I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today. It’s no fun, but it has to be done. It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts). But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.
I am talking about sin. One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) . Ouch. The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him. His holiness will not allow it. Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.
King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin. In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion. What other consequences can you find in this psalm? He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).
The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it?? Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down. It’s a little exhilarating – for a time. And that’s the trouble with sin. It can start by seeming like no big deal. I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day. I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and …. No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain. Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others. And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned. So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.
Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire. And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone. In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.
Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers. It is the same for me. It is the same for you. It is the same for the most saintly person you know. In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15). Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.
I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion. They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual. But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain. Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives. Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection. It leads to death most certainly – if not treated. Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better. Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God. Cry out to him in confession. Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.
Even gangrene can be healed. It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death. Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media. And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.
Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Sin is serious – even when it starts small. Don’t let sins fester. Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed. And seek out the everlasting way.