Promises Like a God, Pays Like a Devil


It looked great. Chocolate cake, drizzled with fudge and sprinkled with chunks of hard chocolate. I could hardly wait to stab a piece and place it on my salivating palate.

And then I did it.

But it was … disappointing. The flavor wasn’t as rich as it appeared to promise. Sweet? Not exactly. Bitter aftertaste? Unfortunately, yes. In one bite, my meal-long anticipation of dessert was quenched with a piece of chocolate cake that was long on promise but short on delivery. I’ll never order chocolate cake at that restaurant again.

Isn’t that just how sin is in our lives? It looks like one delicious, tantalizing piece of chocolate cake that actually tastes like ground up rice cakes and broccoli.

The desire to live a holy life is often mocked. Puritanical. Prudish. Prosaic. Who would want to live that way? Such thinking is simple-minded and foolish. Is it fair to equate holiness with such a drab existence?

Shucking holiness for a life of approved vices is dangerous, if not lethal to the human soul. Like a slow poison, our hearts erode with each unfulfilled promise sin gives us. If we fail to awaken to sin’s treacherous deceit, it will gladly take every bit of joy from our lives.

Ralph Venning, a British non-comformist from the 17th Century, explains sin like this:

The precious substance promised by sin ends in a pernicious shadow, and the spoils we get by sin only spoil us. Sin promises like a God but pays like a Devil. Sin tells us that we shall not die but live like gods, but we find nothing but death and such a life as they have in Hell. Sin’s performance is altogether contrary to its promises; it promises gold and pays dross. If any man, then, has a mind to have true miseries, let him pay heed to sin’s false promises.

Viewed in this light, holiness doesn’t seem so bad. Holy living seems just, honest, authentic. Holiness promises a delectable chocolate cake – and delivers.

The Apostle Paul saw holy living a little bit differently than our world likes to position it. He writes:

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. – 1 Corinthians 1:9b-12

Let us ask God to give us eyes to see sin and expose its lies for what they are – hollow, empty promises that only leave us broken and disappointed.

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