“Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)
That's a request that only the brave of heart will make. To ask God to reveal any area that's not pleasing to Him can certainly be uncomfortable. Nevertheless that's the call of Psalm 139. Our move into 2021 comes with questions:
While it’s sometimes not fun to take an honest look at ourselves, it’s necessary and important for our spiritual health to do so on a regular basis. Here's the big idea, “Stop it! It’s not easy but it is simple.”
Following Jesus is simple, it’s simply about patterning our lives after His teaching, looking to Him for guidance and direction. It's simply about seeking Him for the forgiveness of our sins. It's simply about studying His Word for how we should and should not be living our lives, being honest about the stuff in our lives that isn’t honoring to Him and then making moves to get rid of that stuff. Simple right? Yes, but it’s not always easy to do.
Allow me to quickly suggest two areas that God is calling us to flee from. The first one is an obvious one but it’s one that we can quickly get pulled into especially in the times we’re living it - drama! Here's a snippet of what God's Word says about this topic.
2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB) says, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
1 Timothy 6:20 (NASB) says, “Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly, empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”.
This politically charged, social media driven culture that we find ourselves in provides ample opportunity for us to get caught up in these "foolish and ignorant speculations". Scroll social media for one minute and you'll be barraged by "empty chatter" being passed off as "knowledge". At best this serves as a distraction to what really matters and at worst we end up damaging our credibility as believers.
God’s Word is clear, we are not to get caught up in this and it's not beneficial for us or the unbelieving world around us. Steer clear.
If you spend time praying Psalm 139:23-24 and God reveals to you that this is an area of struggle in your life the solution isn't easy, but it is simple: You’ve got to cut whatever the source of that is out of your life.
Maybe it’s a friend group or a particular friend. Maybe it's a particular social media platform. Maybe it’s you feeling like if you don’t have empty chatter and drama in your life then no one pays attention to you. Your value isn't in the pot you stir or the cause you champion. Maybe for you it's the realization that if all of your focus is on the drama and the empty chatter then you don’t have to deal with what God really wants to deal with in your life. Regardless, drama, empty chatter, arguing, strife, contention - not what God wants in our lives. Get rid of it!
The second area that comes to mind is much more specific and likely more difficult to deal with - temptation. Before we move any further it's important to say, we'll never rid our lives of all temptation but we can make moves to make it less aggressive and active in our lives.
Here's what I mean by that: If we're honest, much of the temptation that we struggle with is a result of our own choices. We refuse to place ourselves in accountable relationships so we never have to deal with the hard questions of:
Here’s what God’s Word says about putting ourselves in these types of situations:
“Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NASB)
"Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NASB)
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB) says “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
The Bible is clear that God is with us in the midst of temptation but it's also clear that we have a responsibility to flee from temptation, to not continue to subject ourselves to unnecessary temptation and to place ourselves in situations that better allow us to be held accountable.
Of course temptation by itself isn’t a sin, it’s only when we give in to that temptation that we enter into sin. But it's as if our goal has become to knowingly flirt with the line in an effort to see how close we can get without sinning. Friends, this approach is not glorifying to God. It's not easy but it is simple, flee from temptation. Place yourself in accountable relationships.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.