Responding to Sin
It is not a question of whether or not you will sin. It is not a question of how you will sin. It is not a question of when you will sin. It is not a question of whether or not you will pay the price for your sin. The question is, how will you respond to sin?
I remember when I was a child, sitting in the pew on Sunday morning, listening to the preacher's sermons, which seemed quite boring to me as a 10 year old. To pass the time, I would read the song book, making up different words for the hymns. Of course I couldn't do this sitting next to my mother...I had to sit on the opposite end of the pew behind her so that she couldn't see me (I thought) and couldn't reach me. I knew that if she was right there, I had to sit up straight, look up every Scripture the preacher called out, and at least pretend to pay attention. But when mom was on the other end of the pew, I had the freedom to sometimes even nod off to sleep. Imagine now how it felt when my eyelids were heavy and my head was drooping, feeling the song book slip from my hands, and hearing it crash to the hardwood floor. Every head in the building turned to look at me, and I snapped to attention again. Within 2 seconds, I knew I was in trouble because, without looking, I could feel my mother's burning glare on my face. In the next instant, she stood and was coming to get me to make me sit next to her. There was nothing more intimidating and embarassing than having your mother come get you while the whole congregation looked on. As long as I sat next to her, I didn't dare sleep or occupy myself with anything other than the preaching being done.
I suppose many people have the same attitude towards sin and towards God. We think that if Jesus was right here next to us, we wouldn't sin...we'd never make a mistake. The reality is, however, Jesus IS here with us. He watches every move we make, either proud of us or sad because of our choices. If we could convince ourselves that Jesus is right here right now, perhaps we would not make sinful choices as often as we do. But until we can have such faith in His presence, we continue to sin.
I'd like to talk about how we respond to sin. We all have some kind of response to our sins, and today I'd like to discuss 5 responses. These responses are:
Genesis 3:6-7 COVERING OUR SIN: Secrets and Minimizing
It says that when Adam & Eve realized they were naked, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. In essence, they wanted to cover their guilt...cover their nakedness...cover their sin. Of course they wanted to keep it a secret. They couldn't let God know what they had done...He would not approve. Even today we try to cover up our sins. We've all done this...when we know we are about to do something sinful, what is the first thing we do? We look around...we look all around to see who is watching. And if no one is watching, or at least if no one from the church is watching, we do it. We do it in secret. And we think we get away with it. It's like the kind of diet where, "if no one sees you eat that piece of chocolate cake, the calories don't count." Obviously this is a lie that we delude ourselves with to "make it ok." It is a secret we share only with ourselves...we all have little secrets that no one else knows about...secret desires...secret lusts...secret opinions of other people. We like to keep our secrets hidden...keep them covered up, so that no one else will know what kind of person we really are inside. The Psalmist said, however, in Psalm 44:20-21, "If we had forgotten the name of our God, or extended our hands to a strange god, would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart." Again, he wrote in Psalm 69:5, "O God, it is Thou who dost know my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from Thee." We can't keep secrets from God. Sure we might fool our friends, our parents, our preachers, and even the police. But we can't fool God. Now take just a moment to think about the secret you have. Maybe it is that awful sin you committed years ago that you are sure no one knows about. Maybe it is something you did just recently. Or maybe it is your dislike of someone in the church. Maybe it is some problem you have with God Himself. Whatever it is, I want you to think about how embarassed and ashamed you are going to be when every person in the world finds out your little secret, because according to Romans 2:16, there is coming a day when "God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." We will all stand before the Judgement seat of Christ, and our secrets will be revealed. It doesn't matter how hard we tried to cover them up.
Sometimes, however, when a person gets caught in a sin, he tries to cover it in a different way: he tries to minimize it. Don't we do this? We say, "it's not that bad" or call it a "little white lie" or say "nobody got hurt." We try to minimize the effect or result of our sin. We make it out to be a small insignificant matter, a mistake that anyone could make. A common excuse is, "Well at least I wasn't ...." We know there is a certain point where an act becomes sinful. We look and see where the line is drawn. And we stand a certain distance from the line. But then when something between us and the line becomes appealing, we think that we can have it and still be o.k. as long as we don't cross the line. We get right up on the edge of the line and are convinced that it is safe. What we OUGHT to be doing is seeing how far from that line we can stand. Some people even go so far to claim that the "end justifies the means," meaning it is okay to do something wrong if the result is something good. Think about this for a moment: would you want the city to put a sewer pipe line right through your living room? Would you allow that? Well that is exactly what we have in television nowadays. We have this box that shows us images of all the trash in the world. We let it poison our minds and the minds of our children. And we say it is a good thing to have. It is evil, but we call it good. "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes" (Psalm 101:3). Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
So one common response to sin is to cover it up...to keep it a secret...or at least to make it look not quite so bad. But God will not be fooled, and someday you will pay the price for those secrets.
