January 15, 2019
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
O.K., Pinterest Nation, no pin-throwing. This post is not against pinning but an effort to help us understand the nature of sinning. How does sin work? According to James the progression looks something like this:
We need look no further than the original sin to see the pattern at work.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [ENTICEMENT], and that it was a delight to the eyes [DESIRE], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [CONCEPTION], she took of its fruit and ate [SIN], and she also gave some to her husband who was with her [GROWTH], and he ate [DEATH]. Genesis 3:6.
Now, the big problem we have with sin and the reason we so ineffectively deal with it is because we don’t seriously engage the problem until it reaches the stage of behavior. We mistakenly think of sin as external behavior when in reality it is an internal disposition.
Didn’t Jesus say as much in the Sermon on the Mount concerning adultery and murder? He identified the internal dispositions of lust and anger as the genesis of the problem.
So what if instead of the futility of trying to manage our behavior we developed a strategy of discipling our desires. Until desire comes under the discipline of the Word of God and the Spirit of God it is inherently untrustworthy and predisposed to evil. As my friend and mentor, Timothy Tennent, is fond of saying, “Sin must cease to be our secret lover and be clearly identified as our mortal enemy.”
Our discipleship must get beneath our legalistic, shame-based orientation with sin as behavior. We must become discerning and unflinchingly honest about our dispositions. What are our particular proclivities toward sin? Where are we most subject to being enticed? Rather than betting the farm on a legalistic “don’t look” approach, we must learn the way of delighting ourselves in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 comes to mind: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Back to Pinterest. Pinning is an exercise in delighting. As I said, it’s not a bad thing, until it is. For me, it’s a pretty short journey from pinning to “Buy Now with One Click” on Amazon. Seriously, instead of knocking the practice of pinning, what if we learned to “pin” all the ways and means and reasons for which we might delight ourselves in the Lord?
Hoping we are going to overcome sin, especially those besetting sins that plague us, will never get it done. Hope, as has been famously said, is not a strategy. Sin creates the most sophisticated strategies known to the human race. Left to our own devices, we don’t stand a chance. Grace offers a superior strategy with the capacity to utterly destroy sin in our lives. So why do we keep getting “dragged away” as today’s text so graphically puts it? I’ve got a theory on that.
We aren’t losing the battle to sin for lack of going to church and bible study and prayer and even fasting. We are losing because we are trying to go at it alone. We are losing because we haven’t trusted another human being with the vulnerable knowledge of our own broken dispositions, sinful proclivities and otherwise untrained desires. Sin wins in isolation. It doesn’t stand a chance against the humble and holy work of brothers and sisters watching over one another in love.
God our Father, I am so easily distracted and dragged away. Soften my heart to become aware at the first knock of sin and give me the grace not to walk away but to run. Attune me to my sin proclivities and propensities and help me find others who can help me to defeat these ways that so distract and defeat me. In Jesus name, Amen.
1. We all sin differently. Have you discovered the deeper dispositions underlying your particular proclivities to sin? How would you describe them?
2. Instead of legalistic declarations and self shaming, what might “delighting yourself in the Lord” look like as a strategy for the discipleship of desire.
3. Does sin or do certain sins remain for you a type of affair with a secret lover? Are you ready to declare war on sin; decrying it as the mortal enemy of your soul?
4. Have you ever trusted another human being with your own dispositional proclivities toward particular sins? Don’t feel bad if you have not. Very few actually have. Are you ready to consider this possibility?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.