Howdy folks! I’m going to make a conscious effort to speak a little more slowly than usual today because I know I tend to talk way too fast when reading something. Hah!

Anyway, today I’d like to discuss everyone’s favorite topic. Sin. More specifically, I want to impart a deeper understanding of sin to assist in combating it. Of course, we can always appeal to the fact that God said such and such action is evil, and He knows better than we do, and that is a perfect reason to avoid something, but you see, the human heart tends to drift. Even though we know consciously that something is sin, and we really shouldn’t do it, our hearts can feel very distant from that reality. The eyes of our hearts become blind to just how bad sin is, and we get numb to the truth of the matter. We think things like: “What’s the harm? Surely, I could get away with a little something here and there. I’ve been good lately. Maybe this really isn’t that bad after all.” We are masters of self-deception when there’s something we really want that we shouldn’t have, and sometimes we don’t even notice that we’re deceiving ourselves. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

So, what can we do to combat the lies our hearts tell us and clear up our vision when we get blinded? I submit to you that one way is to deepen our understanding of the nature of sin, because the more we
see the sheer ickiness of it all, the less likely we are to partake in it. Funnily enough, the way we begin to understand the nature of sin is to understand the nature of God. When the prophet Isaiah stood before God in Isaiah 6:5, he said, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” When he saw the glory of God, Isaiah was instantly aware of his sin. As the light shines brighter, the shadows become more pronounced, and Isaiah had seen the greatest light of all.

In some philosophical exercises, God is identified as a “maximally great being”, which is a being who has all possible “great-making properties” to their fullest extent. Great-making properties include qualities like love, kindness, power, being just, and so on. God has all these qualities set to maximum and is therefore perfect in every conceivable way.

Obviously, if God is perfect in every way, then that means He is morally perfect. In fact, God is the very reason that the concept of morality can even exist in our world. Morality is not a standard above God to which He must answer. Nor is good simply called good because God just happens to deem it so. Rather, the concept of good, and therefore morality, flows out of God’s character. God himself is the good and other things are only good to the degree that they reflect God. If it weren’t for God Himself being the grounding of moral truths, then morality would be an incoherent concept. Judgments of good or evil would be no more than sets of subjective preferences holding no truth or having any grounding. There would be no “ought” because there would be nothing that one really ought to do. Thankfully, because of God’s existence, we live in no such lawless universe, but that leaves us who are imperfect in a scary situation because this means that to sin is to oppose good Himself.

Not only is sin anti-good, but it’s also anti-life. James 1:14-15 says, “Each one is tempted when by his own evil desires, he is lured away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” The sins we find ourselves enticed by may look good in the moment, but they always lead us down the path of death. Things we may have once thought were harmless eventually show their true colors and end up consuming our lives and destroying our relationships. In fact, Romans 6:23 tells us that, “The wages of sin is death”. Imagine going to a job, putting in all this dedicated work, and at the end of the month you get a big fat paycheck of 4,000 death coins. Talk about CRYPT-ocurrency! Alright, that was lame. But that’s how sin is. It starts you off part-time and you kind of like the gig, but sooner or later it eats up all your time and energy, and the next thing you know you feel like the average corporate slave. Except without health benefits and the like. You do get paid hourly though!

Sin is also anti-truth. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” The author of Hebrews describes sin as deceitful, not only because of how it tempts us to take a bad deal but because of its blinding effect. The more we immerse ourselves in sin, the less serious it seems to us, and the less important the things of God appear. Our hearts get harder and harder and before you know it, God just doesn’t look quite as appealing anymore; even when we consciously understand that following Him is the better way. It’s an awful place to be when you remember how much you loved God at one point, and you remember the joy of His salvation, but for all your recollecting, you just can’t see past the clouds your sin has placed in your heart.

Let us not pursue the lies of sin until we’re left blind to the truth. Instead let’s pursue God, because in God we will see clearly, and will find the satisfaction our hearts so desire. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” I’d say that’s a passage and an image that really says it all. Have you considered the fact that sin was never part of our designed purpose? Humans were made to have a loving relationship with God and each other. Sin is nowhere to be found in that.

The reason that sin even exists in the first place is because of our free choice to do so. You see, if we can choose to embrace what God has for us and have a loving relationship with Him, this also means we can choose otherwise, and humanity did indeed choose otherwise. In the garden, mankind chose itself as its master. We chose to decide our own way. To do what is right in our own eyes. And when you consider all the things we’ve learned about sin so far, it’s easy to see how foolish that is.

We who are not all-good chose to call things good and evil on our own terms. We who have no life apart from God chose to die without Him. And we who are not all-knowing chose to call our foggy perceptions truth. What an insult. To freely choose corruption over perfection. However, in God’s maximal greatness, He chose to be patient and loving toward us. His love proved greater than our offense, as His plan to rescue us from ourselves began. In Moses’ time, God gave Israel the Law. A list of commands that would need to be followed perfectly if one were to be righteous before God. As it turned out, no mere man could ever keep them all. The perfection of the Law stood to condemn every imperfect human. What hope then did mankind have?

