We have an ant problem. I’m not sure where they came from. I haven’t seen one single ant all winter, but as soon as we had a few warmer days, all of a sudden, there they were – swarms of them – in the bathroom. I’ve never understood this since I don’t keep food in my bathroom. So, out came the ant traps. We found these liquid ones that work great. I have to admit though, that I feel kind of guilty when I watch the ants march so purposefully toward their own deaths. I mean, they can’t help it that they are insects.
At the same time, though, my kids and I are sort of fascinated by how it all works. Before we break out the trap, the ants sort of mill around without any seeming organization, but once we get the trap out, it’s like some invisible drill sergeant has told them to fall in. The ants march into the trap in a single line and then come out again. Often, they go in more than once. Some stagger out again, half poisoned, but others just die in the trap.
Even though the ants going in and out have to see all the tiny corpses of their little friends, they just keep marching in and out of the trap. My kids and I both have the same question – WHY do they keep going in there? Don’t they see that it is a really bad idea?
As I was watching this little drama unfold in my bathroom, God gave me an epiphany. As I watched the macabre march of the ants, it occurred to me that we do the same thing as believers.
Of course, I don’t mean literally. What I mean is that we continue to believe that we can overcome sin if we just try hard enough, if we just are a little more disciplined. Sometimes, that message is even preached from our pulpits – with every good intention – but it is poison.
We continue to march by our fallen comrades, strangled by strongholds of sin and think that it will somehow be different for us because we will just try harder and do better. We take in the poisonous false truth that in our own strength we can overcome sin. The truth is – we can’t.
BUT – Greater is He that is in me than he that has overcome the world.
Have you ever had a sinful thought that pops into your brain and no matter how you try to shake it, it just keeps popping back in there. Sure, you try to take every thought captive. You try to quote a verse or maybe sing a praise song, but then it comes back. Usually, satan whispers it into your ear when you’re tired or your guard is down, so you aren’t as inclined to take it captive. Then that sinful thought runs amok.
Well, I was having that issue. I had prayed about it. I had told myself to get a grip on this thought. I had felt inadequate that I couldn’t seem to run the thought out of my head once and for all. I felt kind of defeated and at the mercy of this sin. I felt embarrassed and ashamed at my inability because, after all, I’m a Sunday school teacher. I write about God’s presence in my life. Surely, I should be able to win in this battle, right, if I just tried a little harder?
One day, I prayed – AGAIN – about this sin. In answer, it was like God whispered to me, “You are no longer sin’s slave, so stop acting like you still are.”
Suddenly, it became crystal clear what the problem was. See, even though I could mouth all the right words, inside, I believed sin was my master and I had to figure out how to escape on my own.
But I was trying to escape a master who no longer had any authority over me on my own when I had back up! It’s true – I am weak, but God is strong. His authority can overcome. So, I claimed that authority in Jesus name, and you know what? The stronghold loosened and fell away.
I don’t want this to come across as some kind of magic chant, or that I never struggled again. Because a few weeks after this victory, I was tired and in a bad mood and satan struck and I fell. Why? Because I let my guard down. The truth is we are at war, and if satan can’t keep you from salvation, he will keep you from living abundantly in Christ. There are two times we are the weakest. One is obvious – after defeat, but the other one trips a lot of people up (me included!), and that is after victory.
Claiming Christ’s authority over sin doesn’t preclude true repentance. It doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down. It doesn’t mean we don’t draw our sword – I am a firm believer in Scripture as a way to counterattack sin in our lives. What it DOES mean is that we do NOT have to white knuckle our way to overcoming in our own strength. Christ has already the conqueror. I’ve read the end of the book, and we win. We do not have to live as a slave to sin or let it master us because we have a completely different master – one that loves us and WANTS us to live in victory.
I love this bridge that Chris Tomlin wrote for the song Amazing Grace. It seemed particularly apt today.
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior, ransomed me
And like a flood
His mercy reigns
By Chris Tomlin
How has God set YOU free from a stronghold in your life? I’d love to hear about it!