Corrie Ten Boom who survived the holocaust, even though her father and sister were executed during the same period, wrote and spoke about what she endured for most of the remainder of her life. When she spoke she often would look down as though she were looking at her notes. In reality she was knitting during the speeches. Near the end of the speech she would hold up her knitting showing the underside of whatever she was knitting. It looked rugged and without pattern or meaning. She would then say that this it how our lives look from the bottom side. You can’t see the pattern or the beauty. Then she would show the top side and it would be beautiful with the design obvious to all. She would then say that this is how our lives appear from the top side as God looks at us.
God is working in our lives all the time to mold us into the image He has planned for us. In Romans 8:28-30 Paul declared, “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. For whom the Lord foreknew he also predestined to conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren, and those who predestined He also called, whom He called He also justified and whom He justified He also glorified.” In all the things that happen in our lives, good and bad, God is working on us as a sculptor works on a block of stone. He is able to see the image of the one he is creating inside the stone and works to remove everything that holds that image hidden inside the stone. God is constantly removing things in our lives to help the image of Christ come out in us. He is transforming us into His image from glory to glory by the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3:18).
At the same time God is working on us and molding us into the image of Jesus, Satan is working on us, throwing roadblocks in our way, bringing temptations that are Taylor made for our weaknesses and our most vulnerable places. Our enemies aren’t other people. In Ephesians 6:10-13 Paul challenged us to “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand in the evil day. For we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the heavenly realms, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
How does Satan keep us in the turmoil and stress of sin? It seems often that Satan catches us in a sin and he continues to find ways to pull us back into the same sin. Each time after we fail we feel the weight of the sin, we feel the filth of failure before God and see ourselves in the worst possible ways. It becomes something we must hide from the world. If people knew my failures they would look at me in very different ways, so hiding becomes the norm.
The truth is the best thing that can happen is for our sin or failure to come out into the open. As long as we are hiding God can’t bring cleansing into our lives. It is like a wound that can’t be bandaged up and heal until it is opened and cleansed. Once the light is shined on the sin and we aren’t pushed anymore to hide or pretend, we can actually look for help. There is power in confessing our faults to one another and praying for one another so we can be healed (James 5:16).
But what if my sin has become a pattern in my life and has been going on for a long time? Can we still change? What about if the sin has become a part of who I am and has affected my whole attitude about life? What if my sin has become an addiction? We have a whole world it seems to be declaring that if sin of some kind has become a pattern for us then I can’t change without getting into some kind of program with others with the same problem and follow the twelve steps. I’m not opposed to any program that helps people, but it seems to me that every time we decide that some program is necessary for a person to conquer a sin we miss the power of God and the greatness of His Spirit to work in us and change us. God doesn’t just cleanse our sins in forgiveness He empowers us to overcome Satan’s best efforts. “He that is in us is greater than He that is in the world.”
In Colossians 2:15 it says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.” In Romans 16:19-20 Paul told the Christians in Rome “The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you. But I want you to be wise about what is good, yet innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”
If we are willing to yield to God in our lives and resist the devil he will flee from us. No amount of counseling or self help programs can rid Satan or overcome sin. That takes repentance, a will to do God’s will and the help of God’s Spirit in us. Other people can help through prayers and encouragement, by holding us accountable and by being there as friends and fellow disciples. But we can’t take the place of God.
Whatever the pattern of sin may be in our lives, it can be broken. God is greater, more powerful and more glorious than Satan and all his demons. Our choice is who we follow.