Monday, December 22, 2014

Texting Treatise: Different Responses to Temptation

Texting Treatise: Different Responses to Temptation
The first section contains the types of responses or non-responses to sin, where a person rejects the idea that they should be repentant about it.
Lack of Awareness: unaware of what you are doing

Qualified Unawareness: aware of what you are doing, but think it is good. Unaware that it is sin

Apathy: aware it’s wrong but don’t care to change it

Minimization: aware it’s wrong but deny the severity of it

Defiance: aware of the wrongness and severity and willingly indulge it anyway without contrition
In this next section are different types of responses to sin that contain a measure of contrition (feeling sorry) or repentance (genuinely desiring to flee from or overcome the temptation). For the sake of making it seem more interesting, psychologically, I’ve arranged them in a potential ‘maturity scale’ that the hypothetical average sinner might progress through while dealing with recognized temptations to sin in their life.
                Sub-set: Vain Heroics
Halfhearted Abstinence: an attempt to break from it, but not strong enough in conviction to persist. Likely followed by binging on the particular temptation (shopping, drinking, sexual activity, surfing channels/websites, abandoning healthy eating or exercise, etc) upon crashing

All or Nothing: can lead to longer sustained abstinence, but more often leads to more time in between attempts, because of the fear of failure. Successive failure leads to disillusionment with pure abstinence and leads to a variety of different attempts to deal with the issue:

                Sub-set: Allowances
Hesitation: failing with abstinence doesn’t immediately lead to abandoning that method, but can cause a person to rationalize not trying right now, while they’re waiting for the perfect moment to start. They tolerate giving in to the temptation because they tell themselves that they’re planning to try to abstain from it soon

Banking: sinning more in the short term to satisfy an imagined quota that your flesh desires, so that you can hope to have better success in your abstinence effort. This leads to an expectation of high indulgence, which produces a cycle of periodic abstinence followed by binging, which is worse than the initial ‘halfhearted abstinence’ program.

Putting it Out of Mind: not thinking about it, in the hopes that it was one’s focus on trying to deal with the temptation so strongly that led to the catastrophic failures in the past. When this inevitably fails, it is modified to

Tolerance: not keeping track, and letting yourself get away with indulgence in the hope that by not “banking” it, you’ll end up indulging in it less, and that by not trying to abstain all-or-nothing-wise, you won’t have a “crash.”

                Sub-set: Searching for Loopholes
Rhythm/Scheduling: when tolerance doesn’t end up diminishing your gratification of your sinful desires, and you catch yourself, you may try to “out-think” yourself, by intentionally planning to give in to the temptation at certain points, but insert periods of focused abstinence in between. It’s basically a modified “banking/all-or-nothing” approach with shorter periods of abstinence that make success more likely. When the periods are extended in the effort of “weaning” yourself off of a dependence on the indulgence, you reach the level of

Gradual Improvement: this can be reached with or without the “scheduling” stage; it’s basically an attempt to “play a long game” and start comfortably with a high tolerance for your indulgence, gradually decreasing how much of an allowance you’ll give yourself. This is basically a more intentional version of

Fatalism: aiming for less than perfection because you can’t get it. Whereas the “gradual improvement,” “scheduling” and “banking” approaches tolerate sin for the sake of trying to build some sort of spiritual immunity to it (doesn’t work, by the way), fatalism is the final resting place of many people (note that this scale does not have to be limited to Christians). They decide that they’ll accept a certain amount of giving in to temptation over a certain length of time, indefinitely, because they’ve decided that they’ll never have victory over it. Such thinking can lead a person from being contrite  to becoming incorrigible. However, some people may make a few further desperate steps to dealing with the issue of their temptation

Exhaustion: Trying to wear oneself out, as in the banking case, but more intensely. Seriously trying to become burnt out to the point of breaking some sort of mental barrier to a successful commitment to abstinence, by over-indulging in the temptation to the extreme.

Disgust: Same as above, but merely a different way. Whereas the attempt of exhaustion might be to indulge so much that the longing desire for it is diminished, the attempt of disgust is to make oneself so sickened by oneself so that they’ll be motivated by a desperate desire “not to be that sort of person,” to once and for all give up what clearly makes you ill just to contemplate it

