That's a Good Question

Avoiding Temptation and Becoming Perfect

November 14, 2023 Peace Church Season 2 Episode 10
Avoiding Temptation and Becoming Perfect
That's a Good Question
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That's a Good Question
Avoiding Temptation and Becoming Perfect
Nov 14, 2023 Season 2 Episode 10
Peace Church

Prepare for an enlightening journey with Jon and Mitchell as they boldly tackle the intriguing and age-old question: Can humans ever attain perfection? In this compelling episode, they embark on an exploration of both the theoretical and practical dimensions of perfection, referencing crucial Bible passages like Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23. As you join them in this philosophical quest, you'll uncover the profound reasons why the pursuit of perfection isn't the ultimate goal for Christians. Instead, you'll gain a deeper understanding of how the gospel provides hope, freedom, and purpose amidst our inherent imperfections. The hosts invite you to engage in an insightful conversation that transcends theoretical ponderings to illuminate the transformative power of faith. Tune in to "That's a Good Question" and discover a new perspective on the complexities of the Christian faith, where perfection takes a backseat to a richer, more meaningful journey.

To find more gospel-centered resources head to

Show Notes Transcript

Prepare for an enlightening journey with Jon and Mitchell as they boldly tackle the intriguing and age-old question: Can humans ever attain perfection? In this compelling episode, they embark on an exploration of both the theoretical and practical dimensions of perfection, referencing crucial Bible passages like Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23. As you join them in this philosophical quest, you'll uncover the profound reasons why the pursuit of perfection isn't the ultimate goal for Christians. Instead, you'll gain a deeper understanding of how the gospel provides hope, freedom, and purpose amidst our inherent imperfections. The hosts invite you to engage in an insightful conversation that transcends theoretical ponderings to illuminate the transformative power of faith. Tune in to "That's a Good Question" and discover a new perspective on the complexities of the Christian faith, where perfection takes a backseat to a richer, more meaningful journey.

To find more gospel-centered resources head to

Hey everyone, welcome to That's a Good Question, a podcast of Peace Church. This is a place where we answer questions about the Christian faith in plain language. I'm John. I serve as a pastor here at Peace as well as I get to serve as the weekly host of this show. You can always submit questions to slash questions. And today, I have with me here a special guest, Mitchell Leach. Hey, glad to be here. Mitch is actually our producer of this show. So for the last many months, he's had a high impact on this show. He helps us gather content and get ready and then obviously produce and edit the show. And so he's been on the other side of the microphone for a long time and now excited today to actually have him be part of the conversation. Yeah, it's gonna be fun. So Mitch's actual title is Communication Director here at Peace Church and Mitch has also been studying, is on his way towards being a pastor and so excited to get to have some fun conversation today. Yeah. Great. Sweet. I'm ready. You want to jump in the questions? Yep. This question comes from a high school student and it's a great question. Here it is. Hypothetically, isn't there a way to be perfect if we always use the way of escape whenever our sinful temptations arise. Jesus was tempted, but he never sinned, which also means being tempted is not a sin, but falling into temptation is. So that means that there is a way not to fall into temptation, which means if we always use the way of escape like Jesus did, we should hypothetically be able to be perfect. But our human nature is always in conflict with our divine nature that we assimilate from Jesus when we accept him as Savior. God calls us to be perfect just as he is, so is it possible to be perfect? Awesome question. I love that and I'm glad we read the whole thing because it's an intricate, well thought out question. I love it. It's awesome. So, thank you for the question. We're actually going to break this down and talk about it in a few different parts just because it's such a good, deep, rich question. So let's talk about it in a few ways. So, referring to the way of escape, so the way of escape, I think we're drawing from 1 Corinthians 10.13, which says, No temptation has seized you that is not common to man. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but when the temptation comes, he will provide a way of escape so that you may be able to stand up under it. that I'm like looking at the ESV, but I got the NIV 1984 in my mind from all my memorization as a young man. So blending those. So that's the way of escape. So God's Word tells us that there is always a way out when we are tempted. I also want to say that correctly stated in the question was the idea that temptation and sin are not the same thing. Those are different. You can be tempted without actually falling into sin. So for example, if you get your phone out and you're scrolling through Facebook and you come across an ad for something inappropriate, you're being tempted. There's a temptation in front of you, but you're at a point of decision. You can decide, am I going to click that? Am I going to get into that? Or am I going to pass by and keep going, therefore conquering the temptation? So those are two different things. Yeah. You might also want to change your ad preferences on Facebook.

