Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The offensiveness and deceitfulness of sin

I feel that I should begin this morning with a few comments from last week. Last week we began to explore the basic problem of man which is described in the Bible as sin. Sin has several shades of meaning. It is an act, a state, and a nature. We understand the act portion of that definition because we see the acts of sin everyday in hatred, discord, pride, cruelty, and various other expressions. It is a state in the sense that we live in an environment that has been tainted by sin’s corrupting nature and there is nothing we can do to escape it. It is a nature in the sense that we are born into a corrupted condition in both body and soul. David said in the 51st Psalm, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (5) Paul says “we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph 2:3)

We also looked a biblical descriptions of sin as missing the mark, transgression of the law, rebellion, and lawlessness. Briefly we talked about the effects of sin upon man and I drew the cords tighter in describing church life and relationships. This morning I want to focus on two aspects of sin: one as it relates to God and the other as it relates to man. I will not belabor a discussion on the need of this topic as it will be readily apparent immediately. As you ponder these words this morning – as you consider them in your mind – open up your heart to feel because a right response to sin and to the gospel involves the intellect, the will, and the emotions.

The offensiveness of sin in the sight of God is very great.

In a daily scanning of the news we learn about sin from the unlawful acts of people. We read of child abuse perpetrated against a 15 year-old boy while chained to a bed; we read about alleged sexual battery against blind students in Watertown; we read about a minister’s wife in Selmer, TN who confesses to the murder of her husband. Some of the sins we read about or witness firsthand push our hot buttons and we are quick and right to condemn them! Yes, some crimes are particularly evil. If you ranked the top five sins in the order of offensiveness and outrage produced in you, what would be at the top of your list? Homosexuality, drunken vehicular homicide, abortion, or murder? Ted Peters wrote a book about sin and listed seven categories of sin; I think they are worth a mention: worry, unfaith, pride, concupiscence (a fancy word for lust), self-justification, cruelty, and blasphemy – in that order, going from bad to worse. I find that list interesting because it doesn’t mention any of the sins I previously mentioned as those which might be most offensive to you. Regardless of whether they are “big sins” or “little sins” even the smallest is offensive to God and deserving of eternal punishment. Maybe this is why the first sin of Adam and Eve was not a heinous crime like we might expect so that we could not later point back to the episode and say "my sin wasn't as bad as theirs!" How many of you have ever said to yourself, “at least I didn’t sin like Adam and Eve.” (You probably said that but substituted Hitler or Stalin for Adam and Eve.) But the Bible says, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Is 64:6)

Why is it hard for us to grasp the offensiveness of sin to God? Think of it this way. A blind man cannot see the difference between Michelangelo's statue of David and a tower of Lego Blocks. A deaf man cannot hear the difference between Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and heavy metal. A black vulture which has a terrible sense of smell cannot tell the difference between roses and road kill. Or think of a dog whistle. If I blow a dog whistle long enough, my friendly four-legged friends will let me know that it irritates their sense of hearing. But none of my two-legged family members can hear a thing. Why? Because we don’t have the right sense to do so.

What's my point? All of these illustrations have to do with a sense that is not developed and the inability to see the beauty of one thing and the wretchedness of another. The Bible says we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and we do not have a "sin sense" that works very well. God's "sin sense" is perfect and He is rightly and infinitely repulsed by the presence of sin. It takes a person who has the imputed righteousness of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit to have a sense of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin.
Read Isaiah 1:10-17

The deceitfulness of sin to the heart of man is very great.

The second characteristic of sin that I want to address is the deceitfulness of sin to the heart of man. The Bible says in Hebrews 3, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

A. Man wants to minimize his sin.

You want to minimize the seriousness of your crime.

We give our sins new names. Lust becomes appreciation for physical beauty. Greed becomes business savvy. Stubbornness becomes principle. Pride becomes self-esteem. Irresponsibility with family becomes corban, or "devoted to God." Worry becomes human nature.

You want to deflect responsibility for your crime.
You want to claim ignorance of God's requirements.

B. Sin is deceitful in several ways. (How is sin deceitful?)

It is pleasurable to the flesh. (Eph 4:22)
It does not remind us of the deadly consequences.
Its means of entrapment are stealthy. (Prov 5:1-6)
It hardens the heart against God.
It promises freedom but delivers bondage.

I have a friend who sees the beginning of his father's slipping into a delusional disorder. His dad is becoming accusatory of his wife; he is often irritable and angry (which is very much out of character for him); he is forgetful from day to day of the conversations he has with people. My friend fears for himself because it is a hereditary problem. He said to me, “maybe I should write myself a letter so that if this happens to me, I will know what is going on.” This is what the Bible is for us – a letter from God in the midst of our delusion. Sin has so affected us and deceived us that we need a communication from outside to show us reality.

What should I do knowing the offensiveness and deceitfulness of sin?

  • You need the Spirit of God to search your heart. Confess what the Spirit reveals. Make this a daily practice. Read scripture and pray while you do this.
  • Don’t trust your flesh – that part of you which is at enmity with the Spirit. The roots of sin in the garden of the heart can never be destroyed until God takes us home.
  • Ask God to quicken (to show signs of life; stimulate) your “sin sense” or conscience. This is not pleasant; it hurts. Ask Him to replace it with an appetite for holiness.

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