Yesterday I posted an article entitled “Pastors: Unconfessed Sin is Like a Cancer In Your Life.” The first step in dealing with confessed sin is to consider it from a Biblical perspective. The better we understand what the Bible has to say about our sin, the more seriously we will take it. Allow me to remind you of just a few of the key points that the Bible makes about our sin:
1. Sin is rebellion against God.
In Psalm 32:1 the Bible says, “Bless is the one who transgression is forgiven, who sin is covered.” The word translated here as transgression is the Hebrew word which refers to rebellion against a ruler.1 It is tempting to see sin merely as an act, but it goes much deeper. At the heart of every sin is rebellion against God’s authority. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, they did much more than merely eat a piece of forbidden fruit. Their act of sin represented a rebellion against God’s sovereign authority over their lives. It is important for us to understand our own sin in terms of direct rebellion against the authority of God in our lives.
In Steve’s case, Satan wanted him to believe that he was just finding relief for his sexual needs. The deception came in the form of convincing Steve that sin was really good— His need was being met while at the same time protecting himself from further sexual sin. Does that sound familiar? It should, because Satan has used this same tactic since the garden of Eden and only one man in the history of the world was ever able to resist it— Jesus (see Matthew 4:1-11). Satan always wants us to believe that sin is nothing more than a way to get our needs met. In doing so, he makes sin seem practical and even desirable. What he doesn’t want us to realize, however, is that the root of every sin is rebellion against God.
The key here is to stop making excuses and justifying our sin. As long as we try to explain ourselves and to maintain our innocence the deeper the cancer of sin will invade our lives. The
2. Sin separates us from God.
As a result of rebelling against God’s will we find ourselves separated from His presence. In
Psalm 51:10 David cried out, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” There are few things in the life of the minister more terrifying than when the manifest presence of God is withdrawn from your life. The truth of the matter is that we will all at one point or another learn what it feels like to have God withdraw the sense of His presence from our lives. The tragedy is that for some Pastors this becomes a permanent situation because they are never willing to deal with their sin.
Several years ago while attending a Pastors conference in Jacksonville, Fl I met a man named Carl who epitomized what happens when God withdraws His presence. Carl was not attending the conference but our paths crossed one night when we were eating at the same restaurant. He knew that I was attending the pastors conference because of the name tag that I was wearing and we struck up a conversation. Carl had served in the ministry and was near retirement when he got involved in a “secret sin.” Carl never did tell me what the sin was that he was involved with but the consequences were more than enough to serve as a cautionary tale.
Carl told me, “At first things were okay. I continued to preach and do the ministry without much change But then I started to notice that I wasn’t hearing from God in my sermon preparation and prayer. The worship services began to get very dry and soon I recognized the absence of God in my life.” As Carl described his experience something struck me, he told the story without even a hint of emotion. It was as if Dr. Spock from Star Trek was describing the situation to me. Carl seemed to be emotionless about the situation. But then he said something that felt like lightning running through my body.
“At some point,” Carl said, “I just decided that I didn’t want to change. I knew what the problem was, I knew that God was calling me to repent of my sin and come back to him. But I didn’t want to do it, and so I’ve never heard from God again.” Carl paused after that last phrase and let out a sigh but that was a close to any kind of emotion that he showed. Then I asked, “Do you ever regret it?” “Yes,” he said, “I miss having that feeling that God is close by and working through me.”
“So,” I asked, “Why don’t you just come back?” With that Carl just turned and walked away.
The truth is that Carl doesn’t have to stay in his present condition. He doesn’t have to go through life without experiencing the manifest presence of God in his life, he makes that choice by continuing to live in sin. But his story illustrates where any of us could end up if we refuse to deal with sin. His story should be an example to all of us to take the withdrawal of God’s presence in our lives seriously. Unconfessed sin separates us from God.
3. Sin separates us from the people we love.
Sin not only separates us from God but it also separates us from the people that we love. In Genesis 3:12 one of clearest evidences of the effects of sin is that Adam blamed both his wife and God for his own sin. In the story of Steve, that I shared at the beginning of this chapter, his sin ended up separating him from his wife, his children, and his church family. This is the nature of sin— it separates!
If you are like me you probably have experienced this aspect of the nature of sin. When I am harboring a sin in my life, I simply don’t want to be around anyone who might expose me or bring about conviction in my life. Sometimes I can accomplish this by avoiding actually being physically present, but more often than not in my life this desire will be manifested in simply being moody or distant. I know other guys who plunge themselves into hobbies or other activities simply to avoid every being confronted by their sin. They spend a lot of time with their family and friends but are careful to make sure that they are never put in a vulnerable spot. Both of these strategies are intended to destroy intimacy.
Among pastors, I have noticed that there is a tendency to view other people as enemies or opponents to mask sin in our own lives. Another way that this may be manifested is through a Pharisaic tendency to prefer pointing out other people’s faults and not dealing with our own. In each of these strategies there is the telltale sign of sin in keeping us separated from the other members family of God.
4. Sin keeps us fulfilling our chief purpose.
Christians in every generation have been committed to the idea that human life has meaning and purpose. The Westminster Confession of faith succinctly captured this idea when it says that our chief purpose of man is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When reflecting upon this truth, the Psalmist wrote, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:4-5) But then sin entered into the picture and Romans 3:23 tells us that “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In other words, sin keeps us from accomplishing our greatest purpose in life.
1 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Edited by Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999. 741