The Devil Made Me Do It!
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The Devil Made Me Do It!
Richard Niell Donovan
In 1982, forty scientists associated with a research institute in La Jolla, California, set up a small, private computer network to exchange ideas. Everything went well for six months. Participants were thrilled with their new toy and excited for its scientific potential.
Then, anonymously, a member of the group began to “flame” the others—sending obscene, taunting messages. Members of the group found their energy increasingly diverted to an attempt to identify the culprit. They sent messages over the network asking the person to stop, but the messages continued. The joy of the new toy was ruined. Finally the forty scientists had to discontinue the network.
Stewart Brand, who related this story in New Yorker magazine, says:
“And not only did this break up the on-line community—
it permanently affected the trust that those people had for each other
in the face-to-face world,
because they were never able to figure out who did it.
To this day, they don’t know which one of them it was.”
And, so, he might have added, every one of them was suspect. They could no longer be trusting friends. They could no longer be open in their sharing and fun. They could no longer be unguarded in their work, because one of them was the obscene, taunting person—and they didn’t know who it was.
That’s the way it is, isn’t it. Sin destroys everything it touches. Sin destroys our Paradise.
Genesis 3 tells the familiar story. God had provided a beautiful garden, and he had told the man and woman that they could eat of any tree of the garden that they wanted except for the tree in the middle. God carefully warned them that if they ate from its fruit—or even touched the tree—they would surely die.
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But the serpent came along with a different story. The serpent has many names: The Devil, Satan, The Deceiver. I like The Deceiver best—at least in this story. That is what Satan is, isn’t he—The Deceiver.
Note what Satan does in this story. God had said:
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
you shall not eat of it;
for in the day that you eat of it
you will surely die” (2:16-17).
In other words, God said that if Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. Satan countered that with a very simple lie. Satan’s lie was so simple that it slid right past Eve’s defenses. God had said, “If you eat from this tree, you shall die.” Satan said, “If you eat from this tree, you shall NOT die” (3:4). Just one word changed, but that one word made all the difference. “You shall NOT die,” Satan lied.
Then Satan went the extra step to hook his fish. He established a motive for God to trick Adam and Eve. He said, “God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5).
With these words, Satan established a motive for God to lie to Adam and Eve. He said, “Eve, God doesn’t want you to grow wise, as he is wise. God doesn’t want to take the chance that you will challenge him. God doesn’t want you to be like him. God doesn’t want you to be great, because that would threaten his greatness. But you can be great, Eve. God knows that you can be great—just as he is great—and he doesn’t want that. That is why he told you not to eat from this tree, Eve. He doesn’t want you to knock him off his pedestal. Don’t let him do that to you, Eve. Be your own woman. Eat the fruit. Be somebody!”
And so Eve ate. Once she had eaten, she quickly went to Adam and offered him the fruit, encouraging him to eat. “I tasted it, Adam. It’s great! You’ll love it. Try it. You’ll see.” Guilt always seeks an accomplice. Misery loves company. We want to spread the risk. It is as if Eve were saying to herself, “Well, God might let me die, but he can’t afford to let both of us die. Let me get Adam to eat the fruit too, and then God can’t kill us. He will have to back down. God will have to back down.
And so Adam and Eve rebelled against God—against the God who had created them—against the God who had loved them—against the God who had placed them in a Paradise—against the God who had given them almost all the freedom in the world. They rebelled, because they had believed the serpent’s lies. They rebelled, because the wanted to believe the serpent’s lies.
• “You shall not surely die” was the first lie.
• “You will be like God” was the second lie.
• “God is afraid of you” was the third lie.
The serpent told them lies, and then hooked them at the point of their vulnerability. C.S. Lewis talks, not only of the Adam’s temptation or Eve’s temptation, but of our temptation as well. He says:
“It is a magician’s bargain:
give up our souls, get power in return.
But once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up,
the power thus conferred will not belong to us.
We shall in fact be slaves and puppets
of that to which we have given our souls.”
And so Adam and Eve became enslaved because they gave up their souls in their attempt to become like God. And so we, too, find ourselves enslaved:
• By our love of money
• By our love of sex
• By our love of thrills
• By our love of power
• By our pride
• By our desire to be like God
• By our desire to be truly in charge of our world.
You know that I love this congregation—or you should know it, because it is true. But it is here even in this congregation—the love of power—people’s determination to have it their own way—people’s determination to control the actions of others—people’s desire to be like Gods in their own little world. Not that we shouldn’t have power, but we always need to be certain that we are not paying the devil’s price.
Even in this congregation, people are seduced. People are seduced by money—seduced by sex—seduced by thrills—seduced by a good time. Not that we shouldn’t have money or sex or thrills or good times. We should have. But we always need to be certain that we are not paying the devil’s price.
Adam and Eve paid the devil’s price, and the price was high. To the woman, God said:
“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.
In pain you will bear children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you” (3:16).
To Adam God said:
“Because you have listened to your wife’s voice,
and have eaten of the tree,
of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground for your sake.
In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
It will yield thorns and thistles to you;
and you will eat the herb of the field.
By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken.
For you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (3:17-19).
The results of Adam’s sin were terrible. The results of our sins are terrible. Think back on your life and ask yourself this question: “If I had given God first place in my life all my life, how would my life have been different?” If we are honest, we will have to admit that we have often been foolish—we have often sinned—and we have often suffered for it—and our lives would have gone much smoother if we had loved God first..
Most of us have spent much time among the thorns and thistles. We tend to make light of it. We say, “Well, I guess that makes me human”—and it does. But we didn’t have to make the mistakes. God didn’t program us to make the mistakes. In fact, God told us clearly in his scriptures how to avoid the mistakes. He gave us a road map to avoid the hazards of life. But we have ignored the road map, and have charted our own course.
The result is that we spend much time in the ditch—among the thorns and thistles.
But our futures need not look like our past. Today is indeed the first day of the rest of our lives, and tomorrow can be different from yesterday. All we have to do is to decide to put God first in our lives. Then he will begin leading us safely through the thorns and thistles and back to the safe haven that he always intended for us.
In this lovely community, sometimes we are tempted to believe that we already live in paradise—and in a sense we do—compared with about anyplace else on earth, we do. The summer wind does not blow as hotly, and the winter wind does not blow so coldly. The flowers are beautiful, even in January. But even this paradise has its thorns and thistles. If we could look deeply into the hearts of the people of Pacific Grove, we would find person after person after person with broken hearts—with lonely hearts—with despairing hearts—with guilty consciences. Even this earthly paradise is planted thickly with thorns and thistles.
But God has created us for paradise, and he calls us to paradise. He calls us to the peace of mind that we can have only when we give him first place in our lives. And he has created an eternal paradise that we will enjoy forever.
Most of us have a million decisions behind us—some of them good and some of them bad. Either way, the past is history. Today, we begin our future. Begin it with God. Let him lead you. Let him have full reign in your life. Let him lead you out of the thorns and thistles. Let him lead you into his glory.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 1994, Richard Niell Donovan