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The fact of the matter is this, someone IS preying upon our weakness, he doesn’t play fair and he is consumed with one thing…murdering my (and your) soul! He goes by many names but biblically we know him by the name Satan, which means “the accuser.” I’m going to state something which may shock many of you but you need to hear this…

Satan is real.

The reason I made a point of letting you know that Satan really exists is because he would like nothing more than you to believe that he doesn’t exist! Satan is the master manipulator, deceiver, accuser and liar. Jesus speaking about Satan says, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44b) This is the very thing which makes Satan so effective in his destructive attacks, he knows how to attack our weaknesses and his lies are so convincing.

Let’s go back to the Garden for a moment. I’ve already established the fact that Adam and Eve’s sin was caused by their own evil desires but they definitely had help developing those desires. Satan comes to Eve and immediately begins to lie, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the Garden?” (Genesis 3:1b) Eve knows that God allowed them to eat from EVERY tree except for one, but that is all Satan needs to spin his web of destruction and evil; 99% truth and to question God’s motives. Satan lives in 99% truth, “you will not surely die” he tells Eve and he was 99% right but 100% wrong, and you see that is where our evil desires love to hang out and mingle. We try so hard to justify why we need or want to sin and Satan preys upon this; make it mostly right and we justify sin all day long and the Deceiver sits back and laughs.

The second thing that Satan does is he makes us question the motives of God. He whispers in our ears that God is holding back something from us, not allowing us to have fun, punishing us or just simply neglecting us. Satan says to Eve, “you won’t die, God knows what will happen if you eat, you’ll be like him and he doesn’t want that.” (my paraphrase) Think about it for a moment, when something bad happens we question why God would ever allow it to happen, we question how our loving God could ever use suffering or pain for our good. Satan fuels these thoughts in our minds so that we believe that the One trying to rescue us is actually the enemy. The father of lies…hard at work. Yet the Bible teaches us something different about God’s character, we are told that, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) We can always trust the character of God, we can always trust he has good in store for us (8:28) because God proved himself to us through the crucifixion and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

He died for us so that we wouldn’t have to submit ourselves to the schemes of Satan any longer and He died for us so that “the Accuser” could no longer slander those who are in Christ Jesus. Sin is very real and it flows from the evil desires of our hearts while it is being massaged and fueled by the deception of Satan.

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Maybe you don’t agree with the notion that we are responsible for our own sin; that I sin because I want to sin. A short parable here may help us understand…

Early one morning a man walked out of a building and came across a man sitting dejected on the curb with his head in his hands. The man walking was going to pass on by without saying a word when he noticed that the person sitting on the curb was actually Satan! The man stopped for a moment and cautiously walked over to the rather miserable looking devil and asked him “what’s wrong with you?” Satan slowly looked up at the man, answering him with a question and a quiver in his voice…”why does everybody blame everything bad on me?!”

Now don’t get me wrong here. Satan definitely plays a role with evil and sin and I will address that in the next post, but for now, let’s look at ourselves.

Recently at the treatment center where I preach at on Sunday mornings a woman asked me a question during the Q & A time of the service. “My life was perfect,” she said. “I went to church every week, went to Bible study and small group and every aspect of my life was completely perfect. I had NO reason to start drinking but I did. Why did I throw my life away, why did I ruin a perfect thing?” That is an excellent question and reminds me of a similar “perfect” situation.

When God created this world he made everything perfect and without sin. God told Adam and Eve that they had dominion over the animals and the garden, they were in control of this perfect place God had created. Everything was their’s except for one little thing, God told them “you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) Everything was PERFECT…so why did Adam and Eve sin? Because they desired to sin! Look at Genesis 3:6, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Sin looks good! Sin looks desirable! Sin looks fun! We sin because we desire something more, even when everything is perfect! The first step at understanding and overcoming sin is by understanding the desires of our hearts. James tells us, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (1:14-15)

We sin because of the desires of our hearts. We sin when everything is perfect. Could it get any worse than that? I hope no one is preying upon this glaring weakness that I have…

(Pt 3 coming very soon! Click on the “Sign Me Up” button on the left of the screen to make sure you don’t miss out on the rest of this series, Perfect Sin.)

Sin.

