3 Temptations of Weariness

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Growing weary is something we will all face in the Christian life, especially as we get into our middle years. Martyn Lloyd Jones, in his book, Spiritual Depression, suggests that the middle period of life is the most difficult because there are compensations in youth and compensations in old age that do not exist in the middle years.

When we were young and entered the Christian life and work, there was an excitement, a freshness, that permeated all we did, but as we age, we become accustomed to the Christian life. We also grow accustomed to the work and fall into a routine of doing the same thing day after day. As we do this, the earlier excitements that brought us up to this level of work and energy begin to fade away, and we are simply left with the work. Lloyd Jones goes on to say, “There we are on that level, and the difficulty is to keep going on that level while lacking the stimulus that took us there.”

This leads us to a point where we are not “so much tired of the work as tired in it.” If we find yourself in this situation, Lloyd Jones lays out three distinct temptations that we must resist when we grow weary.

The Temptation to Give Up

When you find yourself growing weary, you will hear the cry coming up from within that this is too much much for you. These voices will tell you it is time for you to give up. They will come to you telling you that perhaps it is now time for you to rest from well-doing and let others take the reins.

Though a sabbatical or a vacation may be appropriate if you have not had one in a while, this is not the time to give up laboring for the Lord. You must resist this temptation to give up. You will reap in due season, so do not let the temptation to quit take that blessing away from you.

The Temptation to Resign Yourself to the Weariness

The second temptation is even more sinister. That is the temptation to press on while assuming that weariness is what is to be expected going forward. Do not resign yourself to the exhaustion.

Lloyd Jones puts it this way, ” The danger at this point is to say something like this: Well, I have lost that something which I had, and obviously I shall not get it back again. But I am going on, and out of loyalty I will go on, as a sheer duty. I have lost the enjoyment I once had, that is gone and undoubtedly gone forever.” People who do this, go on in a “dragging condition.”

Do not give into the spirit of resignation. This is a temptation to sinfulness. Joyless Christian service is not what the Lord has called us to. There is hope, and the Lord can provide the strength we need just like he did for Caleb (Joshua 14:10-11).

The Temptation to Resort to Artificial Stimulants

The third temptation that comes to us is to try to help God along in supplying us the needed energy and relief. We see this regularly in the working world when alcohol and drugs are used to provide strength and to relieve the weight of the burden that is being carried.

This happens spiritually as well. If we are weary in the work of the church or in our Christian life, what we often think we need is some new program or attraction to liven things up. The thought goes like this, “Let’s bring in new entertainment. If our worship is worn and routine, we can add lights and a fog machine or a whole host of other amusements.” All of this is artificial hype. It is a substitution for what we really need; the strength and joy of the Lord.

Among other things, many weary Christians will begin to seek rest by spending hours watching Netflix, others make social media their default retreat whenever the burden of work seems too much. Since none of these substitutes can provide what is truly needed, much like alcohol and drugs, all we are doing is exhausting ourselves further. Lloyd Jones puts it this way, ” As he becomes more exhausted, so he will need to have still more drink and still more drugs; and so the process goes on in a cumulative manner. And it is exactly the same in the spiritual realm.” Do not give in to this temptation, it is a cistern that cannot hold water, and it will only make conditions worse.

How to Fight

Provided that we are not over-working ourselves and we are taking care of our bodies by giving them the needed sabbath rests, to fight all three of these temptations we must do what we are called to do with any temptation. We must resist the devil, and he will flee. The way we do that is by preaching the gospel to ourselves once again, and by remembering what we were saved from and to what we have been called. That is the first gust of wind we need in our sails. “You are set in the midst of the most glorious campaign into which man could ever enter, and you are on the noblest road that the world has ever known.” Do not let that truth slip from your mind.

The second blast of wind we need to move our ships forward is to remember that this life is not our place of rest. Our rest is coming, and it will be glorious. Set your eye on the prize promised by the gospel. Jesus is coming again and his reward is with him. He will give to each person according to what he has done (Rev. 22:12). Cheer your heart with thoughts of the return of your Savior, and let that joy drive you heavenward.

