Nobody likes a Fraud!
I live in world where integrity is large. At least the religious community holds it up, talks about it and points it out when behavior mocks it. There are seasons in my life when integrity was never in question. Yet temptation is real and has a powerful influence on my psychic. Temptation haunts me. The fact that I find myself battling temptation frustrates me. I am not talking about acting on the temptation, I’m talking about the fact that my mind and heart will entertain the option of sinning frustrates me. Recently I was sharing my frustration with a friend. “You are human,” was the response.
“I know.” But the fact that I know I am tempted does not seem to lessen my frustration. I have a knowledge-based understanding of this fact. I am keenly aware that I am 100% man. I have made a commitment to Christ to overcome temptation by saying, “NO!” to sin. With His power, as a guarantee He has made to me that I have the power to say “NO!” No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV
There are certain areas of life I seem to be more susceptible to reoccurring temptations. At least I am aware of some areas in my life. Likely I am susceptible in a lot of areas but I may be too dense to be aware of it or I might just disagree with the Spirit and give myself permission to live in the mire of entertaining certain temptations. I tend to be a creature of habit so certain temptations are featured on the big screen of my mind. I wish that I could say “No” once and then it would go away FOREVER. I must like reruns or watching the same show over and over again because when my mind gets turned on the same temptations are in Technicolor and the volume seems to be cranked up to eardrum shattering levels.
In Paul’s writing to the struggling believers at Corinth, there is one phrase that plagues me. No temptation has overtaken you … The two key words, overtaken you, is distinctly personal. That is exactly how I feel. I have confessed to the church family my soul and mind are the battleground of my daily existence at Christmas time. This week has been another season of which the thoughts of opportunities to be impatient, short, curt and rude. When I get this way, I tend to be judgmental and testy. I can be condescending and critical. Most of the time the Spirit stops me short of expressing myself aloud but the fact that I have such thoughts bouncing around in my head frustrates me. So at what point have I yielding to temptation or have won the battle? Some have advised me to pray but when I pray about things I want to stop thinking about, it kind of keeps me thinking about them while I am praying and serves as a reminder to think about what I don’t want to think about. So I simply cry out, “God help me!”
It seems the best piece of advice I have found if I want to overcome that which seems to have overcome me in this world of temptation is in another of Paul’s letters to some guys in Philippi, Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:8 ERV, 7 NIV
Listening to people who wrestle with understanding the scope of God and His activity in us and around us, I often want to say, “Don’t put God in a box.”
Defensively they respond, “Oh, I’m not.” But telling someone what God can or cannot or would not do places limitations on a God who has none. The journey to investigating God and His ways has no limits. In other words, we keep learning more and more about God as we progress in our understandings and experiences with Him. It is like the Christmas gift that comes in a big box. You open it and you see there is yet another wrapped box and then another and then another. God is so big He will never fit in a box. There will always be another aspect of God to unwrap or to realize.
It reminds me of dialogue in Shrek, the movie.
Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Donkey: Oh, you leave ‘em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody likes onions.
Some people see God as an ogre. I researched the definition: a monster in fairy tales, usually represented as a hideous giant who feeds on human flesh.
Most people want a God they can clearly define, understand and explain. To me, this is pure foolishness. I have to have a God that is much larger than my mind and yet revealing enough for me to relate to daily.
My mind has limitations. I generally can only dwell upon one aspect of God and His ways at a time. Like it or not, God is just so He judges. He tells us not to be judgmental. He warns of hanging out with people who are unbecoming in character. He orders us to reach out and share love, His love with people with unbecoming character. This illustrates the complexity of God’s nature. He orders me to be a good steward of the things of this world and cautions me to understand that I am not of the world. It’s complicated! If it was not so complicated I would be left to “my understandings” and considering the limitations regarding my understanding, I would not have much to look forward to tomorrow. Gloriously, the rest of today and certainly tomorrow, I have plenty to look forward to because tomorrow I have another box to open with God about God. Fortunately, God has layers to keep us focused for the rest of our lives!