Here’s A Thought for Jan. 26

“On the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught…… And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit (demon); and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit (demon), convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits (demons), and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” (Portions of Mark 1:21-28)

In the early 1970s comedian Flip Wilson popularized the expression “the devil made me do it” through his character Geraldine Jones and there were always roars of laughter each time “Geraldine” said, “the devil made me do it.”

The first instance of “the devil made me do it” used as an excuse was in the Garden of Eden. Eve says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). Her excuse did not get her off the hook (verse 16), and it won’t help us much, either.

Yes, the devil and his demons tempt us to sin (Genesis 3; Luke 4; 1 Peter 5:8). But “the devil made me do it” is far too often used to excuse our own bad choices after giving in to the temptations of our own sinful flesh or of our sinful culture/society; the devil cannot make us, baptized children of God do anything. The devil is absolutely worthy of blame for much of the evil and lawlessness in our world, but using the devil as a scapegoat for our own sinful choices is counterproductive to achieving victory over sin.

As baptized Christians within the Body of Christ, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us overcome sin (I John 4:4). We have in and with God’s Word and Sacraments everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). If we sin, we have no excuse. We cannot blame the devil. We cannot blame our circumstances. We can only blame ourselves. And, until we recognize that the problem resides within us (Romans 7:20)

The Apostle James declares, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14) Why do we sin? We sin because we are poor miserable sinners. We are by nature sinful and have sinned against God by our thoughts, words, and actions. (Romans 3:10-23). While demonic oppression as recorded in our Gospel text are real, the primary problem is our sinful human nature.

Just read the news articles in The Independent or listen to the new reports on television to realize that “The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, witchcraft, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, lying, deceiving, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Notice, it’s the “works of the flesh” in this list, not the works of the devil.

Yet, the Apostle Peter warns us of the powerful temptations of the flesh that the devil uses against the members of God’s Family as he writes: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. (I Peter 5:8,9) .

To Christ Jesus our Divine Exorcist be the glory! Amen.

Chopp is a chaplain emeritus, MDiv, BCC, from Marshall