Temptation (2): The Rules Do Apply to Me
1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Jesus left no doubt about the Devil’s nature: He is a liar. “… He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Our Enemy is also supremely pragmatic. He doesn’t really care what tool he uses as long as it works. Unfortunately, he knows what’s effective for dislodging our hold on Truth and our faith in the Giver of Truth – lies. In his efforts to keep believers from being fruitful, he clearly knows that a simple, logical lie can often do greater damage than a host of frontal assaults.
More than once I’ve awakened out of some spiritual slumber or compromise by discovering that a simple lie had silently inserted itself into my thinking. It usually comes dressed in the guise of a false assumption I’m unconsciously acting on.
When it comes to temptation, the Devil likes to tell us that our temptations are unique and, therefore, the promises of God do not apply in our situation (see ‘Temptation Pt.1’). An effective variation on this strategy is when he convinces us that our situation is somehow unique and, therefore, the normal rules don’t apply in our case. When this happens, we begin to believe that what is clearly sin for others – isn’t for us.
This lie takes many forms. One that I see more and more in premarital counseling is couples who are living together because they “can’t afford to live separately”. Supposedly, since they don’t have the money to afford two apartments, that makes it OK for them to live together. After all, “the Lord knows we just don’t have the money”.
In my conversations with them, they normally acknowledge that it’s a sin (usually phrased as “it’s not the best choice”). But, inevitably, I find myself listening as they explain why their situation is unique and, therefore, the normal rules obviously don’t apply to them. Of course, when you put it in black and white (as I’m doing here), the absurdity of it becomes clear. What they’re doing, as professing believers, is wrong on multiple levels and in multiple ways. It’s sin and the rules do apply to them – period.
In most cases it’s the guy who’s the strongest advocate for their excuses. After all, he’s got the most to lose (free sex). Sometimes I get the “but we’re married in God’s eyes” routine. To which I ask if her name has been changed on her driver’s license, if they’re filing their taxes jointly, if they’re on a shared medical plan and “On what day and at what time did this take place?”. You get the idea. This is followed by pointing out that, when someone is truly married, their legal and social status is clearly and definitely changed – if it’s not, they’re not.
Sometimes they claim that the Bible (acording to them) doesn’t say a lot about weddings and legal marriage. In this case, I point out that every time the Bible uses the words ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ or ‘married’ (often ‘to take a wife’), the very definition of the words only apply if the social, cultural (and legal) status of the couple has changed from being single to being married. It also implies that this change has taken place in the context of a ceremony that has, in fact, established their new standing in the eyes of their family, society and culture.
But I digress …
The Rules Do Apply. They apply to me and they apply to you. To think otherwise is to believe a lie and join the innoculated ranks of the spiritually impotent. We know better than that.
Although my interviews with ‘cohabitating’ (read ‘sinning’) couples usually end with an air of tension, a marked change often occurs over the next couple of weeks. I love it when they march up to me with beaming faces to announce that they’ve asked the Lord’s forgiveness, committed to purity, and one of them has moved out (usually the guy, who’s now sleeping on a friend’s couch). It’s amazing what you can afford when you’re willing to accept a little inconvenience.
So, the next time the Tempter tells you the rules don’t apply to you because, after all, your situation is unique, just reply “If you believe that, I’ve got some beach front property in Nevada I’d like to sell you.” Or, better yet, just say “I’m sorry but I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
“Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve believed Your rules don’t apply to me. Teach me to be quicker to recognize the Tempter’s lies. And help me remember that Your ‘rules’ are actually the guard-rails of Your Will for my life – Your good, acceptable and perfect will (Rom. 12:1-2). Amen.”