That's a good point.

Well stated. You can do something about that. Yeah, that's good. So I think another important point as we consider this question is that, you know, sin is not just an outward thing that we do. It's not just our behavior, right? It also includes the thoughts and dispositions of our hearts. Mitch, do you have any Bible passages that talk about that. Yeah. Matthew 5 is one that comes to mind when I think about that. So, Matthew 5 says, if you have heard, or you have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his

heart. So,

what are some of the implications of that as we think about that passage? Yeah, so Jesus you know, essentially takes the outward action, adultery, right? And he says not only is adultery sin, but he takes it a step further and he says what goes on in your mind and in your heart can also be sin. Takes it a step further. So, you know, if you're at work and a co-worker calls you a butthead, you might feel a desire to punch him in the face, okay? And so you've got temptation in front of you. You have a choice. Do I punch him in the face? Do I not punch him in the face? But you also have another level of temptation. You also have a temptation in your head and in your heart that when you walk away from that, whatever you do at that moment, then you walk away, you go back to your desk, you can choose either to sit there and have hate in your heart and in your mind, or you can choose not to. It goes beyond just the act of doing something outwardly to the thoughts. the Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes, almost like it's a second law that Jesus gave us, but in reality, it's giving a fuller picture of who Jesus is, who God is, and what righteousness is. The law that came to Moses was, hey, here's a standard, and the response should have been, oh no, I can't do this. And Israel at that point was in a spot where they thought, no, we can obey fully the Ten Commandments. We can be righteous. And Jesus comes to say, hey, I want to expand on that beyond just your outward actions. I want to talk about your heart. I want to talk about what you're thinking about, how you're feeling, those types of things. Not just what you're tempted to, but what really is causing the sin, which is your heart condition. Yeah. So you're saying that's not really new to the New Testament. No, that's been around since the beginning. Jesus is just unpacking it. Yeah, he's making it clear saying, you know, even the question asker said, you must be holy as I am holy. That's probably the Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus is making the point, hey, this isn't a, you've got this, just try really hard. So I think we're like, we're kind of digging down and taking this layers and layers deeper as we go. Another layer that I'm thinking about is that not only are there sins of omission, there's also sins of commission, right? There's the sins that we do, but there's also sins that are sinned because it's something that we haven't done that we should have done. So, you know, I could just, so I think as I think about, I think of the scenario, and I used to think this way when I was younger, could I go a whole day without sinning? Could I do that? So what if I hypothetically locked myself in a room and I did nothing but read the Bible all day long? Could I actually have one day, whether that's valuable or not valuable, could I actually have one day out of my life that I didn't sin? What was your answer?

For a minute, I think my answer was yes.

