THE SNEAKY WAY OF SIN

We all like to do things that we enjoy.  Just watch children playing together with their Playdoh.

Grandchildren at table playing (C)

 Or watch children playing in the sprinkler during the hot summer sun!

playing in sprinkler

When the children get a bit older, what could be more fun than a multi-generational game of backyard football.  No refs and no goalposts, but fun nonetheless!

USED family playing football (C)

None of these things are sinful, in and of themselves.  But sin has an insidious way of breaking into our daily routine even when what we are doing is innocuous.  Indeed, even good things can become sinful if it results in disobedience to that which we know God wants us to do.

The other evening, we had finished supper, cleaned up the dishes, and descended the stairs to the family room where we watched television.  We had been discussing, that very day, about how we needed to rethink our meals and eating habits because we need to lose weight for any number of health-related reasons. 

Following our normal course, at 9:00 we had ice cream bars, low calorie bars so in our minds they are ok to have, especially since we had no dessert for dinner. So far, so good.

But then the program we were watching focused on a family in various humorous, although troubling, life situations.  At the end of their day, the teenaged children came into the kitchen and found the Dad sitting at the table, looking haggard.  He had something in front of him that was not really identifiable for the audience.

The television Dad looked up at the children and said: “want some cheese toast?”

At that the program ended, and at the same moment, my husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “Cheese Toast!” 

Within moments we had retrieved the toaster oven from over the freezer and were siding bread onto the rack while the cheese was being unwrapped and made ready for melting.

Cheese toast is certainly not sinful.  But, what struck me most was how quickly our dedication to the proposition that we should lose weight fell by the boards when we heard the words “cheese toast” even though it was 11:15 p.m. 

Not a word was uttered in support of dietary restraint.  We bounded up the stairs as quickly as we could, toting the toaster oven to the kitchen and grabbing the bread and cheese almost in one smooth, coordinated, motion. 

When sin beckons me, do I really run toward it like we ran to cheese toast?  What if Satan puts something else in front of me so as to tempt me to leave the Lord that I love … will I run to it as fast as I did to cheese toast?

Our culture has done a great job of inoculating us from the actions of Satan.  We think of him as a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, certainly nothing that we would be inclined to follow!  But that is not how Scripture talks of him.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

I have not been in the wilds of Africa to see a lion up close and personal however I  did see a lion in the zoo!  But, when the lion prowls around, I believe that it sneaks up on its prey, saving the roaring for after the kill.

In speaking of the false teachers who were misleading the Corinthian church, Paul says this about Satan:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Of course, Satan’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Church and all that Christ accomplished through His death on the cross.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us.”

1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

The good news is that Satan is not the victor – He has been defeated by our Lord and Savior Who is more than capable of holding on to us as His people.  Indeed, James put it this way:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7

If we resist Satan, he will flee because he understands that the only way we have the power to resist him is through Christ, and our Savior’s power far exceeds that of Satan any day of the week.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

With that benediction I end this post.  Blessings to you, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord.  Take heart – cheese toast does not win the day.  We can meet the adversary and sin has no controlling hold on us anymore.  We are still sinners, yes.  But now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to yield to sin – we can resist it through the poser of our Lord and Savior.

Father, I praise Your Name for the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I praise Your Name that I am no longer a slave to sin and that through Christ’s power I can resist Satan and claim life with Christ for eternity.  Thank You Lord.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD — OMNIPOTENCE

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at something ahead of you?  Maybe it is a challenge physically.  Maybe it is overwhelming sorrow upon the loss of a loved one.  Perhaps it is failing health or an illness that you must face.  Everyone has felt being overwhelmed or that things are happening which are outside of your power, and you fear that you cannot battle through. If you cannot relate to this description now, rest assured that at some point in your life you will understand these words. 

We are mortal, finite, and of limited power and strength.  Many have accomplished great things in their lifetimes but even those at the pinnacle of power share the same mortality and finiteness of the rest of us.

But God is not like us, He is omnipotent. This is how John describes the power of God:

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

Revelation 19:6 KJV

The Amplified Bible renders this verse as follows:

“Then I heard something like the shout of a vast multitude, and like the boom of many pounding waves, and like the roar of mighty peals of thunder, saying,

“Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all reigns.””

God is omnipotent.  It is one of the attributes of His character.  It is not something that He puts on and takes off.  It is part of His nature, it is eternal, and it will never change.  He is all-powerful.  His Name is rightfully called The Almighty. 

Omnipotence is not a common word for us, but its parts are.  “Omni” is a word prefix that means “all, every, the whole, of every kind”.  “Potent” is a word that means “having great power, influence, or effect.”  Thus, “omnipotent” means “having unlimited power; able to do anything.”  Only God is omnipotent. 

Consider the Book of Job.  There we read of a man who was subjected to loss of property and family, loss of extreme wealth, loss of health, painful boils covering his body, and yet through all of that, he did not curse God.  Rather, he remained faithful to God and was rewarded for that faithfulness. 

The point for our consideration, however, is not how Job reacted to the tests.  Rather, it is how it came to be that Job was tested in the first place.

