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Devotion for February 23, 2007


In his book, Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller reflects on why we do what we do: “Ultimately, we do what we love to do. I like to think that I do things for the right reasons, but I don’t, I do things because I do or don’t love doing them. Because of sin, because I am self-addicted, living in the wreckage of the fall, my body, my heart, and my affections are prone to love things that kill me.”

Miller understands how sin really deceives us. Temptation’s primary target isn’t our minds. Our minds can know full well all of the devastating consequences of the sinful choice we’re about to make . . . and yet we choose it nonetheless. What sin does do is beguile our hearts. It shifts our affections from the good and perfect blessings to be had as we follow Christ. Temptation entices us to choose distortions of those blessings. We want what we shouldn’t be wanting. We want it now when it is reserved for later. We want it and we’ll get it, no matter who gets hurt in the process. This is sin.

The source of these temptations is not God. God doesn’t cause us to sin. God doesn’t will us to fail. In fact, He’s always encouraging us forward, giving us better choices, pointing to a better road. But we’re so often headstrong and following the destructive impulses of our hearts. We’re like little children whose mantra is, I want what I want when I want it, and I want it right now!

When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” we’re not praying that God will spare us from every difficult circumstance. James is clear in this passage that those tests are essential for our faith to mature. But we are praying, “God, purify my desires.” At the heart of temptation is what we love, what we pursue, what we must have. And if that’s anything other than God and the good that He promises, we’re on a dangerous road.

Apply the Word

We are bombarded in our media-driven society by images of what we “need”: Catalogs arrive in the mail, commercials play on TV, billboards loom along the highway. Advertisers are hungry to shape our desires. It requires a great deal of intentionality to set our hearts on things above (cf. Col. 3:1). What can you do, as today’s verse says, to “guard your heart”? The battle of temptation starts here, at the root of what we think about and want most. Give God that priority place in your life.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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