Our Lenten preparation should include a time of repentance. It is a time to reject the lies Satan uses to separate us from God. Satan’s deceitful ways are observed in the very beginning of the Book of Genesis and he has been lying to us ever since.
First God states the TRUTH:
“The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.”
From this passage we can see the implications in our life. When we sin or disobey God’s commands we die a little inside each time. Sin slowly darkens and clouds out God’s light and life within us. If we continue in sin it can cause our eternal death. God never lies!
Next Satan tells the LIE:
“Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.'” But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
We can draw some very important lessons here. First, we see Satan directly refuting the truth of God with his lie. Next, pay close attention to the fact that Satan makes sin appear pleasing and desirable. If sin were not pleasing and desirable we would not do it. But again, God is truth and He told us we would die if we sinned. The Bible is replete with the message that God is truth and here is just one verse:
John 8:31-32“Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”Satan truly is the great deceiver. Don’t we face a dialog similar to Eve’s dialog with Satan each day? Isn’t he always telling us that the things that God has told us to avoid doing will be pleasurable for us?
“Skipping church on Sunday is no big deal”
“Cheating a little on your taxes is okay, everyone does it.”
“It is just a little white lie, go ahead and say it.”
“You don’t have time to help out at the soup kitchen.”
“Let someone else minister to prisoners you’re too busy.”
“Sex outside of marriage is okay.”
“So how is looking at porn going to hurt you?”
“Go ahead and drink just one more drink.”
“Abortion isn’t killing, it is just a choice of birth control.”
And the lies go on and on. Perhaps no one has captured the struggle that we all have in rejecting these lies better than C. S. Lewis did in his book The Great Divorce. His unique style presents this battle in a somewhat humorous dialog. In this fantasy, people take a day trip to the bright borders of heaven. The people there appear as ghosts next to the solidity of heaven. In this book the narrator witnesses an encounter between one of the bright spirits (an angel) and a ghost (you and I) with a red lizard (Satan) on his shoulder. The lizard is whispering things in the ghost’s ear. After yelling at it to be quiet, the ghost turns away from the mountain (Heaven) to which he is journeying, and turns to go back to the bus to hell.
The lizard represents everything that keeps us from God. The spirit he is speaking to has burning hands outstretched, ready to kill the lizard as soon as the ghost verbally permits him to do so. The ghost gives a succession of reasons why the spirit shouldn’t kill the lizard:
Although in this passage C. S. Lewis is dealing with the sin of lust, and he presents a unique look at how difficult it is to deal with sexual sin, the lizard could be seen as the temptation of any sin. We also see in his writings that once our sinful desires are conquered, what was our weakness can become our strength.
The following passage is borrowed from The Great Divorce(pp. 98-103).
“I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. “Shut up, I tell you!” he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.”Off so soon?” said a voice.The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.”Yes. I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came -which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.”‘Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit-an angel, as I now understood.”Of course I would,” said the Ghost.”Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.”Oh-ah-look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.”Don’t you want him killed?””You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.””It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?””Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here-well, it’s so damned embarrassing.””May I kill it?””Well, there’s time to discuss that later.””There is no time. May I kill it?””Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please-really-don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.””May I kill it?””Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.””The gradual process is of no use at all.””Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.””There is no other day. All days are present now.””Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.””It is not so.”
“Why, you’re hurting me now.””I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.””Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.””This moment contains all moments.””Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me–before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.””I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.”Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams–all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent …. “”Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.”I know it will kill me.””It won’t. But supposing it did?””You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.””Then I may?””d*mn and blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.”Ow! That’s done for me,” gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.
Suddenly the lizard in his story is transformed into a white stallion and the ghost rides the stallion into heaven. But first, as you read, he had to give permission for the lizard to be killed. He tried to postpone the killing and he said he could deal with it himself. Have you done that when Satan lies to you? If we are honest the lizard (his sin) had become his friend and he wasn’t sure that hewanted it killed. Sound familiar?
Each day we are called on to make the same decision as the ghost. Are we ready to be free from the power of sin? Are we ready to be a new creature in Christ? Will we instead fall prey to the lies being whispered in our ears? We must kill these sinful tendencies that we carry like a lizard on our shoulder.
“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
As you prepare for Easter ask yourself this question: If today God sent his Angel to help you overcome the one area of sin you most struggle with in your life and that Angel whispers in your ear, “May I kill it,” what will your answer be?
Dear God, you have taught us that we cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from your mouth. Your word is truth! Protect us from Satan’s lies. Please come and crucify the sin in me. Amen!