This post will concentrate on some happier news. To be tempted is not the same as to sin. Temptation itself is not sin, though it can certainly lead to sin. Jesus was tempted like us in every respect, save he did not sin, and was not a sinner (Heb.4.15). Jesus could empathize with our weaknesses, without giving in to his own weaknesses when he was on this earth. He still understands what human nature and mortal flesh is capable of.
Some pastors, in the rush to identify with their parishoners, sometimes makes the mistake of saying glib things like ‘we’ll were all sinners, and I’m no better than any of ya’ll’. Really? You don’t think its important that a preacher or teacher should set a moral example and be above reproach? Don’t you think ministers should model Christ-likeness, not sinner-likeness? I ask this question quite specifically because Paul reminds all Christians “no temptation has overcome you that is not common to humanity. God is faithful and will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to endure, but rather with the temptation God can provide an adequate means of escape” (1 Cor. 10.13). This verse needs to be preached a lot more.
Christians, real Christians who have the Spirit of God in their life, while not bullet proof, nonetheless have adequate divine resources in their life to resist temptation, to flee sin, to avoid committing willful acts of sin. Christians are absolutely not in the bondage to sin, not because human nature is better than previously advertised but because ‘greater is he who is in you’ than any of the sources of one’s temptations.
As John Wesley once put it— ‘while sin remains, it no longer reigns in the life of the believer’. As it turns out, Paul would not have agreed with Luther on that ‘simul justus et peccator’ thing, especially when it comes to the notion of Christians being in the bondage to sin, such that sin can make them an offer they can’t refuse even by the power of God’s grace and Spirit in their life. Wrong! Majorly wrong, which is in fact why again and again the writers of the NT ranging from Jesus to Paul to James to John of Patmos hold Christians feet to the fire and demand that they be accountable for their behavior, in particular their sin. Indeed, as 2 Cor. 5.10 reminds “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive recompense for the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil.” This of course presupposes that evil could have been avoided with the help of God, and that good deeds were not inevitable or pre-programmed.