We all need people to influence us. God made us that way.
From the languages we speak to the character we develop—it all begins with those who surround us in our formative years.
It starts with our environment, but it shouldn’t end there. It cannot.
When it does, it’s tragic. That was the case with King Joash.
But it doesn’t have to be that way with us.
It’s the mantra of today.
It’s the moral lesson of most movies. It’s the guiding light of many lives. After all, it sounds so right, doesn’t it?
Follow your heart.
“Follow your heart” is another way of following your feelings. Even as Christians, our feelings often lead us, don’t they?
- “I don’t feel good about this.”
- “Am I comfortable with this direction?”
- “I don’t have a peace about this decision.”
Following your heart is a popular, but unwise, way to make decisions.
Although our feelings are real, they may not represent reality. And even if what we feel does have some connection to reality, it is never all of reality.
God offers a better way.
Finger pointing is hard-wired into our hearts.
In fact, it started early in human history. Like, really early.
(Painting by Domenichino. Public domain)
In the Garden of Eden, God confronted Adam and Eve after they sinned, and their reaction set the course for an entire race of blame-shifters.
We’re still shifting the blame (and getting blamed).
The solution is the same today as it was then.
The names may not sound like much to us.
Names like Beth Shean, Taanach, Ibleam, Megiddo and Gezer. These were cities whose residents the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim failed to drive away.
So what? Why not let the inhabitants live in this region since they wanted it so badly?
The Lord knew why.
The failure of the tribes to drive out the inhabitants defied God’s commandments to resist the culture. Instead, God’s people tolerated the culture . . . and then embraced it.
Their example urges us to evaluate God’s commandments in our own lives.
His rules have reasons. (And they are good ones.)
In my previous post, I wrote about a Christian’s struggle with sin and 4 lies we believe about our sin.
Let’s take it a step further.
In addition to taking a defensive mindset against the lies we often believe, we need to take an active approach to sin and temptation.
Here are 4 basic strategies to help you battle the tug of temptation and sin on your heart.
Everybody sins. But when we Christians do it, reactions vary.
The world points to us as hypocrites—and often uses our sins as justification for their own. Other Christians tend to view our sins as reasons to suggest we aren’t even saved.
(Photo by Bigroger27509. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
But the people who offer the most brutal judgment against our sins?
Very often, it’s ourselves.
That’s because Christians struggling with sin tend to believe four lies.
A man in an Arizona circus used to train animals for the movies. Somebody asked him: “Hey, how do you tie down that 6-ton elephant with the same sized stake you use for a baby elephant?”
“That’s easy,” the trainer answered.
“When they’re babies, we stake them down. They pull and tug thousands of times until they figure out they can’t jerk loose. At that point, the elephant’s great memory kicks in, and they remember for the rest of their lives they can’t pull away. So they quit trying.”
I’ve discovered that you and I think a lot like elephants.
Especially when it comes to sin.
I went to a movie with a friend, and he gorged on popcorn, cokes, and candy. As the movie was about to end, he leaned over and whispered: “I don’t feel good. I’ll wait for you in the back.”
As I walked out, I saw him holding his stomach and twisting his face. “You want me to drive?” I offered.
“No, no, I’ll be okay,” he said.
On the way home, he slammed on the brakes, opened his door, and hurled in the street.
“You sure you don’t want me to drive?” I asked again.
“No, no,” he said, breathing heavy. “I—I feel better now.”
We drove another hundred yards, and he slammed the brakes on again! (The seat belt began to hurt my shoulder.)
Later he told me after he got home he spent some time in the bathroom. I can imagine that point in his ordeal—as he leaned over the commode and begin to experience the candy and popcorn for the second time—that he asked himself: Why in the world did I ever eat this?! Talk about regret!
I can think of no better illustration of sin and temptation in our lives than this true story.
In fact, that’s what happened to a man named Lot.
I ran my first marathon years ago. I call it my first, because that sounds better than calling it my last. But both are true.
At mile 26 in the run, I learned something I had never known before: a marathon is not 26 miles. Don’t believe it when people tell you that. It’s a bald-faced lie.
As I stammered past the 26th mile marker, there was no finish line! I discovered—to my surprise—a marathon is 26.2 miles.
I learned some valuable lessons from that decimal point—as well as from all the running I did to get ready for that crazy race.
Everybody faces temptation.
And on some level, everybody has fallen to it. Everybody but Jesus.
I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Jesus.
Good grief, what a place. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the solitude and struggle Jesus would have endured for over a month. But I could not.
How did Jesus resist temptation here?