Sin, the Devil, and the Dangers of Ignoring the Darkness
As we get deeper and deeper into those things that go bump in the night one of the foundational aspects of this that could use some more reflection is the whole doctrine of evil itself. We live in a day and age that loves to blame everything under the sun instead of the individual. It’s either nature, nurture, or environmental. The reason cannot be personal decisions or the private desire of the human heart. It must be someone else’s influence, or denial, that has led the man or woman to perform some act that is deemed to be hurtful or wrong by some measure. Yet, when we examine the Biblical record there is no sense in which anyone is ever liable (excepting of course those with documented demon possession, which is what we will take up next week), but the sinner themselves.
The free choice to transgress and rebel needs some more thought, because if we are being honest our greatest worry in this present time is not ghosts, aliens, apparitions, or Freddy Kreuger…it is other humans and what they are capable of given a chance.
The conflict between good and evil in the world, the background for the series, is always on the mind of men concerned with what is happening and why. While Christians believe and understand that the struggle is less a battle for supremacy than a mopping up action of an already vanquished foe (1 Cor. 15:55) there still remains the day-to-day reality of Satan’s attempts to defeat the undefeatable. When we read of a young man (or increasingly a young woman) shooting up a school or the like our minds are drawn to the unimaginable. How could someone think that was a rational action to take? Our commentary is often filled with terms such as insane or mentally ill and phrases including out of their mind or they lost it. A word which seems to have been lost, but was formerly popular was postal. All in their own way seeking to comprehend in some empathetic manner the motives of the killer. We could never imagine ourselves doing it so it must mean that the person who did do it has something wrong with them. Our answer of course is, yes, they did have something wrong with them. However, the truth hits too close to home. The only reason we have not done likewise is because of the mercy of God. We have not been given over to the desires of our heart (Matt. 5:22). Before we get into why we need to ask how we don’t go there.
The Scriptures tell us things including, “An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps. 36:1) and “For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me!” (Is. 47:10) and finally, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Each of these verses in their own way testify to the fact that all men are capable of great evil. Just as the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, those who think they can hide their sin from Him are truly foolish. For not only does the Lord know our ways because He is ever-present and all-knowing, but He has the knowledge of good and evil, something Adam knew not before the Fall. God is fully aware of the consequences of sin and what sin brings to bear in a given situation. It is one of the reasons why He constantly sends His prophets to warn us away from it. On Sunday evenings in our second worship service on the Lord’s Day we’ve been reading consecutively through the minor prophets, Hosea to Malachi. A consistent theme found in each of them is this idea that the men and women of Israel and Judah have received the due consequences of their actions. Kings, priests, and the lowest beggar all wear the mark of their transgressions through the exile and the judgment. Life in Babylon is unpleasant, because it is meant to be.
To paraphrase a common saying, Life is hard, it’s harder if you sin.
Our world is full of murder, beatings, fentanyl, war, and other evils not because of poor FED policy (though it could be argued that FED policy is evil) or the “rich”. The reason why your neighbor has incredibly bad taste in men has more to do with her hatred of the Seventh Commandment than her upbringing. While that may not help it is not the root of the problem. Our unwillingness to live in reality is part of the problem we have in society. Blaming others wicked choices means dealing with our own unwillingness to fear God and order our lives in accordance with His word. Christ in the Sermon on the Mount makes this abundantly clear in the log and speck proverb. A continual running away from the solution, namely the grace freely offered in the Lamb’s shed blood, and the fruit bore from His love, will result in not just a growing inoculation against the good, but a further assurance that the consequences of our adoration of sin means the fact of the matter is we’ll be receiving the business end soon enough. Our chickens will come home to roost. (Num. 32:23).
An example of how this works is what I’d like to call the adamic principle, that is to blame God for Satan, as if the existence of the Beast is enough to make us sin. The truth of the matter is we don’t need any help. The devil successfully tempts no one who is not seeking to listen to his lies. Eve had already decided that God’s word was untrue and without merit for her self-identity when the Serpent came to speak to her about the forbidden fruit. If we fool ourselves into thinking that what the wickedest person on TV has done is outside our capabilities then we misunderstand not only ourselves, but the depravity that exists in all men. While we are not as bad as we could be, we also are worse than we would like to admit. Hence, when Hannah was bitter she didn’t allow that bitterness to rule her life, but took it immediately to the LORD so that she would be healed, rather than allow that bitterness to take root and lead to her own eventual destruction.
In closing, in the aptly named Hannah Arendt’s vitally important reporting on Adolph Eichmann’s trial in the city of Jerusalem for his Nazi war crimes committed under the auspices of the German government one of things that really bothers her, primarily because she isn’t thinking about things from a Biblical worldview, is how banal the whole thing is. In other words Eichmann’s crimes of evil did not arise out of some deep-seated antisemitism or hatred of Jews. In some ways that would have been easier for her to understand. Evil people do evil, news at 11. What troubled her heart was that he seemed no different than a grandfatherly civil servant just going about his daily life, making paperwork straight, and ensuring all things ran smoothly, so the trains could get to death camps on time and on schedule. She had no way to process how a man could do something like that without a prick to conscience and yet exhibit no sense of sociopathy. Arendt went to see a monster and was confronted with a human being, just like herself. Hitler didn’t make Eichmann send thousands to their destruction. The sinfulness of his own heart did, a sinfulness in all of us.
Think on that the next time you read of a person committing an atrocity. That is the evil we should fear, and why Christ is the only hope for fallen man.
A last word:
Blessings in His Grace,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church