Day 5 : Cutting Out Sources of Temptation
Ever heard of Aron Ralston? He was a hiker who had to amputate his own arm in order to free himself from a dislodged boulder. The account goes like this:
His right arm was pinned beneath an 800-pound boulder. His water bottle was empty. It did not seem likely that a rescue crew could ever spot him in the narrow slit of Blue John Canyon, in the wilds of southeast Utah.
So, after five days, Aron Ralston took out his pocketknife and amputated his arm below the elbow. Then he rigged anchors into the cliff, fixed a rope and rappelled 60 feet to the canyon floor. Bleeding heavily through a makeshift tourniquet, Ralston began to hike.
He had walked about five miles when a helicopter search team spotted him Thursday afternoon on a trail through Canyonlands National Park, drained and dehydrated — but still pushing forward.
“That’s true grit,” park ranger Glenn Sherrill said.
On Friday, Ralston was recovering from surgery at a Colorado hospital. And his friends were predicting he would return to the mountain wilderness the first chance he gets.
“I expect him to be out there, doing everything he ever did,” nature photographer John Fielder said.
Ralston, 27, is an audacious mountaineer who has climbed 59 of the highest peaks in Colorado. A story this spring in his hometown paper, the Aspen Times, described him climbing alone, in midwinter, in the dead of night, without cell phone, radio, beacon or rope. A mechanical engineer by training, an explorer in spirit, Ralston relishes pushing his body over ice-slick cliffs. He delights in standing alone at a 14,000-foot summit as lightning crashes around him, as gray wolves howl from distant ledges.
The adventure that ended with his self-amputation was supposed to have been a modest one: a bike ride up a canyon, then a hike down through the sculpted sandstone bluffs on a bright spring Saturday. The round trip would take perhaps eight hours. Ralston thought so little of it, he didn’t bother to give his roommates a detailed itinerary, as was his practice on mountain climbs.
He completed the ride without incident and left his bike at the top, planning to drive up in his truck later to retrieve it. On the way down, he used rock-climbing equipment to navigate the narrow passages of Blue John Canyon — which in places is just 3 feet wide. After an hour or two, he came to a giant boulder wedged in the canyon, according to Sherrill, the park ranger.
Ralston scrambled over the boulder and was lowering himself down when it shifted, pinning his arm. He managed to maneuver his feet so that he was standing upright. But he could not free himself.
Authorities said he used his climbing gear to rig a webbed sling so he could try to push the rock away with his feet. It was too heavy.
He stood there, trapped, for five days, during which temperatures dropped to 30 degrees.
On Tuesday, he ran out of water. On Thursday, he “realized that his survival required drastic action,” according to a statement by the sheriff’s office in Emery County, Utah. He used his pocketknife to free himself the only way he could, by cutting off part of his arm. Though such brutal surgery is hard to imagine, others in desperate straits have done it, managing to sever the muscles and tendons that attach limbs to joints with a modest jackknife.
It is unclear whether Ralston hacked through his bone or whether the bone had been crushed by the boulder.
Once he had completed the job, he used his first-aid kit to tie a tourniquet around his bicep. Then he rappelled down the cliff — and started walking.
“His instinct for survival was great,” Fielder said.
Hours later, Ralston met two hikers in Horseshoe Canyon. They gave him water and walked with him until they could flag down a helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety. 
I wonder if I just might have died if I had been placed in Aron's situation.
GOUGING OUT TEMPTATION
Lesson 5 is about amputation. Not physical amputation, like in Aron’s story. The focus instead is on the cutting out of things in our life that clearly harm our affections for Jesus. During this lesson I am challenging us to throw off clear sources of temptation. Let me be clear about what I am not saying - I am not suggesting that anything that's ever led you down the path of sinful behavior be taken, sold, or otherwise destroyed. Frankly, we'd need to leave the planet to avoid temptation altogether. It is to say, however, that we ought to be careful the things we allow to occupy our time. In my own life I realized that in certain contexts computers, cell phones, specific relationships, certain movies, and video games were all devices that steered my heart away from the presence of God. None of the things I listed above are inherently sinful. It is the misuse of these things that causes us trouble.
