Along with The Excellent Wife I am reading Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Idols of the Heart is a book designed to help women identify and tear down their idols. She writes that the main reason we fall when Satan tempts us is because the lust or desire or fear is already in our hearts. He just knows which buttons to push, so to speak. What we have to do is identify those fears, thoughts, and desires, tear them down, and replace them with righteous thoughts and desires. Fitzpatrick teaches the put off/put on principle of repentance, too.
A few days after I wrote my post for TEW last week, I read a section in Idols… entitled, “What Are You Tempted to Worship?” It is a perfect companion to Chapter 3 of TEW.
We can become more aware of the thoughts and desires that ensnare us by asking, What do I want and fear? Or to put a finer point on it, What do I want and fear more than I want to reflect God and grow in holiness? What pleasure do you want so badly that you’re willing to sin in order to obtain it? What do you fear losing so much that you think nothing of sinning in order to hang on to it?
It is painful to admit that there are things I want so badly I am willing to sin, to sacrifice joy in my relationship with God for a moment’s satisfaction. Isn’t it strange that I can be shocked at my own depth of depravity? It just proves how highly I think of myself, doesn’t it? I’m reminded of Owen’s encouragement to overcome sin by thinking of my lowliness and God’s holiness.
Fitzpatrick doesn’t stop there, though. Remember the Greek word for discipline is “gymnazo.” She offers an exercise.
Think back to the last time that you know you sinned. This is important because of the relationship between your functional gods (idols) and sinful behavior. Choose a sin that you habitually fall into, like anger, self-indulgence, or fear, for instance…With this circumstance in mind, ask God to help you answer the following questions:
- What did you want, desire, or wish for?
- What did you fear? What were you worrying about?
- What did you think you needed?
- What were your strategies and intentions designed to accomplish?
- What or whom were you trusting?
- Whom were you trying to please? Whose opinion of you counted?
- What were you loving? Hating?
- What would have brought you the greatest pleasure, happiness, or delight? What would have brought you the greatest pain and misery?
This exercise is very helpful in pinpointing more than a few issues for me.
Just a few more reminders from Fitzpatrick before I close.
Although God tries us for our holiness, we can’t blame God for our sin. I freely chose to sin in response to the thoughts, desires, and fears that were ruling me. Although God rules sovereignly in my life, I am fully responsible for my sin and can never blame Him.
James tell us, Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 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 (1:12-15).
And Jesus teaches us to always watch and pray.
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:14).
If we are going to succeed in the battle against sin and our flesh, if we are going to successfully avoid the traps of our enemy, then we will have to be wise, awake, and prayerful. Not only that, we can put our faith in God who is mighty to save and who “knows how to rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Peter 2:9). He will provide an escape that glorifies Him.