This is how we are introduced to Job:

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”

Job 1:1

The next verses in the chapter detail Job’s wealth and power in the community.  Then the scene switches to heaven with Satan conversing with God.  The thrust of Satan’s discussion is that Job honors God because God has blessed him.  In other words, Satan challenged God to take away the hedge around Job and Job would turn his back on God.  The first challenge and God’s response is as follows:

“”But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

Job 1:11-12.  Notice that God was in control.  God is omnipotent, and Satan is not.  Satan received permission to hurt Job but there was a limit that Satan could not exceed.  After receiving word that his entire family and all his flocks and herds had been destroyed, Job said:

“And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Job 1:21-22.  Satan was foiled.  Job followed the Lord and he did not sin.  But Satan did not leave poor Job alone.  The second challenge was set up:

“Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.  But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Job 2:4-7.  Satan was again allowed to test Job, but, as before, God put a limit on what Job could do.  God is omnipotent, and Satan is not.  Job again honored God despite his wife’s nagging that he should curse God and die.  Job 2:9-10

Job endured unimaginable pain and sorrow, and then he had his three friends who came to comfort him.  He remained faithful to God even though his friends encouraged him to admit his sin and get it over with! 

Paul said it this way:

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Romans 11:36

In Ephesians Paul notes:

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”

Ephesians 1:11

The Psalmist expressed God’s omnipotence by stating in Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

The prophet Jeremiah talks of God’s omnipotence when he said:

“‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17

Omnipotence mandates that nothing is too hard for God – things are either done or not done, according to His will, not because they are easy or hard.  God’s power to do all that He desires is the basis for His sovereignty which then accomplishes His providence. 

So, what does this attribute mean to us?  Beloved, it means that no matter what you are facing, no matter how horribly you are treated, no matter how severe the pain and suffering you are going through, God is in control. 

As finite and mortal beings, we are no match for Satan’s power.  But, God is neither afraid of Satan nor is He unable to control Satan.  Satan may be more powerful that we are, but He is not as powerful as God is. 

Keep Job in mind.  Satan can do nothing to us that God does not allow in His sovereign providence. 

Father, thank You for Your omnipotence, Your power over all things.  I take comfort and I draw strength from the fact that You are unshakeable and that Your will takes priority over all else.  Even when I don’t understand what is going on, I thank You that I can rely on You. I praise Your Holy Name!

A CHIME IN THE DARK NIGHT

We are fortunate to live in a city that has an incredible symphony orchestra and, as a result, we have ready access to classical concerts, pop concerts, chamber music concerts, etc.  Last year we had tickets to the classical concert series.  I love to listen to the orchestra in a live performance – it is a real treat.  But I don’t know what to expect just from reading the advertisement for the concert.

We arrived at the theatre and found that the program was three selections, all written in the 1800s by persons of whom I had no knowledge, given my relatively insufficient knowledge of composers and their works. The concert was in late October so the selections had a Halloween theme.

The first selection was A Night on Bald Mountain written by Modest Mussorgsky, a Russian born composer who was born in 1839.  The work is based on a Russian legend describing the witches who go to Bald Mountain the night before the feast of St. John the Baptist.  While there, Satan comes and it becomes a night of passion and frenzy.

A Halloween Costumed Devil
A Halloween Costumed Devil

(The picture is not from the concert but, rather, is a Halloween costume one of my grandchildren wore a number of years ago.)

The program notes included an explanation, written by the composer himself, detailing what to expect in the performance.

So far as my memory doesn’t deceive me, the witches used to gather on this mountain, gossip, play tricks and await their chief – Satan.  On his arrival, they, i.e., the witches, formed a circle around the throne on which he sat, in the form of a kid, and sang his praise.  When Satan was worked up into sufficient passion by the witches’ praises, he gave the command for the Sabbath, in which he chose for himself the witches who caught his fancy.  – So this is what I’ve done.  At the head of my score I’ve put its contents.

  1. Assembly of the witches, their talk and gossip.
  2. Satan’s journey
  3. Obscene praise of Satan and
  4. Sabbath.

If the work is performed, I wish this program to appear on the bills for the enlightenment of the audience.

[From the Program Notes by Ken Meltzer, The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra program for the concert on October 17, 2014 entitled Symphonie Fantastique, Sameer Patel, Conductor.]

The orchestral work ranged from fluid and enticing to frenetic and frenzied.  The entire orchestra was involved; violins, woodwinds, two harps, brass, and of course there was, my personal favorite, percussion!  What struck me, however, was that just before the end of the piece, chimes were struck, clear and sharp.  The chimes pierced the frenzy of the scene and peace came in their wake.

The program noted that “At the height of the Sabbath, a distant church bell sounds.  The spirits disappear, and A Night on Bald Mountain concludes with the arrival of dawn, and the return of peace.

Sunrise at Sea
Sunrise at Sea

I have attached this link to a YouTube post by The Wicked North which is a performance of part of A Night on Bald Mountain, this clip coming at the height of the Sabbath toward the end of the piece.  The YouTube clip is a little over 9 minutes long, but at 7:20 on the clip you will hear the change in the music following the ringing of the chimes.

As I applauded the skill and talent of our orchestra in its rendition of A Night on Bald Mountain, I thought of the symbolism in the music.  It was a beautiful reminder that our Lord is supreme.

We need to be reminded of this as, in our own country, innocent people have been killed, just in the past month, as they prayed in a Charleston, South Carolina church, they did their assigned duties at the Marine and Navy centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and they watched a comedic movie at a theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Clearly, Satan has his way in the world [Ephesians 2:2], but we know that the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56:

“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [ESV]

Oh that we would live our lives hearing the bell’s chime through the din of the world’s clamor.

Oh, that we would live our lives in a manner that we would be like a bell chiming out the love that the Lord gives us for this fallen world.

Oh, that when people meet us, they would see Jesus.