Subtle Dangers Christians Face
Christians, being in this world but not really at home here, are faced with great dangers from the world system and its people. The Apostle Paul has declared that victory over sin and all that it represents is assured by the faithfulness of God (Romans 6:14). But there is a danger of being deceived and caught in the subtle traps of the world. Paul thus admonishes those who have been declared righteous by God through faith in Christ Jesus, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness.” Romans 6:12-13
The dangers that Christians face are found in what Paul says are the lusts which spring from our bodies subject to death. These ‘lusts’ are basic desires, given by God to earthly creatures, but which cross the boundaries which God has set for the good of man and society. The Christian is fully equipped to hold the line against these unrighteous dangers. Paul has argued that the Christian is one who died to sin when Christ died on the cross. The old man, the old sin nature, is no longer on the throne in the life of the Christian. The new man, the new nature, now lives. The Christian is no multiplex of personalities in one body. There is no war between the old man and the new man in Christ, fighting within the life of the Christian. The old nature of Adam, has died. The power to control is gone. The mortal, what is subject to death, still remains. It is yet to be redeemed. Paul tells us in Romans 8:23 that we have the first-fruits, but we eagerly wait for the redemption of our bodies. We are not yet glorified. That comes later. For now, we are in a war. James 1:14 informs us that the danger we face lies in our mortal bodies subject to the abnormal. We are tempted, put to the test he says, when the normal desire crosses the line of the will of God and drags us from our sound foundation, with a bait or temptation from without. As examples, sexual desires are normal to mankind and for holy purposes within the framework of marriage between a man and a woman, but such become sinful lusts when it steps outside of this confined realm. Such lusts, common to our society, is a horrible contributor to the destruction of our nation. It destroys the sanctity of marriage, produces unwanted, unloved children who become subjects of murder. It breaks down the family, the community and thus the nation. Other normal desires such as food and drink become gluttony and drunkenness. These, among others, constitute dangers to the Christian. The baits to violating God’s will are many.
I John 2:15, 16 shows us these deadly dangers that CHristians face. There are four things mentioned. First, there is “the love of the world.” The Christian is not at home in the world – it is a foreign country. The person who loves the world system, its standards, government, etc., cannot love God. The two orders are in opposition. John puts it like this: “If any one love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” The rich man of Luke 16 loved the world, Lazarus loved God. The rich man ended up in torments; Lazarus in the paradise of comfort with Abraham.
The next three dangers are specified by John. They are: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” Let me briefly describe their particular dangers. These are the baits that can cause the Christian to stumble in his life and witness. They are very dangerous and very subtle.
First, “the lust of the flesh.” John does not say, lust for the flesh. He is speaking of the nature of the beast, not the object. There remains in the mortal body these desires. These may become cravings and thus, for the Christian, sins. The normal desires are perverted. The offerings of the world for our mortal bodies become stumbling blocks if we are not on the alert. The temptation is to take the bait offered and become infatuated with the offering of the world. This may be food, sports, the daily news, books or literature, education, etc. All of these may be perverted from the normal to the abnormal. They provide pleasure to our sensual being at the expense of the will of God for our lives.
Second, “the lust of the eyes.” Distinct from the first, it too, however, is not lust for the eyes. It is not the sin of which Jesus declared on the Sermon on the Mount – to look at a woman to lust after her. John speaks of this danger as one in which mere contemplation is the issue. This is a lust which can be satisfied with a mere look, which the lusts of the flesh cannot. By ‘a mere look’ I mean the feeling of pleasure or one of being offended is experienced. Let me give an example. I cannot stand seeing the prosperity of my neighbor who possesses what I do not. Or, the other extreme: I am pleased to look on my neighbor who is worse off than I am. I may get caught up with the sin of David in the seventy-third Psalm; I may become envious of the pleasures, prosperity and good times enjoyed by the wicked. Things clearly wrong before God, but a point of trial in an unguarded moment. David almost slipped. Such is a real danger for us as well.
Last, “the pride of life.” This is a distinct danger. It involves the temptation of keeping up appearances which are approved by the world. The trial is to be in good taste, to be stylish, politically correct, to in effect do what receives the applause of the world and its people. But at what cost? The Christian who so stumbles must tone down, shade or conceal what is true and holy. He must compromise his character. He must play the game and join the world in trying to outshine his neighbor. He must do it with the hypocritical civility of the worldlings, all the while knowing it is but a sham.
Can you face the frown of the world in declaring your independence of the world and its ways? Or do you join with the crowd, believing the pride of life is really worthwhile after all?
How you practice the Christian faith speaks far more than your profession.