Rationalization: When all else fails (and this is often a first stop, and a recurring recourse on the road of dealing with temptation), a person may try to escape the ordeal of trying to kill their sin by the use of logic. Perhaps there’s a context in which it’s  acceptable (maybe I’ll only masturbate to the thought of my future wife? Maybe I’ll only drink or smoke pot when I’m alone, so I can’t hurt anyone? Maybe I’ll overeat on healthier foods?), or perhaps it isn’t really sin, just not “the best thing for you” (playing video games all day just wastes time, it’s not the sin of sloth; eating too much means you’ll need to exercise more, it’s not the sin of gluttony; stopping a conversation just prevents a resolution, it isn’t the sin of wrath, shopping just means you'll have less to spend on other things, it isn't the sin of greed). While rationalization really makes people move from Contrition to Incorrigibility via Minimization, the impetus for utilizing it is the hope that they can move to Blindness via Qualified Unawareness, so that they can excuse not trying harder to quit by convincing themselves that they honestly didn’t know it was wrong. Rationalization tries to find some way to make an aspect of the sinful act acceptable and suppresses the shame response, to avoid dealing with the issue completely, in a cop-out.
None of these approaches work. They are all attempts I’ve tried, or contemplated (how else would I have thought to write about them), for various personal temptations that are not necessarily listed here. What is offered in the examples are just that, food for thought to consider something you may not have been aware of, not a public confession of that specific thing on my part.
But based on my experience, and though I know that I am bound to fail to some degree on this side of eternity nevertheless, I am fully convinced that the only ‘authorized’ way of dealing with temptations are these:
Active Resistance: “if your hand causes you to sin, it would be better for you to cut it off” (Matthew 5:30) – the point is not to take drastic measures to hurt yourself. The point is to isolate anything between you and the temptation that can break the link and prevent you from fulfilling the sinful indulgence thereof. If internet access at home tempts you to view porn, it’s easier to remove the internet access and do your banking at a friend’s house under supervision rather than try to deal with it any other way, right? Filters are pretty useless if you have the password to inactivate them. The computers in this example are a metaphor for how our minds work with regard to temptation. It’s far harder to overcome temptation that is fully in the mind than temptation that it is possible to break the link with in “outside life.” But we nevertheless must resist whether it’s easy to “cut it off” or not

Fleeing: “flee from sexual temptation: all other sins a man commits are outside of his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) What this means, I’m still not certain enough to offer a decisive opinion on to others in public. But what is clear is that sexual temptation is in a separate class, probably because of its ability to ensnare a person so fully. Better than doing simple things to limit the possibility of failure, the Bible warns that you should remove the possibility entirely. Don’t deal with it like gluttony or sloth, stocking a fridge with food that’s hard to eat in large quantities without preparation. Deal with it decisively and ultimately, like with the example of removing internet access. Rather than bringing a buddy with you or practicing ways to say no, simply don’t go to places where you might be propositioned for a sexual encounter or offered a drink. Etc and etc

Submissive Repentance: If we are born sinful, and retain a sinful nature even upon salvation, then as humans we know that we are powerless to have full victory over sin on our own, no matter to what degree we are concerned. Our only hope for success in resisting or fleeing from temptation is to have the help of the power of God. The Holy Spirit must empower us to enable us to not fail. If He does, we can’t but win; if He does not, we can’t but lose. So fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word from the Scriptures. So fill your life with obedient service to God. Fill your mouth with the Gospel. Fill your heart with zeal for pursuing a holy life and a holy God. And pray passionately for forgiveness of sin, gratitude for the salvation from said sin, and requests for aid in the fight to resist temptation and live a life that is pleasing to Him who has called you to live it for Him.

That’s the only way you’ll succeed. Rise or fall, we do it by God’s grace. To the extent that He is waiting for us to call on Him in faith in prayer, why would we not solicit His help? Therefore, in every attempt to kill sin, ensure that you pray both before and after, whether in defeat or victory, for Him to be present in your struggles and sympathetically guide you along the path to perfection, having mercy on you, a sinner.

~ Rak Chazak

Further viewing: Al Mohler makes my final point about how success over sin is achieved.

Further reading:
Are You Sin-Killing or Just Sin-Managing?
Hacking Agag to Pieces (sermon and transcript by John MacArthur)

Money quote (one of them) from JMac's sermon:
Most people today would tell you to run from guilt.  John Owen said: load your conscience with guilt.  He believed the pangs of guilt were a natural and healthy consequence of wrong doing.  Be ashamed, he wrote.  Be greatly ashamed, for he saw shame as an advantage.  Listen to your shamed and guilty conscience.  You see, he correctly, that is, John Owen, understood what we should understand what Paul understood when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:10: the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret.  True godly sorrow will produce repentance.  And what produces godly sorrow?  A guilty, what?  Conscience.  Isn’t that what we read in Psalm 38?  Wasn’t Psalm 38 we read this morning a classic illustration of godly sorrow produced by guilt?  And it was that shame that brought the psalmist to his great confession.  Those people who just give a nod of the head to their guilt claim trivially the promise of forgiveness, quickly reassure themselves, and then think no more of their sin are subjecting themselves to the heart-hardening deceit of sin.  Let sorrow do its full work to produce a deep and honest repentance, and those sins will be severely weakened.

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