This past week has reminded me of why we typically do not leave plastic buckets of candy bars laying around the kitchen. For each time I walk by, I think maybe I should try one. I wind up eating two or three or five. What's good to my tastebuds is not particularly good to my waistline. Oh well, at this rate the temptation will be gone by week’s end.
It’s not a big deal though, right? I mean, between trick-or-treating, Christmas stockings, and Easter baskets, that’s only three weeks or so of poor chocolate-laden dieting spread throughout the year. Maybe. But then again, if it is a problem for me physically, does that not indicate an issue spiritually? If self-control is absent from my repertoire, then it would appear my efforts are not being aided by the Spirit’s power.
But for those of you that scoff at some measly bite-sized Snickers, what if this issue is really about more than containers of candy? What if my lacking self-discipline is only the tip of the iceberg? What if each of us has a large mass of destruction hidden just beneath the surface? What if our spiritual growth and success in life is based upon the identification of such threats and planning our lives accordingly?
I know that if I continue to place myself before chocolates, I’m bound to cave in and lose (the battle against sweets, not L-B's). Hey, at least it has been identified for me. But what is it for you? As believers, we tend to gravitate toward one end of the spectrum or the other – either we are staunchly legalistic or we are lazily “free in Christ.” You know what I mean. We tend to say “No way, Jose” to anything that could potentially be harmful or we go the other way and say “all things are permissible.” And whatever we land on should be the way for all people. Yet, sometimes the world, not to mention our own souls, would be better served if we found a happy and healthy middle ground.
Last winter I heard Ben Stuart address the topic with a phrase that really caught my attention. He said this: “Legalism says no one can go there; wisdom says that I can’t go there.” Again, maybe certain things never cause stumbling for you personally. But others do...How do you react to the things that truly trip you up?
Certainly Jesus was using hyperbolic language in the Sermon on the Mount when He suggested that one should poke out an eye or lop off a hand if it causes individual struggles with sin. Yet doesn’t such strong wording suggest taking serious measures against one’s sin? Owen poses it like this: “If sin be subtle, watchful, strong and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event?” Or as he states elsewhere, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”
Unfortunately, we rarely take time to evaluate the places where our heart is susceptible to attack. Even within Christ’s community, it is unique for one to walk closely enough with a brother that areas of weakness can be spotted. But this morning, yes in this very hour, what might it be for you? What needs to be off limits for you? Not because legalism suggests it, but because wisdom demands it.
If there are relationships that drain you of life and vitality, perhaps it is time to move along and find some new friends. If the billboards on the way home from work hinder your ability to maintain godly thoughts, then friend, seek a different route. If one drink usually turns into too many, then abstaining from spirits is the best call for you. Do certain conversations generally turn into gossipy sessions of self-righteous, judgment of others? Then bless yourself and the objects of such speech by avoiding this baseless banter.
While “there's no wrong way to eat a Reese’s,” there may also be no right way to do so either. And if that’s the case, may we see it for the hindrance that it is. Might the Holy Spirit guard our hearts and minds to lead us in the way that’s everlasting. What positions us to obediently and wholeheartedly chase after Christ? Might the Lord enlighten us to this path, granting us wisdom and strength to pursue it rightly.
|Matt Fowler - NBC Family Pastor of High School|