We All Know About Fifty Shades Of Grey. Maybe you haven’t thought about it like this before.
It is Sunday morning. Pastor Jones stands in the pulpit, his heart burning with a message about how important it is to be passionate about our relationship with God, and how much we must be consumed with a zeal for His heart.
Pastor Jones refers to King David and his psalms about following hard after God; how he rises up early in the morning to seek God’s face. And Pastor Jones says, “we must all be like David.”
The congregation, moved by his message, says, “Yes. Yes. We must all be like David.”
The next Sunday morning, Pastor Jones stands in the pulpit, his heart burning with a message about how important it is to be faithful in marriage; about how David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and what damage and chaos it brought in his life and the lives of those he touched with his infidelity and collusion to murder.
And Pastor Jones refers to the decieptfulness of sin and how much it destroys in our lives and our relationship with God, and says, “we must not be like David.”
The congregation, moved by his message. says, “No. No. We must not be like David.”
We All Fall Down
The scriptures have many records of generally good people who stumbled along the way. Abraham lied about his wife to save his neck; Samson was chosen as leader of his people, but gave into the wiles of a woman and lost so much. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and later had her husband killed to try to hide the evidence. Saul started out well, but as life went on, jealousy set in and he did many foolish and sinful things that destroyed the potential for God to use him. Some, like David, ended well. Others, like Saul, did not.
We all fall down sometimes. Like the lyric in the song says, “a saint is just a sinner who falls down, and gets up again.”
“He hath shown thee, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
We need to encourage each other to good works, always looking for a view of people as God sees them – looking at their potential to draw near, to repent of sin, to become more Christlike. “His anger is but for a moment; but his mercy endures to a thousand generations.” And remember that it ain’t over till it’s over.
Because, as much as we often want to see everything in black and white, the reality is that we are all just varying shades of grey.
If anyone has struggled with an addiction or struggled with a besetting sin, he or she knows how difficult it can be to break free. And so often, in the struggle and the turmoil, there is the questioning of God and of His mercy and His wisdom in letting the addict struggle and fail – time after time after time.
Sometimes we feel we are dancing with the devil.
What Does Dancing With The Devil Mean?
Well, think of it this way. The devil is interested in drawing you into his web of intrigue, darkness and despair. But he’s crafty. And he’s not going to just waltz up to you and say, “hey. I’m the devil. And I want to destroy you. Are ya interested?”
He’s subtle. He catches you off-guard, usually with things that you’re not really already resolved to avoid. You’re vulnerable in areas where you play with sin. He will trifle with you by “playing with your ‘demons.'”
Ok. So, what are someone’s demons? What does that mean?
Why does God allow that drug dealer to cross your path just when you finished rehab? Why does he allow that man or that woman you were involved with in sexual sin to cross your path at such a convenient time that you could, if you wanted to, act on impulses that cross so many lines of decency? Why does the Lord allow the gossip queen to appear in your path with the latest news about some friend who just came into a whole bunch of money by some slightly “inappropriate” means, when you know it’s not your place to tell the world about someone else’s imperfections?
You know you want to give in; you know you want to entertain those fantasies. You just have that feeling of your sinful nature boiling up inside, aching for release, for gratification, for gossip, for a new quest or sweet revenge. You know you shouldn’t. You know God says it’s wrong. But you have the feelings that you want to. And you wish you didn’t have to deal with them. But God lets you squirm.
Sometimes, in our frustration, we question why God allows us to be wrestling with the devil.
Why does God not simply take the temptation away? After all, Jesus Himself said, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13). We ask: “Please, Lord, deliver me from this temptation.” And it feels so often that God simply doesn’t answer; He leaves us to stumble and fall, sinning against Him time and time again, left with the guilt and shame, and convincing ourselves that if we really loved God the way we say we do, we would not sin against him over and over again.
And the truth is – and this is hard – but the truth is…
We really don’t love Him the way we would like to think we do.
Jesus loved the Father like we would want to love the father. Jesus knew no sin. “He was tempted in every way like we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). When Jesus was tempted, he was able to stand; He committed no sin in the midst of temptation. Yet we know that we are not like that.
And yet, we are not always mindful that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1).
Jesus told us to pray to the Father that we would not be led into temptation, but that we could be delivered from evil; and yet even Jesus himself was led by the Spirit directly into a situation where he was tempted and tested by the personification of pure evil – the devil Himself.
If we’re honest, we must admit that, at times, we actually enjoy dancing with the devil.
And God allows it.
He could make it easier. Jesus told us to pray for God to not allow us to be brought into temptation. We are, in fact, told by Jesus that we should pray that we be delivered from temptation. But He lets us stumble and trip and fall.
And yet, the apostle Paul reminds us that “no temptation has overtaken us except such as is common to man. And God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to withstand” (1 Cor 10:12). But we realize we didn’t really want to withstand as much as we would like to think.
Again, as I said before: the truth is – and this is hard.
