(Photo: Dan Delzell)
Two summers ago in our community, a 34-year-old man was strangled by his pet boa constrictor. It took place in his home as he was showing off the snake to a friend. Cory Byrne died in a local hospital just hours after police officers and paramedics pried the 9-foot snake from his neck.
After you were born, a pet boa constrictor of sorts was present with you in your crib. As you have grown older, the deadly snake has remained by your side. At times, you have willfully played with your pet.
Before you were born again through faith in Jesus, you had no idea how much danger you were in because of this pet. Now your eyes have been opened....but you are still tempted every day to enjoy spending time with your pet snake.
Your corrupt nature is filled with desires that resemble those of an evil snake who showed up thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden. That snake was responsible for encouraging Adam and Eve to adopt their own pet snake. "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say....?" (Genesis 3:1) The devil invited Adam and Eve to question, and then go against, the authority and truthfulness of God's Word. That was a quick path to disaster.
Here is what God really does say to believers: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." (Colossians 3:5-8)
As a forgiven child of God who has died to self, kill your sin before it kills you. "Put to death" means "Kill it." Don't feed it....don't meditate on it....don't entertain it....don't enjoy its presence. Kill it. Reject it. Stomp on it through faith in the blood of Jesus.
Snakes slither on the dirty ground, but believers have been called up much higher. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.....set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)
Just as Noah and his family were lifted up in the ark above the water and the wickedness of man, you as a Christian have been raised with Christ above the power and the penalty of your sin. You were raised with Christ to walk in righteousness and live with the Lord forever. The "snake life" is the "old life." "You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived." (Colossians 3:7) That was then....and this is now.
When you and I love our pet....rather than hating those desires within us which are corrupt, we get into trouble. Is it really OK to hate that snake? Absolutely....the Bible tells us to do so. "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." (Romans 12:9) Hate that pet because it opposes Christ....and because it could kill you....and because it only gets bigger when you feed it....and because it has killed many people who thought they could play with it and keep it under their control....just like Cory did with his snake.
Hate your sin enough to kill it every hour if necessary. It's not only a snake....it's also a zombie. It was put to death when you were converted through faith in Christ, and then baptized....but it keeps trying to come back to life within you. Don't let it do that to you, or to your relationship with your Redeemer. Jesus suffered and died to save you from your sin, and from yourself. If you continue deliberately playing with this "zombie pet," it has the potential to get big enough to wrap itself around you....and kill you.
You wouldn't allow an intruder with a gun into your home....without trying to do everything possible to stop him. You would hate what he was planning to do to you and your family. In the case of your sin, it enters the "home" of your heart in order to destroy you. If you were destroyed by your sin, your family too would suffer much as a result. Whether it is anger, or greed, or filthy language from your lips....that snake must be stopped. That intruder must be killed.
Talk to Christ about your sin. Ask Him to forgive you. Ask Him to help you. Ask Him to step on that snake anytime you sense its presence. The way to kill it is to stop feeding it....and to stop planning on how to play with it. You will be tempted to play with your pet....but with Christ in you, there is power "to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:12)
Until you get to heaven, your pet will remain by your side. That doesn't mean you have to play with it. As believers in Jesus, we "have been set free from sin." (Romans 6:18) Sin no longer has the upper hand....unless we run back to that old way of living....where we deliberately feed our pet and try to enjoy some time with him. That's all Cory Byrne was doing on that hot summer day two years ago....and look where it got him.
Do you honestly think the same thing couldn't happen to you? Are you smarter than Adam and Eve? As the summer heats up, there will be a voice whispering to you, "Go ahead. Play with it. You can control it. It's just a pet."
That's exactly what Cory used to think.