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Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:9 NASB)
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Corinthians 5:9 NIV)
What is your ambition? Your goal? Is it holy? Is it to glorify God? Is it to please God? Or is your ambition for money, sex, and power? That’s how Boa starts out this lesson… by talking about holy ambition.
Boa suggests that if the deepest and most meaningful of our ambitions and life’s pursuits are not aimed at God, then they will be nothing more than the building up of ourselves. We need to channel our ambition in a godly way, always remembering that we play to an audience of One. Only by understanding and pursuing this will we ever achieve true and genuine satisfaction. We must first seek God and his righteousness.
The main idea of this lesson is that each man is wired differently. Even though there are temptations and sins that are common to all of us, no two men are tempted in exactly the same way. We each, as Boa puts it, have our own “flesh signature.” As Romans 7 suggests, the flesh is the power of sin in our members. Our bodies in and of themselves aren’t evil, but they can be energized for good or for ill – by the Spirit of God or by the flesh.
Our old capacities of the flesh are still around. They have not been completely eradicated. Thus, we still have the ability to displease God. The difference now from when we were unbelievers is that we now are able, in Christ’s power, to please God. We didn’t have that option before we came to know Christ. Galatians 5 bears this out. Until the final resurrection, we are able to sin. But when we stand before God, that ability to sin will be stripped away from us.
And yet, even now, our sin is not the deepest “us” because we are new creatures in Christ. This is why Christianity is not primarily about moral improvement. If that’s all it was, then our deepest selves would remain corrupted and sinful and fallen. But as new creatures in Christ, Christ himself is our deepest “us.” This is why our pursuit of pleasing God is a struggle as Paul suggests in Romans 7. The old man is still clinging on, trying to influence us.
This is not an excuse for sinning. But it is an understanding of why we do so. Richard Foster says that when an unbeliever sins, he is doing precisely what he wants to do. When a believer sins, he is doing what he doesn’t want to do.
Thus, if a person sins without any remorse whatsoever, we may well ask the question of whether or not that person is truly in Christ.
All this is to say that no two men are exactly the same. We each have those particular areas that tempt us more than other areas. One man may battle lust more than anger. Another man may wrestle with greed more than fear. We are each wired differently. Even within a particular area of temptation, there are different ways in which we will experience the temptation.
Regarding this, there are three things that happen when you become a believer.
- Some sins are quickly and immediately dealt with.
- Some sins are gradually dealt with.
- Some sins are besetting sins, by which Boa means fundamental flaws which never quite disappear entirely.
It’s that last category – that of besetting sins – that you need to be brutally honest about because you are going to regularly encounter them. You need to be prepared in advance to respond to the temptation that you know you will experience.
The reason you can be honest at this point is, again, because you know this besetting sin is not the deepest you. This is also why you need an accountability partner to whom you give permission to ask you from time to time about those very areas in your life. This reduces the temptation’s power because it loses its anonymity. That’s where its power is located.
The purpose in all of this is to encourage you to have a plan – a process of thinking – when you’re tempted… because you know you will be.
Stay tuned for Part 3.