In This Series
Stacy is a single woman who struggles with her relationships with men. She desires their attention, which can frequently result in impure thoughts, deeds, and disappointment when she learns the source of the attraction is purely sexual.
Nick continues to battle his attraction to pornography. Despite turning to Christ in college, getting married, and becoming a father, the pull of this sin seems as strong as ever.
Despite exposure to sound gospel teaching, both Stacy and Nick are struggling in their Christian walk. Each morning starts with hope (Lamentations 3:23), but when life’s interactions take place, godly intentions quickly unravel, and they find themselves responding like their pre-regenerate selves.
Conversations in three areas are needed to help them gain traction against besetting sin:
Most Christians recognize sinful behaviors are the fruit of an evil heart (Luke 6:43-45) but may not fully understand the four-step process described by James.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15).
Step 1: Temptation (Lured)
Part of the human experience is to have a soul that hungers for satisfaction, though we naturally look for delight apart from God (Romans 1:21-23), which is lust or idolatry. As Christians, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have a new Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27), but our fallen flesh (Galatians 5:17) remains a magnet for the temptations life brings.
From our individual experiences, rebellious hearts, and fleshly-formed thinking patterns, we each have our particular bent of lust. Usually, it is a self-focused desire or a skewed or perverted variation of God’s good gifts of security, intimacy, community, love, sex, et cetera.
Step 2: Enticed By Desire
The next step is the deception of the mind. Once temptation arrives on the scene, a spiritual battle ensues. To complement James’ analogy of childbirth, this is when the romancing of the evil act takes place. The promise of satisfaction is highlighted, and the expected consequences are minimized. The bait looks too good to pass up.
Step 3: Conception
Sin conception happens when the fleshly desire captures the believer’s heart, and it is only a matter of time before the act follows. At this point, an individual becomes hardhearted, characterized by an inability to discern spiritual reality. Hardened by sin is spiritual blindness at its worst. The hard heart takes action toward the evil desire, and the individual is ready to plunge into sin, apathetic and unmoved by the resulting consequences.
Step 4: Sin
The sin that has been incubating comes to fruition, manifesting its deadly intention.
To help our friends, you must look for ways to break the process of sin before conception.
God gives you practical ways to battle temptation in the earliest stages of the process through either limitation or amputation. In essence, this requires radical steps to remove ourselves from situations that present temptations. Rick discusses these strategies in Three Ways to Overcome Sin and Temptation.
The enticement stage is the battle for your mind. As a Christian, you are called to renew your thinking patterns (Ephesians 4:22-23, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:8), but what does this practically look like, and how does right thinking incapacitate the process of sin?
To find the answer, you must explore the role of your internal conversation.
I am talking about the conversation in your head that never seems to run out of things to say. I don’t fully understand this conversation, but I suspect it is a mixture of your will (desires), conscience (Romans 1:18-20), and knowledge as they are contoured, influenced, and shaped by the Spirit.
In addition to contributions from the Spirit (John 14:26), there are possibly demonic forces seeking to manipulate and incline your will one way or another (Genesis 3:1).
This conversation contains a combination of facts and opinions, and in many ways, it reflects a TV talk show or broadcast of a sporting event.
I like to describe the dialogue as a mere conversation between two voices; one voice that presents the facts or asks the questions, and a second voice that provides commentary and analysis about the subject or event. I will refer to the first voice as the play-by-play announcer (PBPA) and the latter as the color commentator (CC).
Usually, the PBPA voice is not a problem area for a Christian. Spiritual enlightenment (1 Corinthians 2:12-14) has occurred, and a scripturally well-informed PBPA voice can provide biblical insight into the “live-streamed” events of our lives.
The voice that gives most Christians problems is the CC, and that is where the deception of the mind takes place. If left unchecked, the CC often works to get your mind off of Christ and onto self-sufficient and often sinful solutions to gain satisfaction.
PBPA: Stopping to get some coffee. Look, a nice-looking man is working behind the counter.
CC: I wonder if he thinks I am cute? Let’s see if he gives me that second look. Come on, check me out.
PBPA: Nope. He is now helping another female customer with “big curves.”
