I’ve been sharing lately about the requirement for obedience and the shedding of those things we’ve been holding to in rebellion against God. Today I want to share about the process of obedience because there is more involved with it than saying yes to God and no to temptation. What I am about to share is not necessarily the rule, but is generally true for most circumstances. Please prayerfully go through each phase (which is not always going to be exactly the same or in the same order for everyone) and ask God to search your heart and show you any area you are still hiding sin.
Phase One: When God reveals to us an area we are not submitted to Him, whether through the Word, preaching, personal conviction, or otherwise, we have a choice. The choice is either to obey or reject His leading. There is no in-between. Putting off obedience for any reason is rejection of His leading, which is rebellion. If this is you, repent before the next phase of your rebellion comes to fruition. He is faithful to forgive but not if we are not sincere and truly repentant. If you’ve done this, move on to Phase Three. If you’re not sure how to fight the temptation or stop the pattern, get help. Go to your pastor or a trusted friend who is submitted to God. Get accountability. And pray. Ask God to provide you with a way out. He will always honor that prayer.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will provide you with a way out, so you can stand up under it.”1 Corinthians 10:13
Phase Two: God’s patience is our salvation, but we shouldn’t take advantage of it or expect that His patience will last forever. If we don’t handle our sin, our situation, our pattern, we will see an inevitable removal of blessing in short order. He may bless at first to lead us into repentance, but if we ignore Him and take the blessing without changing our hearts, there will be a humbling to the point of being destitute in whatever area our sin is entrenched. If you know of a problem in your life that needs to be submitted to God, yet you’re still receiving blessing, repent now and praise Him for His loving-kindness which is meant to lead you to repentance and right standing with Him. If you are the destitute one, feeling like God is distant or has removed His blessing or covering from your life, repent now. He is faithful to forgive and cleanse, and will set you right. He lifts up the humble, but opposes the proud. Which are you?
Phase Three: If we are truly open to His Word and His work in our lives, we will yield. In yielding, we will experience two possibilities: attack and blessing/peace.
I was married to an abusive person. Whenever I made a choice to try to leave him, he would become irate. Threats came, abuse increased or changed to a different type of abuse, and I would feel helpless and end up staying. I learned much later that when a victim tries to leave an abuser, the abuser cannot let go. They will do anything and everything to keep the victim in their clutches. The devil is an abuser.
a. When we make the choice to do what is right or when we submit to God and resist the devil he flees. He’s afraid of God, though he’d not likely admit it. When we choose to do what is right, he may stand afar off and throw things. Immediately after doing what’s right, you may feel attacked. It may feel like you are being hit and it may make you want to go back to the way it was, but don’t! Stand and pray. If you haven’t yet, put on your armor. Those attacks are merely the last-ditch effort to get you to change your mind, become discouraged, and doubt God’s love and protection. Stand strong and don’t give in.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.”Ephesians 6:12-13
b. When we submit to God and resist the devil/temptation/sin, God honors that decision. Always. He comes to our aid. Peace will come. We may not realize it in the midst of the battle with the devil and our own mind, but God is right there with us. He’s fighting for us, Jesus is interceding for us, and peace will reign in our hearts and minds. All that attack and discouragement is a distraction. If you have chosen to cut off sin, don’t look at the distractions. Don’t second-guess yourself and your decision to do what’s right. Look to Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him! He will hide you under the shadow of His wing, in the cleft of the rock, and has already overcome. PRAISE HIM!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4: 4-7
Phase Four: We have overcome temptation in one area, resisted sin, and submitted to God in obedience. Yay us! We think, Phew! Made it through that one; now we can rest! NOPE! DO NOT TAKE OFF THE ARMOR! DO NOT STOP PRAYING! We must dive into the Word, pray without ceasing, and continue to lay bare our hearts before the Lord. We must continue to humble ourselves. Think about it: just because we made it through one problem doesn’t mean we don’t have others that will be revealed. Christianity is a constant denying of self; a continual repentance. We can’t think that we have overcome in one area and won’t have another to deal with shortly.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”1 Peter 5:8
Overcoming sin and temptation should be a sobering situation. It should be met with fear (of the Lord) and trembling. This is our reasonable service to God: to present ourselves to God and go through our hearts with His leading to rip out those areas of rebellion we still have. We should be constantly conquering our self-nature through Christ, and we should never think we have “made it.” We can’t forget our need for Him, our propensity for sin, and our deceitful and wicked hearts can fool us at any time.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”1 Corinthians 10:12
Prayer: Lord, I know I have areas of my life that are still in rebellion. Show me those areas. Search my heart and know me, and help me to know myself. Deliver me from evil. Show me my ignorant sins and help me to be wise in You. Please forgive my rebellion, my many sins, and continue to train me in obedience. Thank You for Your patience, Your deliverance, and Your great sacrifice for my sins. In Jesus’s name, Amen.