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Escape the House of Horrors

When my husband and I started having kids, we discussed and decided on what we would/would not celebrate as a family.

We determined never to lie to our children, therefore, we would not do Santa Claus (except to talk of the real St. Nicholas), no Easter bunny (though we still participate in egg hunts). There’s also no tooth fairy in our home (though coins still replace teeth, but at a terribly cheap rate ;) ). We still have fun as a family, we enjoy our own traditions, and I hope that we aren’t developing a sense of legalism in our kids. We do our best to explain the why behind our decisions without condemning others. In these cases, we seek to honor God and not lie.

Halloween is an interesting one. I’ve read various Christian positions on the holiday. Celebrate or not? Mission field or not? My kids enjoy dressing up, and I see nothing wrong with that. We do place limits on costumes, but so far, desires to cross those boundaries have never appeared. We participate in our community’s Trick or Treat Main Street. I think it is a great event in our town. Some years we hand out candy, some we don’t, but it’s generally determined by schedule and nothing more. However, we haven’t shied away from talking to our kids about the darker side of the holiday, so they are aware. (They even got their pumpkins stolen one Halloween, so that was a good conversation about treating others the way you want to be treated and the command not to steal.)

Today I came across a Halloween tweet* that made me think again about the day, not to rethink our position, but to really examine what’s scary. The post was meant to be goofy (as per the post’s originator, Jennifer Greenberg) but it ended up taking me quite deep in thought and scripture (back to Romans!). The post included a child's drawing of a Halloween monster with the caption: “BOO! It's the Total Depravity Monster who lives in your heart and feeds off your soul.” (It’s also Reformation Day, by the way )

As I chuckled a bit, my brain started clicking. Because, when it all boils out, there’s nothing scarier to me than being separated from my God! The deception of the human heart is dark. It’s scary. It’s more horrible than any outside evil we might try to hide from. Without the redeeming work of Christ, the outpouring of God’s righteousness, the cleansing of sanctification, the presence of the Holy Spirit, our heart is the epitome of a haunted house of horrors! (see Jeremiah 17:9)

Paul the Apostle writes:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18-32)

Scary right?! I look back on my own life and can place myself smack dab in this passage. I NEVER want to suppress the truth again in my life. Never. Ever. Just the thought of going back to this way of life makes me shake in my boots! Paul's list isn’t meant to be collective. It’s not meant to sweep every possibility up in its words. It's not meant to say that an individual will experience every single thing mentioned. It’s a sample. These things happen, at the root, because “they did not see fit to acknowledge God,” which literally means “they did not approve to have God in their knowledge.” 

When God is excluded...when we don’t approve to have God in our knowledge...He gives us over to the “lusts of our hearts” and to “debased minds.” What Paul lists in Romans 1:18-32 is what happens when we suppress the truth about God.

“[Paul] wants us to see all the evil of the world as a river that flows from this spring. Reject God, suppress God, distort God, recreate God in your own image to your own liking, and the effect is worse than we expect. And the thing that is worse than we expect is that God joins our crusade against God, as it were, and delivers us into the debasing effects of our own rebellion against him.” -John Piper in his sermon “The Perils of Disapproving God”**

What muck! It’s like our own pool of quicksand...the longer we're in, the deeper we go. I can attest to trading truth for lies and so much more. We all can. Not one of us was born loving our mighty, holy, righteous God. We have loved self more. (“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” - Romans 3:23) 

But, don’t lose heart! There’s a way out of this house of horrors! Jesus Christ. Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus! The way out is HIS gift. Repentance is a gift of God’s kindness (Romans 2:4). Seeing ourselves in the hall of mirrors and recognizing that our sin, at its root, is desiring something else over God...truly SEEING that and turning to Christ, our only way out...is a gift!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-16)

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23)

Jesus reverses the horror of being given over to ourselves! He is the just AND THE JUSTIFIER! He alone provides the way out of the house of horrors that is our heart. He places in us His righteousness, and increases our desire to die to our old nature and live for Him alone...to become obedient from the heart to His standard. And that is something I will absolutely celebrate!

Twitter tweet-spiration
** "Perils of Disapproving God" by John Piper (audio+transcript)

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