In my first post, I talked about how God reveals His truth to me in my everyday routine. Here’s one such modern parable that God just keeps sending my way.
While absently thumbing through the October issue of Lucky (“the magazine about shopping and style”), I stopped short on a new Guess ad. In this ad, a woman is provocatively posed over a leopard print handbag. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go to the Guess Fall Accessories page. Now, I’ll admit that, 1) I love handbags just as much as the next girl, 2) I like to look cute, and 3) I’m a fan of the leopard print. I think God knows all of these things about me, and that’s why He chose to speak to me through a magazine ad. He’s just cool like that and He’s a fan of the leopard print, too. So, don’t go getting all defensive on me and click away from this post because you think I’m about to say leopard print handbags are a sin.
Anyway, what was I saying before I got distracted by the handbag again…the message I perceived in the ad was this: “Give in to your sexuality. It’s a natural, instinctual, animal desire we all have and there’s nothing wrong with expressing the desires you were born with.” The world wants us to believe our bodily desires are not to be restrained, primarily because they are “natural” and what is natural should not be denied. But, God says that He has a specific design for our natural desires. For example, He has designed sexuality as something to be lovingly enjoyed ONLY between a husband and a wife within the marriage covenant. He says that our bodily desires, such as sexuality, will be most fulfilled if we exercise them within the boundaries He has created for us.
The message behind the Guess ad immediately reminded me of a sermon our pastor preached a few months ago, which he began by referencing “the old you”. I love how The Message version of the Bible expresses Ephesians 2:1-3,
1-6It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
Living life the way the world says we should, randomly giving into our bodily desires, only results in slavery to sin. That is the “old life”. In the “new life”, as believers, we are slaves to righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 6:20-23:
20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s boundaries are the most excellent way for living. After all, He is Creator of all life, so we can rest assured that He knows the purpose of His design. Following His plan results not only in an abundant life here on earth, but also the promise of eternal life. What I so appreciated about Ps. Steve’s sermon on this topic was the explanation that just because we are now “slaves to righteousness” does not mean that we are freed from our bodily desires. We battle daily with the desires of the flesh, but we are no longer slaves to those desires. As Ps. Steve so wisely put it, “We have a whole new nature that hates sin and wants to obey God, so these temptations and impulses that still come are not arising out of the depths of our hearts. They are attacks coming from outside our spirit.” Because we are tempted by the Enemy (Satan), we need God to redirect us and give us strength to resist those temptations and the sinful way of fulfilling our desires. Ps. Steve says this is possible because “I am joined to Jesus Christ, God has come and now dwells inside of me, bringing with Him an unlimited supply of wisdom, goodness, and strength far greater than any of the enemies I face.”
God doesn’t see this life as a game. He didn’t create us, enforce a bunch of rules, and wait for us to fail. Rather, He loves us so much, that He wants to be in the pit with us. He longs to be our only source of comfort and strength when we are tempted. His promise is revealed in Deuteronomy 31:8,
8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
After hearing this sermon, I was listening to the song “Empty my Hands” by Tenth Avenue North. I was overwhelmed by the distinct way the lyrics amplified the sermon. (Yes, I have mentioned this band and this album before here.) The song speaks of how it’s so easy for us to fall into temptation. We have to constantly ask God to take over our minds, and give us grace to continue on despite our slip ups.
The modern parable I got from a handbag, a sermon, and a song? God created me with specific desires that can easily turn sinful if I don’t submit them to His purposes. But, He doesn’t forget how hard that can be when I’m tempted all around. He is willing and able to give me the strength to live out His purposes. I only need to surrender my desires to Him.
I love how God sends a message my way so many times that I can’t deny that it’s Him speaking. He’ll even hit me upside the head with a leopard print handbag if I don’t get the message the first time. I love that He cares about me as an individual and speaks straight to my heart. I hope He speaks to your heart in this song, too. (If you’re reading this post in an email, you’ll have to click through to Pop Parables here to view the video.)
(Like the band? They’re coming in concert and I’m going! Check out all the details here.)