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.