Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

It was spring of this year, and I decided to take action against the fruit flies that always bore holes into every single cherry to be found on the largest of two cherry trees in our yard. This particular tree produces three types of delicious cherries, which we, along with friends, eagerly look forward to.

Even though we had purchased some poison to spray the tree with once the lovely blossoms faded away, we weren’t comfortable with using such a toxic substance. Therefore, I went to my favorite source of information on anything and everything—the Internet. There, much to my delight, I learned about fruit fly traps of various sorts, and one in particular caught my attention. It was apparently an effective weapon in the bug battle, and also easy to use.

Hoping to find this simple method of fixing the fruit fly problem, I toted the unopened can of poison back to the nursery where we had purchased it. There, in a quick glance, I saw exactly what I was looking for and exchanged my prior purchase with this new, exciting solution to the problem. Visions of a tree full of sweet, juicy, perfect cherries filled my mind’s eye as I drove the short distance home.

In time the blossoms departed, and the baby fruit began to appear. I waited with my new secret weapon until the cherries began to blush with color. In spite of rain, wind, and hail storms, the hardier fruit clung to the tree, and predictably the reddish tinge began to quickly develop. It was time to set up my new surprise for the relentless fruit flies.

Digging into the box, I told myself to overcome my loathing for instructions of any sort, and read them. They were simple enough, and soon the special traps, three in total, were hanging from the two cherry trees, waiting for their first victims. Three big, red balls covered with an incredibly sticky coating. I felt a sense of accomplishment at this point, little realizing that it would turn into a tragic situation that literally broke my heart.

Supposing that the fruit fly situation was taken care of, which was mistake number one, I turned my attention to other parts of the property. When you are responsible for two acres of grass, evergreens, fruit trees, bushes and flowers, there is no lack for something to do, especially spring through fall. Even though I am not able to do heavy manual labor like I used to, when the assortment of brightly colored annuals becomes available in the spring, I can’t resist buying enough to fill a few containers.

As I sat on the deck one day surveying the beauty that surrounds us, I noticed two beautiful butterflies, happily flapping their bright yellow and black wings. I watched in awe as they gracefully soared higher and higher among the towering evergreens, only to float back down to swing lazily over the grape vine. They were the biggest butterflies I had ever seen, and as the days passed I found myself looking for them every morning, delighting in their God-given beauty and grace. Their bright yellow wings intricately “decorated” with their distinctive black design seemed to carry an extra burst of sunshine wherever they went. They always seemed to be sending a message of sheer joy and happiness in just being alive. In my heart I felt that they were like a special gift from God, one that brought joy, peace, and awe at His amazing handiwork.

One afternoon Rayola and I were especially tired, and took a break on the couch. As exhaustion settled over us like a heavy blanket, I happened to glance through a window and noticed those glorious butterflies flapping excitedly around the cherry tree. The thought came to me that maybe I better get up and go make sure they weren’t getting too close to the red death trap. However, my body refused to obey my mind, and I assured myself that butterflies were probably too smart to get near such an obvious object of destruction. That was mistake number two.

Later that day, I drug myself outdoors to go check the red ball where I had last seen “my” special butterflies. To my horror, they were both stuck fast to the red ball, their beautiful wings held tight by the sticky substance as their bodies struggled to be free. I instinctively knew that I had to act quickly to do what needed to be done, for their sakes. As I reached out and removed the suffering creatures, their fragile wings ripped and tore into pieces, sticking fast to the red ball. Bright yellow with the stunning black design stuck to the red ball, only remnants of a once beautiful, free and happy creation of God, destroyed in a moment. I knew that it would be impossible to extract the delicate wings in one piece from their sticky prison. Impossible to piece together something only God could make. Impossible to save them so they could fly and soar and rejoice in life itself. It was too late.

I cupped my fingers around the struggling, wingless bodies and carried them to the sidewalk where I knew what I had to do. Sobbing, I held them up towards my lips, and whispered, “I am so sorry…I am so very sorry.” And then in two crushing blows, as they continued to struggling to fly, to live, to be, they were gone. My ignorance had destroyed the very thing that brought me such delight, and it shattered my heart.

