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Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)
My family and I just saw the new Lion King movie. I was a big fan of the original back in my childhood years, and I was pumped to revisit the story. You know what I learned? I’m not as into singing lions as I used to be! Honestly, the movie was incredible. But there was something different about watching a cartoon lion sing and dance versus this new, technological marvel of computer animation. The new Lion King looks so real, I struggled to suspend disbelief in my brain throughout the entire movie. “Am I watching a documentary or a cartoon? Because I don’t think lions have the right lips to whistle.”
The truth is, lions are ferocious. They’d sooner rip your face off than do a jig through the chorus of “Hakuna Matata.” So you’ve got to be careful if one is on the loose. And, in all seriousness, one is on the loose.
Here’s what you need to know about temptation. There is always more at stake than what we think in the moment. Your future, someone else’s future, and your faith teeter in the balance of the decisions you make day in and day out. So any temptation to lean toward sin could break a lot of things.
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. - 2 Samuel 11:1 (NLT)
A few years back, some friends and I signed up for a 100-mile mountain bike race. We were riding rigid, no-nonsense steel bikes that beckoned back to the original mountain bikes of the ‘80s. Our style was casual, and we rolled into the parking lot proud to ride such low-tech machines. But as we pulled in, we saw sponsored riders with teams of people in vans with the riders’ names plastered across the sides. These riders were serious. As we strolled past them in our cut-off khaki shorts and admired their $10k bikes, I said to my friends, “I don’t think we belong here.”
You ever put yourself in a situation where you don’t belong? There is a seemingly inconsequential line at the very beginning of 2 Samuel 11 that says, “when the kings normally go to war.” Sounds like a throwaway line, doesn’t it? You could read right over that and think nothing of it. So what? The kings normally go to war, and David decided to stay home. But this is where sin begins, in that inconsequential decision to do one thing when you know you are supposed to do something else. David stayed home, where he shouldn’t have been, and ended up having an affair with Bathsheba. He didn’t know what was going to happen with Bathsheba the moment he decided to stay home, but he did know he was supposed to be fighting a battle.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. - Proverbs 25:28 (NLT)
I don’t wear flip flops. It’s not that I have a hairy hobbit feet or webbed toes or anything. I just don’t like the way they feel on my feet. They’re always flipping and flopping around instead of offering support and readiness for movement. I have this boy scout “always be prepared” notion in my brain that says, if something were to go down, I have to be ready to run, fight, or kick my way out of a situation. I suppose I’m a little paranoid, but one day when a bear breaks into Walmart, you flip-floppers are gonna get eaten while I’m climbing safely to the top of the produce shelf in my boots.
In ancient times, the walls of a city were its main defense; without a wall, a city was easily captured and plundered by its enemies. Accordingly, self-control is our wall of defense against the sinful desires that wage war against our soul.
D.G. Kehl describes self-control as, “The ability to avoid excesses, to stay within reasonable bounds...the regulation of our desires and appetites, preventing their excess.”
That’s a complicated sentence (that I had to read about six times) that basically says, “If you don’t have self-control, you’re not prepared for what is headed your way.”
Again, temptation is inevitable. You will face it. But you need to be ready to run, fight, or kick your way free from it.
...we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
You ever eaten a zucchini noodle? Unfortunately, I have. I’d rather try to spell zucchini without spell-check than have to eat a zucchini noodle ever again.
After my one and only time trying them, I realized there are two things I hate in this world: lying, and zucchini noodles... which is zucchini that’s lying about being noodles. They ARE NOT the real thing. They’re not even a decent substitute. Mix in some marinara sauce. Throw them in some broth. Do whatever you wanna do to dress them up, but they’re not going to reach the superiority that a noodle made of flour, eggs and water will provide. I’ll never settle for a faux noodle ever again.
Our battle for self-control is a battle of substitutions. Self-control is the ability to choose the important thing over the urgent thing. The important thing, biblically, is love for God and love for others. The urgent thing is to please yourself. We need to combat what we desire (our good) with a greater desire (the glory of God and the good of others).
In Scripture, when Joseph was enticed by Potiphar’s wife, he did not refuse her on the basis of, “If I did that and my master found out, he would have my head.” Instead, he said, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). His motivation for morality and self-control was centered around God.
Sin is bad for you. No question. But God is so, so good for you. Avoiding sin does not necessarily make you connect with God. But connection with God certainly makes you avoid sin. So don’t substitute self-control with a solid relationship with your Savior and Creator.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. - 1 Chronicles 8:32 (NLT)
I’m not a good liar. I am a good prankster, on the other hand. Recently, I got in a little mischief with some buddies and executed a practical joke that resonated on that level of “We’re going to tell this story at one another’s funerals.” (You know it’s good when it’s funeral material.) And when confronted by the joke’s victim, I furrowed my brow and kept that look of confusion as I said, “Man, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And he bought it hook, line, and sinker.
Yes! I lied, and it worked. I was off the hook. I just had to give it a couple days for the heat to die down, and I’d be off scot-free. But I was wrong (cue Glen Frey’s The Heat is On…). Within 24 hours, word had gotten out. Someone had seen us in the parking lot pulling off the caper, and the truth was spreading like wildfire among our friends. We were busted.
The truth always comes out. David found this out the hard way. In 2 Samuel 11–12, he gets confronted by his pal Nathan for having an affair. Nathan uses a heartbreaking metaphor to show David the devastating thing that he has done in real life (quick recap: David slept with Uriah’s wife, impregnated her, and ultimately killed Uriah). The truth will come out. And David created a pretty ugly mess by trying to hide it.
Today, are you believing the lie that no one will ever know your sin? Instead, hold on to God’s promise: The truth will set you free. It might cause a little bit of pain to tell the truth, but it’s nothing like the devastating pain caused by hiding the truth.