Matthew 6:24

4/22/07 Afternoon Baptismal service

 

Two weeks ago in Colossians chapter three, we were reminded that we must “put to death what is earthly in you” and then Paul lists several sins.  We said that our relationship to sin is simple—we kill it.  I remember when General Colin Powell was briefing reporters after we had begun the military assault on Iraq called “Operation Desert Storm.”  He said that our military strategy against Iraqi army was simple.  “We will cut off its head and kill it.”  That kind of blunt language should represent the way we make war against sin—we show no mercy—we are as brutal as we need to be—we cut off our hand, we poke out our eyes—whatever it takes to achieve victory we do.  That kind of active, aggressive response to sin should be a natural thing for the believer simply because the God who lives in us hates sin and produces within us a hatred for sin.  The Bible teaches only one appropriate disposition toward the sin in our lives.  We are to hate it.  Psalm 97:10 says, “Let those who love the Lord, hate evil,…  Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil...” The truths about our victory over sin’s power assume our hatred of sin. Without that, our victory in Christ cannot be appropriated.

          If our attitude toward sin stops at the level of distaste, repulsion or even a strong desire to avoid sin, we will not consistently kill the sin in our life.  The Bible clearly and repeatedly, implicitly and explicitly teaches that the healthy believer must have a holy hatred toward sin.  This afternoon, let’s look at five reasons we should hate sin.  The first reason we must hate sin is:  The biblically prescribed way we are to deal with sin logically demands that we hate sin.  We know that we must hate sin from the repeated references which speak to how we are to respond to sin.

          The consistent message from Paul as to how we are to treat our sin, as we have seen, is…KILL  IT.  Crucify it, mortify it, exterminate it.  Romans 8:13 says, “…by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body…”  Colossians 3:5 says,  put to death what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” You don’t tolerate sin, you don’t allow it to hang around and peacefully coexist with it.  Jesus equates hatred and killing in Matthew chapter five.  He says that to hate someone is to commit spiritual murder.  That is obviously in a sinful context, but the relationship between hatred and killing remains.  We will not kill what we do not hate and because we are to kill sin, we therefore must hate it.  Murder is simply hatred incarnated. 

When you see sin in your life, you go after it with a vengeance.  God has not simply given us permission to kill sin; he has put out a contract on the sin in our lives and has ordered us to carry out that contract. We must be merciless and vicious when it comes to sin.  If sin were a person, he should see us coming and cower in terror.  When it sees us drawing a bead on it, it should be kissing its loved ones goodbye, because its executioner has arrived and there will be no pardon—no stays of execution.  We must kill sin with a brutal efficiency.

          Sadly, that is not the prevalent attitude most of us have toward sin and our responses to sin will always be consistent with how we view it.  We tend to view the severity of sin through the lens of several different and unbiblical classifications.  There are some sins in our life we tend to see as nuisances.  They crop up occasionally and we are bothered by their presence in our lives.  Most people view coveting and sins like occasional gossip as a nuisance—they irritate us. They are like a pulled muscle—they get in our way.  Other “more severe” sins in our life we see as problems.  These sins do more than irritate us.  They frustrate us at a deeper level.  We are aggravated by them and they get under our skin. They are like an infected splinter or an ingrown toenail. 

Still, “more serious” sins we might think of as “big problems.”  These sins are with us much of the time and are very discouraging to us.  We have tried to repent of them and have failed.  No one else knows about them, but these are a bit more difficult to hide from people.  These are sins like lust or bad habits or other more compulsive practices that take our time, our health or money.  These sins are like a torn ligament to us—they cause us to spiritually hobble along with some real pain.  The next level of sin we might places at the “crisis level” of sin.  These sins genuinely frighten us.  They have what seems to be a brutal level of control over us and their presence in our lives shows itself by noticeably hurting some of our relationships, our marriage--they significantly impact our job performance.  We think of these sins like a spreading cancer.  We are afraid what will happen to us if they are not eliminated—these would be at the level of various addictions and obsessive sins.  Finally, there is what people consider to be catastrophic sins.  These are the marriage breakers, family destroyers and the career enders—this is the adultery, the corporate fraud that is discovered, the pregnancy outside of marriage, alcoholism. 