But the truth is, we really don’t love Him the way we would like to think we do.
So much of this relationship we walk as believers before our God is a mystery.
There are things we will not always be able to understand. We are told that God tempts no one, and that if we are tempted, we need to know it is because we are led away and enticed by the fruit that grows from our own nature. And yet our experience often FEELS like we are in the midst of circumstances from which God could deliver us if He wanted to; but He does not. Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. And Jesus Himself told us, “no slave is above his master.” Jesus said, “if they persecute me, they will persecute you.” And he was speaking of other people. But it applies to the demonic realms, too.
The scriptures say to us “beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:13). If he went through it, it shouldn’t surprise us that we have to go through it too.
If you are faced with temptations that confront the reality of who you are, consider yourself in good company. The devil tempted Jesus, too.
Part of what we miss when we struggle is the understanding of the Father’s heart for us in the middle of the struggle.
We see it as the itch we hate to love to scratch. We are tempted, and teeter back and forth between choosing God’s desires or our own in the moment. We convince ourselves that we aren’t really being that bad; or else that God understands, or that it really doesn’t matter, or we just can’t help ourselves. And then after we give in to the temptation, we kick ourselves as we look at our Father’s love for us, how we have failed him, and how guilty and unclean we feel. We resolve – even VOW – NEVER to do it again. And yet, the cycle goes round and round: wash, rinse, repeat.
Yet, believe it or not, our heavenly Father sees it as a sacred dance.
It is NOT a sacred thing for dancing with the devil, but for His intentions to get us to eventually fall in love with the idea of switching partners.
His heart is for us. He WANTS us to succeed. His love is infinite, his patience is great. He gives us opportunities, one after another, to stumble and fail, stumble and fail, stumble and fail until we eventually learn to stand upon our own feet, having our hearts conformed to His image. In those moments when we are battling our own nature and choosing between serving God and serving self, our heavenly Father is seeing us through the lens of eternity future – He is looking at us with hope and desire, through the view of what we will be like when He has finished shaping us into who He desires us to be.
And when we fall, He is still who He is – holy and loving. We see Him for who He is. And as we do, His holiness convicts us while His love draws us. He holds the sword to our chest, aimed square at those “not-surrendered” parts of our nature, and calls us to walk toward him. And he allows us to come to the end of ourselves, slowly, little by little, through all the stench of failure and self-will. And He stays on the dance floor, inviting us to dance with Him, to try again.
The most compelling statement I have heard lately was a statement in an open letter to Bree Olson, a woman who left the world of the pornographic film industry from Jonathan Welton, where he says,
God does not look at you through the eyes of your history, but through your destiny.
Your destiny – the vision, the plan, the goal that the father has for you – is to eventually be conformed to the character and likeness of Jesus Himself. The father’s heart is to cheer you on and encourage you to be transformed to the place where evil cannot any longer get its hooks in you, because you have been changed from glory to glory into His character so that the things that once enticed you no longer have any appeal.
God’s ultimate plan is not merely to deliver you from temptation by removing you from the places it can touch you. His plan is to allow temptation to transform you to the point where those things just don’t even tempt you anymore.
God wants you to become the kind of person who has fallen in love with the idea of worshipping God for God’s sake, and not merely because you are better off that way. You are better off that way. But God’s desire is that you worship Him freely, as a free agent.
But you won’t even know what you need to work on to become that person unless God allows temptation to demonstrate who He knows you really were all along.
But don’t worry.
It’s all to get you to a place where, when you grow up, you look just like Him. That is his ultimate goal.
He wants us to be transformed into people with perfect, obedient hearts, who will obey because our love for Him is greater than our desire for our own motives – like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, when they were were near to being cast into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to the King of Babylon. In that moment of having to choose to die for their faith or to give in the king’s demands to worship him as god, their answer was clear.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan 4:16-18).
They had made up their minds about serving God for God’s sake and not merely because they were better off for doing so.
So many people, when they give their lives to Jesus, do so for such human and broken and insufficient reasons. Some come to Jesus because they feel they are better off for it. And they are. Some come because they have needs that only God can meet. And some truly do. Some come to Him because of a very real fear of hell. Hell is real.
These are all legitimate things. We do all have needs that only God can meet. We are better off when we surrender our lives to God’s will and control. We do need to avoid hell at any cost.
But Jerry Bridges said, “even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the lamb.”
Ultimately, God wants us to surrender to Him, fully and completely, because God desires to be worshipped and obeyed simply because He is God. But in a relationship of love, you can’t separate total surrender to the loving King of Kings from the King’s unending love being lavished freely upon you. And you can’t love freely unless you are choosing to do so.
And sometimes, we don’t know how much we love Him until we are allowed to make some very difficult choices in his direction.
It is the sacred dance. It is falling in love with the right dance partner, and enjoying His company, and letting Him lead you in this dance to all the places He wants to take you, for how it will intertwine your heart with His. It is how He wants to write the stories of eternity with how you both fell in love with each other, with the dance.