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I want to write on a subject that I have steered away from in the past, simply because I got so sick of hearing churchy sermons about it when I was young. It is the subject of "Balance". The churchy approach is usually to suggest that a good balance between hot and cold is to be lukewarm. Obviously, we would not go along with that. Most moral issues require full-on commitment for us to do our very best for God.

However, there are other ways that the devil can turn our sincere zeal into a perversion which will throw us off balance; and we need to be wise to them.

In particular, what he does is to channel an inordinate amount of our time and effort into dealing with one particular fault or weakness which is not really the most important one in God's eyes, and which may not even be a fault at all.

We have seen, for example, how churchies can totally miss everything we say in a 100 page book of teachings just because they find the word shit on page 68 or whatever. In other words, they strain at the gnat of a four-letter word (which isn't even mentioned in the Bible) while stumbling over all of the incredibly heavy stuff that we are saying about the teachings of Jesus. We need to be careful that the same thing does not happen to us with regard to issues which may be only slightly more important than the issue of four-letter words.

The reason I wrote the stuff that I wrote on masturbation is because I became aware that it was an overwhelming concern to the vast majority of young guys in the churches. Their guilt feelings about masturbation coloured everything else about their walk with God; and yet, like four-letter words, there was not a word against it in the entire Bible. (Although there are a couple of obscure verses that are used to imply that masturbation is wrong.)

If masturbation was the great sin that the entire church world seems to think that it is, then somewhere in the hundreds of pages of the Bible God would have come down really heavily on it. After all, he gives detailed instructions about all sorts of other things in the Old Testament. Why not some passage saying that a man shall not do with himself that which only a woman should do to him, or words to that effect. The Bible is not bashful about calling a spade a spade when it wants to. But the fact is that it says nothing.

So what the devil does is to take something quite legitimate and get us totally obsessed with trying to refrain from doing it in our own strength. What makes it "in our own strength" is simply that we are trying to do something that Jesus never told us to do.

Where God guides, he provides. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. But if all of our energy is going into unsuccessfully trying to obey some man-made rule, then we will never have the strength that we need to carry his yoke.

If we try to serve two masters, i.e. our rules and his rules, at the same time, we are going to get things really screwed up. When people have let go of the disciplines that they falsely put on themselves, they have found incredible spiritual strength to do the things that really count. When they do not give in to the truth, they become more and more dishonest with others and with themselves about what is really happening in their lives.

A couple of issues that are similar to masturbation in terms of getting people off balance are rules about drinking and smoking and rules about living by faith (where people imagine that they cannot ask for donations, or even accept donations if they are really living by faith). Until we challenge the legitimacy of these stupid rules, and get things into better perspective, we are going to be under constant condemnation, and unstable in all our ways.

The saddest thing is that so often when others (like ourselves) try to get such people to open up about what is going on inside their heads, they refuse to talk about it, or they just declare their position and at the same time declare their unwillingness to even consider that their position could be anything but perfectly correct.

They don't want to be delivered, for fear that they will be punished for it. So their lives become all tangled up in a web of fear and dishonesty. We need to be delivered from such dead works of man-made laws, so that we can enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

(See also 'Conscience' Issues.)

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