Friday, May 30, 2014

"You Knew What I Was..."

A Native American proverb, as told by Iron Eyes Cody:

Many years ago Indian braves would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees and bright with flowers. There as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed a rugged peak capped with dazzling snow.

"I will test myself against that mountain," he thought. He put on his buffalo hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders, and set off to climb the pinnacle. When he reached the top, he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride.

Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. 

"I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold up here and there is no food. Put me under your coat and take me down to the valley."

"No," said the youth. "I know your kind. You are a rattle snake. If I pick you up, you will bite me, and your bite will kill me."

"Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, I will not harm you."

The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake. At last the youth tucked the snake under his coat and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it down gently. 

Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, leaped, and bit him on the leg.

"But you promised," cried the youth!

"You knew what I was when you picked me up," said the snake as it slithered away.

Just as the young brave is convinced to pick up the snake in spite of his awareness of the danger, we face a similar dilemma when it comes to sin.  We know the ultimate end of sin, and yet we allow ourselves to be deceived and enticed. We end up going against the will of God just to seek our own desires.

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Are we seeking the exits that God promises to help us escape temptation that leads to sin or do we ignore the warnings of our conscience and put ourselves in harm's way willingly?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Satan's Words of Comfort

Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8 to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 

Unfortunately, Satan’s methods are often very subtle and it isn’t always that easy to recognize him and the temptations that he seeks to ensnare us with.  The devil’s most useful tools are deception, half-truths, lies to convince others to go against God’s will. 

The devil might appear to be our friend, an entity that is merely encouraging us to do what we truly want, but Jesus bluntly tells us the true nature of the devil.

John 8:44 - You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Likewise, we are told that the devil and his helpers often disguise themselves as agents of good.  

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Through the course of this lesson I’d like to examine some of the countless words of comfort that Satan would seek to console us with as we sin.  However, being Satan, I think that we’ll find that the devil's words of comfort are false and empty and will not take us anywhere we want to be. 

 “Don’t worry, it’s just a little sin.

Think about how many times we’ve said this to ourselves as we seek to engage indulge in sin.  

For example, think about the "harmless, little" white lies that we’ve told.  

Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of different, varying degrees of sin.  There’s not a scale of lesser sins and really, really bad sins anywhere.  To God, all sins are equal.  

God does not tolerate any kind of sin.  In fact, Scripture tells us that when we choose to sin there is a separation created between us and God.  

Isaiah 59:1-2 - Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. 

Notice that the previous verse stated “sins”, with no differentiation being made between the different varieties of sin.  It would appear, based on scriptures like these that all sins are on the same offensive level in the eyes of God.  

Some might say, “Now, wait a minute, you mean to tell me that God equates murder and rape and genocide with telling a little old white lie?”  But, we must remember, God is pure truth and righteousness!  God is on an entirely different level than what we are.  

Isaiah 55:8-9 - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Again, there is no distinction made between one sin being worse than another anywhere in the Bible (Aside from the mention of a few unforgivable sins). 

Typically, all forms of sin are lumped into one category: Sin.  

And all sin is contrary to God’s will.

Romans 6:23 -  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As for "harmless" white lies:  Ephesians 4:25-27 -  Therefore, putting away lying, “ Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

Any "little" sin that we allow ourselves to participate in gives the devil a foothold on our heart which can only lead to more sin and our eventual downfall. 

You are the most important person in your life.  Just do whatever makes you happy.

This lie takes on many different incarnations and, sadly, defines the lifestyle of many people, especially in this country.  This single lie has taken man to all kinds of lows.  It’s hard to turn anywhere without seeing some kind of promotion for seeking self-fulfillment.  We are all encouraged to “do whatever makes you happy.”  

I recall reading a book about rock and roll oddities once.  It actually had a chapter about bands that had become fascinated with the occult and devil worship. While the concept of Satan worship never ceases to disturb me, I read on...  

The book mentioned that one of the mantras of devil worshipers is “Do what thou wilt”.

Those who promote the worship of Satan encourage people to indulge in whatever activity brings them happiness, no matter how sinful it might be.  We see a similar sentiment echoed throughout our culture in the sayings "Carpe Diem" or "Seize the Day".  A popular phrase among today's youth is "YOLO:  You only live once".  Usually these phrases are used as an excuse to plunge headlong into excess, debauchery, and other sinful self-indulgence.

But living a worldly life of debauchery and excess doesn't please God.  

Romans 8:5-8 - For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Notice that nearly all of the works of the flesh are self-serving sins:  Galatians 5:19-21 - Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Instead of living a worldly life and serving ourselves, we must deny ourselves in order to truly please God. 

Matthew 16:24-25 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

I made you do it; It’s not your fault.

The devil is totally willing to take the blame (or I guess in his case, the credit) for our sinning.  “The devil made me do it.”  We see this all-too convenient excuse printed on t-shirts and hear it spoken all cutesy and casually as if were a slogan for a fast food chain or a soft drink.  

It's nice to be able pin the blame on something or someone else that we know we are guilty of.  But remember, any time you play the "blame game" and point the finger at someone, there are three pointing right back at you.

It’s true that the devil is constantly tempting us, but we are ultimately the ones who make the choice to sin.  It’s as if someone was to put a gun in our hands, we would be the ones who would decide to pull the trigger or not. 

