by Stan Smith
I know that there are lots of Christians -- mostly men, I suppose, but not only men -- who wrestle with pornography. They're tempted, they succumb, they hate it, they repent, and the cycle repeats. What to do? What to do? Well, that's easy, right? Throw out the computer. You see, if you get rid of the computer, you get rid of the problem. And while that seems extreme, didn't Jesus say to cut off your hand if your hand causes you to sin? Well, if your computer causes you to sin, cut it off!
I know that there are lots of Christians who wrestle with television. Well, maybe not "wrestle". But they watch too much and somewhere back there they know they watch too much and it certainly does have an affect on their thinking and we know that Scripture says, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless" (Psalm 101:3). Still, the idea of decreasing TV time is tough and the suggestion of getting rid of it is outlandish. Why? Didn't Jesus say to cut off your hand if your hand causes you to sin? Well, if your TV causes you to sin, cut it off!
I know, in fact, that there are lots of these types of things. Sometimes it's that particular woman you work with that tempts you or that particular guy you work with that just makes you so mad. For some it's politics that just get you so agitated that you build up the wrath of man that does not work the righteousness of God. For many it's food -- what the Bible calls "gluttony". Just the term makes you uncomfortable, a bit edgy, and perhaps a little defensive. "I'm not a glutton; I'm just big boned." Lots of people suffer from the seeming need to gossip. They join social media sites just so they can find out who is doing what to whom. They might cloak it in "prayer requests" or even "righteous indignation", but it's gossip, and we all know that God doesn't hold a positive view of gossip.
We all, it seems, have pet sins, temptations that we face and fail, trials that we come up against often and to which we lose too often. We also seem to have mechanisms for those pet sins. Maybe it's Internet access for pornography. "You know, without that I don't think I'd fail as much." Perhaps it's the television. "If I cut off the cable, I might not waste so much time. (Because, seriously, can anyone expect me to get rid of the television(s)?)" Maybe it's your job or your coworkers, your refrigerator or your social media. There always seems to be some sort of mechanism. And we often think that if we could just manage that particular mechanism, whatever it might be, we could eliminate the sin problem it causes.
I would beg to differ. Oh, eliminating those mechanisms may be a good idea, but here's what James says on the subject:
Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers" (James 1:14-16).
Sure, there is the devil and there is the world. They conspire together to drag you away. We get that. But our big problem is not typically either of these. We have met the enemy and he is us. It's our own flesh. It's the problem that Paul bemoaned in Romans 7.
I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members (Romans 7:22-23).
That's right, a war. We aren't dueling with mechanisms. We're waging a war against Satan, the world, and, most intimately, our own flesh.
How is that accomplished? How can we win in this epic struggle? Well, of course, it would be wise to set aside those things that cause you to stumble. That is biblical. However, it would be foolish to think that the computer or the television or the refrigerator makes you sin. No, that would be missing the point entirely, wouldn't it? Eliminating the mechanism is not the complete answer. The fight that has to take place is in you. It is accomplished by God's power (Philippians 2:13). It is warfare. It is a process of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2), of taking every thought captive (2Cor 10:5). It is not simply removing the apparatus of sin; it is changing the origin of it.
As a kid, I used to play this silly game. "Don't look over there!" They always look. "Ha, ha! Made you look!" It is the same in life. "Don't think about that!" You won't be able to think about anything else. "Don't go there!" You can hardly go anywhere else. In driver's training they taught me, "Don't look at the cars parked along the side of the street. You will always go where you look." In the same way, we are commanded to be "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). The "good fight" is replacing our foolishness with wisdom, our crass desires for godly desires, our stark lust with love for Christ. It isn't simply that we will sin less in a vacuum. It is that there is something there that we need that is far better than the sin we're indulging. "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). That's where we need to be. The fight is not simply to remove the mechanisms of sin, but to replace the fleshly thoughts and desires with godly ones. It is to find our ultimate satisfaction in Christ. That's when we are sanctified. That's what our processes should be aimed at. That is the good fight.
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I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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