by Rob Beames
Unless you are still into Disney movies, you probably didn’t flock to the Disney movie “Ratatouille” when it was first released. However, given its popularity, maybe you’ve heard of it by now. It’s the story of Remy, a young rat living in Paris, who loves to cook, and is actually quite good at it. He realizes his dream when he finds himself in the kitchen of a four-star restaurant preparing food for humans. Some realism is infused into the movie when the health inspector threatens to shut down the restaurant due to a reported sighting of rats inside the building.
It seems almost customary anymore to see alligators or sharks portrayed as cartoon pets on the television, so it’s not surprising that a rat should play the part of an adorable, culinary hero in a movie. Yet, in the real world, a rat is nothing more than a pest. Such a rodent doesn’t belong in the kitchen of a first-rate French restaurant. It certainly has no business spreading disease all over food which people will ingest. How absurd to think that it would be handling cuisine, even if it could. No, a rat is a revolting, dangerous and often rabid pest! Only in our imagination could we treat such a creature as an amiable friend.
As crazy as that seems, most of us are living with a similar dichotomy. We sometimes allow certain sins to run free in our lives, as if they were adorable cartoon characters. We find it difficult to completely remove them from our lives, so just as Disney/Pixar dreamed up a rat to become an admired chef at a fancy bistro, we sometimes allow sin to play roles in our lives it has no business playing. It shouldn‘t be this way, but for most of us, it is.
Each of us has different sin-pests, yet they all work the same way. There is no need to name them. They are well known to us. We can readily fill in the blanks. They are sins that repeatedly invade our house, so that our mind and body have to labor to be what God intended them to be: a temple of the Holy Spirit. Over time they can spawn hopelessness, or simply indifference. It’s at this point these sin-pests become especially dangerous. So how do we get rid of them?
We certainly won’t cover every exterminating technique, but hopefully as we discuss how we relate to sin-pests, and how the enemy works to use them against us, we will find new strength in the battle to rid our lives of them. As we struggle with sin so deeply entrenched, it is vital to remember that we’re engaged in a grave conflict – it’s us versus them. So, whatever you do, never say die!
Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” The first step in getting rid of sin pests is to admit they are lurking in our lives. We aren’t going to prosper by covering them up. While confession to a few trusted friends may be important to spiritual maturity, the context here is more of acknowledging to ourselves that these sins actually exist, and then confessing them to our Savior. Instead of hiding our sins, we should actively seek them out, so that we may receive God’s mercy. Put another way, we need to abandon our indiscretion to gain absolution. We need to give up our offenses to obtain full pardon. We need to ditch our wrongdoing to get kindness in return. Yet, no matter how we phrase it, it’s still very difficult to throw out certain pesky, but deceitfully attractive sins. Why is this?
Sin is Fun
One of the reasons we allow sin-pests to hide in the dark and breed is because, well, sis fun. If we are truly honest, we have to admit that some sins are enjoyable, for a time anyway. Our enemy deceives us by convincing us that we don’t really want to be rid of these sins. If we find some sins are a more powerful temptation to us than others, it’s probably because we especially enjoy them. They wouldn’t command our attention to such a degree, and summon intense resistance from us, if this wasn’t true.
It’s like the common scenario in which a young boy brings home a puppy, knowing that as soon as his father comes home, it will be discovered and taken away. So, the boy tries to keep the creature quiet and out of site. To the best of his ability he conceals his food, his chew toy and any evidence that the puppy is in the house. He knows he can’t keep it, but nevertheless tries to do so as long as he possibly can. Finally, when Dad comes home, he starts to sneeze while still in the doorway. All of the boy’s efforts are useless. In the end, the boy knows he will have to “get that thing out of the house.”
In the same way, our Father doesn’t want us to hiding anything, either. He wants those disgusting things out of our house. He waits anxiously to show us mercy when we turn from our sin, even the pesky ones.
Sin Can Seem Safe
Another tactic our enemy uses against us is a mirage of safety. We are more easily persuaded to conceal our sin when we believe it’s not dangerous to our spirit. It’s like that common ploy we see in action movies – a beautiful woman distracts the hero by physically caressing him for the purpose of disarming him. It usually works, sometimes more than once!
The evil one often uses the same maneuver on us – and we fall for it! When we feel we are in a safe environment, we tend to let down our guard. We often walk into spiritual battle as if we were walking into a roomful of friends. Feeling safe, we set our weapons down, when we should rather be firing them like a crazed lunatic, considering what’s at stake.
It can feel safe to sin, especially when our acts do not appear to harm anyone. If our sin is not discovered, we may think no one was hurt. But this is an illusion, as well. Even if we don’t appear to hurt anyone else, we are causing pain and anguish to our own souls.
