The Devil Made Me Do It

“ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.””  Job 1:6-11.

More than thirty years ago Flip Wilson kept America in stitches with his television characters “Reverend Leroy,” the friendly, pompous pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” and “Geraldine Jones,” the sassy woman in a miniskirt. Whenever Geraldine would do anything wrong she would excuse her actions by uttering the line she made famous, “The devil made me do it!”

America laughed and “The devil made me do it,” became the rage all over the country. Of course, we all know that the devil wants us to sin, and it is convenient to have someone to blame it on. If we are honest, we have to admit that we have been blaming others for our actions and sins going all the way back to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  Adam blamed his wife, but then confessed, “I ate.” Eve blamed the serpent, but then confessed, “I ate.” It’s always easier to point the finger at someone or something else when we sin. But, blaming someone else does not wash the sin away. The devil wants us to do something that will weaken our walk and relationship with God. 

But in reality, the devil doesn’t make us do anything. We make the choices. We choose to go the opposite direction and we love to shift the blame on others, including the devil, to escape having to take responsibility for our own actions.       

On the moment of temptation, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil.  Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God…The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness.  The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us.” 

So what shall we do?  Romans 13:10 states it this way: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The term “make no provision for the flesh” is our goal. Make no provision is to immediately show the enemy the door. It is saying you are not welcome; you are not staying; in fact, you are leaving now; and don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Whether it is receiving or giving gossip about someone you know, or a second longer look at the opposite sex; lowering your ethical standards to finalize a deal; reacting in anger with your children; a sarcastic remark supposedly made in jest; listening or viewing something on your computer that is not uplifting. The list is endless. Whatever it is, whenever it is, if it does not glorify God, then show it the door of your eyes, mind or heart. This way, the devil will not get a foothold or start you down a path you don’t want to go.

So the next time something comes your way that is going to harm your relationship with God, remember to show it the door immediately as though you had just found a poisonous snake inside your house. Do not let it get comfortable or take root. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What have your thoughts about the devil been? How does the Bible’s description of him differ with your assumptions? Ultimately, which is right?
  2. What is the difference between sin and temptation?
  3. The enemy will tempt you when you can be effective for God. The enemy will tempt you when you are vulnerable. The enemy will tempt you in a way that’s customized to you. In what ways has the devil tempted you?
  4. Read Romans 8:37–39. The passage says that nothing will be able to separate you from God’s love? Why is that mentioned in this passage?
  5. How can you start opposing Satan this week?

Do The Right Thing

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

Sailboating looks like a whole lot of fun to me. A day on the open water sailing out to Shell island or other places around Panama City accompanied by mild winds and calm seas seems like a wonderful experience. On the other hand, because battling with nature is not high on my list of sailing preferences, taking the right steps at the right time to pilot the boat to your destination is critical in good and bad weather. The ability to predetermine what is right, doing it consistently and with grace was the core of the message on Sunday.

As Christians, we also need to do the right things at the right time. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Doing the right things will change your steps in life and how you choose to walk in them. So the questions are: “Am I doing the right things? How can I be sure I am doing the right things? And how do I do them with grace?”

In the story of the Fiery furnace and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three men predetermined what was the right response ahead of time. They didn’t wait until the moment of truth to decide what their course of action was. And even more importantly, they chose to trust and follow God no matter what the circumstances were, which in this case was being burned alive. We too need to predetermine our response. This is done by remembering the attributes of God: perfect holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness and truthfulness. If we base our actions on these attributes we will make better decisions. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

The goal is to do right all of the time. Doing what is right even when everybody else is doing something different and even when nobody is looking. You can do the right thing when you focus on the greatness of God and remind yourself for who you are living for. We need to learn to sort through and decide what input we will allow to influence our decisions and reject or disallow those sources that cause us to choose to do wrong. Think and reflect upon any tendency to make bad choices over and over again. Find that reason, source, or input and use that as a lesson for the future. Begin to review your decisions before you make them and then make the right decisions.

And when you do the right thing, do it with grace and love. We spend a lot of time on what grace is, but not as much on what grace does. Grace changes us in so many ways. It is more than being forgiven and going to heaven. Grace is also the changes in our hearts and attitudes. Grace is the voice that calls us to change, and then gives us the power to pull it off. And that includes doing the right things the right way. We can show grace because God is with and in us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we choose to respond. In those moments, we need to do the right things with grace. And we need to choose to keep a positive attitude and thankful heart regardless of what we’re going through. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define “Integrity?” Are there degrees of doing what is right? How does doing what is right affect the way you feel about yourself?
  2. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong? Is it hard to predetermine what is the right thing to do? Why or why not?
  3. In what area do you need to make better decisions? How does grace enter into the decision making process?
  4. In what ways does grace play a role in doing what is right? Does grace change the way we look at what is right?
  5. Random acts of kindness go a long way. You can make a difference in someone’s life today. Share kind random acts with others. Do it in love. Be a blessing to someone.

Idol Fascination

If I told the average person on the street that they serve “idols” they would conjure up images of ancient Rome or Babylon bowing before huge statues of gold, silver or bronze. But you don’t have to have a time machine to see idols in our everyday lives. They are present in our lives today. They might not be bad things, they could even be seen as good and noble things, but if they step between us and God they are idols.

For some people work may be our idol because it brings self-satisfaction, a reason for living. For some people family becomes the most important thing in life. For some it’s what they own. Homes are no longer a place to eat, sleep and get away for rest and reflection on one’s life. The have become statements about the value of one’s life. In some places they have become oversized, highly decorated monuments to the self. We all appreciate creature comforts but how much room does one actually need. And naturally we need a lot of stuff to fill the home. In some cases we have too much stuff. A whole industry has arisen around our need to store our stuff. Some people find their worth in their religion. Going to church and participating in some ministry or service to others, placing a high emphasis on good deeds makes their life seem successful.

A good job, a supportive family and network of friends, a nice place to live with all the trimmings, and a faith community, a church to belong to are all vitally important. I have them all and I thank God for blessing me with those things, but they cannot be what gives me purpose and define my life. As Paul said in Philippians 3, I must count them as loss because of what Jesus has done for me. My life must be defined by my relationship to Jesus. Everything that comes between me and Jesus is an idol to some degree and must be dealt with. Paul says we should seek the loss of all things to know Christ Jesus. I am not saying we all should go out and have some coordinated, giant Northstar garage sale to sell all of our stuff and and live like hermits. What I am saying is that these things cannot control our lives.

Paul said he learned to be content in all things because they come and go, except for one: Jesus and our relationship to Him is for all eternity.

Discussion questions:
1. Have you limited God to the way you like to think about Him?
2. What do you want more than anything else? Holiness? Godliness? Contentment?
3. What do you sacrifice the most to?
4. How can you fight for a life free from idols?
5. Pray for an idol-free life and an idol-free church.