“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
IN THE AGE-OLD CONFLICT BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, IT IS OUR VERY HEARTS THAT ARE AT RISK. The tempter seeks to destroy us by deceiving us and drawing our will away from God. And to the extent that we allow our hearts to be turned against God, we allow evil to gain another unfortunate victory. We become yet another name on Satan’s long list of victims.
Our hearts are under attack on all fronts. There is not a single dimension of our thinking where we are not challenged by evil and confronted with crucial choices. In our intellect, the choice is between truth and deception. In our affections, we must decide between love and hatred. In our will, the stark alternatives are obedience to God and disobedience. Unless we determine not to let it happen, wrongheadedness, and even wrongheartedness, will overwhelm us in each of these realms and wipe out every good thing we were created to enjoy.
These truths are sobering, to be sure. We have an obvious need for humility and vigilance in everything that pertains to our spiritual welfare. But it is also possible for us to have courage and hope. Endeavoring to strengthen the backbone of his young friend Timothy, Paul wrote, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We are caught up in a cosmic struggle, but the Creator of this cosmos is far greater in power and wisdom than all the forces of evil combined. The rightful King reigns from His powerful throne!
The devil can tempt us and test us, but he does not have the power to overrule our choice. On the other hand, God could overrule our choice, but He will not. Having given us the freedom to choose, He exhorts us to resist the devil’s deception and to hold onto the truth. He invites us to find in Him that which is real life. So the basic issue is easy to understand and dangerous to forget. Moses captured it in his historic words to Israel: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
“The devil wrestles with God, and the field of battle is the human heart” (Feodor Dostoevsky).