The gospel is more than sin/behavior management and modification. Please, before you continue to read really think about that statement. What does it mean? How does the meaning apply to our life? As radical as it may sound, I would even go as far to say, that the devil wants us to believe that the gospel is ONLY about behavior modification. The devil doesn't want us to know something deeper.
There is a deeper question buried underneath every sin. The question is this: What are we really desiring? The sin is not necessarily about the sin in of itself, the problem is in what we think the sin will give us- what we think the sin will accomplish for us, what we think the sin will provide for us. This question ultimately provides a context to our sin, and addresses an even deeper issue. If we think the sin we partake in can provide us some sort of satisfaction, we essentially believe that God is not as good as God claims He is, and that God is not as good as we "proclaim" God to be.
A Deeper Look at Satan Attempting to Tempt Jesus
In Matthew 4:1-11 we learn of Jesus being tempted by Satan. The crux of biblical theology is that Jesus was both fully human and fully God. The realization that Jesus was both human and God is liberating for several reasons. Although Christ could identify with our humanness, we have to remember that Christ was not LIKE US. Unlike us, Christ could not be lead astray by His own evil yearnings, unlike us Christ was not born with the "law of sin" within Him," unlike us Christ did not have a proclivity or proneness to sin.
If Jesus isn't like us, then how on earth was He tempted? The answer is in the reality that Jesus was human. Satan couldn't tempt Jesus, because Jesus was sinful. Satan could tempt Jesus, because Jesus was human. If you read Matthew 4:1-11 notice that Satan tried to attack Jesus, when Jesus was HUNGRY, LONELY, and TIRED.
Being hungry, lonely, and tired is not a sin and it isn't wrong- it is a reality of being human. However, we are more prone to make wrong choices when we feel this way. Interestingly, there is an acronym that I and other counselors use with clients to help them with self-awareness in relation to making beneficial choices. The acronym is HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. In other words we have to HALT (stop) when we are hungry, angry lonely, and tired, because we are more prone to make unhealthy choices when we feel this way. I like this acronym, because it provides a context to our behavior.
The good news is that Jesus resisted the temptation, and for this blog post I won't go into detail of what Jesus did to resist the temptation (even though we can learn from Jesus's example), but I do want to put emphasis on what Satan tried to attack. Satan attacked the humanity of Christ, and humanity is associated very closely with desire (what are we desiring?).
Abandoning the Water Fountain
Jeremiah 2:13 is one of my favorite scriptures, because it provides a key reminder and context to sin. It says,
“For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!"
Essentially God acknowledges that His people have a deep thirst (desire) that God can only fill; however, His people have turned to things that can't hold any water at all. The "evil thing" is not necessarily in being thirsty, the "evil thing" is not realizing that God is the source to our thirstiness. In other words we could define sin as, "things we use apart from God, that we think will fill a desire in us that God can only fill."
There are several God given desires that we as humans possess:
If we don't realize that God is the source to those desires, it's no wonder that we will go to the "cracked cistern" of sex and unhealthy relationships to fill our thirst (desire) for approval and attention. It's no wonder that we will go to the "cracked cistern" of alcohol and drugs to fill our thirst (desire) for comfort and safety- (safety from emotional pain). It's no wonder that we will go to the "cracked cistern" of money and status to fill our thirst (desire) for security and significance.
WHAT ARE WE DESIRING?
The gospel is limited if we limit it to just getting people to stop sinning, and never focus on the question, "what are they desiring?" Through the question, we are able to show people that God is really who they are looking for. Satan is thoroughly content knowing that there are people who will focus more on hiding their sin to look good for others, instead of realizing that God is the only one who can fulfill their desire. Satan is thoroughly content with us posting scriptures on Facebook, when off line we go to "cracked cisterns" we think will fill a desire in us apart from God.
How could we ever stop sinning, if we haven't figure out that God is what we need? God wants our souls to be transformed and not just a behavior modified. If I don't realize that God is the one who can fill voids, I will just substitute a "big" sin for a less noticeable one. Satan doesn't want us to know 1) our desire 2) how our sin doesn't fill our desire 3) in our desire, we are really looking for God.
The Gospel Hope
The gospel is not just about behavior modification, it is about soul transformation. It's not about what we did/do, it is about what Christ has already done. Do not give the devil the satisfaction and neglect what Christ has done.
If you are trapped in sin, stop and ask yourself 1) "what am I really desiring?" Once you have figured out your desire, ask yourself 2) "have I been using my sin to fill the desire that God can only fill?" Lastly, repent and ask God, 3) "show me that in my desire I have been looking for you the whole time."
What desire is underneath the sin?
1) What am I really desiring (Attention, Affirmation, Approval, Affection, Acceptance, Safety, Security, Safety)?
2) Have I been using my sin to fill the desire that God can only fill?
3) God, show me that in my desire I have been looking for you the whole time.