Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” It doesn’t get more practical than that! When you see sin coming—duck! When you sense temptation, go the other way. Pay attention! You know your weaknesses. You also know the situations where your weaknesses are most vulnerable. Stay out of those situations. Late hours. Movies. Internet. Social media. Whatever gives Satan a foothold in your life, stay away from it. Watch out!
And pray! Prayer invites God to walk the shadowy pathways with us. To watch ahead for falling trees and tumbling boulders; to bring up the rear, guarding our backside from the poison darts of the devil.
Watch and pray! Good advice. Let’s take it! It could be the difference between a peaceful day on the lake and a stick of dynamite blowing up in our faces!
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.—Romans 8:1-2
Our heavenly Father desires that we walk closely with Him. To help us, the Holy Spirit guides us on the right path and redirects us when we are headed in the wrong direction. In other words, He convicts us when we are in danger of straying.
Conviction is God’s loving hand steering us back to the path that leads to life. To better understand the concept, picture a parent whose toddler begins to chase a ball into a busy street. The youngster has only one desire at that moment: to retrieve the toy. The parent, however, would be negligent if he or she did not stop the child.
We, like the toddler in this example, view our life from a limited perspective. If our heavenly Father stops us from achieving a desire, it seems frustrating. But we must remember that the Almighty is acting out of His love for us.
Conviction begins even before salvation. The Holy Spirit reveals our wrongs to help us recognize that we need forgiveness. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and choose to follow Him, we are born again. Only then are we free from the penalty of sin. At the same time, we are still human and will make some poor choices. So, even after we are His children, God continues to redirect us.
Conviction is different from condemnation. Remember that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). So though believers at times will sin, they are justified by Christ’s sacrifice and free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
(Reprint | Charles Stanley | In Touch)
Most people think that when they die, they are going to heaven. If you asked why, the majority would say they have been good people or their positive deeds outweigh any negative things they’ve done. Yet the sad reality is, most people will not find themselves in heaven—and that includes some who claim to be Christians.
It may not be a popular topic of conversation, but our Savior knew that hell was essential to understand. He uses illustrations of contrasting gates, trees, and houses to point out that there are only two possible destinies after death: heaven and hell. Jesus is warning us about a most sobering reality—that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” actually belongs to Him (Matt. 7:21-23).
What, then, distinguishes a true follower? John 14:15 tells us those who love the Savior will keep His commandments. This obedience begins with believing Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:36). In other words, the first step is to humble ourselves before God, admitting that we’re sinful and deserving of condemnation. Next, we must call out to Him, requesting the forgiveness for which His Son’s blood was shed on our behalf. From then on, we’re to live only for God.
If you hear the gospel but stop short of obedience, ask yourself, Do I fully understand the goodness of God’s love? That should inspire you to obey the Father. Looking good on the outside isn’t enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember, to those who truly receive Him, He will give “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Won’t you make sure you’re among those destined for heaven?
We live in a fallen world filled with sin and all manner of evil, yet so often we put on rose-colored glasses and expect our life to be full of comfort, ease, and pleasure. And then when storms come upon us, bringing disruption, trouble, conflict, and heartache, we start wondering where the Lord is. After all, we are believers in Jesus Christ, and God is our loving heavenly Father. So why is He letting this happen?
The disciples would have preferred smooth sailing, too—across the Sea of Galilee. But in the storm, they saw Jesus in a new way. After He calmed the waves with His words, they asked in amazement, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matt. 8:27). Through that storm, they recognized Jesus as almighty God, who has power even over the physical laws of the universe. His purpose was not to drown them but to show them His glory.
The same is true of us. Storms in our life are opportunities to see the Lord in a new light and in a magnified way. It’s in our extreme need that we begin to see we have too small a view of God. We must be careful not to reduce Him to a doting Father who winks at our sin and just wants us happy, healthy, and wealthy.
