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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deliver Us from Evil

James 1:13-15 "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."

Trials often bring temptation. God brings us trials to strengthen us and to make our belief in Him and in His character steadfast…but He does not tempt us to sin. We are tempted when we are lured and enticed by our own fleshly desires. All of us have a war inside of our hearts between God’s Spirit who lives in us and: 1) our flesh (that is the desires of our heart that are divorced from God’s will for us which has been known to us through His Word); 2) the world and its philosophies and promises that do not line up with God’s Word; and 3) Satan, our enemy, who lies and tricks and wants us to destroy our trust in God’s goodness and love. These three things taunt us as we walk through life, and particularly as we walk through the difficult things of life. They vie for our attention, they make themselves attractive, and they attempt to distract us from the beautiful face of our Lord. They often come to us looking like cute harmless little teddy bears, and yet when we engage with them and feed them, they become vicious grizzly bears that devour us.

And yes, we often choose to feed them.

Here is an illustration of how this can work:
Imagine a woman who is feeling neglected and unloved by her husband. Suppose she begins working closely with a colleague at work. This colleague is well-liked in the workforce by everyone. He is a Christian; he takes initiative; he is kind to those around him. He is admired by many for his godly traits. He is also a handsome man. Like everyone else, this woman admires this man and her admiration for him is nothing sexual or intimate. The two are assigned a project that requires them to work closely with one another. They find that they work well together. They spend a lot of time together. She notices that, unlike her husband, this man takes an interest in what she is saying, he listens to her, he cares about her feelings, and he makes her feel special. He even reads his Bible, while her husband rarely picks up his. Through out the project, she begins to find herself thinking about this other man a lot. She sometimes wonders whether her thoughts are appropriate. However, rather than praying about it or asking a godly friend for advice, she dismisses her doubts as silly. Yet, she continues to seek out opportunities to talk to this other man. She tells herself, “It’s really harmless. It’s not like I am doing anything wrong. We are just friends.” But the more she allows herself to engage with this other man, the less clear her boundaries seem. She begins confiding in him, sharing intimate parts of her soul. One day, during such a conversation, this other man reaches out and grabs her hand—giving her butterflies. She tells herself, “We’re not doing anything wrong, he was just comforting me like I would do for any friend.” The next time they are together, they share a moment where she thinks they almost kiss. However, they both abruptly come to their senses and leave. Upon reflection, this woman realizes that she should not have let things get so far, and she assures herself that she will never let it happen again. She says a prayer about it, asking God to take away her desires. Still, she is ashamed to tell anyone in the Body of Christ about this situation and she is convinced that she and this man can handle things on their own—after all, they just need to exercise some good old fashioned self-control. They are both disciplined people. After all, they have both climbed the corporate ladder by their discipline and self-control. She tries to avoid this man as much as possible for a while. Seeing how hard it is becoming for her to avoid him, she considers removing herself from the project altogether. But she reminds herself that this project is her big chance to be promoted. It would be foolish to throw that away. She has worked so hard for it. So, she continues to work on the project, and things continue to get worse at home. One day, she gets into a huge fight with her husband about something unrelated. Her husband was so cruel to her. She is crushed. She needs a friend. She needs to talk to her colleague. She arrives at his doorstep in tears. He tells her she deserves better. He tells her how special she is. He tells her he would never treat her that way. He lets her cry on his shoulder—his strong, muscular, shoulder. He smells so good. She is so tired. Her tears have taken everything out of her. Gently, he lifts her chin with his hand and kisses her on the forehead (much like she would kiss a hurt child, she tells herself). Then his lips move softly to her cheek (much like she would greet a friend, she tells herself)…. and then his lips quietly trail to down to hers (she feels relief, she feels comfort, she feels thrilled, she feels alive)… soon enough though, she feels only emptiness as she stares down at the small mound of her own clothes discarded on the floor---discarded along with her wedding vows.  Stunned in disbelief, she quietly wonders, "How did I get here?"
While this may seem like an extreme example, it isn’t. Like this woman, we make our selves vulnerable to sin by:

1) Not praying consistently (not acknowledging our constant dependence on Him).

2) Not asking God to give us the desire and the eyes to see His truth plainly in His Word.

3) Not asking God to deliver us from evil everyday.

4) Not prayerfully reading God’s Word (asking Him to help us understand it, asking Him how it applies to our daily lives, asking Him how we are lacking in the application of it, and asking Him for help in how to apply it).

5) Not reading God’s Word in such a way such as to seek relationship with God. (i.e. irregularly picking up God’s Word; reading the Word as a task to check off during our day, skimming through it, not seeking both the big picture and the details of passages of Scripture; not seeking to understand it; and not asking questions of God and of others in the Body who know God’s Word.)

6) Not agreeing with God’s Word (making excuses for why His Word doesn’t apply to my situation, not seeking godly counsel to see whether this is true, or seeking godly counsel and ignoring it in favor of my own desired interpretations).

7) Not living in the light before God and man (hiding our behaviors and thoughts in pride—“this is no one else’s business”-- or shame—“what will they thing of me?”--or fear—“what will happen if others know?”—or self sufficiency—“I’ve got this under control.”, etc.)

8) Playing with fire (allowing ourselves little indulgences, allowing ourselves to flirt with the objects of our misguided desires—going to the mall to “browse” after promising our husbands that we would not spend money this week—searching the web for relationship advice rather than searching the Scriptures—choosing the checkout aisle with our favorite cute cashier so that we can “chat”—filling up our schedules with appointments and commitments that take away from the areas that God has called us to prioritize, etc.)

9) Not taking ourselves out of harms way—even when that comes at drastic costs to ourselves and to the desires that rage within us.

10) Failing to listen to those around us who love us and are pleading with us from the Word (thinking to ourselves, “They are just being selfish”---“They don’t really love me.”---“They don’t know how hard it is.”—“They are being legalistic and judgmental.”—“They are over-reacting.”—“That’s not really what the Word says” etc.)

11) Removing ourselves from community all together (by not engaging in it at all, by engaging only at a superficial level, or by withholding key parts of ourselves from the Body of Christ).

Matthew 16:24-27 “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.’”

Heavenly Father, Thank you that you are good! Help us not to be lured and enticed away from you! Remind us always of your goodness and beauty—and how you alone satisfy us. Help us to keep our eyes focused on you in your Word. Give us an increasing desire to know you by reading your Word and talking with you in prayer. Give us understanding and discernment—that we might see truth in your Word and that we might apply it to every situation. Help us to set up safeguards in our life, so that we do not stray into temptation. Help us to walk in the light before you and your people. Bring into our lives people with whom we can be real and who will be real with us. Help us to speak the gospel into each other’s lives, so that we can help each other to apply the gospel to every situation. Help us to be soft hearted. Help us to be humble and to listen. Dear Lord, please lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the glory forever. Amen!

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