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Posts Tagged ‘temptation’

The problem I’m going to write about, I am intimately familiar with.  I have practiced it in many ways, in some cases undetected for years.  Additionally, I have noted it in the Church around me.  This is why I seek to warn you.  

 

There is a way that seems right to a man, 
But its end is the way of death.
~ Proverbs 14:12
 
Generally, the problem is to identify something wrong, then, instead of correcting it, to replace that thing with another wrong thing.  One reason this procedure can go undetected is because the new wrong might not be overtly sinful.  

On the surface, I’m a very good person.  Somewhat deeper, I’m urgent to maintain that appearance.  A bit below that, I’ve struggled for years with sins mostly invisible.  And deep down, at the core of who I am, I hate sin and want desperately to be free, to be honoring God on every level.  

Flee also youthful lusts; 
but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those 
who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
~ 2 Timothy 2:22
 
Therefore submit to God. 
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
~ James 4:7
 
There is a biblical admonition to flee temptation.  Rather carelessly, I used that verse to justify my own plan of attack against my besetting sins.  If I could just avoid tempting situations (like an alcoholic staying out of bars), then I wouldn’t sin and on many levels, I would have victory.  
 
However, God’s goal is not just to keep us from committing sins.  He wants us to know Him, and in knowing Him to become like Him.  Romans has always thrown my perception of sin deeper by asserting, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.”  The proper response to sin is the same as the response to temptation, to grace, to glorious revelation, to instruction: submission to God.  I needed to come before my God and to give over to Him my desires, my thoughts, my problem with repeated sin.  But though I had begged God for deliverance, all was on my terms: “Please make my scheme successful in avoiding temptation.” 
 
Avoiding bars is one thing, though I’m not convinced it is always the right thing.  To make my point, what if the sin you were dealing with was gluttony, not drunkenness?  Would you avoid eating?  If you struggled with anger, would you avoid people?  If you did either of those things, you would be sinning by omission.  Again, God has more purpose for us than keeping us from sin (and His enemies have more purpose against us than getting us to sin).  What if, by our methods of avoiding sin, we’re abandoning God’s purposes for us?  
 
One common response, in me and in others, is legalism.  We note a problem, and make a list of rules to circumvent it.  This is not my essay on the errors of legalism, so let me restrict myself to saying that such rules keep us from seeking the heart, help, and purposes of God – and the rules can in themselves be harmful to their keepers, breakers and to those involved in their lives.  
 
So what does it mean to flee temptation?  Maybe there is some truth to avoiding bars, and a glutton might want to be wary of buffets even if he’s continuing to frequent grocery stores.  When temptation comes (not just potentially tempting situations), take it seriously.  Resist, rebuke, pray, flee, confess to a fellow believer and get them to help you.  I think it is also important whither we flee: that God wants us to seek His refuge, and trust Him to provide the help we need.  
 
But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; 
In You I take refuge; 
Do not leave my soul destitute.
~ Psalm 141:8
 
God allows temptation for a reason.  I was choosing to miss out on what God wanted to teach me through these situations.  I needed to ask Him how to address my tendencies to sin, and follow that plan, trusting Him to be faithful and effective.  I was running, sheltering myself (and my ego) from difficulty and failure.  But instead I could have been learning self-control, dependence, and power over my spiritual enemies.  I could have been available for God’s work in the situations He didn’t want me to avoid.  
 
To God be all glory, 
Lisa of Longbourn
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I read a story last week: Return of the Guardian King.  Fourth and final of a vividly epic fantasy series written by a woman who knows my world, my type, and my God.  Her name is Karen Hancock, and her stories have invaded my imagination permanently.

It is a book about temptation, I told a friend.  Resisting in the slow way, wearied by the persistence, common days, small things.  And massive temptations: to betray all you have believed in, to denounce the promises of God for the power of ruling kingdoms, to trade love in the good God and His simple gifts to the extravagant suit of the alluring devil.  But the large and the small are the same. 

The characters are strong against deception and temptation when they have been faithful in the daily denying of self.  To live for others, in kindness and patience, prepares each person against bitterness and despair.  Immersion in the truth and promises of God is comfort and hope.  Even if their prayer is a single cry for help from God, bad things trun to good when people talk to their God. 

The story isn’t about what is happening on the outside as much as it is about whether the characters are trusting God, whether they know with all their might that He loves them and that His plans for them are good.  When they are rebelling against him, they are miserable.  So are those around them.  So am I. 

Kiriath is in the hands of the jealous and vengeful brother Gillard, possessed by a demon rhu’ema.  Already they treat and ally with the archenemy, Belthe’adi, Abramm had warned them of.  Abramm is known to be dead.  But Abramm is also walking the mountains, chafing under the waiting in a snowed-in monastery.  Maddie is back at her childhood home, a palatial life she never embraced, and her newest royal duty is to marry some rich aristocrat who can offer troops to defend the last stand of her homeland.  But her dreams linked with her beloved’s are back, and something tugs hope alive in her that maybe Abramm survived after all. 

Shapeshifters, dragons, and the critical people who are supposed to be his friends plague Abramm on his Odyssey-like journey back to his wife and sons.  Trap and Carissa mirror Abramm’s struggle with pride and longing but in a quiet domestic setting.  Detours take the exiled king and longed-for husband to places of faith and doubt he never would have imagined – and sometimes wishes he had never asked for. 

Every character learns the power of friends: locking them against temptation, praying for their dearest concerns, teaching and challenging with the truth, dividing the attacks of dragons, delivering messages, watching with unbiased eyes, guarding against betrayal.  Again Abramm learns that it is not his strength that conquers, and that God has not gifted him with leadership and military prowess to fight God’s battles for Him.  He is but a vessel. 

Maddie meets a charming man who is attractive in all the ways Abramm never was.  Tirus wants her, wants to help her.  He understands her and shows her off, showers her with gifts and protects her from scorn.  How long can she wait for her husband whom even her dearest friends still believe is dead?  Will she believe the light-born visions and promises from God, or the technological, repeatable sight from the stone sent to her by her suitor?  Will she change her mind about regal living and the purpose of marriage?  The things that stood in Maddie’s way when she wanted to marry Abramm, and the undeniable need they had for each other – will she forget those? 

When things go from bad to worse, whose job is it to protect the ones they love?  At what cost will they buy safety and love?  Will the armies of the Moon, and the powers of the air – dragons winging terror across the skies – will they succeed in doing their worst, in taking everything from those faithful to God?  Or will they be utterly defeated?  If they cannot be defeated, what is the point in fighting and sacrificing? 

And when God’s people fail, bitterly weak, The Return of the Guardian King resounds with display of God’s mercy.  God knew we were weak when He chose us.  He knew we would fail when He sent His Son to suffer for those sins.  And a single prayer, sometimes the end of God’s longsuffering chase, brings grace empowering His servants to do the right thing.  He cannot deny Himself.  His promises will be true, however faithless we are. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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