I am going to tell you two secrets.
The Paradox Principle
The first secret is that growing in Christ is built on paradoxes. Things that seem absurd or contradictory prove to be true and right. That is hard for us to really understand. We have to adjust and make new goals and expectations based on those paradoxes.
- We died with Christ and are alive in Christ
- The more we die daily, the more alive we are
- The way up is the way down; and the way down is the way up
- To save one’s life you must lose it
- The more we give away, the more we gain
- We are strongest when we are weak
- Though poor, we can make others rich
- We are most sinless when conscious of sin
- We are wisest when we accept that we know little
- The more we serve others, the more joy we receive ourselves
- The more we sit quietly at His feet, the more work we get done for the Master
Notice the paradoxes in 2 Corinthians 6:9-10: “as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
To overcome the most difficult trials of life, we begin, not by fighting them but by receiving them as from a loving Creator, being thankful in them, and eventually being thankful for them. It is counter-intuitive. A paradox.
The Replacement Principle
The second secret is the concept of replacement. When we grow in Christ, we desire to be free from sin and the things that easily capture us. A secret to overcoming sin, is given to us in Ephesians 5:4. Let me illustrate it first.
Don’t you love ‘Before and After‘ pictures? I do. I love to see messy, dirty things cleaned up and useful. It is super-inspiring.
But emptying out an overwhelming mess of useless papers, wrappers, and long-expired milk cartons is only half the job. Nature abhors a vacuum; we don’t live in empty rooms. The empty room needs to be filled with profitable things, with a place for everything and everything in its place.
Even Jesus talked about a house swept clean of a demon, but that demon returned and finding the house empty (not occupied) brought with it seven more. The end of the story for that person was worse than the beginning. The room had not been properly filled and was vulnerable to spiritual squatters.
The Weapon of Thankfulness
Replacement is true in human behavior. You don’t just stop doing something; you must replace it. When you focus on a thing, you give it power, so if you just repeat over and over, “I will not steal, I will not steal,” your mind will be filled with the topic of stealing. Not good. For a thief to stop being a thief, he has to start working and then focus on the superlative joy of giving to others in need (Ephesians 4:28). The stealing is replaced with compassion; taking is replaced by giving; evil is overcome with good.
Ephesians 5:1-4 says: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
This passage hits us with a surprise. Paul exhorts us to fight sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk and crude jokes … with thankfulness. Paul didn’t simply shout “stop it,” like Bob Newhardt. He said to replace the sinful behavior with thanksgiving. We fight back against sin with thanksgiving!
As we actively think thanks and express those thoughts to God and others, we take back ground that has been formerly occupied with sinful thoughts. Being thankful could be viewed as an antidote to sin. We have a weapon in being th(i)nkful.
So did you get the two secrets? They actually work together.
- We overcome trials by receiving them from God with thankfulness.
- We overcome sins by replacing them with thankfulness.
How could you start down this road today? What about having 4-5 things written out in an area easily visible like on your refrigerator and when that temptation comes, read those 4-5 things out loud and thank God that He is God, and you are not, and He is trustworthy and will measure out grace and strength to do His will.
“Practically every sin we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness.” Heath Lambert