Jesus is not teaching self-mutilation here; he is teaching us that if something causes us to fall into sin, no matter how precious or valuable it is in our lives, we are better off without it. This is an unpopular lesson for good reason. Many of us have smart phones that, despite how often they lead us into some less than reputable Google searches, seem completely necessary for our lives. Are they worth holding on to? Jesus went as far as to say that even if something as valuable as your own hand or eye is causing you to stumble then it is better to lose that instead of your soul.
A few years back, my wife went out of town. She had just switched to a new cell phone and left her old iPhone at home, still connected to our wifi. Within hours of her gone, that phone became an immediate source of temptation for me. So I took it into the garage and destroyed it with a sledgehammer (this made for some interesting conversations later on). Sadly, I've since been tempted by other cell phones. If we're being honest, cutting temptation out of our lives is a partial solution at best, but it steers us toward the right direction. And it's not always just the obvious things in our lives that may need to be cut out. We have become accustomed to viewing pornography on a regular basis, just to a lesser degree. Our culture has pushed the line of what is appropriate so far back that we struggle to recognize the ways in which we engage in lust, pornography, and self-gratification on a daily basis.
USE AVAILABLE RESOURCES
It is understandable that technology is a necessity for many people today. Throwing out a cell phone or computer may not be an effective option for some, especially if they will simply be tempted in another way. There are other options, however. You can have your spouse, a close friend, or family member restrict your access to computers through free software.
Another option is to install accountability software on your devices. Personally, we use Accountable2You in our family. For a few bucks a month, all of our devices are monitored 24/7 and if anything inappropriate is accessed (or even typed), it sends an instant text/email to myself, my wife and a few close friends of mine.
This is serious business. You cannot expect to be free from this struggle if you hold on to things that deliberately impede your relationship with Christ (I'm looking at you Netflix binge-watchers). Will there come a day that you’ll be able to stand in the face of every temptation and overcome it? Possibly, scripture promises a way of escape for every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), but many of us are creating our own stumbling blocks by keeping things around that draw us further from God.
Many of the things we hold onto are permissible, some of them are not. For a long time, video games were a source of temptation for me. Facebook also made it on that list. These things had to go when I was seeking a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus. It was painful and I often fell short, but in the end it was worth letting them go, even if only temporarily.
PRACTICAL STEPS TO SPIRITUAL AMPUTATION
This lesson doesn't apply itself naturally. In other words, if you were to just ignore what's being said here you will still have the same sources of temptation in six months. We can almost guarantee that. Here are a few notes that will hopefully make this lesson come alive in your own walk:
- Don't Hesitate
It's easy to justify holding on to things that have caused us so much turmoil in the past. We think to ourselves, "This time will be different, this thing in my life won't cause me to stumble again." From experience, it was only a matter of time before I fell into it again.
- Get Help
Having trouble letting things go? In college, we used to give our computers to one another temporarily if they were becoming a source of temptation. We cut certain video games out of the house because they weren't conducive to a gospel-centered lifestyle. If you're honest with friends and family about struggling in this area, you may be surprised with how many people are willing to come alongside you.
- Sever Promiscuous Relationships
If you know there is someone in your life that is causing you to stumble sexually, address it. Whether it is an adulterous, homosexual, or pre-marital relationship, it has to be dealt with so that you can move on from habitual sexual sin.
This is one of the most difficult lessons to deal with (as it most certainly was for me). It is also one of the most effective. When we are denied easy access to something like pornography, we are less likely to stumble into it.
Day 5 Application
What sources of temptation have you failed to cut out in the past?
What will you do to cut out the sources that have tempted you in the past?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?