Friday, January 15, 2010
Early indications, in the war with evil, are absolute predictors of outcome, unless divine intervention saves the day. Long before the act of evil is committed - are the thoughts, motives, and selfish interest that spark, take hold, and begin their practice of building the chains that hold us in bondage. We craft each link one after the other, stepping deeper into darkness, and farther away from light; going just a step or two further than the last time down this road, just to see what it looks like. And soon, we are so far down the darkened highway, we have no idea where we are, how we got here, and are hopeless to find our way back home. But it all starts with the little things. It begins with decisions and choices so small they seem meaningless, but are in fact significant. It does not look like much of a chain of bondage when only seeing the first few links.
You may ask, “what does it matter what I wear?” On the surface, it doesn’t. But underneath what we wear is an indicator of how we feel, and more to the point, an indicator of what we are planning to do. You don’t go in a bikini to church (usually ), and you don’t wear a tuxedo when working on your car for example. We send ourselves clues and reinforce our own plans and perceptions by the things we wear. Our Maker knew this, He knew that with the entrance of evil into our world would come the perversions that darken our natures. No longer could we be both naked and innocent, so covering ourselves became required. How we cover ourselves these days with as many choices. fabrics, styles, and societal norms speaks more about us and our choices than ever before.
The term “dress for success” is often used to help motivate people to wear the clothing of those they aspire to become. It is designed to give us a mental cue that we look the part, now we need to become the part. But the converse of this is also true. We “dress” for infidelity both to our spouse and to our God. We leave off looking for God’s armor and instead cling to robes that we are too comfortable in. Robes of convenience and easy access. Robes of familiarity. And ultimately, robes of failure, that are sure to deliver us to the evil we plan to commit.
Submitting is just not so easy a task. It seems easy enough. It sounds easy enough. I mean how hard is it to simply “give in”? The hard part comes with the realization that giving in to God will mean a change in our behavior. There is not a question of “IF” God is going to change us. He does. Every time, without fail. That surety however sparks a different thought process in the tempting cycle – do we really want a change today? This is the question the evil one designs to get us to begin reassembling the chains of bondage he wishes us to wear. Just ignore the victories that God has brought, and take “a day off”. Its no big deal right? Just one day off? You can go back to being a prude tomorrow if it means that much to you.
But one day off, is not at all what evil intends. Once the initial barrier has been broken down, a second day is at least half has hard to accept. Day three requires only a passing thought and by day four the habit is back on track. Relapse as a part of the addiction cycle is an unfortunate reality in our world. Both in chemical addiction, and in the war to restrain self will. But the response to relapse must be the same in both to keep the damage to a minimum. One day off the wagon is one day too many. Get right back on that mythical wagon, or in spiritual terms, get right back on your knees and turn it over to God immediately. We already know God does the work. He has proven that over and over. There is no question about whether God will give us a victory, only if we will accept it.
Self deception can be a monster. After enough days of sobriety, an addict can begin to think they are “past it”. In spiritual terms, we can begin to believe that God has changed the desires of our hearts away from evil things since we have not committed them for some long length of time. The problem with this thinking, is that it leads us away from the idea of daily dependence and submission. The minute you think you do not have a problem, you come to believe you do not need any help with it. Can’t fix what is not broken right? This thinking leaves you all alone to face the evil one again. And here we go again with the old – take a day off of your sobriety wagon and have some fun argument. Before you know it, you have proof that you are indeed NOT “past it”. Alcoholics must identify themselves this way as long as they live. It is a recognition of their condition. Sinners are NO different.
And speaking of self deception; the alcoholics are the lucky ones. The lady who refers to herself as a crack whore is far better off than the Christian who does not see his own deficiencies. The chemically addicted can get help. For HELP is what they need. They cannot fix it themselves, but help can get them fixed. Christians are no different. Except the ones in denial. Christians who do not accept that the sin in their lives is every bit as strong as any chemical addiction are fooling themselves big time. And by denying their condition, they avoid treating it, they avoid changing it, and they wallow in the pain they cause themselves. This is the kind of self deception that can lead a Christian to a terminal condition – not wanting change, forgiveness, or a better life.
If you look at your character and see all the ugly, count yourself blessed. Not blessed because you ARE ugly in your soul, but because you CAN see it. The truth is we are ALL ugly in our souls. We hide it, cover it up from each other, pretend it does not exist. But it does. It is rampant and out of control in most folks. The difference between the average “man on the street” and “Saddam Hussein” is opportunity. Most people have not ever experienced control without consequences so they do not know how they would react in that situation. But take a closer look at all the little things they have experienced, and you can extrapolate how bad they would be with unbridled power and control. Those seemingly innocent acts that enrich you at the expense of another, are the basis of character that align you with every despot in history.
Ugly is not cool, not hip, and not to be desired – ugly is ugly – that is all. God can fix the ugly. He can surgically remove it. He can get it out of us and recreate beauty in its place. But only God can do it. And only once we admit we need Him to do it. People only consult a surgeon when they believe they have a problem. When you think your faults are just eccentricities, or that your malevolent nature is “not that bad”, or you simply think of yourself as “a good person” – you have no need of a Savior. No need leads you into darkness, as sure as those who are in darkness focus on the light to get away from it. There is no middle ground. There is no self destiny. There is only submission – either voluntary to God, or forced by the evil one.
I believe our decision process starts earlier than we are aware of: in the things that send us mental cues; in the environment we find ourselves subjected to. There are a variety of influences all working in concert to keep us distracted and too busy to go to God and submit our wills to Him. Once this has been done each day, the tempter must find other prey. For God answers our prayers and controls our will as we let Him. And in this work, He changes us at our very core. The evil one knows this, and it is why he works so hard to keep us from achieving it. Including trying to win us back on the heels of a relapse, but we must not allow him to win our attention. We must continue to give up to God, and allow him to win the fight we need won.