“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Perhaps you remember coming upon your young child, candy wrappers strewn on the floor, and chocolate smudges covering a large portion of their face. Then you ask the question: “Did you eat a candy bar?” More times than not, the response was, “NO!” If there was another sibling, they were to blame. We are very good at this. Who didn’t at least think to blame the dog for your laziness in not completing a homework assignment.
The reason we are good at this is that we are good at sinning. From our first parents, we learned to shift the blame of wrongdoing to another. For Eve, it was, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” And for Adam, it was: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” It was ultimately God’s fault.
I grew up watching “The Flip Wilson Show.” “Geraldine,” his female persona, was fond of saying, “The devil made me do it!” And that is a lie as old as time; Eve’s lie. The tempter is responsible for his sin, but my willful submission to the temptation is my sin. The temptation is not the sin.
There are two verses that help us to understand this better. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” And the second we pray every week together in the Lord’s Prayer. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Temptation is common to every man. And the failure to resist it is also common. We are born with the surname “Sinner.” We are all truly sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. That makes the beauty of the promised gospel all the more beautiful. In the context of cursing the serpent, a promised “seed” of the woman would ultimately crush his head. Thus, the apostle John can tell us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Our greatest need in life is to overcome the power of sin in our lives. And left to ourselves, we will fail, and justly get what we deserve – an eternity in hell. “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” (Eph. 2:1-3).
We are a miserable lot, and without hope in the world save God rescuing and redeeming us from the curse and penalty of sin. And my heart races, chills run up and down my spine, and tears form in my eyes when I hear the good news that follows: “But God…” We cannot save ourselves! “But God, 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 – and raised us up with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).
And so you know why my favorite hymn is “A Mighty Fortress.” It reminds us of this great One who lived and died, and rose again, our Lord Jesus Christ!
And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for low his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers – no thanks to them – abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Let us give thanks to that Word that God sent, that Word that came “to destroy the words of the devil.”