Finally, the third and most consistent wind we need in our sails is the presence of God. God is the gospel, and he is our ultimate reward. Since you have been justified in Christ, he is with you and available to you now. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

-D. Eaton

Satan’s Dread

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew, and they were in dread of the children of Israel. – Ex. 1:12

At this point in history, the Israelites were in Egypt because of God’s sovereign work through Joseph. They had been living in freedom and peace, when a new pharaoh comes into power and sees their prosperity. He does not regard Joseph’s memory, and he became concerned with Israel’s growth so he and the Egyptians begin to oppress God’s chosen people, but the more they afflicted them, the more they grew.

Within this historical truth we find a spiritual truth. Many people live in fear of Satan, but as children of God we need not fear, for he is fulfilling God’s will in our lives. He is so blinded with pride that he thinks he is thwarting God’s plan but is in fact helping to fulfill it.

When the Lord allows Satan and his demons to mettle in a Christian’s life, it is for a good reason. We know this because all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). God has started a good work in us which He will finish, and the more we are afflicted, the more we grow. Until, to Satan’s demise, He is in dread of us.

An example of this can be seen in the life of Peter. Satan, during the crucifixion, asked to sift him, and God allows him to do so. As a result of this sifting, Peter commits one of the most heinous sins possible, he denies Christ three times. Failure and affliction have hit hard, but to Satan’s dismay, it is this fall that the Lord used to grow Peter’s faith and make him more like Christ. After Jesus restores Peter with three affirmations, the same number as Peter’s denials, Peter then goes on to lead thousands to the Lord, and his testimony is still encouraging people today. After Satan thought he had defeated him, Peter became a dread to Satan. You can be sure that Satan regrets ever tempting Peter in that way.

Now many may say, it’s how you respond to affliction that matters. But we need to look at why Peter responded correctly. He responded correctly because God convicted him of his sin. God broke his heart instead of letting Peter harden it. God did it all. Why? Because Peter was one of His, and of us, He will not lose one. Sanctification is what God does in us, it is not what we do for God. What we end up doing for Him is merely a response of what He is doing in us.

As we face the schemes of the Devil, remember, God is always working in His Children, and He uses many things to grow our faith: even afflictions, temptations, and failures. So when you feel that the prince and the power of the air is winning the fight, remember he is only playing right into the hands of our Father.

To quote John Bunyan, let us never forget, “When Satan, death, the grave, and sin have done whatever they can do, we are still more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

Finally, let us never forget that, ultimately, it is not us that Satan dreads, it is God’s Spirit who is at work within us. For greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

D. Eaton

You Cannot Satisfy Sin By Sinning – John Owen

Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

The general nature of indwelling sin is that it is always at enmity with us. There can be no terms of peace. It must be abolished and destroyed, every part and parcel of it. Every drop of poison is poison, and will kill; and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn. We can admit no terms of peace or compromise. It is in vain to have any expectation of rest from lust, except by its death. Some, in the troubling of their corruptions, seek for quietness and laboring to satisfy them. This is to douse a fire with oil. Casting wood into the fire will not satisfy it, but increase it: so it is with seeking to satisfy sin by sinning, it only inflames and increases it. You cannot bargain with fire to take only so much of your house; you have no way to quench it. It is so with indwelling sin. Sin opposes duty, and temps us to unbelief, because of its enmity toward God. Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God. The great means to prevent the fruits and effects of this enmity is to constantly keep the soul in a universally holy frame. As we are directed to ‘watch unto prayer’ (1 Peter 4:7 KJV ), So watching every duty. Whatever good we have to do, and we find evil present with us, we must prevent it from parlaying with the soul. We must prevent its insinuating poison into the mind and affections. Be sure you are not worn out by its persistence, nor driven from your hold by its importunity. Do not faint by its opposition. It is so dangerous when the soul gives over in part or in whole, either by being wearied in the battle of sin against holy duties or wearied of communion with God. Labor to possess a mind of the beauty and excellence of spiritual things – obedience, and communion with God – so that they may be presented lovely and desirable to the soul and this cursed enmity of sin will thus be weakened.

