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Friday, June 28, 2013

4 Chances to Win the Struggle with Sin

Proverbs 7 (This is the New Living Translation adapted by Dave Zirilli to make it read more like a story.)
7 I saw some naive young men,
    and one in particular who lacked common sense.
He was crossing the street near the house of a sinful woman,
    strolling down the path by her house.
It was at twilight, in the evening,
    as deep darkness fell.
10 The sinful woman approached him,
    seductively dressed, she had evil plans in her heart.
11 (She was the brash, rebellious type,
    never content to stay at home and do what is right.
12 She is there often, in the streets and markets,
    selling evil at every corner.)
13 She came up to the man, threw her arms around him and kissed him,
    and with a brazen look she said,
14 “I’ve just gone to church, given my offerings
    and fulfilled my vows to God.
15 You’re the one I was looking for!
    I came out to find you, and here you are!
16 Come see my bed! It is spread with beautiful blankets,
    with colored sheets of Egyptian linen.
17 I’ve perfumed my bed
    with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning.
    Let’s enjoy each other’s caresses,
19 for my husband is not home.
    He’s away on a loooooooong trip.
20 He has taken a wallet full of money with him
    and won’t return until later this month.”
21 So she seduced him with her pretty speech
    and tricked him with her flattery.
22 He followed her at once,
    like an ox going to the slaughter.
He was like an animal caught in a trap,
23     awaiting the hunter that would come to kill him.
He was like unaware of the danger, like a bird flying into a snare,
    little knowing it would cost him his life.
24 So listen to me, my sons,
    and pay attention to my words.
25 Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.
    Don’t wander down her wayward path.
26 For she has been the ruin of many;
    many men have been her victims.
27 Her house is the road to the grave.
    Her bedroom is the den of death.

Think about the progression.
1 -  First, this naive young man with no common sense is wandering around at night.

Remember HALT! Halt means STOP! It is also an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. I will add Bored. When we feel these ways, we are most vulnerable to giving in to temptation.

Our FIRST chance to Win the Struggle with Sin: When we feel HALT, we should HALT! STOP! Go home and get refreshed. If we are hungry, eat; angry, process our anger; lonely, call or meet with someone who is an encouraging friend, family member or mentor; tired, rest; or bored, find something constructive and positive to do like helping someone in need.

2 - Then, he sees her and the way she is dressed and he lusts. Lust means to want something that you don’t have, and usually something that is bad for you. You don’t lust after a meal, you hunger for it. You may lust after dessert or after a person that you are not married to or after a fancy car or new video game. You can lust after someone’s power or fame. Usually, lust is selfish. It is wanting what I want and not caring about other people.

We do that, don’t we. We think about what we want, what we wish we had. We play it over and over in our minds and hearts. And our desire grows and grows. Then, we begin to think we need it, deserve it, can’t live without it.

Our SECOND chance to Win the Struggle with Sin: What happens in our minds and hearts is so important. That is why reading the Bible and praying is so helpful. When we read the Bible and talk to God in prayer, our desires get reoriented. God says that He will give us the desires of our hearts.

Proverbs 37:4 - Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Not only will God give us what we desire when you delight in the Lord, but He will also give us new desires, desires that are in line with what the Lord wants for us.

3 - Then, she speaks and invites him to take hold of what he was lusting after. This is key. The temptation comes from the outside, we can’t always control what temptations we face.

(Though many times we can! Avoid Las Vegas, avoid the internet, avoid commercials, avoid bars or nightclubs, avoid certain “friends”, etc. When we know where temptation will be, we can often avoid it.)

But, when we do have to face a temptation that is totally out of context from our thoughts, it is easier to stand strong in the face of that temptation. It stands out as an obvious temptation. It looks and feels like temptation.

If you never worry about money or think about getting rich, seeing someone's wallet on the ground or being given a chance to rob a bank are not really all that tempting. Stealing is wrong and we know it is wrong. So, we can more easily resist.

