No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to Humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted Beyond what you are able. . .He will provide a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
As a representative of a Christian college and theological seminary, I was sometimes invited to speak to the staff of religious publication companies during one of their chapel services. The staff of such an organization is unusual—entirely made up of those who are committed to honoring God with daily work life comprised of interactions with fellow believers. There were several such publishers in the Chicago area. Doesn’t that sound a bit like what heaven will be like? What can you possibly suggest for their consideration since they already “have it all?”
Just think. You are involved in Christian work—five days a week. You go to church on Sunday and probably one other time during the week. The results of your labors are spiritual growth for those who utilize your study materials. Chapel services offer additional devotional benefits. Your break times are with other Christians. Religion and Christian theological thought are constantly in mind, monopolizing every waking hour. What a joy! This is where the vulnerability lies.
Caution: danger ahead! These dangers are what I label the “Dangers of Confusion.” When I spoke at these Christian publishers’ chapel hours, the title of my message was, “The Most Dangerous Job in the World!” And, while these thoughts were directed at the specific group of people mentioned above, they will equally apply to most who claim to follow Christ.
1. The danger of confusing the success of your business with that of your personal Christian growth and development. You may say to yourself, “Look how God is blessing my work efforts. That must be an indicator that I’m also doing well in my walk with God.” Not necessarily. The rich farmer, (Luke 12:16 ff) failed to recognize his accountability to either God or his fellow man, and his appointment with God’s judgment found him wanting. His fields had prospered so well that he decided to build new barns to retain everything he had accumulated from God’s benevolence, but he lost the big idea forever.
One better goal might have been to “walk in wisdom towards those outside his small world of self” and share with those who needed to be blessed from the bounty which God’s grace had granted him. Instead, he chose selfishly to build greater barns, to keep it all for himself—and he missed out for eternity. Think of the reward he could have sent ahead to heaven had he simply taken a look around at the “human harvest field” he could have reaped.
2. The danger of confusing your “in-house” theological discussion with your responsibility for personal witness. I have heard it said that three years after conversion, most new believers have very few or no non-Christian friends. What a shame!
I realize it’s a joy to discuss the things about God and our faith with other Christians—that is one way we determine our core beliefs. No one could surpass the scribes and Pharisees in discussing the minutest points of the law. However, we know that in the process they were able to invent major extra-biblical doctrine that enabled them to bypass the original intent of the law. Because of this, they created a virtual stranglehold on any possible Gentile conversion, which was their calling from the beginning—to draw them to the living God (Zechariah 8:23).
3. The danger of confusing daily responsibilities with personal private devotion time. How easy it is to become side-tracked. As a pastor, missionary, or para-church worker, the pressure to keep things going can easily rob us of the quality nourishment we need to avoid becoming an empty, dry spring. “The tendency today is to put the emphasis on service. Don’t rejoice in successful service, but rejoice because you are rightly related to Him” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, August 30) “A little knowledge OF God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge ABOUT Him” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 26).
4. The final danger is that of confusing our financial sacrifice of income with our personal tithe. Legitimate Christian organizations, as well as the church, are not notorious for overpayment to employees. To compensate for that, our rational selfishness can move into overdrive, trying to manipulate God into securing us a larger take-home pay.
For example, we will tithe after insurances, taxes, social security, retirement contributions, Christmas club, college costs, and when pushed, maybe even groceries are subtracted from our pay. But we still consider ourselves to be behaving in a spiritually proper way because we are in Christian service. Forgive me for thinking about this attempt to outsmart ourselves. The error of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 was not so much in holding back some of their profit from the land sale. Peter pointed out to them that that had always been their choice.
As I read it, their big sin was in their pride. It’s quite apparent that both husband and wife had declared publicly that they were donating the entire sum to the cause. However, they had privately “cut a deal” in which they lied about the amount. Wanting to appear more spiritual than they actually were was what led to their being cut off. They wanted to have the reputation of sanctification—without making any real personal sacrifice.
Maybe you are asking, “What am I supposed to be learning from this lesson?” As always, it’s up to you and me, individually, to respond to God’s Word. Uppermost in my thinking about life with my Lord is a three-fold Scripture I chose years ago to keep me focused coming from Colossians 1:10, “Walking worthily of the Lord, pleasing Him in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” To me, that represents a very positive emphasis for any and all of life’s endeavors—with no thought for any defensiveness, excuses, or rationalizing.
As a matter of fact, most sin comes down to a problem of taking a shortcut with God’s will. God forbid that I should ever dare to minimize the degree of the stress and temptation which Jesus experienced in His wilderness challenge by Satan. It was there that the Second Adam’s initial extreme testing took place. A default at that point would have meant a total, eternal defeat (1 Corinthians 15:22). But ponder this: each of the three temptations that Jesus faced was such that Jesus could easily realize without the devil’s help.
1. He had the power to make bread out of stones if he wished; 2. Having descended from heaven itself, to merely leap from the temple pinnacle without harm would pose no difficulty; 3. His legions of angels could easily gain possession of all the kingdoms of the world at any point; on the Day of the Lord it will come to pass anyway.
The problem, or evil, with all of Satan’s offers was that they all involved a shortcut. They violated God’s ordained will and plan for all mankind and the universe. To take that “short cut” would have upset the plan for the ages which Jesus Himself, the Holy Spirit, and the Eternal Father had agreed upon as the only solution for fallen man. And that was simply too big!
Finally, Paul gave us numerous verses assuring us of power over fear and doubt, and for abundant living. Three examples are:
1. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). 2. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). 3. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching the faith and for correcting error, for resetting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. They are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Don’t get confused. “God not only expects me to do His will. . .He is in me to do it” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 6). It’s all about living for His glory!