Perhaps you are going through a personal storm of some kind right now. If so, ask the Lord to open your eyes to a greater understanding of Him. Even if your circumstances don’t change, Jesus Christ is the Lord of peace, and He can comfort you.
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.—Matthew 6:19-21
What do you want out of life? Perhaps an even more challenging question is, what is it that consumes your thoughts, time, energy, and money? As Christians, we live in two worlds—this earthly one and a heavenly one. However, since the earthly realm is all we can see, it’s easy to become sidetracked and begin living more for it than for the spiritual realm into which we’ve been transferred by Jesus Christ.
One day we will each appear before the judgment seat of Christ as He evaluates our works (2 Corinthians 5:10). But this doesn’t mean that our eternal security is at stake—Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and we are citizens of heaven. We could, however, lose rewards depending on our handling of earthly treasure as opposed to that of heavenly treasure.
Instead of waiting, let’s begin to pay attention now to how we’re living. We must guard against investing everything for ourselves and nothing for the life to come. When we are blinded by our own desires and personal satisfaction, it is easy to become lukewarm about spiritual matters. Then God seems far away, we have no hunger to read the Bible daily, and prayer is reserved for those occasions when we need help.
The Scriptures repeatedly warn us to be attentive to spiritual matters—the Lord is to have first place in our life and be the center of our affections. Setting our hearts on the lesser things of this world not only robs us of heavenly treasure; it also keeps us from enjoying the spiritual blessings that are available right now to those who are in Christ.
An old gospel song says, “This world is not my home / I’m just a-passing through. / My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” It’s a good reminder for all of us that this life is not the end goal. As Christians, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and are not to love this world or what it offers (1 John 2:15). In fact, to do so makes us enemies of God (James 4:4).
In today’s passage Jesus tells a story about a rich man who lived for himself and ignored the Lord. He was a success by earthly standards but discovered too late that his riches and comfort were only temporary. After death, he experienced the consequences of his choices—eternal separation from the Lord.
It’s important to realize that this man wasn’t judged harshly by God because of his wealth. The rich man’s mistake was that he prepared everything for the body but nothing for the soul. Our culture practices a similar style of living. Acquiring material riches and satisfying oneself is the primary pursuit of many in our world. In fact, fulfilling personal desires seems to be the goal whether one’s bank account is overflowing or nearly empty.
Despite what our culture thinks, this life is not about us. It’s about being reconciled to God. Whoever repents of sin and turns to Christ for salvation will live eternally with Him in heaven. But those who reject or simply ignore the Lord will suffer eternally. Death comes to all of us, and we never know when. Therefore, if you haven’t trusted Christ as Savior, do so today. Your eternal destiny is at stake.
13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed. 15Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death—James 1:13-15
Temptation will be with us as long as we live. Although the areas of enticement and their power over us will change with time, we will never be so mature or spiritually minded that we can totally relax our vigilance against them. Satan is always ready to capitalize on our weaknesses and selfish desires to draw us away from the heavenly Father.
James says we are tempted when we are carried away by our own lusts. Therefore, the problem begins within us when we feel the pull of our flesh to think, speak, or do what is contrary to God’s standard of holiness. Although being tempted is not a sin in itself, yielding to it is. When we dwell on a tempting thought, the idea gains a foothold in our mind and desires. With more attention, the desire will grow until a choice must be made about whether or not to act.
At the same time, we shouldn’t think that holding onto sinful desires is fine as long as we don’t actually do anything. Jesus debunked this idea in the Sermon on the Mount when He enlarged the Law’s commandments to include not just actions but also attitudes of the heart (Matt. 5:21-48). Anything less than God’s standard of holiness is not His will for us (Matt. 5:48).
Temptations start small. Yielding to them may seem inconsequential, but once we give in, that sin gains strength in our life and our ability to resist grows weaker. It may seem as if there’s no way out of this downward spiral, but God has given us a way of escape if we choose to seek out His help.