I do not do what I want to do,
but I do the very thing I hate.
“I CAIN’T SAY NO”
Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma
Ado Annie was the saucy gal in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” whose signature song was “I Cain’t Say No.” She flounced her petticoats and flirted shamelessly with every man in pants. She explained to her disapproving friend Laurie that it wasn’t so much a question of knowing what she should do, for she knew she shouldn’t let them kiss and paw her, but it was just that she somehow wanted them to! Ado Annie was not in denial, she had simply surrendered. Like the cry of so many caught in the claws of addiction, she was saying, “This is who I am – I am the girl who cain’t say no!” She was like the Israelites in Jeremiah 2 who cried, “It’s no use!” The attraction is too strong! I can’t do it.
Of course this brings into question all the programs that tell young people to just say no – to just say no to drugs, to alcohol, and to sex outside of marriage. Are these programs without value?
THE LIMITED VALUE OF THE SECULAR APPROACH
This is the approach the secular world uses, for it is all they have – and it is not devoid of value. By making people aware of the painful consequences of their unwise choices, and the positive consequences of wise choices, it may help them to restrain themselves. If they have personally tasted the pain, they may be more open to denying themselves.
In a secular sexual abstinence program, students are told that sex outside of marriage results in disease, broken hearts, and unwanted pregnancies. A secular diet program will tell dieters that poor eating habits will result in a lack of energy, a lack of health, and a lack of enjoyment in life. A secular college ethics class will tell business students that lying and cheating to get money may land them in jail or may hurt their reputation and result in a loss of return clients. These lists of true and painful consequences may help a person restrain his self-destructive behavior.
However, there is an enormous problem when this is the only approach to changing behavior. The “law,” or the rule we recite to ourselves, can actually boomerang and increase our tendency toward lustful behaviors. Kids may go home from sex education classes with new sexual awakenings. I’ve gone home from a Weight Watchers meeting determined to try the recipe for the Weight Watchers brownies and ended up eating half the pan.
THE LAW CAN INSPIRE SINFUL THOUGHTS
Hearing “the law” may actually increase the likelihood that we will sin. First, it may introduce a temptation into our minds.
I received a small blue Schwinn bike for my sixth birthday. Dad taught me to ride – first with training wheels, and then by running along beside me, laughing along with his euphoric daughter. I pedaled proudly all the way down the block and back, a bit wobbly, but staying erect.
Two weeks later my parents were departing for a long-anticipated two-week vacation to Acapulco, Mexico. As they left me and my older sisters in the care of white-haired Mrs. Hahn, my dad turned and cupped my face in his hands. “Be careful on your new bike, Dee Dee.” I nodded solemnly. Then, as an afterthought, he said, “Don’t take your bike up to Summit Hill (the street behind our house).” Immediately I thought: Why, I would absolutely fly going down that hill.
I was distracted in my first grade class the next day, for I kept thinking of how exciting it would be to fly down Summit Hill. As soon as I got home, I told Mrs. Hahn I was going out to ride my bike, and walked my bike to the top of Summit Hill. I had a moment of fear surveying the steep incline, and a brief warning flash of my father’s commandment, but still, I didn’t want to miss the thrill. So I jumped on, barreled down, didn’t make the turn, and plowed into a tree in Rolf’s yard. I vaguely remember adults yelling, sirens wailing, someone lifting me onto something hard, and finally awaking in enormous pain in a hospital bed. My parents were called and though they had just unpacked, they re-packed, left their hotel on the beach, and returned on the next plane back. (There were only propeller planes for the public then – and it was a long trip from Acapulco to West Bend, Wisconsin.) I was afraid Dad would be fiercely angry, but I was such a sorry sight that he simply cradled me and wept.
The law can inspire us to do wrong.
But the “law” itself is not wrong. Dad was right when he told me to be careful on my bike and forbade me from riding down Summit Hill. And the commandments of our heavenly Father are true and righteous altogether. Each one will protect us, guide us, and lead us into a flourishing life.
So what was wrong?
1. Secular programs and all the world religions except Christianity offer half the solution — just say no to immoral/hurtful behavior. This is not without value.
A. Give an example of how hearing about painful consequences, perhaps in the secular world, has, indeed, helped you to restrain yourself from a particular behavior.
B. Give an example of how hearing a rule or a “law” has actually boomeranged and inspired sinful thoughts that gave birth to sinful actions.
2. Listen to one of these three sermons and report.
Last week I gave an assignment as “Extra Credit” to listen to this sermon by Tim Keller on Jeremiah 2. Anne pointed out it was free, which I hadn’t realized! Therefore, I’m giving you the link again. Listen, if you didn’t, and share a few of the things you learned. http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=17304&ParentCat=6
If you are new to us and haven’t heard the basic sermon on idolatry: here’s that link. http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/removing-idols-heart
If you have listened to both, listen to this and report: http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/christ-our-life
ALL THE ABOVE SERMONS ARE FREE!
