Browsing Tag

Spiritual warfare

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare

Fighting Cravings

December 23, 2016

 

 

 

For most long-time followers of Christ many of the sins we end up in aren’t the result of conscious, pre-meditated disobedience. More often than not it’s a split-second decision to go along with a seemingly out-of-nowhere craving. The Apostle James describes it in his epistle, writing, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14)

We are lured and enticed by the cravings that come flowing from within our flesh, choosing in those moments to go with the flow into sin when we could instead, by the Spirit, “stand firm” (Eph. 6) and resist temptation. According to a recent webinar with the VitalSmarts, several studies have shown that most cravings last around three minutes, so if we can resist and refocus ourselves for three minutes we’ll see a drastic shift away from giving into those craving-driven sin. The question is, what do we do during those painful three minutes?

Proverbs 21 has some wise insight for us here:

“A slacker’s craving will kill him
Because his hands refuse to work.
He is filled with craving all day long,
But the righteous give and don’t hold back.”
– Proverbs 21:25-26

Cravings will kill

Both James and the writer of Proverbs agree – when we give into temptation and cravings it ends in death. A slacker’s cravings, in this case for food, ultimately kill him because he’s too lazy to get up and do the work to earn money to feed himself. Similarly, in a spiritual sense it’s often our laziness that gives our cravings and temptations power to draw us into the deadly grip of sin. We refuse to do the work that would carry us away from temptation because it’s more difficult.

It’s combat, and it’s what we were given the power to do when we were born again and received the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at two practical ways to combat temptation and cravings outlined in the Proverb above.

Combat the cravings

1. Put your hands to work

God always provides a way out of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), but it often looks like hard work, so we often choose to float along into death because it seems easier in the moment. But that’s not what we were created for. We were created with purpose for good works (Eph. 2). The slacker’s cravings kill him because his hands refuse to work, so combat your cravings by putting yourself to work.

Do you find yourself craving over-indulging on food Friday nights? Get up from the couch and do some small house work for 10 minutes. Tempted towards pornography? Put your body to work by exercising for 15 minutes. More often than not the craving will be gone by the time you’re done.

2. Give generously

The writer of this proverb contrasts the man who is “filled with craving all day long” with the righteous person who gives generously and doesn’t hold anything back. Generosity is one of the most potent defenses against temptation. Are you fighting a deep-set craving today? Get up, find another human, and bless them somehow. Bless them generously, whether that be financially or with words of encouragement or helping them with a task. As you turn your focus off your cravings and onto the needs of another human being your craving will dissipate like fog beneath the summer sun.

Practice, Practice

Pushing through moments of temptation and craving isn’t an easy thing. Just like any skill it takes practice, and the longer you’ve been giving into the craving the more practice it will take you to divert that temptation into something good and glorious. I wrote this blog post as much for myself as for anyone else who might read it – there are plenty of cravings that I too easily give into, and I intend to take these two practices from Proverbs and put them into action as we move towards a new year. Will you join me?

As we do so may God bless us with his grace to take advantage of the escape from every temptation that he provides so we can find ourselves living in the beautiful, free life that is found in Christ rather than in the dark, crushing captivity of giving into the flesh and its cravings.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare, Theology

Submit to God, Defeat the Devil

May 9, 2015

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

– James 4:7-10

Early on in Threshingfloor’s history there was a young woman who started coming occasionally. As we got to know her better, she shared that she had a tremendous difficulty leaving her apartment to join us for our community gatherings each week. She described an almost physical force pushing her to stay in her apartment, that faded once she was out of her building and in her car but returned later in the form of feeling sick to her stomach  whenever we spent time in worship or she tried to pray. To make a long story short, we discovered that she was in the midst of some serious warfare with satan who was fighting tooth and nail to keep her from growing in Christ.

