Temptation and Condemnation Part One
By Fred Pruitt
(This piece is part of a letter [that I actually mailed – I remembered how to do that] to a dear friend and brother who happens to be incarcerated at the current moment. He loves the Lord but has struggled with substance abuse, so the issues of temptation and condemnation are very vital to him in his present situation. But obviously, those issues touch us all every day, so that makes this issue important to all of us, no matter who we are and what we are doing.)
Like I said, I had sensed what was spiritually going on with you, and your letters confirmed what I was sensing. And that is your ongoing constant battle with temptation, especially in the environment you’re in at the moment.
So first of all, let me hopefully ease your mind about a couple of vital things. First, temptation itself, and secondly, that old bugaboo – “condemnation.”
We will be in the land of temptation until we leave this life! The devil is a condemned prisoner, but still can shout at us from over the wall. His day is coming when he will no longer touch our lives, but for now he has a very specific purpose he serves (unwittingly) for the Lord God. And that very specific purpose is to “try” the sons of God. “Test” them, so to speak. Which is what produces your struggles. It happens to all of us, and perhaps even more specifically to those who God calls for His purposes.
The question is why? That very struggles you are going through are common to everyone who is in Christ, perhaps especially for those who “put their hand to the plow.” That’s where the LIFE comes from, brother! Life comes out of that inner struggle, by the exercise of our senses, which produces the maturity of the Spirit within us. Hebrews 5:14 (NASB) says: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
If you have a Bible handy you can look at the verse above for the context. Temptation and struggle is how God grows us up. We may feel like we’re being overwhelmed but the truth is we are being brought along by the Spirit day by day. It seems like one day up and next day down, but that’s part of what is being accomplished in you. Because one day, you’ll know that you can say with Paul, because you’ve done it yourself, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” (Phil 4:11,12 New American Standard Bible, my favorite after KJV.)
See what Paul said – “I have learned ….” That means at one point he didn’t not know that, or thought there were circumstances that he couldn’t handle, only to LEARN through the Spirit via EXPERIENCE that God holds him up and provides for him every moment of every day. That’s what the years teach us! HE IS FAITHFUL. (Not, “WE” are faithful. We can only be “faithful” by His faithfulness within us!)
People used to talk about being “tested” by the Lord and it produced fear in me and others, worried we wouldn’t “pass the test.” But I didn’t know the truth about God’s “testing” back then, but over the years the Spirit has taught it to me. I used to think that testing was to find the points of my failure or weaknesses, etc. I would be tested and “fail” somehow, and I thought that was what it was for and it scared me, because even though that passage “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” is here and I would quote it, stand on it, etc., still is seemed like I was failing the test. It is very similar to the issue you brought up in Romans 7 (about which I have a lot to say but am going to send you the book I wrote on it – The Axe Laid to the Root).
But one day the Lord changed all that around for me, and what a difference it has made in my life. God loves us, brother! If He knows we really don’t know something or have no ability for this or that, why would He give us a “test” on something we either cannot or do not know, or cannot or do not do? That actually sounds rather cruel!
Answer – HE doesn’t! You know what all these stumblings around, ups and downs, we experience and walk through on a daily basis are all about? They are God proving Himself in our lives! It is a given fact that we cannot produce divine life, no matter how hard we try. It isn’t in us. We don’t have the stuff for it. Instead, God, day by day, proves Himself to be the Life, the Wisdom, the Provision, the Strength, the Power, the Understanding and the Knowledge within us, which we learn by trial and error that HE operates in us.
You see, it was Adam and Eve in the Garden trying to produce divine life themselves, to make them “wise as God.” That was the temptation, and unfortunately the overall “Church” hasn’t fully realized yet what that was about. People think we got kicked out of the Garden simply because of disobedience. It was God’s “punishment” for disobedience.