Genesis 3:8-10 HIDING FROM THE CONSEQUENCE: Running, Lying, and Fixing
We now see Adam and Eve trying to hide from God. They heard Him approaching, and they ran away and hid behind trees. Of course God still found them. What kind of criminal would remain on the scene when the police are on the way? Obviously not a very wise criminal...he will get caught if he stays! And likewise, we tend to try to run away from the consequence of our sins. We run away from things that remind us of our sinful past. And maybe we can escape from our friends and family, and even from the police. Jonah tried to run away from God. God told him to go to Ninevah to preach, but Jonah got into a boat and went the opposite direction. Of course God had a plan for Jonah, who soon discovered that you can't run away from God. The Psalmist knew this too. He wrote in Psalm 139:7-10, "Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there. If I take the wings of dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me." Obviously we can't run away from God, and some day we will pay the consequence of our sins if we do not respond properly.
So what happens when we finally get caught in sin? It can't be covered...it can't be minimized...we can't run away...so what do we do? We LIE! We make up a story to explain it in a different light, or we make up a story that is false. And sometimes...maybe...we succeed in our lie. We can convince our friends and family...we can convince our employers or the police, but we can never convince God with a lie. Turn to Acts 5:1-11 and see what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they tried to lie about their donation. They were struck dead! Honesty is always the best policy. What happens when you tell a little white lie? Later on someone might become suspicious and ask you...then you have to tell another lie to cover the first. Then you'll have to make up yet another lie to cover the one before. And it continues until eventually you have weaved yourself into a web of lies and deception and you yourself will become entangled. "My what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." That is why police interrogate criminals repeatedly and compare their stories... eventually, if they are lying, they will say something inconsistent and the truth will be known.
Well now we've been found out. The secret is revealed, somebody knows the truth, and there is no where to run. What can you do? What do most people do? We try to fix it. We try to make up for it or make it better. And we even go to desperate measures to do this. I'm talking about abortion. I'm talking about a woman or young lady who engages in premarital sex and becomes pregnant. She made a bad choice...she sinned...and sooner or later her parents are gonna find out. What can she do? She decides to have an abortion. Why? Statistics show that 95% of women who have abortions do it as a form of birth control. (Mother's health problems account for about 5% of abortions; rape and incest accounts for about 1% of all abortions; fetal deformities or problems account for about 1%.) The largest group is the 20-24 year old women...women with their lives in front of them and a future to plan. I believe that most women who have abortions do it because they are ashamed of themselves for their sin. She is ashamed to be found out and have to fess up to her sexual immorality. She has to admit to her parents what she as done. She sees her unborn child as a roadblock to fulfilling her own dreams and desires, something that will hinder her from getting what she wants. And she thinks she can "fix it" or "make it better" by killing an innocent child. It all stems from her selfishness. She was selfish to want premarital sex without considering what God wanted first. She was selfish to have an abortion because she couldn't face the music, she couldn't face the burden of being pregnant out of wedlock. And she was selfish to have an abortion because she thought the child would get in her way. And we do this with other sins too. We try to fix all of our mistakes, either by doing something right or doing something even worse like abortion. But still, fixing it is not the answer; it doesn't make it right...and it is not the response God expects.
Genesis 3:11-13 DODGING THE BLAME: Comparisons and Good Deeds
God asked Adam why he did it. Adam said that woman, whom God gave him, made him do it. In essence, Adam was blaming God, because if God hadn't given him that woman, he wouldn't be in this predicament. So God turns to the woman, who blames it on the serpent. Today, we still live in a "not my fault" society. People, especially teenagers up to those in their 30s, don't want to be responsible for their mistakes. Nobody wants to be accountable. We all want freedom of expression and speech and other such liberties, but who wants to be the one to admit they were wrong for their action that infringed on someone else? The smokers want freedom to smoke, but is it right to take away the non-smokers' freedom to breathe clean air? But it's not their fault...the fault lies with the tobacco companies who made an addictive product. The drinkers want freedom to drink, but it's not their fault when they drive and kill an innocent person or family...the fault lies with the friends who didn't stop them, or the spouse who didn't please him, or the bartender that wouldn't stop serving. Even in politics, the educated men and women we highly esteem as leaders of the country can't stop bickering over who is to blame for the various problems in the nation...the Democrats blame the Republicans and vice versa, the Congress blames the President, and vice versa. But will anyone stand up to blame the voters? Oh no...the voters couldn't have been wrong. We are "the people." WE determine what is right and what is wrong. They say that the man who is elected is the one chosen by the people to represent them. Our current administration therefore is proof of what an immoral society we live in, the kind that wants all the good things and none of the blame for the bad things, the kind that steals the credit for the positive actions of others, but denies the blame for his own guilt.
