Monday, August 4, 2014

The way in is the way out

There is an old riddle which goes something like this:  "Pete and Repeat went up a hill.  Pete fell down, and who was left?"  The goal of the simple riddle is to get you to answer the riddle with "Repeat" - and then you launch into the riddle all over again from the beginning until they catch on that you are repeating the joke because they answer for you to "Repeat".  Hokey, I know, but an illustration of how we sometimes live life - hearing the "riddle" before us, we launch into a confident answer of "repeat" and we launch into the same cycle of events which landed us in the spot we are right now.  We hear sin's call and it is like we answer "repeat" to it all over again - time and time again. Then we stand there scratching our heads wondering how we got the same results to a new set of circumstances!  Well, the answer is pretty obvious - we are "doomed" to repeat what we don't actually allow to be changed in our lives - not by our own effort, but by the grace and love of God!

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. (Colossians 1:13-14 MSG)

As long as we are living by the "repeat" clause, we are really doing nothing more than walking a dead-end alley.  Think about that illustration for just a moment.  What is at the end of an alley which "dead-ends"?  Isn't it just a blockade of some sorts?  What are the characteristics of an alley?  If you stop to consider it, an alley is not a very "pretty" place.  It is riddled with all manner of garbage, back-doors into places which appear much "prettier" on the "store-front" side of the street.  

The illusion created on the "store-front" side isn't actually maintained in the alley!  Why?  The alley is not for "show" - it is for the unloading of what nobody wants to see on display in the store itself.  It is the place of refuse (garbage / trash)! As long as we continue down into the alley, all we will see is the place of refuse and the potential of dead-ended attempts!  Zig Zigler is quoted as saying, "Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street."  I think many folks may actually not believe this, though.  In fact, they hear the little riddle in their heads and then they answer "repeat"!

Dark dungeons is an apt illustration of where sin seemingly leaves us - surrounded by darkness, feeling very alone, and frightened by every "shadow" we see.  Dungeons are really cells where prisoners are held.  It usually was underground and had something to do with the torture the prisoners would experience while being held within their walls.  This is indeed an apt illustration of what sin manages to do to us as we respond to its call - locking us up tightly in tiny "cells" of torture and bondage!  Putting both of these together, we find Paul reminding us of the hope we have in Christ Jesus - that of being rescued from the place of "refuse" and "dead-ends", of truly being free of the dark places of bondage and torture in our lives!

Too many of us see only the "wall" at the end of the alley of sin - looking around hopelessly at the predicament we are in and telling ourselves we have no way out.  Even a dead-end alley has a way out - it is usually the way we came in!  If we want out, we have to turn around!  We have to turn away from the wall and head toward the opening of the alleyway.  The same is true of sin in our lives - we have to turn away from it, begin walking in the opposite direction of that place of "refuse".  We will only be discouraged and "held captive" by the dead-end alleys of sin when we keep our focus on the wall at the end of the alley.  As soon as we take our eyes off the wall which reports to us there is "no way out", we will be able to see the glimmer of hope at the opposite end!

Here is where we go back to speaking of our "focus" in life.  As long as we see sin's dungeons and dead-end alleys, believing this is all we have hopes for in life, we will not ever be able to believe anything else is possible for us.  What keeps a prisoner of war alive many times is his sheer refusal to "forget" the hope of release!  He focuses on "getting out", not the abject torture of where he is at the moment.  He remembers family, friends, projects he dreams of, and the "outside world".  It isn't "pie in the sky" for the prisoner - he makes it his reality - all he focuses on.  Why?  So, the enemy doesn't dupe him into believing it is all over for him!

The enemy of our souls wants us to think freedom from sin is "all over" for us. He wants us to believe it just isn't ever going to happen.  We may travel the same alleyways time and time again, but here is the truth as God puts it: You have ALREADY been delivered from that "dead-end".  He has already "set you up in his kingdom" - we may not be focused on that yet, but if we will hear his voice calling us, we will note it is coming from the opening into that alleyway, not the brick wall in front of us!  Just sayin!

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