Christianity 201

August 13, 2018

Sin is like a Snake

His own iniquities will capture the wicked,
And he will be held with the cords of his sin. – Proverbs 5:22

“But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. – Numbers 32:23

Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. – Psalm 19:13

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Is it any coincidence that the Bible’s first representation of our predilection to sin is a serpent?

This is a very, very small part of an exhaustive article on sin which appears at the popular Bible study resource, PreceptAustin.org. (We don’t go there very often because the topical articles are just so deep that we could spend hours in any given one.)

The link below will take you to the main article, and then you’ll find this section by doing a keyword search for “Boa Constrictor!” We’ve included the first four scripture references above, you need to click through for the remaining verses.

Sin is like a Boa Constrictor!

Are you being deceived by sin and tolerating it like a pet? If you are, then you need to remember the fate of the man with the pet boa constrictor (Do a Google search – use the following three words in your search keeping the quotation marks as written >> “pet boa” killed). After 15 years of living with his owner, one day the “pet boa” would not let its “owner” out of its grip resulting in the owner’s tragic death. Wild animals remain wild and so does Sin. Do not be deceived (Stop being deceived)!

No Small Deviations in God’s Economy! – In St. Louis there is a railroad switchyard. One particular switch begins with just the thinnest piece of steel to direct a train away from one main track to another. If you were to follow those two tracks, however, you would find that one ends in San Francisco, the other in New York. Sin is like that. Just a small deviation from God’s standards can place us far afield from our intended destination. Don’t be deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil who whisper “It’s no big deal!” Wrong! Sin is a VERY BIG DEAL! (Sin seeks to rule over us and to kill us = Ps 19:13note, [See also Spurgeon’s comments] Ps 119:133note, 1Jn 5:16)

Entanglement by the Cords of one’s own Sin – Not long after a wealthy contractor had finished building the Tombs prison in New York, he was found guilty of forgery and sentenced to several years in the prison he had built! As he was escorted into a cell of his own making, the contractor said, “I never dreamed when I built this prison that I would be an inmate one day.” (cp Nu 32:23, Pr 5:22See Captured by Iniquity and Held by Cords of one’s own Sin – A Study)

Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to stray!
Cost you more than you ever dreamed you would pay!
Keep you longer than you ever thought you would stay!

Sin (266) (hamartia [word study]) in simple terms is missing the mark, specifically missing God’s will for us, a will which is good and acceptable and perfect (Ro 12:2bnote). Sin is what you do when you obey your fallen flesh, instead of obeying the Holy Spirit (cp Gal 5:16note, Gal 5:17note). The apostle John has a good “working” definition of sin writing that sin is lawlessness (anomia > a = without + nomos = law – behaving as if one had no supreme, divine law ruling their flesh, cp Jdg 21:25note) (1John 3:4 = practices is present tense = as one’s lifestyle – something a truly born again person cannot do habitually – 1Jn 3:9, 10). In Romans 5 and 6 Paul explains that Sin refers to the inherent propensity to commit specific sins a propensity that entered the human heart of Adam and as a result constituted or made him a sinner by nature. Adam then passed the inherent sinful nature (the “sin virus”) he possessed to all of his offspring (which is every person ever born) (Ro 5:12note, Ge 5:3 = “in his own likeness”, not God’s as in Ge 1:26!). This same “Adamic” nature which always seeks to satisfy self will (cp “lovers of self” –2Ti 3:2note) rather than God’s will is present in every person at the moment of conception when the “sin virus” is passed to the fertilized ovum (Ps 51:5note, Ps 58:3note, Job 25:4).

This sin nature which is still present in believers (some subtle, “snake-like” teachers falsely teach that the sin nature is no longer present in believers! Wrong!) is personified as an active power which continually seeks to seduce, deceive, delude and destroy (our fellowship with God).