Remember the encouragement given to us by the apostle Peter: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:7-8). It is by the grace of God we don’t immediately pay for every sin we commit. Rather than vent our anxieties through some evil pleasure, we should carry them to Him. Our calling is to be in control of our bodies and minds, and to be alert to the deceptions of sin, so that we will not come to ruin.
The Guilted Gun
God has given us a conscience for the purpose of directing us to Himself and away from the destructiveness of sin. But at times, the adversary can use this powerful weapon against us. Our conscience is transformed into a gun, guilt provides the ammunition, and it’s pointed directly at our hearts. We can be enticed to dwell on our failures until we are so disheartened that we return to the very thing we find disgusting.
Scripture uses the image of a dog returning to its vomit to describe a fool in Proverbs 26:11. Perhaps the dog does this out of hunger, desperation or because it likes it. Whatever the case, it is foolish to return to something we know is repulsive, even if we do like it, or we feel like we can’t do any better. And in returning to it, we begin to assimilate it.
Don’t think yourself immune – even superheroes are vulnerable to this attack strategy. In Spiderman 3, Peter Parker begins to seriously doubt his motives regarding fighting crime, thinking perhaps he has had selfish ambitions in the past. With the help of a strange, alien symbiote, he decides to embrace his newly-discovered, evil ambitions and to use his powers to promote himself for once, rather than help out others. He becomes increasingly confident in his “no more Mr. Nice Guy” image, and decides to embrace evil, rather than combat it.
Today’s music is loaded with this theme as well. In a popular song, the band Disturbed asks, “In a world beyond controlling, are you going to deny the savior right in front of your eyes?” The savior of which they speak is the symbolic evil called “the night.” This aptly named band then answers their own question by echoing: “Give in to the night!”
As we dwell on our disappointments, especially as we struggle against sin, the adversary cleverly uses our acute “spider-sense” against us. Designed to protect us, instead it is used to destroy our resolve, so that in our hopelessness, we forget the purpose of resisting sin. Our enemy knows full well the warning found in James 4:7, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” He is eager to deploy any tactic to get us to stand down!
In the midst of the conflict, it’s important to remember God’s purpose cannot fail in our lives. Although we fail, He is faithful. As 2 Timothy 2:13 tells us, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” God remains resolute to the primary purpose He has for us: to conform us to the image of His Son. The enemy may make us doubt this, but the guilt we feel should serve to drive us to God’s throne of grace, and to let His Spirit and Word testify regarding His unfailing love for us. We should run to the protective shadow of His wing, rather than to the open arms of further sin. The quicker we realize this, the less of a stranglehold our greatest weaknesses will have on us.
Give Up, but Don’t Give In
So how do we finally renounce these stubborn sins which don‘t seem to go away? This is going to sound insane, but here is the secrete formula the enemy does not want us to get a hold of. It’s the proverbial can of Raid bug spray, from which sin-pests tuck tail and run: Give up! That’s right, just throw in the towel. (Stay with me now.) We have to acknowledge that no amount of effort, tracking or self-degradation on our part is going to rid us of these tenacious sins. Rather, we should cry out to God, who has the power to save us from all of our sins, even the ones as nagging as an ingrown toenail. Every other attempt at ridding our lives of sin-pests is about as effective as chasing cockroaches around with a flyswatter. We could do that forever and never be rid of them. But God’s way will not fail.
Paul put it this way, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul realized he was totally helpless against the power of sin. Are we more spiritual than Paul?
When we give up and become intensely aware of our inability to overcome even the most base and embarrassing of sins, we are finally where we need to be. Although our efforts are exhausting, we find out alone, they have no power to resist the enemy. From this point of ultimate surrender, we start to see a glimmer of hope. This is when we hear, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
When we have come to end of ourselves, we realize only His Spirit can cause us to see sin-pests for what they really are – repulsive. It may not happen overnight. We may have a long road to travel, exhausting our methods and mental tricks, but it will most certainly come to pass. Might as well be sooner than later – so go ahead and do it. Tell your Father you can’t fight on your own anymore. As soon as He hears this, He will act.
You must indisputably give up, but you absolutely cannot give in. We still have to fight like there’s no tomorrow against these pests. But we can fight with confidence, knowing we will win. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Prov. 21:31).
Only in our thoughts, would we could consider such destructive, evil activities friends. Every sin should be exterminated, like a rat, not enjoyed. Yet, only God’s Spirit can rescue us from this delusion and give us the control we need to live as God has planned. So, keep wrestling with your sin-pests, while you rest in the fact that God is intentional about removing these sins from your lives. God wants to rid your life of them even more than you do. And the last time I checked, God gets what He wants!