There’s been other stories like that throughout the years. Young men who functionally trapped in childhood because of the spiritual bondage of unconfessed sin, women who have overwhelming social anxiety that turns out to be demonic oppression, people whose seeming laziness and spiritual apathy are the result of spiritual warfare more than just personal choices.

All that to say, don’t discount satan. Don’t be ignorant of the spiritual reality that we operate in.  The devil is hard at work attempting to drag you down and draw you away from the destiny that God has for you. He works to divide families and the body of Christ (and loves to use “theology” to do so – but that’s a post for another time). He works to keep people in sin and addictions, and he works with all he has to keep people from encountering Jesus in deeper ways.

There are plenty of books out there on spiritual warfare, ranging from overly-mystical and legalistic to practically helpful and biblically grounded. Most focus on steps of deliverance, dealing with generational sin, and other actions that need to be taken to receive freedom.  Some are helpful. We’ve used them with people in our communities. But when James, the brother of Jesus, wants to equip believers to stand against the devil he starts somewhere different than most modern authors. He starts with humility and submission.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I want every Christian to grasp this truth. The foundation of your freedom from satan is your submission to God. We will always be operating under somebody’s authority – always taking someone’s word about us. We’re not autonomous beings. There’s no way to be truly independent and make of yourself whatever you want to be. Either you submit to God, or you submit to satan.

Submitting to or being taken captive by satan doesn’t necessarily look like demon possession as demonstrated in Hollywood’s dark corners of horror films. Generally it’s (seemingly) much more benign. The signs of submission to satan aren’t hard to spot – they’re generally just the opposite of submission to the Spirit of God. Check out the contrast between the two, from both my experience and scripture:

Submitting to satan

Submitting to God

  • Consistent anxiousness and worry
  • Easily angered at small things
  • Slow to trust, expects negative thing
  • Constantly measuring and feeling like a failure
  • Frustrated that others don’t believe the same things
  • Doesn’t care much about other’s feelings
  • Peace and rest regardless of circumstance
  • Gracious and slow to anger
  • Quick to trust and expects good of others
  • Entrusts judgment of self to God, doesn’t need to compare
  • Values the different viewpoints that God has given to his people
  • Gentle and kind toward all

 

If we want to defeat the devil in our day to day life, submission to God is the weapon we must wield. The question then is, how do I practically go about submitting to God? How do I practice with this weapon of freedom? James tells us;

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 

  1. First, come near to God. Make space in your life to enter into the presence of God, and practice drawing near to him at all times and in all situations. Practice the presence of God. As Augustine notes in his Confessions, we may run from God but he is never far from us. Take a minute or two every half hour to step back from what you are engaged in at the moment and lift your soul up to Him, acknowledge that he is near and draw near to him. This is the beginning of all submission. Once you’re near to God – once you encounter him – you can’t help but submit to him.
  2. Second, wash your hands. Cast off any fleshly sin that you’ve been dabbling in. Throw it aside. Sin, by very definition, is opposed to submission to God. As Paul says in Romans, choosing sin is choosing submission to the mastery of satan. If you’ve been born again by the blood of Christ, sin is no longer in your nature. It’s mud on your hands. Wash it away in the waters of repentance and belief.
  3. Third, purify your heart. Don’t be double minded. Commit yourself to Christ completely. Partial commitment to Christ is total commitment to supporting satan. If there’s something in your life that is causing a division, get rid of it.
  4. Fourth, mourn and repent of your sin and any way that you’ve submitting to the devil. Engage your emotions in the realization of what was wrong.

In all of this, you are humbling yourself before the Lord. As we do so he will always lift us up. Jesus is the ultimate example of how this plays out. Throughout his life he submitted to the Father. As he submitted he was able to resist the devil and the devil fled from him in terror. Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, and the Father has lifted him up and given him the name that sits above every name in the universe. The same is true for us. As we submit to God we gain an authority that is far greater than satans. Want to resist the devil? Submit to God and he will flee from you. And you know what? That’s just fun.