To the Cheese...
It’s interesting how, in this Scripture, the unsuspecting man followed the prostitute to his demise. O how her beauty, flattery, and persistence wore him down. Yet he was an active participant in his own deception. Thus, he blindly, yet willingly, followed her to her home, supposing he was about to have the time of his life. Unbeknownst to him, he was marching toward his undoing. Observe the language…
Out of willful ignorance or naiveté, these three creatures fell prey to the traps set for them – a decision, so to speak, that would cost them their lives.
We are the same. We may see great big obvious temptations for what they are. But the serpent’s craftiness is found in his subtleties. It is the consistent smallness of our daily surrenders to those subtleties that lead us into the slaughterhouse, the noose, the snare. A compromise here and there will have a powerful snowball effect in our lives. We often have no idea when we say “yes” to that first, small, seemingly insignificant trifle of a temptation, that it is the first step on a path that will lead to our destruction. We unwittingly pay a price that will cost us dearly – our very lives… our families… our ministries… and so on.
I can’t help but think of the children’s song, “Be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little ears what you hear.” For ultimately, we cannot plead ignorance. We cannot say we didn’t know the gun was loaded. God has given us his Word and Spirit to lead and guide us through our lives. Ponder the Walking Points questions below with some Christian brothers and ask the Lord for his grace to live faithfully as godly men.
Galatians 4:9 - But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
A Change of Address
When we lived in darkness – when we were of the world – it made perfect sense that we lived as the world lived. We were a part of its system. You might say it was the very air we breathed.
But when we were delivered from that bondage, ignorance, and darkness, we were made into something new. Paul described us as new creations. To paraphrase the Apostle elsewhere,
“When I was a worldling, I talked like a worldling, I thought like a worldling, I reasoned like a worldling. When I became a new creature in Christ, I put worldish ways behind me.”
It is therefore sad to observe how the Apostle had to address the Galatian believers and ask them why they were turning back to their old, dead ways.
It’s difficult to admit how shortsighted we can be on a daily basis. If we don’t keep Christ daily before us, pursuing him with all God’s grace and our might, we inevitably find ourselves drifting back to the world and its ways of thinking. And such worldish thinking will soon lead to worldish living. What’s so frightening about this process is that even as it happens, we don’t seem aware that we are becoming enslaved to those “weak and miserable principles” all over again.
Why Do We Do This?
The question is indicting: Why would we ever want to go back to such thinking and living once we have been freed from it? Why do we seem to prefer bondage to freedom at times? It’s almost comical how we, like the Israelites, begin romanticizing how great the leeks and onions were in Egypt and forget about the fact that we were slaves there. Why do we do this?
There are probably many good answers. No believer, I hope, truly thinks the world is preferable to the things of God. I don’t think being out of shape is preferable to being healthy. But one skipped workout at a time – over a period of undisciplined living – and a person will find himself struggling to walk up a flight of stairs. That was never the intention, but it was the consequence.
Similarly, a little disobedience and sloth here and there and one day a person will wake up terribly out of shape for the Kingdom. In truth, they will be downright unfit for it.
I’ve discovered in my own life that I tend to do the things I want to do. It’s no more complicated than that. I may dress it up in elaborate excuses and rationalizations, but at the end of the day that’s all they are. Can you relate to that?
Don’t Ignore God’s Means of Grace
Thankfully, those who are genuinely in Christ will not be able to return to their old ways without feeling the disciplinary rod of the Holy Spirit. God is not content to watch his children become remolded in the world’s image.
By God’s magnificent grace, the smoke detector goes off long before the fire blazes out of control. God awakens and disciplines those who are his own and gets them/us back on track again. But even here he does not “do” all the work for us. We can still choose to sleep in instead of pray and study. We can play instead of worship on Sunday mornings. Fill in the blank with those temptations that continue to call you back to your old life. We will have those choices ever before us.
But if you cry out to your loving Father for help, his grace will abound once more to rescue you from your chains. And if you rely on him daily and practice those things he promised will make you spiritually healthy, you may find you have to be rescued less often.
Loving Father, you have redeemed me and adopted me into your family. You desire that I imitate you in my daily life. But all too often I feel the pull of my old life, the lure of sinful desire. Those weak and miserable principles seemingly cast a spell on me. Show me how awful, ugly, and untrue they really are and how they will only entrap and enslave me to a horrible bondage. Please let me see how wicked they really are before I give myself to them. Enable me by your grace to grow in grace. Control me with your Spirit so that I will both desire to, and be able to, live fully for you. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.
Romans 16:17-19 - I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Take Heed Lest You Fall
These are some of Paul's last words to the Church at Rome. With these words he revealed his Christian love and pastor's heart for this congregation. After a significant, deep, and vital treatise on Christian doctrine and living, Paul stressed one last time how crucial it was for these Christians to take heed to what he shared with them.
Paul knew there were those wolves in sheep's clothing (Acts 20) who would creep in among God’s people (from within and without) and cause divisions - some purposefully and others because they themselves had been deceived. Regardless, these wolves would place obstacles before God’s people. They would seek to undo and disrupt sound teaching, the very doctrine Paul took pains to communicate throughout his Letter to the Romans.
Deception, Then Derailment
Paul said to keep away from such trouble-makers. Don't hang around them. No good can come from getting too close to them. Such people do not represent our Lord, regardless of how smooth their words are. They serve the idol of their own agenda, their own desires and cravings, not Christ's. The first result of listening to them is deception. Once deception sets in, wandering from the faith is never far behind.
Paul loved the Church at Rome. Because he cared for them he therefore encouraged them and built them up by complimenting their obedience. But he warned them to be wise with regard to what is good and innocent concerning evil. Sticking your head in the sand won't do here. The discernment Paul spoke of required learning and growing in the sound doctrine he had been teaching them throughout his letter. Their lives and souls were at stake, as well as future generations of Roman Christians. The same is true for you, your children, church, and friends if you wander from the sound, life-giving, life-transforming doctrine of God’s Word.
All-wise Father, your Word presents to us, from beginning to end, commands and encouragement to take the right path and warnings against taking the wrong one. We are to believe in you and no other. We are to follow you and your Word and nothing else. We are to take the hard and narrow road and not the wide and easy one. Every page of Scripture beckons us to trust you and follow the map you have set before us. Please forgive me for those times when I, as did Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, stray from the path, even a little. Thank you for your abundant grace which shows me my error and your Spirit who enables me to get back on the right path and continue my journey with you. Please help me to serve as a guide for others who are traveling through this world, seemingly unaware of the map and other road signs you have provided. Furthermore, help me lead and protect from false teachers and prophets, those you have entrusted to my care. For it is in the name of the Good Shepherd I pray. Amen.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.