In some churches they still hold occasionally what are called “testimony meetings,” times set aside for members of the congregation to stand up in front of the fellowship of believers and give the explanation of the circumstances that led to their conversion to Christ. Many of these can be quite spectacular accounts, great loss is shared, suffering is brought out into the light and the dramatic way that these individuals heard the call of Christ can be quite moving at times. “Amens” and even applause usually resound after the telling of these tales, hugs of love are given, and they do many times bring each of the members closer to each other and more determined in their walk for Christ.
It is not so much a matter of trust in the individual who takes the stage in these moments towards those in attendance, but a willingness to share what God has done in their lives, there is no shame in the account, for truth cannot be shamed, love knows no barricades. There is no pride in these testimonies, only great humility, there is no fear of what others may think of them, of who they were before Christ, “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) There is only a desire to lift up the name of Jesus, and perhaps to let others know that He is waiting for them also to come to repentance, that it does not matter how terrible the sins were, all can be forgiven if they will but come to Him.
There is something that I have never seen in a church yet though, someone standing up in front of all in attendance and expressing their burdens. I do not mean the burdens of illness either within themselves or the ones they love, not of financial difficulties or children who have gone astray, not even the burden of one that they have been praying for to come to Christ, I do not mean the sin that is either occurring in the present or in the recent past in our lives, for you can be quite sure that your sin will find you out. (Numb. 32:23) What I am referring to here is temptation, the thoughts of ill will towards a brother or sister in Christ, hidden thoughts that lie deep within each of us that are not of God, those notions that reside in us that if we do not address them will become sin, for they will fester and come to fruition if we do not express them for what they are. Generally, most of us just try to ignore these thoughts, these impulses, if you will, we hope by not allowing them to continue to come into the forefront of our minds they will simply just disappear, we hope that since they showed up out of nowhere that that is where they will return to, the nothingness from which they came. Rarely does this happen though, whether they come upon us from our adversary or from the sinful nature that still resides within us, if they are more than just a passing thought, they are not just going to pass away, they will not just die of their own accord, they must be killed.
Our first resort must of course be prayer, asking the Lord to dispose of this approaching possibility of sin that has invaded our thoughts, we must search out the past and see where the root of it came from, if the root is not destroyed, the weed will continue to grow and spread. If this particular interference will not depart from us, we are to seek out brothers and sisters in Christ to assist us with this burden, those who adhere to the Truths of Scripture and are willing to bear this burden with us. (Gal. 2:5) And so back to my question, you have more than likely been present when someone has stood in front of the entire church and given their testimony, but have you ever seen one stand in the same spot and ask for assistance with thoughts of sin that will not depart, not sins committed yet mind you, but only the recurring thoughts of them. Embarrassing, shameful, unrepresentative thoughts befitting a child of God, notions not yet become fruitful, but if they do will cause harm to the body of Christ and the walk of the believer.
How many individuals in your church are struggling with thoughts of same sex attraction, with removing something from a storeowners shelf without paying for it, with the attractive woman at the office, or the handsome man down the hall, with hidden thoughts of anger and revenge against someone who has harmed them or one they love, of disrespect for those who are in authority over them. When was the last time that anyone in your church stood up and asked for prayers, help and guidance in these types of areas that are common to us all. (1 Cor. 10:13) Prayer for the sick and suffering, prayers for the lost, prayers are requested even for ourselves, as long as we do not discuss the hidden part of us, the part we do not want anyone to see, that part that we do not even want to look at, much less admit to.
Temptation is not a sin, our Lord was tempted in every way that we are, (Heb. 4:15) but temptation very rarely rears its ugly head, says “Hello” for a moment, and then just disappears, it is exceptionally good at hiding within us, the problem is we do not always have the desire to look deep inside of us to fix the root of it and destroy it, to cast it from us forever. Many times we say quick prayers hoping that the Lord will just deliver us from it, so we don’t have to deal with it. There is a strange mixture in the word temptation, at least in the context in which we are discussing it here, it is something that we both desire and despise at the same time, we want it and we hate it. The lost have no inhibitions in this area, what can be hidden from the eyes of the “morality police,” as it were, is of no business and consequence to anyone but themselves, but as they are, we are free to think about anything we want to, it is just that not all of these things will be profitable for us. (1 Cor. 6:12) We do not desire those un-Christlike thoughts for just that reason, they are not glorifying to His name, they are not sin unless we continue in them of our own accord, by our own freewill, but even thoughts when dwelt upon by us for our own pleasure are sin. “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28)
We want and don’t want at the same time, and until we are glorified by our Lord, that is how it is going to be, a life of war between our self and ourselves, spirit against flesh, if you like, sinful nature against the desire to be like Christ. The battle will not cease until that day that we are glorified, skirmishes will always erupt, two things never rest, our adversary and the “old man” (Romans 6:6) inside of us, one will spend eternity in the lake of fire, the other will die, so take hope, and in your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19) Here is what we must do until then though, we must carry our cross, (Matt. 16:24) we must bear the burden, (Gal. 6:5) but we should never bear it alone. (Gal. 6:2) These things that pop-up in your mind occasionally, those thoughts that are far beyond detestable to you, guess what, your Lord had those same thoughts, and so do your brothers and sisters in Christ, they are common to man. Our natural response is to fear them, not share them, it is to try to bury them, not ask others to help us to dig them up and cast them away, not to ask them to help us to bear these burdens, and our natural response is not Scripturally correct or Christ-like.
Did you ever wonder when Jesus wept at the entrance to the tomb of His friend Lazarus, (John 11:35) if anyone came over and have Him a hug? Did anyone offer to help Him bear this burden of grief, if even for a moment? You have a lot of brothers and sisters in Christ who are carrying heavy burdens in their thoughts, be willing to help them with these burdens, a man named Simon helped our Lord carry His cross, what better example do you need.