Horns and Halos

Scripture: Luke 15:17, Philippians 4:13
Sin is like a spell that dazes our minds and takes away reason. Sin clouds our will power. There is a war in our hearts between good and evil. The two natures of sin and holy struggle to be on top. Is this condition fixed and nothing can be done?
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One of the most popular and well-known parables of the Bible is the one about the prodigal son. And to my mind, one of the most striking sentences that gives meaning to the rest of the story is this little line: "... he came to himself." Luke 15:17. Don't pass lightly over that, friends. Volumes could be written about that sentence. This is the judgment of Jesus on human nature. Now this prodigal was really not himself in what he was doing, at least not his real self or his whole self. He was expressing only a part of himself, and that happened to be the worse part. Not until he made up his mind to return home did he actually become the self for which he was born.

Did you ever think that sin is really a spell which dazes the mind, steals away the reason and clouds the will? From the beginning to end of Scripture, the same sordid story of sin speaks. We see it in other people and just marvel over it. We cannot understand why they do not wake up and snap out of their spell of sin and stop doing such foolish, unreasonable things.

We remember Samson, for example, and how he was bound and deceived three times by Delilah. Why did he tell her the secret when he knew her intentions were to destroy him? We think that Samson was a fool for his naive dealing with Delilah. Yes, but there we see the spell of sin in all of its strength. I think most pastors understand what I am talking about here because they have dealt with men, women and youth who were involved in sin. Sometimes an individual is threatened by sin to such a degree that his security, his home, his eternal life is at stake. Yet that very person will not break with it. Why is it so easy to see transgression in others and yet be so blind when we are involved emotionally ourselves? The answer to this lie is buried deeply in the secret of human nature.

What do we know about ourselves anyway? A father had just punished his little boy. Towering over him he asked the question: "Will you be good now?" Looking up into his eyes, the little boy said, "Yes and No." I think we can all understand the boy's answer because that is how it is with each of us. We are not all horns and we are not all halos. There is some sort of mixture, and we would say "Yes and No." There is a conflict taking place in our lives. We do not need any theology to tell us this. From our own experience we know about those dark, unmanageable elements in us that we cannot explain. We know how ugly feelings and unholy feelings gush from the unconscious depths of our nature sometimes. For no explainable reason we are cross, peevish and downright mean. We explain it this way: "I wasn't myself," or "something got into me," or "I don't know what got into me." The fact is, friends, that there are two natures struggling within every human heart. There is a spiritual nature, and there is a carnal nature also seeking to dominate the life.

There is one class of people who bring out all the horns on my head and make me forget sometimes that I am a preacher who is supposed to have a halo or two. The people who try my religion the most are those who meet every failure in themselves or in others with a superior smile and that old statement, "You can't change human nature." What do they mean, "You can't change human nature"? If they mean only that we will always have trouble with horns, then of course, they are right. We will always be struggling with the lower nature. If they mean that we cannot hope to get rid of the great driving instincts with which we were born, then they are still right. But who wants to get rid of them, anyway? Who wants to get rid of his sex, his ambition, his power to shape life, his temper, his desire to excel? Not even God would take these away. He gave them to us in the beginning. These are qualities that make us real men or women. They simply have to be controlled and rightly directed. Under proper control, they can be very sacred, and excellent factors in the human life. But if those people mean what most folk mean, that sin is natural, that human nature is synonymous with being weak and wicked, that our destiny is fixed and final and we can do nothing to change it, then that is a lie. The whole plan of salvation is designed to break the power of sin and to change human life.

Somebody says, "Well, you don't understand my background. You don't know about my inherited weaknesses." Another argument is very popular also: "My environment is against me. I was born on the other side of the tracks. I didn't have a chance as a child." Are these valid arguments, friends? I do not understand, of course, about your heredity. I don't have to. I don't care. You know why?

Have you ever heard of Nazareth? The beautiful little village where Jesus lived and grew up as a child and youth? It was simply ideal for location. The beautiful surrounding hills bore powerful evidence of the Creator-God. It was a lovely situation. But there is something about Nazareth we should understand. Nazareth had a reputation for its sin. It was a by-word for immorality and vice. No wonder Nathaniel asked the question, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" It was one of the most ill-reputed places on the face of the earth. That raises an interesting question, doesn't it? Why did Jesus choose to live in such a place with such a terrible reputation for sin? There were thousands of other clean, respectable villages where He might have lived, but there in Nazareth He had to rub shoulders daily with some of the most perverted young men. Why did He do it, friends? I think I know part of the reason. Jesus knew there would be other cities, cities like New York, Chicago, London, Shanghai, San Francisco. He knew that individuals would have to live in the environment of those wicked places and gain the victory over sin. So Christ came to a place that was just as low and evil as any earthly place could be. He gained the victory over that environment to show that it is possible for us also to gain the victory. He exercised no power in gaining that victory that we may not have through faith in our heavenly Father. No one ever lived under greater conditions of temptation than He did. He was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin. What an encouragement it is to see Him living in that wicked Nazareth and still overcoming temptation. He was a boy who would not bend in the slightest to the waves of evil influence.

