Over twenty-five years ago, Back in 1979, the Charlie Daniels Band went to the top of both the country and popular music charts with their ballad, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
The lyrics began something like this: "The devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin' for a soul to steal. He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind, and he was willin' to make a deal, when he came across this young man sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot. And the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, "Boy, let me tell you what. I guess you didn't know it but I'm a fiddle player, too. And if you'd care to take a dare, I'll make a bet with you.'"
As the tale continued, we find that the Tempter proposes to give the boy a fiddle made of gold if he should be able to out-play him; but if the boy should fail...it would cost him his immortal soul. The boy replied, "My name's Johnny, and it might be a sin; but I'll take your bet, you're gonna regret, 'cause I'm the best that's ever been.
Now there followed a mighty struggle between the two: Satan performing first, playing a dark and furious tune; then Johnny, began his bid for the prize. After the contest was ended, "the devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat," and true to his word, "he laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny's feet." Satan loses the battle once again, and our hero is victorious!
Well, as far as songs go, the tune to this ballad was actually quite good, and I suppose that it's plot was just as good as any other ballad of that style; but as far as theology--it was just plain bad.
Now, one of the reasons I am glad to meet with other saints in the middle of the week is that it helps to lift you up. Whether you spend the week in the workplace surrounded by ungodly people, at home dealing with unwieldy teenagers, or (as a teenager) at school under the tremendous pressure of your studies and your peers, it is such a blessing to meet with others that love God. And just as comforting, to hear that you can overcome temptation and win in the battle against Satan.
However--you need to know, so listen to me and let me tell you right now--you can't win. There's no way; you can't do it; it's not possible to win--without Christ Jesus.
When, in Judges chapter seven, God wanted Gideon to conquer the Midianites, he chose only 300 men out of the 32,000 that were available to battle a nation that had at least 135,000 warriors. You would figure that the odds of 32,000 to 135,000 would be bad enough, but God chose to pare them down to 300. Why? In verse two, God said that otherwise, they would become boastful and say, "my own power has delivered me." When things are going our way, we have a tendency to become proud, and to forget God. We forget that we wouldn't be anything--but lost--without Him.
In Deuteronomy 8:11, when the Israelites were finally going to enter the land of Canaan, and God would give all the good things of the land into their hand, Moses warned them not to forget God by not keeping His commandments; "otherwise," he said, "when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." He continued, "Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day."
That was written of a people that lived about 3,500 years ago, but man hasn't changed much since then; we still have the same problem. Often, our hearts are lifted up in pride when things look good, and we forget the God who gave us everything. Had the story in that song we spoke of really occurred, that boy would have lost the bet before he even started to play. His heart was lifted up in pride, and he was already preparing his own soul for destruction.
In Philippians 3:13, Paul writes, "...one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." People often use this passage to suggest that we ought to forget the mistakes of our past and look forward to the future. While it is true that we should not dwell on sin for which we have repented, that really isn't what the passage is teaching. Paul meant that he regarded all of his past accomplishments--all the good things of the flesh he could boast in--as nothing, so that he could gain the righteousness found only in Christ.
Brethren, we must beware, lest we fall into the same trap the Israelites fell into, and forget the God who gave us everything--including a hope of salvation through Christ. Or even worse yet, we may not forget him...but simply ignore him. There's no way; you can't do it; it's not possible to win--without Christ Jesus. None of our earthly successes will take away the sin that stands between us and God.