No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.
— C.S. Lewis | Mere Christianity
Ladies and gentlemen, we just got schooled by C.S. Lewis posthumously.
Good and bad. Right and wrong. The world tells us these things are all relative to the times, to the circumstances. But it’s really not as complicated as we make it. Society incites us to question the “gray areas” of our faith. Things that are not necessarily cut and dry, black and white. “The Bible doesn’t specifically say [insert choice of questionable behavior here] is a sin.”
Well I’ve got news for you, homies: if you’re trying to find which verse of which chapter of which book of the Bible clearly states watching movies with nudity and sex is wrong, then you’re straight out of luck! If you’re trying to find a specific passage that justifies why it is completely Biblical to date the McSteamy/McDreamy-two-in-one-combo from your English class, you’d better figure something else out. In all my years, I have never found a verse that says, “Yes Becky. It’s totally acceptable to lie in this situation because of the circumstances” – trust me, I’ve looked. No. That’s not how the Bible works…but somewhere along the way, that’s what we turned it into.
We’ve distorted the holy Word of God into our personal playbook – one that we can adapt to our circumstances, one that can be adjusted to fit our lifestyle.
How dare we!
The Bible is not something we get to twist and stretch around to fit our sinful deeds. We can’t cherry-pick our way through it or alter it to fit our needs. When did we start thinking that was okay? When did we start telling ourselves that we had the authority to bend the Scriptures to our will?
Instead of learning to resist temptation, instead of learning to fight the evil that exists within us, we’ve found a more convenient, less difficult, and far quicker alternative: we warp the Bible to justify our lives, rather than adjusting our lives in obedience to the Word. In what universe does that make sense?! Oh wait, yeah. That definitely sounds like something the ridiculously foolish citizens of planet earth would think of. We’re so accustomed to our quick fixes and work-arounds, that we’ve taken these skills from the workplace to the church, from our cubicles to our hearts.
This is not okay.
We live for instant gratification, instant reward. We’ve been brainwashed into expecting results in seconds. I’m dating myself here…but how many of you remember DIAL-UP? All you 90’s/millennial babies probably have no idea what that is, and God bless your little hearts for that. But us older folk remember what waiting several minutes for an internet page to load felt like. It was acceptable back then because it was all we knew. But now, if Safari doesn’t load the page within 0.25 seconds, I go all Hulk-mode on my phone. Okay, not really, but you get what I mean.
Just take a look at the world and see for yourself just how much emphasis we place on doing things quickly, conveniently, and with the least hassle. It’s all about living comfortably in this world. But the thing is, Jesus didn’t call us to live comfortable lives. He didn’t call us to embrace convenience and seek immediate gratification. The message of the Bible is radically opposite all that. The Bible talks of perseverance through the struggles, investing time in others, praying ceaselessly, waiting – lots of waiting. Take a look at the life of Jesus. Consider where He was born. Consider how long He waited to reveal Himself as the Messiah. Consider how He went out of His way to heal, restore, forgive, and love. Consider how He endured mockery, torture, agony of mind, body, and spirit. That doesn’t sound comfortable, convenient, or hassle-free to me. That sounds like just the opposite.
We have no authority to wield the Bible to cater to our own personal desires; we have no authority to adapt the Word of God to justify our actions. Doing so is actually distorting His holy Word. It’s prideful and arrogant and blasphemous. Tweaking the Word of God here and there, and bending it to our will, rips away its inherently sovereign nature. It becomes our words, not His Word. And what are our words in comparison to the words of the Creator? Nothing.
When it comes to the problem of sin and temptation, we must tread lightly. The Bible exists to convict us of our sin, to lead us in the way of truth and righteousness, to show us the revealed will of God. And contrary to popular beliefs, the Bible is very forthcoming about what is and is not acceptable in the sight of the Lord. We just have to take the time to read and meditate upon it. And we have to care enough to change. We have to love the Lord enough to resist temptation and set our thoughts on things above.
C.S. Lewis had it right when he said that bad people know very little about badness. Those who give into the desires of the flesh know very little about sin and temptation. They believe they know it best because they’ve experienced and indulged in the sin. But really, only those who have resisted the urge to give into their sinful natures truly understand what sin is, what temptation is. That beautiful realization is what makes this next part so amazing:
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has beentempted as we are, yet without sin.
We may be familiar with what it means to resist temptation. But none of us have ever resisted temptation perfectly, as has the Lord Jesus. He’s the only one who 100%, totally understands what it means to be tempted. How comforting to know that our source of strength to resist our sin nature is the one who truly overcame sin and death!
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
May we look to the Lord for strength to overcome temptation. May we look past the world’s demands for convenient, comfortable, hassle-free lives. May we meditate upon the Word and seek His will in all things. And above all, rather than attempting to bend His Word to our desires, may we allow the Lord to bend us to His will.