When you read the following Bible words, you can be certain they are talking specifically about your heart—that it “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...” (Jeremiah 17:5).
At first you might feel insulted. It’s normal—just your sinful flesh acting up. The original Hebrew words are frightening (the English is bad enough!). The situation is serious; you may have forgotten how and why.
In your heart there are two religions. Both come from superior beings. Both give revelations. Both have doctrines and writings. Both claim rulership over you. Both talk of sinfulness and forgiveness. Both have a doctrine of justification. Both have commandments. Both of them promise advantages (good) and to ward off disadvantages (evil). Both use the idea of fear, promise to provide knowledge, and promise to give eternal life. And both encourage worship and praise to be directed to them.
You are a Christian, and you believe that things in the previous paragraph pertain to Christianity. And so they do.
But they also pertain to that other religion which insidiously uses virtually the same concepts, and which lurks down there in your dark, sinful heart. It was in control of you from conception. Even though you are in the Kingdom of Grace now, that other religion keeps popping up—day after day.
Do you recall the passage: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries….” (Matthew 15:19) and that it is in the present tense? You probably resolve daily to be living for Christ. But you know there is some other spiritual drive which constantly strives to undermine that resolve.
You have probably guessed what this second (or “shadow”) religion is—and the one who introduced it. He acted like he was God. His “manifesto” is the first five verses of Genesis chapter 3—which is really a declaration that, in his mind, God’s theology is “too true to be good” for mankind! He then made gods out of Adam and Eve—at least in their hearts. He has done the same to you.
Sinner and Saint!
You used to be just one type of religious person—sinner. But now you are actually two—sinner and saint—for as long as you live here (see “old man” and “new man” in Ephesians 4). It is the saint that now strives to live for Christ. For Christ came to destroy Satan for you, so that you might live for Him. In His forgiveness and justification you learn how to renounce the devil and all his wicked works and ways. It is there that you dedicate yourself, over and over again, to be true to the Triune God. It is only in Christ that you can do this, and only in Christ are you willing to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away.
Interestingly enough, Satan’s revelations—”prophetic declarations”— are what some align with ‘fate’ (the root of the word ‘fate’ being from the Latin meaning ‘speech’). While checking your dictionary here, look up ‘superstition’—it refers to someone with some kind of authority “standing above” you.
Both are scary concepts! The sinfulness thing means that everyone else’s sin seems way worse than yours. Justification is what Adam’s misguided conscience pronounced in order to cancel his own guilt—blame Eve (the first scapegoat!).
Your heart daily justifies itself and cancels your sin in the same way. Check out Romans chapter 2! The “good and evil” of Genesis 3:5, which you think you have to initiate and arrange, are things that only the God of Scripture can manage, for it is He Who guards and guides your life (remember how Psalm 23 uses these two words).
He who once decided that God’s words and love are “too true to be good” for mankind, now twists that statement around and tries to convince you that God’s theology—with the cross and resurrection of Christ at the center—is really “too good to be true”!
The devil tries to trap you both ways. That is why at times your heart leans towards denying God and towards clinging to the devil’s theology—which asserts its prior claim, enticing you to slide back into the hypocrisy and desperation pinpointed by Jeremiah
But child of God that you are, you have come to trust the very true and the very good theology of God even more.
This is the only way to live for Christ. You have discovered this before. Keep on discovering it every day—telling that damned devil to “go to hell” where he belongs!