Too Much of a Good Thing

Satan is too clever and subtle to tempt committed Christians to do perverse and grossly immoral deeds. He knows that they will recognize the flagrant wrong in such temptations and refuse to act on them. His tactic is to push something good beyond the will of God until it becomes sin. He treats us like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, gradually turning up the heat of temptation in the hopes that we won’t notice that we are approaching the boundary of God’s will and jump out before it becomes sin.

“If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit” (Proverbs 25:16). In other words, do all things in moderation. Paul writes, “’I have the right to do anything’ . . . but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Paul sees nothing but green lights in every direction of the Christian life. Everything is good and lawful for us because we are free from sin and no longer under the condemnation of the law. However, Paul also knows that if we irresponsibly floorboard our lives in any of these good and lawful directions, we will eventually run the red lights of God’s will. Having a glass of wine with your meal is fine, but drinking the whole bottle isn’t.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Physical rest becomes laziness. Quietness becomes non-communication. The ability to profit becomes avarice or greed. The enjoyment of life becomes intemperance. Physical pleasure becomes sensuality. Interest in the possessions of others becomes covetousness. Enjoyment of food becomes gluttony. Self-care becomes selfishness. Self-respect becomes conceit. Communication becomes gossip. Cautiousness becomes insensitivity. Anger becomes a bad temper and rage. Lovingkindness becomes overprotection. Judgment becomes criticism. Same-sex friendships become homosexuality. Sexual freedom becomes immorality. Conscientiousness becomes perfectionism. Generosity becomes wastefulness. Self-protection becomes dishonesty. Carefulness becomes fear.

If the devil can’t make you immoral, he will drive you to extremes. One time, a pastor was surprised when the wife of his associate asked for a personal appointment. She was the hardest worker in the church. What the pastor didn’t know was that she was also the most driven person in the church. Keeping busy was her way of keeping her sanity. Such is the case with many workaholics; they can’t tolerate solitude.

The devil drives you. God leads you. One person who went through the Steps said it well: “I have discovered a feeling of control – like my mind is my own. I haven’t had these strung-out periods of thought and contemplations – i.e. conversations with myself. My mind just feels quieted. My emotions have been stable, and I haven’t felt depressed once this week. My will is mine, and I feel left alone. Not in a bad way – I’m not lonely, just a single person. I feel capable of helping people and of handling myself. I’ve been co-dependent for years, but this last week I haven’t had the slightest need for someone. I am at peace and feel this quiet, soft joy in my heart. Thank you for lending me your hope, I believe I have my own now in Christ.”

Dr. Neil

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