Last week, I saw a documentary about a teenage girl that was a slave in Atlanta. She didn’t live in the 1800s. It was more like the early 2000s. She grew up in a normal middle class environment and even held down a part time job at a restaurant. It was through that job that she would meet a man who showed her the kind of attention that no man had ever shown her before. Shortly after meeting this man, he became her pimp. This girl was a slave.
Anton LaVey was a satanist. He wasn’t the kind of a satanist that just pretends to be evil so that he can sell a few extra albums. I’m looking your way Marilyn Manson. No, Anton was more legit. In the 1960s he founded The Church of Satan and published the Satanic Bible. I’m sure you’ll forgive me for stereotyping Mr. LaVey on this one but the fact that he wrote his own bible and started his own church, both in honor of Satan, leaves me with few options. Anton LaVey was a satanist.
Aleister Crowley was a hedonist. He had a big impact on Anton Lavey and a host of other influential people. Crowley’s most famous quote is, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Many of Mr. Crowley’s supporters would stop short of calling him a hedonist but his excessive drug and sex addictions tell a different story. Even the popular press at the time called Crowley, “the wickedest man in the world.” Aleister Crowley was a hedonist.
Osama bin Laden is a more familiar name. He’s the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He’s also the one that released videos threatening to bring that same kind of terror to America’s heartland. Regardless of your political persuasions or views on the Just War Theory, if you are an American citizen that hasn’t yet renounced your citizenship and started training in one of those Taliban training camps that has an obstacle course with monkey bars, you were Osama bin Laden’s enemy.
A slave. A devil worshiper. A hedonist. A terrorist.
Imagine if all of those descriptions could be found in one person. What if one human being could, at the same time, be accurately described as a slave, a devil worshiper, a hedonist and a terrorist?
Does someone like this even exist?
Yes. There are millions of people like this. You may know some of them and maybe you’re even related to some of them. Maybe even you are one of them.
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul describes man in his natural, sinful state. He gives us a description of what man looks like when left only to his own free will.
There’s the slave who is “following the course of this world.”
There’s also the Satan worshiper who is “following the prince of the power of the air.”
And then the hedonist who lives in the passions of his flesh.
And finally, terrorists who are “by nature children of wrath.”
A slave. A devil worshiper. A hedonist. A terrorist. All in one person.
This is the way the Bible describes mankind apart from God’s grace. No punches pulled and not much hope either, so it appears.
But thank God for the two words that begin verse 4.
The gospel is the story of God refusing to leave his people to their own free will. It’s a story of God seeking them out to give them a new identity in Christ by grace through faith.
In Christ, I’m no longer a slave to this world and my sin. I’m a slave to Christ (Romans 6:15-23).
In Christ, I’m no longer a worshiper of the prince of the power of the air but of the one who “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15).
In Christ, I’m no longer under the law of “do what thou wilt.” Instead, I find freedom in the Great Commandment of loving God with all of my heart and soul and mind as well as loving my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:34-40).
My new identity is not a paycheck. I didn’t get it because God owed me something or because he saw some potential in me.
No, my new identity in Christ is strictly a result of God’s love and grace. Even to the point that the very faith I rely on to call out to him is a gift that he has given to me (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I’ve never drank goat’s blood or showed up to school with a black cape and a python wrapped around my neck, looking for someone to devour.
But at one point in my life, I was the wickedest man in the world.