Last week I had an experience that reminded me how sin operates.
I didn’t overtly sin against God, but made a major computer mistake that mirrored how evil insidiously deceives us and tries to destroy our lives.
I want to help you never commit my technological blunder and alert you on how easy it is to sin if we’re not paying attention.
As I’ve taught for years, sin is the most expensive thing in the universe.
Here’s how it operates.
The Operating System of Sin
I was looking forward to Thursday being a normal “get much accomplished” day at the university when I pulled into the parking lot at 9:30 AM. Entering the “West Wing” of the campus, I strolled to my office to begin the day.
As a matter of personal discipline, I not only “number my days” in accord with Psalm 90:12, but I have intentions for all hours of the week. This day I had a clear plan for the five hours on campus. I fired up my computer and went to work.
After clearing out my Inbox, I decided to take a slight detour to Amazon.com to look for a book I needed to purchase.
The moment I logged onto the Amazon website, an unusual and highly professional window from “Microsoft” appeared that warned me that my computer was infected with malware and that my my computer had been “locked” to prevent further damage. That part was true. Nothing on my desktop budged.
A message from “Microsoft” on the screen gave an 800 number to call to get technical help to undue the problem without infecting my computer.
Because I was in a hurry, I didn’t take long to ponder this dilemma but unsuspectingly called the number.
A nice man answered and said he would be glad to help unlock my computer and deal with the malware problem. A solution appeared imminent.
He asked me to give him permission to control my computer remotely. I didn’t think much about it because he was from Microsoft and I’d given them permission before to fix certain things. Same with Norton and a few other major software companies. I also had two IT people who occasionally “cleaned up” things on my computer remotely.
I had used personal computers since 1983 and never had a major problem. Plus, at the college we subscribed to a computer protection service that provided weekly videos on how to protect our system. It came with quizzes after each lesson.
I prided myself that I maintained a high scores on the quizzes–getting 750 out of 800 possible points over the past decade.
So, I gave the person on-line permission to “unlock” my computer. He did–and that’s when the nightmare began.
He downloaded a program that seemed to bring my computer back to normal. I could see him going through my electronic files before my eyes. As we were chatting and he was working, the call went dead for a minute, but he called back. Near the end of the conversation, he showed me on “screen” where I’d been possibly hacked and that my computer might have been used against my wishes on a gambling website.
That’s when the lights in my brain came on and I told him I needed to get our computer guy involved in the problem. He promptly hung up.
I called our IT professional. He told me what had already dawned on me: I had telephoned a sophisticated Dark Web hacker and given him access to my computer. I needed to immediately disconnect the ethernet cord and shut down everything.
I was done for the day at the college. (Not good use of time.)
I packed up my hacked desk-top and took it to the admin section of the campus where the IT guy said he would pick it up and “rebuild” it after this serious blunder. Later on in the day, he sent a message to all our personnel that our system had been breached and to pay close attention to any suspicious activities.
Now five days later, I’m grateful that nothing bad has occurred.
I went home mad at myself for allowing this serious lapse in judgment. Over the next few hours God showed me how I let myself to be duped. I knew better. I had excellent training. But I made some careless mistakes that could have hurt others.
Later that day from home, I emailed the university president to confess my error, let him know what I’d learned, and pledged to never do it again with God’s help.
He forgave me with a “thumbs up” reply.
Then I began to think about how my computer mistake was amazingly similar to how sin operates in our lives.
Here are a few parallels.
First, pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). I thought I was secure because of my forty years of experiences and good quiz scores. The self-confidence was subtle, but there. I needed to repent of trusting in my experience more than getting God’s wisdom in the present.
Second, I was in a hurry that morning and didn’t stop to think about the right thing to do. When we “rush,” we are far more prone to jettison acquiring wisdom. “Haste makes waste” is an ageless truth. We need to think through the ramifications of our actions before “clicking” or saying “yes” to anything–especially moral choices.
Third, demons are invisibly active in our world to draw us into sin–just like the Dark Web on the Internet. I don’t think we should be looking for “devils under ever bush,” but we must stay on the alert for evil temptations that come from the unseen world. Sometimes they look and sound like “angels of light” (just like the phony Microsoft guy on the phone).
Fourth, when we do sin or make a mistake, it’s important to humble ourselves and make it right immediately (repentance). At first, it was hard for me to forgive myself for making such an obvious mistake. I even blamed it on old age–then realized that humility is always the road to God. After I confessed my mistake to our president, I felt much better.
And God gives much more than a “thumbs up” when we repent of sin. He wraps us in his arms of forgiveness and empowers us by his Holy Spirit to “go and sin no more.”
What computer lessons can be learned from my error? 1) Never call a pop-up number on your computer screen. Talk to IT first (if you have one), or go to legitimate software company websites to make sure you’re dealing with reality. 2) Slow down and remember what you’ve learned.
Dealing with sin is far more important. It’s the most expensive thing in the universe because it can create eternal separation between you and God. It cost our Heavenly Father the death of his Son.
Computer mistakes can affect hundreds or even millions of people but never take away your salvation. Sin can–if we’re not careful, prayerful, and alive in Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1,2 reminds us to:
Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…
Harry Conn taught a memorable truth regarding sin at my YWAM training school in 1974:
“Even a dumb dog doesn’t kiss a hot stove twice.”
I want to practice that with computers for the rest of my life.
And walk with Jesus carefully every day. (Romans 8:1-17)