The devil isn’t dressed in red holding a pitchfork; he comes as everything we’ve always wanted. For some, the enticement is a woman, a well built person at the gym, or a six pack after a hard day at work. For others, its status, recognition, and ego. The enemy simply capitalizes on our weaknesses. The classic line from an old Wyatt Earp movie states it well, “You tell them I’m coming! And I’m bringing hell with me!” The same applies to us: when we make a decision to follow God’s principles, all hell breaks lose and is dead set against us. The only way to prevail is to follow the Scriptural course.
Thankfully, God reminds us, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).” The first step in the change process must be to drop our pride and justifying attitude – submit to God and obey His Word.
Again to the Western front…in times passed, with a white out blizzard coming, ranchers would often tie a long rope from the house to the barn to find their way. Should they attempt to make their way back without this lead, they could easily die from the freezing cold within feet of safety…wandering, without knowing, in the wrong direction.
Here are two key principles that will prevent spiritual wandering:
- RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE NOT TRAPPED; THERE IS HOPE. Sadly, we often allow ourselves to be trapped. The person addicted to pain meds often finds a way to acquire more. Those addicted to porn don’t take hard-core steps. Those addicted to alcohol head to Vegas. Those who supposedly can’t control rage won’t submit to anyone and humble themselves before others. Those dealing with fear and anxiety don’t want to stop watching the media that fuels it. This can also be said of those who can’t control jealousy. Paul says “flee it”, but they “fuel it” by their media and Facebook posts. Do you spend as much time in prayer as on Facebook?
Self-discipline engages God’s power. This step cannot be overlooked. “Bear it” means just that – to endure something that is unpleasant or difficult. God never promises an easy life, but He does provide the way of escape. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not discounting the deep emotional and psychological pain associated with bondage, but I do want to remind you that God makes provision for all of our needs. But we must close the door on temptation by taking responsibility and removing excuses – we are not “trapped” as believers; we chose to be trapped.
- DO NOT PLAN AHEAD TO SIN. The couple not yet married plans a night of wine and watching a good movie on the couch and wonders why they can’t stop having sex. The teenager plans to meet his dealer Friday after school and can’t seem to kick his habit. The recovering oxycontin addict schedules a doctor’s appointment for the following week to refuel his desire. The recovering alcoholic plans their next party, trip to Vegas, or excursion to the river, and wonders why they kick beat this addiction. The recovering porn addict plans to go on-line when he/she knows they will be the most vulnerable. And on and on it goes…we plan ahead to sin.
As you can see, the door of temptation swings both ways – we can enter or exit: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
Sexual Sin, for example, leads to death in a marriage: it steals love, communication vanishes, joy leaves, passions fades, and honesty is nowhere to be found. Its not “if” sin causes damage, but “when.” Don’t think about how to gratify sinful desires; don’t plan ahead to sin. The Bible says to flee, not feed sin, to crucify, not coddle it.
Romans 13:14 will be an enormous help on this point, “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
I truly believe that this is why many Christians are angry, depressed, and lash out – they are caught in sin. Even small addictions such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol (even in moderation), and tons of sugar open the door to further bondage. How you may ask? Giving into seemingly innocent addictions and cravings allows the flesh to dominate. Over time, our spiritual strength diminishes and we become weak and unable to say, “No.” The devil rarely pushes us off the building. He takes us down one small step at a time, one small compromise at a time, one small addiction at a time until we’re at the bottom.
Close the Door on sin…even the seemingly innocent doors before they are wide open. Too many of us simply want to talk about our problems rather than confront them. An African pastor was asked, “Why is there so much counseling in the American church but not in the African church?” He responded, “In America you counsel; in Africa we repent.” I hold the same opinion today.
The Bible is clear that “the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Ps. 68:6). Addiction/bondage is the result of rebellion that leads to a dry and barren life. But don’t give up…look up. God is on your side. Simply engage His power and strength by returning to Him and obeying the two principles above. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6).
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He recently released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God atwww.ShaneIdleman.com. Shane’s sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at www.WCFAV.org. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/confusedchurch.