There…I said it. The one word people recoil from, become enraged over and often times flatly refuse it’s existence. Like a purple unicorn most people consider sin to be in the same mythological grouping of objects that used to exist but don’t anymore. People often equate the word sin to guilt, shame and religious manipulation…the kind that was used during the dark ages but nothing that sensible, well educated, cultured people would refer to today. No, today we don’t “sin” what we do is far more genteel than that. Today we might “make a mistake” or perhaps “mess something up” even going as far as  “doing something wrong” but at the end of the day we don’t “sin.” Because if we did “sin” it would mean that something was inherently wrong with us and it would mean that we are accountable for our sinful behaviors.

Guess what? We do sin, there is something inherently wrong with us and we will be held accountable for our sins.

That’s not the scary part though, the scary part is why we sin. Whatever you are doing right now, stop it. I need your full attention before we go on to the next line, spend the next 10 seconds concentrating only on what you will read next, in fact, read it out loud…

I sin because I WANT to sin.

Let that sink in for just a moment. I sin because I want to sin; I curse because I want to curse, I steal because I want to steal, I cheat because I want to cheat, I lie because I want to lie, I kill because I want to kill…I sin because I WANT to sin. Jeremiah 17:9 states “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We deceive ourselves if we think for a moment that we are not the originators of our sin.

Intrigued, infuriated or indecisive? I’ve only scratched the surface…

(Pt 2 coming very soon! Click on the “Sign Me Up” button on the left of the screen to make sure you don’t miss out on the rest of this series, Perfect Sin.)

What you find is that the problem of faith lies in us, not God, and it all comes down to a level of trust. Society tells us today to trust no one, to look out for #1, to take care of me. Nowhere are we told to trust in God; not in society, not in our schools, not in our places of work and frighteningly not in our churches. You heard me correctly, our churches. The one place you would assume would be overflowing with faith and trust is the one place where most people see a pragmatic, religious atheism played out on a daily basis. An oxymoron to be sure, but truth nonetheless. How is it “religious atheism” you might ask? We confess our lives to God yet we live our lives as if He doesn’t exist. We say we have given our hearts and lives to Christ to be our “Lord and Savior” yet we treat Him as if he couldn’t change a lightbulb, that He has no ability to work powerfully in our lives. On Sunday we have “faith” but come Monday we forget that He exists.

We allow ourselves to be forced into faith. What do I mean by that? Think about this for a moment; when was the last time you exhibited faith when you weren’t in a crisis? Interesting thought, isn’t it? Unfortunately we have things backwards in life, we feel that we are capable of taking care of everything, shelter, provisions, money, health and medicine and only in those rare situations when we don’t have any control over the outcome are we forced into faith in God. He becomes our last resort, our last hope, the Hail-Mary pass at the end of the game instead of being the first choice…the only choice. So my question is this, is that faith? Or, does that equate to something close to hitting a panic button and hoping something favorable happens? If God has proven Himself to us (as I established in part 1), why does it require such effort to “have faith?” Could it be that our faith is built upon our own expectations and not God’s and ultimately the problem is with the “our faith” part instead of it being “His faith.” If we were to lay aside our incomplete trust and faith while fusing ourselves to the faith only given by God our dilemma would be resolved. An example from Scripture will help clarify the point.

While Jesus was teaching a crowd of 5,000 assembled to be healed and listen to the words of Christ. When it started getting late Jesus asked the disciples to feed the people and the disciples responded in unbelief, “we have only five loaves and two fish.” (Matt 14:17) Jesus used what the disciples had to feed the 5,000 and then some. What Jesus didn’t do was ask how the disciples would solve the situation, He acted, in a mighty way to show the disciples that nothing is impossible for God. Therefore, they had no reason to doubt God. Seems like a good lesson in learning faith, so Jesus gives the disciples another shot at it. In Matthew 15, Jesus has a crowd of 4,000 following him when the same problem arises, how do we feed these people? The disciples ask Jesus, “Where could we get enough bread…to feed such a crowd?” WAIT…what just happened? Jesus fed a larger crowd just weeks before and the disciples don’t have a clue on how to feed them…are the disciples that slow? Or a better question, are WE that slow?

