Dreamers of the Day

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." -T.E. Lawrence, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Temptation

I have been pondering temptation and how the modern Christian "attacks" or "battles" against temptation. Take overeating and overspending for example. I know many people, as do I, have credit card debt. In talking with many people in my generation, one way to "control", "defeat" or rid oneself of this temptation is to eliminate the credit card altogether. Therefore, if the credit card does not exist, the temptation does not.

Overeating is very similar. If one realizes they overeat, then the abolition
of food is sought. One will go to great extremes to flee from this temptation. Bitterness, anger and rejection all enter the overeaters mind in order to rid them of overeating. Food has become evil and good food is even more evil.

And nothing could be more disconnected from the heart. It is not the credit card or the food that is evil, but the heart of the person. A person's heart, whether Christian or not, is evil and deceitful. Yet, we modern Christians ignore this and run to our disciplines more than our Savior. We see our downfall only because Christian society will identify it as a "downfall" and then, in our individualistic attitude, we take over to "fix the problem." But the problem is never fixed. It, the problem and not the sin, is fled from. Temptation is a past life in us wanting to live and we are feeding it, clothing it and caring for it like a baby lion. We do not realize the lion will grow and eventually kill our physical bodies prematurely. How do we respond to temptation this way? We allow it to die. "Who likes to watch anything die?" Death is cruel so we flee this option and give it a "life sentence." It is impossible to do without the work of the Holy Spirit. To allow a life that is so accustomed to us to die and enter blindly into a true life is not normal. It is not of this world.

As I pondered this and started to read Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard quotes C.S. Lewis writing on the same subject in one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity:

“…our faith is not a matter of our hearing what Christ said long ago and ‘trying to carry it out.’ Rather, ‘the real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe [life], into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.’”

This is where our dignity and depravity collide. Because we still hold true to the image of God, we can allow things to live or die. We can, through our words, build people up, encourage them and allow the Holy Spirit to live in us. The opposite is just as true. So the point of tension has nothing to do with the external actions of what we are doing or not doing. Temptation has nothing to do with what we are doing or not doing. The point of tension of the Christian and of temptation is who are we allowing to live?

9 Comments:

At 11:20 PM, Blogger christian said...

Wow, Jason, you never cease to amaze me. I think in the past month or so your understanding of the concepts you have been investigating and your ability to express your thoughts on those matters have increased ten fold from when I first knew you. I don't know what all you've been doing, but keep doing it. I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations on these matters. You challenge me greatly.

One question I'll pose - how do you determine the proper way for something to die? With the credit cards, for example, if a person chose to get rid of the credit cards altogether, does that not kill the ability to over spend? And surely this situation will be painful. It will probably feel like you are choosing to let it die b/c credit is often a necessary part of our lives here, and the absence of it would be very tough to deal with.

But having credit is not bad, in and of itself. So, it would seem the "higher" path would be to keep the credit and only use it based on wise choices and when necessary.

Now, surely the Holy Spirit will work something different in each person b/c we are each built differently. And submission to the Holy Spirit is really required in these situations to allow the death of something "not good" to transpire properly. But when do you step from a place of the death of something not good to disconnection from your heart, and how do you avoid such a pitfall?

 
At 6:13 AM, Blogger Micah & Brad said...

Excellent, excellent points, Jason, as always.

"Temptation has nothing to do with what we are doing or not doing. The point of tension of the Christian and of temptation is who are we allowing to live?"

This is a very profound, and even quotable point. Great thoughts. I too have often wondered, is self-control not the real answer to these, and many other temptations?

Christian, I agree with you on this:

"But having credit is not bad, in and of itself. So, it would seem the "higher" path would be to keep the credit and only use it based on wise choices and when necessary."

and I think a very small part of the answer to your question: "...and how do you avoid such a pitfall?" is that each person has to know his own heart, and has to be completely honest with himself and his desires. Is this easy for anyone? Probably not. In this case, it is nice to have someone objective to be "accountable" to. Someone that you can be totally open and honest with about your temptations.

There is, without a doubt, much more to it than that, but I think that is a good start...

 
At 6:30 AM, Blogger Jen said...

Hmm this sounds a lot like our conversation when I was there. :)

I agree to some point in the conclusion that is a matter of the heart. But the scriptures are also state verses where we are to flee temptation and not tempt ourselves, b/c “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. (Mt 6:13, Mt 26:41, Luke 22:46, 1Cor. 10:13 etc) Also in 1 Cor. it says that God will provide a way of escape.

It also makes me wonder when Jesus was tempted in the desert……he knew he was going to fast for 40 days. Why did go out to the desert? Probably to be away from people, but maybe he was removing the temptation of food from him? Is that wrong? Of course this is purely my opinion.

As I wrote this, I think maybe I am missing your point. Which is this (correct me if I am wrong)…..many people face temptations, and then try to “will away” the temptations by removing it, but don’t look at why they are temped by those things in the first place. So then they don’t identify them, and though the temptation is, on the surface, not a problem anymore, it lurks beneath waiting to come out in another form. I very much agree with that. But I think you can remove yourself from the temptation and deal with it at the same time. I think it is different for each person and each is situation.

 
At 7:33 AM, Blogger Creth said...

ha, this reminds me of the night we discussed "self-control" at home team...

your point that it is our desire which is evil, not the "act" is very true

other examples would be sex and alcohol

and these "extreme" examples would lead us, hopefully, to the conclusion that it is good to remove the "temptation" or the lifestyle which provides for the temptation

this would seem like a "work" and despite what people might say, works are not evil.

but it is on the battle field of your heart where the war will be won.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger village hometeam said...

sorry I had to leave the chat room so early last night...

where were we?

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger christian said...

I've often wondered about this, though it has not been my typical MO for dealing with temptations. I basically had it described to me as this:

For basketball, free throws are a very common thing that often make the difference between winning and losing. You have all the time you need to take the shot, but there is no guarantee that you will make the shot. One method that a lot of coaches use for training to make free throws is to have their players visualize making free throws in their minds. No ball, no hoop, no shot. Just visualize the whole process over and over again. Apparently this is often a successful training method because the human psyche is just as important in making a free throw as the mechanics of the shot.

Applied to the spiritual life, we aren't always able to put ourselves in situations where we can be tested (i.e. we can't always be at the free throw line, taking practice shots). However, we can meditate on situations where we have experienced such temptation and visualize the characteristics of that temptation, and see ourselves coming through the temptation based on the fruit of the Spirit.

In such a situation, you could possibly fully remove the temptation of something from your life for a time, begin the visualized training, and gradually reintroduce yourself to the presence of the temptation and hopefully use your new training to allow the life of something good and the death of the thing you must either stand up against or run away from.

It seems like a very practical way to train and fight, and I could see the potential for such an action to cut out God from the picture, but it may be a useful technique nonetheless, especially if a sin continually overtakes you anytime you are near it.

Any thoughts?

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Jason Mayes said...

WOAH Nelly! I'll have to re-post so I can reply to all of y'all's questions/comments. It will have to be after work.

Thanks for the comments!

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Creth said...

"whoa"

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger Micah & Brad said...

I only have a second, but one more quick thought to go with Jen's. Jesus does tell us if our right eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. That tells me to go to any extreme I need to go to to rid myself of that temptation.

 

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