Back in the early 1800's there was a mountain man that lived in the mountains of Colorado. This was a rugged man - afraid of almost nothing. His whole life was the mountains. He knew his way around them and was able to take care of himself.
One cold December morning, this mighty mountain man got up and decided that he would go up one of the mountains nearby to hunt for elk. He cleaned up his flintlock and made sure that he had some good dry powder and lead shot. Next he put on a heavy coat that he had made out of the last elk he shot. In the pockets of this coat he put some fresh 'hard tack' (bread) and some jerky. After making sure that he had everything he would need for the day, he headed for the mountain where he knew the elk would be.
He walked several hours up the mountain looking for elk - stopping a couple of times to snack on his jerky and hard tack. It was getting close to noon (the sun was directly overhead) and he still had seen nothing. As the mountain man got closer to the top of the mountain (over 13,000 feet high), it got colder and the wind began to blow harder.
He lifted himself over a rock ledge and then he saw it - a snake! What was a snake doing this high up on the mountain? He hadn't heard a rattle, but he could plainly see the rattles on the end of the snake and the distinctive diamond markings on the back of the head. The snake was not coiled up like it should be. It was laying straight … all six feet of it - almost as long as he was tall. The snake didn't move - neither did he. He knew that if he made any move, the snake would bite him. A bite from a rattlesnake this big would probably kill him! Was the snake dead? Was it waiting for him to move?
After about a minute (which seemed like a lifetime), the mountain man decided to move slowly away from the rattlesnake. This was his only hope. As he started to stand up, he was shocked to hear a voice come from the snake.
"Help me! Help me!" said the snake in a soft gentle voice.
The mountain man could only stop and stare at the snake.
"Help me!" the snake continued, "I was looking for food and wandered too far up the mountain. Now I am almost frozen. If I don't get warm soon, I will die!"
The mountain man did not believe what he was hearing. This is a snake. This is my enemy - could be a meal…
The snake pleaded more, "Please pick me up and take me to a place that is warmer. I don't want to die here."
Finally the mountain man spoke, "You are a rattlesnake! If you bite me, I will die! I'm not going to help you!"
"I won't bite you, " the snake pleaded. "Please help me. I will be your friend. Don't worry, I will not bite you."
The mountain man could hardly believe what he was hearing. First, a snake that talks. Then, this same snake promises to be his friend and not bite.
The snake and the mountain man argued back and forth for a while before the mountain man decided that the snake really would not hurt him. He leaned over and picked up the snake. It was stiff and felt really strange. The mountain man started down the mountain holding the snake with his arms stretched out in front of him.
When they had gone only a short way, the snake spoke again, "I'm still cold. Please hold me closer. Put me under your coat."
The mountain man had to think about it for a while. Holding a rattlesnake out in front of him was dangerous enough. Putting a rattlesnake (even a frozen one) inside his coat sounded a little foolish The rattlesnake repeated his plea. The mountain man unfastened his coat and put the snake inside. The only way the snake would fit was to stick the head of the snake out of his collar and let the end of it hang down his side.
The unusual pair continued their trip down the mountain. The stiffness and position of the snake made it very uncomfortable for the mountain man to walk. He was still a little nervous about having a rattlesnake inside his coat. As he got further down the mountain, the snake began to warm up a little. As it did, the mountain man noticed that it was easier to walk. The snake had molded itself to his body and become almost a part of him. He also discovered that he was not scared of the snake anymore.
The snake continued to get warmer and loose its stiffness. Finally, it was able to bend almost in half. The snake started crawling up around the mountain man's neck. The mountain man jumped.
"Don't worry about me" whined the snake, "I just want to hang around your neck for a little while longer. I haven't hurt you - have I?"
Once again the mountain man gave in. He helped the snake get around his neck and tucked it under the inside of his coat collar. This snake was really his friend. He had nothing to worry about.
It was dark when they reached the mountain man's cabin. The mountain man opened his coat and gently lifted the snake from around his neck. He bent over to place it on the ground. Just as the snake touched the ground, it leaped up and bit him on the neck!
The mountain man jumped back. "You promised not to bite me!" he yelled. "What did you do that for? You were going to be my friend!"
The snake curled up and snarled, "Oh you foolish man. I am a snake. I bite. YOU KNEW WHAT I WAS WHEN YOU PICKED ME UP! You knew what I was when you picked me up."
Let's let the snake represent sin. Look at what the snake did.
First, the snake showed how harmless he was. He was frozen. He needed help. The mountain recognized that he was dealing with a snake - just like we usually know when we are facing sin. He recognized that it was dangerous and that picking it up was not the right thing to do. But, the snake promised to be his friend and not hurt him.
Once the snake was picked up, he talked his way closer to the mountain man. He got inside his coat. This made the mountain man uncomfortable and nervous. What happened? He got used to it. Sin can get into our lives - maybe it is a bad habit, or something you have tried only once (alcohol, smoking, gossip). You may try to keep it at arm's length, but it gets closer to you. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the longer it is there and the more often you do it --the better it feels. It may start to feel like a part of you!
If you continue long enough in this sin, it can get around your neck. It may start creeping into places that you were "hiding" from it. The sin can get so close to you that it seems impossible to get rid of!
People who work with snakes (especially poisonous ones) use a pole with a notch in the end of it that keeps the snake's head down and the mouth closed. We have a stick to deal with sin - His name is Jesus. We can't get rid of sin under our own power. It can only be done under the power and name of Jesus.
The easiest way to get rid of sin is not to let it in our lives to start with. We need to recognize sin - just as the mountain man recognized the snake. When it does sneak in, we need to call upon Christ to get rid of it and forgive us. The Bible tells us in I John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Are there sins in our life that we have let slip in and have not asked forgiveness for? Do we want to try to remove sin under our own power and die in our sins as the mountain man - or - do we want to call upon Christ to forgive us of our sins?
Allen R. Cook