The Serpent was Cunning

Reading in Genesis chapter 3 yesterday I noticed a couple of things about Satan’s temptation of Eve.

Firstly, it is stated that the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. This implies that the manner in which the temptation occurred was no chance encounter but was most likely well considered and chosen to have maximal impact.

Secondly, the serpent chose to target the person furthest removed from the event he was trying to cast doubt upon. It is Adam who was directly told by God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Presumably Eve knew of the prohibition because Adam told her (there is no indication in the text that God directly told her Himself).

To me these observations suggest that we Christians in the 21st century are likely to be targeted with similar doubts of the style, “Did God really say…?” We are far removed from eyewitness accounts of Jesus or the Apostles so are prime targets for this type of suggestion.

Examples that come to mind are:
“Is a God of love truly opposed to homosexual men loving each other?”
“Would a loving God actually condemn anyone to hell?”

I also suspect that each of us can think of even more personally relevant doubts which commonly come to mind regarding temptations we find especially powerful. In these situations it may help to remember how cunning that serpent is and that his aim is to separate us from God, not to maximise our pleasure.

Good intentions

Do you consistently do what is right and not do what you shouldn’t? I struggle with this, failing most in the daily things such as patience and kindness to my kids when I’m tired and want to do something else, or laziness and eating junk food when I’m stressed or bored. Why do my good intentions fly out the window when they are most needed?

I find that the words of Mark 14:38 come to mind when I fail to live as I ought, “The heart is willing but the flesh is weak.” However, even this is giving myself too much credit – my heart and flesh are weak!

He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
(Joshua 24:23 ESV)

I am finding Joshua 24:23 to be good advice. If I want to bend my life to obey God then I need to both incline my heart towards God, and get rid of things in my daily life which turn me away from God. We cannot separate the internal and external actions, what I do affects what I feel and love, and vice versa. Of course, watching and praying help immensely too – though often the temptation to give up on this is what has gotten me into a mess in the first place!

It is a struggle to train ourselves for godliness, but the final outcome is worth more than the riches of the entire world (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

(This is an edited repost from my old blog)

The worst thing in the world is …

“We have learned that suffering is not the worst thing in the world – disobedience to God is the worst” A Vietnamese pastor, imprisoned for his faith (from the Voice of the Martyrs Facebook page).

This should not be shocking to me, but it is.

I think the reason is with the word ‘disobedience’ – my idea of the word disobedience is approximately the same as ‘naughty’, a little bit over the line but not too bad. Without really stopping to consider the implications, I consider ‘disobedience’ to be a mild thing, not like idolatry or murder or blasphemy. Which, when you do stop to think about it, is really dumb.

Disobedience is not treated so lightly by the apostle Paul in Romans 5:19, Adam’s sin was disobedience to the express command of God. So too my own disobedience to anything I know is commanded by God is sin. Of course there are false ideas about what might be commanded by God – the odd feeling I get when contemplating speaking about Christ to someone is not God, it is fear. What Jesus does command is not to fear men (Matthew 10:28) and that if I deny Him, he will deny me before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33).

My theology of suffering is purely theoretical, with an underlying assumption that the worst thing in suffering would be to lose my faith in Christ. This quote has me wondering how sound my faith is if I consider disobedience to be a small thing?

I will let Jesus have the last word: “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)