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Monday, February 05, 2018

The Devil Made Me Do It

Some polls in the 21st century have suggested that not only do unbelievers not believe in the devil, but many so-called believers. The numbers vary, but up to 66% of Baptists in one poll didn't believe Satan existed and 33% of pastors denied that he was real. So, perhaps, the notion that "the devil made me do it" is passé, but I think we're still pretty sure that someone out there is responsible for the bad things we do. I mean, it's certainly not our fault, is it?

Believers are marked by a desire to stop sinning. James says, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17), and John wrote that it was not possible for one born of God to make a continuous practice of sinning, so clearly something outside of us is causing this problem, right? Paul addresses this situation. What did he say?
I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Rom 7:19)
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom 7:21-23)
Hmm, that's odd. Paul does not blame some external agent. He says it is "my members." Paul blames himself.

James seconds the thought.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
So, as we well know, God doesn't entice us to do evil, but, apparently, it also isn't Satan. Instead, it is "his own desire." It is our own lust. We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

Thus, Paul tells the Thessalonians that the will of God is our sanctification and explains how that works.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. (1 Thess 4:3-5)
Ouch! So, Paul is saying that we are supposed to abstain from sexual immorality, that we are supposed to control our own bodies in holiness and honor, that we are supposed to avoid our own lust.

So, what now?

Clearly we are commanded to "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil 2:12) Anyone who suggests otherwise is giving you a false gospel. We, however, are not on our own in this. In the same text that tells us we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Eph 2:8-9), Paul tells us that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10) We're not on our own. We're supposed to walk in the good works that God prepared beforehand. Not only that. We have the Holy Spirit. He provides "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Gal 5:22-23) He provides all you need to control your own body in holiness and honor. And, of course, at the same time that Paul tells us to work out our salvation he tells us how:
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13)
While Satan is indeed a dangerous adversary (1 Peter 5:8), it turns out that we are the real problem. That's the bad news. The good news to everyone who wishes to be conformed to the image of Christ is that we can and will be. He has provided us with all the necessary means and power. We need to stop passing the blame and get on track.

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