy, exuberant, and giddy — right?
Would you still feel bitter about the promotion?
No. Not a chance.
That’s how feelings are changed.
A lottery-sized treasure
Here’s the point. In Jesus Christ you have a lottery-sized Treasure — forgiveness now for all of your sins, and God working everything in your life to give you the all-satisfying joy of knowing Him now and forever.
And the joy of knowing Jesus Christ makes $165 million look like pennies in your pocket.
But if that’s true — why are you feel bitter about the promotion?
It’s because at that moment you have forgotten about Jesus Christ.
At that moment you are trusting the treasure of the promotion — a treasure which has just been taken from you — which is why you are bitter.
That’s why bitterness is sin — because your bitterness about the promotion shows that you have forgotten the Treasure of Jesus.
So how does the throne of Grace overcome bitterness?
As we draw near to God, confessing our sin, asking for the Spirit’s work, and setting our hearts on Scripture displaying Jesus as our Treasure — God will change our hearts so we once again see and feel all that we have in Jesus Christ.
We will see and feel that Jesus is infinitely better than $165 million — and that He more than makes up for missing the promotion.
His presence and joy will so fill our hearts — that the bitterness will be gone.
You are 50 miles behind enemy lines, with a mission of getting home with as many freed POW’s as possible, facing enemy soldiers who are deceptive and powerful.
But you you have the word of God, which will expose every deception — and the throne of grace, which will overcome every temptation.
So you have nothing to fear.
Soldier, move out!
How did this impact you?
I’d love to hear. Leave a reply below — thanks!
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful —
This Neglected Truth Will Help You Resist Temptation
Are You Misdiagnosing Your Sin?
Last Night's Pit -- And How God Pulled Me Out
Seven Crucial Posts On Overcoming Temptation
(Picture from everystockphoto by loyota.)