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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Displacement Strategy

When we think about obeying God's commands, we often think in terms of loss. "I can't do that anymore" or "Now I'm going to have to do without this." You know, "Flee sexual immorality" means I'm going to have to give up sexual immorality (duh!). So now what do I do? There's an empty spot in my day. (Yeah, like "sexual immorality" is a single event in a person's day.) It's a loss, you see. So obedience means giving things up that you used to do. (Sure, it also means doing things that you didn't use to do, but that's not my point here.) That's what we sense when we see "Flee sexual immorality" (or whatever other sins we are to avoid). "Avoid it." Okay ... now what?

The image is popular. You know, the stoic, repressed puritanical person who can't have any fun and can't do anything because God said "NO!" That's what every good Christian looks like, right? I mean, if you're doing it right. And, yet, Jesus came to give us "more abundant" life, "that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11) So ... now what?

Enter Displacement Strategy. The idea is not "Give up stuff." It is "Replace that stuff with something else." Indeed, "something better". Paul writes:
Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph 5:3-4)
That's Displacement Strategy. That's "Don't do this and this and that or the other, but do this instead." And what is it that Paul recommends instead? "Let there be thanksgiving."

Lest you think that thanksgiving is just a possibility, a suggestion, or a "one off" idea, look around. Note, first, that a lack of thanksgiving is a primary problem for humans (Rom 1:21). Beyond that, we are told, "In everything give thanks" followed by "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thess 5:18) In fact, it's all over the place. "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!" (1 Chron 16:34) "I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High." (Psa 7:17) "Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name." (Psa 30:4) (In fact, it would take too long to pull out the "give thanks to the Lord" passages in the Psalms.) We are to pray with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6; Col 4:2), replace sexual immorality and filthy talk with thanksgiving (Eph 5:4), give with thanksgiving (2 Cor 9:11), and receive anything from God with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:4).

In Displacement Strategy, we don't merely give up things. We displace them with something better. The primary "better" listed in the Bible is gratitude toward God. It makes the "loss" a gain, gladdens the heart, repairs a lack in sinful humans, and redirects our hearts to a better treasure than the things we think we're giving up. I think it's a good strategy. But, then, I only think that because it's a biblical one.

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