By faith Moses . . . [left] the fleeting pleasures of sin . . . for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24–26)
Faith is not content with “fleeting pleasures.” It is ravenous for joy. And the Word of God says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). So faith will not be sidetracked into sin. It will not give up so easily in its quest for maximum joy.
The role of God’s Word is to feed faith’s appetite for God. And, in doing this, it weans my heart away from the deceptive taste of lust.
At first, lust begins to trick me into feeling that I would really miss out on some great satisfaction if I followed the path of purity. But then I take up the sword of the Spirit and begin to fight.
- I read that it is better to gouge out my eye than to lust (Matthew 5:29).
- I read that if I think about things that are pure and lovely and excellent, the peace of God will be with me (Philippians 4:8).
- I read that setting the mind on the flesh brings death, but setting the mind on the Spirit brings life and peace (Romans 8:6).
- I read that lust wages war against my soul (1 Peter 2:11), and that the pleasures of this life choke out the life of the Spirit (Luke 8:14).
- But best of all, I read that God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11), and that the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8).
As I pray for my faith to be satisfied with God’s life and peace, the sword of the Spirit carves the sugar coating off the poison of lust. I see it for what it is. And by the grace of God, its alluring power is broken.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)
Though Peter failed miserably, the prayer of Jesus preserved him from utter ruin. He was brought to bitter weeping and restored to the joy and boldness of Pentecost. So Jesus is interceding for us today that our faith might not fail (Romans 8:34).
Jesus promised that his sheep would be preserved and never perish. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).
The reason for this is that God will work to preserve the faith of the sheep. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
We are not left to ourselves to fight the fight of faith. “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
You have the assurance of God’s Word that, if you are his child, he will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).
Our endurance in faith and joy is finally and decisively in the hands of God. Yes, we must fight. But this very fight is what God “works in us.” And he most certainly will do it, for “whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
He will lose none of those he has brought to faith and justified.
Resist him, firm in your faith. (1 Peter 5:9)
The two great enemies of our souls are sin and Satan. And sin is the worst enemy, because the only way that Satan can destroy us is by getting us to sin.
God may give him leash enough to rough us up, the way he did Job, or even to kill us, the way he did the saints in Smyrna (Revelation 2:10); but Satan cannot condemn us or rob us of eternal life. The only way he can do us ultimate harm is by influencing us to sin. Which is exactly what he aims to do.
So Satan’s main business is to advocate, promote, assist, titillate and confirm our bent to sinning.
We see this in Ephesians 2:1–2: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked . . . according to the prince of the power of the air” (NASB). Sinning “accords” with Satan’s power in the world. When he brings about moral evil, it is through sin. When we sin, we move in his sphere, and come into accord with him. When we sin, we “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).
The only thing that will condemn us at the judgment day is unforgiven sin — not sickness or afflictions or persecutions or intimidations or apparitions or nightmares. Satan knows this. Therefore his great focus is not primarily on how to scare Christians with weird phenomena (though there’s plenty of that), but on how to corrupt Christians with worthless fads and evil thoughts.
Satan wants to catch us at a time when our faith is not firm, when it is vulnerable. It makes sense that the very thing Satan wants to destroy would also be the means of our resisting his efforts. That’s why Peter says, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” It is also why Paul says that the “shield of faith” can “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
The way to thwart the devil is to strengthen the very thing he is trying most to destroy — your faith.
The love of money is the root of all evils. (1 Timothy 6:10)
What did Paul mean when he wrote this? He couldn’t have meant that money is always on your mind when you sin. A lot of sin happens when we are not thinking about money.
My suggestion is this: he meant that all the evils in the world come from a certain kind of heart, namely, the kind of heart that loves money.
Now what does it mean to love money? It doesn’t mean to admire the green paper or the copper coins or the silver shekels. To know what it means to love money, you have to ask, What is money? I would answer that question like this: Money is simply a symbol that stands for human resources. Money stands for what you can get from man instead of God.
God deals in the currency of grace, not money: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1). Money is the currency of human resources. So the heart that loves money is a heart that pins its hopes, and pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer.
So the love of money is virtually the same as faith in money — belief (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy.
Love of money is the alternative to faith in God’s future grace. It is faith in future human resources. Therefore the love of money, or trust in money, is the underside of unbelief in the promises of God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and money.”
You can’t trust in God and in money at the same time. Belief in one is unbelief in the other. A heart that loves money — that banks on money for happiness — is not banking on the future grace of God for satisfaction.
Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
When I confronted a man about the adultery he was living in, I tried to understand his situation, and I pled with him to return to his wife. Then I said, “You know, Jesus says that if you don’t fight this sin with the kind of seriousness that is willing to gouge out your own eye, you will go to hell and suffer there forever.”
As a professing Christian, he looked at me in utter disbelief, as though he had never heard anything like this in his life, and said, “You mean you think a person can lose his salvation?”
So I have learned again and again from firsthand experience that there are many professing Christians who have a view of salvation that disconnects it from real life, and that nullifies the threats of the Bible, and puts the sinning person who claims to be a Christian beyond the reach of biblical warnings. I believe this view of the Christian life is comforting thousands who are on the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).
Jesus said, if you don’t fight lust, you won’t go to heaven. Not that saints always succeed. The issue is that we resolve to fight, not that we succeed flawlessly.
The stakes are much higher than whether the world is blown up by a thousand long-range missiles, or terrorists bomb your city, or global warming melts the icecaps, or AIDS sweeps the nations. All these calamities can kill only the body. But if we don’t fight lust, we lose our souls.
Peter says the passions of the flesh wage war against our souls. The stakes in this war are infinitely higher than in any threat of war or terrorism. The apostle Paul listed “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,” then said it is “on account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6). And the wrath of God is immeasurably more fearful than the wrath of all the nations put together.
May God give us grace to take ours and others’ souls seriously and keep up the fight.