"...the Psalmist said, 'If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.' (Psalm 66:18). To regard wickedness is to cherish some sin, to love it to the extent that I am not willing to part with it. I know it is there, yet I justify it in some way like the child who says, 'Well, he hit me first.'" - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness
The heart is a tricky thing, especially with sin. It can hold on to things and provide every justification about why they are in fact not sin; it can rationalize and protest and reason every day for the rest of one's life about why certain sins must be maintained at all costs - even at the cost of a relationship with God.
My personal favorite is the "If I don't do it this way, it won't happen" school of thought. "If I don't imagine about X, there will be none of it in my life - and after all, everyone needs X in their life." How many times have I veered into places I never should have gone, simply because of this argument?
The reality is this, like many other arguments for sin, is a false choice. In one sense it is true - if I don't do something some ways, they won't happen. The question really should be "If I don't do this, will I really miss it?" This moves the question a step beyond, from debating how to do something to the more fundamental question of whether it should be done in the first place.
And certainly there are plenty of things that need not be done at all by their nature - especially when measuring the cost overall. It's like the addict who cannot give up the thing they are addicted to, even to the extent of destroying everything around them. We cluck our tongues and say "That's a shame when someone is so addicted to something so bad for them" - yet given the same circumstances with our own sins and areas of weakness, we somehow fail to make the connection in our own lives. If the addict cannot give up an addiction for this life, how pathetic are we who cannot give up an addiction (often not a physical craving) for eternity?
When I say "we", I mean "me". I am the foremost offender in this, holding onto things I should have jettisoned long ago, justifying my own failings in the guise of something being better than nothing. Is that always true? Or are there some nothings that are better than somethings?
Perhaps it is time - finally time - to hew down the altars and high places in my own life, to determine that I will no longer sacrifice at altars which are not God's.
Scary? Sure - I say this now but that "If I don't do it this way it will never happen" roars to the forefront, and given my penchant for wanting to do something noble and great and seeing my life in comparison, the temptation will be strong. But - and here's the question - if I don't do things that way, do I then open up another option for God to move those things in and through my life?
Of course if I don't do it, I'll never know.