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Chapter 3 - Master of Our Own Domain
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6
Mankind was created to depend on God. It is when we stray from this relationship that bad things start to happen. This vulnerability has been a primary target for Satan. He makes effective use of getting us to consider making our own assessments and taking our own actions;
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. - Genesis 3:1-5
Satan assured Eve that her taking independent action from God would not have a penalty but actually be beneficial. This was not true. God knew this would happen and had planned from before creation to have Jesus pay the price for sin that some might be redeemed. While the salvation available by faith in Jesus can rescue us from hell, the Christian also has a means to repair the damage our daily sin causes to our relationship with God. God has provided a way for us to restore our relationship with him when we stray;
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9
The Greek word homologos (meaning the same words) is translated as the word 'confess'. This implies that when we can say the same things about what we have done and said that God would say, we can have a restored relationship with God. This 'confession' requires both humility and truth. The problem with the pervasive growth of the 'leaven' (hypocrisy) demonstrated by the Pharisees is that one becomes distant from both truth and humility having substituted something else for them and being convinced that what is held is the real thing.
If we consider some biblical examples of this sort of substitution, we can begin to get a better picture of how this process can grow to be a debilitating cancer.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. - Matthew 15:9
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. - 1 Corinthians 1:17
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. - Mark 7:6
Here we can see a divergence from God. What is less obvious is the motive force that leads to this state. It could be summed up as human will apart from God (selfishness). This is often seen in the behavior of children who insist on having something or doing something they desire in opposition to parental instruction. It has been said regarding children, 'They want what they want when they want it'.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. - 1 Samuel 15:23
At first glance the comparison of witchcraft and rebellion might seem like apples and oranges. However, at their core both activities are about getting what you want. Human history could be considered an accumulation of evidence for the pain and suffering caused by our attempting to get what we want.
There is a bumper sticker that declares 'He who dies with the most toys wins'. While there are many iconic ways to emblemize the selfishness of the world apart from God, this serves well to also connect it with a sort of infantile component.
The opposite of selfishness is love.
Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
God himself is the example to us of this self-sacrificial love;
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. - Philippians 2:5-8
We have an example of ultimate selfishness in the rebellion of Satan;
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. - Isaiah 14:12-14
While we may not have the grandiose ambitions of Satan, we can still in our own small way begin to follow a path away from God that makes us just as blind as the Pharisees became.
Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. - Matthew 23:26
We see with the example of Eve how easily we can be seduced away from God to use our own ideas as the basis for making decisions. With the example of Peter and Barnabas, we find that we do not even need temptations from Satan as there is that within us that can divert us from faithfulness to God into seeing our own plans as if not virtuous, then at least acceptable.
There was a popular book written after WWII titled, 'God is my Co-pilot'. While well intentioned and seeking to be a testimony of faith, the implied subordinate position of God in the relationship testifies to much of the trouble Christians have had in modern times.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. - Matthew 26:39
As with all things, Jesus is an example for us to see that even when faced with great difficulty, setting aside what we would prefer is essential in our relationship with God.
Much of modern life (education, corporate employment, and even social activities, are constructed such that God seems irrelevant or even an obstacle. This can make it difficult for a Christian because when God is not given his proper place, we often fill that void with our own ambitions, plans, and desires. This can be dangerous enough for the Christian, but there is also a danger that he can be attracted to a flavor of Christianity that feeds his self-preoccupation.
We may have plans and ambitions, but we need to remember that it is God who should be directing us and not the other way around.
And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life? - Matthew 6:27 (AMP)
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? - Luke 12:20
Those whose path through life has little room for God find that that in which they have trusted will fail them.
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish: - Job 8:11-13
How much more the one who distorts his view of God so much that while he thinks he honors God, his trust is really in himself.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. - Matthew 6:2
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