One Sunday my pastor had to do some housekeepin’ fussin’ at our congregation before he started his sermon. It was a “visitors, close your ears” moment as Jimmy interrupted the service for an important message from our neighbors.
See, right beside our church property is a city park. On Sundays, when our parking lot is full, we tend to use the city park lot for our overflow parking. The only problem is that the folks going to the city park don’t like the fact that those daggum CHURCH people are taking their parking spaces.
It is not nice of us. Really. I’m sorry. I’ve done it, too.
And while our sweet pastor calmly asked the congregation, once again, to STOP PARKING IN THE CITY PARK PARKING LOT (he didn’t yell, but I bet he wanted to), folks still do it. As soon as Jimmy finished his announcement and began his sermon, God had a sermon just for me. He wasn’t finished with me and the forbidden parking lot issue. That’s what happens when you make a path or keep a path open, He seemed to say, “You’re going to walk down it eventually.”
See, while we have been warned, scolded, and pleaded with not to park next door, there is this nice little path through the bushes from the city park’s parking lot to our church’s parking lot. The bushes are trimmed on both sides, cobblestones are succinctly placed, and a nice little bit of concrete forms a gently curving sidewalk. Someone keeps the bushes clipped and the grass maintained. The breezeway almost beckons us (me) to break the rules.
Now let’s go down a different path. Let’s call the path sin. Let’s say that you have decided that once and for all, you are not going to park yourself in the parking lot of a particular sin.
- You’re not going to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts and eat a dozen chocolate-covereds in one sitting. You’re not even driving by.
- You are not going to sleep with that boyfriend…ever again!
- You’re not going to date that guy you know is bad for you…ever again.
- You’re not going to look at that particular website.
- You’re not going to flirt with the married guy in the next cubicle.
- You’re not going to gossip about other people.
- You are not going to drink because you know you have an alcohol problem.
- You are not going to indulge in online shopping because you’re in debt.
- You’re not going to _______________.
There are hundreds of vices you could put in that sentence. But then there’s a nicely groomed little path that you’ve kept open…just in case. You wouldn’t call it “just in case.” You wouldn’t say it out loud.
- The guy’s name is still in your contacts list on your smartphone.
- You still think about what that guy in the next cubicle would like when you get dressed for work in the morning.
- You still pull up that website when you think God isn’t looking.
- You still pull up a chair when someone begins to gossip.
- You still take the route home from work that goes right by the Dunkin’ Donuts store.
- You keep a bottle in the cabinet…just for company.
The answer? Remove the path. Put up a gateless fence.
- Remove the contact.
- Change your job.
- Get rid of your computer.
- Get an accountability partner.
- Take a different route home from work.
- Remove the bottle.
Make the path to temptation impassable, implausible, and impossible to take, and put up a gateless fence instead.
Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29 NKJV). That is pretty dramatic. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eye, and I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was saying either. But He was telling us to remove the cause of the temptation.
Remove the path. Put up a fence.
Heavenly Father, thank You for always giving me a way of escape. Forgive me for not always taking it. Help me to keep my resolve to put up a fence and close the paths to areas of my life that I have left open to sin. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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