Thursday, April 30, 2009

Temptation - The Devil's Playground, pt.3

This discussion on Satan and temptation goes a little further. So here's part 3 of 4. But before we start, let's do a little recap. In the first post, we talked about how Satan is planning, purposeful and specific when he tempts you. There are no accidents or coincidences. Satan knows what he's doing; and he does it really well.

In the 2nd post we talked about how Satan gets us to take the leap and land (sometimes head first) in sin. Really, there's two different ways that he operates here. First - he's the world's best liar. Period. No questions about that one. So yes, he's a liar, what does that matter? Well, it's the way that he lies. He sets up his lies to make bad things look really good. So that way, we end up tricking (or convincing) our self that what we are tempted to do, say, or get into, really isn't that bad. Or, even worse - that it's good.

In this third post, I want for us to talk about how he does this. From what I can tell there's a 5 step process. And it leads us from where we start with the initial temptation and end up spiritually bankrupt and completely separating ourselves from God. But, before we really get started, make sure you have your Bible and a highlighter and pen handy to make notes of important scriptures.

Okay, let's start with step one by looking at Ephesians 4:17-19.
"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."

Check out that phrase, "darkened in their understanding." If you have a KJV, it says "having the understanding darkened." This means that the lights were turned out on their ability to understand their sin - or even that they were sinning. The Bible says that their hearts couldn't see the sin and that because of their ignorance they were separated from the life of God. Do you know what ignorance means? It's not a bad word. It's not the same as being dumb. Dumb means that you have tried but you're not able to understand. Ignorant means that you just don't know - no one has told you. That's not a bad thing - but it's definitely VERY dangerous.

So, put yourself in this spot. Satan drops a temptation in your lap and starts you off by playing on your ignorance and gets you to think, "I'm not sure what's right and what's wrong." Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "that doesn't make sense. I know what sin is and what it isn't. I know what's right and what's wrong" Well, you half right. You don't go into a temptation or sinful situation on purpose, do you? I hope you said no. Instead, Satan puts you in a tempting situation. It's in the middle of the situation that Satan plays on your ignorance - and you get caught up in it - and you sin.

Since we know that Satan tempts us with sin that we are already weak in, let me ask you this question. First, think of something you struggle with. Have you given into that temptation just once? Or is that an every day (or nearly every day) battle that you lose more often than you would like to admit? You see my point.

This leads to step two - hardening of your heart. Repeating a particular sin leads us into apathy. And what that really means is, not caring what's right or what's wrong. For someone to not care if they are sinning, their heart has been hardened to the point where it doesn't hurt anymore. The sin has invaded their life to the point that they don't care whether or not they sin. And they don't care if they break God's heart. Have you ever been there? I have, and it hurts. And if you left the hurt, and the shame and embarrassment, keep you from reaching out and taking God's hand you will fall deeper into sin.

If that happens, then you get to the spiritually depraved place where you lose your sensitivity. And a loss of sensitivity leads you to the place where you can say, "I know it's wrong. I don't care that it's wrong and I like it. And I'm going to keep doing it." Wow. Not a good wow - bad wow. Have you been here? Are you here now? I have. And it's a scary and lonely place, because God is nowhere near. When we willingly choose to sin we literally push God away and pull Satan in.

The sin leaves you broken and hurt. It leaves you guilty and ashamed. It leaves you depressed and lonely. It leaves you feeling like you can't go back to when it was just you and God. And so, too often, we quit trying. We give in and we get to the point that we can't stop doing what's wrong. It's not that we can't stop. We just think we can't because we're not able to see any other options. So, like I said, we just keep on walking down that road. Does any of this sound familiar?

When it gets to the point where we can't stop doing what's wrong, we're indulging in sensuality. This leads straight into the final step. Which is really no step at all - it's spiritual destruction. It's at this point when we have completely separated our self from God. We have pushed him away and are completely alone. We've got nothing left in our spiritual tank. Satan has lied to us, tricked us, gotten us to buy in and then left us stained with sin and feeling used and alone.

