A man would be wiser to leave cancer untreated than sin unmortified. The worst that cancer can do is take a man to his grave. The worst that sin can do is lead him across the threshold of Hell. Cancer is a physical illness that destroys the life of the body. Sin is a spiritual illness that corrupts and disintegrates the life of the soul. In order to appreciate the foolishness of ignoring sin, a man needs to ponder the nature, agenda, location, and symptoms of this devastating virus.
1 – The Nature of Sin
The nature of sin is hatred of God. Sin is to God what darkness is to light. Darkness and light cannot inhabit the same space. The nature of light is that it removes darkness. The nature of darkness is that it fills the void left by unlit space. Yet, in truth, this analogy breaks down because, whereas darkness is inanimate and passive, sin is aggressive and dynamic. Sin cannot target God’s own holiness; however, it can invade and subdue the fallen hearts of human beings. Therefore, sin is best thought of as the antithesis of God, the perversion all of that is true, good, holy, beautiful, personal, and life-giving. It is a demonic parody of everything that ought to be celebrated, enjoyed, and cultivated.
To picture sin we can think of a dangerous and illegal drug that is cut, packaged, and marketed as a cheap and simple source of pleasure. The tagline is care free joy. The cost is slavery, misery, and gnawing guilt. Jesus’ description of ‘outer darkness’ where ‘the fire always burns and the worm never dies’ is as apt of a description of the inward state of sin as of the outward state of Hell. Sin is inwardly what Hell is outwardly. Or, to put things another way, sin is the frontier of Hell being extended into the heart of a man.
2 –The Agenda of Sin
The agenda of sin is twofold. First, sin seeks mastery. Sin knows nothing of fair play, justice, generosity, or contentment. All of these traits reflect God and therefore are loathsome to sin. Sin is the egotistical ‘I want’ of a two-year old totally unrestrained and on steroids. Sin covets every crumb on the table. This is why the poster boys of sin are not the obese or the vain, but Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Given sufficient leeway, sin would make any man an uncontrollable agent of destruction. He would not be a mastermind of evil, but a puppet. The devil and sin remove all liberty from men. Human beings become beast of burdens doing the ceaseless biddings of a perverse and merciless master.
Here we see the danger of the subtlest craving of lust or snatching of greed. Sin is always seeking a foothold, which can become a bunker, which can become a fortress, which can become the headquarters of an empire. Sin is seeking to colonize every square inch of a man until his conversion is as complete as Winston in 1984.
But the agenda of sin goes beyond this life into the next. Ultimately, sin wants to populate Hell. Because sin hates God, sin wants to attract as many human beings as possible to the furthest pole from God. This is the small print written at the bottom of every sinful temptation. In big letters we read Fun, Pleasure, Comfort, and Success. Indecipherably written in the legal jargon of Satan are the words Misery, Guilt, Pain, and Self-Loathing. Sin wants us dead. Sin wants us damned. Knowing this, Paul warns us that ‘the wages of sin are death’ (Romans 6:23). Temporary death and eternal death, this is what sin produces.
3 – The Residence of Sin
You would think that a reality so vile and demonic would be confined to the caves of the Taliban or the dark recesses of cannibalistic tribes in the jungle. However, the startling revelation of Romans 7 is that ‘sin dwells in me’ (verse 20). A man needs to look no further than himself to find all of the deceit, malice, and perverseness of sin alive and at work. Some guys might scoff this. They might look out at the front and back-lawns of their lives and think that everything look well-groomed and carefully maintained. Yet sin often works more like a water leak than a demolition crew. Sin is happy to play the long game if needed. There are times that it sweeps in like a hurricane and leaves a man penniless, abandoned, and dumbstruck. Other times it slowly corrodes the walls and underlying structure of a life over years, even decades, such that a man is unconscious of the inward erosion.
The main point is this: the front line against sin cuts straight through the coronary arteries of every man. The biggest problem in the universe is not in China or Baghdad, but in me. I am a hive of evil that could inflict painful damage on the world around me unless God mercifully does something to exterminate the seed of evil in my own chest.
4 – The Symptoms of Sin
Why do people most people seek to treat illnesses? The answer is not usually to promote health. The motive is to get rid of symptoms. Without the symptoms of an illness, most of us would be happy for a virus to brew beneath the surface unfelt. Our goal is to get rid of running noses, itchy throats, aching fevers, irritating coughs. If we didn’t feel the problem, we wouldn’t care about a solution.
In truth, the symptoms of sin by themselves (not to mention consequences) ought to be sufficiently scary to motivate men to act forcefully against sin. What are these? One is misery. Sin alienates us from the rivers of pleasure so that darkness replaces light, pain replaces pleasure. Another is guilt. Sin makes us feel dirty inwardly. The problem with this foulness is that no exterior detergent can remove the stain. Good works are useless. Self-flagellation is comic. Sin blemishes our soul so that we walk around feeling as if a noose of shame is slowly being tightened around our necks. Emptiness is a third symptom. Only God can fill us and make us whole. Sin is a temporary fix that ends up expanding the vacuum rather than removing it. A fourth is despair. Sin dispels hope. The message of sin is that we are so far gone that no power on earth or in heaven could rescue us. Therefore, devoid of hope, we continue to indulge the pain. Without any solutions to the problem, we capitulate to quick-fixes. Finally, isolation. There is a Somali proverb: ‘Me and my clan against the world/Me and my family against my clan/Me and my brother against my family/Me against my brother.’ This rupture of all ties of fellowship is the final destination of sin. If God is love, sin is hate. The more we indulge hate, the less potential we have for genuine personal relationships, whether with God or with men.
In summary, men don’t tolerate sin. The stakes are too high for a casual attitude of indifference.