Now, I already know that I'm a sinner, a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ. So, feeling the accusation of being a sinner should not trip me up spiritually, but it often has. In that moment of temptation -- before the act of sin is actually committed -- I feel bad for being tempted. Because of feeling bad for being tempted to sin I then do not pray to the Lord for help. Let me explain how wrong that is.
First, temptation is not a sin. Even Jesus was "tempted" (or "tested") and He did not sin (Heb. 4:15). So, merely being tempted to sin is not sinning, and therefore we need not feel bad for being tempted. Second, when we're tempted to sin, that is the exact moment when we should run to Christ for help, not shy away from Him because we feel bad for being tempted to sin (Heb. 4:16).
Finally, the Lord already knows that we're privy to being tempted to sin: "For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). Remember that the Lord God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Ps. 103:8). "For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested" (Wisdom of Solomon 6:6).
Often enough I have felt so ugly inwardly when being tempted to sin that two different results have manifested: 1) I ended up sinning anyway, feeling that the temptation to sin is near about the same as committing the sin itself; and 2) neglecting to pray because I don't feel "worthy enough" to pray.
As for the first error, temptation is not a sin; so even when we're tempted to sin, we can still shun the temptation by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and not sin. No testing or time of temptation has "overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
God, indeed, provides us with a way out. But too often we willfully neglect to take that way out. Why? Because we want to sin. Let's just tell it like it is: we sometimes want to sin. We want to tell that person what we think. We want to objectify that person and lust. We want that money, so we'll do whatever it takes to get it. We want others to think of us in a certain way, so we'll lie in order to protect our inathenticity.
As for the second error, prayer is not a sign of personal holiness. We don't praybecause we're holy. Such an erroneous attitude leads to self-righteousness. When we don't feel like praying, that is the moment when we need to pray all the more! "For we walk by faith and not by sight [nor by our feelings]" (2 Cor. 5:7).
Neither do we pray so that we will become holy. Prayer is communication, not a practice for self-congratulation or a means to actual, personal holiness. We pray to the only worthy One who can help us in time of need. We pray to the only truly holy One.
I've challenged myself lately to pray to the Lord when I feel bad or ugly or dirty inwardly. What I've found is that I usually avoid thinking or acting out sinfully what I was being tempted to do or say or think.
In the very moment when I'm most vulnerable, even when I feel distant from the Lord and unworthy of His presence in prayer because of the temptation, that is when I need to run to and trust in and pray to the Lord the most.
This honest post was written by William Birch. The original post with comments can be found at:
BE A MAN.