Monday, May 15, 2017

Sirens and Sin, Symptoms or Sincerity


In Greek mythology, seafarers were enticed by the beautiful music of the Sirens. Half bird, half women, these strange creatures would captivate the sailors with their songs, drawing them off course and toward their island. The sailors, so enthralled by the music, wouldn't notice the deadly shoals surrounding the islanduntil it was too late. Many a ship met its end on those sharp rocks, plunging their passengers into the tumultuous surf and a battered, brutal death.

When passing nearby the Siren's island, the hero Odysseus ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax and to tie him to the mast of the ship, so determined was he to stay on course and resist the seduction. And yet, he wanted to hear for himself the Siren's songs, so he left his own ears unplugged. However, he commanded his sailors that no matter how he begged and pleaded, they were not to untie him. With these safeguards in place, they passed by the Siren's island. Odysseus heard the songs, and he was indeed enthralled by them. He struggled against his bonds and begged the sailors to untie him, but heeding his earlier commands, they only tied him tighter to the mast. Odysseus and his crew made it. Just barely.

Another fable tells of Jason and his crew as they approached the perilous island. Jason had brought along the gifted musician Orpheus for such a time as this, and the musician played such beautiful music on his lyre that the sailors and their captain passed by the Siren's island without giving thought to their seductive songs. Their ears were not filled with beeswax, but Orpheus's captivating, beautiful music. Why would they need to destroy themselves for the passing pleasure of the Sirens' song when they had something much better and lasting to listen to right on board with them?

In much the same way, I wonder how we deal with the temptations of sin. It is absolutely inevitable that we will pass close by the islands of seduction in our own journeys in life. We pass by them every day! As Christians, we are determined not to be wrecked by the sin, and that's a start. But how will we work this out practically? Will our first response be to tie ourselves rigidly to the mast of our ships? This will certainly keep us from casting ourselves overboard, but does it truly help when we have a heart that still wants to listen to the Sirens calls?

What if instead of first turning to rigid safeguards, we filled our minds and hearts with something much sweeter and purer than sinour relationship with Jesus! If we could but faithfully abide and grow in our walk with our Lord, the Siren song of sin would fade into the background and become less and less of a temptation. As the great hymn says:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."

I am absolutely confident that this is truth. I have experienced it in my own lifeand want to experience it more! So what does this "turning of our eyes" look like practically? How do we strengthen our relationship with Christ? An incredible amount of this practical advice is found in Ephesians 5. I would highly recommend reading the whole chapter, of course, and will post a link to the chapter at the bottom of the page, but for the sake of sticking to a concise post I will hit the highlights for you. We are told to follow God's example as dearly beloved children, to walk in love just as Christ did (verses 1-2). We are no longer darkness but children of light (verse 8), and therefore we should find what pleases the Lord and do it (verse 10). Having no part in the deeds of darkness but rather exposing them (verses 11-14), we should make the most of our time and every opportunity we are given (verses 15). With this context in mind, I especially want to zero in on verses 18-20:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Like the sailors aboard Jason's ship, this is the sweet music we should be filling our minds with! Music is a powerful tool, my friends, and it can be used to seduce us to sin or to draw us to a heartfelt expression of worship. Let's use it for God's glory! Also notice the relationship of thankfulness in the latter portion of these verses. We should be in constant, genuine communication with our heavenly Father, thanking Him for all He has given us and done for us! If we can focus constantly on God's blessings, sin loses all it's curb appeal, amen?

Now to clarify, I am definitely a strong supporter of rigid safeguards! For instance, I have accountability software on my computers in addition to an accountability partner to help me in my fight for purity. My contention is not that safeguards are terrible, but that they are insufficient without an impactful relationship with Jesus Christ. Without something other than sin to captivate our attention, we will be like Odysseus in regard to our safeguards. Though restrained, we will be struggling against them, trying to be free of them, trying to lose ourselves in the Siren's song. That is why Jesus equates lustful and angry thoughts of the heart as sin in Mathew 5:21-28. Merely restraining ourselves from the outward symptoms of sin is not enough. We need to dwell on things pure and honorable (Philippians 4:8) and to sincerely love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might! (Deuteronomy 6:4). 

With this close relationship with God in place, it will be much, much easier for us to find and walk in that way of escape when temptation comes. That is my desperate prayer for myself and for all of you: that we will be faithful to grow deeper and deeper in Christ. The Sirens' calls are loud and so easily able to entangle us in this post-Christian culture we are living in, but we have found a treasure, a lifesong so much sweeter to live in. Let's lose ourselves in the eternal beauty and abundance of life in Christ, not in the fleeting, destructive pleasures of the world! Amen.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:12-14

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