As kids, didn't we do a much better job "obeying" our parents when they were right there with us than when no one was looking? The only probable exception was when we were with one of our friends' parents. We acted like total angels around them, making our parents nearly nuts when they saw how perfectly we could act with them and how insanely disobedient we could be when we were at home! The cookie jar was never a temptation when mom was home - she'd have whipped me but good if I stole into that between meals. Yet, if she happened to be at work when I got home and the house was "free of parental supervision", I'd scour the pantry for chocolate chips, the candy jar for one or two hard candies, or the like. Why? No one was watching! When someone was home, I was "monitored" for my obedience. When no one was there, the "monitor" was gone. At first, this may not seem like a big deal, but it was probably more important for me to be obedient when I wasn't being "watched"! Why? I was in the greatest place of temptation at those moments!
My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. (Philippians 2:12-13 CEV)
The greatest place of temptation for us is as vast and varied as where we come from, how we were raised, what circumstances we have faced, and just how weak or strong we are at this very moment. In fact, we go through "seasons" in our lives where one particular "tempting thought" may not even phase us, but in another time or place, it can almost be overwhelming. Something happens when we lived "un-monitored" lives. We move out from under a place of safety into some pretty grey areas - even into some pretty damaging ones at times. So, the purpose of my bringing this up is pretty clear - we just cannot afford to step away from the "monitors" God has placed in our lives, because they are there to provide us with a safe "umbrella" under which we can avoid some pretty damaging stuff.
As children, our "monitors" were probably parents, teachers, older siblings, and even the neighbors' parents. We grew up and a new set of "monitors" came into play - the boss, our local police authority, and even our government officials. As we move into relationship with Christ, there are a different set of "monitors" introduced into our lives such as pastor, counselors, and small cell group friends. Either way, the effect is similar - the "monitoring" modulates our behavior somewhat. When the monitoring is cut off, the behavior may no longer have the same "modulation" - and this is the dangerous ground upon which we trod straight into temptation!
Yet, we cannot live "under monitoring" all our lives - at some point, we move into places where we are not under our parents' control, or even find ourselves faced with no one in which to confide our struggles. When this occurs, we need some "inner modulation" in order to stand against the struggles and conflicts which temptation surely bring. We actually need both the outward "modulation" and the inner. Outwardly, we need each other - assisting each other to see things from the perspective of the outside looking in. Inwardly, we need the Holy Spirit - assisting us with the inward perspective we so frequently cannot get a handle on all by ourselves.
In time, when we learn the value of both "monitors" in our lives - outward and inward - we come to understand the importance of relationships with one another and the cultivation of the relationship we have with Jesus. We spur one another on when the going gets rough and through the faithfulness of coming alongside in times of difficulty, we actually help one another to navigate "hairy" territory in our lives with a greater sense of ease. In getting a little "deeper" in our relationship with Jesus, through time spent in his Word, in worship, and in prayer, we find ourselves drawing closer to the anchoring force of his Spirit within. Maybe this is what Paul meant when he wrote we were supposed to "work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved". It is this learning to "modulate" behaviors with the assistance of the various "tools" God places in our lives to help provide "monitoring" of our actions!
Through the faithfulness of friends helping me see the things I cannot see, I have learned to let go of things which are just damaging to my character. In time, through the work of the Holy Spirit within and the faithfulness of friends standing with me in the battle, the subtle changes in character become more "ingrained" and I am able to consistently "behave" in a manner which helps me avoid the pitfalls of temptation. This is accomplished because God is at work within - giving us the desire to actually change what we cannot see without his help! The other day, a friend plucked a grey hair from my head. Now, I have way to many for her to do it to all of them, but this one particular one was just totally being unruly and was sticking straight out! I couldn't see it because it was at the back of my head. As far as I knew, my hair was in position and I was ready for my day. She helped me "see" what I could not!
As silly as a grey hair standing on end may actually sound, it is an example of seeing what we may have missed for a long, long time. That grey hair didn't get there overnight and it did not become "unruly" overnight either! The same thing is true about temptation and sin in our lives - it doesn't get their overnight and it doesn't gain a foothold in our lives overnight either! We need the help of others, and the Holy Spirit, to "monitor" where there are signs of compromise (unruliness in the making). Just sayin!