Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Snake In The Garden

In 1977, I was a youth minister at a church in Central Florida.  The priest at the church arranged for me to take five teenagers to San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but I was willing to suffer for Jesus.
Anyway, our purpose was to conduct a vacation Bible school for the kids and to preach at the churches on the island. When we arrived, we were met by the priest from the Anglican church. He helped us get settled and told us about the island, which is where Christopher Columbus discovered America. During the conversation, he said that there were no snakes on the island. It seems that natives of the island had killed all the snakes because they were connected to Satan in the Genesis story.
Now, I’m not a big snake fan, but I kinda felt bad that there was a snake holocaust based on the belief that all snakes were the devil. Satan was the one who was tempting Adam and Eve, but he was not the snake. He was the “snake behind the snake,” much like Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Satan in “The Passion.” Gibson portrayed Satan as one just behind the scenes making sure that his evil would be manifested in the actions of those who were judging and carrying out the sentencing of Jesus. In other words, “the evil behind the evil.”
Remember, Jesus spoke from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” His words remind us that there was something else influencing and fueling the hatred that day.
I have a dear friend who is very interested in the subject of the end times. We talk a lot about the significance of the nation of Israel, the political environment of our times and all the stuff that goes along with the return of Christ.
In our conversations, it doesn’t take long before the subject of the antichrist comes up. Many believe the antichrist will be the incarnation of Satan. He will rise to power as a type of world dictator and make the children of God public enemy No. 1. We also know he will be defeated when Jesus returns.
So many believe Jesus is coming soon and seem to be on a kind of antichrist watch. Unfortunately, over the last 2,000 years, many have jumped the gun and called popes, kings, fuehrer, emperors and even presidents the antichrist. This, in turn, has caused spiritual confusion in the body of Christ.
With all that said, I don’t want to discourage anyone from looking forward to the Jesus’ glorious return.
So when will the snake in the garden appear? In John 4:3, we read: “And the spirit of antichrist, which you heard was coming, is now already in the world.” This was written in the first century. Evil has been ever present throughout mankind’s history. But sometimes, it is so evil that it can’t be explained as just bad behavior.
When 11 million Jews and Christians were murdered in Europe between 1917 and 1945, that phenomenon cannot be explained by political or ethnic differences. There’s an evil behind the evil.
When men fly aircrafts into buildings filled with innocent people, don’t tell me that was not a snake behind the snake. And don’t tell me that there is not a voice behind the voices that brainwash a 17-year-old kid to strap a vest of explosives on his chest then go into a Jewish day care and kill children and himself.
We don’t have to wait on the manifestation of Satan in the flesh to know there is still a snake in the garden.  Jesus says Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy. But he has never pulled a trigger, lit a fuse or thrown a punch. His weapon is influence — but so is ours.
Within the spirit of the great commission is our call to influence the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He has given us the Holy Spirit as our word behind our words, the power behind our power, the love behind our love.
The natives on San Salvador Island may have been confused about snakes, but they weren’t confused about God’s love for them. The priest on the island also said the only people there who didn’t go to church were the visitors (like us). Someone had been used by God to influence the people of the island. I pray that Jesus will be the voice behind my voice, and you may be blessed.

En agape,
Fr. Mark

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