Avoiding the Darkness

“‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’”

                “‘This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

                “‘For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’” Matthew 6:6-15, Luke 11:2-4 (Lord’s Prayer)

                Let’s hone in on a specific segment of these verses. That little bit about temptation. First, know that temptation is not from God, but people’s own sin leads them astray (James 1:13-14). God can test our faith (Psalm 7:9, 1 Thessalonians 2:4). He does this to make us more like his Son meaning he’s maturing us. It is not out of wicked intentions that our Lord puts stumbling blocks in our way. Tragedy and suffering reveals what is truly in our hearts. That’s something to be concerned about.

                “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

                There are plenty of New Testament verses that explain why God allows us to be tested. In fact, the opening of Job gives us a good look. God calls Satan forward. With permission, Satan goes to test Job by taking one invaluable thing after another. This seems like a domineering and cruel God, yes? Well, you can argue that statement, but the Bible says over and over that our Lord God has no sin in him at all (1 John 1:5). He does not know sin personally.

                If you demand to know why God tested Job then go ahead and flip to the last pages of Job. You will find your answer there. In response to God’s long speech Job replies, “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:1-6)

                One of the critical take-aways from this book of scripture is that God’s plans are beyond our understanding. He does things not out of wickedness, but they are a part of some greater schedule that we can never know. God’s a nice guy and all, but we cannot fully understand him. He is the Father and we are his children. Aren’t children naïve? Don’t they know less than their parents?

                Such is the case with us.              

                So it has been established through scripture that men’s wickedness comes from their hearts. This is what leads to sin. We are too weak to resist. Christ can strengthen us to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13, Mark 14:38), but because we are sinners we cannot always restrain ourselves. That’s not an excuse for sin. It’s just the reality of the situation here on earth and it’s kind of sucked since the beginning. Hence Jesus and flash forward to a much better reality where we always have forgiveness. Because of Christ our sins are not counted against us (Hebrews 8:12, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). God does not even see Christians as sinful.

                “No one who lives in him (Jesus) keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” 1 John 3:6

                I needed to get those thoughts cleared away before getting to the heart of my message here. I’ve been wondering about avoidance of temptation. For example, doesn’t it seem wise for a person to avoid a strip club if she knows it will likely lead her to lust? Now, I usually use the female pronoun when referring to a single person whose sex is not relevant. In this case it was deliberate because it’s stupid to think a man can go to a strip club and be filled with lust, but that the same thing is not true of a woman. Whether men are looking at women, women looking at men, men looking at men or women looking at women…lust can happen and it’s a sin.

                Just wanted to point that out because for some reason a stereotype demands that women are not as sexually “interested” as men. Like women are not as lustful as men. That’s not true by a long shot. The temptation of lust is just as prevalent and difficult for women I assure you. Don’t even talk to me about Benedict Cumberbatch. I will start sweating.

                Well…yeah, anyway that’s not germane.

                Still.

                Some more examples will help with what I’m trying to convey. Shouldn’t a man avoid the bar if he’s got a weakness for alcoholism? Shouldn’t a woman avoiding dating if she tends to worship her partner (idolatry)? What about avoiding certain unbelieving friends who influence you? Suddenly you’re cursing, gossiping and saying things you ought not to say. And you feel like a liar because you’re a Christian and here you’re trying to win the favor of unbelievers by acting like they do.  

                Here’s the kicker: sin is not preventable all the time! We have weaknesses and we need Christ to be strong for us (2 Corinthians 12:10). Confessing sin and praying to God about our weaknesses is essential. Doesn’t it seem like you’d eventually end up in the fetal position in your basement if you tried to avoid temptation all the time? Because if you think about it this kind of thing snowballs.

                Can a fish avoid water? That’s a good way of putting it.

                There are situations we should avoid if possible, but God does help us. He doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. The point is this…the Bible is full of guidance and commands for believers. Some of the commands became obsolete because of Christ (like sacrificing animals, wearing certain kinds of fabrics, etc.). Jesus Christ our Savior makes us right with God. That’s it. We are sinners, but Jesus is our identity. We are forgiven. We are free.

                Just pray to God, have fellowship, love Jesus and people and read your Bibles. We have our commands laid out for us, yes, and those should not be neglected. But think of all the great opportunities you’d miss if you tried to avoid temptation all the time!

                Oh, I guess I shouldn’t travel because I’ll worry and worrying is a sin. Oh, I guess I can’t date this woman because I might lust for her and lust is a sin. Oh, I guess I can’t build up a successful company because I might become greedy and greed is a sin. Oh, I guess I shouldn’t talk about Jesus because if someone rejects me I might get angry and anger is a sin. Oh, I guess I can’t be a missionary because I’ll fail to show Christ in my lifestyle and this is sinful.

                Nonsense.

                God has forgiven us. He’s not pleased with our actions, but with those of his Son. Jesus was strong for us. He defeated Satan for us. “Oh death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This doesn’t mean we should neglect the Bible’s commands. I’m just trying to tell you that keeping the commands doesn’t save you. It doesn’t earn you God’s love. Jesus reunites us with God. He is God’s love and you can accept him.

                We are sinners. We have a savior. We have inconceivable, magnificent futures waiting for us. Let’s go and seek our infinite potential.

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