But, if we have been thinking about it, longing for it, wishing for it, then it presents itself…. "WOW! It really is possible." "I didn’t think I would ever get this chance. What luck!"

We might even think, “God must want me to have this! He gave me this opportunity!"

I have heard this from several Christian married people who were having affairs. They seem so convinced in their mind that God has brought this other person into their lives to rescue them from an unhappy marriage. From the outside it seems obvious that they are deceived or deceiving themselves, but to them nothing could change their minds. They cannot fathom turning away from God, so they bring God into their sin.

Notice in the Proverb, verse 14, the temptress even includes God in her seduction. She has presented her offerings at the temple and fulfilled her vows to God. 

We may think, "So she is right with God. She believes in God, too. She is faithful like me. God must have brought her into my life to help me."

Our THIRD chance to Win the Struggle with Sin: Reject this lie that we all have to face in one way or another: Sin will NOT satisfy our desires or bring us fulfillment.

God will never ask us to sin in order to follow Him.

4 – Then, he sins. We all sin. It happens. We feel guilty. We feel ashamed. We feel sneaky. We hope we can get away with it. And, maybe we begin to feel like we are defined by our sin. Like we are our sin. That we will always be sinful. We can’t control it. It controls us.

That is the battle.
That is the battle that Paul describes in Romans 7:13-25.
It is sin living in me, my sinful nature.
battling against my will, my desire to obey the Spirit of God.

We are fundamentally flawed. Foundationally, we are sinful. We cannot escape our sinfulness. Everything we touch is tainted with it.

It is like when we are soaking wet. Everything we touch gets wet; wherever we sit, we leave a mark; everyone we hug, gets wet.

Our FOURTH chance to Win the Struggle with Sin: Don't get stuck in the cycle of sin. (Sin - Guilt - Shame - Identify with Sin - REPEAT) Break the cycle with confession, repentance, and discipline.

We are not defined by our sins. We are defined by our relationship to Christ. The Holy Spirit is the sign given to remind us that we are God's children. He is the promise that one day we will be fully His.

We also have the Holy Spirit in us. Everything we touch, as Christians, is also touched by the Holy Spirit in us. Just like sin, the Holy Spirit infiltrates every conversation, every relationship, every thought and feeling. We cannot escape the influence of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives. We can try to ignore it. We can pretend it doesn't exist. But, there He is. Always with us. (Psalm 139:7-12)

The Battle of the Christian is Different:

The battle we face is much different than the battle of someone who doesn’t know Christ.

Romans 5:10 describes us as being enemies of God before we received salvation. The struggle we were in then, pitted our own will against God Himself. God desired what was best for us and yet we resisted Him at every turn.

But, as Christians, with the Holy Spirit living in us, the struggle has not stopped. We still struggle. Everyday, we make choices and form habits which guide and shape our lives. But, now our will is to do the will of God. Our deepest desire is to please God, to serve and obey Him.

But, there is a new enemy. Our enemy is sin. Sin through the law tries to bind us, to kill us, and to make us powerless.

That is the message of Romans 5-7.

We are dead to sin, so why would live in it any longer. Don't sin. Don't give any victory to sin. We have already been declared victorious over sin. Death is sin's greatest weapon and death has lost its sting. Christ has victory over death. So in Christ, we have victory over death and sin.

The tools that Proverbs offers to us in our battle with sin are the Bible (Proverbs 7:1-3), discipline (Proverbs 5:23) and wisdom (Proverbs 8).

We have the promise of ultimate victory in death. And, we have the tools to have daily victory through faithfully reading the Bible, developing healthy habits, and seeking after wisdom.

Use these 4 Chances to Win the Struggle with Sin.
1 - Know yourself and when you are vulnerable. HALT! before you are even tempted.
2 - Read the Bible and pray in order to allow God to change the desires of your heart.
3 - When faced with a temptation, reject the lie that sin will satisfy our desires and bring us fulfillment.
4 - After we sin, don't get caught in the cycle of sin. Repent and receive forgiveness.

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