The adventure in Pastor Shaw’s book “The Heart of Addiction” continues with another “classtime” lesson. This time, we look temptation square in the eye and ask the question, “What if my want to doesn’t want to?” In other words, how do you deal with temptation when you really feel like giving in? Let’s see what class has to say about this topic. Open your Bibles and your books for another great lesson from God’s word.
1) Flee. Yes, it really is that simple sometimes. Yes, it often isn’t that simple most times; however, the first step in conquering addiction is getting as far away as you can from it! If you follow the VOH facebook and twitter posts, you will remember the article shared recently about “how far is too far” (if you missed it, you can check it out here). JP shares in this post that getting close to sin is fun, risky, thrilling; just like getting close to the edge of a skyscraper is fun, risky, and thrilling. The analogy continues, yes it is fun, etc, but it’s stupid! The closer you get to the edge, the more likely you are to fall off, even if you thought you never wanted to. With sin, why are we asking “how close can I get without technically sinning?” when we should be asking for help to get as far away as we can. Do you really want to get close to sin? 1 Timothy 6:11 reminds the New Testament materialists (and us!) to “flee from these things [i.e., love of money, riches, selfish gain, strife, controversies, etc] you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” The Bible never talks about “sneaking away from” temptation, or “taking it slowly.” Rather, the Bible says FLEE (see 1 Cortinthians 10:14 and 18). So, kick it into high gear and SPRINT away from that idol. On you mark, get set, GO!
2. take an accountabilty partner with you when you know you are weak. When the Bible commands us to flee, it’s not demanding that we isolate ourselves and never be around sinful people again. Rather, it reminds us how important immediate and radical action is in the life of a liberated slave. In addition to fleeing, the Bible advocates the “coming along side” aspect of fellowship and support of other believers. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon speaks of the benefit of having one or two others around you.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if on can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
The sustaining presence of a fellow believer can help you physically (keep you warm, as the verse says) and also fortify you spiritually (a cord of three strands is not easily broken).
3. don’t ever trust yourself. As the Proverb so aptly states, “Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18). It is no sooner that one says to himself “I’ve got this” than his foot begins to slip down the road of sin (or “relapse” if you prefer a lighter term).
4. realize the influence of physiological components. As humans, we are physical beings as well as spiritual. It is foolish to undermine or ignore the effects of our physical bodies on temptation. For example, when a person is tired or hungry, they often need to make a more intentional effort at being kind and loving, rather than cranky and wanting to serve themselves. In the same way, it is vital to know and understand which physiological states may serve as “danger zones” for us. If you know that going into a certain store at night is going to tempt you because you’re tired or relaxed, shop during the day! If you realize walking past that bar on your way home from church is troublesome, find an alternate route! CHANGE whatever physcial circumstances are within your control by being a good steward of your body (getting adequate rest, eating appropriately, planning your day/route).
5. claim the power of the Holy Spirit and walk by it. Galatians 5 is one of the most refreshing and motivating verses about the power of the Holy Spirit to help transform our lives. It says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not satisfy the desires of the flesh” (vs. 16). Praise God! With the help of the Holy Spirit, I don’t have to do what I want to do. I am not under compusion to gratify myself.
6) Simlarly, recall and rehearse the FACT that if you are a child of Christ, your sin nature has been defeated. Because of God’s example, you have the bluprint for living in obedience; because of His sacrifice, you have the ability to.
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7).
7. meditate on Scripture. Simple, but powerful. The concept is “put off/put on,” coming from Eph. 4:22-24:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
It’s not sufficient to simply “take away” habits from one’s life. Rather, to be truly transformed involves replacing old habits with new. Also, for those of us that have been tempted (aka all of us, including Jesus!) the battle often begins in the mind. It is when we turn over the thought of sinning that we are running toward it. Instead of running toward sin by dwelling on it in our minds, we need to run toward God by dwelling on His statutes. The Psalmist speaks rightly when he pens these words in Psalm 119:11:
“I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
One way to aid yourself in biblical thinking is to create a “Phil 4:8” list of noble, honorable, pure, lovely, good, trustworthy things to think on in times of need. This list could include attributes of God, ways God has been faithful to you in the past, specific verses that remind you of how trustworthy God is, a playlist of songs that remind you of God’s goodness, different peopel in your life who demonstrate God’s kindness to you, etc. That way, when you are tempted, you can quickly turn to and rehearse this list to practice putting off old ways of thinking and putting on new.
8. Don’t grow weary: Battling is a good thing! Satan is adept at breaking us down. He doesn’t just attack different areas (which would be more bearable). He, rather, attacks the same area over and over, hitting not an area of healthy skin, but striking a bruised and battered heart. This is why so many times in the Bible God encourages His followers to persevere, not giving up or growing weary (Ps. 31:24; Gal. 6:9; James 1:12; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Thess. 3:13; Heb. 12: 1-15; Heb. 10:23; and 1 Tim. 6:12 to name a few).
My first year attending the BCTC at Faith, I remember one speaker sharing with the audience that battling in our minds with right and wrong was a very encouraging thing! “WHAT?!” I almost shouted mid-presentation, standing up in my chair and demanding indignantly that he explain. “Are you kidding me?” I spoke under my breath. “How can that be encouraging? It seems to me that would be tiresome, tedious, and a sign of backsliding…” Or so I thought. The speaker went on to explain why he found it so encouraging. He said that when we begin to struggle daily, hourly, moment-by-moment inour minds; we have progressed. Why? Because we are not acting out behaviorally anymore. We have placed enough boundaries in our own lives (put off) that we have “graduated” in a sense to struggling underneath the surface, at a deeper level then simple behavior. Therefore, struggling in your mind is an enoucraging thing because it means you are really trying and allowing God to change the inner man, as well as the outer man.
All that to say, be strong, persevere, and don’t give up! Know you’re responsibility, and give God His. As the Bible tells us in Phil. 2:12-13,
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”