24 Day Wordless Book Devotional. THE DARK. Week #2
9/1. DARK.: WE HUMAN BEINGS ARE SINNERS & WE CANNOT SAVE OURSELVES
Sin is anything we think, say, or do that displeases God. These instances represent patterns of thought, words, and behavior that mess up our relationship with God, others, and even with ourselves. At root, Sin wants something or someone to be bigger–more real, powerful, and ultimate than God. Self-Absorbed, Sin habitually desires to make things “My way”. As we will come to realize, all sins and Sin violate the reality of God.
- …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Place yourself in the above definition of sin. How could you stop the power of Sin in your life and quit sinning?
9/2. GOOD PERSON MYTH. Part 1.
Our culture feeds us a dishonest story about ourselves and God:
The Good Person Myth: All people are basically good. I am basically a good person, who would do anything for anyone, and even give you the shirt off my back. It’s God’s job to protect me in my goodness, give me the good things I deserve in this life, and heaven ( any positive after life, if such a thing exists) when I die.
Which parts of this self promoting story have you bought into? Typically, what personal situations and feelings prompt you to enter sections of the story–or the whole thing? During these times, what does this myth say about your sins, Sin, and God?
Today, let’s break down this cultural lie.
In the following passages, how does God’s truth confront the lies in the cultural narrative?
Addressing religious people from a Jewish background, confronting those who proudly “know” God’s right and wrong, the Apostle Paul states:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2: 1 – 5 ESV
They considered themselves basically good people. They were God’s people. They certainly viewed themselves better than the other peoples around them. Yet, what did God expose about them? How does this exposure also speak into your own attitude and actions?
So, if God’s standards (God’s Law, such as the Ten Commandments) for good and bad do not allow us to prop up our “good” selves and feel superior, what do they do? What does God’s Word say?
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3: 19-20. ESV
Since through God’s standards come knowledge of sin, God levels the sinning field and places us on it.
What do you look like on this level field of sin?
Encompassing all of humanity, the Apostle Paul answers this question:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.ButGod, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2: 1 – 5 ESV
Go back and put yourself in the place of a sinner as described in the first part of the above Bible passage.
Through this passage, what has God just said to you about you? About Him?
Ask God the same questions as you put yourself in the following passage:
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3: 22-24 ESV.
What is God revealing to you about Himself and you through this and the other scripture passages today?
9/3. GOOD PERSON MYTH. Part 2.
Today, let’s begin by going in another direction. Do you hold any thoughts or storylines about yourself that are contrary to yesterday’s Good Person Myth? For example, do you sometimes believe, “If anyone knew me deeply, they would know that I am a mess and I will ultimately mess up everything I touch.”
So, are you basically a bad person? What does this mean? How bad is bad enough? How could you know?
Everyone is created in the Image of God. Each person has God rooted value. This means that no one can destroy the Image of God within themselves or anyone else; God given value cannot be eradicated. We are people created in the Image of God with every bit of our being tainted with Sin. We are not intrinsically bad, for we bear God’s Image and God declared us good. Yet, we are Image bearers direly infected with parasitical Sin.
Or, are you basically a good person? What does this mean? How good is good enough? How could you know?
Read again the above Good Person Myth. Think about it…
Would you really do anything for anyone? Who are those “anyone’s” for whom you would not do “anything”? Where does your anything stop? Be honest. You can be honest in Christ!
Now, describe your “good life” that God is supposed to protect.
What “good things” do you deserve in this life?
What are the reasons you deserve these good things?
Do you believe that you deserve heaven?
How is God supposed to serve your life? What is God’s job description?
Your honest answers to these questions lead to a bottom line—You are impossibly tangled in your own definitions and self- justifications of “good” and “bad”; you are through and through incurably tainted with Sin. Only God is truly good and can rescue you! See Romans 7: 21-8:2.
9/4. SINNERS SIN & CANNOT SAVE THEMSELVES.
Our culture tells us that, with enough gumption, we good autonomous individuals can overcome anything. Remember those famous Frozen words, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free.” We can be anything we want to be and do anything we want to do without restraint. As we do, somehow we will find our true selves and be happy. Today’s “right” seems to mean to do whatever I can get away with.
Yet, look at our culture. Instead of producing strong, interconnected individuals and a more united culture, we are dissolving as a people and as isolated individuals.
Here are some ways Sin lies to you:
▪At heart, we are all basically good people and want to do good things; we just need a little bit more information, training, and support to get us there.
▪ I can define myself, find myself, and be happy; I am being victimized by a culture that represses my self expression.
▪ God is a crutch that some people need to overcome their problems. Strong people do not need such a crutch.
