Today we begin a new series of messages about a number of things that have the potential to destroy our lives and our relationships. The Bible calls them ‘sin’. Just saying the word ‘sin’ creates a variety of feelings and emotional responses. ‘Sin’ used to be a pretty scary word – something most people wanted to avoid at all costs. It referred to something wrong, something dangerous. In recent times, the word ‘sin’ has been toned down, kind of domesticated. In today’s culture, something ’sinful’, for many people, means something ‘naughty but nice’. It’s kind of a … ‘I know I shouldn’t really, but it will be fun, and I’m sure it won’t do any harm.’ For some people, ‘sinful’ describes something being imposed by people who just want to stop other people from enjoying themselves. Even in church circles, many people have stopped using the word ‘sin’. It seems such a negative word. People want more positive things to talk about!
Today we want to have a fresh look at this idea of ‘sin’. Maybe it’s a more important subject than we realise and maybe there’s something positive we can learn from the whole discussion. Maybe we need to take it a little more seriously than we have been of late.
From a Biblical perspective, ‘sin’ is basically disobedience to God’s commands. It’s involves crossing a line or boundary created by God (hence the word ’transgression’). It has the idea of ‘missing the mark’ or falling short of God’s requirements. Sin began when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. However, sin is much more than just ‘breaking the rules’. Laws and rules exist for the benefit of human lives, families, marriage, reputations, communities and peace. Sin needs to be seen as a destructive habit, a pattern of life which has the potential to destroy all that is good in our lives. That is why it is to be avoided. Sin is a malfunction. It is choosing to live life contrary to the way God designed it. Ultimately, it will damage us and those we love.
Sin is destructive. It is not some harmless transgression of some random moral code invented by repressed and frustrated authoritarian people. It is a pattern of life that can and does destroy families, friendships, happiness, peace of mind, innocence, love, security, nature, and most importantly, our relationship with our creator. Sin is a deadly enemy of our soul (1 Peter. 2:11). It is like a deadly virus. Sin is STILL DEADLY!Lists of Common Sins in the Bible
God gave Moses Ten Commandments for the nation of Israel to follow, many of which include the avoidance of certain behaviors such as lying, stealing, murder, and greed (covetousness). In the book of Proverbs, the author lists seven things that the Lord hates (Prov.6:16-19). The New Testament contains many lists of both virtues (such as the ‘fruit of the Spirit’) and vices. These lists are used in a variety of ways including: to describe the depravity of unbelievers, to encourage believers to avoid vices and practice virtues, to expose or denounce the failures of false teachers, and to describe what is required of church leaders (see Rom.1:28-32. 1 Cor.6:9-10. Gal.5:19-21. Eph.4:25-32; 5:3-5. Col.3:5, 8).
Over the years, numbers of people attempted to condense these lists into a smaller summary of key sins or habits of behaviour to avoid. Early church fathers such as Hermas, Tertullian, and Augustine, while never actually listing specific ‘deadly’ sins did suggest some sins were worse than others (see 1 Jn.5:16-17). What eventually resulted, therefore, were numerous lists of especially harmful sins. Historians tell us that Evagrius of Pontus, a fourth century Greek monastic theologian, first drew up a list of eight bad habits. They were listed in order of increasing seriousness beginning with gluttony and ending with pride. Around 200 years later, Pope Gregory the Great (540-605) reduced the list to seven items (combining a few of those on the list and adding envy), and the number stuck. Today, the Seven Deadly Sins are known to be ... Pride, Gluttony, Anger, Sloth, Envy, Lust, and Greed.Why this Topic?
In the spiritual battle of life, we need to know our enemy. The idea of ‘seven deadly sins’ is a simple way of remembering some of the main ways in which sinful patterns of behaviour destroy our lives and relationships. We want to overcome destructive patterns of living and replace them with positive, constructive, and godly ones. We all want to live better lives.
The challenge for us is that our contemporary culture has not only toned down the meaning of the word ‘sin’, it has rehabilitated all individual sins, changing them from things that were once evil and wrong to things that are now portrayed as desirable and attractive. Our culture tends to admire these qualities, not avoid them. Lust is seen as a sign of a healthy sexual appetite. Pride is a perfectly valid pleasure in our own achievements, and greed an essential motor for the economy. The seven sins seem no longer as bad as they once were. They are presented as being even a ‘bit sexy, a bit retro, and not even all that evil’ (from Still Deadly, p.9).The Deceitfulness of Sin
The challenge with all sin is that it often has a strangely seductive drawing power. It attracts us for some reason. James understood this when he wrote about the cycle of temptation and sin (Jas.1:13-16). The origin of temptation is our own sinful desires which lead us to being enticed or lured towards sinful behaviour(s). The capacity and tendency towards sin is inside of each one of us. If we feed these desires, they will lead to sin, which ultimately leads to death. Do we really believe this?
Lures and traps are not effective if they appear obvious; they are only effective if they appear as something they are not, or at least as relatively harmless. Sin has the ability to mask itself. Like a lure it may appear harmless and innocent in our eyes, but in reality it has severe consequences (e.g. a mouse trap).
For us to change, the way we think about sin and life has to change (see Rom.8:5-8). We have to see God’s laws and commands as being for our good. We have to believe that the wages (dividends) of sin is always death. Sin destroys and kills. We have to choose obedience, knowing that it alone brings blessing and life.
We have both godly and sinful desires inside of us (see Romans 7-8). Which ones are we feeding? Which ones are we focusing on? Sanctification is the process of putting to death the sinful desires within us and then following the godly desires within us with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is a daily battle and a daily choice.Conclusion
We are in a spiritual battle – a battle of life and death. Jesus tells us that the thief comes to ‘steal, kill and destroy’, while he comes to ‘give us abundant life’ (John 10:10). Sin sets itself up with a promise of happiness and fulfilment, yet it always lies. It can’t deliver. Only obedience, living life according to God’s design, will lead to lasting joy and fulfilment. We have a choice to make. Will we give in to the allurement of our culture, feeding the sinful desires within us OR will we recognise the deceitfulness of sin, choose to run from it, and pursue godly living? The choice is ours. The consequences are eternal. Sin is still deadly. Obedience alone leads to true life. Choose life today!Sample Discussion Questions
- What do you think of when you hear the word ‘sin’?
- What do you think is our culture’s view of the concept of ‘sin’?
- Have you heard of the ‘seven deadly sins’? In what context have you heard of them and do you think they are relevant to today?
- Discuss the Seven Deadly Sins - Pride, Gluttony, Anger, Sloth, Envy, Lust, and Greed. Do you think some are worse sins than others? If so, rank them from least to worst.
- Read James 1:13-16. Discuss this ‘sin cycle’ – desire, temptation, sin, and then death. Can you give examples of this process?
- Read Romans 8:5-8. Why is our mind so important in relation to whether we live a life of sin or godliness?