Down But Not Out
1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“I usually give in.” It was not the answer I was expecting. But it was certainly the most honest one. Transparent. Vulnerable. Not a hint of hypocrisy. Absolutely priceless. What was the question? Something I had posted on Facebook earlier that day. “What is your response when temptation comes knocking?” See, I have come to expect a certain type of response here in the wonderful world of Facebook. I had been fully expecting something like, “I speak forth the word of God…I stand strong in faith…I send Jesus to the door.” Oh, how we love to pontificate and make grand professions of faith as we hide behind the anonymity of our computer keyboards. (I know. Look who’s talking. Hey, I’m not saying I’m any better. I’m just as guilty as the next person.) But there it was. An honest answer, the right answer, and far more importantly, what should have been my answer.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous. No, not even one. And as much as I hate to admit it, that means me as well. Jesus never lost in the fight against temptation. Not once. But as for me…well, let’s just say that my record in the arena makes the Detroit Lions look like Super Bowl contenders. Sure, some areas of my life have experienced genuine, dramatic transformation over the years. But there are still those places in my life where temptation tends to get the better of me. I am not perfect. Far, far from it. I still fail. I still fall short. I still sin. Even on my best days.
During the past week we have been looking at temptation. We have spent time talking about themes like natural appetites and the need for memorizing Scripture. But I have failed to speak to those of us who hang our heads in shame when the very issue itself is brought up. So many people only see themselves through the lenses of their failures. The very word “temptation” becomes a trigger that brings forth the memories of past mistakes and the guilt of poor decisions. The thought of any type of lasting or permanent victory seems more illusion than reality. In truth, depending upon the temptation, we find ourselves defeated long before the first punch is ever thrown. We have forfeited the battle because we have believed the lie. We just don’t believe that in certain areas we will ever win against temptation. The ten count has yet to be given but we are already on the canvas…already down and out.
If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement right now, then this note is for you. Those of you who already find yourself beginning to raise the phony finger of condemnation might want to go ahead and click out. Why? Because grace has little value unless you are first willing to admit your own sin. And according to the Bible, when it comes to sin, we are all in the same boat. We were all enemies of God. We were all deserving of death and hell. Not a one of us had anything to offer God except brokenness and bankruptcy. So, why are we so slow and hesitant to acknowledge our true condition and need? We would rather live the lie, telling ourselves and everyone else that we have it all together. We vainly parade around like champions of faith when the truth is that we fail and fall more than anyone realizes.
Let me remind each of us today that Jesus came to save sinners. When I am at my worst He is at His absolute best. He gives love to those who don’t deserve it. He gives grace to those who could never earn it. His Cross put an end to both the penalty and the power of my sin. Because of what He has done I am now able to stand both forgiven and free. As we return to the topic of temptation this week I want you to stop hanging your head in defeat. I want you to stop throwing in the towel at the first sign of opposition. I want you to look over in your corner and see Jesus standing there cheering you forward. Yeah, you may have been knocked down. But you are far from out. Get up and go on. Jesus will never leave you. He will never abandon you. And no matter the size or strength of your temptation Jesus will always lead you forward in triumph!