"It won't affect my mind," the teenager barked back at his mother as he slammed the door to his room and picked up the magazine filled with images and pictures that contain the power to shape his life in a direction far from what God has planned. The world is filled with temptation and evil desire. And if left unchecked, it will rob and steal one of the most precious things you have - your mind - which is the home and residence of God's holy truth.
While many Christians grapple with the issue of how to censor what their children watch on television, countless others ignore the warnings. Thin excuses abound: "It's just a short program; it won't hurt them to watch it. Besides, it keeps them busy." "I know it's wrong, but it's funny and it portrays real life." "I get so tired of all that goodie, goodie Christian stuff. No one can be good all the time."
What we fail to acknowledge is that our minds and hearts are programmed by the material we listen to, read, and watch.
One secular writer admits to his readers: "You are what you read." This is not a new concept. Romans 12:2 cautions us "not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
Our minds operate like huge computers by gathering and taking in data. They are constantly arranging and storing facts and memories. We may think we forget certain events, names, and faces, but actually until something short-circuits our mental ability, all we experience is sorted and kept. Our ability to retrieve data may seem limited at times. However, each experience, thought, and event remains imprinted on our minds. Only God has the ability to remove those thoughts that are too painful or irrelevant to where we are today in our Christian walk.
When it comes to sin and its effect on our lives, the memory is often difficult to erase.
In his book Raising Lambs Among Wolves, Mark Bubeck explains how the cycle of sin and lust exploded in Solomon's mind and life.
"[Solomon] experienced the consequences flowing from David's most glaring sins. His failures were centered on his giving in to sensual sins. He followed a pattern of sexual sins. His sensual love for foreign, beautiful women was legendary.... As he grew older, these foreign women influenced Solomon to follow their idolatrous practices. This spelled his doom.... Solomon's moral sins had a direct relationship to one of David's darkest failures."
David helped to establish a pattern of thinking in the life of his family. He regretted his sin with Bathsheba and did not want it to be incorporated in his son's life. Once Solomon grew to be a man, the temptation to yield to this same sin became very great. God protects us to a certain point. However, when we disobey His will and sin against Him, He allows us to go our own way. He is omniscient, but He will not violate the limited free will He has given you. Therefore, it is illogical to pray to be pure and then pick up a lustful magazine with the expectation that God will stop you. He works in mighty ways. He warns you to stop but will not pressure you into doing something you do not desire.
We must face the fact that our sin affects the people we live and work with and the body of Christ in general. It divides our minds and sets us up to become easy targets for the enemy's deception. Neil Anderson writes, "Think of your mind as a coffee pot. You desire the water inside to be pure, but unfortunately you have put in some coffee grounds. There is no way to take out the coffee once it has been put in. So the water inside is dark and polluted."
Anderson goes on to explain that over time the darkness can be reversed with the infusion of God's truth. Hope and deliverance are God's specialty. An intimate knowledge of Him is the key to a healthy thought life. During His life time, Jesus delivered many who were hopelessly bound in spiritual darkness. Just as He opened the eyes of the man born blind, He can remove the darkness from your spiritual vision, but only if this is what you seek.
Once your mind grows accustomed to darkened enticement, the only way to renew the light within is through God's Word.
Colossians 3:2 admonishes you to "set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." The apostle Paul reminds us that we have died to sin and our lives are now hidden in Christ. (Colossians 3:3)
Yielding to sin and temptation simply does not fit who you are in Christ. Now that you are saved, your life has been sealed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The life of God's Son now lives within you. This is why there is confusion and strife when we become involved in things that go against the principles of God. We may blame the tension and stress we feel on others or our circumstances.
However, when we yield to temptation, we open ourselves up to evil and therefore suffer its consequences. Because Christ lives within you, there is a residing desire for purity and identity with God. This is why it feels good to go to church. Singing, worshiping, and learning more about God's love bring contentment to our souls. We come away thinking how wonderful it is to be a Christian and how fulfilling it is to live for Christ. Then temptation comes and we sense the darkness gathering. The challenge God places before us is to resist the enemy and stand firm in our faith. When we fail to do this we find ourselves drifting along in a sea of guilt and shame.
Shame plays an enormous role in defeating Christians.
Many find it hard to forget and forgive themselves for what happened in the past. One of the greatest mistakes we make as believers is in ignoring the seriousness of temptation when it comes.
Christ has cleansed you by the shedding of His blood. It is now your responsibility to abide in the safety of His care, because Satan will never grow tired in his assault on your mind. By refusing to think or yield to his temptations, you can drive him from your presence.
However, Peter cautions us to stay on guard: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9).
The enemy has one goal, and that is to cause you to doubt the goodness of God. This was his tactic in the Garden of Eden, and it remains his principal weapon today. He wants to weaken and destroy you by drawing you away from God.
But you are not alone in your struggle. Jesus fights the battle with you. In Romans 7 we sense the struggle Paul faced even in his own life. "If I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (vs. 20-25)
Most of us know when we have sinned against God. While it may be difficult at times to discern right from wrong, the Holy Spirit has been given to help you make the right decision. Don't ignore His check in your life when you sense it. He is doing what God has commanded Him to do - leading you into all truth and understanding. (John 16:13)
How do you resist sin and temptation when it comes? And how can you find hope from the entanglement it brings?
First, realize the power of God is greater and stronger than any sin.
Take responsibility for your desires and actions that go against God's will for your life. If the temptation is great, God will provide the strength you need to say no.
Second, claim your position in Christ.
This is crucial. If you have difficulty realizing the position you hold in God's kingdom as a forgiven and unconditionally loved and accepted child of God then you may want to talk with your pastor or a Christian counselor. Once you understand God's grace and how He has poured it out over your life, you will begin to experience hope and a fresh sense of His purity.
Third, admit to the Lord that you have gone where He has commanded you not to go emotionally and physically.
You chose your pathway and now you need His help and forgiveness. Psalm 107 brings insight into the nature of God's forgiveness and restoration. He loves you and will not give up on you.
Fourth, change the way you operate.
Avoid places, people, and things that would renew old sinful thoughts and habits. Once Jesus cleanses you, don't go back out and play in the dirt. If you do fall, go to Him immediately and seek His restoration. He is your greatest Source of hope in times of failure. His love never ceases, and He will not grow weary of you.
Finally, make a commitment to Jesus Christ to stay pure and live for Him. He has His best in mind for you. The reason He hates sin is because He knows the trouble and heartache it brings. You will never find condemnation in the eyes of Jesus. His greatest desire for you is that you would come into a full and complete understanding of His blessing.
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