I think I went a period of time where I thought the answer was yes. My answer now is basically no. I think we all feel that though. Like there is a time in our life, a time in our Christian journey where we think, can I muster up enough willpower to do exactly what God is laying out for me, right? Right. Do you remember? You obviously remember feeling that, but that's a very common thing for every Christian. Oh yeah, totally, totally. And I think the real answer to the question is like, maybe, but you have to take into consideration I think some other layers that we haven't talked about yet. So, you know, perhaps you've avoided things like punching somebody in the face, maybe you've even avoided the thought and heart level of hating somebody. Good things to avoid. Good things to avoid, that's right. If you want to stay employed. Right, right. Now, you know, locked alone in a room with a Bible, you still could have those mind and heart sins that still could come. Let's just say hypothetically you avoided some of those things. But go to the next level of what are the things that God has commanded you to actively do that you then didn't do? You know, the great commission that Jesus gives, the mission of the church is to go and make disciples. So how did you contribute to the mission that Jesus commanded you to do? Were you doing that during that time? Were you loving and serving other people the way that Jesus tells you to do that? Were you loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, as Scripture tells us? Did you have any pride in your heart? You know, there's just all these layers of, there's the things that you, there's a sense of commission, there's a sense of omission, there's things of, you know, outward actions, there's the greatest sin you could commit? And they would usually they would say, I don't know. And I would ask, OK, what's the greatest commandment? Right. Love the Lord, God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And so I'd say, OK, for a minute or for 10 seconds, I would say, okay, did anybody do it? And there'd always be like three kids who decided that they were going to raise their hand and try to prove this whole thought experiment wrong. And they're like, yeah, I've done this. And I would say, I didn't see you lift anything. You didn't love God with all your strength. You didn't love God with all your, like, we can't access all of our mind. And it is both these little-esk sins, right, these small mistakes that we make, but also the big S sin of, you know, our depravity, our lives running away from God, that we need, our sin nature that we need to repent of, because there isn't a moment that I can actually obey the greatest commandment.


You know?

and obey the greatest commandment. Now, just for fun, to put you on the spot here, you brought up the greatest commandment. Are you saying that there are some sins that are worse than other sins? I'm just saying this is what – no, I'm not saying there's some sins greater than others. I'm saying this is a good example of what would be a way for us to see where our heart truly lies. Sure. lies. Are we in tune with God here or are we out of step with him? Yeah, that's fair. Well, I was just kind of giving you a hard time, but I think, and this is another topic that we'd have to dive into another time, but actually I would say that not all sins are equal. I would say they're all equal in the sense that they all lead to hell. Each of them is equally worth God's wrath. You know, whatever the sin is, you do, whether you murder, whether you tell a little lie, both of those things are worthy of God's wrath of hell. But they don't have the same consequences in the natural world.



So, yeah. Yeah. If you want to commit murder against me, you have hatred in your heart, you know, I'm going to be upset that that's the case. But if you try to kill me, I'm going to be way different. Yeah, a different level of things going on, for sure. For sure. One of the other things that the person asking the question brought up that I also want to just affirm is they talked about the two natures within us, the sinful nature and what we sometimes call the godly nature or the regenerate nature. There's a key passage that talks about these. It comes from Romans chapter seven. I'm just going to read a couple of verses. The whole chapter is about this, Romans chapter seven, but here's just starting in verse 21, a couple verses about it.

It says,

I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. So lots of stuff going on in there, but that's the Apostle Paul. So guy who wrote most of the New Testament. You know, a strong believer. Apostle of the church. This is a guy who's still talking about his ongoing war with sin, about two natures that are battling inside of him. I think we're going to get some questions on that.

Yeah? Oh yeah, yeah.

Because there's two views of that, whether Paul is talking about himself pre-Christ or post-Christ. Yeah, totally. I take a pretty strong stand on that one personally. That this is regenerate believer Paul, and he's talking about himself in that. I think that's the clearest way to read it. C.S. Lewis has an awesome quote that I've used many times in talking about this topic. He says, two dogs wage war within, the one I feed is the one that wins. I talked with a friend once about making a T-shirt out of that. We couldn't come up with a design that was very attractive. But, well, the concept is, yeah, that we've got these two natures inside of us, and they are constantly at war. At every opportunity, we've got a godly side of us that wants to follow the Lord, that wants to bear the fruit of the Spirit, that wants to do what's right, and then we've got another side of us that wants nothing but sin. Wants to go the way of the world, the way of Satan, wants to satisfy the flesh. And the question every day for the Christian is, which one are you going to embrace? And the question ahead of time for the Christian is, which one are you going to feed? Which comes through, are you going to engage with God's Word and feed your godly nature? You know, a healthy relationship with the Lord, the Word, prayer, spiritual disciplines, the church, those kind of things you need to be part of, or are you going to sort of nurse the side of sinfulness by engaging more and more in worldly things in heaven, those kind of feeding that side of yourself. All right, so back to the big question. Is it theoretically possible to escape every temptation? That's a...

