Snake Charmer

Wild 020

“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15b).

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).

I was contemplating the concept of ‘power’ the other day, particularly as it relates to our battles with temptation and sin.

How often do we treat temptation as if it is a snake and we are merely a desperate snake-charmer, trying our best to either placate it, hold it at bay or dodge its next strike – allowing it to have the control, and reacting as best we can to avoid getting bit? Giving it the position of power does not give us freedom. It binds us.

To keep something at bay while playing defense is a recipe for defeat. Just ask any football fan who has watched his or her team blow a fourth quarter lead thanks to the ‘prevent defense.’

To compromise with wickedness is equally a recipe for defeat. Just ask the nations that thought a peace treaty with Hitler was a good idea.

But look at the Genesis passage above, and put your particular weakness in the role of the serpent for a moment. I see here two important truths related to that confrontation.

God tells the serpent “he [man] will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.” Let me work right to left.

God said “you will bruise his heel.” What this tells me is that sometimes our sin lands a blow, and that’s okay.

Well, I mean, it’s not okay, but it’s okay…if that makes sense.

We’re human. We make bad choices.

John writes “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9), which presupposes we have sins that need confessing. In fact, he even goes on to write that if we say we have no sin, the truth isn’t in us (v. 10). (And remember, John is writing to church-going Christians here!)

Missteps and offenses are part of life. Temptation and weakness will get the upper hand once in a while. From the very beginning God acknowledged as much. It doesn’t mean we have a free pass, but it means His grace is enough to cover it.

The best part of this passage, though, is where God tells the serpent “he will bruise your head” or, in the NIV: “he will crush your head”.

God is using language that suggests not merely avoidance or keeping our sin at arm’s length, but outright aggression.

We were intended to meet the enemy head-on in the power of Christ. In Luke 10:19, Jesus tells His disciples “I give you authority to trample snakes and scorpions…” Again, His intention is for us to conquer.

Paul starts his ‘Armor of God’ discourse with the phrase, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

He didn’t say find a safe place to hunker down. Or learn some good footwork so you can dodge the blows. Or give it some slack so you can avoid the ‘big sins’.

He said “be strong, take on God’s power, and stand !”

So next time you’re faced with that habit or addiction or weakness that plagues you, remember that God doesn’t empower you to dance around it, He empowers you to meet it head on.

Don’t dance with it, don’t flirt with it – claim the power that resides in you as a believer, and crush it!

Let me close with one more verse. Something to cling to whenever you start to think that the serpent is too strong for you and all you can do is compromise or avoid…

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory” (Ephesians 6:20-21).

Temptation Does Not Equal Transgression

One of the most clever ploys of the enemy is blurring the lines between temptation and transgression.

Let me set up a scenario.  Say you have had an issue with lust.  You’re in the grocery store picking up a few things.  You walk past the magazine rack.  Inadvertently, a certain magazine cover catches your eye, and there staring back at you is one of the most beautiful bikini-clad ladies, or speedo-clad men, you have ever beheld.  Your eyes linger.  You feel that all-too-familiar stir within you as admiration quickly begins to turn to lust.  You want to pick up the magazine and see more, your mind wants to go racing to other images in your memory banks, or you want to go home and get online to find some ‘old haunts’.  But what you choose to do is lift it up to Jesus and ask Him to take it away.  You turn your eyes from the magazine cover, walk a little faster down the aisle, block out past images, douse the budding flames of fantasy, and vow to definitely not turn on the computer when you get home.

Yet you come away from this situation feeling dirty, wicked, sinful.  Why?  You did everything that you could have done to walk away from the temptation.  You had no control over what crossed your field of vision, and that initial lingering gaze was more automatic response than conscious choice.  Realistically, you reacted well.

But here’s the deal: Satan is very adept at convincing us that temptation is equivalent to transgression.  Especially when it comes to things we’ve struggled with in the past.  He has drawn more people back into sin patterns with this tactic than we’d care to count.  He leverages labels that we have assigned ourselves – pornography addict, drugee, alcoholic, relationally dysfunctional, sexually deviant, uncontrollably angry – and an in-the-moment urge toward that habit or lifestyle suddenly becomes a reason to say “this is the way I am.”

But this is not the way you are.  Paul says you are “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7).  Peter says you are a “His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9).  And John says whoever “is born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).  You are not destined to be defined by your weaknesses.  You are destined to be “more than conquerers through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

From freedom’s perspective – being tempted is never the same as transgressing.  The determining factor regarding victory is what you do with the temptation, not that you were tempted in the first place!  Don’t let the lure become the lie that reinforces the label. Stand in His truth, and live free!