The Trials and Tribulations of Temptations– Part Four

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It was Socrates who insisted ‘know thyself’, which seems to be advice that all too often Christians, including ministers ignore. Have you ever sat down and done a ‘weaknesses and strengths’ inventory of yourself, with the outside assistance of those who know you the best? If you haven’t you should do this. Identifying weaknesses, the weak chinks in your Christian armor is important. When Paul deals with this whole matter he reminds that while inwardly we are being renewed day by day— our thoughts, our emotions, our wills are being renewed, sanctified, purified, nonetheless outwardly we are wasting away in ole Margaritaville (especially those buffeted by the temptation to drink to excess).

It is our bodies, once called ‘this body of death’ in Rom. 7, that are inherently the weak chink in the Christian armor because in this life the body is not being renewed. It has a shelf life. It has an expiration date. It is subject to disease, decay and death. Until the resurrection of our bodies, that part of us will not be renewed, it can only be restrained until then. This is precisely why there are so many many warnings in the Bible about the sins of the flesh. In the vice lists such as that in Gal.5 sins of the flesh are featured over and over again. Our fallen bodies often betray even the best of intentions. Sometimes young people come to be for counseling and say ‘we are in love’!! While sometimes its true, more often than not what they really mean is ‘we are in heat’, and if you are a betting man and you put teenage good intentions in one hand, and the raging hormones in the other, you probably should bet on the hormones.

There is a good reason why we have warnings like 1 John 2.15-16– “do not love the world or the things in the world…. for all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of life come not from the Father but from the world, and the world and its desires are passing away.”

When you do your reality check you need to figure out what are your besetting desires that easily lead to sin– Is it pride? Is it greed? Is it lust? Is it hate of some kind? Is it feelings of inferiority or inadequacy? Is it rage? Which of these things are driving your train, affecting your choices, guiding your behavior, even if not always at the level of conscious choice? When you do that personal inventory, then you at least have a base line to know the sorts of influences, and stimuli you ought to avoid. Some people are shop-aholics, and frankly they should stay away from the malls. Some people are TV addicts, or cell phone and texting addicts, or alcohol addicts, and I could go on. A person needs to know what their triggers are, and needs to stay away from such easy avenues into sin, even is sin if just a by product rather than a deliberate choice of such a course of behavior. And one needs to set up an accountability network with those who know you the best and know your weaknesses, to help keep you on the straight and narrow.

Finally, a word about cognitive distortions, sometimes called rationalizations. Cognitive distortions are those things you tell yourself in your self-talk which in fact are not rational, but give you permission to do things you ought not to do. For example– ‘yes I know I’m 100 pounds overweight, but I live by the maxim ‘all things in moderation’. Unfortunately for that person, some of those ‘all things’ need to be avoided ‘altogether’ and one needs to change one’s diet and exercise plan!!

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