As a teen, avoiding sin seemed a simple enough proposition. You figured you could protect yourself from most risky business by avoiding bars, bad company, and back seats.
No problem. Not your scene anyway.
When you grew up, you discovered something distressing about sin. (Cue voiceover for a horror film trailer “you think you can escape it by locking the door but turn around – it’s already gotten in!”) In other words, some sins are external and can be avoided by avoiding their location, but there are other sins that are insidiously home grown.
For example, you don’t need to cruise the Internet to see pornography because your imagination can create movies that flicker on your frontal lobe. You can commit adultery in broad daylight without batting an eyelash thanks to the Kodachrome world inside your head.
You don’t need a gun to destroy people who bother you. You simply let anger harden your heart and cut them out of your life. To you, they no longer exist. Without the messy accessory of a physical weapon, you can become a social and emotional serial killer.
Without leaving your living room, you can refuse to acknowledge what is good in your life and think only on what you don’t have. You can indulge in self-pity and envy until a darkness settles over your spirit. You can have a lasting detrimental impact on your family with a simple change of demeanor, temperament, mood, or countenance all without stirring from your favorite chair.
If you let an infection of pride go untreated, you can develop a protective coating of self-deception that makes you 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 your back porch or even leaving your pew.
So, the strategies you were 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,” suddenly prove impotent at the combination brothel/casino/gangland/personal-kingdom-devoted-to-self that you’ve discovered lurked inside you.
Or are they?
Avoid temptation. Can this help us 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 you focus your attention is a useful strategy for internal sin 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 advice help us with matters of the heart and mind? We can’t avoid ourselves!
But, you know there are low rent districts in all our minds, emotional back alleys, and soul tracks to cross. 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.” Even in sin’s mental game, there are places we should declare off limits. Erect stop signs in your mind, loved ones. No trespassing zones. Train yourself not to go there.
Make wise choices in friends. You’re way ahead of me on this one. You know what to do. 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 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. Instead, 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.
Souls are like refrigerators. Open the door and the light shines. Read the Psalms. David was an open book before God and it served him well. Live in the light, loved ones!
If you’re anything like me, you’re one of those Christians that really needs Jesus, especially once you’ve discovered sin isn’t all something that happens “out there.”
Fortunately, He loves us even when we invite Him in to our internal Rocky Horror picture show. Better yet, He’s never shocked or afraid – He just turns on the light.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) April 20, 2017