My 18 month old son is obsessed with the garbage can. It stands tall in the kitchen and lures him in daily with its hidden treasures. He is fully aware, however, that the garbage can is for throwing away trash and nothing else. Despite this knowledge, multiple times a day, he succumbs to the temptation and goes treasure hunting in the garbage can.
My response is usually the same: “No Thomas, we do not play in the garbage can. Put that back in the garbage can.” Pause and wait for obedience. “Thank you. Now turn around and walk away from the garbage can.” Pause and wait for obedience. Repeat as necessary.
The second part of the exchange is vitally important. If Thomas continued to stand and stare at the garbage can, he would continue to be tempted to play in it.
He must learn to turn around and walk away from the things that tempt him.<–Click to Tweet
So it is with us, too.
When I identify a temptation in my life, so often my response is to attempt to determine just how close I can get to the temptation without falling into sin. For example, many teens want to know how far is too far? Another question is how many drinks is too many? Or how often is too often? A recent example for me is with my choice of TV shows. How racy and unbiblical is too racy and unbiblical? I also struggle with social media…where is the fine line between using social media in conjunction with the blog and over use?
I believe we are asking the wrong questions.
When we are faced with a temptation, the Bible shows us the proper two step response.
First, we flee.
The Greek word used in this text is pheugo meaning “to run away (literally or figuratively); by implication, to shun; by analogy, to vanish:–escape, flee (away)” (Strong’s Concordance via eBible App). When we are faced with a temptation, our instinctive response must be to turn tail and run so fast it’s as if we just vanished.
Joseph models this well. (Check out his story in Genesis 39.) When Potiphar’s wife corners Joseph by grabbing his cloak in an attempt to seduce him, he runs away so quickly his cloak is left in her hand! Talk about vanishing. He got out of there! God even promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 to provide a way of escape when we are faced with temptation.
Instead of attempting to determine how close to the sin we can get without falling in, we must flee!
Second, we pursue.
When we run away from temptation, we are automatically running toward something. This passage gives us the destination to run towards: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
When making choices about our activities, the idea (we don’t get it right nearly enough) is to ask ourselves: Does this activity help me grow in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness? If we can answer positively, then we move forward in that activity.
This changes our perspective. The focus becomes growing in Christlikeness rather than abstaining from sin. If the first approach–how close can I get without sinning–the focus is on the sin.
So we ask ourselves:
Will making out with my boyfriend help me grow in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness?
Will drinking 3 beers help me grow in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness?
Will watching Gray’s Anatomy help me grow in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness?
Will getting on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Google Reader (again!) help me grow in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness?
What temptation do you need to flee? How can you/do you actively pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness?
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Photo Credit: EcoCommish