I just returned from a trip to China with colleagues from Insight for Living. What a vast and beautiful country—and so much potential for ministry. While there, several of us got to visit the Great Wall.
(Photo: By Hao Wei from China. Flickr. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
I was amazed at how vigilant the wall builders were to ensure the safety of their country against potential enemies. (See some of my pictures below from my Instagram Feed.) Of course, history reveals that a guard allowed the enemy to enter through a gate and compromise the wall’s security. 1500 miles of wall compromised by one traitor in the gate.
In our spiritual lives, we have that same traitor.
Too often, self-control kicks in only as a matter of pride. We apply the brakes by asking questions like: Will I look foolish if I have a third slice of cake? Not terribly spiritual, but hey.
Life hands us daily situations in which self-control seems impractical, irrational, and even impossible. And yet, amazingly, at other times:
- While arguing with our spouse, and the phone rings, we answer the call and suddenly we have self-control.
- Our boss lays into us about something that’s totally unfair. We fume, but bite our tongue.
- Our tummies start to expand beyond our belts and bathing suits. So we cut back on sweets.
When our reputations, our jobs, and our physiques are at risk, we apply self-control. Why? Because something more important than immediate satisfaction seems threatened.
But somehow sex is different?
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.
(Photo by oomph)
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.
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?
A couple of months ago I noticed the “maintenance” light come on in my car. That meant the oil and filter needed changing. I thought, Yeah, I’ll do that soon. Right.
About a month went by and I thought: You know, I need to deal with that. I forgot again. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later I finally got it changed. I put it off because I’m a busy guy—and hey, oil and filters can always wait another day.
But then another warning light went off. This one was serious.
Do you have a buffer zone between you and what can harm you? I’m talking about putting a safeguard between you and evil influences that can cause compromise in your walk with Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, this concept of defense didn’t originate in the New Testament. We see an illustration of it throughout Old Testament history in an unusual place.
Between the Philistine plain and the Hill Country where God’s people dwelt lay 10 miles of low rolling hills. This buffer zone was known as the “Shephelah.”
The hills of the Shephelah were a geographical buffer that represented a spiritual barrier. You have a Shephelah in your life as well.
Here’s a lesson on how you can guard it.
The names may not sound like much. Names like Beth Shean, Taanach, 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 a 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.