Yeah, so I really struggled as we talked about this and as we thought about this question.

I really struggled with that whole idea of theoretically and theoretically versus practically. Now, I'm a very practical person, so I jump right to, well, practically, no, just practically. It's just not going to happen. Theoretically, I'm trying to be open-minded here, and I'm trying to say, you know, 1 Corinthians 10, 13 tells us that God always gives us a way out, right? There's always a way to escape, and so I don't want to undermine that at all, because that's true. There's always a way to escape. Which shouldn't that mean, theoretically, that there's always a way out? But then I come back and I say, but Scripture tells us that we're born into sin, we have a sinful nature, there's always a sinful nature in us until we are resurrected with Jesus, either when we die and part from our sinful nature or when Jesus returns. And so I think because we've always got a sinful nature within us, no, I mean, my real answer is that no, none of us can be perfect until Jesus returns. But I get the temptation to want to say that because it sounds hopeless to say even theoretically this isn't possible. Like to say even theoretically there isn't a chance that we can be sinless, that we can be sinless in this life. Yeah, so what's your answer to that? So when somebody says, I feel hopeless now

because you've told me it's impossible to be without sin.

I would say that's a good start. And that sounds really harsh and really mean, but it isn't until we realize that there isn't hope for us on our own, that we can understand something greater. I think of the Pilgrim's Progress if you've ever read that book There's the house of legality and he'll Christian goes to to try to save himself Well, he wanders off the path and he tries to go up the hill and it's this hill that he cannot climb it's this hill that promises to save him, but he literally cannot go up it is too steep and chasing after trying to save ourselves is like that, and it even says like the burden on his back becomes even heavier. And that's, you know, with legality or trying to save ourselves, trying to become perfect from our own merit leads us into a place where number one, our burden in life is more great, is heavier, and we end up just slipping and feeling more condemnation because we couldn't do it. But it's when we get to that spot we realize the beauty of the gospel. You know the point of the law, the point of the commandments in Scripture, yes they are trying to tell us number one who God is, what God expects of us, but it also points us to the fact that we need Christ. We need someone to have taken our place on the cross. The beautiful part of the gospel is that the Father can treat me like Jesus because he treated Jesus like me. And so Jesus was perfect. He was the one who actually fulfilled the law. And because I couldn't, we get to trade places and I don't have to worry about being perfect. That doesn't give me an excuse to sin or a blank check, but it gives me a freedom, a burden less life because I know that there was someone who did pay my price and I don't have to earn it myself. Which in turn makes wanting to obey, wanting to live a more transformed life even greater. Well said, that's good stuff. And one of the things I'll add, too, is just to be clear for everybody, too, it's off the table that even outside of this conversation, it's off the table that any of us could actually become sinless or perfect like Jesus. Romans 3.10 says that there's no one righteous, not even one. Romans 3.23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3.20 right next to that says that through the law we become conscious of sin, which is the point you were making there. So the law is not meant for us to attain perfection, it's meant to show us our imperfection and point us to Jesus. One of its purposes. So yeah, it's off the table that any of us could be perfectly righteous, even if you, again, I'm saying it's not possible for you to do this, but even if somebody else was saying it was possible, you're 30 years old and you've decided to be perfect from here on out, even if you could do that, you've still got 30 years of sin before that. And you can't make up for that. There's no way to make up for that. Only Jesus can take away sin.


