You’d Better Run!

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV)

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Dictionary.com defines flee as to run away, as from danger or pursuers. Idolatry is dangerous. Fleeing is the only sane response. Making it practical, here are five ways to flee idolatry:

  1. End ungodly relationships. The right relationship with the wrong person is still the wrong relationship.  Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20 ESV)
  2. End ungodly habits. Stephen Covey said, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) What you do today will determine who you are tomorrow.
  3. Don’t just run from–run to. If you flee idolatry without running to God, you will replace your old idol with another one.  The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10 ESV)
  4. Begin godly relationships. You are not designed to walk alone. From the beginning, God knew Adam should not be alone so he made a helper for him. John called this walking in the light:  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV)
  5. If you fall down, don’t freak out, ‘fess up.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 ESV) God is faithful when you fail. Run to him.

Sin’s Dangerous Undertow: God’s Gracious Rescuer

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25 ESV)

Gary Smalley tells the story. He was in Cancun, Mexico, with his wife Norma, and two of their children and their families.

The morning was overcast and Norma and I were reading by the pool listening to the waves crash not far from us. I decided to take a break from reading and jump in the ocean to wake up. The water was as warm as the pool; temperature-wise it was the best ocean water I’d ever been in. However, something very serious happened to me during that swim that I certainly didn’t expect.

As I was walking toward the beach to enjoy a brief swim, I noticed there were some flags that were posted along the beach—some red, some yellow. There weren’t many people on the beach so I couldn’t ask anyone about them. I really didn’t pay any attention to them because the water seemed so inviting and shallow that I didn’t think there would be any problems. I didn’t know those flags were riptide-warning flags.

I eased into the water. The waves were large and coming every 5 seconds. I was frolicking, jumping up and down, but I was bouncing out further and further into the ocean. In a short time, I was up to my chest but still had my feet on the sand. When a big wave would come and cover me I was able to jump up most of the way. But with each wave there was a current that was pulling me further out; I didn’t really notice it, however, because I was walking away from the beach.

Suddenly I realized that the water was up to my chin and recognized that the current was pulling me out. I decided that I was going to start swimming back to shore, but I couldn’t get in. The current was so strong and the waves were coming with such force that I felt caught, and was being dragged out farther and farther. I didn’t think there was a problem at first, because I’m pretty strong, and even though I’m 60, I’m a good swimmer. However, the harder I tried, the more I saw that I was not making any progress. I tried swimming under water, but when I came up for air I was hit by a giant wave and I started to swallow water. I started to panic. I was getting tired and I realized I was in a mess. The waves crashed over me and I was taking in too much water. I had no energy left. I looked to see if anybody was around that I could scream to, but the waves were so loud that a scream wouldn’t have been heard. I waved my arm up in the air to see if somebody could see me, and I noticed in a split second a young lifeguard sitting in a tower that I never before noticed. He saw me and waved back. He then jumped out of the tower, ran to the ocean, swam out to me, and threw me a large red floating device with handles and a big rope.

Then Smalley adds:

Here’s what I learned: When you are struggling with food, love relationships, immoral thoughts, bad habits, any kind of addiction (from shopping to drugs), the current is pulling you out. And you can’t do anything about it in your own efforts. Many of us who have been addicted know the reason we get depressed is because we know it’s hopeless. We’ve tried to change, we’ve tried diets, we’ve tried disciplining ourselves, we’ve tried getting up early and praying, we’ve tried different things, but nothing seems to work. Jesus is actually the one who overcomes the addiction, the one who gives us the power to sustain. You have a lifeguard—Jesus Christ. He throws the floating device, grace, to you.

Paul had tried methods. He had tried almost everything. He answered the question with almost a sigh of relief: Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Your Failure Is Not Your Identity

“Ruth the Moabite.” This is a common phrase in the book of Ruth. In chapter 2 alone she is referred to as ‘Ruth the Moabite’ three times.  Had she been known as  ‘Ruth the great’ or ‘Ruth the wonderful’ that would have been one thing, but Moabite? This was not only her ancestry, but also a stigma. The Moabite lineage stems all the way back to Lot, Abraham’s nephew.  Lot lived in the sinful city of Sodom with his daughters, and was taken out of there only because God had to send his angels to take them out before he destroyed the city! After Lot and his daughters left Sodom and were living in Zoar, there was absolutely no man to be found to give Lot’s daughters a son to carry on his line.  Lot’s daughters then decided to deceive their father by getting him drunk and sleeping with him, and the oldest daughter had a son and named him Moab…  WOW! (The full story is in Genesis 19)  What an unbelievably terrible story about your ancestors. This would be comparable to discovering your great grandfather was the absolute worst Nazi general, who was responsible for killing most of the Jews during the Holocaust; nobody wants that to be their identity, but this was Ruth’s. She was “the Moabite.”

