One thing that has kind of become annoying over the weeks past is this recurring theme of God’s kingdom vs. the world’s kingdom. Why is it annoying? On one hand it’s because I don’t like hearing something over and over again (even if it’s an idea that keeps popping up in my mind). But on the other hand, it’s because no matter what sin or temptation we deal with, it all boils down to a choice between two kingdoms: God’s or ours.
A few years back my pastor, Danny O’Neil, gave a sermon about discovering the early signs of destruction. He said that a wise man is one who recognizes those early signs and turns away. It was a message that has stuck with me ever since because it helps those who struggle with habitual sin; pornography, alcohol, drugs, or whatever other addiction one may have. What we usually tend to focus our defenses towards is the sin itself; the sin of actually looking at pornography or the sin of actually abusing the drugs or the actual sin of drinking too much alcohol. What we don’t focus on, though, is what got us to that point of actually sinning in the first place; essentially, we (I) don’t usually focus on the small tempting thoughts.
I think I’m going to need an example for this one. Earlier today I was on my way back to my car from the EMU, which is like right at the center of the U of O campus. And as I was walking down 13th, there happened to be a pretty girl wearing some revealing clothing while jogging through campus. After seeing this girl, my mind immediately flashed back to pornographic images and I started feeling that urge to look at the stuff again. Essentially, I got the urge to give in to my addiction. But not a minute later, I realized my error. In Jesus’ eyes I had already committed the sin (Matthew 5:28), but beyond that, the early sign of destruction hit me in the face and I didn’t immediately do something about it.
I recognized the early sign of destruction: The pretty girl. But what could have been my major downfall was not doing anything about it. I’m thankful that I didn’t have a lot on my mind today and that I was able to realize my error before something worse could have happened, but I’m not always so fortunate. So to help prepare myself for the times when I’m not as fortunate or not as strong, I must get one thing engrained in my head: Do I want to live for God or live for my pleasure?
The right choice is obvious and it sounds easy; just live for God and you’ll be okay. Some pastors who like to preach a “prosperity-gospel” miss this every time also; living for God is by no means easy. It’s not only counter-cultural, anti-social in the sense of going against society’s mainstream, and in direct opposition of what the world teaches us; the kingdom of God goes against our very flesh and bones. Our bodies, because of the taint of sin, have the natural inclination to sin and to give in to temptations. Jesus’ words are no longer about becoming rich once we treat others the way we want to be treated (as some within Christianity would like to think), but rather His words become an instruction manual on how to fight the war going on within our own bodies.
Internal conflicts are the hardest to fight. You know your own weaknesses, your own strengths, and your own desires. Essentially, you’re your own worst enemy. But the great thing about Jesus is that He enables us with something that no one else does: The ability to choose. Because of His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, we have the ability to decide in each and every moment of our lives whether we’re going to serve our best interests, our own kingdom or the kingdom of God. And I am finding that the key to remaining faithful to God and obedient to His commandments is to not only be alert for those early signs of destruction, but to remember the choice. When – not if, when – those moments arrive, do I want to serve God’s kingdom by sacrificing my own lustful pleasures, my own addictions? Or do I want to habitually give in every single time until I’m on my death bed years from now wishing I had lived differently?
As Spock’s father said in the most recent version of Star Trek, “You are fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is: Which path will you choose?”