Beware Satan and His Crooked Hoss!

CC BY, Todd McCann, Flickr

CC BY, Todd McCann, Flickr

One day years ago I had to pick my mom up from work. Never tardy, I started arriving early just to read or listen to the radio. The parking lot was always too full for my liking, so I would park in the grass on the quiet road in front of the facility until I saw workers exiting.

This day I parked perhaps a car length behind a trailer truck; it seemed to have warded off the other cars that usually lined up there. I thought nothing of it and relaxed listening to the radio. What came next, however, shot me straight into a panic. The truck suddenly reversed giving me little time to react. I went to start the car to back up but only managed to blow the horn trying to get the driver’s attention. Didn’t he see me?

Not at all—the truck hit the car and started pushing it…and pushing. I kept calm, still on the horn, but grew alarmed unsure if there was a driver in the truck at all or if the car and I would end in the gully feet to the right, crushed.

Fortunately, it was over in seconds. The truck stopped and then pulled onto the road. The driver never knew I was there.

Satan Goes About…Don’t Go to Him! 

I could make arguments about how the trucker should have seen or heard me, but the problem was quite simple: I shouldn’t have parked behind the truck. Or, since there was no place to park in front of the semi, I should have given more space between us and made sure I was in the driver’s view.

In the end, I had badly positioned myself.

That’s something I don’t want to do in life. Who prepares to fail or places themselves in a position to be rescued? Honestly, I don’t think anyone does, even the people who never see how their habitual God-awful choices precipitate their undoing. Moreover, this is the whole reason why people get degrees and retraining and become proactive about their health or parenting. The consequences of bad positioning can be costly.

God tells us the same thing (Rom. 12:21): “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Said another way, Satan’s drives that big rig—and he saw you park behind him. Get anywhere near him and he’ll find a way to run you over.

And there’s the point, robed in church bells and angel voices: don’t go near him.

God for Our Gadgets: A Short

CC BY-NC, buffdawgus, Flickr

CC BY-NC, buffdawgus, Flickr

Annoyed by the ringing phone, Grant paused his video game and snatched up the receiver before the answering machine came on. He expected someone needing his mom or dad, but it was Josh, the head youth leader at his church. Caught off-guard, Grant grabbed the remote and lowered the sound so he could hear. A baseball game played on another TV.

It was an awkward moment for Grant, who hadn’t attended his teen group, Lighthouse, in more than a month. It wasn’t because he didn’t care for it, but one thing had led to another…the spin he gave Josh: getting over a bad case of flu, tennis tryouts, his band sessions and gigs, and good ole R&R, which usually amounted to hours in video game world.

Grant texted while talking with Josh and even muted the call once to quickly answer his cell and promise a callback. The conversation had grown longer than Grant expected or wanted. Josh invited Grant to play at the church’s upcoming barn party, slated to be a big event. Grant was interested and tentatively accepted, now on his tablet looking over his schedule and then checking email and Facebook messages.

The conversation turned to spirituality. “How’s your devotional life?” Josh asked. Grant rolled his eyes, brushing his hair back and making sure not to sound peeved.

“It’s okay, I guess,” Grant replied, texting again. Josh wasn’t buying it.

“You guess? That doesn’t sound convincing,” Josh replied. Grant booted up his laptop.

“Well, honestly, I really need to get back to Bible reading. I pray fairly regularly though,” Grant said.

“Okay, but you need to be around your peers. That’s where you get accountability and how you stay strong in your faith.” There was silence. Josh continued, “Grant, you’ve been an example to many of the kids, and they’ve been asking about you. I don’t want you to lose your fire and godly example. We all have as much of God as we desire. I just need to be sure Christ remains your priority and that you’re making time for him.”

There wasn’t much Grant could say to that, tossing his cell phone on the bed. He sat down in the Banker’s Chair at his desk and sighed, a little dispirited now. When Josh started wrapping up the call, Grant interjected.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a moment?”

