The Inside Job: Identifying the Real Enemy
Brace yourselves. This one might hurt a bit.
The truth is the nature of man is evil. We like to think that we're innately good, born with a desire to inspire and make the world a better place. If we ignore the other power that works within us, the one that is constantly trying to over power our spirit, then eventually we will succumb to its authority in our lives.
No more excuses about surprise attacks. We have to get smarter about what we let cross our minds, ears and eyes. You can unfollow people. You can change the channel. You can avoid gossip(y people). There are so many things you can do, options that are within your will power in order to guard your heart. Stop blaming 'the enemy' when you slip up or something goes wrong in your life. It's like tripping over something you left sitting in the middle of the floor. Our first thought is, "Who put that there?!" Know good and well we forgot to pick it up and put it away.
Scripture teaches us to guard our hearts not because of how good it is, but to defend it against more distractions trying to get in and derail our relation with Christ. The heart is full of deceit. Once it's introduced to another avenue of expressing it's nature, then we have to spend a lot of our time (and sometimes the rest of our lives) working to rid our heart of it. Mark 7 does a pretty spot on job of addressing how our nature works:
Let's take a step back...
I don't mean to drop this on your lap as a burden or to make you feel awful. I'm sharing it so that we can get real about ourselves and others. Whether in your church, relationships or friendships, always expect and look for the good in people. It's there. Just don't be devastated or caught off guard when people don't consistently uphold that standard. It means that they're let their carnal nature overcome their spiritual purpose. We are all struggling to maintain a lifestyle that's pleasing in God's sight.
When you're honest about who you are, it makes it much easier to identify and address behaviors that are ill-fitting to children of God. And the next time you trip on something left in the floor, you can look down and ask yourself a few questions:
- When did I leave that there?
- What distracted me from picking it up and putting it away?
- Where does it belong and how can I remind myself to keep it in it's correct place?
When addressing our sinful nature, we need to approach our hang ups like so. First taking accountability for not removing obstructions out of our way, then figuring out how not to repeat the same actions. If I may, I want to give a real-life example of what this means...
Sex(ual activity). Yup, I said it. If we look at it isolated from all the other that (outside of marriage), then we'll keep succumbing and giving it power over us. Using this as an example, let's walk through those previous questions and see what we come up with:
1. When did I leave that there?
Maybe you've slipped up in the past and decided to turn over a new leaf. That's highly commendable, but how did you address those desires. Did you just ignore them when temptation came or did you really develop a (reading) plan to figure out how to address those desires head on?
2. What distracted me from picking it up and putting it away?
This is where it gets interesting. What distracted you from staying diligent in controlling your flesh? There are a lot of things we might not peg that have a pretty heavy influence on out behaviors. It can be the suggestive music we listen to, the movies we watch or the conversations we have in our friend circles. We don't even realize that we're opening our spirit up to certain behaviors when we expose them.
This goes back to the conversation about guarding your heart. What are you willing to do without in order to live abundantly in Christ?
3. Where does it belong and how can I remind myself to keep it in it's correct place?
Sex is good...great actually. Designed to connect, express sincere love and appreciation for and grow a loving family in our marriages. That is exactly where is belongs too-- with marriage. However, realize since you are human, you will have those desires. It's not only natural, but also a spiritual desire. Your spirit is longing for that connection with the one you're meant to spend the rest of your life with. Keep reminding yourself that sex is not a bad thing in the appropriate context. This helps with some of the guilt we may feel when those desires come, but it also reassures us why we are choosing to control our desires and for what reasons.
Address the real enemy.
The bottom line is don't get sidetracked in seeking to blame others without first addressing the real enemy-- your heart and mind. Don't let the previous example sidetrack you either. There are plenty of other areas where we trip everyday. Maybe its being a bit too catty/gossipy. It could be that you're having a difficult time trusting God can handle a particular situation in your life. I can't list all of the possibilities because each one is personal to you, but be aggressive in addressing these areas of needed growth in your life.