These have the impact on the person that a very serious automobile accident would have.  These sins make believers feel like they are teetering on the brink of death.  Frankly, it is this level of “disaster,” that many believers finally see how awful and tragic sin is and often, by God’s grace, these sins bring enough brokenness into their life that they repent and get straight with God.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us have some kind of ranking of sins in our life, but may I say—that kind of typology of sins is from the pit of hell.  In C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Screwtape Letters” Screwtape, the mentoring demon writes to his student and novice tempter, Wormwood, and rebukes him because the newly appointed tempter doesn’t find tempting his human subject to so called “small sins” very exciting.  Screwtape reminds the novice that so called small sins get people to hell just as effectively as so called larger ones.  They both do the same thing--they keep a person from God.  The message of the Bible is that sin is ALWAYS cosmic treason against God.  Whether it feels like a nuisance or a catastrophe to us, God hates it all as personal affront to His holiness!  Satan applauds when we see sin against a holy God as a “nuisance” or a “problem.”

          In light of this, how can we by God’s grace develop a growing hatred for sin?  There are several answers to that question, but one is—to regularly rehearse in our minds what makes sin so evil and therefore appropriate for us to hate.  A second Biblical reason we must hate sin is, we must hate sin because God hates it.  Proverbs 6:16 says, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” One of the best and purest reasons to hate sin is because our holy God hates it and we who love God should hate it too.  One way to determine whether or not we have become lukewarm is to ask God to show us the reason our sin is troubling to us.  When our love for God has grown lukewarm, we will dislike our sin for other reasons apart from God’s holy hatred for it.  A lukewarm believer’s dislike for sin is NOT because he/she is so intimately in touch with a holy God that he is free to displays his holy hatred of sin THROUGH them.  No.  Often, we end up coming to hate our sins only after a long, wearisome process that has over time enabled us to painfully realize what they are doing to US.  To the lukewarm, certain sins are a disaster, NOT primarily because it is a disaster in the eyes of a holy God, but because it threatens to hurt us—our relationships, our businesses, our quality of life.  It makes us feel bad about ourselves and the guilt gets more and more and more uncomfortable until it finally, in the mercy of God, becomes unbearable to us.  We’ll hate those kinds of sins.

          That is obviously a SELF-centered motive to repent of sin.  A believer who walks closely with Christ hates sin because he/she loves God and they don’t want anything in this world to, in ANY way, hinder their fellowship with Him.  It is far better to hate sin on GOD’S account because He is our Father and we want to be like Him.  That means loving what He loves and hating what He hates.  It is far more God-honoring to hate sin for GOD’S sake than for our own.  So few people are truly in that place and we must repent of this lukewarmness, which hates sin primarily because it is painful to US. 

          A third reason we must hate sin is because to NOT hate sin is to breed a hatred for God.  James 4:4 says, “…friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”  The lines are drawn in the sand here.  You CANNOT be a friend of the world if you hate sin, because this world is the sin- soaked domain of darkness and to embrace it is to hate God.  Remember, in Matthew 6:24 Jesus says, “"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. There is no room for loving the sinful things of this world AND being a friend of God.  That dual allegiance is not open to us.  If we are to be God’s friend, we must hate the world.  This doesn’t mean that we will hate the PEOPLE of the world.  We must love them because they are created in God’s image and Christ loves them and died for the world.  But we are to hate the sinful things of this world that exist in opposition to God and which our enemy seeks to use to lure us into his death trap.

          Do we HATE the sinful things of the world—really HATE them?  Let’s do a bit of testing in this area by pointing to some unmistakably worldly things and checking to see if we HATE them.  This is an illustration I have used before, but I can’t think of a better one, so my apologies for those who have heard this before. The most profitable and perhaps honored film in motion picture history is “The Titanic,” a movie viewed and raved about by many evangelicals.  I am using this movie to test to see whether we hate the things of the world because perhaps the quickest way for many Christians in our culture to see how much we truly hate the world is to see how they relate to much of the media which is so saturated with sin.  This motion picture, according to a published review carried in the dialogue 13 uses of the Lord’s name in vain.  It portrayed in an unqualified, positive manner--premarital sex, which the Bible calls fornication.  It also contained nudity.

