When We Indulge Our Shady Appetites

What it causes and how to deal with the aftermath
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

The leave of absense of another high-profile Christian leader gives all of us occasion to do some soul-searching and personal inventory. For me, this one hits a little closer as my wife and I and a few other couples have been sitting under this person’s teaching of late. Ironically enough, we were right smack in the middle of a video-series he produced on relationships, based on the Song of Solomon.

We’ll probably put that on hold for now.

But we know better than to point fingers, since, as they say, pointing only leaves three fingers pointing right back at us. And as someone else once said, “If anyone of you thinks you stand, watch out, lest you fall.” Oh wait, that was actually the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 10:12), getting his inspiration directly from the Holy Spirit.

Really, besides praying for the person(s) involved in the situation, the best thing we can do is use it as an opportunity for reflection. By asking redemptive questions like “What could have been done differently here?” or “What’s the takeaway?” it will help us avoid a posture of judgment and assume a posture of growth instead.

As human beings, we all cross lines at some point. We all indulge our shady appetites, even when we know better. As Dane Ortlund observes in Gentle & Lowly “…we do indeed continue to sin after becoming believers. Sometimes we sin big sins” (p. 91). Like the moon, we all have a dark side, and sometimes we choose to live on that side instead of the side illuminated by the Son.

But for most of us, it isn’t a national story when it happens.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:8

But isn’t the standard higher for leaders? Yes, but that doesn’t mean the standard doesn’t also remain high for the rest of us. Whether we live in the public eye or in obscurity, we are all called to live out the righteousness that is ours in Christ (see Ephesians 4:20-24).

When we fall short, to put it bluntly, it’s confession time. Not a religious confession, mind you, but a relational confession. There’s a difference. Religious confession is the type offered to an impersonal divine being “out there somewhere” while a relational confession is offered to God personally, as if He actually abides with us by His Spirit and as if our sin actually offended Him.

To confess is simply to say to God, “I agree with you, I was wrong.” John, the disciple of Jesus, says this is what we are to do when we have indulged on the shady side so we can be “forgiven and cleansed...”( 1 John 1:9). The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as well as His ongoing advocacy for us means that we don’t have to be defined by our most recent transgression.

I was recently on a late flight and to relax, I decided to watch one of the free movies offered by the airline. It was an action film. I knew I would not be able to finish it as we would be landing within an hour or so, but I reasoned that I could finish it later if it was a good one.

But as I walked off the plane I had an overwhelming sense of regret for watching even part of it. The movie was very entertaining but the language and violence were over the top. I had failed as the gatekeeper of my heart and mind. I should have shut it down as soon as I realized the nature of the content. The Holy Spirit was surely grieved by all the ungodly sights and sounds passing through my eyes and ears.

Feeling terrible, I had to confess that it was a bad choice and that the movie was not worthy of finishing later. Add it to the list.

After all, an unfinished movie (or whatever indulgence tempts you) is better than a soiled conscience any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

It’s a new day with God. Run with it.

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