Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
All Things For Good!
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. Proverbs 24:16NKJV
This morning we continue to study Westminster Larger Catechism Question 195, which asks, “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?” The sixth part of the answer states: “In the sixth petition (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,)… we pray… that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin or, if tempted, that by his Spirit we may be powerfully supported and enabled to stand in the hour of temptation: or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof…” Today we consider the part of the answer in bold where we find the wondrous power of the restorative and sanctifying grace of God that causes even our sins to benefit us in the furthering of our being conformed to the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ.
As we saw last time from 1 Cor. 10:13, God has enabled the Christian to withstand every temptation that He will allow him to face. God always provides a way of escape, He always gives the strength to endure, and He will never let us face a temptation that is beyond our ability. 1 Cor. 10:13 promises all three of these things. Another verse that assures us of God’s sufficient help is Eph. 6:13, which says, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Withstanding temptation, being made able to stand is God’s promise to every believer. He has provided the armor. We are supposed to put it on so that if any temptation comes at us, we will be able to stand our ground and not give into that temptation. Yet the reality is, due so often to our weakness, our spiritual lethargy, and our love of sin, we choose not to use the ability God has given to us, and so we do not stand but we fall. Temptation comes our way; it is the kind of temptation we like; a little thought in the back of our minds says, “Don’t do it!” but immediately we block out that thought, give into temptation, and we fall headlong into the sin that so easily entangles us. Instead of standing we fall. It seems like the vast majority of us fall a lot. So what do we do when we fall?
If you are like me, one of many Christians who fall a lot, today’s part of the Catechism is for you. God knows our weakness. He knows how prone each of us is to sin. He knows what vile and awful sins we, to our great shame, think are beautiful, desirable. And yet God has saved us anyway! Therefore, Christian we can know that whenever we fall into sin, we have not surprised God, we have not disappointed God, we have not let God down. He knew and even ordained that we would sin at that time and in that way the very moment that He saved us, and even when He chose us in eternity past. To be sure whenever we sin we are at fault. We have done something God hates. God hates sin, and like a loving Father He may discipline us severely (think of David, Job, Israel in captivity, etc.), but He does not cease being our heavenly Father who loves us, holds us, and will keep us to the end.
In Scripture and therefore in the Catechism, a Christian giving into temptation is wonderfully and most mercifully pictured as someone who has taken a fall. No one tries to fall. No one wants to fall. Falling is bad, potentially painful, injurious, and even embarrassing. Falling is something that we do accidentally. We would rather not fall. Yet, we know full well when we sin we did it on purpose. We wanted to sin. We tried to sin. Temptation comes and too often we would rather sin than say “No.” Yet even here God’s love and power shine bright, perhaps here brightest of all: that in the darkness of my sin, having fallen, God promises to raise me up – the sin will not destroy my faith; to recover me from it – I will turn from the sin and repent; and to have a sanctified use and improvement of the sin itself. That means that the sin which causes me to fall God will use to make me more like Jesus Christ! This is God’s sure promise. To the true believer it cannot fail. Every sin I commit God will use for my spiritual and everlasting good. This promise does not take away the hurt of the fall or the pain of God’s chastisement, or even the potential loss of rewards in heaven, but it does mean that my falls will not defeat God’s will for my life, they cannot keep me from growing in my chief end: to glorify God and to fully enjoy Him forever! Take some time today to praise God for His amazing grace.