As a teacher, one of the things that drives me up the wall is when a student has obviously done something wrong and tries to get out of it by using the age-old excuse “Well, everyone else was doing it!”  That excuse doesn’t fly at school, it doesn’t fly in the real-world and it certainly doesn’t fly with God.  

We will all be judged on the last day, and we will be judged as individuals.

2 Corinthians 5:10 - For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

We must resist the devil's temptations, just as our Savior and perfect example, Jesus did.  

Luke 4:12-13 -  And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not  tempt the LORD your God.’” Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

We must have faith in God and trust that He will help to deliver us from temptation.  

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

 God is a liar.

I found it hard to comprehend, but I’ve read and heard that there are actually Christians that believe that there isn’t a Hell!  They refuse to believe that God would punish the unrighteous, even though this is explicitly stated throughout the Bible!  

Another trick of the devil is to convince people that God is a liar.  

The devil’s first recorded lie is found in the book of Genesis when he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:4-5 - Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  

The devil basically told Eve that God was a liar or that God didn’t know what He was talking about.  Eve, in turn, convinced Adam to also go against God’s will and mankind has been plagued with the burden of sin ever since.  

Adam and Eve both believed Satan’s lie and through their actions called God a liar.  But those that ignore the Gospel basically do the same thing.  

Likewise, anyone that attempts to add to or take away from the Gospel is basically assuming that they know better than God!  

I don’t exist.

I’m not sure where, but I distinctly remember hearing/reading somewhere that “the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.”  

That quote has stuck with me and frightened me for years.  And it seems that the devil has done a pretty good job of convincing us that he doesn’t exist!  

Unfortunately, this lie has a sort of domino affect: If there’s no devil, then there’s no hell.  If there’s no hell, then that means that there is no punishment, which means we can do whatever we want without any possibility of consequences!

In today’s age, the devil’s image pops up everywhere.  

Often he is mocked and made out to be this goofy “ne’er do well” character who does evil things just for the sake of being evil, kind of like that clich├ęd villain who always twirls his mustache and laughs maniacally as he ties a damsel to the train tracks and says things like “Ain’t I a stinker?”  

An unfortunate side-effect to this fictionalization of the devil is that he has become this sort of boogeyman figure that only children or superstitious types believe in.   

But the Bible does tell us that there is, in fact, a devil.  He is very real and he is very dangerous.  

God doesn’t exist.

A step up from the previous lie we discussed, the devil has accomplished his truly ultimate feat of deception when he convinces men that God Himself doesn’t exist.  This lie accomplishes several of Satan’s objectives: If there was no God, then there would be no sin, which would eliminate the need to a Savior and therefore eliminate the need for Christianity altogether.

Atheism isn’t a new phenomenon.  It’s a natural, human inclination to question the existence of God.  I’m sure many hard-core Christians have had their faith in God tested at one time or another.  But the devil and his agents have really pulled the wool over the eyes of many people today; Atheism is constantly gaining new “disciples”.

If the devil and his demons have one redeeming quality (aside from tenacity), they at least believe in God.  

James 2:19 - You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

You’re a good person, you don’t need to change.

To someone seeking righteousness, this lie is a great road block.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come into contact with that have bought into this idea.  I can remember a time when I believed this! 

It just seems natural that God would think highly of “good” people and reserve punishment for only the “really bad” people.  Unfortunately, what seems “good” in man’s eyes is usually not up to God’s standards.  “Good” people, including Christians, sin from time to time whether they like it or not.  

Romans 3:23 -For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Being a “good” person is not enough to win God’s favor and get into heaven, as if God owes us anything and His favor could be won!  God chooses by His own grace to forgive us of our sins through his Son, Jesus Christ.  

Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Don’t bother with baptism or repentance; God loves you just the way that you are.

As we read earlier, the devil is sometimes difficult to recognize because he takes the appearance of “an angel of light”.  In fact, the devil will sometimes quote scripture in an effort to get us to sin.  We recall that when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness that he used God’s Word to do so!

A verse taken out of context can be a very dangerous thing that can take us down all kinds of avenues into the broad way of sin.  

For example:  Many people will cite verses concerning the love of God as evidence that “God loves me just the way that I am…” and that, “I don’t need to change to please God.  If I mess up and sin, God will just forgive me, so I can just go on living as I please.”  While it is true that God does indeed love us and forgive us of our sins, we must understand that His love, grace, forgiveness is not a warrant to continue sinning!

The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in Romans 6:1-4 - What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

It is important to remember that God wants us to obey Him and to repent of our sins.  Are we truly repentant if we keep on allowing ourselves to fall into the same vicious cycle of sin?

The Lord’s TRUE Words of Comfort 

God offers us a way to escape the snares of the devil and the burdens of our sins: His one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Instead of giving in to the devil’s deceitful words of comfort, we should seek out and obey the Lord’s words of comfort, which are infinitely more sweet and sincere.  

The devil offers us nothing but suffering and despair for fleeting moments of pleasure.  The Lord offers us eternal salvation if we will deny ourselves and obey him.  There’s really no comparison!

While the devil attempts to deceive us with elaborate lies, all God has to say in response are three simple, but all powerful words: 

“I love you.”  

John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”