FORT WORTH, Texas – I hate roaches. I just loathe them. Maybe my disgust is compounded by growing up in Florida where the roaches had wings.
The only roach I want to see is a dead one – and even then I’m a little squeamish! Maybe it’s in my woman-DNA. I was reminded of this the other day when I looked down from my office desk and saw – you guessed it – a gigantic cockroach. But fortunately, this roach had a bigger problem than terrorizing me. It had gotten caught in a thin, almost unnoticeable spider’s web. The web was so imperceptible that you almost couldn’t even see the spider that was now slowly making its way to the flailing cockroach. The faster the roach moved in the web, the more it got entangled. And the more it got entangled the swifter its imminent destruction.
And I couldn’t help but wonder – aside from “where’s the nearest can of bug spray?” – how ironic that something so much stronger was about to be devoured by something so much weaker. I mean, bug-to-bug, it would have been no contest. The spider should’ve been running from him! But the spider had this one decisive advantage – its victim was ensnared. The moment that roach stepped into that web, it was only a matter of time before it would be destroyed.
It’s the same with us. There’s a web waiting for you around the corner, and it’s got your name on it. In fact, it’s even closer than that. The sticky strings set out to destroy you are within you. Sound a little dramatic? Check out what Paul said about himself: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Romans 7:21-23).
Paul must’ve known about the spider webs in his life. He knew sin was deceptive. He knew he was free from it. He knew he was a slave to righteousness and that there was no possible way that he could hang out, get tangled up, and be comfortable in the web of sin. But he also knew that his sin nature was constantly working to trap and ensnare him.
As Kris Lungaard teaches in The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin:
“Paul uses ‘law’ as a metaphor. He needs a way to express the power, authority, constraint, and control that sin wields in our lives. Gravity, for example, is a law that bends things in its direction. Gravity is not a law as an idea or an outward precept, but a force that can make objects ‘obey’ its will. Indwelling sin works like this – enticing, threatening even bullying. So Paul calls it a law to get us to see that it is powerful even in the lives of believers and that it constantly works to press us into its evil mold.”
If you’ve ever been frustrated with your own sinful patterns (again!), ever tearfully asked why you got tangled in that self-destructive web (again!), or ever been bewildered at how in the world you were so foolish as to believe the false promises of disobedience in exchange for God’s goodness to you (again!), you’ve found this law at work in you too! It’s the old you. The you that died with Christ on the cross. And it’s trying to stage the ultimate coup d’état by re-gaining control. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17).
And this law isn’t just working to make us weak and ineffective – it’s set out to devour and destroy us. If the Spirit of Christ is in you, you’re stronger than the web of sin. Indwelling sin isn’t your dictator anymore. Jesus has “overthrown its rule, weakened its power, and even killed its root so that it cannot bear the fruit of eternal death in a believer. Still … sin is sin. Its nature and purpose remain unchanged; its force and success still grab us by the throat.” (The Enemy Within) How do we, as resurrected, adopted, victorious, Spirit-filled children of the living God get trapped and ensnared by something so small, so defeated, so already dead? It all starts when we stumble into a web of compromise and become entangled by our sin.
What are the spiders in your life? We tend to think of the “big ones,” like the giant Shelob in “Lord of the Rings.” But more often than not, it’s those seemingly little things that, at first, don’t look so threatening. They may even be hiding in a corner, nearly imperceptible to everyone except the Guardian of your soul. Like that festering unforgiveness sprouting up. Or those signs of self-righteousness that aren’t at all about God’s glory.
Where are your sticky webs of compromise? You know, those things that set you up to become tangled (Hebrews 12:1)? Like that friendship with a co-worker that’s becoming a little more personal. Or the credit card that’s supposed to be for “emergencies” more urgent than a shoe sale? Once you walk into the web, you’re pretty much a gigantic roach trapped by an exponentially smaller spider.
It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be entangled, ensnared and devoured. Make no mistake, whatever your posture towards it may be right now, wherever you are in relationship to the web, it is serious stuff. Life and death serious. That’s why the Word uses such life and death language: “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7) “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13) “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
How do we kill the stealthy spiders in our lives? By relying on the Spirit, through the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Don’t just read the Word – let it soak deep down into your soul. Meditate on it. Write down a verse on a note card and speak it out loud. Feed and bolster your faith by putting God’s Words in your ears (Romans 10:17). For me, the Psalms have changed my life. I hear the Psalmist’s desperation and make it my own. “Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me” (Psalm 31:2). Their battle songs become my fighting anthem. “He teaches my hands to make war … Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.” (from Psalm 18).
Cry out, plea, praise, declare, sing and proclaim God’s words of deliverance over and over again to your soul. You will kill your spiders. In fact, they will run from you.
How can we see through the sticky webs of compromise? By seeing Jesus in all of His glory and worth and magnificence, which transforms us “into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The same Jesus who is for you (Psalm 56:9). Who is good and never holding out on you (Ps. 84:11). Who cares about your joy even more than you do (John 15:11, 16:24).
Maybe you’re ensnared in the web right now. Perhaps what looked like a small spider of sin is now an enormous in-your-face force of destruction. What hope do you have? Cry out to God right now, just like Paul did: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
He has killed all your spiders – no matter how big and ferocious or small and familiar (Colossians 2:13-15). He is guiding you away from the cobwebs (Psalm 18:30-34). And He will – He will – keep you from becoming entangled again (Jude 1:24).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katie McCoy is the editor of BiblicalWoman.org – where this column first appeared – and is pursuing a PhD in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. BiblicalWoman.org is a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)