Repeat Offenders

What if the media reported a judge pardoned a known arsonist – for the hundredth time? The outraged public’s warranted demand that he be permanently removed from the bench would be overwhelming. I’d be yelling at the TV screen myself! If justice isn’t upheld when it comes to complying with civil laws chaos will ensue. But consider the fact that, in the eyes of God, you are a repeat offender who transgresses His law every day. Yet, if you’ve been washed in the blood of Christ, you’re fully exonerated and encouraged to “…go and sin no more (John 8:11) every single time. That’s the merciful God followers of Jesus are privileged to worship.

 

In this series of essays I’ve emphasized the answer to why we all stand in need of God’s divine forgiveness is found in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. It explains humankind’s past, present and future in the span of a page and a half. It’s not allegory, it’s genuine history. And the Bible doesn’t whitewash the fact that every one of us commits the same sin Adam & Eve did – we break God’s commandments. Like the first couple we initially try to cover our shame and then, when that fails, we resort to hiding. The last thing we want to do is admit the truth that we harbor a loathsome sinful nature that surfaces with disturbing frequency. What Christians know but billions of the earth’s inhabitants are in denial about is that every human born on this planet is subject to the wrath of God and, unless they accept Jesus into their heart, they’re lost. Now, that news won’t exactly be tagged a “hot item” in the press. Politics, sports and celebrity sightings will always hog the limelight. Those distractions are prime examples of some of the trees we crouch behind when God asks us Where are you? (Genesis 3:9). Instead of giving Him an honest answer, though, we gripe and grumble that life’s not fair. And, if not for God’s intervention, we’d be right. (When you get right down to it what most definitely wasn’t fair was that God’s only begotten Son, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity who incarnated as an utterly righteous and wholly innocent man, had to suffer and die to redeem us!) But in the garden of Eden God made a promise to restore His creation to its original perfect state and His infallible plan is proceeding on schedule. What we find in Genesis 3 is the first pronouncement and proclamation of the Christian gospel. Thus to write the Old Testament off as irrelevant is folly.

 

The message is clear. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, Satan’s in charge of terra firma and he’s the champion con artist. “…The LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman replied, ‘The serpent tricked me…’” (Genesis 3:13). The Devil pulls the wool over people’s eyes to this day and he takes advantage of that blindness by putting and keeping mankind under his dominance and control. If we don’t grasp the seriousness of that situation the bottom-line reason this world’s in constant turmoil will forever elude us. All the death and destruction we see around us is the handiwork of Satan. He’s been behind every horrible event that’s occurred since the fall. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Men and women left to themselves are absolutely hopeless and helpless in the hands of the Devil.” Of course, secular society rolls its collective eyes at the mere mention of Genesis. It claims modern science has effectively exposed the Biblical account as unsubstantiated folklore but that’s a false assertion because science has nothing to do with history. Science deals exclusively with proven facts. When scientists venture beyond facts they stop being scientists and become philosophers expressing opinions that hold no more weight than the average person-on-the-street’s does. In other words, their insistence that there’s no God and no Devil can’t be confirmed, only rudely jammed down our throats.

 

Note the implication of what Jesus said in Luke 11:21-22; When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and conquers him, he takes away the first man’s armor on which the man relied and divides up his plunder.” In context the “strong man” is Satan and the “stronger man” is Christ. The Lord inferred mankind is akin to a bunch of people in an enormous enclosure. It’s so huge folks get to thinking they’re free to come and go as they please but it’s only an illusion. I recently watched a mini-doc about one of Scientology’s “gated communities” and, from the outside, it had all the appearances of a prison. The compound’s residents equated it to a utopia but it was obvious the security thugs on the perimeter were not only keeping people out but making sure those inside didn’t leave. That’s how Christ sees the men, women and children on Earth – captives in Satan’s castle. When Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road He told him, I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you…” Why? “…to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God…” (Acts 26:17-18). Christ’s intent is to free us from bondage! Later the apostle addressed his fellow believers with Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age…” (Galatians 1:3-4). To another congregation he gave thanks to the Father who “…delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves…” (Colossians 1:13).