This sounds pretty awful. Because it is awful. Being away from God is the worst feeling in the world, and it's literally the worst place to be. I hope you've never been here before. I hope you're not here now.

If you are, check out this passage. Ephesians 2:3-8:
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;"

For sinners like us, this has got to be one of the sweetest scriptures in the Word. Even if we are spiritually dead in sin, God will bring us back to life in Jesus Christ our Savior. That's how much he love us, how much he loves you. If you'll let Him, he'll heal your broken heart and take away the pain. He'll take away the guilt and He'll give you a sense of fullness - a sense of Christ's love.

Check back for the last post in this series. It's all good news - you'll love it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Temptation - The Devil's Playground, pt.2

In the last post we talked a little about the idea, (actually fact is a better word), the fact, that Satan is responsible for each of your temptations. It's Satan that tempts you to give in to your personal desires and he does it with a specific plan that he has laid out just for you. You see, he understands you. He knows your heart, your weaknesses, your strengths, and even the secret desires and motivations that you thought were hidden and locked away. And he is always looking for the right chance to put the right temptation in front of you.

So how does he do it? How does he manage to get us to make decisions that we never would have dreamed of doing? Or what about those small little silly, even stupid decisions that aren't life altering, but leave you feeling disappointed with yourself, and just a little further away from Jesus? How does he get me not to turn the channel when some junk comes on the TV? How does he get me to lose my temper (in front of my kids) and yell at some guy who wasn't paying attention and cut me off? I know better. But still I do it. Well, here's the best answer that I have.

First, he's a liar. Sounds harsh, but if it walks like a duck . . . Satan really is the world's foremost expert on lying. No one does it better. In fact, here's what the Bible has to say about it.
"He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and father of lies." -John 8:44
So, not only is he a liar - he's really good at it. So what's the point? Well think about it this way. When was the last time you blatantly chose to sin, knowing exactly what you were doing, why you were doing it, that it was a sin, you felt good about it, and you did it anyway. It just doesn't happen that way. Satan fills our head and our heart with misinformation, doubt, half-truths and in some cases outright lies. Well, that's his first tool.

The second is the way he makes bad things, look really good. Just take the example of sexual temptation. Within a marriage, sex is a good thing. It's God's wedding gift to a married couple. But outside of marriage, it's an awful sin that has awful consequences. And Satan uses everything from the physical act itself all the way to a small, tiny second look as you walk past someone, to lure us into sinful spiral leading to spiritual death. We know its a sin when we have impure thoughts. And we know we're letting God down when we give into those thoughts. Yet, we still give in. So how does Satan do it? How does he get us to do something we know is wrong and will hurt us? He makes it look really good!!! He exploits our God-given needs and desires and uses them against us. It's really that simple. Most of the time, sin looks good, sounds good, feels good - well, you get the point.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Temptation - The Devil's Playground, pt.1

We see throughout the Bible that people are tempted to sin. Some give in and some don't. I would guess that every day you are tempted to sin. I know I am. Sometimes I give in. Sometimes I don't.

We know all this. We understand this. It's nothing new. But do you realize that every temptation you face is NOT an accident - at least I don't think it is. Take David for example. Why do you think he was walking around on his roof that evening (2 Samuel 11)? Do you think he went up there hoping see a woman bathing? Probably not. He was the King - if that's what he wanted there were much quicker and easier ways to get it. He probably went out there for the same reason any of us would - enjoy the fresh air, the beautiful sky, get away from things and people for a while, maybe just to relax.

This is the point where the conversation about Satan comes in. I believe Satan set up that entire incident exactly how he wanted it. And I think that David was probably predisposed to a sexual weakness in the first place. The devil knew this and simply laid out the temptation (or trap) and David walked right into it.

