THE FIRST LIE . . .
In Genesis, we read that God created and declared all things good, including the first couple, our parents, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and the serpent—the deceiver, Satan—arrives and tells a lie to Eve. She believes the lie as does her husband, Adam. They act on their false belief, eat the forbidden fruit, and face the consequences of their sin, the first of which was the recognition that they were indeed naked. God confronts them and the story takes a sudden turn as he appears too good to be true and does what is undeserved—God provides a sacrifice to cover their nakedness.
. . . IS THE SAME LIE
As a pastor and missional Christian, I have the opportunity to sit down with people from all walks of life on a regular basis and hear about sin and its devastating effects that comes with following the lie that unholiness promises fulfillment. I, like you and everyone else since the Garden incident, have been told the same lie.
Listen for Satan’s lies. That’s the only language he speaks.
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Good Friday tells us that God showed up yet again and covered our nakedness once and for all with the righteousness of Jesus.
A couple of years ago, in reading the famous Garden passage in Genesis, I noticed something and have used it ever since in both missional conversations with unbelievers and in discipleship settings with Christians. I call it “Find the snake.” It’s simple. In speaking with people, you’re going to hear about sin because that’s what we do by nature and choice. When this happens, don’t ignore it bashfully or run or duck but rather go ahead meet it head-on in Jesus’ name with Jesus’ grace.
LISTEN FOR THE LIES
But before you can address the issue, you’ve got to hear it articulated clearly. One of the worst things you can do is cut someone off mid-sentence and offer up an half-informed response.
As people talk about sin, I’d encourage you to look just a bit deeper than the act committed or omitted by the person or the person sinned against, and look for the ancient snake. Listen for his lies. You’ll know it’s him because that’s the only language he speaks (John 8:44). Listen for his words and his heart—those lead to his works. Ask, “Where’s the snake in the garden of your life? What lie are you believing or tempted to believe?” You see, it is more than the behavior that you want to address. Thoughts and beliefs give rise to actions. Address the thinking. (Theologically, this is in the realm of the 'Noetic Effects of Sin').
CALLING OUT THE LIE
We get one example of this by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Some of the Christians in Galatia were buying the lie from the Judaizer party, who essentially were telling the Galatians, “You can have Jesus and grace and all that, but you’ll need to tack on a few more works of the law in order to secure and maintain your new Christian status.” Paul knew this sounded like the snake, so he prodded deeper and asked “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).
They were in danger of believing a lie that belittles Jesus’ cross and the power of the Holy Spirit, and so Paul found the snake and called it out.
You can see that, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6.12).
Fortunately, the God of the Christian, Jesus, has authority over all authorities (Matt.28:18, John 16:33) and always leads us into victory (2 Cor. 2:14) The battle rages in both the physical world (demonic possession, Mark 5:1–20) and in the spiritual realm (faulty thinking, 2 Cor. 10:4–5).
Don’t just judge behaviors—find the snake.