by Susan Sampson

It is an interesting thing to see our own sin. It can be so deeply painful, yet truly it is beautiful evidence of the grace of God in our lives. Without being given eyes to see our sin, we don’t see our Savior either. If we had no sin, we have no need for a Savior. The more we see our sin and the depth of the horror of it, the more we recognize the amazing grace of God, the incredible good news of the gospel and fall deeper in love with Jesus.

We can’t be more like Christ without being less like ourselves. We can’t walk in the Spirit when we walk in the flesh. Paul clearly instructs us that we are to be working by God’s grace in the power of the Spirit at putting our flesh to death (Colossians 3, Ephesians 4, Galatians 5, Romans 8).

If I had a potentially lethal bacteria in my body, I would want to know about it. I would go for treatment. I am reminded of my dad who had cancer and didn’t know it until it was too late and the diagnosis was Stage 4. I think of this study, In the Garden, as a diagnostic tool that the Great Physician used. Diagnosis — flesh alert!

Yes, it is awful to receive a terrible diagnosis. But in our case, there is a remedy. The Living Word. And we need a daily dose. We need our daily Bread. Really, some antibiotics you have to take four times a day. I need the Living Word way more than four times a day. I need it as frontlets between my eyes! We are sheep prone to wander and we can be thankful for our Shepherd’s staff that continually brings us back into the safety of the flock.

When I dislocated my shoulder I had to go to physical therapy. I went to the PT office three times a week, but my therapist also gave me exercises to do every day. Once a week was not going to heal my shoulder. The only way my shoulder would become strong was through repetition. I’m reminded of the Apostles’ Creed where it says “I believe” three different times. Our minds are so weak, we need to say it again and again and speak truth to our souls, “I believe…I believe…I believe.”

One of the suggestions of my therapist was to soak in a tub with Epsom salt. Paul says that Christ loved the church and gave himself for her “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). And Jesus Himself prayed for us saying, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17-19). We were the ungodly, enemies of Christ, BUT we were washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

We were dead and broken branches and our Father graciously and lovingly grafted us into His garden. We didn’t plant ourselves:

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” (Rom. 11:17-18)

May we continue in the garden of His Word that we would be as the tree described in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers. (Psa. 1:1-3)

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude. (Col. 2:6-7 NASB)

by Susan Sampson

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

John Piper said, “There is no moment of your life that is not a moment of temptation–a moment when unbelief and disobedience is not a possibility.” When I heard this statement I thought, “Yes, that is so right, so true,” and then I thought, “There but by the grace of God, go I.” Every moment we are making decisions. When I make a “good” decision, I immediately want the credit. I want the glory. I want somebody to notice and say, “Good job.” This is my flesh. It does not want God to have the glory that He is due. My flesh wants all the glory all the time. But the truth of God’s Word tells me that there is nothing good in me apart from Christ. “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10b). The truth says goodness is, in fact, a fruit of the Spirit. Right before Paul tells us what the fruits of the Spirit are, He lists works of the flesh like anger and jealousy. Goodness is in the fruit section not the flesh section!

Every moment of every day we are tempted to follow the flesh. Though we are new creations in Christ, by God’s perfect will we remain here on earth with our flesh still to deal with. The Lord has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to fight by faith against our flesh. So I want to stop deceiving myself and when I make a “good” decision and follow the Spirit, I want to give glory to whom glory is due! It is the grace of God that keeps me from temptations and when I fall into temptation it is the grace of God that makes a way out. We don’t keep ourselves out of the pit and we don’t rescue ourselves when we are in the pit.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1a NKJV)

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord; I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:33)

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:37)

The Lord has delivered us from evil and is delivering us from evil and will once and for all and forever deliver us from evil. For now He does allow us to be tested and tempted, but that is only for our good and for His glory. We need strengthening. We need our fruit to grow. When we are weak then His power is displayed. When we are tried, then His compassion and mercy and grace shine forth.

Heavenly Father,
Purge us from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to Thy rule. We thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which we are subject, for sometimes putting us into the furnace to refine our gold and remove our dross. No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give us choice to live in pleasure and keep our sins, or to have them burn away with trial, give us sanctified affliction. Deliver us from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of Thy grace in us, everything that prevents us taking delight in Thee.

“Confession and Petition” in The Valley of Vision 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.