But For the Grace

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. Luke 4:1, NKJV

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15, NKJV

This morning the headlines were many announcing an evangelical preacher of a very large church resigning due to moral failings. Some reports indicated possible porn addiction and extra-marital affairs. These specific failings were not confirmed officially.

I saw the headlines and my heart sank. A family betrayed and hurting. A congregation, including this pastor’s staff, confused and hurting. I prayed for them and then I prayed for this pastor.

I think of the saying, “There but for the grace of God.” We hear it everywhere, but I don’t think it’s usually said with the true weight and meaning that this statement should carry.

I started this post with two scriptures that speak of our Lord Jesus Christ being tempted. He was tempted but did not sin. This was not because He was the Son of God. He laid down His divine nature and came to earth as a man. I believe the reason He did not fall under the weight of such great temptation was because of what happened prior to His entering the wilderness. “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit…”

But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it). James 4:6, Amplified

There but for the grace of God. There but for the power of the Holy Spirit to meet this evil tendency and all others fully. I think it’s important to realize that just as Jesus was tempted, we too can be tempted. If we think we have arrived at a place where we cannot be tempted, we may fail to humble ourselves and receive the grace that He is freely offering.

I don’t say this in judgement of this pastor. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

I share all this as a reminder to myself and to anyone who reads this, when tempted, humble yourself and receive His grace, His power to meet and overcome all temptation.

One final thing, Pastor Joseph Prince says that when facing addictions and reoccurring sins in our lives, to remind ourselves  out loud as often as needed, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ.” In the face of addictions and failings, it takes humility to press through shame and guilt to say what God says about us. This is an act of faith. It is by faith that it might be by grace. We humble ourselves with an act of faith and receive the grace that sets us free. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:6-7, NLT

Don’t Forget to Exercise

Many years ago, when I first started walking this walk of love, I made a comment to a friend that there are many opportunities to step out of love each day. She responded by saying, “Every day there are many opportunities to walk in love.”

Every day we are presented with opportunities to love. Some may look like opportunities to help others, smile at others, bless others. Some may be a lot of fun and ones that we look forward to doing. Then again, some of those opportunities may look like keeping your mouth shut when you really don’t want to. They may look like forgiving the same person over and over again, for the same offense no less! Good or bad, each one is an opportunity to love.

I once heard a minister say that he considers the trials and temptations, especially the ones that come due to the unlovely actions and words of other people, as exercise equipment. He saw them as opportunities to practice walking in love and develop in his strength and ability to love.

He compared our potential to love like God loves as similar to a baby that is born with all the same muscles as a grown human man. There is potential in each muscle. But as he grows, the strength, ability and agility of each muscle will depend on how much it is used and how much it is pressed beyond it’s previous threshold in order to bring growth and strength.

Love is just like that. As born-again children of God we are born with the potential to love like He loves. Now how strong that love becomes in our lives depends on how much we use it and how much we press to love more today than we did yesterday.

I encourage you to begin to see things differently. The next time someone really pushes your buttons don’t look at it as a temptation to be unlovely. Look at it as another opportunity to grow in love.