Several years ago, I recall reading a story line about a young couple who had fulfilled their dream of purchasing a Victorian home in an exclusive neighborhood. Their plan was to remodel the large, older home and to rent the two apartments on the first floor to help cover the cost of the monthly mortgage. One of the tenants was a very quiet and unassuming man, and it looked to be the making of a perfect arrangement. However, over time, he runs the other renters out of the house by making loud noises all night and releasing a barrage of cockroaches into their apartment. He gave the appearance of being a wonderful tenant, until he was asked to leave. At that point, the psychotic man becomes a frightening presence refusing to pay the rent, changing the locks on the doors, and harassing the young couple with scare tactics. It was all part of an elaborate scheme to use the tenant laws against the couple and to drive them into foreclosure proceedings so he could obtain the property cheaply himself. The young couple had given this man a place in their home, and he took advantage of them and tried to ruin their lives.
Each of us have faced times that I affectionately refer to as “stupid moments” in life. It may be actions that are out of character for who we really are. It may be public judgments made before we have heard all of the facts. It may be failed decisions that were not given deep enough thought. Irregardless of what our moment may have been, the resulting outcome is typically the same and we bear a deep sense of embarrassment, estrangement, and emptiness. Perhaps that is why Paul gave such a strong warning in Ephesians 4:27, “Neither give place to the devil.” The word “place” carries meaning of “a spot, power, or an opportunity.” It is the idea of giving someone a secure foothold from which further progress can be made. J. Wilbur Chapman said, “Temptation is the tempter looking through the keyhole into the room where you are living; sin is your drawing back the bolt and making it possible for him to enter.” We are never more vulnerable than when the devil has his foot in a door we have left open. Eli left a door of evil open to his sons, and sorrow moved in. Gehazi left the door of greed open, and the shame of leprosy moved in. Demas left the door of worldliness open, and temptation too great to resist moved in. You can never give the devil a foot that he doesn’t end up taking a mile! Consider the consequences of giving place to the devil.
It will mean giving our enemy an angle in which to ridicule. In 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul is addressing the vulnerabilities of young widows in the church, and he encourages them to live with such purity and character that they “…give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Paul was aware that, like tossing a pebble into a pond, one small action can set off a ripple effect of consequences in your life. When it comes to looking for wrong-doing in our life, our enemy does not have to search long nor hard. But, it is what he does with that knowledge that is so troubling. He not only gains great pleasure from legitimately accusing us “…before our God day and night,” but he illegitimately torments our minds long after the Lord has granted forgiveness of the wrong. David was forgiven of adultery, but he still said, “…my sin is ever before me.” Miriam was forgiven of her rebellion, but how many scars of reminder did her leprosy leave behind? Peter was forgiven for denying the Lord, but did the sound of every crowing rooster cause his heart to skip a beat? Seventeenth-century British clergyman Thomas Fuller wrote, “Even doubtful accusations leave a stain behind them.” The only way to win a match against a daring mud-slinger is to make sure you live in such a manner that nothing can ever stick!
It will mean giving our enemy an avenue in which to rob. In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter writes, “…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The word “seeking” carries the idea of “enquiring into the availability.” During our homecoming service a few years ago, a man was seen in our parking lot looking for a car with unlocked doors. His discovery of an open vehicle was the making of a victim. The moment we find our self “open” to any sin, it will not be long before our enemy has stolen our happiness, our holiness, our honor, and our horizons away from us. Our enemy never delivers as much as he promised in the sales pitch. Cain was so open to the removal of Abel that he could not see it would bring his own isolation from God. Lot was so open to the lifestyles of Sodom that he could not see the disgrace his family would have to bear. Solomon was so open to the beauty of idolatrous women that he could not see the ugly division his kingdom would face. In John 10:10, Jesus warned, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” Any time our enemy is given time and place to reign, ruin is sure to follow.
It will mean giving our enemy an achievement in which to rejoice. As if David’s infamous sin of adultery was not enough of a burden to bear, when Nathan confronted him, he said in 2 Samuel 12:14, “…by this deed thou has given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme…” As a Christian, our greatest concern with sin should never be what the Lord will do to us, but rather what we have done to the Lord. Our enemy is always patiently waiting for any chance to exploit us, ruin our testimony, and ultimately bring dishonor to the Lord’s name. After Israel missed the Promise Land through unbelief, Moses feared the Egyptians saying, “…the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land…” After Samson was bound and broken, the enemy boasted, “…our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” After Saul was conquered on the battlefield, the enemy took his armor “…to publish it in the house of their idols.” While God may have a hall-of-fame of faith, the devil is ever searching for another candidate to add to his wall-of-shame. Puritan preacher Thomas Watson wrote, “The sins of the godly are worse than others, because they bring a greater reproach upon religion.” The devil’s bow may be aimed in our direction, but the heart of God is always the target for his arrow.
I can still feel the fear and curiosity that ran through my body when I watched my grandmother wring the neck of chickens as a little boy. Like those chickens, we know our enemy is a defeated foe, but boy, he sure has a lot of kick left in him! In James 4:7, James wrote, “…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” It is the idea of standing firmly against rather than giving in. A man can never surrender ground and simultaneously hold the rights of ownership. You will never have to worry about giving an eviction to someone you never grant an entrance!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2011 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.