My kind friends quickly disposed of all three red balls, and tried their best to comfort me, assuring me that there were more big yellow butterflies. I am sure there are, elsewhere, but that doesn’t help the ones that I destroyed. Never again this summer have we sighted such big beauties near our property. And, the horror of it all, and what I had to do, is a painful memory. To me, it is a poignant reminder of the cost of SIN. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” Romans 8:22.

That red ball has become, in my mind, a symbol of the destruction and death that is a result of sin. The trap of sin is not a popular subject. People do not want to read about it, hear about it, or think about it. Yet all around us, wherever we go, the results of sin are evident. Pain and suffering, sickness, death, sorrow, remorse, depression, guilt, shame and hopelessness. Yet, somehow people only want to be told how “crazy” God is about them, how wonderful they are, how they have some “good” in them that is worth “saving,” and even how God is “understanding” of sin, because, after all, He is “just like us” and wants us to be happy. The fact of the matter is, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Have you ever stopped to consider how your sin (and my sin) has broken God’s heart? Have you given much thought as to how the LORD God felt when He called to Adam, and said, “Where art thou?” He still calls us, asking the same question, but how many of us are honest with both God and ourselves as to where we are spiritually? We may go to church every week, and we may give of ourselves and our resources a little here and there, we may watch “Christian” TV and we may read the latest Christian best seller, but where are we really? Are we merely playing the religious game, giving the religious appearances, and saying the right religious things while our hearts are indifferent, cold, and withdrawn from the Lord’s presence because of sin and shame? Job declared this concerning hiding our iniquity, “If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom” Job 31:33. We may think we are hiding our iniquity from God’s eyes, but the Lord knows our every thought. “The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity” Psalm 94:11. The Hebrew definition for vanity in this verse is emptiness, something transitory and unsatisfactory. God forbid that we should be as the ancients of the house of Israel of whom God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” Ezekiel 8:12.

How does wickedness and sin really affect God’s heart? Some dare to preach in our day and age that sin is not all that important to God, that He is not all that “uncomfortable” with our sin, or that we are saved “in” our sin, not “from” our sin. However, the Bible says, concerning the pre-flood age, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” Genesis 6:5, 6. These verse make it clear that man’s wickedness (lifestyle) was great, and that man’s imagination (perceptions) and thoughts (conclusions) were only (without exception) evil continually (without end). This state of mankind made the Lord sorry or regretful that He had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved, “for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (See Genesis 8:21.) Are we any better today? No wonder Jesus warned us that in the days prior to His coming it would be as in the days of Noah.

Sin is deceptive and Satan is subtle. Like the red ball, sin can look good to the eyes. It entices our senses, toys with our emotions, stirs up lust, feeds our pride, promises pleasure and even fame, fortune, and power. Consider the ways that Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness. In Matthew 4:3 he tempted Jesus with the lust of the flesh. He tempted Jesus with the pride of life in Matthew 4:6, and with the lust of the eyes in verse 9. In John’s first epistle, 1 John 2:15, 16 he sums up the essence of temptation this way, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

       Once we compromise with sin, we become entangled in its deadly grip, just as the beautiful butterflies were stuck fast to the red ball. We can struggle against it with all our might, but we cannot free ourselves of the death sentence we are under. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23. God’s Word is clear, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” Ezekiel 18:20a. Yet, God holds out this promise, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13. God promises that He will be found if we search for Him with our whole heart. A half-hearted, flippant repetition of a “sinner’s prayer” does not bring salvation to a lost soul any more than repeating wedding vows you don’t truly intend in your heart to keep means you are “one” with your spouse. It is all a half-hearted fraud, and God, who knows every heart, will judge.

Consider the words of Jesus concerning salvation, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water [the Word]and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” John 3:3, 5, 6, 7. (Emphasis added.) Only by being born again of God’s Spirit by placing our faith and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who took our death sentence for sin upon Himself, can we be set free from the penalty and enslavement of sin. If we truly born again, then our disposition will be changed, and our minds will be renewed by God’s Spirit. Romans 8:6-9 explains, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  (Emphasis added.) The question is, does the Spirit of God dwell in you, or are you still living in the flesh?

In closing, allow me to quote a Scripture that can be so well illustrated by the wondrous life and miraculous cycle of butterflies. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

      May the Lord bless and keep you in your daily walk in this world, and bring you safely Home to dwell with Him forever.