The woman was large, blocking the aisle of the store. “Excuse me,” I said as I tried to make my way past her. I could not help but notice the contents of her shopping cart – chips, soda, packaged cakes, and the like. I’ll confess to wondering if she realized that she was slowly killing herself? Before you condemn me for judging her or being a hypocrite, I hasten to confess that I carry around about 25 pounds of excess weight, too. I do not always make great nutritional choices.
But, I also saw a couple of life lessons in that shopping cart. First, small choices really do matter. Second, self-discipline is hard!
Ever wanted something so badly that it hurt?
Ever wrestled with some desire, some appetite, some sin when Self had a tantrum like a toddler? There is a part of us that is strong which says, “I want what I want NOW!” Even when we know a choice is deadly, the tug of desire can be so strong that we will dismiss reason to get what we think we want so badly. Addiction is not just to cocaine, alcohol, or nicotine, is it? We can be addicted to money, food, sex, pleasure … a very long list, indeed.
So how does a Christian deal with temptation like that?
Peter offers us practical, inspired insight. “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:13-23, NIV)
First, we must be thinking people. God equips us with a brain and expects us to use it! “Prepare your minds for action,” the text says. The King James version brings Peter’s metaphor into the text when it translates his words directly: “Gird up the loins of your mind.” A man preparing for labor or battle reached down and gathered his robe up, tucking it into his belt so he could move without being hindered. So, we gather our thoughts, evaluate them in the light of the Word, and eliminate those that would keep us from the pursuit of the best, the highest, in life.
Second, we keep in mind that God is the ultimate Judge. There is both comfort and correction there. He is never fooled by our excuses and He never jumps to a mistaken conclusion. He knows us, inside and out, right down to our motives and inner attitudes. “God sees my heart,” is a great phrase to remember. When misjudged we can rest without being defensive because He knows the truth. When we are scheming to have our own way, we remind Self – “He sees!”
Third, we hold onto the grace and redemption of the Cross! Without this part of the equation, dealing with temptation is impossible. All we have is guilt, shame, and regret because in spite of our best intentions we are tripped up by a sinful nature. But, then we go to the Cross and the blood of Christ is our covering and our cleansing. The grace gift of God’s love makes it possible for us to enter God’s Throne room confidently, even when we are filthy with sin, because we come with the Son’s invitation. And, there, before God, we find forgiveness as well as strength to turn our back on the clamor of Self for satisfaction. The Spirit enters our lives and we are born anew, children of the Heavenly Father.
And, lastly, we obey the Truth. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth is much lauded but largely ignored. We learn early in our lives to see what we want to see, to ignore those things that make us uncomfortable, that challenge us to change. However, when we receive Christ Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit begins to transform us – mind and spirit – clearing our vision, making us people with understanding. Yet, we must remain committed to Truth. We live confessionally, the word in John’s letter, coming from a Greek word in the text that literally means “to say the same thing.” Yes, we agree with God, saying what He says, not what we want to say or think. And, we are freed to live a holy, beautiful, mature Christian life, that honors the One who saved us.
Do you want 2016 to be different? Are you looking to become mature, mastering impulses, gaining the strength to say “no” to the clamoring voice of Self?
Come to Jesus! Here is a word from the Word. May it inspire us to great devotion and holy lives. “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles (those ignorant about nature of the Living God) do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:17-24, NLT)
Spirit Of God Descend Upon My Heart (Morecambe)
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart.
Wean it from earth; thro’ all its pulses move!
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Hast Thou not bid us love Thee, God and King,
All Thine own- soul, heart, and strength and mind?
I see Thy cross, there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek Thee and O let me find.
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh.
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh.
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame!
The baptism of the heav’n descended Dove,
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame!
Frederick Cook Atkinson | George Croly
© Words: Public Domain