I have a confession.
Something I have struggled with the past 3 years is watching things that I know are probably going to just put me in a place more susceptible to evil thoughts and actions creeping their way in.
One of these things I’ve struggled to resist watching is a TV show. It’s called American Horror Story and you’ve probably heard of it… if not, don’t waste your time looking it up.
It’s basically just as horrific, sexual, sick, and twisted as a television show is allowed to get. I was thinking I would be okay this season because it was going to be the first season where they weren’t focusing on supernatural horror (first season was ghosts, second season was religious weird stuff but the exorcism scene in the second episode stopped me from watching anymore, and the third season was witches). This season is “freak show” and it’s about a serial killer and I was like, “Oh, this is just harmless. All fun and games.” Right? Wrong.
5 minutes into the first episode and I knew I was watching something that God just absolutely detests. And the second episode had me feeling just… off. 10 minutes into it. I shut off the TV… and then I read a Bible verse. And it was disturbing the difference I could literally feel in my heart, in my mind, in my soul. A complete black and white contrast.It got me thinking… this life offers many, MANY short-lived pleasures. Sex, alcohol, drugs, partying, stealing, angry outbursts, gossip, etc. The list goes on. These things… they all actually feel amazing. I mean, they really are so much fun. Who doesn’t love the intoxicating feeling of a temporary high? The hidden truth beneath the surface level ecstasy is that these temporary pleasures destroy not only our flesh but our souls. And every single day Satan and those employed by him try everything in their power to keep this truth hidden from us. Sin eats away at the life God has breathed into us and we can (and people do) eventually lose that life… forever. It is HARD to focus on the unseen, the eternal, the future… when we are literally living in the now. Our flesh wants instant gratification. It wants sex, it wants physical pleasure. It wants to get drunk and just forget about the stresses of the day and stumble around because it’s fun and we’re letting go of the overwhelming clarity of the reality before us.
Because God IS clear about one thing. This world belongs to Satan, and it’s destined for fire. A life lived for God is not really a pleasurable one. (EDIT: The use of the word pleasurable here may not have been the absolute best choice. Pleasurable can mean instantly gratifying, like physical pleasure, but it can also mean delightful, lovely, great. And my relationship with God is all three of those latter things. I’m just using the word pleasurable here in this post to draw a contrast between two very different lifestyles one can live: for the world or for God.) Satan beckons us with pleasure. With letting go of the God-given clarity and the new eyes we’ve been given… he begs us to give those things up to experience little bits of “heaven” NOW. But they are all FALSE REFLECTIONS OF WHAT HEAVEN TRULY IS. It’s a smoke and mirrors game that’s played with us, and too many of us are pawns in this game solely because we allow ourselves to be. We hand over our fate–our souls–like it’s something to be gambled with. Like it doesn’t matter either way what happens in the end. Think about where you might be in 100 years from now, when your body has failed you and you’re no longer living in this world. Would you still choose to love what you’re loving now? Would you regret how you’re spending your few numbered days on this Earth?
I know I would be filled with remorse over every mere second I wasted being a pawn in Satan’s game. Every drunken night, every hurtful word, every fitful rage, every episode of American Horror Story I watched that left me feeling “weird” even though I couldn’t place exactly how or why. The truth lying behind the deceit is that through all these things, I was opening the door for evil to creep its way in. Every action that God asked me not to do, in Scripture or spoken directly to me, was forbidden for a reason.
Can you imagine how beautiful the world would be if Eve had never even APPROACHED the one single freaking place she was asked not to? Did anyone else only recently just realize that God placed the tree of life AND the tree of knowledge in the garden, and he only asked Adam and Eve not to eat from one of them?
“In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”
“…And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
“He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
We know how the story goes. Eve, either out of curiosity, rebellion, or just the thrill of it, eats the fruit from the tree of knowledge, and opens the floodgates of hell and the power of death.
“And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
We are cursed to walk in this world of darkness, and Satan wants nothing more than for us to be blind to the truth: that if we really want it, God’s given us a path to redemption. He’s given us a way to live forever, another chance to eat from the tree of life, a tree that wasn’t supposed to be forbidden from us but only was because of our unfaithfulness.
That same ancient Garden of Eden story is happening today. Right now. As you’re reading this. You’re Eve, and you’re also Adam. You’ve both deliberately disobeyed God and caused someone else to disobey him, too. But God has opened the gates to the garden again. And this time, you have the upper hand. You have the knowledge of good and evil, and you know the powers of both. It’s now just a matter of choice.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of LIFE has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
God, isn’t that GOOD?! I had to stop myself from copying and pasting the entire chapter. Please, read the rest of it here. The history of mankind is truly a beautiful, glorious story of a God who could have forced us to obey Him but didn’t. Who could have left us to burn but gave His heart and His love to burn in our place instead. Has there ever been a sweeter story?
I am overwhelmed with gratefulness today. Overwhelmed with a sense of promise, of hope, but also a sense of urgency and a call to action. It isn’t enough to say “I’m a Christian.” It isn’t enough to halfheartedly pursue the Lord. It isn’t enough to want to try but never actually try. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That isn’t in the Bible (though I kinda wish it was). Jesus DID however say:
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”
First I was a Christian because I didn’t want to die. It was all about me. I wanted to believe in Jesus because he offered a way to save my life and save me from hell. It was selfish and shallow and easy to stay here in this comfortable place where I could proclaim with my mouth “Jesus is Lord” and leave it at that. But that wasn’t real faith. Not at all. Because “faith without works is dead” and once I read that verse there was no turning back. I had to have REAL faith to get into heaven. So then I was a Christian because I didn’t want to lie. I didn’t want a false faith, I wanted the real thing. I wanted to be righteous. I wanted to be perfect and free of sin, and I wanted to live in an upright way. But this too was filled with deceit. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Nothing we say or do can get us into the kingdom of heaven. And the more I messed up, the more frustrated I became. I was angry with God. It was IMPOSSIBLE to be like Jesus. What was the point of even trying? Not only was it impossible for me to try to live according to His word… it also seemed a hell of a lot more fun to do what everyone else was doing. “If I’m never going to match up to this Biblical standard of true faith,” I thought, “why can’t I just live how I want to live and enjoy life while I can?”
(I call these times the dark days and those times are for another post.)
Once you experience God one time… once you encounter him for just an instance… once you truly allow yourself to be open to and accept his glory and his majesty… there’s no going back. Ohhh no. Never. You’re forever changed. The temporary highs of this world have NOTHING on the all-encompassing warmth and love and peace and goodness that God just IS. I was surrounded by darkness, bound to it. But the only person binding myself to this darkness was… me.
And when I asked God – really, seriously asked Him – to save me… his light pierced through my darkness in a way I never knew He could. It was blinding and it stung and it was painful leaving my cold, dark little hole I had grown to love. But I finally decided that I was going to be a Christian not because I didn’t want to die… not because I didn’t want to lie… because it was Christ I wanted to glorify. Not myself. Not my own good works. Not my own salvation. No, that’s not the focus of it at all anymore. It’s so beautiful what God reveals to us when we surrender control to Him. When we give up our thoughts, our human way of thinking, when we stop confining Him to this box we put him in because “it has to make sense.” Newsflash: If you were to believe that God is real, that He is all-powerful and the SOURCE of all knowledge and all power, then why would we ever think we can fully comprehend and understand Him? Even begin to grasp His ways? To take in all that He is?
It’s literally impossible.
Photo credit: Meredith Sledge Photography