Just This Once…

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It seems pretty harmless, doesn’t it? You know, that little habit you practice when no one else is around. I’m just going to visit this one website. No one will know. I’ll only stay on it for a minute anyway.

Scripture refers to Satan as the Father of Lies. From the very beginning, he has been deceiving mankind. Sometimes, he does so blatantly, but other times, he will twist the truth ever so slightly so that it is hard to identify. In the Garden of Eden, he started by planting a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind. He asked, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Then he got a little more aggressive, calling God a liar, and saying Adam and Eve surely would not die if they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He made it easy for Eve to talk herself out of doing what she knew was right. I imagine she had thoughts along the lines of: Maybe I misunderstood God. Surely He didn’t mean we could NEVER eat from the tree. He won’t really mind if I have just one bite. Besides, He’s not around right now, so He doesn’t ever have to know.

Something as seemingly inconsequential as a single bite changed the course of history. Once Eve had convinced her conscience that one bite wouldn’t hurt anybody, she made a compromise that would affect the entire human race.

We often overlook the truth that decisions become habits, and habits become lifestyles. We think we can allow ourselves a little wiggle room to make a bad decision here or there. After all, we’re only human, right? What we don’t consider in those moments, however, is that we are forming habits. Every time we tell ourselves it will be okay if we look at this website, tell this lie, or lose our temper, it becomes easier to do so in the future, thus forming habits. Merriam-Webster defines “habit” as “something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.” As we repeat these habitual decisions, pretty soon they begin to characterize our lives. We go from telling a lie, to lying frequently, to being known as a liar. What started out as a small compromise has now come to define our way of life.

If you are a believer, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. He is the voice in your head and your heart telling you that you really shouldn’t click the link or tell the lie. The more you quiet His convicting voice by saying, “Just this once,” or perhaps, “Just one more time,” the further you push Him away. This is a dangerous game to play. We serve a merciful and forgiving God, but there comes a point when we have ignored Him for so long and pushed Him so far away that we stop hearing His voice altogether. This is a scary place to be. His conviction and correction are only for our good; when we stop hearing them, we miss much of His will for our lives. This should concern us because being in His will is the most important place we could be.

Our tendency to ignore God’s voice in favor of compromise is rooted in selfishness.  We value ourselves above others. Sure, if it’s convenient, we’ll consider how our decisions affect others, but if it’s going to keep us from doing what we want to do, don’t count on it. Sometimes we simply want to be lazy. Disciplining ourselves to refrain from sin can be too much work, so we decide to conserve our energy and succumb to our natural tendencies, which are always sinful and never pure.

Just as in Eve’s case, when we make these compromises, it damages our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others. In our selfishness, we put our desires first, and all other concerns become secondary. So what if I look at this website when no one is home? So what if it would hurt my wife if she knew? This is what I want, and that’s all that matters right now. Soon our compromises create problems for the people around us. Maybe you looked at that website, and your wife feels disrespected and unloved. Maybe you lied, and your friend doesn’t trust you anymore. Maybe you lost your temper in the restaurant, and your family isn’t welcome back.

There is good news though! You cannot push God so far away that you are beyond His reach. He is gracious and loves a repentant heart. Your life doesn’t have to be devoid of God’s voice. Run back to Him like the younger son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who, after forming habits and developing a lifestyle of selfishness, disobedience, and compromise, said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” His father saw him coming in the distance, dropped everything, and ran to greet him. He was so happy that he couldn’t even wait for his son to get to the door.  He exclaimed “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” God wants you to grow closer to Him, but this isn’t possible without the Holy Spirit’s presence and active voice in your life. He will rejoice if you return to Him and will reinstate his voice in your heart. He wants you back, regardless of how utterly selfish and disobedient you have been.

How different life would be for all of us if Eve hadn’t ignored God and taken that one bite. Consider the gravity of your everyday decisions. Just because something seems harmless doesn’t make it so.  Listen to the Lord’s voice when He speaks. You will inevitably mess up.  When that happens, run back to His open arms; He will be there waiting for you.

Emma Payne

Advancement Associate

Paul Anderson Youth Home

Emma Payne

Paul Anderson Youth Home