-John Owen

How to Resist the Devil

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7

Satan always seeks to your usurp our territory. By yielding in one temptation we let the devil into our trench and give him a fair advantage to do us more mischief. The angry man, while he is raging and raving, thinks he will only say so much, but alas while his fury and wrath are rallying, the devil finding the door open, enters and hurries him farther than he ever dreamt of.

The best way to never give him a foothold. Never venture near the door where sin dwells, lest you are dragged in. If you do not wish to be burned, don’t walk upon the coals of temptation. Do not think that you can yield to Satan in one thing and make believe that you will not yield in another. You cannot sit with drunkards and pretend you will not become one. You cannot lend your eyes to unchaste object and yet be chaste. These are strong delusions. If a man does not have the power to resist the devil in small temptations, what ground does he have that he can in great ones?

When a captain directs his soldiers to fight in their ranks, he bid them to stand. Military discipline allows no one to stir from their place without special warrant. Every Christian needs to stand where God has placed him. The devil’s method is first to route and then ruin. We must stay with our own duty and contentiously attend to it so God will bring us safely to our journey’s end.

Paul charged Timothy to give himself wholly to the discharge of his duty. The power of godliness lies in this. It is a contradiction to profess to know God but in your works to deny him. This can never be reconciled. He that is not a Christian in his shop is not a Christian in his closet, and is a hypocrite at church. Wound religion in one part and it is felt in every part. Stand firm!

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

From Voices from the Past, Edited by Richard Rushing

When Sin Brings You Low

 

With everything going on recently, (Charlottesville, North Korea, Barcelona, etc.) I was happy to preach this past weekend on when sin brings you low. This sermon looks at Micah 7 and explores two ways sin brings us low; from the sin around us to the sin within us. It then looks at the answer and the proper response. The MP3 of this sermon can be downloaded at the link below.

When Sin Brings You Low

16 Lessons on Pursuing Holiness

Not that I have already attained, but in my desire to press on, I recently taught a class called Holiness: Seeking the Savior’s Likeness at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. If you are interested, you can listen to the lessons at the links below. Simply click on the link to play, or right-click to download the mp3.

 

5 Truths About Your Battle With Sin You Hate to Admit

If you are a Christian, you battle with sin, and it is not necessary for me to list examples of the struggles with the flesh you may have. The minute you read the title of this post, you most likely had a specific struggle in mind. You have within you both flesh and Spirit, and the two are contrary to one another. Knowing this, however, does not mean the fight will easy or that you have it all under control. Here are five truths about your fight with sin you hate to admit.

1. Some battle scars are fresher than you are comfortable acknowledging.

As Christians, we are quick to acknowledge our struggles with sin, but we prefer to talk about the battles of the past. The ones where we have seen significant victory. The problem is, you have recent battle wounds as well. The fact that the battle is on-going is not something you like to broadcast to the world.

2. You sometimes try to get as close to the flame as possible without getting burned.

No matter how much you despise the sin that so easily besets you, you still find yourself wanting to get as close to it as possible. You think, “I will only allow myself this much room and will draw the line here.” The problem is that every time you get close to the line, it seems to move just a little further. This tendency to push boundaries has left you, on more than one occasion, beating yourself up over going too far.

3. You sometimes wonder why you are drawn to the very thing you despise.

Every time you are deceived by the deceitfulness of sin, you wonder how, at times, you desire the very thing you hate. Like Paul, you cry out, “who will save me from this body of death?” Even when you want to do right, evil is close at hand. You know that the problem with temptation is you because deep down you still have desires that war against your soul.

4. When it comes to your growth in godliness, you thought you would be further along than you are now.

You often think back to the many times you swore it was the last time, and you set out to grow in godliness. If you have been a Christian for a long time now, you remember looking forward to this time in your life with great anticipation. You imagined you would have experienced greater sanctification than you have.

5. You wonder if you are the only one; certainly there are other Christians out there who have risen above this.

You occasionally look at other Christians and think, surely they don’t have to war with sin the way I do. They seem to be the picture of piety. When you look at them from the outside, you think, “their heart does not struggle like mine.” You may even hear from someone who claims, contrary to scripture, to have stopped sinning, and you think, maybe it is true. Maybe it is just me.

