Toxicologists Frank LoVecchio and Jeffrey Suchard of the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix conducted a study a few years ago and discovered that 15% of Arizona rattlesnake attacks occurred after the snakes had been mortally shot, bludgeoned, or even beheaded.
One man shot and decapitated a snake, then waited five minutes before picking up the severed head—which lunged and bit him once on each hand. Another victim was holding a dead rattler’s severed head with its fangs pointed away from him when the snake suddenly shifted its jaw and sank its teeth into one of his fingers, which had to be amputated.
According to LoVecchio and Suchard, touch sensors in a rattler’s skin and the heat-seeking pit organ between its nostrils and eyes can trigger a strike-and-bite reflex for up to an hour after the animal dies. Suchard’s advice: Treat a decapitated rattler as “a very short snake.” [Sports Illustrated]
The rattlesnake’s relationship to the hiker is similar to the relationship between sin and the believer. Though Christ “beheaded” sin and was victorious over it in every way, still there is a remaining influence of sin in the believer and it will attack and harm the believer who indulges in sin. Though we have been redeemed both from the penalty and power of sin, yet there is still a reality of sin in the life of the believer (1 John 1:5-10).
Though we do not want to sin, yet we still will sin. There is no perfect believer.
And yet all is not hopeless for the believer. These realities are also true in the believer’s battle against sin.
1. The believer does sin, but he does not have to sin. Prior to his salvation, the only thing the believer could do was sin. Now, while he still will sin, the believer does not have to sin; he is not condemned to sin in all that he does, but instead it is possible to live as Christ as his master instead of sin (Rom. 6:12-14). Now he can do righteous things (1 Jn. 2:1; Rom. 6:20-22). He can please God (2 Cor. 5:9, 15; Eph. 5:10).
2. The believer’s sin does not affect his legal standing with God (1 Jn. 2:1). The believer in Christ does not have to defend himself, since he has an advocate, Jesus Christ who defends him before the Father and against Satan, saying, “My blood has satisfied the debt of sin for that sinner…” Because of Christ, nothing can change his position in Christ (Jn. 10:27-29) and his sonship to the Father. The Lord does not un-adopt His children.
3. The believer’s sin is forgiven. When sin is confessed, it is forgiven (1 Jn. 1:9). The believer still sins, but that sin does not leave him hopeless. His sin does not change his legal standing with God, but it does impact his fellowship with God. But that fellowship can be restored through confession. And as often as we confess sin, He is waiting, eager to forgive that sin (Eph. 4:31-32; Lk. 15:22-24). God delights in repentant sinners (Lk. 15:6-7, 9-10). God loves to be restored to His own, and God loves to make His enemies His sons. This is the grace of God.
4. The believer’s sin is redeemable. In fact, God uses our sin to accomplish good purposes. Sin in the believer is never the final word. For the believer, the final word is always grace. In saving sinners and forgiving sin, God buys back sin and replaces it with righteousness (Eph. 1:7; Tt. 2:14).
In summary, it might be tempting to run away from these truths and say, “I don’t like hearing that I’m a sinner.” But until we are confronted by our sin, we cannot be comforted by our Savior, as two writers from previous centuries have noted:
God is none other than the Saviour of our wretchedness. So we can only know God well by knowing our iniquities.…Those who have known God without knowing their wretchedness have not glorified Him, but have glorified themselves. [Blaise Pascal]
“The sense of their own sinfulness will be overruled for the good of the godly. Thus our own sins shall work for good. This must be understood warily, when I say the sins of the godly work for good — not that there is the least good in sin. Sin is like poison, which corrupts the blood, infects the heart, and, without a sovereign antidote, brings death. Such is the venomous nature of sin, it is deadly and damning. Sin is worse than hell, but yet God, by His mighty overruling power, makes sin in the issue turn to the good of His people. Hence that golden saying of Augustine, ‘God would never permit evil, if He could not bring good out of evil’. The feeling of sinfulness in the saints works for good several ways.” [Thomas Watson, All Things For Good.]