In our desire to be effective expressions of Christ we often fall prey to a subtle trick of the enemy. A temptation arises; we feel the pull of flesh-desires. It doesn’t matter what it is; a thought to use our hatred against a person instead of against evil; sexual desire being stirred to wrong use; the pull to verbally dishonor our parents. This temptation is not yet in itself sin. But here’s where the Devil’s trickery  comes in.

He gets us to respond to the temptation by pulling back from it in our own human thinking, strength, and will.

Let’s pretend that I’m the devil, like Peter O’Toole in the original Bedazzled. I am standing in front of you, and I pull you toward myself. Your natural response is going to be to pull back in order to keep your balance. The strength of my pulling will be matched by the strength of your reactionary pull; this, in your  mind, will keep your balance.

But here’s the devil’s trick: He pulls, subtly at first, then as we resist he begins to pour on the strength. At the height of our pulling he suddenly lets go. He is pulling us hard toward license. We pull back hard in our own effort; he releases us to our own pulling energy, and we fall stumbling backward into Law.

Now, this fall back into Law is very effective for Satan’s purposes. We can stay there and we will begin to feel pride at our “defeat” of the devil. We’ll think, “Wow, I did it. I resisted temptation.” That wonderfully leavening feeling will begin to lift us up (we sometimes mistake this for edification).

There we’ll sit in pride, not knowing it. But pride goes before a fall. The leaven of pride pushes us further and further into self-satisfaction and independence from God. This pushing is really the pull-back of a gigantic slingshot into sin. “The power of sin is the Law,” says 1Cor 15:56. The Greek word there for power is “dunamis” from which we get “dynamite.” This “me for God” independent effort thinking is what gives sin its explosive power over us. To live according to Law is simply to think we are a human self trying to be “like Christ” with God’s help. But if God merely “helps” us, that means we do some of it for ourselves, hence the attractive power of Law.

The further and deeper we go into Law, the more likely it is to explode us into sin. A popular preacher in the 1980s was preaching Law-sermons  against immorality, prompting people to strive in their own effort to avoid sin. The gigantic slingshot pulled further and further until it released and  snapped him into the backseat of a car with a prostitute.

So what should be our proper reaction to this devilish tug of war?

We first prepare by suiting up. We fight by simply standing. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11). The word for stand is histemi which means “to make firm, to fix (in place), to establish,” among other things.

We falsely believe we must resist by our force because our minds have been programmed with the world; we believe we must keep ourselves, that we must do something to be Christ-like.

But if Christ is our Rock, then we’ve got a weight in us that is too heavy for Satan to move. He is our Keeper. Our Fortress. Our Stronghold. All we’re to do is stand in Him by faith.

That’s why we put on the full armor of God. It is a burden that is light to us, a yoke that is easy. But to the devil it bears the weight of the Eternal God.  He can pull and push all he wants, and if we rely on Christ, we’re not moving a bit. We can feel the temptations come and go, desires in us rise up and fall, the winds of feeling and circumstance spinning around us like a typhoon, and yet we stand. “I am in Christ, and out of Him I will not go.” We’re not to respond with effort and fall into Law, but to stand by faith.

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


  1. Cindy Kasten

    Awesome! I’m not good at writing my thoughts but, AWESOME!
    It’s only been since I’ve become humbled that I don’t feel the pull as I did when living in arrogance! I’m comfortable and right when I am here, in Christ. Thank you.

  2. Dave D

    Very cool stuff Ron. It always takes me a while to recover from and process your posts. (That’s a good thing.)
    The past few weeks, I’ve been reading Romans 8 and this verse slayed me. “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live.” We are to put to the death the misdeeds of the flesh by the Spirit. I still do not understand what that means.
    Considering this post, I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have any at the moment.

  3. Ron Block



    Everything in the Spirit is appropriated by faith. That sounds like a pat answer, so what does that mean?

    It means God says one thing and the world/flesh/devil say another. The world tells me that I define my identity by my performance. It says, “Do A, B, and C to be successful and gain mastery and become self-actualized.”

    God says the opposite. In Christ we are given the gift of perfection: “By one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being made holy.” This inner perfection, Christ in us, is not merely “imputed,” as in, “It’s not really true; God just chooses to see it that way.” Christ’s total and complete perfection in us is a static, eternal reality. We have eternal life, right here and now, inside us, if we have Christ.

    Once again, though, World-Think comes in (really Satan-Think): “Well, if Christ lives in you, you sure don’t look like it. You need to do something about that. Give more, read more, pray more, do more, witness more.” We are given forgiveness and Life (Christ in us) by faith – by simply believing and trusting Christ as our Savior. And then World-Think kicks in and says, “Now I’ve got to show God how much I appreciate it by “putting to death the misdeeds of the body.”

    But we miss that little phrase, “By the Spirit.” We still somehow think it means “Me working, with God helping.” But that phrase really means, “By trusting in the power of the Spirit within me and stepping out in faith.”

    What does that look like in a real situation? Let’s say I’m late for a session and get stuck in traffic. My tendency is to want to blow up, get angry, get problem centered. Instead, I am to put to death the misdeeds of the body. By faith I affirm, even saying it aloud, “Thank you, Lord, that You are perfect Patience within me. Thank you that I have all the patience I need to get through this traffic jam.” And I do.

    Or lets say a Christian man is addicted to pornography. He hates himself, loathes himself for what he is doing. What is his road out of that mess? The same way. As we began in the Spirit (by faith in a Savior) so we walk in Him (by faith in an indwelling Purity). “Thank you, Lord, that You are my purity. You live in me, and are perfect purity in this moment.”

    Now, does it always “work” right away? No. Especially with long-established strongholds like pornography or other addictions, there is a time where we are saying it by faith and nothing is happening. But the truth is that Jesus has already freed us from all bondage, all sin, all addiction, and “sin shall not have power over you for you are not under the Law, but under grace.” We are not to use effort-power to overcome, but Christ-power. We state our identity in Christ, and step out in faith knowing He is our indwelling overcomer. We trust, step out, and leave results to Him. If we stay out of Law (independence and self-effort) and stay walking in faith (dependence which trusts in His power), we will see results, but if we get our focus on results instead of standing in faith we will lose endurance and peter out.

    That moment-by-moment walk is the Christian life. It is choosing to go against the world’s “seeing is believing” mentality and say, “Believing is seeing.” It is reliance; it is dependence; it is abiding; it is remaining in the Vine as a branch and trusting the Vine’s ability to bear fruit. It is faith; it is rest, it is trust. Anything less is always just dust and ashes in the end.

  4. D'Anna

    Dave – thank you for the great question! I feel like God is over-hauling everything I ever knew – so many question marks as I read the Word now!

    Ron – thank you for a WONDERFUL answer! I know that God’s Spirit in me is opening me . . . goodness, it is amazing and so confusing . . . and just on the “tip of my brain.” May He sink it deeper . . .

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