          Here is a movie which uses the Lord’s name in vain 13 times, contains fornication and nudity.  If that is not worldly to us, then we have been horribly desensitized to what is meant by “worldly.”  Yet, many so called Christians were enthusiastically telling other believers that they just HAVE to see this film with its blasphemy, fornication and nudity.  On a Wednesday night when it was in the theatres, I had two junior high age girls come running up to me and tell me that I just HAD to see this movie—they had seen it several times.  I just stood there wondering, "What on EARTH is going on here?"  As we’ve said before, the response from Christians in justifying their attendance and enjoying these kinds of media offerings is, “But it wasn’t ALL bad—it was beautifully written, magnificently filmed and well acted—it was a work of art and was recognized as such.”  That may be true, but let me ask you, if we really HATED fornication, nudity and blasphemy, would you sit through a movie, regardless of its other virtues? The fact that these things are so well packaged by such admittedly gifted and brilliant people is at the heart of the problem. 

Another objection might be—“It wasn’t DOMINATED by those elements—it had only a comparatively few of them.”  Let’s think about that.

          If I gave you a barbecued pork sandwich made with only the finest ingredients, but if someone you trusted informed you there were three small chunks of raw sewage in it would you eat it?  Of course not!!  And the reason would be because it had raw sewage in it.  You wouldn’t be the least bit tempted by the hearty seasonings, the fine cuts of aged meat and the freshly baked Kaiser Roll bun.  That would be utterly irrelevant to you.  All you would be able to think about is those chunks of raw sewage.  You would never swallow that because though you’ve never even EATEN raw sewage, as a food group, you HATE raw sewage.   You don’t need to sample any to discover that. The reason many believers can not only sit through a “Titanic” but also come out raving about it is simply this; we don’t hate the sin of this world very much.  And if we don’t hate the world very much, according to James we surely must not be in much of a friendship with God.

          We must see these kind of artistically high quality productions, whether they be on television, books, for what they often are--spiritual seduction.  Think of it this way, if Satan were going to lull a Christian to sleep about the evils of blasphemy, fornication and nudity, do you think he would try to funnel this garbage into our souls through a grotesque, disgusting, ugly vehicle?  NO!  That would never attract us.  He would include these wicked, evil elements against the back drop of beautiful music, delightful, charming characters and crisp, clever writing.  We must start seeing those elegant trappings as bait to lure us into Satan’s trap.  That kind of bait will attract some flies.  It’s about seduction, beloved. 

The most successful prostitutes are those who look the most innocent and beautiful.  When are we (and I’m speaking first to myself) going to start seeing these offerings of the world not within the context of art, (which is how the world defines it) but as spiritual seduction?  We can tell how much we hate the sewage of this evil world by seeing how we respond to it even when it is presented to us in a beautiful package.  Some might respond to this kind of argument, “Yes, but if everyone at the drinking fountain is talking about this movie, shouldn’t I at least go see it so that I will be able to relate to them.  I need to be relevant in my witness.”  Let’s think about that.  A coworker comes up to you at the coffee pot and asks you if you have seen a movie like “Titanic.”  Do you want a relevant way to relate to them?  How about, “No, I haven’t.  Say, you told me last month about your brother who had contracted MS.  I want you to know I have been praying for him and for you too.  Are there any new developments I can be praying about?”  If you want to be able to relate to the world, instead of jumping into the hog pen with them, try loving them.  I guarantee you that a person faced with the love of Christ will quickly forget all about the latest film craze and focus on something that REALLY maters to them. To not have a hatred for sin is to breed a hatred for God.

          Another reason to hate sin is because Sin distorts our view of God and his glory.  If you’ve ever put on a pair of eyeglasses that were at the opposite extreme of your prescription or if you have 20/20 vision and have put on someone else’s strong prescription glasses, you know the result.  Everything becomes horribly blurred.  That is how sin distorts our conception of how glorious God is.