What you need to know

1. You are not alone because being a Christian means battling sin.

This fight is something we all face, and warfare never happens without a few wounds. The fact that sanctification is a process that will not be completed this side of eternity means that every believer, no matter how sanctified they are, still has unsanctified areas in their life. In fact, the closer you walk with Jesus, the more aware of the battle you will be. The problem is not when you feel the conflict, the problem is during those times when you do not. In fact, John Newton once asked the Lord that he might grow and found that these inward trials were part of the growth process. Temptation will continue to come as long as you live, and it can be difficult to resist, but our standing in Christ is not shaken because we encounter temptation. As John Owen once said, “When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.”

2. You are not alone because Jesus is with you.

Christ did not go to the cross to atone for your sin and bring you forgiveness to leave you to yourself to see if you could hack it. He called you, and He will keep you. Even when He sends His rod of correction, it is His love that is dealing with you, not His wrath. His wrath was satisfied on the cross. He is faithful and just to complete the work He has begun in you. You can look back and see victories over sin in your life, and you will continue to see more. Stay close to our Savior, hide His word in your heart, and pray without ceasing. He has promised to be with you, even to the end of the age.

3. The enemy will continue to accuse you, but there is no condemnation in Christ.

The enemy will frequently tell you that you are not worthy of being a Christian. Never go for the bait, because what he wants you to do at that moment is to begin to justify yourself. The minute you start listing off all your good qualities and victories over sin, he will have you right where he wants you. There are clearly victories you have experienced in Christ, and you are right to rejoice in them, but they do not make you worthy to be a Christian. When Satan tells you, you are not worthy to be a Christian; the correct response is to agree with him. Of course I am not worthy to be a Christian, no one is. I was not worthy in the past, I am not worthy now, and I will not be worthy in the future, but Jesus is worthy, and my worth is found in Him. I am counted righteous in Him. And if you ever start to believe the lie that you may have fallen beyond forgiveness, here is something you can do to snap you back into reality. Picture Jesus dying on the cross and imagine yourself walking up to Him, and try to tell Him He didn’t do enough to atone for your sins.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

D. Eaton

The Problem with Temptation is Us

She stopped by again today and gave me one of those looks. The beauty of her face set against the backdrop of the tumultuous sky promised me peace. It was soft and gentle. It was like she was telling me, “I know you are hurting, and I can help.” There was a grace in the whole thing that spun my world with confusion.

The power she wielded over me was devastating. She continued to promise relief, but I have spent time with her on more than one occasion. She keeps telling me to trust her, that she can sooth the pain I am feeling. I reminded her that every time previously, her relief has only been temporary and that she always leaves me more troubled than before. Her response to this has always been the same, “Just one more time and you will be satisfied.”

Either I go with her and enter the vicious cycle once again, or I resist and find myself with an unquenched thirst that still leaves me feeling worse than before she showed up.  When I resist her, she plays upon my fears: as if somehow I am missing out, or failing to take care of myself. Many times she has told me “this is what life is about about, and you are not living it to the fullest.”

She appears in different forms to everyone. Usually, when I hear them talk about her, most people put all the blame on her. In exasperation, they conclude, “If she were not always around, I wouldn’t have this problem,” or “If society didn’t endorse her so much, I would be safe.” The reality is the problem with temptation is us, and even without her our hearts naturally try to find fulfillment apart from our Creator. This, of course, is why we often go out to look for her.

The only reason she has so much power over me is because deep down I desire what she offers whether she is present or not, and these are the desires that war against my soul. If this were not the case, I could easily send her on her way without a problem. John Owen once wrote, “Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before,” and he was working from a truth he had read in Scripture which says, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14).

I am always amazed at how much influence she has over me, or should I say how much power I have given her. There is only one remedy, and that is to abide in Christ who offers the real fulfillment I am seeking. There must be a change in me for her to lose her power, and that change has already begun. I know this because never before have I been so aware of the deceit that lies behind her smile, but being aware and resisting are two different things. There is so much more to say about her, and even more to say about our great deliverer, but she is here now giving me that look.

D. Eaton