The Crime Blotter of My Internal Soul

There was a time for me when avoiding sin seemed a fairly simple prospect. When I was young, I thought I could protect myself from most sin by avoiding bars, bad company and back seats. No problem. Not my scene anyway.

Then I grew up and discovered something about sin. Like the voiceover for the trailer of a horror film “you think you can escape it by locking the door but turn around – it’s already gotten in!” There is a measure of sinful behavior that is external and public and can be dealt with by avoiding the situation of temptation but then there is sin that’s insidiously home grown.

For example, I don’t need to cruise the Internet to see pornography because my imagination can create movies that flicker on my frontal lobe. I can commit adultery in broad daylight without batting an eyelash thanks to the Kodachrome world inside my head.

I don’t need to buy a gun to destroy people who bother me. I simply let anger harden my heart and cut them out of my life. To me, they no longer exist. Without the messy accessory of a physical weapon, I can become a social and emotional serial killer.

Without moving from my chair, I can refuse to acknowledge what is good in my life and think only on what I do not have. I can indulge in self-pity and envy until a darkness settles over my spirit. I can have a lasting detrimental impact on my family with a simple change of demeanor, temperament, mood, or countenance all without stirring from my favorite chair.

If I let an infection of pride go untreated, I can develop a protective coating of self-deception that makes me blind to the virtues of others, deaf to the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit and paralyzed when it comes to serving others. And all of this damaging sin can occur without taking a step off my back porch or leaving my pew.

So, the strategies I’d been taught as a child for avoiding sin – “stay away from temptation, don’t be there, don’t go to that place, make wise choices in friends, remain in well-lit areas and don’t stay out late after dark”. All these words of wisdom offered by older Christians meant to ward off sinful behavior – while quite effective on a whole set of nasty transgressions – suddenly proved quite impotent at the combination brothel/casino/gangland/personal-kingdom-devoted-to-me that I discovered lurked inside me.

Or were they?

Avoid temptation. Can this help me with internal sin concerns? Well, Matthew 6:22-23 says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” So, choosing carefully where I focus my attention is a useful strategy in this warfare. The writer of Hebrews encourages us “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” It’s harder for sin to take hold when our eyes are set on Jesus, easier when our eyes are focused on wrong goals or ideas.

Don’t be there. How can this help me with matters of the heart and mind? I can’t avoid myself! But, I remember a recent interview with a woman whose husband was nearing death. The reporter asked her how she handled her emotions when she watched her husband play with their children and thought perhaps it could be the last time. The wife replied “I don’t go there. I’ve learned when those thoughts crop up to say out loud ‘Not helpful’ and I don’t allow myself to wander into those rooms in my mind.” Yeah, that’s great stuff. Philippians 4:8 puts it this way, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Don’t go there.

Make wise choices in friends. This works on many levels. Don’t entertain sinful thinking. Don’t make friends with flirtation and fleeting infatuation because soon they’ll introduce you to their pals lust and adultery. Don’t have dinner with discontent because soon his gangland cousin, envy will be parking his RV in your driveway. Don’t tolerate irritation and aggravation because soon they’ll mate and give birth to their evil triplets: anger, malice and rage. Avoid rubbing shoulders with self-pity because soon his slobbering pet sloth will jump up on your lap and trap you for days. Make friends with the Holy Spirit and He will introduce you to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Remain in well-lit areas and don’t stay out late after dark. This is the best counsel of all. Shine the light of the Son of God on all the dark areas of your heart and mind. Confess – own up – come clean – admit – be honest about your thoughts and feelings to Jesus. Read the Psalms. David was an open book before God. Read the word of God, study it, meditate on it, memorize it – let it be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path! Receive the counsel of mature believers and enlist their help in keeping you accountable not just for your outward sins but for those that no one sees. Let the Son shine, baby!

If it appears I know this subject well, I do. I’m a sinner from way back. It’s an ongoing battle. I’m one of those Christians that really needs Jesus. Fortunately, He loves me even when I invite Him in to the horror show and He’s never shocked or afraid – He just turns on the light.


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4 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Living Water says:

    How difficult it is these days to avoid seeing what we aren’t meant to see, especially with the Internet, the ads and the glamorization of sinful lifestyles. Avoidance is certainly a good way to escape from temptation, but it’s not enough.

    I agree with you about the need to choose carefully where we focus our attention to use it as a useful strategy in this warfare. We certainly ought to fix our eyes upon Jesus. Remaining in well-lit areas is a good counsel. For me, it means not in the literal sense of the word, but the staying clean to be focused on God and getting involved in ‘well-lit’ activities, such as studying the Bible, reading His Word regularly, exploring and researching more about the Christian faith, participating in church and/or Christian communities (including those online), writing for God, among many other things we can do for God. All these, I have found, to be good ways for moving our focus from the world of temptation to help redirect our minds to focus more on God.

    Much like you, I am till this day still fighting an ongoing battle. I am not a perfect Christian and I am in need of Jesus and His Spirit to help me fight this battle. I hope to shine His light and I am working at it to closer to God each day.

    Thank you so much for sharing these truths. It’s so clear what we must do, and we certainly cannot do it alone. We need God to help us walk this path on earth hand-in-hand in order to flee from evil (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22) and the temptations in this world.

  2. Ed, we are living in a visually explicit world so we’d have to be blind not to physically see things that stir us to temptation. That’s not the answer. But I believe if the focus of our hearts, (the disciplined focus that comes from spending time with Him and going deeper day after day) if the focus of our hearts is Jesus, this is the best defense against having those visual temptations take over our thinking and become movie marathons.

    As long as we live, sin will be a wrestling issue for all of us. We need to be transparent with one another about it (as much as we are able) and find authentic ways to “spur one another on to love and good deeds”. Fight the good fight, brother.

  3. Yet another on-the-nose incredibly honest fantastic post from you. I’ll be tweeting this one, too!

  4. Cheri says:

    Lori,

    Just finished Ch. 13 and I’m taking a short break before starting on 14. Using my break time to catch up on your latest posts.

    I want you to know that you are an incredibly gifted expositor for God. I do not say this to puff you up with pride or tempt you to entertain sinful thoughts, but to encourage you to never listen to the enemy of your soul, who will try to silence your voice, the voice of truth and hope.

    God bless you, my friend. This was an incredible post! I see your blog like a Bible study!

    Cheri