CC: What makes me think he would check me out? I don’t have the body guys want. I will never be loved.
Here, the CC “romanced Stacy” with the bait of male attention. She wants to be an attractive, desirable woman worthy of being noticed by the opposite sex. She wants to be accepted, protected, and loved by a man. In her Adamic brokenness, her thinking and past gains connect to her physical beauty and sex. This disappointment can tempt her towards sexual lust.
PBPA: I didn’t get the promotion.
CC: That is so unfair! So much for the Disney vacation or helping out with the church-building project.
PBPA: There are your co-workers Carol and Diana walking up ahead. Remember, lusting is a sin.
CC: I deserve a little pick-me-up. How can I not check out those curves? So which one do I think is more attractive? What if they were both wearing bikinis?
Again, the CC was able to shift Nick’s focus to worldly things and to arouse sexual desires. He wants to be a successful manager, an admired father, and a godly husband. In short, he wants to be good at everything he values.
In his Adamic brokenness, his past gains connect to his performance in school and gaining attention from females. With this event, his flesh is fed (Galatians 6:8) and lures him to respond to the job disappointment by escaping into his fantasy world.
I recognize these conversations are a bit silly, but I think they help illustrate how internal discussions can remain worldly. The dialogue remains unregenerate, and the old nemeses of legalism, self-sufficiency, and self-righteousness enter into the conversation more or less undetected.
Redeemed thinking requires more than biblical knowledge. Most of the time, it mandates you to fire your color commentator!
Drawing from the first article in this series, you recall how your desires metamorphose into your identity. For Stacy and Nick, their identity was not in Christ but a complex mix of the many micro-identities rooted in self.
Additionally, you see a connection between their identity and the internal commentary of their CC. What captures the interest and concern of their CC is their purpose and position, namely their identity.
Your interpretations of the events in your life are directly dependent upon your goal and what you believe you deserve. As a result, your internal commentary becomes clouded by the alliance to your false identities (Ephesians 4:17).
An unchecked CC is the Achilles heel of your internal conversation, leading you away from simply resting in Christ.
Thou knowest thou hast formed me with passions wild and strong and listening to their witching voice has often lead me wrong. – Robert Burns
For Stacy and Nick to gain traction in their Christian life, they must recognize and shed their many false competing identities and simply find rest in their new in Christ identity. This lasting change will only occur with the employment of a new Color Commentator.
One of the more substantial blessings of regeneration is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Through this beautiful union, clouded in mystery, you now have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15-16), which is the CC you need to put into play.
It doesn’t come without a considerable investment of time and effort. You cannot know God’s mind unless you have His heart and His Spirit unless you share in His character. Your task is that the character of Christ transforms your CC through Scripture reading, memorization, and prayer.
To change your CC’s character, you must recognize the waywardness of everything about you, stripping away the deceptive workings of the flesh until only your in Christ identity remains (Matthew 5:3).
Careful, honest gospel self-examination of your functional identity should bring you to recognize, “I am more broken than I ever imagined, which exposes a troubling level of depravity in my heart and creates in me a desperate dependence on Christ.”
It is in this context the process of reading the Bible, meditating, memorizing scripture, and praying can profoundly transform the character of your CC.
As a Christian, you are in the lifelong battle of seeing past the workings of your flesh, counting all gains as a loss (Philippians 3:7-9), and becoming more humble in your own eyes, more weaned from self, more fixed on Him as your all in all. Gospel simplicity is the only way to find freedom from the trappings of the flesh.
Returning to Stacy and Nate, if they are successful in stripping away the areas of spiritual complexity formed by the many self-created micro-identities in their lives, their newly created CC results in a new freedom in life.
Stacy’s CC can quickly remind her of the true acceptance and love from Christ and enable her to acknowledge her counterfeit, unsatisfying, and destructive desires for male attention. She is now free to look around the coffee shop and find another single woman who looks like they could use a friend.
With news of the promotion, Nick can decisively find comfort in God’s flawlessly ordained plan. His Biblically-informed, gospel-motivated CC reminds him that God withholds no good thing (Psalm 84:11) so his focus can turn outward, endeavoring to serve his coworkers selflessly.
How has your Christianity impacted your internal conversation?