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Deeper Roots + Wider Branches

Pursuing Sanctification, Community & Mission

Category Archives: Temptation

Every opportunity to lust is an opportunity to love.

 

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To you, O Lord I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.

Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

[Psalm 25:1-3]

Why do I lug around this soul so full of doubt, worry, fear, and rebellion when you invite me to come to you and find rest?

If your yoke is easy and your burden is light, why do I feel so lost tonight?

To you, O Lord I lift up my soul.

Enemies surround me from the outside, and I hate to say it, but they are inside me too.

Trust. I can’t trust myself. But you…My only hope. Trust in you. Though I sit in darkness, I do…

I’ve learned this much. That I can’t do this on my own.

Let me not be put to shame. Complete this work you’ve started in me.

I will wait. Wait for you.

Slowly but surely, you will lead.

Shame will crumble, piece by piece.

Joy has taken root.



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Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. [Psalm 42:5]

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. [Psalm 34:1]

Woke up this morning feeling down about some things, and reminded myself of a few passages that have become anchors for my soul in the past several months. I find the contrast between Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 34:1 to be really helpful.

Psalm 42:5 teaches me that it’s ok to feel down sometimes, and just to acknowledge it. There are days when I just don’t feel happy. There are things I’m sad or anxious about. And that’s ok. I can be honest about these feelings: “Why are you cast down, O my soul,  and why are you in turmoil within me?” This verse also teaches me to preach to myself in these moments: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him…” This verse speaks to the times when it feels nearly impossible to praise God, while at the same time recognizing that God will bring me through. He is my “salvation and my God”.

Psalm 42:5 seems to address emotions we feel like we can’t control, and pushes us to hope when all hope seems lost. I’ve had times when this is all I can cling to. Psalm 34:1 on the other hand calls me to make a choice to praise God regardless of my circumstances. We have a great example of this in Habbakuk 3:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. [Habakkuk 3:17-19]

There are times of dissapointment and depression that are like walking on the most miserable winter day with the wind blowing in your face. And God can give us the grace and strength to hold our heads high, to face the chilling winds, and to walk with confidence that God is good, that he will provide for us, and that he will bring us through.

While these 2 truths that I’m talking about might seem sort of contradictory, I’ve come to treasure both of them. I have a God who is my refuge and shelter when all I can do is barely keep my head above water. And this same God is a God who nurtures and sustains me, who little by little nurses me back to health, who actually brings to a point where there are days when I really hurt or am really confused, yet somehow almost take joy in pressing on because I know that God is somehow working for my good and his glory.

 

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According to Wikipedia, Muscle Memory is “a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort.”

As I’ve worked to fight both habitual and seemingly out-of-nowhere sins in my life, I’ve discovered that it is helpful to develop a sort of routine that I go through whenever I am hit with temptation- spiritual “muscle memory” if you will. Of course, this technique is not a silver bullet, but I have seen it help me when my sinful appetites start to make me insane and irrational. It helps me slow down, think, and remember what I truly want. You may not use the exact pattern I do, but I would encourage you to come up with something that is easy to remember that you can kick into action when the enemy attacks. Like cheesy sermons, all of my reminders start with the same letter, in this case “R”.

Recognize. Just admit to God what is going on. Name it. Face up to your appetite. “This is what I want right now…”, This is what I’m craving… “, “I’m angry because…”, etc.

Repent. It is possible that you haven’t sinned yet. The temptation is not the sin. But the way I see it, I can’t go wrong repenting. So this step usually looks like me saying something like “Lord, forgive me for the parts of my heart that desire what is evil, or what you have not given me.” I’m pretty sure that even when I haven’t done “the deed” yet, there are parts of my heart that need cleansing.

Remember. Call to mind relevant scripture passages. Remind yourself that God is good; that he is faithful; that he knows what you need and will provide for you. Remind yourself what your fighting for and find motivation in imagining the man/woman that you are praying that God will help you become. e.g. I want to be a man who is pure; who will be faithful in life and ministry; I want to be a person of integrity; I want to be a good steward of my time; etc.

Redirect. Turn mentally from whatever the temptation is and decide what productive/good think you are going to set your attention on.

[Retreat?] This will not always be possible, but ask yourself “Is this a situation I can physically flee from?” Can I change my location/activity, and get away from this temptation?

[Reinforcements?] Do I need to call for reinforcements? Should I call/text/email/visit someone who can pray for and encourage me? Warning: This one is tricky. There will be a lot of times you tell yourself that you don’t need reinforcements when you really do. The motto “better safe than sorry” is a good plan here. Much like repenting when maybe you aren’t totally sure you sinned, calling for reinforcements when you think you will probably be fine is not a bad thing!

Rejoice. Rejoice that whether you have a good day or a bad day, whether you “succeed” or “fail” you have a high priest, Jesus Christ, who sympathizes with your weaknesses, who intercedes on your behalf (Hebrews), who gave his life to save yours, and who covered you in his righteousness. Your salvation is not based on your ability to be a “good Christian”…it is based on Christ’s blood. Not only that, but you can rest on the promise that “just as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6). Rejoice!

This sort of strategy is not original with me. Others have shared similar strategies (see John Piper’s ANTHEM) What’s important is not finding the “silver bullet” technique, but rather knowing the gospel, knowing yourself, and figuring out what gets your eyes off of you and onto God in times of temptation. Think about your own personal fight with sin. How can you anticipate battles, and prepare for them? How can you develop your own spiritual “muscle memory”?