Where Freedom Ends

CC BY-NC, srietzke, Flickr

CC BY-NC, srietzke, Flickr

Most of us know exactly where we’d be if we didn’t have the Lord in our lives. We like to act as if sin were so obscure and a bygone issue for us. You know—“there’s no telling” what or how many things we could be caught up in. I usually don’t buy that from people, however, because our flesh hasn’t forgotten the taste of sin and we repeatedly trip over certain indiscretions. Don’t feel bad about it.

It’s important to be aware of our relation to sin; it will make us watchful of vice and keep us relying on grace. It’s also good to know that our deprave nature doesn’t impinge on the work of Christ for us. We are free in him despite our sinful condition. I’ll explain by using an illustration.

My elementary school was three separate buildings. Outside the main building and field area was a fence. That fence protected the space and kids from a few things: a busy street, railroad tracks on the other side, and any possible bad person who could enter the schoolyard.

Children had the freedom to play within the yard safely as long as they remained on the yard, the protected space. Further, the fence granted everyone freedom to learn and play, even children who may have had curious or mischievous desires to run off, who were no less free for having those desires. But no such freedom (to learn and play) existed outside the fence.

The Choice to Stay Free

Galatians 5:13 expresses this concept perfectly: “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom” (Message).

I’ll use myself as an example. I am no saint. (Surprise!) I love God with every part of me, except those unlovable parts that cannot love him—features of my person permeated with sin and craving of sins Michael fights. I’m okay acknowledging this, and it’s why I say we know where our hearts could lead us.

But just because I battle impulses averse to my calling in Christ and sometimes wish to venture beyond that “fence of grace,” it doesn’t negate the grace of God in my life, or in yours. It means that we have to teach ourselves how to walk in the Spirit in order not to gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

Let me point out something from the illustration. We possess freedom only within the guidelines of holiness, for we have been freed to live for God. It is not ironic that Paul uses legal language and refers to the law of the Spirit of Christ freeing us from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).

One’s freedom exists in obligation to the person or thing that frees. A government permits individual liberties according to the laws of the land. Ours is a holy obligation to our Savior to live with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). But leaving the play area ends our freedom to enjoy these things.

Participating in sin doesn’t mean we cease belonging to God. His grace will still keep us in our sinfulness—as mercy—but why leave ourselves to the mercy of God and risk consequence?

Let’s fight to stay free. Let’s love our freedom too much to leave it for the briefest moment in which Satan can take advantage of us. Let us cease viewing the grace of God as barring us from something and instead see it as liberating us to relish all good things. Stop obsessing over the fence and what’s beyond it and enjoy the yard.

In your time of temptation and struggle, stop, think, and say aloud to yourself, “This is where my freedom ends.”

Tempest, My Love

When temptation comes, it often arrives like a tempest. And doubt, driven as a gale, overwhelms the mind and blasts every nook of sensibility. Floods of desire breach every restraint and choke all low-lying defenses. The soul, the unfortunate city, burns with emotions, ablaze in fear and self-loathing. But the storm passes and much remains unscathed. Now all is still. Just then you catch sight of the old lust that itself watched the storm blow in, waiting.

Commentary

1 – True temptation appeals to something within us that is enticed. Have you ever reared your defenses against a temptation and wondered why you were dealing with it? We err if we don’t understand that temptation would never exist if the lure did not already have some ground, interest or advantage, within us, for that is what is exploited.

2 – Old temptations are the toughest. It is usually not the new enticements that trip us up. We can usually toss them off easily if we’re committed to another way. So, like storms, they rage and blow, but blow over. It’s that something that is strongly lodged within us, however, the matter we’ve been dealing with for years, that constantly knocks us to the ground. We all know these by name.

3 – Thus old temptations don’t die easily. The scene is meant to express how old habits do not give us the pleasure of being mere storms that come and go. To rid ourselves of these will become a task as personally engaging as the temptation is known and surely a fight to the death. Old foes must be conquered.