April 5: Treating the Symptom
Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20; 2 Corinthians 2:12–17; Psalm 34:1–22
I regularly predict that something will only take me an hour when it actually ends up taking two. I’m beginning to think that this is a sign of a larger issue: the tendency to underestimate the severity of a problem. In medical offices, this is called treating the symptoms and not the disease. In street ministry, it’s known as getting addicts off the street rather than helping them understand their addiction.
Addicts rationalize sin. And eventually, sin becomes everything in their lives, which means they rationalize away who they are. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we would see that, like the addict, we like the “gray” area far too much. We want to push the boundaries in the name of freedom, rationality, or cultural appeal.
In Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20, Moses was uninterested in pushing boundaries. He even told the Israelites to stay away from foreigners who worshiped other gods because they would corrupt the fledgling worship of Yahweh (Deut 7:3–4). Paul makes a similar point in 2 Cor 6:14: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers, for what participation is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” Paul’s statement is part of a larger discussion on why the world is as black and white as God makes it out to be. In 2 Corinthians 2:15, Paul writes, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
Christ-followers are meant to be a good smell to the world of God’s work and goodness, and it’s impossible for them to do this if they are not living in His “light.” Corruption infects everyone affiliated with it. We are meant to bring the light into the darkness, not become part of the darkness. Interacting with culture and those who don’t believe is not the same as becoming one with culture and those who don’t believe.
When we see a symptom, we need to recognize there is a disease behind it. We’re all metaphorical addicts. The difference between Christ-followers and the rest is that we recognize the condition and seek Christ, who can heal us and save us.
In what ways are you rationalizing your sin or problems? What can you do to understand it the way God would like you to, and what can you do about it?
JOHN D. BARRY
- When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possessit, and shall root out many nations before thee: the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou. And the Lord thy God shal give them before thee, then thou shalt smite them: thou shalt utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor have compassion on them, Neither shalt thou make marriages with them, neither give thy daughter unto his son, nor take his daughter unto thy son. For they will cause thy son to turn away from me, and to serve other gods: then will the wrath of the Lord wax hot against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus ye shall deal with them, ye shall overthrow their altars, and break down their pillars, and ye shal cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, the Lord thy Godhath chosen thee, to be a precious people unto himself, above all people that are upon the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor chose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he has dworn unto your fathers, the Lord hath brought you out by a mighty hand, and delivered you out of the house of bondage from the hand of Pharoah King of Egypt. That thou mayest know, that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy unto them that love him and keep his commandments, even to a thousand generations, And rewardeth them to their face that hate him, to bring them to destruction: he will not defer to reward him that hateth him, to his face. Keep thou therefore the commandments, and the ordinances, and the laws, which I command thee this day to do them. For if ye hearken unto these laws, and observe and do them, then the Lord thy God shall keep with thee the covenant, and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers. And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn and thy wine, and thine oil and the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep in the land, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall be neither male nor female barren among you, nor among your cattle. Moreover, the Lord will take away from thee all infirmities, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt (which thou knowest) upon thee, but will send them upon all that hate thee. Thou shalt therefore consume all people which the Lord thy God shall give thee: thine eye shall not spare them, neither shalt thou serve their gods, for that shall be thy destruction. If thou say in thine heart, These nations are more than I, how can I cast them out? Thou shalt not fear them, but remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt: The great tentations which thine eyes saw, and the signs and wonders, and the mighty hand and stretched out harm, whereby the Lord thy God brought thee out: so shall the Lord thy God do unto lal the people, whose face thou fearest. Moreover, the Lord thy God will send hornets among them until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed. thou shalt not fear them: for the Lord thy God is among you, a God mighty and dreadful. And the Lord thy God will root out these nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. But the Lord thy God shall give them before thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be brought to naught. And he shall deliver their Kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou hast destroed them. The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire, and covet not the silver and gold, that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therewith: for it is an abomination before the Lord thy God. Bring not therefore abomination into thine house, lest thou be accursed like it, but utterly abhor it, and count it most abominable: for it is accursed. Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20
- Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s Gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had to rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother, but took my leave of them, and went away into Macedonia. Now thanks be unto God, which always maketh us to triumph in Christ, and maket manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.For we are unto God the sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them which perish. To the one we are the savor of death, unto death, and to the other the savor of life, unto life: and who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, whcih make merchandise of the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God in the sight of God speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:12–17
- I will always give thanks unto the Lord: his praise shall be in my mouth continually. My soul shall glory in the Lord: the humble shall hear it and be glad. Praise ye the Lord with me, and let us magnify his Name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me: yea, he delivered me out of all my fear. They shall look unto him, and run to him: and their faces shall not be ashamed, saying, This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The Angel of the Lord pitched round about them, that fear him, and delivereth them. Taste ye and see, how gracious the Lord is: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Fear the Lord ye his Saints: for nothing wanteth to them that fear him. The lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they which seek the Lord, shall want nothing that is good. Come children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth long days for to see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips, that they speak no guile. Eschew evil and do god: see peace and follow after it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off their remembrance from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart, and will save such as be afflicted in spirit. Great are the trouhbles of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. But malice shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous, shall perish. The Lord redeemeth the souls of his servants: and none that trust in him, shall perish. Psalm 34:1–22