Sin appears to be fair (“you deserve this little treat”!), but is in fact filthy. It appears pleasant (“it will make you feel so good”), but belies its pernicious character and finally it promises much pleasure (“you’ll be better for having done this”, cp “passing pleasures” He 11:25note), but performs nothing good, in the end bringing only death (to our fellowship with God if we are believers, eternal death/separation if unbelievers).

Paul alluded to the crafty character of sin in Romans 7 writing that “sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (see note Romans 7:11; James 1:14, 15note, Jas 1:16note ).

Paul speaking of the character and activity of the Antichrist in the end times declared that he will come…

with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2Thes 2:10) (Note that they perish not because they were deceived but because they made the conscious choice to refuse the truth of the gospel of salvation. And the divine punishment for their rejection is that they will receive a deluding influence which causes them to believe what is false.)

James makes it clear that God never tempts one to do evil

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:14, 15note, Jas 1:16note)

Some commentators have state that the definite article preceding the word “sin,” identifies a specific sin which in context is the sin of apostasy or falling away from the truth of the gospel.

Sin promotes the illusion that disobedience is more secure (Ex 17:3) or pleasurable (see notes Hebrews 11:25; 26; Ex 16:3) than the life of faithful obedience.

The terrible danger of sin lies in the deceptive ease with which it slowly but surely hardens one’s heart, ever gradually weakening one’s will’s power to resist evil temptations. Paul gives us a command that is good “preventative maintenance” which serves to minimize our vulnerability to the deceptive temptations of sin “Even so consider (present imperative = command to continually take spiritual inventory of what we have and we now are in Christ. Why? Because we are continually vulnerable/susceptible to being deceived if we let go of our grasp of the truth of this affirmation. Speaking this truth does not make it true, but it does remind us that it is true, so that this truth like a shield might be readily recalled in time of need!) yourselves to be dead to sin (separated from, no longer subject to the power of Sin), but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Ro 6:11note)

Alexander Maclaren… in his sermon What Sin Does to Men (Isaiah 1:30, 31)…

Sin withers. We see the picture of a blasted tree in the woods, while all around are in full leaf, with tiny leaves half developed and all brown at the edges. The prophet draws another picture, that of a garden not irrigated, and therefore, in the burning East, given over to barrenness. Sin makes men fruitless and withered. It involves separation from God, the source of all fruitfulness (Ps. 1).

Think of how many pure desires and innocent susceptibilities die out of a sinful soul. Think of how many capacities for good disappear. Think of how dry and seared the heart becomes.

Think of how conscience is stifled. All sin, any sin, does this.

Not only gross, open transgressions, but any piece of godless living will do it.

Whatever a man does against his conscience—neglect of duty, habitual unveracity, idleness—in a word, his besetting sin withers him up.

And all the while the evil thing that is drawing his life-blood is growing like a poisonous, blotched fungus in a wine-cask. (Read full sermonIsaiah 1:30, 31 What Sin Does to Men)

Spurgeon writes that…

Sin slyly insinuates itself and by slow degrees prevails, therefore must we carefully guard against it.

B H Carroll on the deceitfulness of sin – This deceitfulness consists in misconstruing the grace of delay in punishment as immunity altogether, as saith the prophet: “Because sentence against an evil deed is not speedily executed, the heart of the sinner is fully set in him to do evil.”

As someone has written…

[1.] There is a great deal of deceitfulness in sin; it appears fair, but is filthy; it appears pleasant, but is pernicious; it promises much, but performs nothing.

[2.] The deceitfulness of sin is of a hardening nature to the soul; one sin allowed prepares for another; every act of sin confirms the habit; sinning against conscience is the way to sear the conscience; and therefore it should be the great concern of every one to exhort himself and others to beware of sin.

December 3, 2016

Wishing You Had Never Been Delivered

Today we have a new writer who came recommended to us. Colin Sedgwick is a lifelong Baptist minister who writes at Welcome to Sedgonline.

I gotta say this article had me from the first paragraph, where Colin asks a rather provocative question which does follow logically from the key scripture text. Click the title below to read more at his blog.

