31 October 2015
Sneaky, deception and magicians...is there hope?
I watch the football here in Australia and am constantly amazed when I see what they call a ‘dummy’ play. This is where one player pretends to offload the ball one way or another and ends up with almost-Copperfield-like sleight of hand and moves the ball forward with rapid-fire trickery. We applaud that play and wonder why the defense doesn’t know what he will do. Of course, no one knows what he will do, and perhaps even the offensive player doesn't know what he will do, until he sees the defense react one way or the other.
This is true in many sports and many situations of life, but it doesn’t work when we are trying to work our way religiously in a real way toward the Living God.
God demonstrates no sleight of hand and practices no dummies. He is ever real and honest and forthright. And he calls us to real and honest and forthright living as well. I’m not sure that I’ve ever read the word sneaky as one of those adjectives that applies to the Living God. In fact, I’m sure it doesn’t.
So why is it that we pretend and sneak and live double lives in these days? What is it about the possibility of privacy that is so commendable and allowing in the 21st century? What lessons can we learn that prevent our going there?
The honesty and forthrightness demonstrated in the Scriptures is not only a high mark to admire, but one to which we should aspire. When the prophet Nathan caught King David with his pants down, David didn’t say one thing and practice another. He agreed with Nathan’s assessment and called himself a sinner in need of forgiveness (2 Samuel 12.13, Psalm 51) and let the chips fall where they may. He didn’t lie anymore but clearly said he was guilty and had sinned against the Lord. He had after all committed adultery and murder, and as a Jewish man those are two of the Big Ten that you shouldn’t be anywhere close to committing.
Others saw themselves as wrong, like Isaiah the prophet who when confronted by the holiness of the Lord, said “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” (Chapter 6) King Solomon said “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7.20) And Solomon should know, as he lived wildly and spent his money anywhere and everywhere he wanted, to no satisfactory conclusion.
When we sin, if God is a good God, He will send guilt our way to correct us and challenge us and amend our ways.
Guilt is a lousy master but a wonderful teacher to get us on the right path.
The constant refrain from the Scriptures is that people who are sinners, whose hands are dirty, should cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. (James 4.8, Job 17.9, Psalm 24.4)
What does God promise to those who do this cleansing, detox program? “The righteous will hold to his way” (Job 17.9), and “He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24.5) and James summarizes it best with, “He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (4.6-10)