Vice and Victory

Facing temptation can feel like a lonely battle. It happens mostly in our heads - the play back and forth between the idea and the resistance. We imagine we are alone, the only Christian to ever face this particular struggle, the only one who's ever been ensnared and enticed by whatever evil we are staring down.

Christ came to this world to resist temptation. If He'd never faced a test of faith, the purity of His life would have simply been divine, rather than the human/divine He came to show the world. We share with Him in victory when we face down our demons and emerge unscathed: though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:6-7)

In these difficult days of first breaking the habit, I cannot stare down a single cigarette without succumbing to temptation. What would I do if I were on a mountaintop with Satan, offered power over all the world? (Matthew 4:1-11) I can imagine all the reasons I would justify my relent - I could bring the world peace; I could feed and clothe all the orphans; I could heal every crumbling marriage and protect every child from abuse. As I reflect on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, it is unfathomable to me that He, using eternal perspective, knowing that all these small salvations would be accomplished in the greater Salvation of the cross, could turn Satan down and say, "Not yet."
“The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a Saviour from Hell rather than a Saviour from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived…there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.” (A.W. Pink)
One cigarette craving at a time, I am privy to the grace of the Cross that not only saved me from hell, but daily sanctifies me with undeserved favor, undeserved strength that I can forever draw from the everlasting well of Living Water. When I feel alone, I call to mind the much greater temptations that Christ resisted for the love of my very soul. Would the Savior who suffered the cross on my behalf not hold my hand as I walk free of earthly temptations? Does He not desire freedom for all He loves? True freedom - the kind that eradicates temptation from our consciousness and sets our feet on the solid ground of the call and response of greatest Love?

When I sit on my swing in the clean summer air, longing for the deep breathing of the cigarette, longing for the physical release and the relaxation it brings, I call to mind the greater struggle that is faith meted out in the midst of our failures. Facing down the tangible and momentary reward of giving in to sin for the eternal reward is well worth it. Even when all I can muster is a caveat about the immediate health benefits, He is beside me, walking with me, and reminding me that even He walked this hard road once.

In Him, you are not your sin. In Him, you are not your dirt. In Him, you are hidden and your iniquity is made clean by your identity and your identity is in His purity — and when we are our worst, His white hides our dirt best. (from Ann, in her beautiful piece, When You Feel like Your Life's a Mess...The Real Truth About Your Dirt)
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