Every young person should be encouraged by that tremendous example. There is no excuse for us to fall into sin. Do you think it is possible that someone might be born with so much inherited weakness and so many environmental influences that he could never overcome sin? Will God ever excuse a person because of hereditary forces and evil environment? I think about Joseph, who had to meet those fierce temptations down in Egypt. He stood all alone, friends. He had no encouragement whatsoever. It would have been easy enough for him to say, "Well, I am sure the Lord doesn't expect me to stand up against all the entrenched evil of this heathen nation." And yet, would God have excused him for lowering the standard under those conditions of Egypt?

What about Moses who grew up in the heathen palace of Pharaoh? He didn't have very much to encourage him either. Do you think Moses could have claimed some exemption from the great standard of moral purity? Could he claim to be an exception before God because of his standing alone in the midst of a dark land of heathenism? What about Daniel and his companions over in Babylon? No, friends, God never made an exception. The same spiritual principles of truth and purity have been the guidelines for all God's children in all ages.

I had a roommate once who felt that he could never be saved. It was hard for him. He could do very well during special revival meetings and weeks of prayer, but a few days later he seemed to drop right down to the bottom again with discouragement. He would often say, "It's just not in me to be a Christian. I don't have it in my makeup to really be a faithful, firm Christian." Well, friends, I repeat the question: Is it possible that some people are just ingrained by nature with inherited strains of weakness? Are some people more subject to temptation and sin because of their inherited emotional makeup? And will God excuse those people and actually use a different standard in the judgment? No, not in the least. I freely confess that some may have inherited strains, but the Bible says, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." For those people God will supply special measures of power to counteract the forces of hereditary or environment.

I would like to point you to some outstanding examples that will encourage you. Let us think about Abraham for a moment. He became the father of the faithful, his name is associated with victory and overcoming. And yet, where did Abraham live as a youth? What kind of home environment was prevalent in his Chaldean village? Well, for your information, Abraham lived in an idol-worshiping home. In fact, for many, many years he was subject to the heathen influences of that kind of environment. At the age of 75 God called him out of that place, but he was brought up under the most adverse circumstances. If you and I could have looked down on him in that Chaldean home as a youth, we would have given him no chance of becoming a great leader for God.

Let's look down a little further in the stream of history at the life of Ruth, the Moabitess. This girl lived on the east side of Jordan among the most apostate people. The Moabites had opposed the program of heaven for so long that God finally pronounced the death sentence on them, they committed the unpardonable sin. This girl, Ruth, lived in this abandoned place, among people who had the very lowest standards of life and conduct. The time came, though, when she was lifted out of the wicked environment of Moab. She followed her mother-in-law across the Jordan River and settled in the Promised Land. Friends, believe it or not, the name of Ruth is found today in the Messianic family of Jesus Christ. She became one of the ancestors of our Lord, if you please.

You say, "How did it happen, how could she have possibly been accorded such an honor?" For the simple reason that she yielded to the mighty saving power of God's grace. All those inherited weaknesses of Moab were ground out of her life by the miracle power of God. All the environmental influences of that reprobate people could not prevent her from being a great heroine for God. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."

I think of another young woman whose name is even more impressive to us. Rahab lived in the little city of Jericho. Hers was an abandoned life to immorality and sin. If you and I could have seen her there living in that little city with no apparent religious inclinations at all, we would have simply dismissed the idea of her salvation. And yet Rahab's name is found today as one of the progenitors of our Lord. She became one of the ancestors of Jesus also. Her name is right there in the royal genealogy.

How did it happen? It seems impossible that such a thing could be. She also leaned toward the true God. She inclined toward the God of Israel. Her life was completely transformed and she became one of the great overcomers in the gallery of God's heroes.

Well, I could talk about many more names, not only from ancient times but in modern days as well. I will tell you about an Indian boy who sat in my evangelistic meetings in Bangalore, India several years ago, a little Hindu boy who drank in the message night after night. He was baptized and wanted to go to college to be a minister. We helped pay his way through college. He graduated at the head of his class, married a lovely Christian girl from Ceylon. Now Jacob has his Doctor's Degree and is chairman of a corporation which sponsors 5,000 third-world children in getting a Christian education.

But what about you? You may have been dug from a very rough pit also. Your life may be streaked with inherited weaknesses. Have you ever felt helpless? Have you ever wondered if there was any hope at all for you? Have you ever questioned, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Yes, by God's grace, even out of that old Nazareth dark life of yours. Isaiah says that God will make a man more precious than fine gold. This body of ours is almost worthless it is made out of dust and water mostly. I suppose the combined value of all the elements and minerals of the human body would be only a few dollars at most. Yet, God can take this combination of worthless minerals and make it like fine gold. This is the grace of Christ. Are you desperate for help? Are you at the end of the rope? Have circumstances conspired against you? Is your life riddled with weakness? Christ is the answer. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. Why don't you lay hold of Him now as your friend and your helper? He will deliver you, He will save you, He will make you a great overcomer for Him.

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