▪If I choose to believe in any higher power, he, she, or it is supposed to serve me, my self-expression, and My way.
Have you bought into any or all of these lies? You have the freedom to be honest by the power of the Holy Spirit Who lives in you.
Sin within us basically says, “I want things ‘My way’ ”. Sin pushes outward to create a realm in which things are “My way”. We become little gods who have created our own little universes.
Where did this come from? Imagine that you are both Adam and Eve. Take in what God is saying to you as Adam and Eve in this text of Scripture:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. Genesis 3:: 1-7 ESV
How did you experience these temptations? Did you give in? In what ways does this help you to better understand how Adam and Eve could have fell for them? Have you ever felt intense shame for something you did and how it affected your relationships?
Having gone insular and detached from God, Adam and Eve were cast outward, out of the Garden into a “My way” universe with its dire consequences including futility and death. We, their ancestors, have continued to cycle this “I am a god” delusion.
As you read through the following, include yourself with “they” (Adam, Eve, and their descendants):
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1: 21-25 ESV
And if you read onward from Romans 1:26, you realize how our God created personhood and relationships with one another became and still become so messed up.
What is God saying to you personally through all of this? Ask God?
Sin says “yes” to “My way” and “no” to the God Who is God. Sin posing as “My true little god Self” claims our identity and life.
Just as the earthly presence of Christ Jesus brought people to a point of yes or no regarding God, the Holy Spirit confronts us presently with His resurrected presence and a choice: yes or no:
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:concerning sin, because they do not believe in me… John 16: 8-9 ESV.
We identify with Sin and are addicted to it. See Ephesians 4: 17-18. We cannot save ourselves. See Romans 7: 13-25.
Re-read the first three paragraphs from today including the lies list. Based on today’s Scriptures, reflections, answers to questions, and overall experience of God, which lies do you need to renounce? What are God’s truths that address these lies?
Out loud, in Jesus name, renounce the lies and declare the truths.
9/5. EVIL. IT EXISTS.
Our increasingly secular culture has a diminished sense, framework, and courage for recognizing, understanding, and confronting Evil. How have you bought into the following cultural narrative regarding Evil?
Lies: People make mistakes and poor choices; the consequences multiply. However, punitive moral concepts and language such as wrong, sin, and Evil, just stigmatize and shame the basically good individual and make things worse. Evil does not truly exist except as a concept in the irrational minds of dangerously extreme people.
We realize Evil again at the Cross. Let the Holy Spirit of the living God take you back to the Cross.
Picture a cross from afar at dusk. There is a dark, obviously mangled something on it. Shocked, you stare and think:
That’s horrible and hideous! Is that a person?
It is! Just look at this person.
Look at what evil does to people!
As I look, I think about:
Those killed in Dayton, El Paso, and….The migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea…Syria…,The Twin Towers in New York….
This is the mangled body and tortured soul of an innocent victim,.
A person…disfigured. . depersonalized… dehumanized…
This is what Evil does to them. Yet, come closer to this Cross. Look up. See. Feel. Remember…
Now, as I look more closely at this person, that was me, my relative, my friend…
That’s what I felt like… what they felt like…
That’s what happened to them and that’s what happened to me!
This monstrous memory that haunts me!
realize what Evil has done to you. Let
your realization flow into the words of Psalm 22 (Message paraphrase)….
I was a bucket kicked over and
every joint in my body was pulled apart.
My heart was a blob
of melted wax in my gut.
I’m dry as a bone,
my tongue black and swollen.
A pack of wild dogs, they came at me;
those thugs ganged up on me.
They pinned me down hand and foot,
and locked me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage,
Pause. Perhaps you are feeling and thinking:
“That destroyed my life…”“They destroyed my life…”
And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
And, return to the beginning of Psalm 22:
God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I called to You
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I kept at it all night, tossing and turning.
And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
Amidst such a realization of Evil, we may begin to shut down, feeling, thinking, crying…
“But I don’t want to talk about it! I will not talk about it anymore!”
But it happened… Yes, Evil exists…
9/6. EVIL. GOD GETS IT…
Before you fully shut down and run away, you look at the cross one more time. Something has drawn you. When you look, you notice that the one on the cross is looking directly at you. Thoughts pop into your head:
You are hearing me.
You are looking directly at me.
As I see your eyes, I realize:
You really do get it. You really do understand.
Like me, you are in such pain, such agony.
Who are you?
Looking into your eyes, now I see.
You are Jesus who claimed to somehow be God.
You are God! You are in such pain, such agony.
And You are identifying with me!
And who are you?
You are God!
You now fully realize some of His last words on the Cross:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
The Lord Jesus Christ has personally experienced what Evil does to people because Evil did it to him.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:19 ESV
Now imagine again….
