“For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23).
How does one make it clear how detrimental sin is to life? Clearly define the penalty for sin and describe its horrendous consequences. This is exactly what God did as revealed through the Bible. Adam and Eve were told, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12). There are other descriptions that are further deterrents to sin when properly seen from the pages of Scripture. Consider three.
Creating Polluted Lives. Peter wrote, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). This “pollution” is further described as a dog turning to his own vomit and a sow that was washed turning to the mire (cf. 2 Peter 2:22). Sin does things to the minds of people. Paul wrote, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). The filth of pollution is a detestable thing when viewed in physical situations. Such filth in spiritual areas (cf. James 1:21; Col. 3:8) should produce the same attitudes.
Capturing as Prisoners. Paul wrote to Timothy, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Peter writes of those captivated by sin in the days of Noah, who preached (cf. 2 Peter 2:5) by the same Holy Spirit, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of Noah while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:19-20). The preaching of the gospel foretold by the prophet Isaiah is described as “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isa. 61:1). Those incarcerating due to crimes and even POW’s of past conflicts know the horrors of lost freedom. Sin and Satan are cruel enslavers.
Causing Perilous Losses. Paul prefaces a host of sins listed in 2 Timothy 3 with the words, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Sin is a high-risk, high-cost way of living. Corruption and loss litter the landscape of a sad history of the world. Nations fall due to sin (cf. Ps. 9:17; Prov. 14:34). Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, learned this lesson the hard way (cf. Daniel 5). Homes suffer due to sinful pride. Haman brought punishment down on himself (cf. Esther 7:10) and on his sons (cf. Esther 9:7-10). Achan became synonymous for a troubler in his sinfulness (cf. Joshua 7:24-26). People do not name their newborn children Judas or Jezebel due to their connection with sinfulness and shame. Sodomy is a heinous term due to the sinfulness of its city namesake. When men see sin like God sees it, abhorring evil arises.
“And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words” (Heb. 13:22)
This verse clearly declares the major thrust of the book of Hebrews; that is, to exhort or encourage. All of God’s people need strengthening and encouraging. This life for the child of God is filled with struggles (cf. Acts 14:22) and pressures (cf. 1 Thess. 3:4). Nevertheless, the victory is on the side of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:57). Consider three passages from the book of Hebrews that provides great courage for the Christian.
Hebrews 2:18: Sympathetic toward Needs.“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). These words close out a paragraph and a section that turns the attention of the reader to understand that God’s Son knows what Christians face. Though Jesus is the Son of God (cf. Heb. 1), he is also a partaker of “flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14). Anyone who struggles with any problem can find strength in a kindred spirit. It is truly important to know that one is not suffering alone when it might appear that no one understands. People who struggle with diseases often look to those who have faced similar circumstances. People who struggle with loss often look up to those who have overcome similar loss. Those who are comforted of God can truly “be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
Hebrews 4:16: Supplier of Help.“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This conclusion is drawn from the facts about the high priesthood of Christ. The context states, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15). Access to the throne of grace is made possible through Christ, the Christian’s high priest. While helpers may be limited in the resources and knowledge of things in this world, such is not the case with Christ, who is in heaven. Needs are met through Christ. Paul exhorted this same fact to the Philippians, where he wrote, But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Hebrews 13:5: Steadfastly with the Faithful.“Let your conversation be without covetousness: and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Material riches and the like are futile to bring stability and peace of mind (cf. Eccl. 2). Treasures laid up in heaven are incorruptible (cf. Matt. 6:20) and profitable (cf. 1 Tim. 6:17-19). Whether one has or does not have, being a faithful Christian will always have the abiding care of God. His omnipresence is always there (cf. Ps. 139:7-10). Moses exhorted the Israelites with the same words as found in Hebrews 13:5 (cf. Deut. 31:6). After the death of Moses, the Lord encouraged Joshua with the same words (cf. Joshua 1:5). Both Old and New Testaments affirm that the Lord is faithful to his promises and such is truly strengthening and encouraging.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).
The Holy Spirit through Paul was warning more than Timothy about troubling times. Timothy was to pass on the truth about the troubles making “full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). What kind of minister would Timothy be if he was given a warning and did not pass it on to others who would face the same trials? The troubles of those days appear to be alive and well even today. One only has to look and listen briefly to the news of the morning to realize that things are not all right with the world. Peter warned the Christians about the suffering that was coming (cf. 1 Peter 4:12). Consider three areas of trials that are found in such perilous times.
Self-centered Egotism. Paul wrote further, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers,” (2 Tim. 3:2). The “me-generation” lived long ago. The philosophy that life is all about “me, myself, and I” is a perilous journey toward a horrible end. While there are opportunities for each person to improve himself, life is not about self-actualization. Man was created to glorify God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31). Whenever man loses sight of that and seeks to glorify self, he has placed his feet on a path that will abuse and use anything and anyone to get what one thinks is his due. All sin ultimately comes back to what man desires for himself that is contrary to the will of God (cf. James 1:14-15).
