Why Try to Not Do Something When You Can Intentionally Dive Into the Love of God?

A week or so ago, I wrote a blog post about the “ironic process theory” and how it can apply to how the Church often reacts to issues in the public sphere. An excerpt:

I think we can subconsciously encourage this in Christian culture when we overload on what not to do. We think so much about not doing something that we end up thinking about it and doing it anyways.

Instead, why don’t we focus more on what we could do? We’re losing our minds trying so hard not to sin that we can easily forget what we can do instead. If I’m trying so hard not to look at porn, it would be easy for me to just slip right into it. If instead I focus on what I can do, psychologically I’m more likely to do it. The difficulty is learning to focus on what I can do instead.

Just about every morning I wake up, there’s temptation to sin at my doorstep. Sin knocks, begging to be let in, telling me that things are better if it is in my life in a personal, real way. And there are some days I listen to it, there are some days it wins.

But this morning as I contemplated this, I realized that there is something 10 million times better for me than sin that’s also knocking, that’s also dying (literally) to be heard. It’s the love of God. And I would do a lot better to listen to it than to the temptation to sin.

God Is With Us. Seriously.

It’s totally cliché now for me to tell you that God is with you every moment of every day if you are a Christian. And it’s cliché for a good reason! There are tons of Scripture that talk about how God is with us. Some examples:

  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9a)

Literally, God is with us. Through the Holy Spirit, He lives in our hearts, and He is constantly around us, watching over us. And it’s not just that.

Hebrews 13 says He’ll never leave us. John 14 says He makes a home with us. Isaiah 41, speaking to the children of God, says God will strengthen us and help us and uphold us. 2 Chronicles 16 says God is looking for the opportunity to give us, Christians whose hearts are blameless through the blood of Christ, strong support.

Yet when I sin, I act as if God is not there. Not only am I rejecting that His way is better, I’m rejecting His offering of being there at all times to help me in times of sin.

The times I reject this most are when I’m tired and lazy or I’m depressed. In those moments, I’m looking for what’s going to satisfy me, usually whatever’s easiest. Sometimes it’s food. Sometimes it’s sinful fulfillment. Whatever it is, it’s usually not good.

What I forget most is what God offers me in those moments that practically far outweighs the allure of sin.

Love Is Here. Love is Now.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

God is love, 1 John 4:16 says. When you look at God, you see love perfected, love as it should be, love in the proper place in one’s heart, love in the proper context, love acted out properly. And it was through Christ and His life and death and resurrection that we saw the best example of His love, that we could be forgiven of our sin and made in right relationship with Him.

But that wasn’t the end of God’s love. God’s love is still true and still for us today. I love the lyrics to Tenth Avenue North’s “Love Is Here”:

Come to the waters
You who thirst and you’ll thirst no more
Come to the Father
You who work and you’ll work no more
And all you who labor in vain
And to the broken and shamed
Love is here
Love is now
Love is pouring from His hands, from His brow
Love is near, it satisfies
Streams of mercy flowing from His side
‘Cause Love is here

In moments when I’m tempted and I’m depressed, I need to turn to the love of God first! I need to bring to mind the Scriptures that tell me that God is here and God loves me. Remembering, dwelling on and praising Him for that love is what will truly satisfy me far more than any man-made remedy.

It struck me this morning that, because the love of God is always available, I don’t have to wait for it to be ready, I don’t have to go through any hoops to get to understand it and believe it. I simply have to do it! All I need to do is believe it and rest in it, meditate on it, dwell in it, trust it.

That is the key to defeating sin. It’s not purposely avoiding things, which can be helpful, but it’s not the answer. The answer is clinging to something better, purposefully pursuing something else: God’s love. Moment by moment, I need to turn to God’s love for me before I turn to anything else.

Whether that’s looking at a poster that reminds me of God’s love, bringing to mind Scripture that tells me of God’s love, or stopping and praying and thanking God for His love, it’s something I’ve got to grow in, something I’ve got to do.

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Lies I Believe and Truths I Must Hold Onto When I Give Into Temptation

So you’ve done it again. You’ve sinned in that way that you always find yourself sinning. You messed up. You put your foot in the wrong door. You ate a bad apple. Whatever analogy you want to give for it, you were tempted to sin and you quit fighting and gave in.

One thing that I find helps me in the aftermath of sinful behavior is going back and seeing where I went wrong, what happened that led me to make the decision to follow through with sin. It’s a process I tend to go through several times a day, I find, for various sins and transgressions. I’m a sinful guy. I’m a bad Christian with a great Savior.

I find that there are a few things that I believe when I give into temptation, and they’re all lies in some way. But they’re also wrapped in a little bit of truth. I have to work through the lies to see the truth. That’s probably one of the biggest fights of the Christian life, to be honest with you, because it seems that Satan, and by extension us, like to believe things that have little kernels of truth in them, even if they’re shrouded in deception. I hold onto that kernel hoping it will justify whatever action I’m about to take.

The Lies I Believe

This will make me feel better. The unfortunate truth I’ve learned about sin is that it feels good. I hate that that’s true! But it makes sense. If sin felt bad all the time, even while you were doing it, nobody would want to sin. So this is a truth, but eternally it’s a lie. Yes, sin will make you feel good in the moment, whether it’s a lie you tell, lusting after someone else or getting angry at someone else. It feels natural.

It’s not a big deal. This is one of the trickier ones and one of the things Satan can really play on. In truth, our sin does not separate us eternally from God because of grace. So on the surface, it might not seem like a big deal.

You can’t beat the inevitable. I mean, it’s going to happen anyways, so might as well get it over with. Whether it’s a dramatic outburst of anger or a gossipy attitude, it’s coming, so might as well just quit fighting. We are weak against sin on our own.

You’re alone in the fight. I’ve got no one with me. It’s just me. In the moment when we choose to sin, we can only see us.

Truths I Must Hold Onto

Following God is always better. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Doing things God’s way always leads to more joy than any kind of silly “good feeling” sin can give you.

My sin takes me away from a deeper relationship with God. It’s a break in the relationship. Just like when you sin against your spouse/friend/parent, there’s a strain placed on the relationship with God when you do this, so it is kind of a big deal.

God is strong enough to help. God is greater than your sin and always will be. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, the seer Hanani tells the rebellious king Asa, “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to lend strong support to those whose heart is blameless towards him.” If you’re a Christian, your heart has been cleansed and made blameless by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. So God wants to help you and is strong enough to help you. You don’t have to sin! You will, but you don’t have to.

You’re never alone in the fight. Just because it’s a big deal doesn’t mean God abandons you. The promise of the gospel says that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Plus, there’s no temptation that is exclusive or unique to you (1 Corinthians 10:13). There’s always someone else.

One Last Thing

If we’ve already given into temptation, we must turn to God immediately in prayer, asking for forgiveness and resting in His grace and His love for us. I find that the moments that I don’t want to do that are the moments I need to do it most.

I think there are two reasons we don’t believe grace. 1) We don’t think we need it, we can just do better, or 2) we don’t think we deserve it, we’ve lost the opportunity for it because of our sin. That’s when a certain passage of Scripture from Romans 8 comes to my mind.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.