The Scare Affair
-- I have a confession to make. I used to absolutely “love” Halloween.
Now before you start throwing rotten pumpkins at me … please hear me out.
As a youngster, I was one of the many who couldn’t wait to dress up in my costume and mask, carve out the hand-picked jack-o-lantern, and run from door to door collecting as much candy as my large brown grocery bag would hold. What a blast! To me, Halloween held a fascinating allure.
It was like a whimsical spell that would weave its illusive charm throughout my neighborhood, like a slow-moving fog, fingering its’ way through the cool chill of the autumn air.
At school my friends and I were beside ourselves with excitement, “What are you going to be this year?” "I’m making my own costume how about you?"
We would begin our day-by-day count down until the very last night of October, that notorious eve, when we would venture out into the cover of night, and commence with the “trick or treating!”
After becoming born-again however, I did notice that there was a distinct line of demarcation drawn within my heart. I was no longer comfortable with the Frankensteins, the Mummies, and the Dracula’s that I used to hang out with. The whole ghost and goblins scene for me was no longer a viable option. And although I was aware that I had made the choice to not associate myself with anything remotely related to the dark realm, I also recall that there was a part of me … that didn’t entirely want to let go.
It was kind of like the Dr. Jekyll personality of the Hyde twins, who sooner or later had the bad habit of showing up and usually NOT in a very flattering light.
I would say things to myself like, After all, there’s really no reason to become so legalistic about this whole Halloween thing now is there? I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t want me to turn into such a “prude” or become so overly-religious that I could no longer enjoy the things that once brought me such fun and enjoyment, now would He? (Isn’t it amazing just how far we will go in justifying something we know to be wrong).
But I guess the biggest struggle I was having was in recognizing that there was still something in me that was not willing to sever all the negative influences of my past. I had to face the ugly truth that … I loved being scared. To me there was nothing more exhilarating then to curl up on the sofa in a dark room with my friends and a large bowl of popcorn. Each one of us, pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, eyes-wide open anticipated who or what was going to jump out of the T.V. and scare the willies out of us! (And we called that fun).
So, you can imagine my relief when I discovered that another famous Christian struggled with the very same bi-polar personality of Jekyll and Hyde as I did! I could so relate to his arriving at the point of utter frustration when he penned the following words:
"What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me?" (Romans 7:15-25,The Message)
Paul’s heart-wrenching words give us a blow-by-blow illustration of what our desperate fight looks like whenever we attempt to sever our ties with the law of sin that binds us so tightly.
This inward struggle with sin was so much stronger than Paul, just as it is for us today! The truth is, everything in us is more loyal to our old ways and our own selfish desires than to God. But the good news is Paul learned what to do about it.
Whenever he felt defeated, he would return to the beginning of his spiritual walk and remember that he had already been set free by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ! In Romans 8:1 we read:
"With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death." (The Message)
What a relief to find that it is no different for you and I today. Whenever we feel overwhelmed by sin’s appeal, we follow Paul’s example by thanking God for that the Law of the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death.
We must never attempt to fight this battle in our own strength. Satan is a crafty tempter, and each one of us would have to agree that we innately have this uncanny ability to make excuses for ourselves!
But all thanks be to our God, for He has declared, “Not guilty, let them go free”… and has granted us freedom from the bondage and slavery of sin through His precious Son, Jesus Christ.
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