“Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil” Jeremiah 13:23
An Ethiopian can’t change his skin and a leopard can’t change his spots (cf. Jeremiah 13:23). Which is another way of saying that you and I can never deal with the problem of temptation and sin. It’s an impossibility. No amount of effort will ever help us overcome evil.
The story is told of a pastor who parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter. Having parked the car he hastily scribbled out a note and stuck it under the windshield wiper. It read, “I have circled the block ten times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.” When he returned to his car he found a citation from a police officer along with this note: “I’ve circled this block for ten years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.
That’s funny, but it’s also a reminder that temptation is something we all struggle with. But the good news is there’s no struggle for God. He isn’t limited like we are. He can overcome evil. He takes those who are dead in transgressions and sins, makes them alive in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:1, 5), and gives them a completely new nature. That’s the only way sin can be dealt with. Because fallen man’s problem is internal, the solution to his problem must be internal. Man must be given a new heart, a new nature, a new being. And that’s what God does. He recreates us by changing us from our old nature of sin and death to a new nature of holiness and life. As God says in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
It doesn’t get any plainer than that, does it? Not only theologically, but logically, this is the only way temptation and sin can be dealt with. For those who are dead in sin have no awareness or desire to turn from it, and no power or resources to change if they wanted to (cf. John 3:19-20). But “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
There you have it. It’s living in the reality of the new birth (cf. John 3:3-8) that helps us overcome temptation and sin. If we let the old nature tackle it, we will fail. But when we yield to the new nature, we will succeed; for the new nature comes from Christ and He is the Victor.
A Sunday School child explained the matter in simple terms: “Two men live in my heart: the old Adam and Jesus. When temptation knocks at the door, somebody has to answer. If I let Adam answer, I will sin; so I send Jesus to answer and He always wins!”