Previously we saw that Isaiah lamented his uncleanness before God, but just after that, this happened: Isaiah 6:6-7 says, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And with it, he touched my mouth and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your iniquity is removed, and your sin is atoned for.” God Himself provided cleansing for Isaiah, which was just one of many pictures of what was to come.

Keeping the Law perfectly was an impossible task for mankind, but not for God. Not for the living standard Himself! The Law broke any hope we could possibly have in our own righteousness, but in doing so, it pointed us to our need for God’s merciful intervention; our need for a Savior. This Savior came when Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the second member of the Blessed Trinity, God Himself, took on human flesh and fulfilled the Law for us. The Lord loved us despite our outrage against Him. We deserved wrath for our rebellion, but He took that wrath upon Himself when He gave His life for us on the cross. God didn’t just tell us that He is good, that He is life, and that He is truth, He showed us.

We ought to look at how God loved us and tremble at the significance of such an action. Do you want to understand how bad sin is? God had to offer Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice to wash it away. How great is His love!? To look at His enemies and be willing to suffer for their restoration? And if He loved us so greatly, shouldn’t we love Him as much as we can muster in return? You see, that there is the most effective way to combat sin. To remember what God has done for each and every one of us and look to Him with love. Loving God is truly the quickest path to hating sin.

When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, in Genesis 39:9 he said, “How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?” That should be our attitude. Love and reverence toward God. Especially considering our place in history, where we can look back at the wonderful things God has done for us all. If someone gave you a hundred million dollars, you would probably be pretty fond of them. You would want to be good to them in return. But God has given us much more than a hundred million dollars. Money fades away at the end of this life, but God has given us eternal life in Christ. During that eternity, there will be joy and satisfaction in Him unfading. He gave us this freely when we deserved anything but that. Therefore, we have every conceivable reason to resist sin and cling to God.

I could easily end it there as I think the point has been made but let’s keep going a little further. Let’s really drill all this into our heads. The more things we consider, the deeper our perspective becomes, and the more tools we have in our arsenal.

God’s immeasurable love shows us that sin has yet another anti-quality. Anti-love. Sin is not loving toward God, yourself, or others. It’s not loving toward God for obvious reasons. It’s not loving toward yourself because the very least it will do is erode your heart. And it’s not loving toward others because even if you aren’t harming them directly the previously mentioned eroding of the heart will put you in a position where you are more likely to do so.

There is no such thing as a harmless sin. None. And any good that comes from sin is temporary and at best a corruption of something that would otherwise be wholly good. Sin is like a briefly refreshing drink of cold water mixed with rat poison. It is ultimately worthless and of no meaningful benefit. Small fleeting pluses are soon outweighed by innumerable crushing minuses. Dirt has more worth than sin. At least there’ll be dirt in heaven, but sin? Nope.

And before you think you can play a little game where you try to mitigate the negative effects of sin by only playing with it a little bit here and there, just know that your balancing act is going to bite you in the end. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Now think of whatever your favorite sin is right there where it says money. You cannot serve God and drunkenness. You cannot serve God and hatred. You cannot serve God and lust. And so on.

Sin is indeed something that one can be mastered by. Before Cain murdered Abel, God warned him in Genesis 4:7, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” In Scripture, sin is personified as this malevolent force that seeks to dominate you. Playing with sin is like poking a sleeping bear. It’s only a matter of time before it gets up and overpowers you. The oft-repeated saying is true: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

Therefore, as James 4:7-8 reads, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” The Holy Spirit, who dwells within every person that has accepted Christ, gives us the strength and guidance to overcome our fleshly nature. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” When we keep in step with the Spirit, yielding to His leading, we will find ourselves sinning less and less, and enjoying God more and more.

When we are tempted, God always provides a way of escape if we are willing to take it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The sobering thing about this passage is that it shows us that no matter how bad our temptation is, we can endure it. Which means that every time we sin, we could have done otherwise. Being severely tempted doesn’t make us any less responsible. Don’t believe the lies of your flesh when it tells you that you absolutely must have or do something sinful. It’s simply not true.

To review, we’ve seen that sin is anti-good, anti-life, anti-truth, and anti-love. Most of all, it is anti-God. Good, life, truth, and love are all concepts that find their grounding in God. They flow out of who He is. We’ve seen that sin is a slave master that we ought not to obey because we have been set free from it by the power of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel that when meditated on leads us to love God increasingly. The God who loved us. And when we love God, sin loses its luster.

In a conclusive statement from Romans 6 verses 19 to 23 Paul writes,

Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to escalating wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. For when you were slaves to sin, you were free of obligation to righteousness. What fruit did you reap at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you reap leads to holiness, and the outcome is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can think of no more tragic fate than to waste one’s life on sin and go before God in the end in agony over what you could have had instead. Clutching fist-fulls of ash when you could have embraced your Creator who loves you and knows what’s best for you.

To know God is to truly live because He is the spring of living water. To love God is to truly love, because as 1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.” Don’t give your soul to anyone or anything other than the one who made it to enjoy Him forever. If you haven’t entrusted yourself to Christ and turned in your heart from sin to God, I implore you to do so. You can do it at any moment, but I don’t advise waiting, because you never know what the day will bring. Salvation is a free gift. God in the riches of His love took care of the cost for you.