Saturday, September 24, 2016

What Will It Take?

Don’t blame God when you are tempted!  God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t use evil to tempt others.  We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us.  Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.




            Many times we face adversity because of situations beyond our control.  But sometimes we face suffering not because of the circumstances which God brings in our lives, but because of our own unwise response to difficulty.  We compound our problems by blaming our troubles on others, and refusing to face-up to what God is trying to teach us.  It started in the Garden.  Adam said to God:  The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate. (Genesis 3:12).  He implies that he would have remained innocent if God had not put Eve in the garden with him. The blame-shifting in the Garden continues today. Our bruised hearts send us desperately looking for someone else to point to when we are confronted with our own trouble. There must be someone else—our spouse, sibling, parent, boss, co-worker, pastor, friend, or even God who is to blame. 

            We are sometimes so desperate to justify ourselves that we believe illogical and irrational things. You have likely heard these statements, and even said them yourselves (at least in your head): 
  • “I wouldn’t lose my temper if my co-workers were easier to get along with, or if my kids behaved better, or if my spouse were more considerate.” 
  • “I would be a patient person if I didn’t have so many things to do, and if the people around me weren’t so slow and incompetent!” 
  • “I would not worry about the future if my life were just a little more secure—if I had more money, and no health problems.”
  • “My spiritual life would be so much more better and I would struggle with sin less if the music in the worship service was more lively, or if the pastor did a better job.”
  •  “I would submit to my parents if they were not so out of touch.”  Or, “I would follow if we just had some decent leadership.”
  • “It’s not my fault that the people around me don’t know what they’re doing!”
  • “If you knew what I’ve been through, you would know that I could never forgive that person [or God].”
  • “It’s the people around me who start the conversations. There’s no way to avoid hearing what others happen to say. And when others ask me questions, I can’t avoid sharing what I know.” 
  • “I’ll never be happy as long as so-and-so is in my life.”
  • “I would be more generous if God gave me more money.”
The Holy Spirit has been bringing to me one question over and over this week:  What will it take?  We need to fill in the blanks of that question: 
What will it take for our churches to stop making excuses? 
What will it take to quit blame-shifting on others? 
What will it take to trust God and step out in faith and share Christ with our neighbors?
What will it take to stop worrying about what other people think and start doing what God thinks? 
What will it take to look at faith as a dynamic relationship with Jesus instead of just a static thing you possess? 
What will it take to read our Bibles as if our lives depended on it? 
What will it take for church members to serve instead of sit? 
What will it take to reach our communities with love for Christ? 
What will it take to grow in Christ?  What will it take? 
If you are in a circumstance you don’t like, what should you do about it?  What will it take to face down the difficult stuff you don’t like in your life?

Don’t blame God.

            God cannot be tempted.  God hates sin and disobedience; it does not appeal to him in the least.  It is a moral impossibility for God to even consider attempting to do evil because he is perfectly holy.  Since God cannot be tempted by evil, he therefore cannot tempt people toward evil.

            We practice blame-shifting because it is a cheap, easy, and pathetic way of absolving ourselves from responsibility for our own unwise choices, words, and actions.  There are only two ways of living with guilt:  either we humble ourselves through confession and repentance; or, we blame the sin on someone else.

            God does test us to improve our character and to bring us toward greater spiritual maturity, but he does not force us to make bad, immoral, or evil choices because of hard circumstances.  God may have very well brought the trial and testing into our lives; but how we respond to it is up to us.

The source of temptation is us.

            The real culprit behind temptation is one’s own personal desire.  It is our own strong intense have-to-do-it, have-to-say-it, and have-to-have-it desires which are at the root of temptation.  We all have legitimate needs and desires for love, security, companionship, and to make a difference in the world.  But we can often seek illegitimate means to satisfy those needs.  We are “enticed” to meet our needs through temptation toward sin.  Temptation lures us to satisfy our legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. 

            Temptation comes in many forms, but it always gives us amnesia about who we really are, and pushes out any thought of consequences.  It just looks like such a good way to deal with my anger, my anxiety, my impatience, my spiritual apathy, my bitterness, and my lack of spiritual growth.  Ah, blame-shifting feels so good; it gets the guilt-monkey off my back – at least for a time.  But like a bad addiction, blame-shifting has to occur in a bigger dose after a shorter duration of time.  Before you know it we are hooked.  The temptation has enticed us and we have taken the bait.  Like a fish-eyed follower of evil we succumb to the lust for ambition, revenge, sex, power, fame, and money.

The result of giving-in to temptation is ultimately death.

            Temptation, like a smooth operator, comes along and gives us a slick pitch about how our troubles can be taken care of through blaming others, even God.  And, all of sudden, like a hungry fish looking to be satisfied, we take the bait and go to bed with the idea.  We give in to sin.  Now it is within us.  Like a fetus, the small sin grows and grows inside us.  Eventually, this pregnancy must end.  But instead of giving birth to life, there is the agony of death.


            Every single one of us struggles in some way with some sort of temptation.  We do not all wrestle with the same demons, but we all are tempted in some manner.  The cycle of guilt and separation from God can only be broken through humility and submission to Jesus Christ.  The glory of the gospel is that it breaks the power of sin.

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