Sin seems to sink its teeth into us and not let go, so how does God want us to escape from this trap?
In France, Michel Vaujour hatched an elaborate jail escape plan; he was behind bars for armed robbery, but he intended to be quickly reunited with his lovely wife, Nadine. Preparing for his grand escape, Michel had taken several nectarines from the dining area and had painted them to look like hand grenades. He would use these to threaten his guards and force his way onto the rooftop.
Meanwhile, Nadine would pop down to the nearest helicopter rental shop and secure her husband’s getaway ride with her perfectly valid operator’s license and experience flying.
Not only did this harebrained plot succeed, but Nadine picked Michel up off the prison’s roof and they flew off into the sunset in their pirated helicopter before landing in a Parisian school’s football field.
Students tanning out on the lawns watched as the couple abandoned their ride.
Sadly, being behind bars didn’t scare Michel onto the straight and narrow. A few months later, he attempted a bank robbery before being shot and re-arrested. Nadine was also caught, and the guards presumably put the prison’s aircraft under lock and key and kept fruit far away from them both.
As one commentator put it, “We can’t help but wish we had a picture of those realistic looking nectarine grenades. Michel may have missed his calling as an artist!”
The Draw and Stupidity of Sin
Whenever I read about prison escapes or criminals who were just barely caught, I marvel at the misuse of their intellect and talents. Imagine where they might have gone and what they might have done if those abilities had been turned toward positive, productive (and legal) ends.
“Sin makes us stupid,” pointed out Gospel Coalition writer Kevin DeYoung.
“When we are thinking rationally, we can see the insanity of sin. Why would anyone throw away a livelihood, a family, or a reputation for a 30-minute roll in the hay?... Why would we flirt with a married man? Why follow the woman up to her room? Why flip through those channels in the hotel room?
“Sadly, we’ve all seen it before. From friends and family. Maybe from a trusted pastor or ministry colleague. It’s easier to see in others—the defensiveness, the blame-shifting, the excuse making, the nonsense of exchanging decades of faithfulness for minutes of folly.”
So why do we all constantly fall for this lame gig? The price is horrifically high; the reward for resisting is grand and good, and yet…
In his line of work with Teen Challenge, David Wilkerson wrote about helping believers who struggled chronically with senseless, life-destroying sins. “Multitudes of Christians — Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, charismatics — are still under sin's dominion. They are constantly fighting a losing battle against a sin that overpowers them.
“They sing, shout and praise the Lord, but something keeps cropping up and never gets dealt with. They may go a month or two, a year, two years, but then it comes back suddenly, and down they go! They say, ‘I'm hopeless, I can't help it. It comes upon me, and I'm overpowered.’
“My soul cries out, ‘Oh God, where is your victory? Why are so many of your people still enslaved by the enemy, still falling back into old sins and lusts?’”
As stupid as sin may be, we may feel helplessly drawn into its trap.
Trying to Fight All Alone
Dr. Howard Hendricks, renowned theologian and professor, conducted a study on young ministers freshly emerging from seminary. In the course of his work, he found 246 men who had fallen into an adulterous relationship within two years of graduation. Garrett Kell summed up the professor’s discoveries, “After interviewing each man, Hendricks compiled four common characteristics of their lives:
None of the men was involved in any kind of real personal accountability.
Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship.
More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.
Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall ‘would never happen to me.’”
This sin will never happen to me. I have the power to resist it on my own. After we fall, we’re crushed not only because we now have to live with the fallout of this sin but because we don’t understand how we could’ve been so stupid.
In response to this post-fall hopelessness that he had seen all too often, David Wilkerson wrote, “The moment you fall back into an old lust or sin, the devil comes to you with this lie: ‘That was your last chance! You've sinned once too often. God has run out of patience with you. Your sin is worse than others because you claim to be a child of God. You knew better!’
“Beloved, you may despair and sorrow, wondering how you could sin so suddenly and grievously toward your Lord. But you have to know he still loves you and is pleading your cause.
“He is on your side, praying that your faith will not fail in the battle. He will not take his Holy Spirit from you, if you will humble yourself and cry out to him from your heart.”
If we don’t cling to this assurance of God’s care and forgiveness, we will probably go forward trying to rigidly hold on to the restrictions that we broke. Don’t look over there. Don’t go to that place. Don’t think about these things. The harder we clamp down, though, the more sin seems to wriggle back into our minds and hearts.
We can’t fight this battle alone or by only saying, “No.”
The Passion and the “Yes”
Desiring God writer and Campus Outreach Director Matt Bradner pointed to one particular verse that provides a key for those of us longing to escape sin.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2, ESV).
Bradner wrote, “Here is what God, through Paul, is desiring to teach us: Christian power comes from the Yes we pursue, not the No we avoid. What is the Christian’s Yes? It is Christ himself, seated at God’s right hand. It is everything connected to the privilege that we now have to know him, become like him, and make him known….
“What does it look like to live with Jesus as your Yes? It’s fixing your eyes on what you gain in Christ, not what you lose in this world (Matthew 13:44). It’s fighting the pleasure of sin by filling your mind with the great and precious promises from God (2 Peter 1:4). It’s begging the Spirit of God to bring to mind all that God has freely given you (1 Corinthians 2:12). The heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, though he was talking about boxing, very well could have been describing Christianity when he said, ‘The best defense is a good offense.’”
What if Michel Vaujour, former bank robber and prison escapee, has chosen to pursue art? What if he had become a famous painter or someone who designed interiors for people’s homes?
What if he had chosen a better passion and a bigger yes?