You’re reading this Daily Article while I’m flying over the Atlantic, returning from Israel after leading our latest tour of the Holy Land. I wrote it yesterday afternoon before our departure and wanted to begin with news that won’t change overnight and might be interesting to you.
One topic is certain to accomplish the latter: shark attacks.
A now-viral video captures a huge shark attacking a Hawaiian angler’s kayak as he fished off Oahu last Friday. The fisherman spotted an injured seal shortly before the shark attacked his kayak and theorized that the shark mistook the kayak for the seal. The fisherman was understandably frightened but otherwise unhurt.
The same cannot be said by a thirteen-year-old girl in St. Lucie County, Florida, who said she was bitten by a shark several times while in the ocean on North Hutchinson Island. She believes her attacker was a bull shark at least four feet long. She was injured but survived.
The most tragic story on our theme comes from Australia, where searchers found what appear to be pieces of the wetsuit and surfboard belonging to a surfer who was attacked by a shark off South Australia’s coast last Saturday. Police will continue to search the area for the swimmer’s remains.
On average, there is one fatal shark attack in the US every two years. On average, sixty-nine people are killed by lawnmowers every year. But I’m guessing you’re far more afraid of sharks in the water than of lawnmowers on land.
How to “receive the crown of life”
One reason is obvious: you usually can’t see the shark attacking you until it’s too late. You may go your entire life at the beach never encountering a shark, but your next time in the ocean could be one time too many. Since it’s human nature to fear what we cannot predict or control, especially if it is more powerful than we are, it’s natural to fear sharks.
If only we felt the same way about sin.
A God who is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8) is required by his character to judge the sins of sinners. This fact applies to Christians as well as to non-Christians: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
At issue is not our salvation—once you become the child of God, you will always be the child of God (cf. John 1:12; 10:28). At issue is your eternal reward (or loss thereof): “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on [Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15).
But what about the sins we confess to God? He promises to forgive them and to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), separating them from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) and casting them “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19) while “remember[ing] [them] no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
However, every sin we commit and then confess is a reward for obedience we forfeit. Every time we yield to temptation, even if we later confess that sin and receive God’s forgiveness, we miss an opportunity to resist temptation, honor the Lord, and earn his eternal reward for our obedience: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).
How to be “more than conquerors”
When Paul came to Corinth, one of the most notoriously sinful cities in the world (to “corinthianize” meant to commit sexual immorality), he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Here’s the reason: only Jesus Christ can change the human heart so that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
As a result, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Christians have the Holy Spirit living in us as his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16) and thus have the power to refuse temptation whenever it strikes: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). (This includes sexual sin, which we recently released a resource on, titled, “What does the Bible say about pornography? Can you break free from sexual temptation?”)
If you and I would develop the reflex of turning temptation immediately over to the Lord and ask him for the strength we need, we would live in victory over sin as “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Imagine the impact we would make on our culture if each of us lived in such holiness and spiritual victory.
Conversely, if we “submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1), why would the lost world want what we have? Does this issue help explain the continued decline of religious interest in our culture? (Those with no religious affiliation are fast becoming the largest religious group in the US.)
It turns out the “sharks” of sin are far more dangerous to our souls, our eternal rewards, and our present impact on our culture than Satan wants us to know.
A wake-up call that never came
Two days ago, our Israeli tour guides arranged a wake-up call for our group for 6:00 a.m. since we were leaving at 7:30 a.m. However, I received mine from the hotel front desk at 7:21 a.m. (Fortunately, I learned years ago not to depend on them.) The wake-up call I was supposed to receive Tuesday morning never came at all.
By contrast, God’s “wake-up” calls are never late and always urgent.
Is this article such a call to your soul?
NOTE: When did we as Christians begin to be perceived as intolerant, even dangerous? How did this cultural change occur? And is there anything we can do about it? Read more in The Coming Tsunami, my most pivotal and urgent book.