Her failure had become her identity. The writer of Ruth intentionally and divinely placed her identity in the text, but according to our story it didn’t matter to Boaz that Ruth was a Moabite. Boaz was able to look beyond Ruth’s stigma to meet a need that only he could meet. This is such a beautiful picture of Christ!

How many of you reading this blog have allowed your failure in this life to become your identity? You have let your major failures define who you are! God is speaking through this passage to a generation of failures saying, I don’t care what you’ve done, I don’t care what others say about you, it doesn’t matter how you feel about yesterday, you may not can forgive yourself but I will… I will accept you; I am willing to lower my status and risk losing everything for the sake of taking care of you & giving you the value you’ve been looking for your entire life.

Boaz gave Ruth value and did not discount her because of her failure. Praise The Lord Jesus that He’s done the same for us by way of the cross! As followers of Christ our past sin and failure has been nailed to the cross, therefore canceling our record of debt to God, which was our sin (Col. 2:14-15). Your new identity is therefore now a child of God, a son or daughter of the king, someone who’s gone from spiritual death to eternal and abundant life!

Paul said: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Embrace your new identity.

The Sorrow of Sin

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19 ESV)

Sin disfigures. Sin destroys. Sin devastates. When Naomi returned to Bethlehem she was hardly recognizable. As an Ephrathite she was among Bethlehem’s elite, a member of the aristocratic class. Well respected when she left town, she comes home stripped not only of her self-respect but also visibly bearing the wear and tear of her stay in Moab. Naomi’s former friends didn’t even recognize her. As soon as they saw her the whispering began. “Is this Naomi?”

William Paul Young said, “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” Paul’s now famous words in Romans 3:23 echo Young’s statement: The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul used very familiar imagery so that his audience would get his point. Sin always writes you a paycheck and always pays you the same wage: death.

If sin is so deadly, then why do people do it? Why do people choose to live their lives in perpetual sin? Remember the hall of fame of faith? Moses demonstrated both the danger of sin and the delight of God.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:24-28 ESV)

Moses shows us how to avoid sin. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh. There will be times you will simply have to say “no.” Moses also chose. He chose one option over another. Option #1 was to be mistreated with the people of God. Option #2 was to enjoy the fleeting pressures of sin–indulge the flesh one more time. Third, Moses considered. Moses had to weigh his options. He was set to inherit the treasures of Egypt. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. In other words, Moses valued God above his own selfish desires.

Sin is serious. 3 quick questions:

1. What are you allowing right now that you need to refuse?

2. What decision (choice) do you need to make today?

3. What (or who) do you value more than God?

The Ripple Effect

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:24-25 ESV)

Early decisions can have a lasting impact. Moses grew up in the lap of luxury. He was prince of the most powerful country in his day. Servants did his bidding, women swooned when he entered a room, leaders wanted his attention. He was the Prince of Egypt. He wore the latest styles, rode the newest model camel, and ate the finest food.

Then one day he made a decision. He had no idea the ripple effect this one decision would have on his life. Decisions are like that. They are the proverbial pebble thrown in the pond of life, creating a ripple that becomes a tidal wave. These decisions don’t seem significant when they’re made–but their ramifications are far reaching.

Decisions like this are seldom made under pleasant circumstances. Moses’ decision forced him to the backside of the desert for 40 years. A fugitive, he wandered into obscurity. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He had a mother–her name was Jochebed. When Moses was a helpless newborn, she trusted God with his little life. Now he had learned to trust God with his grown up life.

Moses chose to say no to the fleeting pleasures of sin. It’s sometimes hard for us to believe that decisions we make today will impact five or especially twenty years from now. The teenage girl who says “no” to the repeated sexual advances of the boy in her Algebra class is grateful on her honeymoon night. So is her new husband. The young professional who refused to participate in the shady business deal–and faced ridicule from his fellow employees–is thankful when he is promoted. The college student who decided not to go to the party is relieved when he hears of the arrests of several students and their subsequent dismissal from school. Graduation is a sweet day for him.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

What one decision will you make today that will change your tomorrow forever?