Christianity 201

March 10, 2011

Temptation Eyes

Actually this is just about temptation, but I wanted to see how many out there are old enough to remember the title of the old Grassroots song.

We’re going to begin this however at a different place than usual; starting at a motivational (i.e. not a faith blog) web page that I doubt many of you would ever get to.  Erin Williams has a life-coaching blog where the following three paragraphs appeared on Monday under the title, Deliver OURSELVES From Temptation.

In a recent interview, a high-profile celebrity who has been happily married for over two decades was asked, “So…how do you do it? Your personal life has survived the scrutiny that so many other stars has not…what is the secret to having a lasting marriage in Hollywood?” The icon stated simply, “I consciously avoid situations that might create cause for concern for me or my family. I deliver MYSELF from temptation”. Although this statement is referencing one person’s strategy to protect himself from potentially engaging in infidelity, let us consider how this practice might affect our own personal battle with good ol’ temptation.

Let’s face it. Chances are, we will be faced with temptation our whole lives in one form or another. Just as we are trying to quit drinking, we are invited to the best blow out party of the year…just as we start a new diet, grandma makes her famous enchiladas…just as we commit to a relationship, the hot co-worker wants to put in some overtime with us. Staying on track when we have chosen a path is hard enough, however, being constantly bombarded by hazards that add to our potential for failure makes it an energy-consuming workout just to stay the course. While we cannot completely eliminate temptation from our environment, we CAN manage our exposure to it.

The point is that we need not only be concerned with creating quality of life, but also with protecting it. When we set goals or make commitments we are creating the structure of how we want to live. We then must do what is necessary to execute and maintain that vision. Finding ways to eliminate temptation to stray is time and effort well invested. If we have set a family budget, for example, and know that we can’t go to Target without being tempted to buy things we don’t need…why not make our life easier and save ourselves the inner struggle by getting our supplies somewhere else? If we have committed to a healthier lifestyle, why not remove the foods or substances from our space so we are not having to stare at what is not on our options list? If we are married, why not opt-out of situations that might find us struggling with desirous thoughts for another? Finding ways to avoid temptation might take a little creativity but we can be sure of this…it takes a lot less energy and effort than getting back up on the wagon after we have toppled over. Make it easier on yourself to honor your commitments by managing your exposure to temptation.

~Erin Williams

Ernie Curtin is an Episcopal (Anglican) priest in Newton, Pennsylvania.  The following is but a small portion of a much longer article I encourage you to read, which appeared today at his blog Transformation Meditations as a reading for Lent.

…In Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness we see the pattern of temptation the devil brings.

First, the devil attempts to convince us to meet a legitimate human need by wrongful means. So, the devil recognizes Jesus’ hunger and tempts him to use his divine power to turn stones into bread. This is the corruption of miracle into magic through an appeal to power.

Jesus meets this temptation by quoting scripture. So, the devil switches tactics and quotes scripture. He misquotes it, to be sure. But, the fact that the devil quotes scripture at all can be very confusing to people, especially religious people.

Jesus fights fire with fire and uses scripture to correct the misuse of scripture. That is why it is important not just to read the Bible but to study the Bible and to memorize the Bible. The devil will use false teachers to misquote the Bible in order to confuse the faithful and scandalize unbelievers. Jesus sets the pattern for us to counteract this temptation by his careful and insightful use of scripture.

The third temptation is the same appeal Lucifer made to the angels. It is the appeal he made to our first parents Adam and Eve. It is the distortion of worship.

That is why the first commandment God revealed to Moses deals with worship. The devil always seeks to redefine worship and to confuse the meaning and purpose of worship. In a very simple and crude manner he appeals to the human will to power. He encourages us to approach worship with the question: what’s in it for me?

The devil only needs a tiny foothold in our conscious awareness of the call to worship. He only needs to intrude a small deceit to produce ever expanding levels of frustration.

~Ernie Curtin

May 17, 2010

Partial Depravity

Nobody likes to think of themselves as “depraved” but one of the things Calvinism has brought us is the phrase “total depravity;” it’s actually the “T” in the “TULIP” acronym.

Catholics say that we are born with “original sin;” though to see to widespread nature of different types of sinful acts is to know there’s nothing original about it.

The “Four Spiritual Laws” begin with premise that “Man is sinful and separated from God…”

But what happens after conversion?

Much of the Apostle Paul’s writings discuss the dual nature; the fight put up by the desires of the flesh.   James talks about “double mindedness.”   In the epistles at least, we get a picture of the spiritual warfare raging all around us; the accompanying tension between where we are positionally in Christ, and where we find ourselves pragmatically in the world.

But on Sunday mornings, nobody wants to admit this.  That’s probably why in surveys of “crazy hymn and chorus lyrics” people always vote for:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.

I mean seriously, what terrible advertising for the Christian life.   Nobody wants to admit to that propensity to sin.   And as for depravity, Dictionary.com defines it as “moral corruption” and there are people I know who don’t know Christ that I would regard as “upstanding morally;” so I don’t think too many Christ-followers would even want to say they were depraved before they made Him lord of their lives.

This past week I was driving my car and my mind wandered into less than stellar territory.   (More about thoughts in tomorrow’s post.)   Please don’t try to guess or read too much into this, but after the thought had flashed through my brain — okay, it actually parked there for about five minutes — I thought about how people are, and how I am, always just a few mis-steps away from conceding to my human nature and its way of thinking.

But we are also possessed of a divine nature.   I want to end this the way the song quoted above ends; with a prayer for redemption;  this was my prayer for the beginning of this week, and it’s not such a crazy hymn lyric, either:

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.