But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
– Hebrews 3:14-15

My wife and I recently watched an interesting mini-series called, “The Shrink Next Door” which was based on the real life story of Marty Markowitz and his therapist, Dr. Ike Herschkopf. It centered around the unethical relationship Dr. Ike developed with his patient, Marty, to control and ultimately, exploit over $3 million from him over 27 years. As I watched this series, I leaned over to my wife and exclaimed, “I just don’t understand how someone could allow a con artist to control every aspect of his life for nearly three decades.” Then it hit me…the deceitfulness of sin.

When we find ourselves at a low point, in moments of weakness and vulnerability, or even in times of overwhelming personal success, is when we find the allure and false promises of sin so captivating. We say yes to it once, and may think there’s no harm, no foul to our spiritual momentum. Then, it comes around again, and we dare test the boundaries again by allowing it into our lives—be it a quick look into things and people that are not ours to covet, or a small “white lie” to show ourselves more worthy of company or status—and it starts to feel good. The slight conviction of guilt, once heavy now hardly even registers any weight in your heart. THIS is the lie. THIS is the deceitfulness of sin that we must fight against, as the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers. And the responsibility is upon each of us — brothers and sisters in Christ — to exhort one another on this: we hold our original confidence FIRM IN CHRIST to the end! We are not victim to this deceit, we are not alone in the fight as we have one another and Christ—our Confidence to the END.

Marty Markowitz stopped listening to the people in his life who truly loved and cared for him — his sister and family, girlfriends, and co-workers. He was deceived into believing the only person that understood him and cared for him was his therapist, Dr. Ike. Little by little, he believed every lie. He eliminated every other voice, every other word in his life, except for lies. Until he found himself without family, without friends, without anyone else. That’s the dynamic of sin. It tries to separate us from the only true Word that connects us to the Father and the family in Christ. We cannot allow sin to deceive us to abandon the Word of God, to abandon the activity that brings us closer to the Truth of our Creator, our Father, our Savior, our family.

Jesus knows full well the allure of the empty promises of sin. When he found himself in the wilderness for 40 days and nights of fasting and prayer, in his hunger he was tempted by Satan’s empty promises. He understands what we have to go through to make the right decisions, to choose the right voices in our times of weakness and temptations. And because He lives in us, we have the power of His presence, His Holy Spirit to choose to listen to His voice.

Interestingly, it was in December 2021, after appeals, that Dr. Ike lost his license to practice psychiatry. Marty Markowitz was finally free of him because he finally started listening to the people that loved and cared for him. He made the decision to eliminate the deception. We must too.

Father, we praise You and thank You for Your unrelenting pursuit of us, Your steadfast love and mercy, and especially Your grace, when we find ourselves struggling with the deception of sin. Forgive us, LORD, that we have walked in the ways of sin, believing that it was “okay” for us to live in sin, when it wasn’t. Forgive us, God, when we minimize sin to a bump in the road rather than what it really is—an affront to Your holiness and righteousness. We ask that You soften our hearts to the deception of sin, that we would react accordingly to it—that we would run from it instead of welcoming it. May we be like Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5).  We desire to be holy as You’ve called us to be holy. Let us not become hardened to the deception of sin, but be sensitive to Your holiness and ultimately find our confidence in Christ, and not in the things of this world and anything it can offer me. Give us the strength and grace to remain in Your Spirit, according to Your Word! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Justin Yim
Ministry Director, Christian Union Gloria Law (Harvard Law School)

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