In mid-January, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a father-son retreat at Camp Barakel in northern Michigan with my 10-year-old son Paul. The beautiful countryside, snow, outdoor activities, great food and fun game room provide special memories. These getaways have now become an annual event for us, and if you possibly can do it, go. (They also have father-daughter and mother-daughter retreats, if you’re interested.)
Besides having a great time with my son, allow me to share some of what I learned this year.
James 1:12-17: A Guide for Resisting Evil
The chapel messages were given by Pastor Kenneth L. Pierpont and were entitled “Dangerous Men,” with a variety of topics ranging from “How God Calls and Equips Dangerous Men” to “Dangerous Men Communicate their Conviction that God is in Control” to “Dangerous Men Act With Wisdom and Skill.”
Obviously, this definition of “dangerous men” is not what most people might expect at first glance. We’re not talking about bad guys, but rather these messages focused on men that make a consistent positive (even radical) impact in their family, church, and society. You can listen to these excellent podcasts by Pastor Pierpont in January 2013 at the Camp Barakel website.
But the session that I’d like to focus on in this blog was guidance to men on resisting temptation, which was entitled: “Dangerous Men Resist Evil.”
Pastor Pierpont first read James 1:12-17. He had four main points:
- Expect temptation in trying times – verse 12.
- Take personal responsibility for your desires – verse 13-14.
- Take temptations seriously – verse 15.
- Enjoy what God has provided – verses 16-17.
I was especially moved by Pastor Pierpont’s third and fourth points. He told several stories about how he and others have been tempted—both offline and online. His exposition of James 1:15 was hard-hitting and passionate. “The sin in your life will ruin you—your family, your marriage, your effectiveness in prayer and more. “
Strategy for Overcoming Temptation
So what can we do? What strategies are most effective for overcoming sinful habits?
This is where the timeless messages from Thomas Chalmers apply. Chalmers lived over 150 years ago, but his sermons and quotes still hit home today. Pastor Pierpont pointed to one sermon entitled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” Here is an excerpt of that sermon:
“But what can not be thus destroyed, may be dispossest—and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind. It is thus that the boy ceases, at length, to be the slave of his appetite; but it is because a manlier taste has now brought it into subordination, and that the youth ceases to idolize pleasure; but it is because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendency, and that even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart of many a thriving citizen; but it is because, drawn into the whirl of city politics, another affection has been wrought into his moral system, and he is now lorded over by the love of power. There is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object.”
When I returned home after the retreat, I discovered that Chalmers has many other great quotes worthy of pondering, such as these:
- “Acts of virtue ripen into habits; and the goodly and permanent result is the formation or establishment of a virtuous character.”
- “Every man is a missionary, now and forever, for good or for evil, whether he intends or designs it or not.”
- “Live for something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy, on the hearts of thousands you come in contact with year by year; you will never be forgotten. No, your name, your deeds, will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as the stars of heaven.”
But the main point of this excellent message by Pastor Pierpont is that God is good. He has given us so many wonderful blessings. As we focus more on the good things in our lives, the evil is resisted and even displaced.
This is not say we don’t need to repent or take steps to resist evil. Of course we do. We all need accountability and personal responsibility for our actions. We also need tools like Covenant Eyes.
But the best way for men (and women) to do this, as Thomas Chalmers said, is “By setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment; so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon, not to resign an old affection which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.”