The previous gracEmail suggested a sample prayer for use when facing temptation. The prayer is not some simplistic formula for overcoming sin. Its recitation is not magical. Its precise wording is not important. Although the gracEmail did not list numerous Scripture citations, its simple language was the practical application of solid biblical theology.
Our problem, you see, is that a part of us (which the Bible refers to as “the flesh,” our “sinful nature” or the “old self”) enjoys sinning and wants to do so at every opportunity. Those who belong to Christ also have a new nature which enjoys God’s company and desires to do what is holy, right and pleases God. Sin appeals to our lower nature and, left to our own resources, we are powerless to resist its enticement. (Romans 7 goes into more detail about all this.)
It does not work, therefore, for me simply to “try harder” — not only do I lack the power to resist sin in my own strength, when the crunch comes, my old nature does not even want to do what is right. Admitting this to myself and to God is the first step on the path to victory. But God provides a solution to my problem: he is able to change my will, to give me holy desires, to make me want to do what is right — and then to enable me to do it. (Romans 6 talks about this in some detail. It is all based on the fact that Jesus died and rose to new life and that he did so as our representative.)
The prophet Jeremiah described this as God writing his laws in our hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). The psalmist saw it as us “volunteering freely” in the day of God’s power (Psalm 110:3). God strengthens us with power through his Spirit in the inner person (Eph. 3:16). God “is at work in” (literally “energizing”) us, to will (wish, decide) to do what pleases him — and then to carry it through in action (Phil. 2:13). The gracEmail prayer, which is intended for frequent use as temptations arise, simply surrenders our will — that stubborn rebel — to God. When we sincerely do that, God supplies right decisions and empowers holy actions (2 Cor. 10:4-5). The result is that the righteous demands of God’s law are fulfilled in (note the passive voice) those who walk according to the Spirit of God, something we can never accomplish merely by our own resolve and efforts (Rom. 8:3-4).