Psalm 91:1-3-Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Surely, he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
Ephesians 4:27-Do not give the devil a foothold.
II Timothy 2:26-And that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Fowlers, footholds and traps. What I want to begin sharing with you today and in the coming weeks are the ways Satan seeks to trip and trap us. I Peter 5:8 tells us he is always on the prowl, looking for ways to ensnare us. I want to look specifically at I John 2:15-17 as it identifies the ways Satan works through the world’s system to try to take us down.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-
- the lust of the flesh,
- the lust of the eyes, and
- the pride of life-
comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
John outlines three ways the devil appeals to us, to attract us to the things of this world, things that pull us away from our love for God. The first is the lust of the flesh.
We have some desires that result from our human condition. We have desires for food, water, shelter, sex, and comfort. Those are things we crave, and God has created us with those desires. Those desires in and of themselves aren’t sinful. However, the desire to please ourselves, regardless of God’s moral laws, is sin. When the lust of our flesh is leading our lives, ruling over us, the lust of our flesh takes priority over God’s will for us. That is a problem we need to address and wrestle to the ground. Tough to do in a culture that shouts, “If it feels good, do it.”
From the very first man and woman, Adam and Eve, until now, there has been a wrestling match between what we see and what God has said. We read in Genesis 3:6 that Eve saw the forbidden fruit as good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Eve saw something that looked good. Allow me to say that because God has given us free will, because He has given us the ability to choose Him or to reject His ways, He has permitted Satan to work in ways that give us the opportunity to exercise our free will, to exercise our power of choice. I mean, if Adam and Eve were never tempted to go against God, how would they exercise that power of choice? We could get deep into the theological weeds here, but just let me say this, our ability to choose comes as a result of God’s great love for us. If He didn’t love us, He would have made us robots who were compliant to His every command. He did not do that. He will not make us follow His ways, but He will give us what we need in order to avoid the devil’s traps and He will rescue us when we fail.
Adam and Eve had all the information they needed ahead of time. God had already spoken to them before anything looked good to Eve. Before the lust there was the lesson. Before the temptation there was the teaching. God told them ahead of time what to avoid so that they could be spared the consequences that would be so harsh.
Listen, God has told us ahead of time what kinds of things are off limits because He loves us. Everything we need to avoid is in the Word of God. The lust of the eyes is an easy way for Satan to get our attention. He dangles something in front of us that is harmful and makes it look good. Listen to Genesis 3:6 again Eve saw the forbidden fruit as good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Eve gave the fruit a look, but she also gave Satan a listen. She listened to Satan. He told her she would be better off if she ate the forbidden fruit. He told her she wouldn’t receive a consequence, but that it would actually bless her life, that it would be good for her to act on her lust, to act on her look. He accused God of lying to her. Satan told her she would be better off if she disobeyed God and ate it. He said it would make her wiser and more like God. Read the account in Genesis 3. I am not making this up.
So, instead of taking the Word of her Creator who obviously had a purpose and plan for her life, instead of taking the Word of the One who told her she and Adam could have dominion on the earth and be the caretakers of all He created, instead of taking the Word of the One whose fellowship she had already richly enjoyed, instead of taking the word of the One who created her so that Adam didn’t have to live alone, the One who instituted marriage for their pleasure and for procreation, the One who blessed them so richly, giving them everything in the Garden but one fruit tree simply to establish His authority and their ability to make a choice to return His love through their obedience, instead of taking His word, she listened to the creepy devil after just one conversation.
Do you know what that tells me? It doesn’t take much to get us to act on our lustful instincts. Here is what I believe: When we see something that looks desirable, we often go looking for someone who will tell us what we want to hear so that we actually feel justified in moving forward from the look to leaping right into the middle of some sinful pool. Let me elaborate: When there is a marital issue, often, before seeking God and often, without ever seeking Him, folks are running to their friends whose natural inclination is to want to comfort them. Isn’t that what friends do? They want to affirm that yes, their spouse is lousy. Their spouse doesn’t appreciate them. They deserve to be happy. Who wants to live the rest of their lives unhappy? …and they allow other people to convince them that it’s ok to pursue the guy or gal at work who seems to be so even-tempered, so thoughtful and helpful, who appreciates their contribution to the office, and who quite frankly, doesn’t look half bad. In fact, they are pretty cute, and off they go, deep in sin and further away from the plans and commands of God.
