As a child, when times got rough, I'd try to blame someone else for the "roughness" I was experiencing. For example, if it was me who snatched a cookie out of the cookie jar before dinner and left a trail of crumbs right up to where I was sitting playing, I would try to deny it was me! Or like the time mom came home to find my mouth black and my breath smelling heavily of anise only to hear me deny repeatedly that I had been into my grandmother's licorice candy! I denied because I knew the admittance of guilt would bring punishment - but denial doesn't guarantee escape! It only shifts the blame or focus for a moment, but not for the "savvy" parent. The parent who loves and knows their child will not be caught off-guard by the child's adamant denials! In fact, they will pursue the denial until the child squirms a little and finally admits to the "crime"! Why? They love us too much to let us get away with the "sin"! God loves us in the same way - pursuing us until we admit we are trapped by our sin and cannot find a way out.
The Lord sees everything, and he watches us closely. Sinners are trapped and caught by their own evil deeds. They get lost and die because of their foolishness and lack of self-control. (Proverbs 5:21-23 CEV)
Unlike our earthly parents, God sees everything. As a child, I thought mom must have some sixth sense for finding out this stuff, but in actuality, my own guilt "found me out". In the most literal sense, sin (or our lack of self-control) has a way of "trapping us" - if not because we suffer some type of harm in our lives, at least in the issue of guilt. Guilt is like a trap - it encompasses us, making us feel like there is no way out, and then strings us up until we cry "uncle". If you are strung up long enough, you are eventually cut off from all things which are your life supply - like food, water, and exercise. In the trap, you wither and die. Guilt is so powerful because of it "cuts us off" from those things we need most - like fellowship, freedom to move, and nourishment.
Simply put, a trap is any device, strategy, trick, or the like designed specifically for catching a person "unaware". Sometimes our own lack of self-control presents all the right circumstances so as to create this opportunity to be "caught unaware" - simply because we weren't paying attention to where we were heading or what we were setting ourselves up to do. Most believers don't wake up in the morning with a firm commitment in mind that "today I will sin" by doing this or that. In fact, we usually wake up making a fresh commitment NOT to do this or that which almost always ends up in us making some foolish decisions and pursuing something we should have left untouched.
This "self-control" thing is not new - it has been around as long as we have! When God created man in his own image, I believe God created this ability for self-control deep within man. In the same manner, he created him with the ability of choice. Now, if man chooses wisely, exercising a little self-control (restraint), then man doesn't deal with the other thing God created - his emotions (guilt). On the other hand, if man chooses unwisely, allowing all restraint to fly out the window, then he will also deal with the conflict of emotions which come as a result of having pursued something he intended to avoid in the first place!
The good news in all this mess is that we are not designed to be solely reliant upon our self-control! Too many times we live very defeated and guilt-ridden lives simply because we think we have to avoid sin completely by our own doing. In reality, God also created us with this "space" within each of us that is the place we call "spirit" - the place where he was designed to inhabit. If we allow this space to be filled with the Spirit of God, then we find we have help to avoid the traps! The sad thing is that we sometimes set the traps we fall into, while at other times they are set for us. We cannot always be aware of the ones being set for us, but we can be keenly aware of the ones we are setting for ourselves. The Spirit of God within can trigger our awareness - we just have to ask him to do so and then be willing to listen when he does!
Those traps set for us by others - well, he can also help us recognize the signs of the trap long before we step into it. This is why it is important to have a living and vital relationship with God - so we can call upon him, learn from him, and be guided by his "fore-knowledge" of what lies ahead. The closer we are to him, the easier it is to avoid the traps! The more we avoid the traps, the less guilt we have to deal with. The less guilt we have, the freer we will be in our worship and adoration of our Lord. Now, that is what God intends for his kids! Just sayin!
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