Friday, April 18, 2014

Unfortunate Casualties

Don't let Satan take the good things in life and trash them.

There are certain things that we do that are not good. These things lead to pain, sadness, and guilt. This is what we call 'sin,' which means something that displeases God and goes against his authoritative perspective of right and wrong. Sin is something we as Christians are called to avoid. When temptation comes, we need to stand our ground and make the choice to do what's right. It's not easy, but it can be done through the strength of Christ.

But Satan is clever. I won't give him credit for much of anything, but one thing that is sure is that he is clever. He uses his skillful deception to take things that are not sin and weave them into the picture in our heads of what constitutes sin. So in our attempts to avoid sinning, we can shun the very things God has created for good.

An example is cake. Cake is really good. It is very tasty and brings a sense of pleasure from the sweet experience of taking in each flavorful bite. But if you eat too much cake, you can get really fat. Too much cake can also lead to a number of health problems. Eating too much cake because it tastes good (and you can't help but eat it, and then some more) also has a name: gluttony. The gluttonous person is never satisfied with their slice of cake and eats more, more, and more until they find themselves in a seriously uncomfortable situation.

Gluttony is bad. So what is the most obvious solution? Don't eat the cake! If you don't eat the cake, then you don't take in the calories and sugar, and you stay alive. That is a logical conclusion.

But is cake bad? Of course not. There is nothing inherently wrong with cake. It was created with love by a kind chef who wasn't trying to make us fat, but instead was giving us the opportunity to experience the momentary pleasure of taking in the delicious heap of sweetness known as cake. Therefore, the sin is not in the cake, it's in the excessive eating of the cake and the lack of satisfaction with the amount that was eaten.

I will be writing more about some of the things God has taught me about how to best fight sin in future posts. But here I want you to be encouraged to discern what is right and what is wrong. There are things that give us pleasure that aren't inherently bad. It's how we use them that makes them bad. Another well-known example is alcohol. Many Christians teach that drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible never says that drinking alcohol is a sin (as Jesus Himself drank alcohol and he never sinned); what the Bible does say is a sin is drunkenness. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine, or a can of beer while watching the game. But consuming alcohol to the level where you lose your inhibitions and are no longer sober, that is the sin.

I don't however want to dismiss the reasoning many people have about why alcohol is considered bad. There are many people who can't handle one drink without wanting more and more. Alcohol has the potential to cause harm and it is easy to abuse. This is the reason I have chosen not to have any alcohol yet: I don't know how my body will respond. Will I have a drink some time in my life? Likely, yes. All the members of my family occasionally have a drink, but they all know how to do so without abusing it. But if you believe (or know) that drinking alcohol will lead you to sin, then don't drink it.

But at the same time, alcohol was made by God (both at the beginning of time and at Cana when Jesus turned water into it). It has a purpose, like cake. Don't judge a person just because he drinks; likewise, don't judge a person because he does not. Just know where you stand when it comes to these things that Satan tries to make 'sinful' when they really don't have to be. With many of these things, there is a time and a place, and they can become sin if you know that it's not the time nor the place (for example, drinking alcohol before leaving for a long road trip: obviously a sin).

Still, as Christians, we are called to rise above the base things of this world. We must avoid sin at all costs, but we also need to let God refine our minds so that what used to lead us into sin doesn't anymore. This can only be done by continually connecting with God and heeding His guidance. We are not bound by sin anymore; we are free. This means we can be free from the burden of the gluttony by which we may have been formerly ensnared. But, this also means we are free to have our cake and eat it too.

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