by Pastor Lehmann
Posted on November 14, 2014 4:46 AM
When I drove down to Raleigh for our pastors' conference in October, I amused myself by asking why North Carolina seems to be so proud of its cowardice - after all, they put "First in Flight" on their license plates!
But after some more thinking, I realized that maybe that motto is one we should take over as Christians - not as cowards, running away from frightening situations or opportunities to take a stand for the faith, but as repentant sinners too well-acquainted with temptation. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22) and "You, man of God, flee from all this [lack of contentment and the love of money], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" (1 Timothy 6:11). To the Corinthians he said, "Flee from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18) and also, "My dear friends, flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14).
So you see, running away - flight - is something Christians should be doing regularly. Whenever any type of temptation pops up or comes our way, our first reaction should not be, "Hey, look at that!" or "I wonder how close I can get to that without actually giving in and sinning," or even "I'm a strong Christian, so I'm just going to pretend there's no threat here to my faith." No, our response should always be to flee from temptation as soon as we recognize it.
Of course, that's not what Satan and his allies in the world and our flesh want us to do - they want us ensnared by temptations so we can be encumbered by sin - and so they work hard at making recognizing temptation something difficult. In some cases they simply dress it up to make it look harmless, even positive; in other cases they appeal to our pride so we say, "Well, other people might by tempted to sin by this, but not I - I know where the lines are and can stop before I cross them. I'm good that way." And that's how it is that Christians today are engaged with things that would have scandalized believers of previous generations: we don't bat an eye at "entertainment" that treats - and shows - the body and sex in prurient, not godly ways and includes coarse language and the name of the Lord taken in vain; we let ourselves get sucked in by political philosophies that relieve us of God-given responsibilities and transfer them to other people; we are so pleased to see and accept someone or something identified as "Christian" that we never take the time to test whether his message or her actions or its meaning really is in line with God's Word; popularity, success, wealth, even having the latest gadgets are presented as good things no one could question, regardless of what it takes to have them; and so much more.
But we know that this is how the devil works - he even "masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14) in order to deceive us. And so we can be on our guard, and thus recognize temptations as what they are, so we can respond to them as we are: Christians who want to keep as far away from sin as possible. We know that when we fall victim to temptation - which we do so often - Christ is always there with the forgiveness he won for us on the cross. But that is not something we will take for granted; instead, we consider what he has done for us to be our greatest motivation to show God love in return with the way we live our lives. And so we don't let anyone get ahead of us in running away as we flee temptation: we always want to be "First in Flight".