Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Walking on the Edge

There is a tendency with children of getting as close as they can to whatever they are told to stay away from. You tell them not to touch the hot stove, and they move closer step by step just to see if you will stop them. Sometimes as adults we do the same thing. We play around on the edge of sin, feeling we are not really going that far. And then we fall over the edge. Like the man who makes a habit of watching movies that are “not that bad” sexually and ends up in bed with his secretary. Or the person who cherishes each little grievance until they end up a bitter, cynical person. Or some cut corners “just a little bit” in their business until they end up a sneaky and dishonest businessman. And it is easy to be led step by step down that slippery road. One approach that does not work is to create a lot of legalistic rules. The problem is that what is a serious temptation for one person is not necessarily one for someone else. This can end up denying people things which are for them innocent, but ironically it can also encourage people to engage in things on the grounds they are not in the rules. Nor does it work to withdraw from anything that possibly might be a temptation. In the end we must judge for ourselves what is a real temptation and what is no longer a temptation but just plain sin. The problem is we are not always the best judges. 

1 Corinthians 8-10 tells us about dealing with doubtful things. We are generally familiar with the idea of causing a brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:7-13) and being all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). But there are other important principles in this passage that are sometimes missed. We are not as strong as we think we are (1 Corinthians 10:12,13). Also, God does not promise the ability to endure temptations but a way of escape (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22). Further, we are told we have an enemy who is out to destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:19-22). We need to realize he is behind these things that are waiting to ensnare us (1 Peter 5:8,9; Ephesians 6:12,13). Also, we are called to see the Christian life as a contest in which we are asked to set aside even innocent things to reach our goal (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). God has a purpose for our life, and that may require was to give up things we might normally like in order to reach that goal (Hebrews 12:1-3; Philippians 3:12-14). Now I do not want to be totally negative and encourage paranoia. I do affirm that God is with us and can bring us through the difficult places of life (Romans 8:37; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10). But I would urge caution and not letting ourselves thoughtlessly drift further and further down the path of sin.

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