No turning back!

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! … Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt”. Numbers 14:1-4

Here’s a question that calls (please) for a strictly honest answer: Have you ever wished you had never become a Christian?

It may not have been for long; maybe just a brief phase. But you thought to yourself: “Hey, this Christian life is pretty tough going! When I first got converted it was all so exciting, so new, so fresh! But today…”

Perhaps you thought of all those prayers faithfully prayed, but which never seem to have been answered. Or the meetings you went to on dark, rainy evenings, when hardly anyone else bothered to turn up. Or the tensions and disagreements which flared up from time to time. You might even have thought of all the money you had given over the years to the church and other good causes – boy, tot all that up and perhaps you could have had the same sort of car as sits on your neighbour’s drive…

And you looked back and remembered the things you enjoyed in your pre-Christian days, but which you chose to sacrifice for Jesus’ sake. Were they really so wrong? You looked at your non-Christian friends and family and thought, “They seem to get on perfectly well without God.” Mmm.

It happens. It happened in the early church. The whole of the Letter to the Hebrews is concerned with this very thing. Didn’t Jesus talk about it in the parable of the sower (see Matthew 13:18-23)?

So if your answer to my question was “Well, yes, to be honest I have sometimes felt that way”, you can at least take some comfort from the fact that you are in good (or perhaps I should say bad!) company.

And here it is, tucked away also in the Book of Numbers. Remember the story…

God’s chosen people have been slaves in Egypt, but, under Moses and Aaron, God has given them a dramatic and miraculous liberation: the cruel tyrant Pharaoh has been humbled; the very sea opened up before them to give them a route out! They head into the desert with the faith that God will lead them to a wonderful new homeland, truly a “promised land”.

But… it won’t be quite yet. No, there will be a period of journeying in the desert, and that won’t be easy.

And guess what? They get disappointed and disillusioned.

And that leads to grumbling and discontent. And that, in turn, leads to outright rebellion.

You can read about the grumbling in (among other places) Numbers 11:4-6. Influenced by “the rabble” (presumably hangers-on who had joined Israel to get out of Egypt), they hanker after those lovely cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic they enjoyed in Egypt. They get fed up with that boring, tasteless manna stuff (heavenly bread, in fact) which God sent to feed them. “Give us meat and fish!” they cry.

The rebellion is described here in chapter 14. This Moses is rubbish! Why don’t we just die right here in the desert (don’t worry – that’s exactly what they will do)? And then these shocking words: “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.

What? What! They’ve witnessed the plagues in Egypt, from which they were protected by God. They saw with their own eyes the waters open up for them. They have rejoiced in the miraculous bread from heaven. They’ve met with God in truly awesome fashion at Mount Sinai. They’ve seen demonstrations of both God’s mercy and his severe judgment. And yet they can say, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt”. Can you believe it?

Suppose for a moment they had gone back to Egypt, tails between their legs, humbling themselves before Pharaoh. I can’t really imagine what life would have been like. But there’s one thing I’m sure of: it wouldn’t have been long before they were grumbling again. After all, they’ve got plenty of “previous” when it comes to that: see, for example, Exodus 15:24).

For us Christians, the issues are generally two-fold when we are tempted to “go back to Egypt”. It’s either the seductions of this corrupt world; or it’s the sheer hardship of the cross-bearing business of following Jesus. (We’re not talking here about intellectual difficulties regarding our faith, or about the kind of spiritual crisis that sometimes happens: they’re a different matter altogether.)

I can only say: if that temptation does rear its head, the thing to do is sit down with a cool, clear mind, to pray with an honest heart, to remember the emptiness of the time before you followed Jesus, to remember too the many blessings you have received. And then to – once more – pick up your cross. You won’t regret it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the day you changed my life as I came to believe in Jesus and follow him. However hard the way may sometimes be, help me to remain faithful to him until that day I enter the promised land of your eternal kingdom. Amen.


Of course we couldn’t look at this text without thinking of this Keith Green song!