SCHOOL OF ISRAEL
Mini-Study Guides, 1994-5
"More Than Conquerors"
7. Purity is Not Maturity
Scripture Meditation: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Brethren and sisters, last month I told you that many Christians do not expect anything beyond repeated forgiveness for constantly repeated sins. When this is the case, the most beautiful thing in the Christian life -- forgiveness -- is turned into the most baneful thing, for it actually encourages the continuance of evil. How that must sadden the heart of the Lord! And what a travesty of our Christian faith! Is constant forgiveness for constantly repeated sins the best we can expect? If it is, then Christianity offers pardon, but with no power. We need both if we are to represent the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Hindu believes that he will have to suffer for his sins -- the law of karma will exact full retribution. There is no forgiveness. An American missionary who became a Hindu gave as his reason that he wanted his children brought up under karma rather than redemption because the message of constantly repeated forgiveness for constantly repeated sins would weaken their character. "It would make them flabby," he said. And, do you know, he was right! Christianity has become flabby and weak because the vast majority of those calling themselves Christians believe such a doctrine!
Well, we don't. I repeat, however, that the message of cheap, easy forgiveness does not represent the Gospel. The Gospel does offer forgiveness for sin, but along with it, and as a part of it, it also offers the power to overcome sin. Forgiveness and power are the indissoluble parts of the grace of God. We cannot take it without the other. If we tried to take the forgiveness without the power then we would be faced with moral weakness. If we tried to take the power without the forgiveness then we would be faced by moral guilt. God does not give one without the other. And we, as New Covenant Christians, must take both, or neither. We must be able to say with Paul: "...the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom.8:2).
Our theme this year is "More Than Conquerors" and already I believe we have begun to experience the fruits of thinking in this positive way. Miracles are -- slowly -- beginning to happen within us. And the greatest miracle I personally have experienced, and which I hope you have too, is the miracle of forgiveness. God is talking to this people in prophetic dreams and showing them the way ahead. The Spirit of God is on the march amongst us, and praise the Lord for that!
I think everybody here knows that to be "more than conquerors" does not mean that we will be immune to temptation. First of all, we must recognise that temptation does not come from God. The apostle James wrote: "...God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone..." (Jas.1:13). He goes on to say: "..each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin..." (v.14-15). Please note that we are not dragged away by temptation but by our "own evil desire". In other words, it is not the temptation that produces sin, but the desires within us that go unchecked and uncontrolled. Temptation, therefore, is not sin; only when we yield to it does it become sin.
No one can stop the suggesting of evil entering the mind, but we can stop harbouring it and brooding over it. Dismissed at once it leaves no stain; held and entertained by the mind it discolours everything. There is a big difference between thoughts of evil and evil thoughts. Thoughts of evil are those ideas that enter our minds uninvited; they become evil thoughts only when we offer them a chair and bid them sit down.
There is a positive aspect to temptation. Goethe said: "Difficulties prove men." Please turn with me to Luke 4 and mark verses 4 & 14. Now note this well: Verse 1: that Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1), and Verse 14, came out "in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14). Do you see that? He went into temptation full of the Holy Spirit, and came out of it full of the power of the Holy Spirit. THEN HIS MINISTRY STARTED! Not before. And that is because the fullness of the Holy Spirit is turned to power under the pressure of temptation. Being "more than a conqueror", then, does not mean being immune from temptation, but being a victor over it.
Neither does it imply freedom from mistakes. We must never forget that we are personalities in the making, limited and grappling with issues that are high and lofty. This does not mean that we must lower our standards, but it does mean that sometimes, with the best will in the world, we will make mistakes.
An old proverb says: "The man who never made a mistake never made anything." Our actions are the result of our intentions and our intelligence. The prophet Samuel said: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam.16:7). Now our intentions may be very good, but because our intelligence and knowledge is limited, the action may result in a mistake -- a mistake but not necessarily a sin. Sin results from wrong intention. Many things we do may cause hurt to others, and for these we need to apologise, but they are not necessarily sins. The action may have carried a sense of incompleteness and frustration, but not of guilt.
In addition to the many mistakes we may make in our lives there will also be signs of our immaturity. Being "more than a conqueror" is quite consistent with immaturity. As one theologian puts it: "Purity is not maturity." I remember when one of my young children sent me a drawing when they lived overseas. It was covered with mistakes and poorly coloured areas. Was it mature? No. Was it pure? Yes! I saw through the immaturity to the intention and that made all the difference. It is the same with God. He doesn't want us to stay immature, of course -- what parent does -- but He looks past our immature actions right into the heart. Let us pray:
O Father, what a joy it is to know that in You we find not only forgiveness for all the sins of the past, but power to overcome sin in the future. You forgive us and then give us the power to triumph over sin. Lord, your Son Jesus came through the wilderness of temptation stronger than when He went in. Cause us to do the same. Walk with us into our struggles and enable us to make temptation contribute to our upbuilding as individuals and as a Church. Father, we know that we have not arrived at the goal yet -- we know that we are still walking the Way; help us to keep walking on the Way, and at the right pace -- not too slowly, and not too fast. In Jesus's Name. Amen.
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Updated on 16 May 1998
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