What ever happened to sin? Old fashioned hell fire and damnation preaching is out of style. Balance is always the need that for one hour of teaching on hell fire, we need a full hour of teaching God’s love and grace. The funeral is no place to try to preach a man into heaven, neither is it the place to keep him out of hell. Jesus said, “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. I will forewarn you who you shall fear. Fear him, which after he has killed has the power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).
When we break God’s law, we commit sin. “Sin is a transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). But what did Paul means when he said, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). What is it that dies when we sin? I know death can mean “separation”. The prophet said, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God and your sins have hid his face from you that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
DEATH TO INNOCENCE: To experience things that are right is always good, but to experience evil brings death to our innocence. A cloud comes into our life that will forever keep the beautiful sun from shinning as brightly. To be drunk one time is to always know the experience and to give up the innocence you once possessed. To fornicate one time is to know the sin that brings death to virginity and purity. Paul calls it “sinning against ones own body (I Corinthians 6:18). How does one become a prostitute? Just step by step for the wages of sin is death.
DEATH TO IDEALS: When innocence is forfeited, the erosion of ideals begins. What we have envisioned, the desires, the ideals, the high and holy calling begins to wane. Death to virginity and purity becomes dying dedication and consecration. Your parents may never know. Your closest friend may not be informed. Man’s law may never catch you, but the one who is guilty knows, and that is like being caught INSIDE. Forgiveness is offered, but now we may find it more difficult to repent or even ask or seek forgiveness.
DEATH TO THE WILL: When innocence is forfeited and ideals are lost, The will to do right becomes more difficult day by day. The Psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, or sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalms 1:1). You first walk with them – then you stand with them and eventually you sit with them. The saying “Evil companions corrupt good morals” is not only true but demonstrated day by day as death to innocence and ideals have rot away. Eventually our spirit dies within us and the will to do right is no more. Paul writes, “For the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. These are contrary one to the other, so that you cannot do the things you would” (Galatians 5:17).
The Word of God gives “freedom from sin” and the offer of Satan is “freedom to sin”. The word of God clearly draws the line. “For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness . . . but now being made free from sin, you became servants of God, and have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:20-22). There is no way to straddle the fence.
Years ago I counseled with a church member, who had a fine reputation and outgoing personality. The path she had chosen had eventually led her into a life of prostitution. No one knew the duel path she walked and the final erosion of her life and heart.
I spoke kindly to her about falling into Satan’s trap of selling herself to others. She said, “Brother Jack, if you had called me a prostitute three years ago, I would have slapped your face. Now it’s true and I am so ashamed”.
“How did this evil thing happen to you, how did you get where you are today?” I asked. Her statement was simple — “Step by step!” First were bad companions that brought death to innocence, Then the gradual erosion of ideals and goals to live a good life. Finally, I lost my will to turn back.”
I spoke to her about the beauty of grace and that there is no sin that is beyond redemption and is unforgivable. To any penitent believer, God’s love and grace is waiting to forgive and restore.
The prodigal son is a good example. From the depth of his fall he said “I will arise and go to my father and say unto him, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. I am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). You know the story and it is beautiful. Charles Hodge sums it up in these few words, in his book, “I Saw God Run,”
“The robe, the shoes, the ring,
They are all for me, an unworthy son,
But the greatest of these, the most wonderful thing,
My father ran to meet me, I SAW GOD RUN!“