The Deadly Effects of Beautiful Sin

Deadly-sinSin looks good. If it was not so appealing, we wouldn’t find ourselves waking up with troubled consciences, seeking greater thrills, and contemplating the meaning of life through the lens of depression. As Adam and Eve discovered, sin appears to be “a delight to the eyes (Gen 3:6).” But, it always ends in divine judgment, broken relationships, and earthly hardships. And though thousands of years have passed since our forebears ate the fruit, sin still dresses in false beauty and rewards its friends with death.

Fast forward from Genesis to 1 Samuel 8. The people of God have once again depended upon their senses instead of divine revelation. And the fruit of delight for the nation of Israel is a “king to judge us like all the nations (1 Sam 8:6).” As the context of 1 Samuel makes clear, the people are not primarily making a political statement. They are making a theological claim. They are choosing an earthly king to replace the King of Kings. 1 Samuel 10:19 concludes with this divine assessment, “You have rejected your God who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’”

But unlike our first parents the nation of Israel gets a brief reprieve. God does not immediately turn his back on his idolatrous people. God sends Samuel to “solemnly warn them (1 Sam. 8:9).” In verses 10-18, Samuel tells the people that their love of the world will negatively effect their families, their personal well-being, and their relationship with God.

Those who pursue the world above Christ will ultimately sacrifice their children’s wellbeing for their sinful passions. Both the Israelites’ sons and their daughters would be taken from their homes and conscripted into kingly service. Christians do not have to look far to see this reality play out in the modern world. Some children are aborted because their parents fear that they do not have the money and the time to both raise a child and finish school, to keep traveling, or to keep up with the drunken partying. They sacrifice the child for their sin. Other children go without clothes, food, and deodorant because mom and dad spend all their money on drugs, gambling, and ponzi schemes. Others wind up in fights at school, struggle to interact with the opposite sex, and fail at school because their parents are locked in a constant battle of words that occasionally escalates to a thrown glass at or to a violent slap. Others have no friends because they are afraid to invite Sally over for the night for then she will see what an angry, scary, drunk their Dad is.

We like to think that we are autonomous human beings and that our sin hurts no one but ourselves. But this is not the case as experience reveals and as the Scriptures make clear. The deadly effects of sin will always touch our families.

And the effects of sin will ravage our own lives as well. As 1 Samuel 8:14-17 makes clear, the passions of the world will consume our very livelihood. We know this to be true. We have seen young men and women trash promising careers because they believed relationships, sex, and money could satisfy. We have encountered men who bounced from job to job because they repeatedly violated sexual conduct guidelines, fight angerly with their bosses, and fail to show up to work on time. We know of women who approach their golden years with no money because they spent their livelihood chasing experiences, shoes, or beauty. Though sin promises peace, relaxation, and joy, it robs us of wealth and our ability to work.

And lastly sin draws us away from God. 1 Samuel 8:18 says, “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” Seemingly since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have operated under the notion that they can live-it-up and then stop on a dime and repent a few moments prior to death. But God does not offer such hope. If we repeatedly and frequently spit upon God, he will ultimately spit upon us. Friends we know this reality to be true. God may require our lives without any warning. Car crashes, strokes, and a whole host of other circumstances can spring upon us without warning and take our lives without offering us that needed moment for spiritual reflection. Moreover, the hardened sinner becomes only more harden by his exposure to sin. The more one embraces sin, the more one has no thoughts or inclinations toward the things of God. Many given the opportunity to repent at the end of their lives do not. They hated good as youths, as middle-aged adults, and as sickly senior adults.  As James 4:4 warns us, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Thankfully, we do not have to choose the Kong’s of this world. And we do not have to keep choosing the kings of this world. Christ has died on the cross. He has died to save us from our sins. If we submit to him, he will save us.

