Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not All Things Are Profitable

Dear Matt,

You should know, if you don’t already, that though we should be much better than we are, God takes us from where we actually are rather than from where we ought to be. You have sinned grievously but God forgives even the most heinous sin, if we come to him with our heart in our hand and submit ourselves to him lock stock and barrel.

It is our conviction that once sin is confessed there is no need to look back on it in a way that beats you up for the sin. God has forgiven it and you need to accept his forgiveness and move on.

Repentance however, requires that you look at the patterns and cycles that bring a person to the point of sinning. This is because of the nature of temptation and sin. We are beings who tend to like doing the same things over and over, even when doing them are not helpful or are downright evil. Because of this it is often helpful to exam in detail behaviors that we do for the purpose of tracing back the sin to the original temptations.

Once we find the original temptations we can study the Scripture to see how to avoid succumbing to those particular temptations and thus avoid sinning altogether.

This is probably an area where Biblical counseling would differ from non-Christian counseling. Non-Christian counseling thinks there is something cleansing in “sharing” the same sins or crimes over and over again. Biblical counseling says that reliving the same sins over and over simply re-commits the sin over and over again. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

So I would say that examining your life should be done solely for the purpose of understanding where, and maybe why, you first went off the track, or where you go off the track, and fall into sinful thinking, desires, actions, living.

I had a friend one time who wanted to quit smoking. I went to his house one Sunday night and threw his last pack of cigarettes into the trash and prayed with him that God would give him strength and self control so that he wouldn’t smoke anymore. We agreed to meet the next day for lunch to see how things were going.

When I got to our meeting place he was sitting there with half a cigarette in his hand. When I asked him about it, he said he didn’t know exactly how he had gotten to the place he was—he was not smoking when he started the day and then he was. Strange.

So we recounted everything he had done that day and found that he had gotten into his truck that morning and started for work. On the way he realized that he needed gas so he stopped for a fill-up and the next thing he knew he was almost to work with a cigarette in his hand that he didn’t remember buying it or lighting it up.

Closer scrutiny revealed that when he went in to pay for the gas, the attendant simply put a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee on the counter and he’d scooped it all up as he paid for the gas. It was a pattern they had established years before. They did it virtually every week and it had become a habit and a non-sinful pattern. There is nothing sinful about buying gas, buying coffee or buying a pack of cigarettes.

But when you want to stop smoking, you can’t just automatically do everything else in your life the same way. My friend needed to change how and when he bought gas if he wanted to stop smoking. It seems like a funny thing, but non-sin things can set us up for actually sinful things.

After examining his patterns and life, we found that he needed to change where he bought gas so that the automatic patterns could be made un-automatic. If he wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes, he would have to make a conscious decision to buy them.

I hope this helps.

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