Has God Moved?
Illustration by Jay Montgomery
An ocean's undertow can draw its victim out to sea with little to no warning. Rarely do you witness its pull from the water's surface. It is only when you enter the surf that you begin to notice the undercurrent at work. Even then it can be hard to detect just how strong the current truly is. Most of us enter the water playing, splashing, and swimming without thinking about what we will do should we end up in danger.
Likewise, sin has a subtle and deadly undertow. Seldom do we realize or feel its horrendous effects until it is too late. Just like the swimmer who splashes through the surf and dives through in-coming waves, we can become mesmerized by the spontaneity of the moment and fall victim to a grim spiritual fate.
Does this mean we are left alone without warning as to the spiritual dangers that lie before us? No. God has provided a Source of infinite wisdom through the presence of the Holy Spirit. However, it is our responsibility to heed His warnings in order to avoid the evil that can captivate and entrap even the strongest of hearts.
Few of us would knowingly make a decision to turn away from God. Yet there have been times in each of our lives when we have yielded to sin without considering the cost of our decision. Perhaps the thought has been one of careless action, with the idea that at any point we can simply turn and walk back to God. While it is true that the Lord is eager to restore the repentant heart, what we fail to calculate are the consequences that come from our disobedience.
Physical distress is only one result. Sin stirs up all kinds of deep emotions within a person. It sings a siren song. It pulls on our desires and feelings by lying to us and telling us that entering into sin "just once" won't hurt. How wrong we are to listen and respond to inner urges such as this. Each time a person yields to sin, he gives away a part of himself that belongs to God.
Spiritually speaking, we set a distance between us and God. We move away from the Lord and toward desires, habits, and beliefs that are in opposition to the life God calls us to live. When this happens, we find the consequences extremely hard to bear. Broken lives, homes, and promises are just a few of the results that are too numerous to mention. We can end up feeling abandoned by God and alone. But God never moves; we do.
You can deal victoriously with sin. You do not have to become caught in its undertow, but first you must understand how and where it begins. Once you recognize it for what it is - a detour away from the heart of God - you can take the necessary precautions to change your behavior and thinking.
The process of sin always begins with a thought. In and of itself, temptation is not sin. It is only when we yield to the sinful draw that we find ourselves in trouble. Don't make the mistake of thinking all entrapping sin is sexual or physical. There are several lists of sin in the Bible that should help to remove this kind of thinking. Jealousy, gossip, envy, lying, and bitterness are just as deadly as some of the physical sins mentioned. The overriding truth here is that God hates sin. He loves us and longs for us to walk with Him in purity and love. But sin separates us from Him. It also separates us from those who love us.
When we yield to temptation, Satan takes notice of our behavior and uses the opportunity to dig a small toehold or footing within our lives. Rarely does he set up a massive powerbase immediately. Instead, he remains content to progressively carve out his place of stronghold in our lives over a period of time.
Sin does not cause God to love you less. His love is not based on performance. However, Satan wants us to believe this. The enemy tempts us to sin. When we do, he is the first to ridicule and belittle us with feelings of worthlessness and shame. Intimate fellowship with God does depend on your willingness to stay close to Him. He will not demand that you remain spiritually at His side, but if you wander from His protection there are consequences.
The prodigal son mentioned by Jesus in Luke 15 did not wake up one morning and declare: "I am going to rebel against my father and leave home." The temptation to resist what he knew was right took place over a period of time. God always places limits on Satan's involvement. It is not that God is unable to stop him; He can. However, when we give the enemy an open door, God may not intervene. The issue becomes one of our will. God has given us an ability to choose right from wrong. He also has given us a will. If we choose to go against His principles, He allows us to reap the consequences of our sin.
The foundational theme behind the story of the prodigal son is one of grace. Jesus provides a dramatic example of the Father's unconditional love and forgiveness. Most of us have walked the pathway of the prodigal son. We may not have demanded our inheritance and left home, but at some point we have said no to God. Peter did this by denying Jesus. David turned from what he knew was right and committed adultery. Moses became angry and self-reliant and assumed it was his ability that produced water from the rock. God knows when and how you will be tempted to move away from His love and affection.
It is interesting to note that right before Jesus told the story of the prodigal son, He told of the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
"When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'
"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:4-7).
Getting back on the right pathway begins when you admit to God what you have done and your need for His forgiveness to be applied to your life. Many of our greatest spiritual leaders like Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, Amy Carmichael, and Andrew Murray came to a crisis point in their spiritual walk with God. It was a place where they realized their deep need for the Savior and turned from self-love to the infinite love of Jesus Christ.
Some were already believers - saved and on their way to heaven. But a nagging desire to reach for the material things of this world drew them away. Only when they made a decision to follow Jesus with their entire hearts did life become an enriching overflow of joy, hope, and peace. Is this too lofty a thought for you and me? No. When we come to the end of ourselves, we discover the only thing that matters in this life is to live fully for Jesus Christ.
Oswald Chambers wrote: "If we are truly surrendered, we will never be aware of our own efforts to remain surrendered. . . . In our surrender, we must give ourselves to God in the same way He gave Himself for us - totally, unconditionally, and without reservation. The consequences and circumstances resulting from our surrender will never even enter our mind, because our life will be totally consumed with Him."
Copyrightę 1997, IN TOUCH MINISTRIES. All rights reserved.
IN TOUCH (C) copyright 1997 ITM, Inc./IN TOUCH MINISTRIES,
Atlanta, Georgia, USA, used with permission.