Could the devil be about to reel you in? Could you be nibbling on some bait that he has designed just for you? God has clearly explained just how that happens so we can avoid being ensnared by his bait. But would you recognize it, if it was happening to you?
Ezekiel 37 & 38
Is the Devil about to REEL You In?
The Process of Sin
There is so much in the book of James and this chapter is no exception. Verses 1-4 coupled with chapter 1.13-15 give us great insight into the process of sin in our lives. It shows us, in particular, how the devil takes advantage of our own desires. He offers us things that look good if we don’t know there’s a hook in them.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (4.1).
We often point outside ourselves to other people and circumstances as the reasons for our conflicts and other sins. But James clearly tells us they come from our own sinful desires. We might say, “We do what we do because we want what we want.” The problem is not outside of us but within us!
Sometimes those desires are not inherently sinful. Perhaps you want your husband to be a godly leader (or your wife to show respect) or your children to be obedient. Or maybe you want a spouse and don’t understand why the right person hasn’t come along.
Maybe you just want a little break from the stress of everyday living. Or a good job. Or a dozen other things.
The problem is, if not kept in their proper place in our hearts, those things can become ruling desires, what the Bible calls lusts. Then we’re willing to sin to get them or sin because we don’t have them.
We’re willing to nag our husbands into submission to our desires. We yell and get sinfully angry with our children. We start dating unbelievers, have premarital sex or otherwise compromise our walk with God to get a spouse. We fight and quarrel, even pray, but find our desires frustrated. Or as James said:
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Sometimes we even attempt to put the blame on God for our sinful behavior. “I prayed and prayed for God to help me (deliver me, remove this sinful desire, give me what I want, etc.), but He just hasn’t.” Chapter 1.13-15:
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Verse 14 uses a fishing analogy. Each of us is lured or enticed by our own desires just as a fish is enticed to “take the bait.” And like the fish, we often fail to believe the bait has a hook in it! Once we take the bait we are “drawn away” or we might say, reeled in.
Next James uses a birth analogy: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
First, there is the sinful desire. We start thinking about that man or woman at work. We justify it by saying, “There’s no harm in it. I’m not going to do anything about it!” Pretty soon we start telling ourselves things like, “Well, if my spouse paid more attention to me …,” “He makes me feel desirable,” “At least she respects me,” or a million other variations of the lie.
The desire has been conceived. It’s not full-grown yet, but it’s taking shape in the womb of our sinful hearts. And when it’s full-grown it gives birth to sin. If we don’t stop it in its tracks, it will be followed by death: guilt, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, destruction, even divorce!
Of course, lust and sexual immorality are not the only areas where sin can entice us. It might be just one drink, lying to make ourselves look better, cheating, gossiping, or a million other things.
God included these passages in His Word to reveal the process of sin and the danger of desires that we want too much, so we can recognize and avoid them.
If you’re already nibbling the devil’s bait … or worse … repent and cry out for His help. And if you recognize that some desire has become a ruling desire and you’ve been willing to sin to get it, repent. Ask forgiveness from God and others and pray for God’s help you hold that desire in an open hand.
Today’s Other Readings:
Ezekiel 37 & 38:
Dry Bones & Resurrection Life
In chapter 37 Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God tells him He is going to bring the dry bones back together, cover them with flesh, and breathe His Spirit into them. (I can’t read this passage without humming the old song “Dry Bones” that many of us sang as children. Anyone else?)
The dry bones represent the Israelites who had been dispersed among other nations. God promised He would restore them to their land and give them His Holy Spirit.
God also brings resurrection life to our sinful, dry lives. He redeems our pasts, restores where there are death and devastation and breathes life into marriages and relationships that have fallen into disrepair.
In chapter 38, God begins to speak to Gog and Magog, a powerful nation and its ruler, who would come against the Jews with great numbers of people after they had been restored to their land. According to Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, this probably took place sometime shortly after their return from captivity.
Even though God was assuring His people that they would be restored, He didn’t want them to believe they could expect complete rest from trials and tribulations in this life. Jesus told His disciples and us much the same thing:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Matt. 16.33).
While Ezekiel 38 had a near future fulfillment, it also speaks of a time that is still to come. Revelation 20:
7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
After the millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be loosed briefly once more, so that those people who were born during the millennium will have a chance to either accept or reject Christ. Afterwards, when he attempts to come against God’s people, he and his followers will be destroyed and cast into the lake of fire.
Just as He did in Ezekiel’s time, God will sometimes use our enemies to test and strengthen us, but we can be sure He will give us the grace we need, so we can respond in a godly way (Heb. 4.16; 1 Cor. 10.13). And in the process, we will mature and become more like Christ (Rom. 8.28-29; Jas. 1.2-4).
Praying for Our Pastors
Verse 9 begins, “Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness.”
What a great prayer to pray for our pastors and Christian leaders, that God would protect them and give them His righteousness.
The Importance of Righteous Leaders
“The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it.”
A leader who seeks justice and righteousness brings stability to a nation, but one who seeks his own agenda or his own gain can bring a nation to disaster.
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll discuss the question, “Are you “profiting” from your reading and study of the Bible?” We’ll also talk about how the Bible’s admonition about bad company applies to politics and how to respond to an unreasonable spouse.
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Two books that can help us have victory over sin:
As Christians, we believe that all sins are considered equal in God’s eyes. Yet while evangelicals continue to decry the Big Ones—such as abortion, adultery, and violence—we often overlook more deceptive sins. It seems we’ve created a sliding scale where gossip, jealousy, and selfishness comfortably exist within the church. In short, some sins have simply become acceptable.
Bridges, bestselling author of The Pursuit of Holiness, believes that just as culture has lost the concept of sin, the church faces the same danger. Jerry writes not from a sense of achievement, but from the trenches of his own personal battles. Drawing from scriptural truth, he sheds light on subtle behaviors that can derail our spiritual growth. Throughout, Jerry encourages a victory over personal sin through the gospel’s transforming power, the perfect book for those who desire to thoughtfully examine their lives and discover a deeper walk with God.
According to the apostle Paul, either we destroy sin or sin will destroy us. In this waged war, A Fight to the Death holds the following biblical convictions:
- continuing in sin is a serious and dangerous matter
- true believers hate sin and want to overcome it
- true believers want to put sin to death
In the first part of the book, the Macks explore why sin is so serious and why we should fight against it. In the second part, they present a biblical method for killing the sin within us.
You can also Shop for Other Resources.
Getting Ready for 2018
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.