Now amongst these vicious inclinations, which wage war against the soul, there is generally one more strong and violent than the rest, that is the occasion of more or greater sins, named by divines the predominant passion; the mortification whereof is, one of the principal occupations of a spiritual life; for when our predominant passion, which is, as it were, the commander of the rest, is once overthrown, the rest will be more easily subdued, as when their champion Goliath was slain, the whole army of the Philistines were immediately put to flight.Richard Challoner, Meditations, August 21 entry
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another #shorts post.
Today’s quick tidbit once again comes from Richard Challoner’s daily reader, Meditations. The full title being: Considerations Upon Christian Truths and Christian Duties: Digested Into Meditations for Every Day in the Year.
By the way, I want everyone to know Meditations is a book in the public domain—it’s free!! You can read it for free as a PDF (if you want a print copy like I prefer, you have to buy one). Check out the free PDF HERE.
If you download your own free copy, you can follow along with the entries I write about, or you can read an entry every day yourself.
Anyway, today’s selection from Meditations is once again about the ever-important topic of mortification. We’re going to continue on from the previous post, which was about the mortification of the flesh and its appetite for sensual pleasures. “Sensual pleasures” means anything in this world that stimulates the physical senses; anything from food to sex to entertainment and everything in-between.
In today’s selection from Meditations, Challoner gives us a great practical tip for mortifying our flesh and it’s disordered, sinful excesses. We all have one area of sin, one temptation, that we struggle with above all others. Richard Challoner advises us to strike at the head; we must mortify the predominant passion.
Kill the Commander; Scatter the Enemy
Every person is different, and every person’s struggle with sin is different. Some people can easily resist one category of sin and temptation, but are weak to another and often fall to it.
For example, let’s imagine one person has no problem exerting Self-Discipline when it comes to their physical health, avoiding the excesses of gluttony, eating a healthy diet, and getting great exercise. They are strong against the sins of gluttony and sloth and can resist easily. But this very same person is weak to the sin of lust. They just can’t stop themselves from falling into sexual immorality and promiscuity with women. When they struggle against the sin of lust they don’t have good results. Their struggle against this sin is the most bitter struggle of their life; this sin is their greatest challenge. And they are often defeated by it, even while they can so easily defeat other categories of sin.
In the Meditations entry for today, Richard Challoner labels this main temptation we have such a hard time with the “predominant passion.” He groups these passions under the categories of the seven deadly sins: Wrath, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, lust, and pride (these are not in order, not that any order matters much here).
Note that each of these categories of passions, each of the seven deadly sins, include many sins within that big category. For example, the capital sin of wrath includes sins such as unforgiveness, anger, retaliation, hatred, racial hatred, and so on and so forth.
Anyway, Richard Challoner starts out by telling us that whichever one of these sin categories troubles us the most, if we take special care to mortify it, we’ll defeat the rest of our sins more easily. He uses a military analogy: Our predominant passion is the commander of the enemy forces, and if we assassinate the commander, the enemy army will scatter like the Philistines scattered when David killed Goliath. Our predominant passion is our Goliath; if we use the power of God (which we gain through prayer and mortification) to kill our Goliath, the rest of the army facing us will run in terror!!
On the Mortification of the Predominant Passion (August 21)
[…] when the passions of love and desire are unmortified, they branch out into all manner of vices and various inclinations, commonly ranged under these seven heads, which are usually denominated the seven capital sins: […] Now amongst these vicious inclinations, which wage war against the soul, there is generally one more strong and violent than the rest, that is the occasion of more or greater sins, named by divines the predominant passion; the mortification whereof is, one of the principal occupations of a spiritual life; for when our predominant passion, which is, as it were, the commander of the rest, is once overthrown, the rest will be more easily subdued, as when their champion Goliath was slain, the whole army of the Philistines were immediately put to flight.Richard Challoner, Meditations, August 21 entry
That’s straightforward enough, but it doesn’t stop there. How do we detect and identify the predominant passion?? Besides being honest with ourselves about what type of sin we struggle with the most, we can also take a hard look inside ourselves and see what’s at the forefront of our thoughts all the time.
Because we really worship whatever is at the forefront of our mind all the time, which I’ve written about before. Check out this post entitled, Time to Clean Heart. If all our thoughts are about anything other than God, that thing, whatever it is, is an idol. It’s a heart idol. It’s the thing we actually worship rather than God. And so, Richard Challoner explains we can always identify our predominant passion by taking an honest look inside and seeing which passion, which temptation, has taken the place of God in our hearts. Which sin has become our heart idol.
If we can be honest with ourselves and detect our heart idols, then we can destroy the enemy commander. But we can’t kill the enemy commander if we can’t identify them, and to identify them we have to be honest with God and with ourselves.
Ah! Christian, deceive not yourself, this predominant passion, or favorite affection which has taken possession of your heart, being the capital enemy of the welfare of your soul must be slain,—it must be sacrificed to the living God. Beware of the traitor you carry about you: suffer him not to impose upon you. If you be not willfully blind, you may easily discover his designs, for, upon the least examination of your heart, you shall find him always busy in undermining the reign of the love of God; thrusting himself upon his throne; and setting himself up as an idol in his temple, […]Richard Challoner, Meditations, August 21 entry
This is a useful trick for identifying the enemy commander. But there’s one more thing to learn. When we take an honest look at ourselves, we need to look at the ways we fall to temptation. These are our triggers. These triggers cause us to give into temptation and indulge in some sin or worldly pleasure or other things we want to avoid. Our predominant passion, the enemy commander, will always use these triggers against us to make us follow our flesh nature rather than God.
That’s why we need to know all the strategies and triggers our predominant passion uses to trip us up. When we fall to temptation, don’t despair—REPENT! and get back up again … but also, study what exactly caused that fall. Because this is vital intelligence against the enemy. Study what caused the relapse, study what caused the sin, the slip-up. Learn from that, take steps to avoid it, prepare to defend against it, but above all, be aware of it.
If we aren’t aware of how and why we fall to certain temptations, these triggers will succeed against us every time. We will be destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Which is why Richard Challoner stresses the importance of knowing our enemy; the importance of knowing the triggers our predominant passion uses against us.
Consider 3dly, that in order to defeat this, the worst of all your enemies, you should not only make yourself acquainted with the depth of his malice, and all his strategems, that you may not be surprised or imposed upon by him; but must likewise watch all his motions, to resist them at the very beginning; and study all the secret springs by which he acts upon the heart, […] Ah! Christians, it is of the utmost importance in this spiritual warfare, to know the true state of your interior, and to watch all the secret motions and ambushes of your enemies; […]Richard Challoner, Meditations, August 21 entry
Does this sound familiar at all?? It’s a similar idea to one of the most famous New Testament verses, and one of the most important Scripture verses in my life. And that would be 1 Peter 5:8. Be sober, be alert. Because the devil is always on the prowl, looking for anybody he can grab up and devour.
If we mortify our predominant passion, then we’re doing a good job of staying on the alert. So let’s all try to do a good job of mortifying the enemy commander, and the rest will fall easier. And with that, let’s close out today with the Word of God.
(8) Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (CEB)
That’s it for #shorts #16. Stay tuned for more #shorts all this month.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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