“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
I’m reading a book that I have started many times but have yet to finish. In fact, I haven’t gotten far in any of my attempts. It’s not that the book is bad or boring. It’s that the truth of it hit home too hard. The book is a Christian classic, “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall. I’ve written about this before. The reason I stopped reading it is that, early on, he says we are to “renounce our bosom sins.” I guess I wasn’t quite ready to do that. But I tell you, I am getting really sick of mine, and it’s time to kill it. So, I’m back to this book that dives deep into scripture.
Let me share a passage with you. See if you can relate.
Those sins which have lain nearest to your heart must now be trampled under your feet. And what courage and resolution this requires! You think Abraham was tested to the limit when called upon to take Isaac, ‘thine only son…whom thou lovest’ (Gen. 22:2), and offer him up with his own hands. Yet what was that to this: ‘Soul, take the lust which is the child dearest to your heart, your Isaac, the sin from which you intend to gain the greatest pleasure. Lay hands on it and offer it up; pour out its blood before Me; run the sacrificing knife into the very heart of it – and do it joyfully!’
Have you ever used this kind of imagery regarding your sin? That you are being asked to slaughter your sin, the object dearest to you, the one you protect and cherish most? I tell you, it makes sense to me the way I have been refusing to deal with mine. Until I am willing to do this – to kill it – my talk is merely idle words.
This is more than the human spirit can bear to hear. Our lust will not lie so patiently on the altar as Isaac, nor as the Lamb brought dumb to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7). Our flesh will roar and shriek, rending the heart with its hideous cries. Indeed, who can express the conflict, the wrestlings, the convulsions of spirit we endure before we can put our heart into such a command? Or who can fully recount the cleverness with which such a lust will plead for itself?
There is truth to what he said. I’m sure he didn’t have modern medicine to explain the physiological aspects of alcohol withdrawals, but his observation of what the body does is spot on. We see the same for sugar as we do alcohol. Same with gambling, caffeine, pornography, or any other sin for that matter. Something in this activity soothes us; and when removed, we experience a reaction, sometimes violent. Have you experienced this? I certainly have, even this morning as my stomach growls. And, how about that last line? “The cleverness with which such a lust will plead for itself?” I’m coming up with all sorts of excuses, right now, to quiet it.
When the Spirit convicts you of sin, Satan will try to convince you, ‘It is such a little one – spare it.’ Or he will bribe the soul with a vow of secrecy: ‘You can keep me and your good reputation, too. I will not be seen in your company to shame you among your neighbors. You may shut me up in the attic of your heart, out of sight, if only you will let me now and then have the wild embraces of your thoughts and affections in secret.’
Ouch! Have you wrestled with any of this? Have you snuck a drink or bite of food? Have you ever hidden any evidence of your indulgence from others? I’ll bet you have. These lies are common to man, so they are common to me and you. Recognize them. “…so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Cor. 2:11) I need to stop fooling myself. These are lies that I have been listening to, lies from something that is intent on destroying me (John 10:10).
If that will not be granted, then Satan asks for a stay of execution, well knowing that most such reprieved lusts at last obtain their full pardon. The longer we procrastinate, the harder it becomes to break through the clever coaxing of this silver-tongued defender of sin and death, and actually carry out the execution. Here history’s bravest men have shown themselves putty in the enemy’s hands. They return from the field with victory banners flying, and then live and die slaves to a base lust at home. They are like the great Roman who, as he rode triumphantly through the city, never took his eyes off a prostitute walking along the street: a man who conquered empires, captured by the glance of a single woman!
This is where I am at. Today. These words describe me so well that I am ashamed to admit it. No, I don’t have a secret sexual relationship, but I do have one with food. I enjoy so much in my walk of faith, yet I have this one problem that is driving me crazy, one that I deal with most when I am alone at home. And, it has been at about this part of Gurnall’s book that I have stopped. It hits way too close to home, and, apparently, I was not willing to stick the knife deep to kill that voice that beckons me.
I hope this time is different. Please pray for me.
Father, I don’t think we realize just what our struggle is. Or, if we do, we don’t want to believe it. In any case, I’m coming to you because I can’t do this on my own. Teach me. Heal me. You began the good work in me. Your promise to complete it is secure. Amen.
“The Christian in Complete Armour, Volume 1, a modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall”, Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 2017, pp. 30-31