Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Roaring Lion

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8, 9 NIV
I was loaned a book from an avid reader who knows my tastes quite well. The historical novel is extremely well-written and focuses on the latter end of the Roman occupation of Britain--a favourite time of mine. The protagonist is a Roman officer who, upon being severely wounded, returns to the blacksmithing his well-born grandfather taught him. When he learns that his life is being sought by his best friend’s worst enemy, he moves, incognito, to the colony his friend is starting as a way to deal with the eventual departure of law, order and the Pax Romana. The story is exciting, informative and gripping.

There’s just one problem. The author’s keen descriptive abilities include a couple of chapters of vivid sex scenes. In the past, I enjoyed such passages and the arousal they produced but long ago I was convicted of the sin of my response to this and removed all such books from my home. My policy since has been to avoid not only books containing titillation but also those with heavy romance. I don’t need the temptation. But for some reason, this book caught me off-guard.

Aside from the two steamy chapters, which didn’t seem to affect me adversely, the writing was clean and laudable and so I read the book to the end, only to discover that the story continues in a sequel. When I asked the owner of the book for what came next, I was given six more books. Wow! I hadn’t gotten far in the second book, however, when the steam began to rise rapidly and enticingly. I knew I should close the book but I didn’t. I wanted what I was reading.

The next day the guilt and conviction ate at me. I knew I should return the whole pile of books (their owner, whose reading tastes don’t always match mine, had forgotten about this aspect of the books) without reading any more, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Could I skip over the lurid sections? Probably not. Maybe I could allow myself the indulgence of enjoying them. I tried to picture in my mind what that might mean, and realized that giving in would undo all that God has done for me in the past seven years. As Oswald Chambers wrote in my reading for this morning, “Sin destroys the power of the soul to know its sin.”* I know from experience that this is true.

I decided to return the books and read no more but all day they pulled at me. Yes, I would return them, but maybe I could continue reading until I did. No. If I had sinned in my response to what I read, to return to it would deny my love of God. But the arguments within continued. To end the quarrel within me, I made a point of returning them to remove me from temptation but the pictures in my head stayed with me, inviting me to go where I knew I should not. And still they lure.

I was reading in Philippians last night:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV
Satan is a roaring lion, seeking to devour me, you and everyone else who seeks to follow Jesus. One way to resist him is to do what Paul advised the Philippians and put our focus on those things which honour God. We also need to stand firm (1 Corinthians 15:58, 16:13, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:14, Philippians 4:1, Colossians 1:23) and to press on (Philippians 3:12-14). “...for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again....” Proverbs 24:16 NIV

God, thank you for your love: the love that forgives and enables me to rise again after falling and then to stand firm and press on towards you. This is what I want, oh God! Yes, the pleasures of sin are attractive but they also devour and destroy. Help me keep my mind on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy and protect me from the evil one and his lures. Thank you for giving me the strength to get up and press on. Thank you for your forgiveness.

*“Soul: The Essence, Existence and Expression: Past, Present and Future of the Soul,” in “Biblical Psychology,” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, page 164.

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