Monday, October 14, 2013

Make No Provision for the Flesh

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." - Romans 13:14

Do you sometimes wonder why your struggle with sin is so strong? Are you at a loss as to where your temptations are coming from? Does the fight just seem to hit you when you're weakest?

The solution to our sin is always the gospel, because no matter how many strategies we learn we are never strong enough to fight on our own. But in Christ we are new creations, and by the Holy Spirit we can fight our sin with the MANY strategies He has given us! One insight that could help turn the tide for you is beginning to see where you are making provision for sin. Sin doesn't just "happen" with no context. For our repeated struggles there is a complex structure of causes: a supply-chain. So the question becomes: Where is your supply chain? And how can you rain down destruction and interrupt that system?

We are not ignorant of Satan's schemes (2 Cor 2:11), so we can aptly prepare for those dangerous killzones. WHEN will you be tempted? Prepare yourself for those times, maybe text some friends for accountability and ask them to check in during that time. WHERE will you be tempted? Is there a particular space that often is harder? Prepare for that time, remove opportunity for temptation. Avoid situations before you even get in them. This requires wisdom.

Ask yourself: HOW are you providing for your flesh? How are you giving opportunity and creating a space for your sin to thrive? Every little bit adds up. Maybe you don't yet feel convicted by your sin because "Well, it's not TOO bad" and you're just feeding it in little ways each day. But those little things add up, and they do damage to your soul. You're making provision. You're outfitting your sin to be stronger. It's like giving them little snacks that sustain their life. We need to be starving out our sin. 

Romans 13:14 calls us to do TWO things: To remove the opportunities for the flesh, and to put on Christ instead. Basically it's the Bible's call of put off/put on.

Just get rid of things. It isn't worth it.
  • Romance books causing you to be discontent and fantasize? Throw them out. 
  • Xbox giving opportunity for escapism through video games instead of finding comfort in the Lord? Take a fast for a season and give your power cord to a friend. 
  • Struggling with internet pornography? Get a filter, and get some accountability, or simply remove your laptop, smartphone, tablets from your room altogether and give them to your roommate for the evening. 
  • Tempted to go towards food as comfort instead of the Lord? Throw out Ben & Jerry's from your fridge, and ask your roommates to keep you accountable

Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. It IS worth it.
  • Schedule a time to get in the Word each day. If you don't feel like it, just force feed yourself the Word. Spend regular time in prayer. Create a supply chain for Jesus. 
  • Write reminders of Jesus and His promises. Write them on sticky notes, or your iPhone reminders app, or your mirror, or your desktop wallpaper, or posters around your room. Speak them to yourself. 
  • Commit yourself to regular church involvement. Not just every Sunday but connecting relationally to other church members so they can encourage and exhort you. Invite folks into your life. Hear truth preached from the Bible each week. Get involved in a deeper small group Bible study. Make provision for TRUTH and the work of the Holy Spirit. 
Just as every little bit of sin adds up in making provision for the flesh, so every little bit of putting on Christ adds up to make provision for the Holy Spirit. Do not grow weary! Endure in repentance. 

Fighting the supply chain,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, October 7, 2013

Now You Have Two Problems

"O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame" - Jeremiah 17:13

Have you ever been in this scenario? Your day is going pretty well, but then something comes up that discourages you, maybe a difficult conversation, or a bad grade on a paper. Maybe you're stressed because you realize you're late on an assignment or have failed a commitment. Perhaps you're just bored, angry, lonely, or in deep pain. And instead of turning to the Lord, you turn to your favorite idol. It promises comfort, distraction, pleasure, life... and you believe it, and you drink deeply.

But it betrays you! It promised comfort but it only lasted for a few minutes... and now you feel guilt for your sin against God, shame for the dark things you've given in to, distance from God because you've rejected Him, anger for ANOTHER failure, more discouragement as you fear you'll never change, AND you've opened yourself up to Satan's accusations and torture as he mocks you.

Crap! Now you have two problems. The initial one, and now the junk of your wrong response. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, "for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water." This is what happens. We have our first original problem that has us thirsty, but instead of turning to the Fountain of Living Waters, we've turned to a broken cistern, and self-medicated with porn, cutting, food, anger, video games or procrastination. It's about as dumb as dealing with a breakup by getting drunk and fighting people. In the morning you still have a busted relationship, AND you have a busted face. Now you have two problems.

See, this is what our sin does to us! And this is how we respond to life when we try to be our own saviors. We just end up making it worse, like little children who have spilled a bucket of paint but now are trying to clean it up themselves. It just gets more messy.

Thankfully, God has provided a solution in the gospel! Your sinful second response is paid for by the blood of Christ. And the gospel ALSO fixes whatever your first problem was. It's a double-barrel shotgun, blowing away two-for-one, simple as that. Jesus forgives the guilt and cleanses the shame of your sinful response (the second problem) AND provides the resources to resolve whatever your first problem was. Such great news!

So what does this look like practically?
  1. Confess and repent for the second problem (the sinful response): Turn to the Lord, and admit that you screwed up. Admit that you can't save yourself, and when you try to... THIS is what happens. Ask for His forgiveness, and REMEMBER the gospel: God has forgiven you in Christ, God has made you a new creation, God has wiped your slate clean, and you are LOVED. He doesn't hold anything against you!
  2. Turn to the Lord for the first problem: Now think back to whatever the first problem was...  Pain? Anxiety? Loneliness? Sadness? How can you turn to the Lord in this? Perhaps there is no easy solution but simply a call to wait for the Lord and be patient (Psalm 27:14). Or maybe just cry and process with the Lord as He draws near to your broken heart (Psalm 34:18). Maybe there's some comfort that you can draw from His promises, like Philippians 4:6-7, or Isaiah 41:10. Pour out your heart to HIM, and drink deeply from His Word. 
  3. Praise God for His grace! Finally, make sure to set your heart right by THANKING God for His grace and goodness for BOTH problems. He doesn't reject you for rejecting Him. And He doesn't leave you to drown in your suffering. He is loving, caring, and meets us in our junk with HIS clean up strategy.
Fighting both problems with the Gospel,
The Relentless Fight