 

From the scriptural evidence presented we must conclude the Devil, the “…god of this world…” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “…the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience…” (Ephesians 2:2) is the head honcho in these parts. Therefore the things we humans deem to be the biggest obstacles to achieving personal contentment and fulfillment pale in comparison to our real problem – how to escape from the clutches of Satan and his demonic gang of henchmen. The Devil’s the obese and foul-smelling elephant in the room that way too many people deny even exists! The irony is that by employing positive-thinking techniques and attitude adjustments a captive can achieve a certain degree of happiness within the walls of the strong man’s palace. Drugs, alcohol and/or illicit sex can also make them feel less dissatisfied with their lot in life. For a while, at least. But they’re still under the domination of a tyrant who doesn’t give a flip whether they’re happy, miserable or whatever. The only thing Satan wants is to keep them in chains and ransack their souls.

 

Jesus is the only means of escape so every Christian should spend as much time as possible getting to know our Lord better. That way He can use us to spread hope to those who have none. We are His messengers who’ve been given the power to cut through the Devil’s fog and reach those who sincerely seek the truth.But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Satan robs humans of their ability to think clearly. He’s like really annoying radio static or torrential rain on a satellite dish that interferes with our reception of God’s message of grace. Since God won’t give up on us the Devil’s goal is to make us give up on God. That’s why principle 1 of the Celebrate Recovery ministry is so direct: Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. We must come to grips with the fact that we can’t fix what’s wrong with us or anyone else. Until we see ourselves as the strength-sapped sinners we are we’ll never admit we’re in dire need of the Savior who atoned for our sins. If not for Christ our future would make a black hole look bright. But our God is a loving, forgiving God and in Eden He tossed mankind a lifeline to hold onto. To Satan He vowed, “…her [Eve’s] offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel (Genesis 3:15). You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to figure out a damaged foot isn’t fatal while a crushed skull is always game over. The Devil will be defeated because God decreed it. He’s God. Satan ain’t. Not even close. That’s the core message of the Bible. God wins.

 

The Holy Word is our inerrant guide to living a life that’s productive and pleasing to our Heavenly Father. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” But most importantly the Bible is a soul-saving declaration of what God’s already done. It shows He isn’t lounging in a hammock behind the lines but has leaped into the trenches alongside us. His Holy Word is also the only authentic revelation in existence of what lies ahead. Without the Scriptures we’d know nothing about our Creator. We wouldn’t know salvation is available. We wouldn’t know the Devil blinds us to the truth that God considers us worth dying for. We wouldn’t know there’s an alternate history to the secular version that teaches our ancestors were amoebas. Biblical history gives us solid answers. Godless history gives us fantastic guesses. It’s common knowledge that the mighty dynasties of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc. rose and fell. But humanists will attribute their demise to widespread governmental inefficiency, unwillingness to change with the times, public apathy, short-sightedness in the leadership department, etc. They’ll say it’s just a matter of natural cycles. Humans learn things and then that knowledge eventually becomes lost. For example, vaccination against deadly communicable diseases was discovered and practiced by the Chinese in the 10th century. Yet while smallpox swept through the Americas like wildfire physicians could only stand by, clueless as to how to prevent it. Evolutionists will voraciously insist the human species is making progress but will also confess we’re advancing so slowly it looks like we’re inert. They patronizingly remind us “patience is a virtue.” Give mankind a million more years and we’ll be fine, they say. Theoretically, that is.