But make no mistake, sin destroys our families, our lives, and separates us from God. Let’s not indulge in sin. Let’s not create a secret room for our sin. Let’s not rationalizes away our sin, valuing our world’s salacious promise of happiness over holiness. Sin destroys. Let’s heed the warning o 1 Samuel 8.

We have been warned. We will listen?

How Serious Are Our Sin Problems?

doctorI once heard of a man who went to his doctor  because his side was hurting. After a brief examination, his doctor informed the man that he needed to have an appendectomy right then. The patient was not convinced. And politely told his doctor, “I think I’ll get a second opinion and let you know what I decide.”

To this, his doctor replied, “No you won’t. If you leave here today, you will die. You will be dead within 24 hrs. if you don’t have the surgery.”

Often when it comes to our sin, we take the same exact view as patient. When we are confronted about our gossip, or about your infidelity, or my greed, we tend to minimize the other person’s concerns. We blow off our spouse; we ignore the pleas from our kids; and, we discount the concerns of our small group leader. Our sin is not that big of a deal. Christ died for it. We are done here. Move on, please. I’m do not need surgery. I am fine.

Although this is often the approach we take when coming face to face with sin, this is not Jesus’ approach to sin. In Mark 9:43-50 Jesus says these shocking words,

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell,[a] to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Sin is not small matter to Jesus. He tells us to flee it at all cost. Even if we have to cut off a hand or a foot or pluck out an eye to be free from sin, the cost is worth it. Sin is death and all who love, minimize, and ignore their sin are on the path to death both physically and spiritually. Those who love Jesus will not coddle or ignore their anger, their porn addiction, or their frequently lies. They will confess them. They will seek out help from their pastor or from another mature man or women in the faith. They will do everything and anything they can to be free from sin.

Now a quick aside, I do not think Jesus is telling us to physically mane ourselves to achieve victory over our sins. Think about it for a minute. Jesus did not tell Peter to cut out his tongue because he denied Christ three times during the crucifixion narrative. And Jesus does not want us to cut off our hands because we steal, to cut off our feet because we speed through stop signs, or to pluck out our eyes because we look at porn. We do not sin because of our body. We sin because of our hearts. Our hearts and our thinking direct the actions of the body. Jesus clearly states this truth back in Mark 8:21-23,

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride,

We sin because our souls are corrupted and not because our bodies are fallen. Rather than encouraging us to hack apart our bodies, Jesus is calling us to sacrifice all for righteousness. He is calling the angry man to work fewer hours so that he can sleep more and spend more time with his family, creating a home of peace. He is calling the porn addict to give up his smart phone and to burn his computer. He is calling the drug addict to surrender his stash and to turn himself into the police. He is calling the liar to confess his sins to his wife, pastor, and friends. Jesus is saying we must being willing to lose all, including our good reputation, our friends, our family, our wealth, and every worldly thing to enter the kingdom of heaven. If we do not, we cannot reach heaven.

At some point, all of us will be tested. Everyone will face the pressure of divine inspection. The lies that masked our want of faith will be ripped away, revealing all the deeds that we have done in secret (both good and bad). The reality of whether or not we trust in ourselves or in the great physicians for salvation will be made known.

Those who refuse to flee from their sin will die. They will be cast into the fires of hell. Don’t mistake this. We may not take our sin seriously. We may not think, we have an illness leading to death. But God does. He is not fooled. He will judge us for our sins. All who love sin will die. And all who flee from sin will find eternal life.

And it is not enough for us to be around Christians. It is not enough for us to come from Christian families. It is not enough for us to flee secular friendships and to come to church. We must have true life within our very souls. Notice what Christ says in verse 50.

“Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be a peace with one another.”

