As I have been studying Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh,” I came across two verses that made me look at my past life, and only then did I realize how true those two verses are, and the very real consequences of not heeding their warnings. Just as obedience brings blessings, so also, disobedience to God’s warnings brings consequences. So I wish to share with you my testimony of what happens when you do not heed God’s clear warnings…especially these two warnings.
Romans 13:14 reads this way, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” If we are to be Christ-like, we must make a conscious daily decision to adopt that lifestyle. We must adopt all the characteristics of Christ’s life and incorporate them into our lives. That’s what it means to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” To put anything on requires a deliberate, mindful, calculated decision that serves a need. We put on clothes because we are going to go out and it is socially unacceptable to go shopping in the nude. We put on a coat because it is cold outside and we want to prevent frostbite. We put on the Lord Jesus Christ for many reasons, not the least of which is to avoid sinning (fulfilling the lusts of the flesh).
Ephesians 4:27 says, “Neither give place to the devil.” So, not only do we need to be clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ, but we must not allow the devil even the smallest of opportunities to attack and hurt us. Let’s use the coat analogy again. If we put on a coat because the wind chill is negative 10-degrees in order to protect ourselves from frostbite, we will keep that coat zipped up all the way. Suppose you take that coat, and unzip it half way…now the cold can get in, and eventually, you will get frostbite. That coat may be protecting your arms and shoulders, and belly from the elements, but your chest is exposed and will become frostbitten. Why? Because you yourself breached an otherwise perfectly good layer of protection.
That’s how it is with us. We can walk in the spirit and put on Christ, and draw close to God while the devil flees, but all it takes is one area of our lives that we willingly expose (because Christ is more than capable of protecting us totally) and the devil will rush right in like a cold Arctic blast on an exposed chest in winter. Then, we have given a place to the devil. Then the devil can go to work. Then he can take us down. And just as frostbite does not happen immediately, you will not be destroyed immediately…but mark my words…sin without repentance will become more and more willful until we are doing things we never dreamed we’d do…case in point…
When I was in my early twenties, my family would go to Foxwoods Casino for bingo and to fool around with slot machines. They would always ask me to go, but, being even a nominal Christian at best at that time, I felt gambling was wrong and would always say no, and chose not to go. Time and again they would ask me, and I would always say no. That is until one day my curiosity got the best of me and I somehow reasoned in my mind that bingo was not a big deal. Behold, I had just taken hold of the zipper and began pulling it down ever so slightly. As the zipper made that familiar noise, the devil swung his head around and went, “Huh?” There it was…a toe hold for the devil.
A toe hold is a climbing term that simply means that a climber has found a place to put but a toe on the face of the rock. It is not sure footing and is a precarious situation where remaining on the face of that rock in that position for a long time is tenuous at best. A toe hold is a place to stabilize yourself until you find more stable footing that allows you to remain on the face of the rock longer and more securely. It doesn’t take much to knock a climber off a rock while on a toe hold…so as I allowed the devil a toe hold by saying yes to going to the casino, had I repented right then and there, the devil could have been driven away quite easily then…before he gained more solid footing in my life.
As we rode to the casino, I had mixed emotions. I knew it was wrong and against what I felt my conscience was telling me to do, but my curiosity bubbled inside of me. I was eager to get there and see what it was all about. As we drove around the bend in the road, there it was. The casino seemed to rise majestically out of the Connecticut tree line. It shone like nothing I had expected to see. Now my heart was racing. It was a beautiful building on the outside, and that was equally matched by what I saw on the inside! There were purple and teal colors everywhere and lights shining up on extremely lofted ceilings. All I saw were bright lights and all I heard was the sound of change from the slot machines hitting the metal collection bin on the bottom of the slot machine. This was so cool. And with that sentiment, I was unaware of how I had begun to slowly unzip a little more.
Several trips had past and I played only bingo, but, I finally decided to put a few quarters in the slot machine. It was quite the rush. This was my first time playing the slot machines and gambling of any kind. I would soon begin to play slots regularly before the bingo started, but I began to realize something. If I played quarter machines, and won four quarters, I’d win a dollar. However, if I won four coins on a fifty-cent machine, I’d win twice as much. So I left the quarter slots and began playing fifty-cent machines and eventually used the same logic to graduate to dollar and five-dollar slot machines. Now the devil was getting more sure footing in my life, and it came at a cost. I was content at first to play quarter slots with one roll of quarters ($10.00). But to play the five-dollar slots, I was now playing with $100.00 each trip down.