Jesus’ stare pierces your soul and exposes the thoughts and reality of your own heart.
You are in such pain, such agony.
And You are identifying with me!
And who are you?
You are not me. You are God! Yet, somehow I feel like I’m in you.
Now I feel the shock.
You are God.
I am not God.
You are God.
I am feeling the pain of my pride.
My arrogant pride.
A pride birthed in Sin and justified by what I have suffered.
My arrogant pride… It multiplies with the arrogant pride of others….
In wanting to be You, to be God—we…I nailed you to the cross.
When the Demonic sperm entered our Image bearing Humanity, this delusional “My way for I am a god” pride was conceived. Then our little solar system selves came together with other solar systems in order to create a universe that didn’t want God to be God and conspired together to kill him when he intimately and honorably came into this rebellious universe.
Notice what Peter said to the Jewish people assembled on the day of Pentecost, and to us…
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36 ESV
And how did they respond? How are we to respond?
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 2:37
Take to heart Peter’s answer…
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 2:38.
Yes, Evil is in our own hearts, and only the God Who is God can rescue us.
“Don’t think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.” Jordan Peterson.
9/7. FAITHFULLY HANDLING SIN: MINE & THEIRS
If you are to faithfully handle the sins of others against you, you must first deal with your own temptation to act like a slave instead of as a adopted son or daughter of God. Begin by remembering from where God has brought you and how God has borne you here.
Although much of the Jerusalem crowd rejected Jesus, some were drawn to Him. Imagine yourself among those somewhat persuaded. Ask the Holy Spirit for help, and place yourself in the story (John 8: 31-47):
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
A disciple is an apprentice. Such a person follows the master, obeys the master, and becomes like the master. To be a disciple, you have to stay with Jesus and trust Him more and more deeply.
If you remain with him and trust more deeply, you will realize the truth that will set you free. Although you wonder about this truth, you have already taken offense with his implication that you are not free, but a slave:
They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
You know your heritage. You are proud of your heritage. Your rooting in this heritage has empowered your people through many overwhelming challenges and great indignities for two millennium. You are not dominated by the cultures around you, some of which have tried to destroy your culture and identity. You are a free son or daughter of your independent founding father, Abraham.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Jesus has now explicitly exposed your slavery to Sin. Contrarily, you claim direct biological and religious ties to Abraham, and proclaim yourself to be free. However, Jesus uncovers your Sin identity; this is the root from which you operate. You are using your heritage as cover. As a result, you are only a temporary resident in the house of Abraham.
Jesus states that He is the only one who can set you free, being the only real Son in the household of Abraham. You quake, “Who does He think He is?”
Now, Jesus reveals your real root:
I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
You Are of Your Father the Devil.
Jesus’ cutting words have deeply wounded, shamed, and provoked you; they go right to your root. Sin and the Devil want to lead enraged and enslaved you on a mission to destroy the word, the Word, and His Father.
Even though Jesus conveys Heavenly words, you will not listen because you prefer a delusion. Truly your Sin is in bed with the Devil; he, not Abraham, is your source—your father.
You are feeling the unnerving truth, and the truth is filling you with rage. So you again growl Abraham as your father:
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”
Abraham heard God’s word. He believed and trusted deeply. Also, he later welcomed God’s Word bearers.
In contrast, you who use Abraham as cover are a part of the Demonic dynamic that seeks to eliminate the truth and kill God in order to maintain a delusion.
They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”
Now, you declare that you have not prostituted yourself with other gods and cultures. You have been faithful to God. You inwardly shout, “Look at our root Jesus. See! We are innocent and pure of your charges. God is our father just like he was the source for Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
You do not love him. You hate him because he keeps saying what you refuse to hear. He keeps jabbing into your delusion, exposing and threatening your foundational lies.
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The Devil exists in a realm of delusion founded upon the lie, “I am God.” He keeps lying and murdering in order to maintain and even extend this delusion. His moral right is “whatever I can get away with”. He dupes Sinful humans to chase the lie and be mastered by him. Those so caught in a delusion can not and will not listen to anything that undoes this.
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Not only Jesus’ words, but also his actions demonstrate that He is not rooted in Sin. Jesus is claiming to be sinless. It demands proof If it is otherwise. Free from bondage to Sinn, He is Who He is, the only true seed of Abraham and Son of the Father.
He is who he is and their presents and says what he says in order 2 bring them to terms with their condition so that He can set them free.
For if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!
The precondition for your freedom and adoption into Christ’s Sonship is to realize and admit your bondage to Sin and the Devil, that you have eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and have a responsibility for the dynamic that crucified the Son of God.