Consider this next time you find yourself wandering towards a temptation. 1 John 5:19 says that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan is always on the look-out for a chance to attack us. Satan is out there. And he knows your personal weaknesses. So the next time you find your eyes or mind wandering, or you're thinking of doing "it," take a time out, look around and see what's really going on. At that very moment Satan is at work on you. Just tell him no and he'll leave you alone - James 4:7.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Does the Bible teach socialism?

I have always heard that the Bible teaches socialism - at least a form of it. And without giving it much thought I pretty much just assumed that was correct. After all, there are examples throughout the book of Acts that show how the early church had a "welfare" system in place. That is, that everyone gave (some substantially) of their own means so that all could have. However, I never really took the time to look into this. That is, until a recent economics course. Here's a condensed version of a paper I wrote on the subject.

According to, capitalism is “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations.” Based on this definition, the thrust of capitalism is that all things economic (being the production and consumption of resources) are to be held privately and not be governed by a single source, i.e. government. Further then, the idea of being private is to assume and infer freedom of choice with limited interference or direction; and that direction being only that minimal amount that is necessary to maintain social order. Leaving these principles leads to an abandonment of capitalism.

The question then is, where does Bible stand on this? And even more specifically, does God call his followers to practice capitalism? The answer is yes. The scriptures referring, in even the slightest manner, to economics are undoubtedly biased towards capitalism; and not just capitalism, but capitalism that is in its purest form. Said another way, we should not necessarily look to the context of the current economic environment for an accurate example of the ‘what’ and ‘how’.

This having been, there are certainly scriptures that on the surface do not appear to be favoring capitalism. And Christ himself teaches lessons throughout the New Testament where it could be reasonably deduced that capitalism is unhealthy and leads to a sinful life. Here are examples of both.

Acts 2:45 – “and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone who might have need.”

This text provides an example of the early Church practicing a model of socialism. Perhaps more specifically, they were practicing a form of what we refer to as welfare or the redistribution of wealth. They collected and combined their resources and then redistributed them throughout those who had need within their group.

Another such example is found in Acts 4:32-37 – “32And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. 36Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

This text goes a step further and indicates a centralized organization and distribution through the apostles. And because of this factor, this illustration more closely represents a socialist system than the previous text - which is obviously in contrast to capitalism. To take this thought a step further, the text continues by telling the story of a married couple who sold their land but held back some of the profits for themselves. They were struck dead for their transgressions.

These two arguments that have been presented are common in this religious debate – does the Bible teach socialism? With that having been said, while they do portray this picture a certain way, there is much more to be considered than just the practical perception – which is that this collection and redistribution of resources inherently speaks against capitalism. This is an errant argument because it ignores the political and social context of the situation and the theological framework of the text. In both these examples there is a clear inference of the participants willing participation – which as referred to previously is paramount to the definition of capitalism. There is no indication of organizational, social or political pressure being applied. To the contrary, the primary theological lesson of these texts is that these new Christians are motivated and called to give liberally by Christ’ love that now lives in them and is poured out through the Holy Spirit. Consideration of these facts leads to the conclusion that these two scriptures are examples of capitalism being practiced in its purest form. More specifically, individuals of greater means saw a need and opportunity to help and then freely choice to give of their personal resources. These examples dispel the argument that some form of socialism is necessary to care for and provide basic necessities for those who are unable to do so for themselves.

There is often a perception that the primary premise or purpose for capitalism is for the individual to be able to gather and accumulate as much wealth as possible – otherwise, why not just endeavor to make the collective group as wealthy as possible. In accepting this idea, the text found in Matthew 6:19-21 becomes particularly relevant. It states, 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

The Christian who opposes capitalism or perhaps is just of the opinion that the Bible teaches socialism, will reference this scripture to argue that capitalism leads to a sinful love and accumulation of money. And then deduce and further argue that since Jesus stated that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," that capitalism is wrong or leads to sin. This argument ignores the context of the text and audience to whom Jesus was speaking. He was talking about our priorities. He understood, even then, the strong attraction (or temptation) of materialism. He was simply providing a stern warning to avoid the temptations of materialism