A Nose Sensitive to the Cesspool?
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13
A cynical teenager cornered the pastor of his church one Sunday and asked him sarcastically how much sin weighed, because the pastor had used the phrase “the weight of sin” so often in his sermon. “How much does it weigh,” the boy asked, “ten pounds, fifty pounds, a hundred?” The pastor looked him in the eye and said, “If you put a four hundred pound weight on the chest of a corpse, would he feel it?” He answered, “Of course not, he’s dead.” “Exactly,” the pastor said, “and neither will anyone who is “dead” to their sin feel it, no matter how heavy.”
All of us depending on our intimacy with God will feel our sin in varying weight. To some it is but a feather; your sin is neither understood as sin nor as the disease it is. While to others it is akin to David as we read in Psalm 32: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
It helps our understanding to notice this: when Jesus taught his disciples to pray “lead us not into temptation…” it was soon after His having been led Himself by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. (Matthew 4) Jesus is acutely aware of our inclination to sin; to give in to temptation; to be persuaded by the devil into every kind of evil. He experienced personally Satan’s power and methods; to seek to ruin lives by gaining a foothold with sin’s initial and “natural” attractiveness. Satan will use our nature to pull us into sin. Never make light of the temptation of Jesus as some easy or irrelevant battle of which the Son of God could make quick work. If you do, you simply do not know the truth of it! The fierceness of the fight and the maliciousness of the consequences are far beyond anything we can even imagine, and it has everything to do with your own battles. The great gift to us is that Jesus stripped off Satan’s mask in the wilderness, laid bare his methods, and revealed the evil essence of sin itself.
It is no light matter for Jesus to teach us to pray, with passion, that God “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Sense the emotion of the Lord in Matthew 26:41) Jesus is quite aware that fighting temptation is our perpetual perseverance. He knows we are enticed by evil desires from within, and by Satan’s masquerades from without. It will often be almost more than we can bear: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” No wonder we need to cry out to God to not let us fall into Satan’s lair where sin will engulf us. There would not be a need if the threat was not real! The object of this petition is that we be delivered by God’s grace, through a compelling love for Christ, and motivated by a hunger for righteousness, so we might experience the joy and freedom of “overcoming.” This “overcoming” is the promise emphasized in the concluding words of all seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3, “To him who overcomes I will give…”
Alexander Whyte, a particularly influential minister of the gospel in 19th century Scotland, wrote, “One essential symptom of the regenerate [born again] life is a permanent, and permanently horrified, perception of one’s natural and (it seems) unalterable corruption. The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool.” If this is genuinely your heart’s sensitivity to sin…. your sin….you will overcome! Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In Him alone, so can you.
“Father, keep my nose sensitive to the sin within, and help me by my obedience to overcome temptation each moment every day in Christ.”
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