A new Christian wrote me regarding his struggle with temptation in his life. Here was my response:
Regarding the issue of temptation, keep in mind, temptation in itself is not sin. We are all tempted as Christians. Even Christ was tempted. Temptation only becomes sin when we give into it. James 1:15 tells us when temptation has conceived, or given into, it becomes sin. In Psalms 119:9 it tells us the way to keep our lives pure and clean is to live according to the Word of God, the Bible. Regular Bible reading each day washes and renews our mind. In this way, we become stronger Christians so that over a period of time we will give into temptations less. As Christians, we now have two natures. We have the old sinful nature, but we also have the new spiritual nature, sometimes called the “new man” or “new self” in scripture. As you feed this new man by reading and meditating on scripture, that new nature becomes stronger just as exercise strengthens our physical muscles. As Christians, we will continue to struggle with the desires of the old nature as long as we are alive. The good news is that we can strengthen that new nature inside of us to become stronger than the old nature. The Christian life is not a static one. You are either going forward or slipping backward. There is no standing still.
If you are struggling with a particular sin that seems to really be entrenched in your life, I suggest you talk to a pastor or Christian counselor. God gave such men to us to help us in these areas. Sometimes just reading the Bible doesn’t help us completely. We need the input of other Christians to help us see our blindside sometimes, in regard to various issues in our lives. Sometimes problems in our lives come from past experiences we have had. This is where a good counselor or pastor who is knowledgeable about such things can be of benefit to us.
We are living in the day of the Laodicean church. Apostates (false teachers) abound in the churches across the nation. Many are popular Christian authors with best selling books. You have heard their names. But remember…just because they sell a lot of books to Christians does not mean they teach the truth of the Bible. Beware!! The current movement called the Emergent Church is a part of the apostasy that the apostles Paul and Peter warned us about.
These teachers teach a “feel good” theology. They also mix a little truth with Satanic lies. They distort scripture. Among other things, they teach that Christianity will win over the world to Christ and bring in God’s kingdom on the earth. They must have learned their false teaching in “Scripture Twisting 101.”
Protect Your Spiritual Health
How do you recognize these so called Christian leaders and ministers? By saturating your mind with the pure teachings of the Bible itself on a daily basis. You have to know your Bible to be able to recognize when some so called Christian pastor or teacher is feeding you a load of baloney. And it doesn’t take that long to have a good grasp of basic Bible knowledge.
Spotting The Heresy
When the FBI trains an agent to spot a counterfeit dollar bill, they don’t use a counterfeit. They have the agent study a genuine dollar bill over and over again. By the time he has a perfect image of what a real dollar bill looks like, he can spot just about any phony almost instantly, unless it is a really good counterfeit.
In the same way, we as Christians will be able to spot heresy and error when we hear it only when we are grounded in the true teachings of the Word of God.
We need to literally saturate our minds with Bible reading on a daily basis. We need to know the Bible like the back of our hand. How does a person do this? It’s not a complicated process.
A Simple Process- Repetitious (or Repetitive) Reading
The best way to know your Bible is to read it repetitiously. This is known as the Synthetic Method of Bible study because it helps you “synthesize” or “put together” each individual book of the bible. Take a small book like Ephesians. Read it through once a day. Do this for thirty days. At the end of the month, you will have a good grasp of the teachings in that book. G. Campbell Morgan, a Bible teacher of years gone by used to say he would not even begin to teach from a book of the Bible until he had read it through at least fifty times.
In his book, How To Master The English Bible, James M. Gray tells how he discovered this method of Bible study:
For the first half of my ministry I did not know my English Bible as I should. The effect was seen both in my spiritual life and in the character of my preaching.
My heart was greatly burdened in prayer about this for more than a year, when God answered me through a layman I met at a Christian convention. I so much coveted his peace and joy in Christ, I asked him how he had obtained the blessing.
He told me it came to him by reading the Epistle to the Ephesians.
I asked him how he had read it.
“I was going to spend the Sabbath with my family in the country,” he said, “and I carried with me a pocket copy of the epistle. In the afternoon I lay down under a tree and read it through at a single reading. My interest being awakened, I read it through again in the same way, and again, and again, as many as 12 or 15 times. When I arose, I was not only in possession of Ephesians, but Ephesians was in possession of me.”
At once I began to apply this simple principle to the whole Bible, beginning at Genesis. I did not read merely the Bible in course, but kept at each book until it was mastered before I began work in the next.
I cannot tell the effect upon me: strengthening my faith in the infallibility of the Bible, enlarging my mental vision, deepening my spiritual life, and lightening the burdens of my ministry.
I suggest starting with the New Testament. The reason is that it contains much needed instruction for growing as a Christian. Begin by choosing a short book in the New Testament to read repetitiously such as I John or I Peter. Read through it completely each day for a month. Then choose another book of the Bible and do the same thing. After a few months, you will be amazed at how well your are mastering the Bible. Once you have read through a few of these shorter New Testament books, choose a longer book like the Gospel of John. John has 21 chapters. Break this down into segments of seven chapters. The first month you will read the first seven chapters (chapters 1-7) each day. The next month, you will read the next seven chapters (chapters 8-14) each day. The third month you will read the final chapters (chapters 15-21) each day for 30 days. At the end of three months, you will have read through the book of John thirty times and have a grasp of the book which will astonish you.
