I once arrived home from a camping trip covered with mosquito bites. I had tried to protect myself from getting bitten, for I react pretty severely to bug bites. My skin gets all red, swollen, itchy, and hot, and I sometimes feel feverish and fatigued. I mixed up a blend of oils—citronella, peppermint, lemon balm, and witch hazel and faithfully sprayed my exposed skin, especially at dusk. I also have a specially treated bandana that is supposed to repel insects which I wear around my neck. I even got something to protect my face—it kind of looks like an upside-down mesh laundry bag that I wear around my whole head. I faithfully whip up my pillows and shine my reading light under them before getting into bed each night. You never know if a spider might be enjoying a warm nap under there!
Now, before you laugh too hard, you have to understand that for some reason, God created me to be bait (food?) for any and all insects—spiders, mosquitos, wasps, ants, and my all-time favorite, the dreaded no-see-ums. You name it, they bite and seek me out by name. I’m just minding my own business, not even thinking about bothering them, yet they still persist. I don’t know how many times I’ve woken up covered with spider-bites, and yet my husband rarely gets bitten. When we’re outside, I’m the one that’s usually flapping my arms around shooing them away, while he calmly relaxes and enjoys the scenery.
It seems that the more I try NOT to think about scratching the itchy bug bites covering my ankles, the more itchy they become! I got to thinking about how much these irritating bites are like sin. No matter what I’m doing—eating breakfast, working online, driving, conversing with my husband, teaching history, doing laundry, the itch is ever-present; never far from my thoughts and attention. The temptation to scratch is manageable when my mind is engaged in activity, but I find my hand drifting down to my ankles especially when my mind has shifted into neutral—when my defenses are down. And once I give in to that first little scratch, I’ve got to repeat it, for now the itch has intensified. And now, far from being satisfying, it’s beginning to hurt a little. And bleed. And I must scratch harder and harder to satisfy that intense itching! Aargh! The only time that I don’t hear the call to scratch is when my mind is completely engrossed in something like learning a Mozart concerto, driving in Seattle’s rush hour traffic, or playing a game of Dutch Blitz.
It’s the same way with our fight against sin. Even though I am a new creation in Christ with a new heart and new desires, I battle daily with sin. The temptation to give in to sin is always there—calling me; tempting me. And it grabs me when I let my mind shift into neutral. And once I give in to sin, just a little, it demands more. But it never satisfies. Sin costs. And the end of sin is death. James says, But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
I’m learning that a key to battling sin is my mind…what am I going to feed it today? When I choose to soak my mind in the truths of God’s Word, I don’t notice the temptations to sin as much, for my mind and soul is filled with God and His great love and grace toward me. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:13) I want to be so captured and enraptured by His grace toward me, an undeserving sinner, that I don’t even notice the itch anymore. You will never win the battle against sin until the beauty of God looms larger in your mind than your temptation.