Finding Ruin
By Anthony Casperson

A few weeks ago I had been watching a person play a video game. He had his channel’s chat open while he played, but held a strict “No backseating” policy. He’d give a timeout to anyone from chat who even hinted at a clue.

While he was playing, he came to a point where he thought he’d read a set of instructions correctly. But—after rewinding the video myself to verify that he hadn’t—it quickly became clear that there was something wrong with his attempt to solve a puzzle. The chat tried to tell him that he’d made a mistake, and even tried to clarify his misunderstanding. But he grew more and more tilted from the experience of failing while also having so many people “backseat” his gameplay.

Finally, when it looked like he was about to shut off the game, something in the puzzle glitched. Some random error made the game believe that the puzzle had been solved.

And the second that happened, he looked at the camera and defiantly congratulated himself for solving the puzzle the right way. Essentially saying, “See I was right and you all were wrong. Because my way worked.” He refused to believe that it had been an error—and that he was in the wrong—which just had odd circumstances make it look like he’d done something right this one time.

If anyone were to try the same thing in this same place, the likelihood of it working again would be astronomical. But because he had fluked into a solution one time, his self-justification made him blind to the truth.

And woe be the day when he tries his “right” way one more time.

We can fall into this trap in many different places as well. It’s not just misunderstanding video game directions that can lead us to believing a lie just because it worked one time previously—or for someone else.

Not long ago, I was reading for my personal devotional time and came across a pretty clear instance of this idea in the bible. In 2 Chronicles 28:22-25 we see a sinful descendant of King David sitting on the throne in Jerusalem. The kings of the southern kingdom of Judah had held various levels of adherence to the commands of God, but Ahaz was among the worst examples.

And in Ahaz’s sinfulness, God had allowed Judah to suffer a number of defeats by the hands of the Syrians from Damascus. Again and again, Judah felt the losses. And you’d think that it might be clear for him to turn to the God of Israel who had long been their protector and rescuer when the people repented from their sin.

But instead, King Ahaz looked at the successes of the Syrians and figured that their victories had to be because their gods were more powerful than the God of Israel—whom Ahaz worshipped only with lip service, at best. The solution had to be that God was too weak to defeat the gods of Damascus, instead of—y’know—it being that God was allowing Judah’s defeat because of the sins of Ahaz and the nation. The very lack of faith proven in this worship toward other gods.

The king began sacrificing to the gods of Damascus. On top of that, he closed the temple to God in Jerusalem, stole the instruments of God’s temple to use them for the worship of his new gods, and built altars to his “more powerful” gods on every street corner of the city.

But there’s one important sentence in the passage that even today we should listen to. The end of 2 Chronicles 28:23 says, “But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.”

The false gods, the celebrated deities of self-congratulation, led to nothing but later defeats. Sure the people of Damascus had found victory while claiming the power of their gods, but it was only because of the circumstances surrounding the event that allowed it to go that way. Only because God had been allowing Judah’s defeat so that they might repent and return to God, that the people of Damascus found victory.

Ahaz accredited the losses of Judah to the failure of the God of Israel, instead of his own failure to follow the commands of this world’s Creator. And because it seemed like this other way worked just fine, he fell into the trap of the wide and easy way.

To his detriment and ruin.

Because when we refuse to seek the reconciliation that God offers us—in the way that he offers it—the end result doesn’t go well for any of us.

And this is the same whether we turn to idols of gold, silver, wood, and stone, or to idols of self-centered ease, sexuality (in it’s various sinful forms), worldly definitions of spirituality, and misapplications of the love of God while forgetting his holiness altogether. The end result will be the same.

A forfeiture of offered relationship. All for a lie.

Ruin comes to those who refuse God’s hand of forgiveness and trade it for the “easy” life that seems to work for other people. Those flukes will prove to be untrue, but not before death and destruction leave us as their victim.

Many will even come to the end of this life and assume that they’d been right all along. But God is not a member of chat trying to “backseat” us. He’s the Creator of the system who will be proven correct. Our choice is whether to believe him and follow the instructions he commands of us, or follow the fluke to our ruin.

Let’s not look at the spiritual practices of our culture, which are a distorted mass of various belief systems, and assume that it’s right just because it seems to work for them just fine. The day will come when their ruin will be proven true.

And our ruin as well, if we refuse the directions of God’s clear commands.