You Will Experience Fast Spiritual Growth
By using this method of Bible reading you will grow spiritually like you have never grown before. After a few months to a year, you will be able to look back on your life and see definite changes and improvements in your spiritual and everyday life.
Problems won’t seem as difficult. Your outlook will improve. You will feel stronger spiritually. It will be like exercising your physical body except your will be growing spiritually instead of physically.
You Will Be Able to Discern Truth From Error
At the end of two and a half years, you will have read through the New Testament thirty times. You will also know your Bible better than a lot of Bible college graduates. You will know the basic teachings and doctrines of the Bible. Knowing the true teachings of the Bible will help you spot heresy and error when you hear it taught by these modern day apostates mentioned earlier in this article.
Remember the example of the counterfeit dollar bill I mentioned earlier in this article? In the same way, you will be able to spot heretical teaching much quicker and easier because you will KNOW the truth!
Hebrews 12: 1,2 says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Here the writer compares living the Christian life to a race. Personally, I am not much of a runner. I am more of a plodder. I plod along in life. Plod…plod…plod. Sometimes that is what it feels like we are doing in the race. Don’t worry though, plodders reach the finish line as well. The key word in verse one is the word “endurance”.
Sometimes when running the race we get knocked down in the dirt. We just have to get up, brush off the dirt, and start plodding (or running) along again. This last week was particularly hard and frustrating for me. I was lying down in the dirt, wondering if it was worth it all. A few days ago, I wrote a longtime friend and mentor, David Drullinger, who is also a Bible college professor and pastor. In his response, he attached his newsletter about the happenings in his ministry in South Africa. After reading it, I realized something:
I am still alive.
God is still on the throne.
He is still in control and working in the world.
So I got up, brushed off the dirt and started plodding along again.
It’s Not Just a Race, It’s a Battle
I am reminded of a scene in one of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies where Rocky is getting pummeled by his opponent. He’s hollerin’, “Go on. Hit me. Hit me again. You ain’t so bad !” He then proceeds to knock the tar out of his opponent and win the fight. Remember when you are in a fight with one of your enemies, the world, the flesh, or the devil, you stand with all the power of an almighty God behind you. Put on the armor listed in Ephesians 6, take up the shield of faith, and start swinging the sword- the Word of God. Fight back, knowing you are fighting from a position of “already-attained” victory. Christ attained it at the cross.
Send Out Encouragement to Others
When I was in Bible college, we used to send each other what we called, “encouragement cards” through the campus mail. They were just small postcards on which we wrote notes of encouragement to our friends. If you know of someone going through a tough time, I suggest you send them an email or postcard of encouragement. I know those little cards meant a lot to me when I received them. These days I receive encouragement emails from people and am thoroughly thankful for them as well.
Sometimes Christians say they can’t forgive themselves for something they have done. If you ask them if God has forgiven them, they will say, “Yes, but I have a hard time forgiving myself.” What they don’t realize is that they are basically saying they have a higher standard of holiness than God Himself!
When a person accepts Christ as their Savior, all their sins, past, present, and future are forgiven and wiped away. When we sin, those sins are already forgiven. But sinning as a Christian breaks the fellowship we have with God. We don’t feel right in God’s presence because we have unconfessed (unacknowledged) sin. We can also loose the joy of our salvation, but not salvation itself. Confession of those sins restores the fellowship we have with God.
God’s holiness is infinite-beyond what we as humans, can conceive. Yet because of the payment Jesus made for our sins, God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) can forgive us our sins and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ Himself. An in forgiving us, God remains just as righteous and just as ever.
When we say that God has forgiven us for our sins, yet say we cannot forgive ourselves, in essence, that is saying that we have a higher standard of holiness to which we hold ourselves than God does. Do you see how wrong this is?
So if you are a Christian, forgive yourself. God already has.
Some of you have written me over the past few months wondering if you should get into trucking. Many of you have been layed off and unemployed for a number of months and are feeling in a kind of limbo and even desperate. I know the feeling. Although I can’t tell you whether or not you should be a truck driver, I can offer some general principles about how God sometimes directs us into a direction He wants us to go. Please read the following prayerfully and may God lead you into an understanding of what He wants you to do.
Here are three verses to start with:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, -Ecclesiastes 9:10
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. -Rev. 3:7,8
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. -James 1:5
Start by asking God for wisdom to make the right decision. Then pray that He will open the door He wants you to go through and close the ones He doesn’t want you to go through. Then launch out in faith. It is true that sometimes God wants you to wait until He directs into a certain path. But there is also the problem of “paralysis by analysis”. That means some people never do anything because they are always over-analyzing the options. God directs those who are moving in a some direction and corrects you if you are off course.
God could have led the Israelites on a more direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land, but He had reasons to led them in a round about way. If He opens up trucking to you, it may be because He wants you to learn something before He shows you the main job for your life. Then again trucking may be the main job. I have learned a lot about faith by being in trucking. It can be a hard lifestyle, but you can learn some things in it regarding your Christian walk which you can learn in no other occupation. If He doesn’t want you in it, He will close the door at the proper time.
May God direct you into the course He has for you to travel.