Recently, I met with a young husband who has had an affair. He’s confessed it to his wife, asked God’s forgiveness and cut off the relationship. But there was still a problem.
“I still think about the ‘other woman’ occasionally and I don’t know how to make that stop,” he observed.
Previously, I had suggested fasting and saying Jesus’ name anytime a thought about her entered his mind. But the emotional memory problem still existed.
But finally, the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask this question, which I’ve asked other men in the past, even with “only” affairs of the heart, “Is there anything in your home or office that she gave you, or that ties you to her or triggers a memory of her?” After a few seconds he admitted to having a shirt she gave him still hanging in their closet.
“Get rid of it immediately,” was my advice. “Things can tempt us,” I said. Theologically what I just said is not actually true. Inanimate objects, in and of themselves do not tempt us. It wasn’t the stone figures themselves that other nations worshiped that drove God crazy. It was the fact that they represented other gods and other powers, other than himself. However, objects can remind us of past sin, and “other gods” that tempt us to sinful, unwise or unhealthy thoughts or actions.
“But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14, 15
Every recovering alcoholic knows that the minute they enter a bar or see a bottle of alcohol, there is a “Pavlovian response.” That experience reminds them of a past temptations and the sinful behavior that usually followed. So to the extent that it’s possible, wise alcoholics try to avoid going to places or hanging out with people that tempt them. On a lighter note, almost every time I go into our pantry and see an open bag of chips, it’s a temptation to me. (With 18 grandchildren, there will always be opened bags of everything). However, I’ve learned to minimize the temptation by staying out of the pantry.
So, is there an object in your home or a place in your town that tempts you to sin, or reminds you of a relationship or activity that was sinful?
Is there a high school or college yearbook, or a website you go to that reminds you of a past love, that competes with your spouse for your affection, and tempts you to fantasize over what might have been?
Are there websites like Pinterest and others that tempts you to covet things you can’t afford or probably shouldn’t purchase, even if you could?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
Whatever it is that tempts you to sin, ought to be destroyed today.
So if you’re spiritually mentoring a person who struggles with a persistent sin, is there something else in their life that is triggering a memory or temptation? Have the courage to ask them?
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
How following Jesus works in real life.
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