Technically we can agree with that, but let’s look at what the real reason is. That one prohibition they were given in the Garden wasn’t something arbitrary that God wanted them to not do, just to see if they would obey Him or not. He was simply saying, “If you eat of that tree, you will experience death.” Spiritual death was not punishment, but simply the outcome one receives when he eats of that tree. It’s like with little kids. We say, “Don’t play in the street.” But like most human beings, we test the boundaries, and a little kid may wander into the street and get hit by a car. That wasn’t punishment, but simply what happens if we play in the street.
And even after that, where is the wrath and anger in the Lord God’s dealings with Adam and Eve after they ate of the tree? It isn’t there! It’s just that God knows the long road humanity will have to walk with much sorrow and tragedy along the way, along with some joys and blessings, and He simply tells them what is to happen.
They lost the Garden not primarily because they disobeyed, but because that particular fruit, which contained the enemy, WAS the Fall in and of itself. They were no longer capable of living in Paradise since they had left their first innocence. It just ceased to exist to them. It ceased to exist in their consciousness immediately after tasting the fruit. They were still standing right where they had been – physically – but spiritually their hearts and minds lost the consciousness of Eden (which means “Paradise”) and instead their consciousness which had been nothing but Paradise, suddenly darkened in each of them so that they became only aware of their own separation, fear and guilt. Again, those are not punishments, but simply the consequence when we eat a bite of that fruit.
But even then the Lord God gives them bodily protection by giving them animal skins to wear. There is nothing but love – and I’ll also have to say – none of this caught the Father off-guard! In fact, before anyone ever lived and therefore before there ever was a sin to cloud our vision of the truth and separate us from God, there was a Lamb Slain in the midst of the Throne. The Cross and its work didn’t begin on Calvary Hill in Judea 2000 years ago. No, it has been available and active eternally, but just as Jesus had to come from the Father and give up His Divinity while here in order to be seen and manifest in the world and in our lives, likewise the “eternal cross,” (Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth) had to come into view in the history of this world, so that it could be seen and witnessed to by all!
Let’s be BOLD! Ok, you’ve acknowledged and we witness that most definitely you have faced into whatever has put you in your current situation. But that is behind you, now. NOW, today, you are as much an effective son of God as anyone else is or can be! Everything in your life has been preparation and training for what comes next. And whatever it is, HE HAS IT IN HIS PERFECT HANDS, to edify and build you up, not in your independent “fleshly” self, but in the Spirit of the New Birth, in which you are not and never will be again the old person you once were.
Now, hopefully I have not made you fear when I say temptations will continue. That will get easier over time, because more and more you know who you are – not separate and independent from God, struggling and trying to resist temptation – but instead Christ in you, Who is the Overcomer in you! Let this sink in – YOU HAVE NO STRENGTH OF YOUR OWN AND NEVER WILL. That’s the way it is supposed to be, because the creature (you and I) is to find all those attributes not in ourselves as if we are something, but in God Who is IN us, Who teaches us daily that HE is our strength, He is our Love, as Paul says, “That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:29-31).
Because He is in you and is one with you (John 17:11; 20-23), you can say with Him, “The prince of this world cometh but he hath nothing in me.” (John 14:30), and Paul agrees as well: “Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph 4:27).
Do you see? Where is the “place” for the devil? Only in our unbelief! That’s why it is important to walk in faith, believing the promises as God has given them to you!
I have lots of words in me, but I better stop now and let you digest these. I am sending a couple of writings with this.
Also, I am going to be sending you a couple of books. One will come from the publisher “Authorhouse” – The Axe Laid to the Root. The other will be from “Lulu Press,” titled, Living Bread.” Hopefully I can get them to you next week.
So, brother, you’re doing great! Just continue on believing. That is our main job – to believe! It is actually our one and only capacity, which is why Jesus boiled it all down to this in John 6:28-29 … “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
That’s it! I’ll end with some of my favorite words from Jesus: “Be not afraid, only believe!” (Mark 5:36).
My prayers and my love are always with you!