The Heart Of The Matter

All of us of a certain age remember the line made famous by comedian Flip Wilson, “The devil made me do it.” Indeed, most likely the remembrance brings a smile to our face as we nod in agreement. Truth is, the devil can’t “make” us do anything we haven’t already agreed in our heart to do. We cannot blame the devil, even though he is an extraordinarily stealth and cunning adversary in our lives and throughout this world. And, we can’t use the excuse of ignorance when we cave in to temptation or evil.  “At some point in every life, ignorance ceases to be the issue, and we either choose to heed the voice resonating in the hollows of our soul or we opt for willful disobedience” (Dr. Charles Swindoll, in “The Greatest Life of All–Jesus,” Thomas Nelson, 2008, p. 159).

We can’t point a finger in another direction when we cave in to temptation and sin. Oh yes, we do it all the time, but it is a moot point. It doesn’t change the facts. It does not ease the conscience. It is only our pride that makes us think otherwise. And pride was the sin that brought down our adversary in the first place. It will do the same to us, too. “. . . the battle line between good and evil doesn’t run along borders or around races or even across thresholds. The cosmic battle between good and evil divides heart from heart without discrimination, for each person chooses his or her side” (Ibid, p. 159). Every time we yield to temptation or sin, we give in to pride and self importance. And there is no way to disguise it although we try in many ways.

In my previous post, Change Me,” I began this topic on temptation but it just won’t let me go with only one post as it destroys so many lives in it’s wake. The ways we are tempted throughout our day are as innumerable as the grains of sand on the seashore. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them again at night our adversary assaults us. And because our adversary’s time is limited and the end of the age is coming, he leaves no stone unturned in his effort to derail us and destroy our lives. And yes, even though as Christians we know he can’t ultimately destroy our soul, he can destroy our lives, our relationships, indeed, everything we hold dear and do it in the most cunning and seemingly beautiful ways. The sin that trips us up is rarely disguised as something we detest. No, it is disguised as something we end up ultimately wanting more than God. And our lust replaces love.

What do you want more than Jesus? Money is the biggest item on the list. That’s why the “properity gospel” is so prevalent in our society. It replaces God with materialism and money. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24) but the prosperity gospel says, “Oh yes you can, and let me tell you how.” Indeed, “The purity of silver and gold is tested by putting them in the fire; The purity of human hearts is tested by giving them a little fame” (Prov. 27:21 MSG). Give a person money and fame, and more times then not he or she ends up selling his or her soul to the world and the praises of men and women. And the real travesty is that they think they are serving God when they’ve fallen for one of the oldest deceptions in our adversary’s arsenal.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (I Tim. 6:10). The key words in this passage are “the love of money” as money in and of itself is not evil. But, take away people’s money and prosperity and will they still serve God (like Job)? That is the true test especially in America. A little fame will do it, too (Prov. 27:21). Hell is populated with people who deceived themselves into thinking they were serving God when they were really serving money.

How about another hot topic . . . sex. If you are single, divorced, or widowed are you having sex with anyone? And, if you are married are you having sex with anyone other then your spouse? Well guess what? It’s sin. And, if you are even thinking about having sex with anyone else other then your spouse if you are married, or with anyone if you are single, divorced, or widowed, it’s sin. And no, the devil didn’t make you do it. You did. And most of the time we excuse it off because everybody does it, right? Our churches are filled with people who do it all the time and still show up on Sunday morning. That’s America’s version of Christianity, which is no Christianity at all. The Bible makes it very clear that there is no excuse for sex outside of marriage. None. You are deceived if you think otherwise. And it all starts in the mind and where you let it go (Matt. 5:28): “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Okay, one last item for this post–religious pride (as in the Pride of the Pharisees). Many of our churches are filled with it. Legalism, Inc. is what I like to call it. We make up our own rules and regulations and point fingers at other people’s sins without doing anything about our own. We show up for church every Sunday and follow all the rules and may even tithe 10% of our income (although in America that doesn’t happen a lot) and then gossip behind everyone’s back and think we are better than those “other sinners.” Our sins are never as “bad” as someone else’s sins. Smacks of white-washed tombs (Matt. 23:27). Jesus has a lot to say in his “Seven Woes” to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and you can read it in Matt. 23. However, you can tell if you’re in a church like this if the following description fits: “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend'” (Matt. 23:4-7 MSG).

Now, that is not to say that every pastor who has a doctorate or is called “Reverend” falls under this category. The issue is not about education, it is about pride and arrogance. There are many excellent and high profile pastors with doctorates in America who are not prideful and have excellent ministries that are serving the Lord. It is about pastors who “say one thing and do another” and require people to live up to the rules they don’t even live up to that is the problem.  White-washed tombs . . . . Pride is deadly because it is so insidious.

Well, enough for today. At the heart of the matter is this . . . Jesus warned us what life on this planet would look like at the end of the age (Matt. 24-25) and He stated in Matt 24:12“Because of the prevalent disregard of God’s law the love of the great majority will grow cold.” That is the true heart of the matter and one of the key signs of the end of the age, and that, folks, is where we are at in a lot of our churches in America today just as it was in“the days of Noah.”

It’s time for us to stop making excuses for sin and wake up before it’s too late.

YouTube Video: “Change Me” written and sung by Shannon Wexelberg (CD: “Faithful God” 2007):

Photo credit here