Monday, February 9, 2015

The Counter-Attack

You've fought hard against sin & temptation. You've even won a few battles. But this onslaught keeps on coming, and you're getting tired defending off these attacks. Something has to change. It's time to go on the offensive.

A good offense might be better than a continual defense in the fight against sin. Better to keep the enemy so busy and weary from your constant barrage that they have no time to attack. In fact, let's say you successfully defend against all the temptations. Does this mean you've grown in holiness and glorifying Christ? Not necessarily. Unless we are worshiping Jesus and exalting Him, it doesn't matter if we are sinning "less" in the sins of commission. Behavioral purity without affection for Jesus is worthless. That's no better than the Pharisees to whom Jesus said, "Hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence." 

What is this offensive counter-attack? It's fighting FOR joy in Christ. It's the second part of repentance: turning FROM the fun of sin TO the better delight of Christ. It's cultivating a superior satisfaction in Jesus so that the allure of sin decreases in its attractiveness. Proverbs 27:7 says it well, "One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet." Consider: Who wants to eat a stale granola bar when they just finished a meal at Shady Maple Smorgasbord? Who wants to watch a dumb cat video at the top of Mount Everest? Who would pull out their phone to check the latest celebrity gossip on Twitter at their own wedding reception? See, when we are satisfied with great pleasures, we aren't even tempted by small pleasures. The goal is to glut yourself on Christ so you're always satisfied. 

The Scriptures give us several strong arrows in this counter-attack. Use these weapons to consider Christ as BETTER:
  • Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
  • Psalm 84:10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 
  • Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 

How do we do this? Primarily by meditating on the beauty of Christ, found most clearly in YOUR rescue through the gospel of redemption. Here are several practical applications: 
  • Read the Bible: Commit to a time, a place, and a reading plan. Consume large quantities of Scripture. Carefully pick through passages in depth. Search out truth that will make your heart sing. 
  • Worship Jesus through song: Worship corporately with large groups of other Christians. Worship in small groups. Worship by yourself. Saturate your mind and heart with songs of His grace. Songs for the Cross-Centered Life is a good place to start. 
  • Talk with Him often through prayer: How are you going to grow in affection for Christ if you aren't talking with Him every day? Do people fall in love by ignoring each other? Speak with Him. Share your thoughts, fears, dreams, ideas. Ask Him for help, for comfort, for encouragement, for forgiveness. Pray for others in their struggles. Pray relentlessly.
  • Read solid Christian books:  Learn satisfying truths about Jesus through solid books. Some great ones to get you started: The Glory of Christ by John Owen, Who is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert, and When I Don't Desire God by John Piper (see book review on TRF)
  • Biblical preaching: Be convicted, challenged, encouraged by passionate sermons about Jesus. Here are a few to get you started: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (part 2) by John Piper, and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (conference sessions) also by John Piper. 
  • Local Church: Be deeply involved in a local community of believers (church) who will help you in all these things (Bible, worship, preaching) and keep you accountable if you slack. If you're not involved in a church, do you really think you can go it alone

Don't be discouraged if you aren't feeling deeply satisfied right away. Cultivating affection for Christ is kinda like exercise. It takes some time to see the results. Keep at it! Endure. This is worth it. Keep pressing in to Jesus and wait for Him to bring the joy.

Retaliate,
The Relentless Fight.