OUR OWN DEAR REBECCA HAS MADE A VIDEO FOR US SUMMING UP THE HEART OF THIS STUDY — HOW WE CAN’T JUST REMOVE OUR IDOLS, BUT MUST ARISE AND GO TO JESUS — IN HIS ARMS ARE TEN THOUSAND CHARMS. THIS WOULD BE A GREAT WAY FOR YOU TO OPEN YOUR HEART TO HIM IN CONTEMPLATION. HERE IS THE LINK:
3. Read James 1:13-15 carefully.
A. Who is not to blame when we are tempted, according to verse 13?
B. What is to blame?
The phrase “our own desires” is another way to identify idols of the heart.
The KJV translates this noun, “desire,” as “lust.” The Greek word is epithumia, which sounds like an epi-disease, a terrible plague, and that is a helpful word association, for our “over-desires” can destroy us. It is not wrong to desire food, sex, money, fun, or friendship – but when it becomes an “over-desire,” more important to you than anything else, it destroys your soul like AIDS or Cholera destroys your body. This epi-desire, this idolatrous longing, reaches out from within your soul, and lures you into temptation and away from your one True Lover. It is easily seduced by lies in order to get what it really wants. We take a good gift and make it an ultimate gift, thereby ignoring the warnings to keep it within God-given boundaries.
We have a desire for comfort, control, affirmation — a desire that is bigger at times than our desire for God — so that lures us away from God.
4. To help you see your epi-desires, answer both of these:
A. What do you think you must have for life to be meaningful and fulfilling?
B. What, if you lost it, do you think might make you not want to live?
Then James uses a Greek word from which the fishing word “lure” comes to explain the power of our idols over us.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words explains:
BEING ALERT IS HALF THE BATTLE
Fishermen have discovered the best bait is that which really looks like something fish would eat in the water. This lure in the picture to the left actually swims. Would a fish swim toward the lure even if he knew it would destroy him? Would we swim to a lure even if we knew it would destroy us? (We might, as we have learned in Jeremiah 2, for our idols drive us as strongly as a sexual attraction.) But we might not — opening our eyes to the fact that our idols are not good but are lures to our destruction might actually stop us.
6. Share a time during this study when realizing that your idol was a destructive desire helped you turn around and swim the other way.
CHRISTIANITY OFFERS YOU ANOTHER SOLUTION
7. I want you to read a famous essay. It is Thomas Chalmers: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. We’re going to spend two weeks on it. This week print it off and give it a first reading. Underline as you read. Share one or two thoughts from it here. Here is the link.
7. Remember to report on your sermon — what do you remember?
8. What is this week’s take-a-way?
MEETING OUR BLOGGERS!
This week we will me Angela! Angela is another blogger I’ve had the privilege to meet. A friend told me about her, that she was a dynamic young woman who had a real heart for the Lord and ministry — and that she wanted to meet me. When I was speaking in Chattanooga, she was able to join the committee at dinner, which was great. There were a lot of people and voices, but still, I could see something special and unique about Angela. Since she has joined us on our blog (and I’m so glad) she has offered wisdom, some great internet resources, and has encouraged us in so many ways. I have discovered that Angela is an author and a speaker. I looked at her blog and found so many great things — including wonderful book recommendations. Please check her out!
From Angela Parsley
I love my family. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 16 years and we have two
beautiful daughters, 7 and 9 years of age. I am blessed to get to stay home and homeschool them.
I love women’s ministry from girls to older women) and am passionate about people knowing
God’s word and living life the way God intended especially in times of trial. Much of my ministry
to others is encouraging them online or in person. I love speaking to large groups of women but
what I love best is meeting one on one with them over coffee. To serve this desire my husband
and I founded Refresh My Soul Ministries where we work to encourage others through speaking,
writing, and helping online or in person. It can be found at http://www.refreshmysoulblog.blogspot.com
I have been really blessed by this study on idolatry. When I first started it I was at a place in my
life of great drought. I have a daughter with special needs that is an invisible illness so it is not
apparent to others. I struggled much with needing others approval. My thought life was really out
of control. I wanted people to think I was a good mom. As we went through the study I realized
that all that matters is God’s approval. Am I disciplining and training her in the instruction of the
Lord? Then I am being obedient. I need to let go of the rest and watch God work in His timing not
mine. It does not matter what it looks like to others. God’s approval is all I need.
9. Please take a look at Angela’s blog, some of her past comments in this blog, and encourage her!