Lost in the Undertow

It rarely starts with something big.

David was just standing on a rooftop. Achan was just following orders. Eve was just hungry.

Everyone “was just” at some point. That’s where it starts: in our court. On our terms. Under our control.

When God recreated the world—when He called forth the dry land and pulled back the oceans—He set a boundary. He told the waters,

This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!

(Job 38:11)

We have boundaries, too. We have lines drawn by God, commandments “for our good” that tell us where we must stop—that warn us of the dangers that would overtake us with one more step.

But we’re so much like the ocean. We ebb and we flow. Some days we shrink back, keeping our distance. Other days we swell up and see just how close we can get to that boundary.

Insanity. Those lines should terrify us. We should fear them more than we fear death itself. The spiritual forces that wait beyond those lines are the kind that “destroy both soul and body” (Matthew 10:28), the kind that guarantee an eternity of obliteration and nothingness.

Instead we plant our feet near that line and, like a child on a long road trip, declare, “I’m not touching you!”

For now.

Photo courtesy of Lallier Love Photography

Our feet may be firm, but the shoreline we’ve chosen to stand on isn’t. The waves are weak here, but they aren’t powerless. The water gently lapping around our feet removes some of the tiny grains on which we’re standing, lowering us imperceptibly into the sand.

But our feet are firm. The line is still ahead of us. We’ve crossed nothing; we’ve done no wrong. We’re just here to look.

For now.

A man once told me, by way of justifying his repeated gawking at a pretty waitress, “There’s no harm in looking as long as you don’t touch.”

Oh, but there is. There is. The distance between looking and lusting is often a very short one, which is why John was quick to warn the Church the be on guard against “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

David looked. Achan looked. Eve looked. But none of them stopped there.

What starts in the eyes can fill the heart, and what fills the heart can guide the feet. Gradually, the line we came to look at becomes less of a curiosity and more of a desire. The gentle pull of the waves around us grows stronger with every step, coaxing us to take one more step, and then another, and then another, until…

Until it’s too late. We’ve stolen the poor man’s lamb, we’ve hidden away the golden wedge, we’ve tasted the forbidden fruit. Crossing that line was just a progression of footsteps, and the defining moment wasn’t as definitive as we imagined it would be. It just happened. We went too far without even knowing it, and the power we had over the waves became the power the waves had over us. Pulling, pulling, pulling until we lacked the strength to push back. The ground disappears from beneath our feet and the only things we have left are the undertow and a sense of genuine panic.

And then, just like that, we’ve nailed the Son of God to a tree.

You did it. I did it.

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

(James 1:14-16)

I think the lie we tell ourselves is that we have the power to stop on a dime. I think we convince ourselves that we’re in control, that we can turn around before we go too far.

But “too far” often comes sooner than we expect. Or do you genuinely believe you can stand in the ocean and not be affected by the waves?

David lost a child. Achan lost his life. Eve lost paradise.

Photo courtesy of Lallier Love Photography

We’re not alone on this battlefield. We have an enemy—a bloodstained, vicious enemy. His goal is not to make your journey to the Kingdom difficult. His goal is to destroy you. To absolutely decimate you. To take every scrap of potential you have and crush it; to drag you out beyond the boundaries set by God and drown you in your own sins.

Satan doesn’t want you inconvenienced; he wants you dead.

Why is it that we’re so eager to help him? What makes us think that anything good can come from stepping so close to the lines God has drawn to keep us safe?

Not that it’s impossible to get back to shore after we’ve allowed ourselves to be swept past those lines. No, it’s quite possible—but it takes a monumental effort to redirect ourselves and fight against the current.

Oh, it takes one other thing, too:


Crossing those lines means sin, and sin means forfeiting our lives. More than that, without repentance and forgiveness, sin means forfeiting our sonship in the family of God. And returning to shore has nothing to do with our own strength—it has to do with the strength of an innocent Man who died in our place. An innocent Man who had nails driven through His hands and feet, who had a crown of thorns thrust upon His head, whose every agonizing breath forced His lacerated back to drag across the rough, splintered wood, whose blood poured out like water after a spear was plunged into His side.

That’s what gets us back to shore. That’s what rescues us from the grasp of Satan and sin. That’s what restores us as sons and daughters of God.

Photo courtesy of Lallier Love Photography

Remember that next time you’re thinking of sidling up to a line. Remember what it’s going to cost to make the journey back.

The blood of our Savior is not a license to see how close we can get to the things He’s forbidden. We were redeemed for better things than that.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

(Romans 13:11-14)

Brothers and sisters, we cannot afford to dip our toes in the waters of Satan’s world. We cannot afford to treat the boundaries of God’s law as playthings. We are fighting for our very lives on a spiritual battlefield against a foe hell-bent on wiping us from existence. Christ did not lay down His life so that we could stop trying. He laid it down so that we could win.

Our salvation is nearer, but the battle is far from over.

Take up the armor of light. Cast off the works of darkness. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom awaits.

Until next time,

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