The Seven Deadly Sins and The Seven Saving Virtues; Epilogue

Seven Deadly MasksTemptation is not sin.  This is difficult for most of us to get our heads around.  We are ashamed of not wanting to do anything and just be lazy.  Where do we draw the line between seeing a lovely woman in a revealing outfit and getting turned on by the view, and lusting after that woman?  We feel guilt over envying someone’s blessing and good fortune.  We are taught that to think evil of someone else, or to gloat over another’s misfortune is a bad thing.  We are told to count to ten before venting our anger, and we should not be greedy.  We want to eat unhealthily even though we know it will take us to early graves.  Or we feel exempt from these temptations . . . and proud of our spirituality!

Steve Elliott recently presented 12 Myths About Temptation to which I would like to assert the 12 Truths About Temptation:
1. To be tempted is not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
2. God is not displeased just because we are tempted.
3. No matter how strong the temptation feels, it is still NOT sin.
4. We do not “fall” into temptation.  It approaches us and tries to trick us to get us to fail.
5. Will power alone will never be enough to overcome temptation.
6. Yielding to one temptation makes you weaker for the next.  It hurts you every time, and more each time!
7. Even if you overcame last time, temptation will come again.  “Temptation does not knock at the door, it leans on the doorbell.” (Steve Elliott)
8. If you have yielded to temptation, there is complete and thorough restoration available, not a second-class citizenship in Christian living.
9. The temptation comes from outside, not from within you.  Even “real Christians” are tempted.  Even Jesus was tempted! (Luke 4:1-13)
10. Spiritual maturity does not stop temptations from coming.  They will continue as long as the devil, “the tempter,” is in the world.
11. Hiding from temptation will not make it go away.  There is value in protecting yourself and avoiding obvious places of temptation, but you cannot avoid it entirely. (1 Corinthians 5:10)
12. Everyone experiences some form of temptation that is similar to yours. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
And I would add a thirteenth observation:
13. Every temptation is based on a bold-faced lie!  If you look for what that lie is behind the temptation, you will significantly reduce its power.

The real issue before God is not which area of sin presents each of us with the most problems; it is not even how far we have sunk into wrong actions or how much damage we have done to others or how terrible our sin has destroyed what God intended for good for us and others.

The issue before God is which way are we heading!  We are either getting worse or getting better when we are faced with sin in which we indulge.  We are either overcoming or giving in, and the process is progressive.  We will stumble on the way to Heaven or hell.  The question is which way we will fall, forward or backward.

Disneys worldYahweh promises in Psalm 103:12 to remove our sins “as far as the east is from the west.”  How far is that?  Well, look at where the sun comes up over your neighborhood, and that is east.  Now turn around and look at where the sun sets, and that is west.  It is not where you are at on earth that matters, but which direction you are facing!

Interestingly the Psalmist did not say “as far as the north is from the south.”  You see, if you head far enough north you will reach the North Pole and every direction around you is south!  The same is true if you head far enough into Antarctica to the South Pole; everywhere you turn is north.  But no matter how far east or west you may have traveled or how many times you may have circled the globe in that direction, all you have to do is turn around!!!

If you continue yielding to temptation and excusing yourself that “next time” you will do better, you may fall into a trap of always facing the wrong way, becoming settled in that direction, so comfortable with the sin that your conscience may become scorched to a point of not feeling any guilt (1 Timothy 4:2).  But even then, all you have to do is turn around!

And in turning around you will find all of Heaven’s resources available to help you overcome the temptation . . . temptations that will keep on coming, but they will become less effective at defeating you each time.  The temptation will not diminish in strength, but you will be stronger the longer you are headed in the right direction.

The victory over temptation that we can enjoy now steels us against more temptations to come if we refuse to submit to them.  If we find help in a brother or sister, tempted in the same area, we can pray together to support each other.  If we read the Bible and hide it in our hearts, we will have resources to defeat temptation’s attacks.  If we allow the Holy Spirit to purify our minds and hearts we will adopt His world view and understand the difference of light and darkness (1 John 1:5-10).

And someday we will see the Seven Deadly Sins for what they are: masks that hide the Truth that will save us and set us free; masks that keep us hidden from all the help Heaven and others will offer to overcome temptation; masks that keep us from exercising the virtues that will lead to a fulfilling life in Jesus, the Christ.

 

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