It makes me want to ask this question a follow-up. How does that, for you, someone who preaches here regularly enough, how does that impact the way that you teach on things like commandments or morality.


Well, it means like what you were saying it means that I've always got to bring it back to the gospel. So when we preach the law when we tell people God says this or that that God gives us these commands. We preach that really and fully that God gives us these commands and we are supposed to do these things. And so out of love for God, we want to obey these commands and do these things, but we also always have to come back to the gospel and say, but all of us here in this room, we will not do this perfectly, we will fail, we are failing, we hope to grow and do better, but our ultimate hope is not in us doing better, our ultimate hope is in Jesus who did it perfectly. Yeah.

That's where the real hope is.

Yeah, because better's not good enough. That's right. And I feel like I can hear people, pastors that I've heard in my life, and sometimes you get into that morality type of preaching. And it, I felt this, I don't know if you felt this, but it leads me to one of two places, either like, oh yeah, I have done that and like I am good and like, you know, I'm better than the people who struggle with this, or to despair and like, oh shoot, I am like, there's no way that I can be good enough. And when that's all that's given, which I don't think ever happens here, because we always preach the gospel, but when that's all you hear, it kind of gives you to these two twin falls of pride and thinking that you really are better than people or despair and going, man, there is no hope for me. Yeah. I think that's perfect timing to bring us back to a key passage that I think we want to make sure we read before the end of this conversation. 1 John 1, starting in verse 8, says, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. So there it is. If we say that we don't have any sin, we are deceived. And the truth is not in us. Verse 9, if we confess our sins, so that's what we're supposed to do with sin, we're supposed to confess it. He, being God, is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Verse 10 says it again, if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. So none of us is sinless, all of us needs the grace of God. Yeah, the goal is not to be perfect, the goal is to continually grow as a Christian. Yeah, so we kind of talked about, you know, there are a lot of voices in the Christian world, but not all of them are trustworthy. Not all of them are going to be ones that give you a good gospel understanding of passages or of things going on. I know that there are a lot of people who struggle with this. In fact, there's one of the questions we have. Is there a list of safe resources for Bible studies or sermons? It's hard to find out which people are solid in biblical truth, especially when some appear to have changed their views over time?" Yeah, that's an awesome question, and it's a question that we get fairly often. At least I get, you know, verbally people ask me this on Sundays and different things, and so I'm glad somebody submitted it and excited to say a little bit about the answer. So the answer is at Peace Church, we've got something coming very soon, coming very soon, that is our own kind of response to that question. So we've been thinking about this and praying about this really for years. And we finally come to the place in the last few months where we actually feel ready to give a response to this question. It's that we want to actually create our own library of resources that are what we would call safe resources. Now, I'll quickly say, by the way, that everybody should always be discerning and always checking anything they hear against Scripture, including what we've just said right now. All of that should be checked against scripture. Acts 17, the noble Bereans we call them, the Apostle Paul says that he came and he taught them what scripture said about Jesus, but then the noble Bereans took it and every day they went back to their Bibles and they tried to discern if it was true. That's what all of us should be doing. So we should always be discerning. But actually coming in January 2024, an exciting resource is coming from Peace Church. Yeah. That's gonna provide a lot of this stuff. Yeah. Not just exciting in that it's gonna be biblically solid, which it's going to be, but I think it's gonna be engaging. It's gonna have not just blogs, but some other type of media like podcasts like this.

That'll be...

Some video. Yeah. Some stuff that will be fun to engage with and gospel-centered.


Which we hope will be a huge blessing to the church, and not just one church, but many

churches all around. Awesome.

Well, hey, Mitch, thanks for the conversation, man. It's been awesome. Thanks, everybody, for listening. Hope this has been a blessing and a help to you as you walk with the Lord. Hope this has been a blessing and a help to you as you walk with the Lord. Have a great week.

Transcribed with Cockatoo

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