A Bit of BackgroundThis week I've been reading Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by the Puritan author Thomas Brooks. (John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim's Progress was another famous Puritan.) In this book, Brooks seeks to uncover “Satan’s devices to draw the soul to sin” and provide concrete steps, or remedies, to help the believer overcome and draw closer to the Lord. It was a challenging read, but not because of the year it was written (mid-17th century). What made it challenging was the way the Holy Spirit used it to convict me over and over again of ways I've tried to dismiss, minimize, or justify sin in my own life. For example, Device 2 identified by Brooks is the human tendancy to dress up sin as a virtue. Brooks gives several examples:
- Pride becomes “neatness and cleanliness.”
- Covetousness (wanting things other people have) becomes “good business.”
- Drunkenness becomes “good fellowship,” or, in today’s language, “social drinking.”
- “Riotouness” (what Dictionary.com calls behaving "in an unrestrained way") becomes “liberality,” freedom, or one's constitutional rights.
- “Wantonness” ("one given to self-indulgent flirtation or trifling" according to merriam-webster.com) is dismissed as “a trick of youth.” One might translate this last example into modern day sayings such as: “Boys will be boys.”
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (NIV)
Overkill?After an indepth study of sin like Precious Remedies, you and I may be tempted to think Brooks has too much time on his hands and takes sin way too seriously. Hang on, though. Before we reject such thinking out of hand, let's see what the Bible says on the matter. The Roman church struggled with sin. It's not surprising. Rome was the captal of the Roman world. It's amazing how similar that culture was to modern-day America. Freedom was celebrated (among the educated elite males). The people celebrated violence as entertainment. Many gods were honored and worshipped. Conquered nations could keep their religion, so long as they also worshipped the emperor and didn't cause trouble. Marraige was just to continue the family name. There were no moral restrictions on sexual conduct (or other "vices" for that matter). Suetonius (circa A.D. 69) even records the wedding of Emperor Nero with the boy Sporus. This leaves Christians then and now asking the same question:
What's the big deal about sin?
What is it exactly?
Where are the loopholes?I encourage you to take time to read or listen to an audio recording of the book of Romans with these questions in mind. (I like biblegateway.com because I can read along while listening to my preferred translation. Doing both helps my mind not to wander as much.) For now, let's focus in on the passage that struck me this week.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6:1-2 (NIV)
A Surefire Solution to SinThe Bible is clear. God made everything, so He makes the rules (Col. 1:16-18).Sin separates us from God. Sin is falling short of God's perfect standard. Anything less than perfect in God's eyes is sin. The punishment for sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). We cannot earn our way to heaven like you'd earn a merrit badge. We cannot do enough good to balance out the bad (Isa 64:6; Eph 2:8-9). The only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. We must repent of (turn away from) our sins, and believe in Jesus. This means we believe He is who He said He is, that He lived a life without sin, died on the cross to take our punishment, and came back to life again (Jn 3:16; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:3-4). When you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live with you (Jn 14:26; 16:7-15). This is God's promise to those who believe in Jesus:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
It's Time to Look DeepWhether you are a Christ-follower whose sins have been washed away or someone wanting to turn to Jesus for the first time, please pray with me from Psalm 51:1-12 (NIV).
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.