          A few years ago, I heard a preacher tell a parable told about the effect sin and the world has on our view of God.  It was originally told by Soren Kierkegaard who lived 150 years ago.  He tells this story.  You decide one night that you want to see the glory of God and so you ride out into the night sky on your horse-drawn carriage.  As you ride on the seat of the carriage, there are, on either side of your head, very bright gas lanterns that help you to see where you are going--old fashioned headlights that are shining right in your eyes.  You ride out into an open field and you look up at the night sky and…it’s black.  There’s nothing to see up there and you say, “Hmm, not much glory out here tonight.”  But then, as you are looking up in to black skies, the wind comes along and blows out those bright lanterns.  Those man-made, garish lanterns.  And then you look up and see the completely different sky and you say in wonder, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hand.”  

          Sin does to our spirit what those lanterns do to our vision of the glory of God.  Our sin, the sin of the world, those so called “nuisance sins” which clings to our souls are aimed by Satan to cause us to look up and say, “Ho Hum.”  And there are some here this afternoon who see other people delighting in God, who see other people gaining a real, God-honoring fear of God and you wonder to yourself, “What’s going on with them?”   And one thing going on with them is this: by the grace of God, they are blowing out the lanterns in their life.  They are, by God’s grace eliminating those things in their life which would cause them to look into the face of God and do ANYTHING OTHER THAN fall on their face before Him, crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory.  If we love God, we will hate sin because we will HATE anything that in ANY WAY dims our view of Him.  Any thing which in any way hinders our ability to know Him and the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings will be number ONE on your “most hated” list.  We must hate sin because sin distorts our view of God and his glory.

          A final reason we must hate sin is: sin killed our best friend.  If you want to know the extent to which something is evil and deserving of our hatred, ask questions like—“how much beauty does it destroy?”  “How much innocence does it defile?”  “How much undeserved pain does it inflict?”  Certainly that is near the heart of why our nation has mourned so deeply over this past week’s massacre at Virginia Tech.  All those kids who weren’t doing anything wrong and who were filled with such potential—thoughtlessly gunned down.  Those kinds of tests are the ones we intuitively apply to measure evil and wickedness.  The plain truth is--you will never find anything more deserving of our hatred using this test than sin because sin killed Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Lamb of God.  That title hearkens back to the sacrificial lamb.  God had a law about sin and its payment.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”   

          If there was no sin, there would be no need for the shedding of blood and in that sense it was SIN that killed the lamb.  Don’t misunderstand.  We must never view Jesus as some sort of helpless victim.  No, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the lethal power of sin and he gave up his life, no one took it from Him.  But the fact remains that in some sense sin killed Jesus.  Sin took the most beautiful human being to ever live and stuck him naked to a cross and held him up as a cursed criminal, a target worthy of public ridicule and the spittle of men he created.  That’s what sin did to Jesus.  Sin took the ONLY truly innocent man and defiled him with such putrid evil that his Holy Father, who loved him beyond measure, turned away from his Son in holy wrath.  That’s what sin did to Jesus.  Sin brought the Lord of the universe into such agony that he cried out in total despair and anguish.  That’s what sin did to Jesus.  This is the evil of sin!

          Is Jesus our best friend?  If he is and we love him half as much as we say we do in our hymns and choruses, and if sin is the perpetrator of such cosmic injustice, such heinous torment to this One we love more than anyone, then what should be our natural disposition towards it?  He is our betrothed—our bridegroom!  If someone were to brutally murder your spouse or dearest loved one, wouldn’t that engender some hatred? 

When we read Paul’s treatment of Colossians three or Romans six and our fight against sin, we have such a treasure store of truth to arm us for battle.  But if we know these truths like the back of our hand, but go into battle against sin without a blood hatred for it, we will not find the liberty Christ died to bring us.  Without this hatred for sin, we are doomed to frustration.  This may be what has been what is missing for many of us.

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