If we embrace sin, if we view sin as insignificant, and if we love lawlessness, we are not the children of God. I once heard an old-time preacher tell a family that they had good genes and that he expected a lot of them spiritually because they were descended from a godly lineage. It was a nice sentiment. But, it is not true. Grandma’s righteousness does not mean you will be righteous. Your parents faithful church attendance does not mean you are a going to heaven even though you are always mean. Walking the aisle, talking to your pastor, getting baptized, and memorizing Bible verses does not compensate for your constant lying. The man, woman, and child whose life is characterized by disobedience cannot be redeemed or fixed by his or her surroundings. Salt that has lost its saltiness is worthless. Faith that clings to sin is worthless. Do not be deceived.

But that is not the end of the story. If you love sin, you can stop today. You can repent of your sin. You can confess that your are evil and in need of God’s righteousness bought for you by Jesus’ death on the cross. And then you can confess Jesus as Lord. If you do, he will liberate you from your sin. He will make you salty again. He will save you. He will fix your broken relationships; he will give you peace on earth and in heaven.

Guys and gals, God is good loving and full of glory. Anything we give up including wealth, prestige, power, and earthly satisfaction will be more than made up for in Christ. As John Piper often says, “We are most satisfied when he is most glorified.”

Our patient from before had an option, surgery or death. He choose surgery. He cut out part of his body so that he might live. He listened to the doctor and found life.

Friends, lets listen to our heavenly doctor. Let’s take sin seriously and cut it out of our lives so that we too might live.

Can A Baby Solve Your Marriage Problems?

marriage-baby-1.jpgWe all long for community. We all long to be known and to know. When our relationship with our spouse begins to fracture, we look for solutions. We look for ways to fix the every widening gulf between our loved one and ourselves. And quite often, many settle on the idea of a child. “What is more intimate and more glorious than having a child” is the thought process. But it is correct?

At one level, the answer does seem plausible. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127 makes this point abundantly clear. Having children in our homes is a very good and a very God thing. But are children the solution to our marital problems? Does their blessed nature help us overcome our lack of trust or poor communication issues? Will creating another life and building a relationship with that small person empower us to reshape our relationship with our spouse?

The answer to this question is, “No.” Children cannot restore or fix our marriage because they were not designed to be marital talismans or good luck charms. If anything, they are the opposites. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, children actually exacerbate martial tensions and stresses. The common idea that having a child will improve your already troubled marriage is at best a myth; and at worst, it is destructive and harmful.

Marriages struggle not because of children nor because of a lack of children. They struggle because men and women are putting their own needs and their own desires above their spouse’s needs and desires. They are selfishly deciding not to share about their day or about their recent success at work because they do not trust their spouse. They do not want to get hurt, so they withdraw from the intimacy of the marriage. Or perhaps, you have already been hurt by your spouse’s anger, cutting words, or neglect and you do not want to do the hard work of helping your spouse change. Regardless of the issue, the temptation to run to children is often nothing more than a distraction and escape. It is an attempt to fix deep spiritual and heart issues with physical things, i.e other people.

Having a child to fix your marriage would be like going on a cruise ship to cure your cancer. It may provide a brief rest from cancer, but the cancer remains. The disease will get stronger and will hurt you more and more. A child may briefly distract you from your conflict with your spouse, but eventually the arguments will come back. But now, you struggles occur within the frame work of sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and the despair that comes from listening to a baby cry for hours upon hours.

Ultimately the marriage that is weak, broken, and defined by a lack of trust does not need more children. It needs more of Christ. Both spouses need to reengage Jesus. Instead of channeling their marriage through their sinful desires, they need to channel their marriage though Christ. They need to remember that Christ loved them long before they loved Christ (1 John 4:10). And they need to remember that they need to love their spouse regardless of what their spouse does. Love is not conditional. It is a free gift that we must daily work to extend.

All marriage problems have one source: our sinful hearts. As James 1:14-15 says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Our marriage problems are sins problems. And sin problems can only be fixed by refocusing on the heavenly dwelling of Christ. There is no other way. Kids will not make our marriages great again. Are you ready to deal with this reality?  Are you ready to do the hard work and get serious about your marriage issues?