Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try
desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of
the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly
found only and completely in him.
Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine.
For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could
you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there
was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life--namely myself. . . In fact, the
very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself,
I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently
Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and
treachery. . . But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in
ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is in
anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
Few college football coaches have made a point against drugs as effectively as Erk
Russell of Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol' country boys to
burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake
onto a table in front of the squad. "Everyone screamed and scattered," Russell
recalls. "I told them, 'When cocaine comes into a roon, you're not nearly as apt to
leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they'll both kill you!"
Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what is there left for it
to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three
or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones every time the clock ticks.
Dr. Ralph Sockman writes about an experience he had while standing on the edge of
Niagra Falls one clear, cold March day. Wrapped in white winter garments, the falls
glistened in the bright sun. As some birds swooped down to snatch a drink from the clear
water, Sockman's companion told how he had seen birds carried over the edge of the
precipice. As they dipped down for a drink, tiny droplets of ice would form on their
wings. As they returned for additional drinks more ice would weigh down their bodies until
they couldn't rise above the cascading waters. Flapping their wings, the birds would
suddenly drop over the falls.
Today in the Word, October, 1990, p. 14.
Augustine's stages with sin:
1. Lord make me good, but not yet.
2. Lord make me good, but not entirely.
3. Lord make me good.
Exact work unknown.
This was how Susannah Wesley defined "sin" to her young son, John Wesley:
"If you would judge of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of pleasure, then take this
simple rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience,
obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things--that to you is
Resource, July/August, 1990.
Time-lapse photography compresses a series of events into one picture. Such a photo
appeared in an issue of National Geographic. Taken from a Rocky Mountain peak
during a heavy thunderstorm, the picture captured the brilliant lightning display that had
taken place throughout the storm's duration. The time-lapse technique created a
fascinating, spaghetti-like web out of the individual bolts. In such a way, our sin
presents itself before the eyes of God. Where we see only isolated or individual acts, God
sees the overall web of our sinning. What may seem insignificant -- even sporadic -- to us
and passes with hardly a notice creates a much more dramatic display from God's panoramic
viewpoint. The psalmist was right when he wrote, "Who can discern his errors? Acquit
me of hidden faults. Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins" (Psalm 19:12-13).
Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a "necessary evil," it
begins to look more and more necessary and less and less evil.
Sidney J. Harris.
I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and,
every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost . . . Ask a rancher how a cow gets
lost, and chances are he will reply, 'Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green
grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts
nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the
fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it
nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow
has nibbled itself into being lost."
Americans are in the process of nibbling their way to being lost. . . We keep moving
from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home or how
far away from the truth we have managed to end up.
Mike Yaconelli, "The Wittenburg Door."
STOP. I know you're thinking about crossing this gate. What you should know is that if
the Coyotes, Cactus, Mesquite, Heat, Dust or Rattlers don't get you, I will.
"No trespassing" sign seen in west Texas, with
rancher's name signed in blood red paint at bottom.
A man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the
unsuspecting mouse into the snake's glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of
sawdust. The tiny mouse had a serious problem on his hands. At any moment he could be
swallowed alive. Obviously, the mouse needed to come up with a brilliant plan.
What did the terrified creature do? He quickly set up work covering the snake with
sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he
had solved his problem.
The solution, however, came from outside. The man took pity on the silly little mouse
and removed him from the cage. No matter how hard we try to cover or deny our sinful
nature, it's fool's work. Sin will eventually awake from sleep and shake off its cover.
Were it not for the saving grace of the Master's hand, sin would eat us alive.
It's like a World Series of weeds, a Hula Bowl of herbicides, with agriculture students
from U.S. and Canadian universities competing to identify problems in farm fields. This
year, Iowa State took top honors in the Collegiate Weed Science Contest, which tests
students' abilities to identify weeds and the right chemical to kill them and diagnose
herbicide failure. "They need to be able to recognize weeds when they are tiny,"
said James Worthington of Western Kentucky University, president of the North Central Weed
Science Society. "When they get big enough that anybody can recognize them, it's too
late to do anything about them."
Spokesman Review, July 27, 1989, p. A9.
When John Belushi died in the spring of 1983 of an overdose of cocaine and heroin, a
variety of articles appeared, including one in U.S. News and World Report, on the
seductive dangers of cocaine: "It can do you no harm and it can drive you insane; it
can give you status in society and it can wreck your career; it can make you the life of
the party and it can turn you into a loner; it can be an elixir for high living and a
potion for death."