 

But, thank heaven, we have another history book that tells us God has a plan unfolding that’ll release men and women from the shackles of the Devil. The Bible account doesn’t disregard secular history altogether. It includes it every so often while remaining distinctly unique. The great dynasties mentioned earlier are in the Scriptures, too, but their rise and fall aren’t the focus. The Bible stresses that what’s revealed in Genesis 3:15 is the point. It tells us God hasn’t abandoned us for a second. His Son will return to vanquish Satan and undo all his dirty work. It’s gonna happen. Notice God didn’t say the seed of the woman might attack the Devil’s head but that He will and the Father doesn’t mince words. (Since God exists outside of time it’s a done deal but that’s a discussion for another day.) And, as we continue to read beyond Genesis 3 we find the two seeds coming into conflict in no time at all. Hateful, envious and resentful Cain, representing Satan, killed his brother in cold blood. Abel had no beef with Cain but Cain had murder in his heart. The ongoing conflict God predicted started right then and there. We see it continuing to flourish in the flood saga. Noah was a righteous man but the seed of the Devil that had multiplied like rabbits despised him, ridiculed him and threatened him until judgment day arrived. You know the rest of the story but don’t overlook the presence of conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan in it that God said would rear its ugly head over and over again.

 

Centuries later God appointed Abram to be the seed of the woman. When two parties entered into a binding covenant back then, altering their representative’s names to seal the agreement was required. Thus Abram became Abraham (the Hebrew letter H signifies the “breath of God”), Sara became Sarah and God became known as “the God of Abraham.” Abraham’s seed begat God’s chosen race but, once again, Satan weaseled his way in and conflict resulted – not only with other nations but within the ranks of the Israelites themselves. The angst-inducing pattern of corruption and strife never ends and, more often than not, it would appear the Devil is winning. God’s people get discouraged. God sends them prophets to keep alive His message of hope saying, “Don’t despair. God has a plan. He’s going to send the Deliverer.” They lose faith. 400 years elapse without a word. The cruel Romans invade and conquer God’s people. Judging by the evidence, Satan has tightened the ropes despite God’s promises. We think we’re toast. But we’re so wrong to think that way. But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights (Galatians 4:4-5). Paul tells us the sinless seed of the woman arrived! The miracle God forecasted in the Garden came to fruition. Mary was a virgin. No human male was involved. Her seed was fertilized by the Holy Spirit. Her seed was divine. Big difference.

 

Satan, realizing what’s happening, ratchets up the conflict. Herod, the seed of the serpent, endeavors to kill the infant Jesus but fails. The Devil steps in personally and tries to tempt the Messiah in the wilderness. He’s unsuccessful. So next he blinds the religious authorities to the fact the Savior they’ve waited for is in their presence. They slander Jesus and turn the population against Him. Satan then infiltrates Christ’s inner circle via Judas who betrays his Master. The conflict intensifies exponentially and, with the inflamed mob’s consent, Jesus gets sent to die on the cross. The Devil runs a victory lap around Golgotha. He’s convinced the war’s over and he’s come out on top. But he doesn’t see the big picture. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he [Jesus] has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15). No doubt Satan, his eyes bulging in disbelief, witnessed the Resurrection and knew he’d miscalculated. He couldn’t kill God, only wound His heel. He knew his days were numbered. (I suspect the fatally-injured Devil wears a helmet these days.)

 

Contemplate what we’re seeing in the Gospels – the actualization of Genesis 3. The promised one was viciously attacked. He died. The serpent thought that signified his triumph but in reality he’d only bruised Christ’s heel. God’s plan of redemption was continuing to march on unabated. Deliverance from Satan’s grasp could only come through the Son of God’s death. The Messiah shouldered our sins and paid the ultimate penalty. Mankind’s debt was paid in full. Just before He died Jesus announced, Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out (John 12:31). Those words must’ve reverberated in the Devil’s mind when he saw Christ walk out of the tomb alive. Death had been his ace in the hole but now, through death, Jesus was able to “…destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Yes, the conflict continues but God’s victory is assured. A day’s coming when evil will be eradicated from God’s creation and there’ll be “…new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides (2 Peter 3:13).

 

We know the first part of God’s promise spoken in Eden has come to pass. Thus we have no reason to doubt our Father will prevail. We who’ve been cleansed by the blood of Christ have nothing to fear. We’re no longer Satan’s property. We belong to God and that renders us untouchable. Speak the name of Jesus Christ and the Devil will scat. Join God’s army and know what permanent victory feels like.

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