The Disaster of Deliberate Sin!
Why is known, purposeful sin so tragic?
Why does God warn against deliberate sin?
How can you overcome persistent sin?
Sin is the greatest enemy of our soul. It is the great ruiner of relationships, the great destroyer of our future, the great master that makes us slaves. Sin definitely is a tragedy beyond description.
Although some holiness people claim that they can perpetually live without sin for months, years, or a lifetime, they are blinded to their own failures. They tend to define sin as a deliberate transgression of the known will of God rather than a failure to obey all of Gods willwhether known or unknown.
Sin is pervasive, thus Scripture says, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). John writes, If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:8, 10). James adds, We all stumble in many ways (3:2). And Solomon concurs: There is no man who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46).
We can sin knowingly and unknowingly. We can sin in thought (Matthew 5:27-28), attitude (Ephesians 4:31), word (Matthew 12:36-37), and deed (Ephesians 4:28). We can sin morally (1 Corinthians 6:18) and doctrinally (Romans 16:17-18). We can sin through omission and sin of commission. This would be sinning by failing to do what we should do (James 4:17) and by doing what we shouldnt do (1 John 5:17).
God gave instructions in His Law to the people of Israel on how to deal with unintentional sins. The Lord said, When you unwittingly fail [sin unintentionally, ESV] and do not observe all these commandments, which the LORD has spoken to Moses, even all that the LORD has commanded you through Moses. . . then it shall be, if it is done unintentionally, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one bull for a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to the LORD. . . . and they will be forgiven (Numbers 15:22-25). The same was true of the individual: If one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering (v. 27). We see that sinning unwittingly or without knowledgesinning unintentionallycould be forgiven. (See also Leviticus 4:1-5:13; Deuteronomy 4:41-42.)
On the other hand, there is a class of sins that is disastrous to the sinner. These sins would be intentional sinssins that one may commit with full knowledge and deliberation. Notice what God says: The person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people, because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him (Numbers 15:30-31).
Notice this well. When a person sinned with full knowledge of the sin, that person sinned defiantly and blasphemed God or reviled God (ESV)! Literally, defiantly means sin with a high hand, indicating that the person was deliberately rebelling against God and knowingly violating His holy will. That deliberate sinner was to be cut off from the people because he despised the word of God and his guilt would remain on him. One writer describes this kind of sin: These sins, committed knowingly and deliberately were described as blasphemous because they were an arrogant act of insubordination against the Lord. Anyone guilty of presumptuous sin was to be excommunicated from Israel and put to death (MacArthur Study Bible). (See also Deuteronomy 1:42-43.) Another source says that these sins must refer to deliberate, intentional sinsin contrast to the unknown sins one may commit (ESV Study Bible).
The seriousness of these deliberate sins or sins of knowledge are again referred to at Deuteronomy 17:12-13: The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. These presumptuous sins were those committed with the knowledge of Gods will, and these are particularly heinous and ruionous. David prayed that he would be kept from these sins of deliberate rebellion:
Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
We can see that there was a great difference between sins committed in ignorance and those committed with full knowledge. In the former case, God graciously made provision for the persons forgiveness. In the latter case, God said that the person would remain in his guilt and would be cut off. In many cases, the person was killed, by Gods order. For instance, those who were guilty of deliberate sins, such as adultery, dishonoring a parent, murder, homosexuality, and breaking the Sabbath were to be put to death.
It is evident that God doesnt look at all sin in the same way. If you are a parent, you also look at the disobedience of your children in different ways. If the child foolishly forgets to pick up his clothes, or forgets to wipe his feet at the door, or fails to say thank you when appropriatethese would be acts of disobedience but any response on your part would probably be mild and not at all serious. On the other hand, if a child defiantly and deliberately did something wrong, your response would be very severe in comparison to the other kind. If a child deliberately lies, purposely hits a sister, angrily throws a dish, refuses to eat his meal, or refuses to obey a direct order of the parent, you would find this entirely unacceptable and would exercise strict discipline (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:15, 17).