Soon, I started going to the casino for slots alone. No more bingo trips. Now they were full fledged casino trips at all hours of the night. I soon began to study up on casino games and discovered that slots were the worst odds in the house, and so I began learning and playing table games like Blackjack, Roulette, Caribbean Stud Poker, Let It Ride, Pai Gow Poker, etc. The problem with this was that my $100.00 dollars ran out quickly when minimum bets were $5.00 and upwards to $25.00 per hand. Soon my wallet carried anywhere from $300 to $500 TO the casino, but hardly ever FROM the casino.
Things began to get bad from there. I had unzipped my coat of Christ-likeness far enough that the devil no longer had a toe hold, but was resting comfortably in my chest and was soon to have his talons deep within me, securing himself for the wild ride my gambling was about to take us on. What could be worse than spending all that money each time I go down to the casino? How about lying and leaving work early just because I have an overwhelming drive to go to the casino. How about using up my 24-hour maximum withdrawal from an ATM and leaving the casino MAD because I couldn’t gamble anymore. But that wasn’t the worst.
I was enrolled in school during this time and I had access to the fundraising money that belonged to my class. That money was to be used to fund graduation and other important Senior Year functions. I began gambling with that money. Call it stealing. Call it embezzlement. Call it whatever. I had now crossed the line from committing one sin (gambling) to committing a second sin (stealing). While I was doing this, I gave no thought to what I would say if anyone asked me about the withdrawals from the account. Worst yet, I gave no thought to what I would say if I had gambled away the money in the account that wasn’t mine. God was MERCIFUL to me in that I won and was always able to put back what I “borrowed” (stole).
I’m not trying to sound however it’s going to sound, but it’s truly a blur to me how I got out of the gambling downward spiral. Obviously God played a role and prayer from others played a role, but I truly, from the bottom of my heart, can not remember making a conscious effort or decision to escape from the whirlpool gambling had gotten me into. Even now I sit here trying to think and can not come up with anything. I was far gone, but now I find myself in a restored state some fourteen years later. Now I don’t even buy so much as a lottery ticket. In the spirit of being honest, I do spend money on a raffle ticket to win an item (i.e. a Boston Bruins Stanley Cup ring) if the proceeds go to charity. I have no convictions about that…just being totally honest. I see a difference.
So, as I said, looking back on those two verses in the context I just shared with you, even if you are clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ, you CAN NOT give place to the devil. You CAN NOT unzip and breach that layer of protection being close to Christ affords you. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. If we are near to God, the devil will flee because there’s no place for him to hang on…no toe hold. And if we unwisely do give the devil a toe hold, we must repent immediately while it’s easy to knock him off of us. That’s what I needed to do the moment I said “yes” to going to play bingo at the casino.
In a very short time, I went from saying “no” to the casinos all the way down to stealing to support my overwhelming desires to gamble. There is a progression to sin. We may stumble into sin inadvertently, but if we remain there and get comfortable in that sin, we allow the devil to take us down to depths we never thought imaginable. People never start gambling and lose their house and family the first day. No one becomes a fall down drunk the very first drink. I have spoken to and counseled many heroin addicts who didn’t start off using heroin, but ended up in rehab strung out on heroin. People convicted of grand larceny don’t start stealing cars or robbing banks, but start small, like shoplifting.
What am I saying? I’m saying that sin not dealt with will lead to worse sins because the person sinning will get more and more comfortable until they find themselves in the midst of consequences. Then the next question uttered will be, “How did I get myself here?” I was stealing! Again, by God’s grace, I never got caught and it all worked out, but I was stealing! Do you understand that? I was no different than the drug addict robbing a store clerk to buy his next heroin fix. That’s the level I stooped to. Once you get past the fact that while I was neatly dressed signing withdrawal slips in a bank so I could gamble, I was no different than the addict shooting up in an alley way. And guess what…NONE of us are better than that. We are all just ONE bad decision away from starting down that road.
My ONE bad decision was saying yes to play a seemingly innocuous game of bingo. All my other bad decisions came about “under the influence.” All you need to do is make ONE bad decision, and you could be on the road to making many more bad decisions, while the devil is safely tucked away in your life, with his talons dug deeply into your flesh…all because you gave him one little toe hold.
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” AND “Neither give place to the devil.”