We live in a society that loves to compare and classify things. Even in matters of morality and ethics, we compare ourselves to one another. We say "I'm only human" to forgive our own transgressions, and we say "I'm no saint" to excuse our sins. We compare ourselves to each other when confronted with our faults. "Well at least I didn't do what you did..." We tear each other down to try to build ourselves up, but the real result is that you end up with two people at a lower level than they were before when you do that. Turn to Luke 18:9-14 and read about the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer. The Pharisee thanked God that he was such a good person who tithed and fasted and wasn't like the tax-gatherer. The tax-gatherer begged God for forgiveness of his faults. Jesus said the tax-gatherer went away justified. We should not compare ourselves to one another. As Jesus said, "Do not judge, lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:1-5). We respond to sin by comparing ourselves to others so that we don't seem so bad. The only One we ought to compare ourselves to is Jesus.
Sometimes we try to dodge the blame for our sins by diverting the attention from the bad thing we did to all the good things we've done or are going to do. Consider King Saul (1 Samuel 15:20-21). God had told him to utterly destroy the Amalekites: every man, woman, child, and animal must die, and their city destroyed. When he returned, Samuel asked him why he had not obeyed God? Saul said he did obey, and in fact, he had done one better: he had brought back the choice animals and the king to sacrifice to God. Samuel told him that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. Because he had rejected the command of God, God rejected him from being king. The point is, having good intentions or doing something good doesn't make it o.k. to do something bad. We can't excuse our sins by pointing to good deeds or good thoughts.
Genesis 4:9 APATHY: Not Caring, Turning to Something Different
Now we have Cain, who has just killed his brother. God asks him where his brother is, and Cain gives a rather apathetic, uncaring response. Apathy is everywhere in the world. One man that I work with thinks that since he doesn't believe in hell, he can't go there. So he just doesn't care about God. A properly trained conscience will often keep you out of trouble, but every time you go against your conscience, it starts to whisper to you softer and softer until eventually you don't even hear it anymore. At that point, your conscience has been seared to the point of not caring whether or not what you do is right. You become apathetic towards sin. Perhaps it started off as a one-time event. It's a special night...just one drink won't hurt...just one cigarette won't kill me...just a few minutes alone with her in the dark can't hurt anyone. That one-time even then comes around again. It didn't hurt last time...I didn't get caught...it felt good. It happens again and again until finally it becomes a part of your life and you don't even realize it. How many alcoholics will admit they are addicted? How many smokers erroneously believe they can quit anytime? How many adulterers honestly say they'll never go back and hold themselves to it? In all three cases, it usual takes a life-altering event to force a change in their behavior. Why? Because they become apathetic to the reality of sin. Once there was a guy out camping. In the middle of the night he dreamed there were ants crawling on him, but he remained asleep. He continued to think the ants were on him, and he woke to check. He only found one small ant, so he went back to sleep. A little while later he awoke and checked again, and found just a few ants, so he went back to sleep. Later he awoke again and found himself covered in angry biting ants, and only then did he jump to his feet and do something about it. We let sin sneak into our lives the same way...one little thing leads to another little thing, until finally that little thing turns into a big thing. If we would only utilize the wisdom of God, we would avoid such trouble.
Some people's apathy towards sin lies in their perspective of right and wrong. They have decided to worship with the "church of their own choice." They want a preacher who will tell them how good they are, not how bad they are. They want a church that will feed and entertain them, not bring them closer to God. They want a Gospel of love and peace and mercy, not the sword that divides father from son and mother from daughter. They see only the compassionate Jesus who forgave the woman caught in adultery, not the fiery-eyed Christ who cleansed the temple with a whip. Paul warned Timothy of such people in 2 Tim. 4:3-4, saying that they would acquire for themselves preachers who would tickle their ears. These are the people who have become apathetic to the truth and to sin; sadly, these people make up the majority of what is our "Christian" nation.
Psalm 32:3,5 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT & REPENTANCE: God's Preferred Response
"When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long...I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin."
"For I know my trangressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge." (Ps. 551:3-4)
"Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord hat if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bondage of iniquity." (Acts 8:22-23)
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring that to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)
"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Cor. 7:10)
"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgement, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." (Heb. 10:26-27)
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we have Him a liar, and His Word is not in us." (1 John 1:8-10)
How do you respond to sin? Will you do something about your past sins today? Will you make the proper response in the future? Your life depends on your response.
By David F Simsy
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