The disciples became powerful in building the Kingdom once they were able to let go of their selfish motives, their pride, their lack of faith and when they started obeying God. Let’s stop treating God’s Word as a collection of bedtime stories and start realizing them for what they are…True Life! Faith comes from obedience, and the greatest part is that God is faithful to us even when we aren’t obedient. Faith isn’t hard, wanting to obey God daily becomes hard because we allow the world to pull on us in so many directions, but stand your ground Christian! We have a God who proves Himself to us everyday, so let us take the “problem of faith” and use it as the Creator intended it, as the power of faith!

Society today treats faith as if it were a four letter word, speak about faith in an open setting and you can be guaranteed to receive a few snarls, angry glances and perhaps even open rebuke. Faith has no place in our modern, technological age of science and empirical data. Most people regard faith as a hopeless mysticism of days gone by and many have nothing else to say during times of great loss or tragedy but “have faith.” The statement is made with good intentions, it is meant to function as a salve for the soul but then we realize that we don’t even know what it means. And so we say something that has no application to our lives and we realize the hypocrisy before the words even leave our lips, yet we speak them anyway. The problem of faith plagues everyone but is the problem with “faith” or does it lie with us?

An atheist will tell you that faith is simply a blind belief in something, usually fueled from emotion, lacking any logical basis and founded in a God which doesn’t exist making it all the more illogical. But the atheist, just as the believer has a level of faith in more things than they would like to admit. Take breathing as an example, I have faith that in the next few minutes I will still be able to breathe. Now I may know all the intricacies of how breathing works, how oxygen is transferred to my blood cells which fuel the organs of my body and how without breathing my physical body would terminate from lack of oxygen. All of these facts are wonderful but they do nothing to assist my body in breathing, I must act out in a level of faith and actually breathe in to make the system work. Now the skeptic would immediately interject “that’s not faith, that’s science” but science just like faith needs to be proven true, so as each breath keeps my body alive I can have faith to continue breathing. Take the process one step further, there is nothing to say that I should be breathing and there is a plethora of reasons why I should and could stop breathing, yet, do I actually doubt the breath I take as I write this? No. Why? Because each breath strengthens my faith that the next one will certainly arrive.

The same is true for one’s faith in God. We can have faith in God because of His powerful work in our lives every day. Each day, God more than proves himself to us, by sustaining the earth to spin, the sun to rise and for breath of life to enter my nostrils, and as each breath builds upon the next, my faith should be ever growing. Think back in your life, how many times has God rescued you, saved you, strengthened you, protected you and blessed you? I challenge you to take a few minutes and write down the many times God has worked in your life over the last week and prepare to be astounded. What you will find is that the problem of faith lies in us, not God.  (Check back shortly for the conclusion: The Problem of Faith Part 2)

One of the easiest ways for someone to see culture captured in a microcosm is for one to make their way down to the local theater and catch a movie. My wife and I decided to have a little date night and watch “Battle: Los Angeles” (I know…she’s awesome) and see what the newest installment of Hollywood’s take on “end of the world” scenarios would entail. Basically, the movie involves earth being attacked by an unknown alien force systematically wiping out humankind. All that stands between life and annihilation is a small squadron of Marines that eventually bear the burden of being the last hope of mankind. Surprisingly, what I ended up taking away from the film was one rather nagging question, where is our hope?

Think about this for a moment, how does Hollywood attract the crowds week after week? By giving people the one thing which they lack so much in every aspect of their daily lives…hope. For most of the movie I couldn’t help but feel dread completely overwhelming me, we were outgunned, outmanned and completely outmatched. Yet, at that moment when I felt all was lost came the faintest glimmer of it…hope. And rightfully so, why would anyone watch a movie that wasn’t brimming with hope? Take your favorite movie and remove every aspect of hope from it and what does that leave you with? For most, a haunting silhouette of everyday life, a life replete with problems and pain but lacking in any true hope.

The very real truth of the matter is this, life without hope is truly not life at all. And as a movie without a hero becomes unwatchable, so life without hope becomes unlivable. So the question is this, where is your hero and what is your hope? The hopes of men are fleeting and the heroes of men are merely mortal but there is One in whom all our hopes should lie. The One who bore the burden for all mankind, the very Son of God who was nailed to a tree, to be our hero, to be our Savior. Jesus Christ, whose death brought life and whose life brings hope.

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