Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Slippery Slope

We don’t get to do much of it in Maryland, but where I grew up in Connecticut, winter meant sledding. There was a good sized hill out behind the elementary school in our neighborhood, where we would drag our sleds and toboggans after every fresh snowfall. There we would ride the hill, screaming in fear and delight as our sleds flew down the slope, waiting until we came to a complete stop before struggling up from our seat to lumber up the hill for yet another ride. This routine would continue until we couldn’t feel our toes, or until the sky grew dark at the cold winter twilight. Whichever came first. Those memories are wonderful to have.

But getting back up that hill was no easy climb. The surface, packed down by sledders who had gone before us, was slick and difficult to navigate. Gravity worked against us the whole way back up the hill. It relentlessly pulled our bodies and the dead weight we determinedly dragged behind us downward toward the bottom once more. If we lost our footing, it was a slippery slope on which to try to counteract our momentum once we began to slide. It was hard work to get back up that hill! But the pain of the work was forgotten in the glory of the exhilarating ride.

There is a piece of our spiritual lives that is a slippery slope for us as well. Paul talks about it in his letter to the Romans. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man . . .” (Romans 1:21-23).

Paul is describing a downward spiral in one’s spiritual health. The descent looks something like this:

1. When we know God but do not honor Him, we begin to gradually lose ground. Something happens to taint our thinking process.
2. We have now lost the correct perspective, and our speculations become “futile,” or useless.
3. This leads to a loss of spiritual illumination, and gradually our heart, the seat of our emotions and intellect, fades to black.
4. A heart which is in the dark leads to false perception about ourselves. We become wise in our own eyes. But the reality is we are really fools. We have sold out, exchanging our object of worship away from a glorious God to something of our own making.

Do you see the step by step progression into spiritual darkness?

It’s a slippery slope. Why? Because it is so easy to begin the slide downward. Just as gravity and an icy surface can sometimes cause an unstoppable journey back to the bottom of the sledding hill, our natural inclinations can make our spiritual walk a real challenge.

Paul tells us that just knowing about God does not prevent this. Even Satan and his angels know about God! What does prevent the slide? A Positive response to the Word of God. The people Paul is talking about were not ignorant. They had enough information to respond in the right ways. Verse 19-20 tells us God made the truth evident to them and they were without excuse. But their response to God’s truth, according to verse 18, was to suppress it. They went into denial. It didn’t fit their agenda. So they failed to honor their Creator as God. And the downward slide began.

Beware of the slippery slide. Casting Crowns has a song on their latest CD called “It’s a Slow Fade.” How true! As we make small decisions to place ourselves ahead of the God who should be honored at all cost, we begin to lose our footing. A few more missteps and we find that the slide has begun.

Fortunately, we have a Savior ready to reach out His hand and rescue us from the consequences of our own making. He waits for us to call on Him for assistance. We do not need to climb the hill alone. And as He takes our hand and pulls us upward, we wonder why we ever responded to Him in any other way.

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