Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Spiritual Relapses

Last Sunday we saw Samson’s spiritual relapse into following his weakness rather than obeying God. From Judges 16:1-20, I find 7 principles regarding spiritual relapses:

Progress and victory in areas of weakness does not mean that the weakness is nullified. Samson had spent 20 years judging Israel properly with no mention of his weakness getting the best of him, but he still fell into a relapse. Weeks, months and even years of victory does not mean that we can let down our guard when it comes to our weaknesses.

You can easily identify if you’re heading into a spiritual relapse by asking yourself if there is any action, attitude or motive that you are trying to hide from others. Samson went all the way down to Gaza, the Philistine city furthest away from Judah, in order to be with a prostitute. He then left at midnight to return home under the cloak of darkness.

Spiritual relapses are often worse than the original struggle with the weakness. Once again Samson “sees” a woman that sends him into a downward spiral of following his weakness of lust and sexual passion. This time it will cost Samson everything.

After a while, the downward spiral of a spiritual relapse leaves you apathetic and no longer caring who knows about your actions. Samson goes from hiding an illicit sexual relationship with a prostitute to a public and unlawful relationship with Delilah. After a while, our spiritual relapses will often result in our seeing ourselves as a victim and faulting everyone else around us. It also results in our justifying our sinful actions leaving us no longer trying to hide our weakness.

Spiritual relapses brings about insanity. Delilah tried three times unsuccessfully to render Samson powerless. Yet, Samson still tells her the truth of his strength. Samson never even saw the danger. When we reach a certain level in this downward spiritual spiral we no longer think straight. We no longer make rational decisions. We put ourselves at risk without even realizing the danger that is looking us right in the face.

In the end it is the very sinful passions that we pursued that turns on us like a monster and destroys us. Samson pursued his sexual passions, being willing to give up his calling from God to find sexual gratification with Delilah. But after Samson’s hair was cut it was Delilah herself that afflicted Samson. It is the very sins that we pursue (lust, money, etc.) that in the end will turn on us and destroy everything near and dear to us (our marriage, our families, our jobs, our churches, etc.).

When we are in a spiritual relapse we deceive ourselves into thinking God is blessing us when He is no longer empowering us at all and we don’t even realize it. After having his hair cut by Delilah, Samson went out to fight like all other times but he did not know that the Spirit of God has left him. The Spirit of God lives within us to empower us. But when we sin, the Spirit stops working through us and starts working on us.

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