It is our duty, not only to avoid those things that are themselves sinful, but also, as far as may be, those things that lead and expose to sin.
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.
Freedom from anything begins by knowing you are free. Juneteenth is short for June 19th—a state holiday in Texas. It commemorates the day in 1865 that good news arrived: all slaves were free.
But the news wasn’t new at all. The slaves had been set free long before, but that freedom had been a secret for two and a half years.
- When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, effective on New Years Day, 1863, the act freed all slaves.
- But many southern masters kept the information a secret from their slaves.
Juneteenth teaches us something important about freedom: it’s useless unless you know it’s true and you live like it.
As a Christian, you have a spiritual freedom you may not even realize.
We all blow it. For us as Christians, what often makes it worse is that we knew better—but we did it anyway. Nobody forced us. We chose it. Now we’re feeling regret.
The emotional fallout we experience from grieving the Spirit of God feels like a literal weight on our souls. It’s not a weight of shame as much as it is sorrow—disappointment with having not loved Jesus enough to obey Him.
If we take the proper next step, we’ll recognize our folly and confess our sin to God. But understand why we confess:
- We don’t confess in order to guarantee or keep our place in heaven. Our forgiveness of sins that would condemn us took place on the cross when Jesus died in our place (Rom. 8:1).
- We confess in order to restore our fellowship with God—not our salvation. The result of our confession? He promises immediate forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
But before we move on—before we slap grace over our lousy mistake and forget it—I’m suggesting we linger a little longer over our sin.
My grandmother used to bake mouthwatering, fried apricot pies. Just thinking about it gets the juices squirting in my mouth! As a kid, I could eat a dozen of them.
I distinctly remember one day I ate more than my share of the delicious pies. That night around 1 AM, the Grim Reaper came calling. I felt a burning in my stomach. I had never had heartburn before. So I mistook the indigestion for—and I’m not kidding—hunger pangs!
Guess what I did? I went downstairs and ate a few more fried pies. A couple of hours later, I woke up even hungrier! So I went to the kitchen again. See the pattern?
Here’s the terrible irony: I was trying to take away my pain by eating the very thing that caused it.
The spiritual lessons from that are huge.
I always get a kick out of the road tests automakers perform on one another. As objective as the tests claim to be, the goals remain clear. GM tests Ford to show Ford’s weaknesses. GM tests GM to show its strengths.
When Ford does the testing, however, the purpose completely reverses. (Funny how that works, you know?)
Actually, this type of testing is biblical. Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives.
But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?
Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, ‘Thus far it shall go and no farther.’ If it have allowance for one step it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel—if it once break out, it will have its course. Its not acting is easier to be compassed than its bounding.
We are more than physical creatures with physical needs. Notice in most prayer meetings that you’ll hear requests for God to help with the tangible needs. That’s fine, except it often ends there.
We don’t always realize how desperate our need is for truth beyond the tangible.
The trouble is, when we face temptation, our challenge is anything but physical—even when the temptation appeals to a physical needs or desires.
Overcoming temptation begins long before temptation.
Jesus shows us how.
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.
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.