I have an interesting digression from the parables. I learned an important lesson the other night.
The other night, I could not sleep. The moon was about three-quarters full. The stars were washed away in such a brightly lit sky. As I sat at my computer, I heard the lovely sound of an owl.
I love owls. One night, many years ago, as I was walking through a park, I heard two owls hooing to each other. I joined in and much to my delight, they responded back. The park was dark, and the owls were in the trees, hidden from my view, but our lovely conversation went on for quite awhile. I have never forgotten this.
Whenever I hear an owl, I try to locate it. This is never easy, given its nocturnal habits. So, I looked intently to find it. Perhaps it was perched on a fence railing or on the roof of our shed. I would have settled for a silhouette! I couldn't see anything from my living room windows. Despite the brightness of the moon, the shadows were dark and deep. But I could still hear it...
So, I went to the back door and crept outside. The wind was softly blowing, and I hoped the owl did not hear the creak of the back door. It was out in the front yard somewhere, but I know owls have amazing hearing. I tiptoed around the side of the house, and yes it was still there, quietly hooing.
I peered around the edge of the house, and could not see it. I was disappointed. I tiptoed back, hoping I would not run into a bear, mountain lion or surprised husband. I went back into the house, and I heard it.
I thought about sneaking around the other side of the house, and then logic took over. It was time for bed.
OK, what did I learn? (I know what you are thinking: It's an owl. Why sneak around your own house to see an owl? You're sounding a bit crazy here...)
Boom! That's Point #1: You are not smitten by owls, thus you will not go sneaking around your house on a late summer night. No owl, however big or beautiful, will lure you out of your house.
So...let's run with this. If the owl is comparable to sin, then I am lured out by what I am tantalized by, and you are not. You might hear the alluring call of an owl, but you stay put. But: What if the alluring call is an elk (OK, hunters, here we go) and you have an elk tag...You will grab your rifle or bow of choice and head out that door. I, on the other hand, will not step outside to hear/see/confront an elk. Elks are big (I have seen them mounted on walls, and if their heads are that big...) and I dare not run into one unprepared. I would stand my ground during an elk call.
Owls? Away I go.
So, we are only enticed by that which we enjoy/delight in/are curious about/have an appetite for. Owls for me, elks for you. But, we hear the call. So, if I am in the house, you can be sure Satan will have an "owl" perched out there. If you are in the house, he'll post an "elk." James puts it this way: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God
cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.…" (1:13-15)
Wow. That says it all.
Now: Point #2: The owl wasn't going to oblige me and come into my house and perch on my living room couch for a chat. I couldn't even see it, let alone invite it in. It wouldn't come in unless I somehow managed to catch it, and even then, the results of one ticked-off owl would be unpleasant.
So, I went out to find it.
So, sin is out there. It calls your name. It entices you. It intrigues you. It piques your curiosity. What is going on outside? Ignoring it is easy if you have no interest in it. But, you have to open the door and go out and find it.
Look how the Lord warns Cain as he is contemplating killing his brother:
"Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast?
Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if
you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to
dominate you, but you must subdue it.'”
Doors don't just open themselves. You turn the handle.
Computers don't just turn on by themselves. You have the mouse.
The TV won't turn itself on. You have the remote.
Sin is always calling, crouching, waiting. But you have to go out and meet it. I left my house, walked in the dark, looking for the owl. I could hear it, but I wanted to see it.
I couldn't control its hooing, but I could control my searching for it.
Here comes Point #3: Sin is out there. Period. There has never been a time when sin wasn't hooing outside mankind's door. Sin has its territory. I went out into the night, into the owl's territory. It can see in the dark; I cannot.
If you go out into sin's territory, you are going to be in a place where you can't see around every corner and where the dangers lay hidden. I could have stepped on a rattlesnake, or tripped and fell, even though I know my front porch. But a porch in the daytime is not the same porch at night. Shadows hide the places where I could have fallen.
Jesus has a remarkable comment to make on how we are to deal with sin. He teaches us to avoid it. Don't go out into the night: "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it
is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands,
to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire..." (Mark 9:43).
In other words, do whatever you must to stay out of sin's territory.
If the computer causes you to sin, put it in the kitchen or in some very public place in your home. If it still calls your name, throw it out.
If the TV causes you to sin, limit your cable package, drop your cable or throw it out.
In other words, be serious about sin. It's serious about you.
Finally, Point #4: Noticed how I sneaked out of my house to find that owl? I didn't dash in the bedroom, awake my sleeping husband, and shout, "Honey, there's an owl out there. Wanna help me find it?"
Nope. Do we run up to people and shout, "Hey, I'm gonna look at porn. Wanna join me?"
If you have to sneak/keep secrets/hide what you do/avoid discussing what you do, then you are sinning. Period.
Sin will always hold a fascination for us. Our nature responds to its call. My owl experience taught me to not seek out sin's territory. Stay in the house: The Father's house, and listen to Him.
This is the only picture I have been able to take of an owl. It was growing dark, it was foggy and as you can see, I won't be winning any awards for this shot.