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Intro: Let’s take a small poll here:
- How many of you want to stop sinning?
- How many of you believe that God wants you to stop sinning?
- How many of you know what sin is?
- How many of you know the consequences of sin?
- How many of you have committed sin?
Everybody here wants to be holy before God. You wouldn’t be here if you did not have some desire in this direction. Yet we all realize that we are not holy. We are made holy by the blood of Christ and forgiveness, but we still sin and it stains us.
- How can those who know about the love of God sin against Him?
- How can those who know so much about the consequences of sin engage in it?
Sin separates me from God and I know about the deceitfulness of sin. If I sin my heart can be hardened against God and truth. So, sin is stupid, isn’t it?
1. Historically inevitable? – We recognize that we are encompassed by sin. Although we do not inherit sin, nor are we compelled to sin, it is a reality for us, even though we have been redeemed. Someone has said that sin is historically inevitable.
2. But I also realize that every time I have sinned, or do sin, I chose it. “Most of us do not sin with a high hand – I don’t care what God says, let Him strike me dead if He wants to, I am going to do this.”But we convince ourselves that this time we can sin – How do we do that, knowing what we know and wanting what we want?
3. A Primary Consideration: Galatians 6:7 – 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. We may fool others and ourselves, but God will not be mocked or treated lightly. He is not fooled by or reasoning.
Do you talk to yourself? I know you do. In fact, what you say to yourself may be the most important conversations you have. We debate with ourselves, reason with ourselves and ultimately convince ourselves. This morning we noticed that God instructed Joshua to keep the words of the law in his mouth (Joshua 1). It literally meant to mutter the words of God to yourself. Meditation is just that. Saying the words of God back to ourselves. A conversation with ourselves dominated by the words of the Spirit. If Joshua (and us) listen and submit to the dominant voice, I obey God.
- The negative side of that process is integral to the practice of sin. In a sense it is also a conversation with yourself. James 1:14-16 – But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
Temptation is also a conversation with ourselves– each person is individually enticed – but in this conversation the desires of the flesh (what I want) is the dominant voice. If I listen and give in to the enticement, I sin.
- In the end, we sin because we play mind games with ourselves. We convince ourselves to act against what we know about God and sin itself.
I. What we tell ourselves: The voice of our flesh comes to us in different words. But we must be able to recognize it when we hear it.
A. “I’ll Repent Later”– God is gracious and will allow me to turn back to Him. I can repent tomorrow, so I have a cushion.
1. Let’s look at a familiar event in the N.T. Acts 5:1-5“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.
a. Probably just a few weeks into the history of the N.T. church. Poverty made contributions necessary. Many of these good people were bringing their possessions, even selling their property, and giving to the need.
b. The problem was not that Ananias and Sapphira were failing to give, but they were lying about how much they gave. They wanted to look good without making the full sacrifice – piety at a discount.
c. But the impressive part of this event is God’s response. God struck them dead. There was no time for repentance after a reconsideration. Then there is what must be a great understatement – “Great fear came upon all those who heard these things.”. Some may have begun to say to themselves, “Did I tell the truth about everything lately”
2. Why did this happen? (It stands as a unique event)Why did the Lord need to make such a stunning example of these two?
a. The wonderful grace of God caused the church to face a great spiritual crisis. The essence of the gospel was forgiveness freely given by God. This scandalized many of the Jews. They said if you tell people that forgiveness is free, then what will keep people from just sinning at will. They had a point to a point. The church had to learn that to be free from sin does not mean you are free to sin. Christians cannot adopt a casual attitude toward sin. Sin can’t be that bad if it is forgiven so easily. I can always repent later on.
b. Young people are tempted to play this game with sexual activity and fornication. I’ll repent later. But this is folly. It assumes two things:1) you will have an opportunity to repent (no promise of tomorrow); 2) you will have a spirit of repentance later on. Eccl 12:1- Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: The difficult (evil) days are a time when in the future when you no longer delight in God’s approval. You may convince yourself that it no longer matters. If you are unwilling to make the tough choice to do what is right now, what makes you think you will make that decision later?
c. God commanded Israel to drive the idolaters out of the land. If they rationalized and listened to the voice of their own desires, what would be the result? Num 32:23– But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.
B. “I have no choice” – (“The Devil Made Me Do It” – Flip Wilson old line)We acknowledge that we did wrong, but some outside source caused us to do it. I could not help myself. This lie is at the heart of who I am and my relationship to God Himself. He created me with not only the ability of free choice, but He assigned me with personal responsibility.
1. There are a number of examples of this game in the Bible: Adam – the woman you gave me…Aaron at the golden calf; they brought me the gold and I threw it in the fire and out came the calf. King Saul – The people have spared the best..
2. We blame our sin on something beyond our control. The alcoholic says..you would drink too if you had my boss, my job, my wife, my kids,.. Fathers excuse his temper tantrums on the children; We excuse cheating on taxes because the government wastes the money; The others are doing this and I must keep up; All the others cheat, and they will get the scholarship and I won’t, so sin is the only fair thing to do.
a. Your temptations are the same as everyone else. 1 Corinthians 10:13 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. There is always a way for us to choose to do the right thing. It may involve suffering and humiliation, and it may be the only way of escape.
C. “Just One More” – We can all resist any sin except the next one. The ones beyond that are no problem, but the one immediately in front of us is irresistible. (Ex. – dip net – just one more time, all was lost. Oh if I had only obeyed.)
1. Look carefully at Rom 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? … vs. 11-13 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
a. Paul is addressing the very question of how it is that Christians can commit sin, even a single sin, and he is answering those who see grace as a license to sin more.The main point of Paul’s discussion here is not that baptism is immersion, though this passage teaches that, but that baptism is evidence of a death to sin.The old man has died. Sin always matters.
D. “Think How Bad I Could Have Been”– (It is not as bad as _________. I am not like those others ) My choice to sin is made easier because I can easily consider how much worse it could have been.
1. When we look closely at this reasoning it is rather perverse. We use our sinfulness to make ourselves look better because our sins are less than someone else’s sin. There is always someone who is “worse” and can become an instant rationalization for my choice to sin.
a. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of transgression. James 2:8-11 – If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
b. Paul addressed the reasoning of the Jews that excused their own law-breaking in Romans 2. [ At least we are not idol-worshippers….] Romans 2:21-23 – You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?
c. 2 Cor 10:12 – For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding. (from Holman Christian Standard Bible)
E. “Maybe It is Not Really a Sin”–(“I don’t think it all that big of a deal”) Does God really care about ______.” This is something that we pretty much know is wrong, but we really want to do it. So we convince ourselves that it does matter to God either.
1. This excuse may be connected to the previous one. We often convince ourselves that an activity is not sin, because others do not view it as a sin.
a. How does the world view lying, gossip, slander, anger, conceit, foul language, dishonesty? If the those around me will not hold me accountable, maybe God won’t either. This is the mindset that measures the sinfulness of an act by whether or not I get caught doing it.
b. This is especially dangerous reasoning. If I reject God’ moral judgment on sin, what other judgments (words) of God will I reject? It turns into “I’m not sure I believe there is really a God”, “I am not really convinced that the Bible is true.”
2. Realize that our faith is weakest when we really want to do something that we know is wrong. Balaam gave disobedience every chance. God allowed him to follow the path he chose. A path that led to further disobedience.
Conclusion – God is not mocked. No magic key to holiness. We must be humble and keep our face in the mirror. Ask God to help us see ourselves from the inside out. Keep muttering God’s words to ourselves and do not allow ourselves to be deceived. We need to sin less so we can be more like the One who died for us.