by Wayne Barber
The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:6 "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel" (NAS). What catches my eye here is not just the fact that the Galatians were turning to "another gospel," but how quickly they turned to it. The word "another" is héteros, which means another of a totally different kind. In Galatians 3:1 he says, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" Someone had deceived the Galatians. The word "bewitched" is baskaíno in the Greek, meaning to "charm," or to deceive with that which is appealing to the flesh.
Years ago I had the privilege of speaking for a youth retreat at a camp in a rural area of Mississippi. Two of my very good friends were leading the retreat and one night, after the young folks had gone to bed, they told me that we were going to shoot cotton mouth water moccasins!
The lake was infested with these dangerous snakes and they wanted to get rid of as many snakes as possible in hopes of having a safe camp for the children who would be swimming and canoeing. Well, my two friends and I pushed out into the water in a canoe. With three large men in it, that canoe only had about an inch of freeboard. I was sitting in the middle of the canoe. I had a twenty-gauge shotgun, which was to be our weapon. My friend in the front of the canoe had a paddle, a spotlight and prayer. My friend in the back had a paddle and a pistol that I didn't know he had.
After easing along for about 15 minutes in total darkness, we turned the spotlight on the bushes that crowded the shoreline. What we saw would give you nightmares. Almost every bush harbored a huge cotton mouth, and all of them were very upset at being disturbed. Utterly fearless, they would drop into the water and start swimming towards us. When the light would be just right so that I could see the end of the barrel, I would shoot. We had killed about 14 of the vicious snakes in about an hour when one started towards us but the light was not right for me to shoot. My friend in the front of the canoe yelled "Shoot! Shoot!" I said "I can't see!" He said, "I don't care! Shoot! Shoot!" Just as I was about to pull the trigger I found out that my friend in the back of the canoe had a pistol. The noise was deafening, but the snake slithering into our canoe was dead. Whew! That was close.
That night's experience taught me that the snakes were only found in the shallows of the lake. Whenever the wind would blow us out into the deep there were no snakes to be found. But as soon as we neared the shallow water, they were everywhere.
In our Christian life, we must be so very careful to make certain that our lives are lived in the depths of God's Word. The false teachers, the snakes, prey on believers who c hoose to stay in the shallows, enjoying the warm fuzzy experiences of their emotional roller-coaster ride. These are the ones who are so deceived about what the normal Christian life is.
In following columns I want to talk about what I believe is the most dangerous deception of all: the fallacy that Christianity is a religion instead of a relationship. Religion is what a man can do for God, but Christianity is what God can do through a man. It is this deception that causes us to be filled with either pride or despair. It robs us of our joy and causes us to be skeptical and critical of others in the Body of Christ. It puts standards upon us that no one can live up to, though we are often tempted to pretend we do.