Sunday School: Replacement Therapy

Hey, time for another quick “Sunday School” lesson. Of course you are most likely reading this on Monday but hey, at least I posted it on Sunday.

We all get tempted with sin. We all have things we want to do that we shouldn’t do. Whether its smoking a cigarette or something else, watching a lust inducing video (or something a bit more “hands on”) or yelling at the maid we all have things we struggle with. We are all tempted, not even Jesus was immune.

I think many of us try to concentrate on resisting temptation. Let’s try a common thought experiment. Do not think of a pink elephant with a cute bow. Did it work, are you NOT thinking of a pink elephant with a cute bow? I know I couldn’t avoid it. When we concentrate on the sin we start with 2 strikes against us. We will have to face temptation head on, no doubt. Even Jesus did out in the desert (and I imagine Satan showed up to deter Him at other times also). But we can’t defeat temptation by simply NOT doing the thing we aren’t supposed to do.

Let’s look at a couple of passages:

Galatians 5:19-26

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[a] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

In this passage Paul does not simply supply a list of don’ts but he also lists a series of dos. You’ll notice many of the dos directly contradict the don’ts. Examples include hatred – love, outbursts of wrath – self-control and murders – peace. This is what I call “replacement theory”. God isn’t simply calling us to stop doing bad stuff, He wants to replace it with good stuff.

Another passage is more direct

Matthew 12:43-45

43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

So the evil spirit is sent away, is homeless for awhile, decides that maybe his old digs are for rent, finds his old pad unoccupied and returns along with seven of his buddies. Is Jesus telling us about the housing habits of evil spirits. Kinda but no, He isn’t. You see the mistake the person made was he did not fill the void left by the exit of the evil spirit. A void yearns to be filled. Our sin fills a void, imperfectly to be sure but it fills it. When we try to keep the sin out without putting anything in we are doomed to failure. What works is to successfully fill the void with something better so when the evil spirit returns (and he will) he’ll find the sign “No vacancy by order of Jesus Christ”. Amem and amen.

Real life application: if its an attitude or thought issue we must replace it with new attitudes and thoughts. We can’t stop thinking, feeling or expressing. That’s what is left if we try NOT to lose our temper or gossip or engage in dirty talk. We must replace those old bad thoughts with the fruit of the Spirit (see first passage). If its an activity we must find another way to occupy our time. I know I eat less, buy less and do other things less when I’m busy. Summer is hard since I have lots of time and I’ll be doing something. So I need to do something else instead of not do the things that make me fat, broke and sinful. Its no mistake that David & Solomon fell into sin during peaceful or inactive periods in their lives. (See 2 Samuel 11 & 12 for David’s sin with Bathsheba, see 1 Kings 11 for Solomon’s fall from “grace”).

There are times when we must resist temptation. If we really want to do something we will find the time and opportunity. But we can’t just resist the temptation to do evil, we must replace those evil things with the things of God. Otherwise we are doomed to failure since God’s helpis our only chance and if we aren’t serving Him and replacing that evil we aren’t doing what God has called us to do.

Thanks for reading, until next time …

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