Listen, when we get caught up in lust, we will look for and listen to anyone who will approve of our lust. We live in a perverted, twisted, evil world. You can always find someone who approves of your sin. It won’t be hard. If you don’t know anyone personally, just post what you are thinking of doing on Facebook, say you are asking for a “friend,” and you will have scores of people telling you to go for it. That is the kind of conversation the world eats up.
Satan told Eve that pursuing the fruit would add value to her life, that it would make her life better. When we are driven by the lust of the flesh, we can easily convince ourselves of the same. We start to tell ourselves things that aren’t true and eventually, we believe them. “This drink will make my life better. It will make me feel better. I will forget my troubles. This drug will help me relax. I can just do it “recreationally”. I work hard and deserve to be happy. I deserve to feel good. I need to de-stress. I need an escape. I need to be with someone who appreciates me. This pornography will help me spice things up. I mean, at this point in my life, I need a little extra excitement.” I could go on and on.
And how does today’s marketing and advertising play on our earthly lusts? How things are suggested and presented, how they make a situation look good or some food look good, I mean when that commercial comes on, you can be licking your lips and have saliva running down the back of your throat and you not even have that cheeseburger anywhere near you. Am I right? You remember one of McDonald’s old commercials? “You deserve a break today?” Does that phrase appeal to our earthly lusts? Now I am not saying don’t ever go to McDonalds…We did on Thursday, and my double fillet-o-fish meal tasted phenomenal. Can I get a witness from anyone else that fast food tastes increasingly better as you get older? The point is, we can just see something, and if we think it will bring us pleasure, we start listening for justification about why we should “go for it.”
Well, it cost Eve and Adam big, didn’t it? They were distanced from God and got into it with each other. We’re connected to each other, aren’t we? One person’s sin is never an isolated incident. Sin will stain our relationships with others as well as ruin our relationship with God. If something looks good that God has called bad, don’t listen to any other influence. Steer clear. It’s a trap.
One more thing before I leave this looking, lusting and listening to the wrong voices point, in order to look at something and see it, you have to be where? Up close and personal, right? In other to look at the things that God has said are off limits, you have to go to the places where you can see them, whether physically or virtually. Am I right? Seems to me we would do well to put some distance between us and the things that God says to avoid by changing some of the places and sites we might be frequenting. Call me crazy, but if we don’t want our flesh stirred up in the wrong ways and craving the wrong things, we would do well to avoid looking in the first place.
So, let’s just drive I John 2:15-17 home again, Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
I’m not even to the second point, but here’s the bottom line, You need to decide if you want to have a relationship with God or a relationship with the world.
Let’s move from the lust of the flesh to the lust of the eyes. Both involve looking. Both involve a preoccupation with the material world. With the lust of the flesh, there is a desire for physical pleasure. With the lust of the eyes, there is a desire for material things. With the lust of the eyes, there is an emphasis on desiring what your neighbor has. The lust of the eyes includes coveting someone else’s status or possessions. The whole “Keeping up with the Kardashians” nonsense will tie us to the things of the world. If you spend your time and effort trying to get what someone else has, you’ll miss what God is trying to give to you. Can you see that?
One of the Ten Commandments addressed this very thing. Exodus 20:17 reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? That last phrase, “or anything that belongs to your neighbor” pretty much spells it out. Our eyes are supposed to be on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith and not on the material stuff of this world.
If Satan can’t get you focused on your lusts, he will try to get you looking at other people. He wants you comparing yourself to other people to get you sucked in to trying to find value and worth in having some kind of contest with others.
