..but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Sometimes we’re too quick to blame our temptation on the Devil and the culture. Is it true that temptation arises from these sources? Yes, it is. However, often times our temptation originates from within. It begins when we are dragged away and enticed. What does that mean? It means our focus shifts away from what matters most and we become distracted with what fulfills the least. Many of us have reels of old footage from past porn binges, affairs, strip clubs and chat lines that we can recollect and thereby be enticed. When we engage that footage and allow ourselves to fantasize about it we are being dragged away; or to put it in context of the verse, we are dragging ourselves away. Where is that going to lead us?
We also experience temptation as a form of dealing with our emotions. Some of us have learned that emotions such as anger, insignificance, loneliness, rejection, fear, failure and disappointment can be numbed and soothed by engaging sexual thoughts. Unfortunately, it is easier to engage those thoughts and medicate rather than to deal with the emotions appropriately. It was very difficult for me to accept this truth and to learn to deal with my emotions in healthy ways. It was especially difficult to learn how to process my emotions with other people. I wanted to keep it all bottled up and to myself. I didn’t want to weigh anyone down with my junk. I wanted people to think I had it altogether; that I wasn’t needy. The truth is: we’re all needy and sometimes we have to get needy out loud.
Whether to numb feelings or to excite ourselves, we are giving birth to sin and ultimately that will give way to death. We have to take ownership for our self-temptation and be willing to engage our neediness, and surrender ourselves to God.
A couple of questions to consider:
1 – In what ways do you tempt yourself, effectively dragging yourself away to be enticed?
2 – Have you turned these things over to God and others? If not, how about telling God and others about it today.
Joshua, standing before the angel, was dressed in dirty clothes. The angel spoke to his attendants, “Get him out of those filthy clothes,” and then said to Joshua, “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.
I will sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness.
It is imperative for us to understand our righteousness. If we don’t understand this foundational principle, we will struggle mightily through the rest of our journey towards sexual integrity. We are righteous. Not by our works, not by our looks, not by our bank accounts, not by our church attendance, not by our charitable donations, not by our behaviors, not by our eloquent prayers. Only by the grace of God in Jesus. You see, in accepting Christ our filthy rags were removed. The stench of sexual sin -past, present and future- was taken away. And it’s not by anything we can do for ourselves. These verses clearly depict our re-dressing being the work of God and the heavenly hosts. We have been robed in righteousness and dressed in clean clothes. When we accept Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us. It’s in us. It’s on us. Nothing can remove it from us. You have to accept that in the middle of your acting out, in the midst of a porn session, in the intoxicating delusion of another encounter with your mistress, God sees you as clean. He looks at you like a groom gazes at his bride on their wedding day. He is grieved by your behavior but infinitely loves your being. You are righteous!
Yesterday a client shared a profound statement with me. He tee’d it up with a background story out of acts. Perhaps you’ve heard it?
Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul’s “game.” They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!” The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man when the evil spirit talked back: “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?”
After giving the backstory he simply said, “I want to be known. When the evil spirits recount the names of difference makers in the faith, I want to be known”. I was stunned for a second because I felt deeply for him, then it quickly shifted to me.
I want to be known too. Am I living a life worthy of evil spirits knowing who I am. Am I a threat? Am I in the game? Did I even show up to my life today, much less to the redemptive vision of bringing God’s kingdom to the planet?
Remember: your past behavior doesn’t define you, nor does it disqualify you from the work of ushering in the kingdom.
May we live in such a way that evil spirits might tremble with fear saying, “Jesus and Paul I know……and I know who you are too”.