Deceived by the Serpent

Genesis 3:9-15

In the exchange that we hear in the first reading between Adam and Eve and the Lord, we hear the Lord at one point say to Eve, “Why would you do such a thing?”  And Eve answers, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” Now, we don’t know from the text the manner in which she said it - if she was simply being honest or if she was evading blame, but no matter the case, she was deceived by the serpent and lost the battle to sinful temptation.

 

This reading really highlights for us the deception behind the sin. Sin never happens without some underlying lie that helped to cause it. Not even the most despicably bad person does evil things without the prompting of some deception somewhere along the line. Identifying the underlying deception that we encounter in a given situation gives us the best shot to arm ourselves against the temptations we face. 

 

Catholic writer Matthew Kelly has just come out with a new book entitled, “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity”.  In the book, he says, “The world’s promises of happiness are false promises, and a false promise is a lie.”  As he says, “Our secular culture’s philosophy about life and happiness can be most succinctly summarized in this way: ‘The meaning of life is to get what you want; and the more you get of what you want, the happier you will be.”

 

In our hearts, we know that this is a false promise. We know it’s a lie. Still, we fall for it over and over again. How often do we convince ourselves consciously or unconsciously that if we get the car that we’ve had our eye on, that perfect dress, the dream house… we’ll be happy?

 

Two outcomes can come of that: 1) we get the car, for example, and for a few days or weeks, we love it, we’re totally enamored with it.  Getting that car has given us a measure of happiness, but that happiness (as Matthew Kelly puts it) is circumstantial; it is dependent on that car. If the car were taken away, the happiness would “evaporate”, it would fade.

 

2) The worse outcome is we don’t get the car, the dress or the house, and we spend the days, months, or years in self-imposed victimhood believing that if we only had gotten the car, the dress or the house, we would have been happy forever. The person who never gets that car, for example never comes to the realization that the car was never going to make them happy. So he lives perpetually in the false promise, the lie.

 

It’s kinda like that quote that has been attributed to comedian Jim Carrey: “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and get everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that’s not the answer.”

 

The battle against the lies of the serpent are won or lost in our minds. What gains our attention may persuade us. That’s why Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman.” And David prayed, “Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless.”

 

Have you ever watched a food advertisement on TV suddenly you felt hungry? Have you ever heard someone cough and immediately felt the need to clear your throat? Or seen someone release a big yawn, and felt the urge to yawn yourself?  That is the power of suggestion.

 

To reduce the temptation to succumb to the serpent’s never ending deceptive suggestions, we need to keep our minds occupied with God’s Word and his promises. We overcome evil with good. They call it the principle of replacement. As it says in scripture, “Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honorable.”

 

The New Testament often describes the Christian life as a spiritual battle against evil forces, using war terms like fight, conquer, strive, and overcome. Paul tells us, "Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." We won't be able to say no to the Devil unless we've said yes to Christ. Without Christ, we are defenseless against the Devil, but with "the helmet of salvation" our minds are protected by God. And remember: If we are believers, we know that Satan cannot force us to do anything. He can only suggest.
 

We can use the Word of God as our weapon against Satan. Jesus modeled this when he was tempted in the wilderness. Every time Satan suggested a temptation, Jesus countered by quoting Scripture. He didn't argue with Satan. He didn't say, "I'm not hungry," when tempted to use his power to meet a personal need. He simply quoted Scripture from memory. We can do the same. There is power in God's Word.

 

A guy named Kevin was facing the most excruciating season of his life.

He and his wife were finalizing a divorce. He had lost his job. He was potentially going to lose his son in a custody battle. His savings were slowly being depleted. He couldn’t sleep, and he wouldn’t eat. He found himself at the end of his rope.

 

The darkness of Kevin’s days turned into the Serpent’s paradise. Every waking hour he was tempted to turn from his faith. The serpent unleashed his arsenal of lies on him. Everything that Kevin believed in was being called into question, down to whether God was even there anymore.

 

Kevin said that one of the things that God used to pull him through his deep valley was a journal that he kept. It became a lifeline for him. On the left hand side of the page Kevin wrote down how he was feeling and the lies that he was being called to believe. On the other side of the page he countered the lie with what God said was true. Line after line of lies combatted by line after line of truth. Kevin was in a battle for his soul and he learned that his only hope was to fight fire with fire.

 

As Christians, we all must learn to fight fire with fire. The Serpent is relentless with his calls to believe his lies, his suggestions, and we must be equally relentless to cling to the truths of God’s Word. Jesus modeled this perfectly for us when he returned each of the devil’s offers in the wilderness with one of his bold “it is written” rebukes.

 

Think of some of the most common lies we face as believers and some helpful truths that expose those lies and put them in their place: Try these…


The serpent says…God isn’t there. Have you heard from him lately? He doesn’t care. I haven’t seen him running to your defense, have you?

The Lord says… (Isaiah) “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”

 

The serpent says…Hey, live and let live. Who is to say that what you are doing is wrong? You’re not one of those up tight religious fanatics, are you?

The Lord says… (Acts) “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshment may come from the presence of the Lord”  

 

The serpent says…This sin will satisfy you, after all, everyone does it.

The Lord says… (Matthew) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”

 

The serpent says…You’re not a very good parent, or you’re a horrible husband. Boy, you really screwed up this time. You are condemned!

The Lord says… (Romans) “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”

 

The serpent says…if you give up this sinful habit of yours you’ll be missing out on real fun. God’s ways are boring and unsatisfying.

The Lord says… (John) “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” True joy is only found in Jesus.

 

Here’s the thing: God allows us to experience these circumstances in our lives in which we are tempted so that we can develop the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Character development always involves a choice, and temptation provides us that opportunity.
 

For instance, God teaches us love (self-forgetful love) by putting some unlovely people around us at times. It takes no character to love people who are lovely or exceedingly loving to us. God teaches us real joy in the midst of sorrow, when we turn to him. Worldly happiness, as cited earlier, depends on those external circumstances (by way of the new car, the dress or the house), but joy is based on our relationship to God.
 

Similarly, God develops real peace within us, not by making things go the way we planned, but by allowing times of chaos and confusion. Anyone can be peaceful watching a beautiful sunset or relaxing on vacation. We learn real peace by choosing to trust God in circumstances where we’re tempted to worry, be afraid, or lash out at someone.
 

In short, we can’t claim to be good if we’ve never been tempted to be bad, and we can’t claim to be faithful if we’ve never had the opportunity to be unfaithful. Every time we defeat temptation, we become more like Jesus!

 

And so we pray today, “Lord, help us to see the underlying deceptions perpetrated by the evil one, the Serpent that lead us into temptation. Strengthen our resolve to overcome those deceptions by arming us with the helmet of your salvation. We know that the world’s version of happiness is not the answer – it’s a false promise. Help us to grow in our conviction that by holding true to your Word, not every day will be a walk in the park, but we will be able to walk with the assurance of the ultimate joy that you desire for each of us.”

 

Amen!

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