For some reason I keep thinking about that madman in Austria who kept his own daughter prisoner under his house in a sealed dungeon of sorts and repeatedly raped her for 24 torturous years. She had seven children by her own father, six of whom lived, and three of whom his inconceivably unsuspecting wife raised.
The story is horrific beyond belief and that alone would be enough to keep it on my mind long after it has left the pages of the newspapers.
But it was his statement to the police that undid me. He said, "I'm not a monster! I could have killed all of them any time I wanted to, and I didn't."
When the story first broke, all I could think about was how long the abuse lasted. He was 74 when he was arrested and it had gone on for an unimaginable 24 years. That means it began when he was 50. I kept wondering at what point in his life the first thought occurred to him. And I wondered what he did with it. Did he reject it? Was he horrified by it? Then I wondered at what point he began to embrace, encourage and entertain what obviously became a recurring thought.
James 1:14-15 lays it all out pretty clearly: "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."
That is exactly what happened. His unbridled, untamed thoughts led to fantasies, which led to plans, which at some point he carried out all for the sake of satisfying his depraved lust. I'm sure there was a moment in time when all he could think about was "the plan." What I can't figure out is how he began to justify it all to himself in his own mind.
And now he tells the world he isn't that bad of a person because he didn't kill them? Is that what deception does to people? Yes. That's exactly what deception does to people. It leads them to justify their behavior and minimize their sin, at all times, at any level.
And the Lord had the audacity to tell me I do the same thing! Not only do I minimize my sin in my own mind, even when I do acknowledge it, I often presume on His grace! "Here we are again God, I was wrong, You'll forgive me, no need to make a big stinkin' deal out of it, right? Besides, I'm really sorry."
If I truly believed, even with the incomprehensible gift of grace extended to those who believe, that on the other side of every sin--every sin--lies a just hell punishment meted out by a fair and righteous Judge, perhaps I would look at my sin differently. We know the believer is not going to suffer the punishment of hell. Our sins are forgiven. What an awesome gift! But if we don't treat our sin as hellishly serious, we are presuming on grace. And if we really understood and believed that, how much differently might we treat not only our sin, but His grace?
In various verses in the book of Proverbs alone, our hearts are described in these tragic terms: wicked, cunning, perverse, deceitful, evil, unwashed, disloyal, straying, stubborn, dull, foolish, proud, crooked, raging, envious, destructive, heavy and hard.
Wow. How utterly tragic. That's what God has to say about all of us, not just that wacko in Austria.
But there is hope, and it comes from God, who is the only source of hope. He leads us into paths of righteousness for His name's sake. He renews our mind. He tells us the truth. He IS the truth! How desperately I need Him!
Here is my prayer for myself and my prayer for all of you in abbreviated form from, "The Valley of Vision: a Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions:
"O Spirit of God, If Thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged, any evil desire cherished, any delight that is not Thy delight, any habit that grieves Thee, any nest of sin in my heart, then grant me the kiss of Thy forgiveness, and teach my feet to walk in the way of Thy commandments.
"Deliver me from carking care, and make me a happy, holy person; help me to walk in the separated life with firm and brave step, and to wrestle successfully against weakness; teach me to laud, adore and magnify thee, with the music of heaven, and make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to Thee.
"I do not crouch at Thy feet as a slave before a tyrant, but exult before Thee as a son with a Father.
"Give me power to live as Thy child in all my actions, and to exercise sonship by conquering self. Preserve me from the intoxication that comes with prosperity; sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from Thee.
"Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom, not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
"I ask only to see the face of Him I love, to be content with bread to eat and raiment to put on, until I can be brought to Thy house in peace." Amen.