One of the ways Satan tried to trap Jesus was to get him focused on the kingdoms of the world. In Matthew 4:8 Satan took Jesus to a high mountain, so He would have a good vantage point of all of the “stuff” the world had to offer. Satan offered to give Jesus all of the world’s kingdoms plus the material splendor tied to them if Jesus would bow down to him. Well, we know Jesus didn’t fall for the trap. He the quoted Scripture about worshiping God only and told Satan to get lost. Once again, Jesus knew what God had already spoken. God had given Him the information ahead of time and power to resist the devil’s scheme. He was able to quote it in the moment of temptation.
Listen church, there is a whole lot of shiny, glittery, fast, new, alluring stuff out there to arrest our attention. The world says, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Things, in and of themselves aren’t wrong, but pursuing things and the acquisition of things because you are competing with your neighbor or co-worker or brother-in-law for some kind of status or working for things to try to give your life meaning, value or worth is sin. Things cannot take the place of God in our lives.
The false god of materialism promises happiness and fulfillment, but we know those claims are false. How many Hollywood and other societal elites have acquiesced to the god of materialism only to have a short life and sad ending? Satan wants our eyes on what others have and what we don’t have to divert our focus from our relationship with God. He wants us to have a relationship with the things of the world as we work ourselves sick to acquire more or to prove ourselves in some way through what we are able to possess. What usually happens is that we don’t acquire and possess things, but we acquire things and they possess us. People will go into all kinds of debt just so they can appear to “have it all.” That is bondage, friends.
We should enjoy things, but not live for them. We can enjoy things while we live for God and others. We should use the things God blesses us with to bless others. I was struck by the Facebook post of a friend this week, Kim Miller, who is a wonderful Christian and is a great witness for Christ. I am pretty sure she is watching online now as she has been for several months and she hopes to join us on site one day. She posted some pictures of a beautiful boat that God has just blessed her with, giving Him all of the glory, and in the post, she said, “I can’t wait to see how God uses this to further His Kingdom.” She named the boat, “Mercy Drops!”
I thought to myself, “She gets it!” All of life should be focused on glorifying God. It isn’t about the acquisition of things, but the using of anything God blesses us with to further His Kingdom and to bring Him glory. That should be our priority.
I John 2:15-17 again, Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
How can we understand the “pride of life?” Whatever leads to arrogance, self-sufficiency, presumption or boasting will be tied to the things of the world and the pride of life. Let’s go back to the Garden for a second. When Eve saw the fruit, it appealed to her fleshly appetite, to the lust of the flesh. She also saw that it was pleasing to the eye, something she saw and desired to own or possess. That is the lust of the eyes. But believing that the fruit would make her wise, would give her a wisdom beyond her own ability, making her like God…that is the manifestation of the pride of life. She wanted to live above where God had established her. She wasn’t content to live in a perfect world under the perfect grace of God and be cared for by Him. She was going to exalt herself.
Perhaps this is the most anti-God move a person could make. Most theologians agree that Satan had an origin in Heaven at some point, and that the sin of pride, wanting to be in charge, wanting to exalt self, was what resulted in him being cast out. Listen to Isaiah 14:12-15 that talk about Satan’s demise: How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth…You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.
How many times did Satan say, “I will” do such and such? You know what is in the middle of S-I-N? “I!” Satan wasn’t concerned with serving God. He was concerned with exalting self. That kind of pursuit is completely opposite of Jesus’ call to die to self, to take up our cross and follow Him. Pride and arrogance are the way of the world. I mean, how many awards shows do the rich and famous need to pat themselves on the back and to say, “Look at me?” Christ-followers don’t say, “Look at me.” Instead they point others to Jesus.
Your flesh will never be satisfied. If you think you can go beyond the boundaries God has established for you and still live a life pleasing to Him, you are wrong. It’s a trap. If you live for competition or to find fulfillment in bling and bigger, better, newer, faster stuff, you will live exhausted and sad because the competition will never end. It’s a trap. If your goal is to make a name for yourself, to have power or prestige or to ascend to some height, it is futile. No one will take the throne Jesus occupies, and life will have some tough reminders for you that you aren’t Him. Pride leads to destruction. (Proverbs 16:18) It’s a trap.
Satan wants to use the world and the things in the world and the allure of the world to trap you. I John 2:15-17 one more time, Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.