When we come to the new covenant writings, which express the teaching of Christ Jesus and His apostles, we find that deliberate sin is especially serious. Lets remember that all sin is serious and must be renounced since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But deliberate sin is altogether disastrous. It is a special affront against a holy God. It defies the Lord of glory and is a capital crime, an act of treason against the King of heaven and earth. Purposeful disobedience is an offense that is described with great solemnity in the Holy Scriptures.
The Lord Jesus gives an illustration of the two kinds of sins we have been discussingthe known sins and the unknown sins. Jesus said:
That slave who knew his masters will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few (Luke 12:47-48a).
Both of these slaves would be punished. However, the slave who knew the masters will and deliberately chose not to obey would receive the greatest punishment, much more than the slave who didnt know the masters will and disobeyed. There would be different degrees of punishment in helldepending on the person and nature of the sin.
One passage that deals with this act of known or defiant sin is found in the book of Hebrews. Notice this solemn warning:
If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries (10:26-27).
When a person is aware that something is sinful and yet proceeds to do that sinful act, this would be willful sinning or deliberate sinning. It is not just a sin that one might commit without knowing that something is wrong. It is not even succumbing to something instantaneously, without thought, when temptedas bad as such a sin would be. Instead, willful sin is a sin committed with the knowledge that is it sinful and yet with the intent and determination to commit the sin anyway. The Hebrew writer says that there no longer is a sacrifice for such sin, since Christs sacrifice on the cross is the only possible means of forgiveness. Further, we read that there is a terrifying expectation of judgment for such willful sin! We read that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31).
One of the consequences of sinning intentionally is that later on, when one wants to seek Gods forgiveness, it can be very difficult to know whether one is sincerely repenting. Since one has sinned with his eyes wide openwith full knowledge of the sinhe may later wonder whether he really is sorrowing over the sin and repenting over the sin. Or he may wonder, is he simply seeking to avoid the consequences of the sin? If one has presumed to sin and then repented, and this is repeated too often, a person has a right to question whether he has genuinely repented, from the heart.
We would never want to minimize any sin, even unknown sin. You see, we are not only responsible for doing what we know is right and not doing what we know is wrong, but we are also responsible for learning, discovering, and knowing what is right and wrong. Paul said that we must try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).
Some sins may be committed in ignorance, especially by newly-saved followers of Christ. They may be unaware of some of the Lords teachings or the apostles commands. As the Christian matures and learns more of Gods will in the Scriptures, he will be responsible for much more. Then if he sins in a particular way, it may not be a sin of ignorance, but a sin of knowledge. Especially a newly redeemed believer may inadvertently commit doctrinal sins or sins involving lifestyle, but lateras he grows more through personal Bible study and group teachingthis person who sins will be violating the known will of God. This would be considered a sin of presumption, a deliberate sin. Most people, including recently saved people and even unbelievers, are well aware that certain actions are sinful and wrong:
· Premarital sex
Surely sinning in these ways would be sins of knowledge or sins of presumption. They would be sins of defiancea rebellion against the God who gave His moral law and wrote it on the hearts of all (cf. Romans 2:12-15). But the believer will come to understand other sins as well:
· Sexual lust
· Failure to read and study Scripture
· Failure to pray
Violating these commands and requirements will also be seen as wrong and to commit them would be sins of knowledge rather than ignorance. Many other sins will become known as one is open to the instruction of Gods word, especially when Godly teachers and elders expound upon the Scriptures and apply them to daily life:
· Lack of self-control
· Occult practices
· Lack of generosity
· Irresponsibility on the job
· Marital unkindness
Actually, it is impossible to neatly categorize most sins, for a sin of ignorance for one person may be a sin of knowledge for another. We also know that there are different degrees of knowledge, different maturity levels, and different backgrounds found in Christians. Of course, there is the ever-present danger of failing to love both God and others, which Jesus said are the greatest two commands (cf. Mark 12:28-31).
As we earlier noticed, we are responsible for all disobedience to God and all of this is sinful, but as we grow in spiritual maturity, sins of ignorance become sins of knowledge. When committed willfully and deliberately, these are sins of defiance (sins with a high hand) against God that are so ruinous to our character and so devastating to our relationship with God.
Since all sin is such a serious matter to God and to the sincere follower of Jesus, it is vital that you seek the truth of Gods word on these things. Be diligent in your commitment to understand what sin is, understand how sin is expressed, and how God gives you the power to overcome sin in your life.