Like all sin, there's a difference between the appearance and the reality, between the
momentary feeling and the lasting effect.
Sin arises when things that are a minor good are pursued as though they were the most
important goals in life. If money or affection or power are sought in disproportionate,
obsessive ways, then sin occurs. And that sin is magnified when, for these lesser goals,
we fail to pursue the highest good and the finest goals. So when we ask ourselves why, in
a given situation, we committed a sin, the answer is usually one of two things. Either we
wanted to obtain something we didn't have, or we feared losing something we had.
Augustine in The Confessions of St. Augustine (Christian Classics
in Modern English).
We never see sin aright until we see it as against God...All sin is against God in this
sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government
that is set at naught...Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, "I have
sinned;" but the returning prodigal said, "I have sinned against heaven and
before thee;" and David said, "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned."
W.S. Plumer quoted in: J. Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness,
p. 20. cf. Gen 39:9
Sin is a blasting presence, and every fine power shrinks and withers in the destructive
heat. Every spiritual delicacy succumbs to its malignant touch...
Sin impairs the sight, and works toward blindness.
Sin benumbs the hearing and tends to make men deaf.
Sin perverts the taste, causing men to confound the sweet with the bitter, and the bitter
with the sweet.
Sin hardens the touch, and eventually renders a man "past feeling."
All these are Scriptural analogies, and their common significance appears to be this--sin
blocks and chokes the fine senses of the spirit; by sin we are desensitized, rendered
imperceptive, and the range of our correspondence is diminished. Sin creates callosity. It
hoofs the spirit, and so reduces the area of our exposure to pain.
John Henry Jowett in The Grace Awakening.
There is something terribly right about...realizing that our struggle with sin is in
many ways similar to an alcoholic's struggle with drinking. It's never over. How often I
find myself talking about sin in the past tense as if being a sinner is something I'm
beyond--a page turned in the book of my life. But sin is like alcoholism. Sinners are
never cured; they simply decide to stop sinning...and it's a daily decision.
John Fischer, Contemporary Christian Music, September,
Statistics and Research
A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual
challenge to them:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their
time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting
temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76
percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
Discipleship Journal, November /
In the 1950s a psychologist, Stanton Samenow, and a psychiatrist, Samuel
sharing the conventional wisdom that crime is caused by environment, set out to prove
their point. They began a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing
of 250 inmates here in the District of Columbia. To their astonishment, they discovered
that the cause of crime cannot be traced to environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead,
crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, wrong moral choices. In their
1977 work The Criminal Personality, they concluded that the answer to crime is a
"conversion of the wrong-doer to a more responsible lifestyle." In 1987, Harvard
professors James Q. Wilson and Richard J.Herrnstein came to similar conclusions in their
book Crime andHuman Nature. They determined that the cause of crime is a
proper moral training among young people during the morally formative years, particularly
ages one to six.
Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, p. 30.
U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recently published a disturbing essay entitled
"Defining Deviancy Down." In the Nov 22 issue of The New Republic, Commentator
Charles Krauthammer writes that "Moynihan's powerful point is that with the moral
deregulation of the 1960s, we have had an explosion of deviancy in family life, criminal
behavior and public displays of psychosis. And we have dealt with it in the only way
possible: by redefining deviancy down so as to explain away and make 'normal' what a more
civilized, ordered and healthy society long ago would have labeled--and long ago did
Christian Research Institute letter, December 6, 1993.
Why would Christians choose to sin rather than choose what they know God wants them to
do? Four answers are commonly given today.
1. Some would point to Romans 8:16 and explain that Christians who willfully sin have
forgotten their true identity as "children of God." While it is true that
Christians can forget who they are and sin as a result, Christians can also be well aware
of who they are and sin anyway.
2. Some say Christians choose to sin because they have lost sight of what God has done
for them. 2 Peter 1:9 indicates that Christians can be "blind or short-sighted,
having forgotten [their] purification from [their] former sins."
3. Some wisely state that Christians consciously choose to sin because they have
forgotten that God will severely discipline disobedient believers.
4. Some have said that Christians who consciously sin have lost their focus on the
future. These Christians have forgotten that God will reward in heaven only those who have
lived faithfully for Him here on earth (1 Cor 9:24). Christians who fail to keep eternity
in mind often sin in the here and now.
J.Kirk Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 31.
Poetry and Prose
What is sin?
Man call is an accident, God calls it abomination.
Man calls it a defect, God calls it a disease.
Man calls it an error, God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a liberty, God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle, God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake, God calls it a madness.
Man calls it a weakness, God calls it willfulness.