Sacrificing of Home and Family Values. Again, Paul wrote, “disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection,” (2 Tim. 3:2-3). A deterioration of the home and its values as founded by God (cf. Ps. 127:1) is a path of self-destruction. Some were brought up in anything but the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and never explored that there was a proper, successful way to live. They did nothing but repeat the mistakes of their upbringing. Others were trained “in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6) but in time rejected it as a viable course of life (cf. 2 Chron. 12:14). The turmoil that exists today among the homes and families that do not have God as their focus spills over into society. One lives his life based upon his value system, whether it be righteous or unrighteous.
Sensual Approach of Daily Living. Paul wrote further, “trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those what are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:3-5). It should be no surprise that lying, violence, pleasure seeking and even shallow religious conviction fill the daily living of those who seek life minimizing or totally without God. Terrorism in all forms is found here. Crime and the abuse of mankind’s rights are found here. Life is lived like that of the jungle. It truly is as Isaiah stated, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isa. 48:22). Solomon wrote clearly, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). It is written again, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9:17). Jesus came to bring life and that more abundantly (cf. John 10:10). The peace so sought after by people can only be found in the Prince of peace (cf. Isa. 9:6; John 16:33).
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
Understanding is a necessary step toward being accepted of God. The Lord clearly stated through Paul, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Paul also wrote to the Ephesian brethren, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:3-4). A proper approach to a study of the will of God in the Bible is critical to salvation. Man must do the will of the Father in heaven in order to be in heaven (cf. Matt. 7:21) and one cannot do what he does not know. Consider three basic principles of Bible study that bring understanding.
All Scripture is to be Studied. All scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).“Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is to be the practice of every Bible student while reading all. One should not pick and choose passages that do not give the full meaning of subjects. Such is done today on the topics of faith, sin, salvation, etc. to the perverting of truth and overthrowing the faith of some (cf. 2 Tim. 2:18). The Bible plainly states concerning revelation, “The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth for ever” (Ps. 119:160, ASV).
Attention to Context is to be Given. Reading into a passage an interpretation that is not warranted is a device of Satan (cf. Matt. 4:6). Jesus clearly shows that passages that reveal false interpretations show that the cited passage is true but the interpretation is false (cf. Matt. 4:7). Context always determines the meanings of words in a given statement. For example, Peter stated in the first gospel sermon, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Some interpret that requirement to mean that one expresses his trust in the saving power of the Lord by merely praying a prayer requesting that the Lord save. If one would continue to read the context further, he will read, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). This is in harmony with what Ananias told Saul of Tarsus to do (cf. Acts 22:16). Misunderstanding comes when proper context is not followed.
Applying Oneself is Essential. Solomon wrote, “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding; . . . Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:1-2, 5). Applied knowledge through obeying is essential (cf. 1 John 2:3-5).
One must be a doer to be blessed (cf. James 1:25). Obedience and continued practice bring an understanding that is no substitute for simply being able to repeat the facts and never commit them to life.
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
Being born again (cf. John 3:7) at the point when one is baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27) has its visible results to be seen of men. Such was true with Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 9:20, 27), the jailor of Philippi (cf. Acts 16:34) and many other examples referenced in the Bible. When Paul wrote of “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24), he then begins to describe what that kind of life looks like in specific detail. Consider the details of one such example found in Ephesians chapter four.
Ceases to Practice the Old Lifestyle. The first emphasis of righteousness and true holiness of a person whose life was previously dedicated to stealing is seen in the words, “Let him that stole steal no more” (Eph. 4:28). The thief must completely stop practicing that way of life. There are things that must be put away (cf. Eph. 4:22) before one can be converted to Christ and stay converted to Christ. The very thought of living unto sin is an abomination to a convert. Paul used the strongest of language concerning living unto sin, when he wrote, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). While no one is saying that making a “180 degree” change in life is easy, such is the step that must be taken. One cannot mix sin with righteousness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Commits to Pursuing an Honest Way of Living. The next concrete step of showing conversion is in the words “but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good” (Eph. 4:28). Labor by working with one’s hands is an expression denoting honest and righteous effort for the meeting of one’s needs. Paul used this expression to talk of his own work. “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:” (1 Cor. 4:12). Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Honest work that seeks to be productive and not destructive is truly an honorable endeavor.
Contributes of His Earnings to the Needs of Others. Paul wrote of a converted thief “that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). Herein lies a key to a converted life. While the previous goal was to take from people in a dishonest way now has changed to making an honest living to the point that one is willing to give to those in need. How different is such a lifestyle from the looting and pillaging of stealing. Instead of cheating and devouring another he is now compassionate and distributing to others. There has been a change of heart that now is seen in a change of lifestyle. A publican once said to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Jesus responded by saying, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). It is truly marvelous to see concrete evidence of converted hearts and minds.