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‘Satan gives Adam an apple and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers but what we shall lose.’Richard Sibbes
Fighting sin is a significant part of the Christian’s daily battle. All of us sin, and when we do, it’s because in the moment we choose to go our own way instead of God’s way. In the above quote, the Puritan Richard Sibbes is pointing to something we can keep in mind to help in this battle.
There are many good reasons not to sin:
- It angers God the Father.
- It grieves God the Holy Spirit.
- It dishonours our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and makes a mockery of his sacrifice on the cross.
- It hurts those around us, whether directly or indirectly – think of Achan (Joshua 7).
- It hurts us.
It is this last point that Sibbes is getting at and which I want to look at in this post. Put simply, giving in to temptation may be very attractive now, but will make us the loser in the long run. The longer-term losses will massively outweigh perceived short term benefits. Adam gained an apple and lost Paradise. It’s also true that sin is rarely as fun or as pleasant in reality as it was in the anticipation.
In one sense, of all the reasons listed above, this is the worst reason not to sin because it is ‘selfish’. It’s more of a negative approach. It would be much better to fight temptation because we do not want to dishonour the Lord rather than because we do not want to harm ourselves. However, the very fact that it is about us perhaps makes it easier to apply in our ongoing battles.
So, when we sin, what are some of the things we risk losing?
- Communion with the Lord – while he may not actually withdraw from us (although he might), we may feel that he should have.
- Peace – sin makes us angry (with ourselves), and we no longer feel calm or content.
- Joy – sin makes us despair about ourselves and takes away the happiness we receive through our faith. As David prays in Psalm 51 ‘Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.’
- A clear conscience – suddenly we feel guilty again, we feel unclean, we feel dirty.
- Assurance – this ties all the above points together. Sin takes away that calm, settled certainty that we are the Lord’s.
These are the spiritual aspects. Sin can make us lose in other ways. We have to be very careful not to always link difficulties that come in our lives directly with specific sins. However, ‘whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’ (Hebrews 12:6). If we as God’s children sin wilfully and regularly, he will step in to teach us a lesson and to bring us back to him. The loss of spiritual peace and joy may be one way of him doing this, but so might difficulty and discomfort in daily life.
Flipping to a more positive take on all this. If (when) we sin and then feel that the Lord has left us for a time, or that we’ve lost our assurance, or are plagued by guilt, these are all signs of a tender conscience. That we miss the presence of God and the blessings he gives shows that we genuinely care. If we were not Christians it wouldn’t bother us. So don’t despair, but remember God’s promise that ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). Take comfort from the fact that Christ is your righteousness, that his sacrifice on the cross atoned for your sins, past, present and future. Praise God that your salvation rests with him, an unchanging, almighty, faithful, holy God, rather than with you, the complete opposite.
Keep the fact that sin hurts us in mind, and maybe it will help you resist a temptation that comes your way sometime soon.
If you do sin – and let’s be realistic, you will – take encouragement from the fact that it bothers you, then confess it to the Lord and trust his promise that he will forgive.[A00117 – 09/08/2019]