Knowledge brings responsibility
As we have noticed, God requires that we passionately seek His truth and His will. Yet, we also know that with increased knowledge, there is greater responsibility. Paul explained the many times he persecuted followers of the Lord, but he said, I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13). As Paul says, some sins are committed in ignorance. But then when one acts with the knowledge that something is wrong and yet commits it, this sin is a deliberate one, an act of defiance against Godand this is particularly heinous. Let us seek to know Gods will but let us also be willing to obey it.
Lets illustrate this principle. Surely people in America have a greater responsibility to obey God since nearly everyone owns at least one Bible. Americans have Gods will available to them and nearly everyone can read. Those in China who may never have seen a Bible would still be guilty of sin, but their knowledge is less, thus they may not have the same degree of responsibility before God as the American who deliberately closes his mind and heart against the light of truth.
The student of the Bible who has several translations available, who can even read the New Testament in the Greek language, who has access to many books containing truth, and who has the benefit of solid Bible teachers, would be much more responsible before God for he would have greater knowledge of His will or at least have the capacity to have greater knowledge. Preachers, teachers, elders or overseers, and other leaders will experience greater condemnation if they do not carry out Gods will more completely and do not teach others this truth as well (cf. James 3:1). Jesus warned that people with more revelation from God will be judged more severely than those without some knowledge (Mark 11:20-24).
Momentary Sins and Premeditated Sins
We recognize that a person is more culpable if he deliberately plans a crime, as compared with one who commits a crime through an instantaneous reaction. Both of these sins may be known sins, deliberately committed, but there would be a difference.
This may be illustrated in the case of Peter, a leading apostle of the Lord Jesus. You may recall that this disciple said that he would be willing to go to prison and death for the sake of Jesus (Luke 22:33), but Christ said that he would deny Him that very night. Only a few hours later, Peter did run when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56). Then, when Peter was in the courtyard at the High Priests palace, he fearfully denied that he even knew Jesus three times (vv. 69-75). When he realized what he had done, Peter was filled with grief and repentedhe went out and wept bitterly (v. 75). This was known sin and it was a dreadfully wicked sin. Christ had earlier said that if one denies Him before men, Jesus also would deny him before the Father (10:32-33). However, in short order, Peter was deeply grieved and repented of his cowardly denial.
Another deliberate sin was committed by Judas. All of the gospels call him the betrayerfor he was willing to sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Scripture says that Judas was filled with greed and evil feelings, and the devil was working in his heart to betray the Lord (John 13:2). It further says that Satan then entered into him and drove him to the betrayal itself (v. 27). Apparently this evil man had plans to betray the Lord for some time and finally carried out this despicable deed. Jesus said that it would be good if this man had not even been born (Matthew 26:24). Although Judas eventually said, I have sinned by betraying innocent blood (Matthew 27:4), apparently he never fully repented and sought Gods forgiveness. Instead, he committed suicidehe went away and hanged himself (v. 5; cf. Acts 1:18-19). Judas knew that this deed was dreadfully sinful; he deliberately planned and committed it.
In a similar way, probably there are different kinds of deliberate sins. All sin is sin, and all known sin is serious, but some deliberate sins may arise as an instantaneous reaction or impulse, while others may come from purposeful and long-standing determination. Lets do all we can, with the strength of the Lord, to avoid all sin, including all known and deliberate sinfor the wages of sin is death! All sin brings forth death (James 1:15).
How Can I Overcome Deliberate Sin?
God offers us a number of instructions that should help us to escape from the trap of sinning in a deliberate way.
1. Become fully informed about the nature and expression of sin by studying the Word of God.
The psalmist prayed, Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You (Psalm 119:11). He continued, Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (v. 18). Again and again, the writer prays that God would teach him through His word: From your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way (v. 104). In another psalm, the writer prays, By them [Gods words] Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:11). In summary, seek to know what sin is by consulting Gods record of sin and righteousness in His Word. This surely is an essential and key step in ones desire to overcome sin.
2. Pray to God for His help in overcoming sin.
Since God wants you to be sanctified and holy even more than you do, you can be assured that He will hear your sincere and fervent plea for mercy and for His supernatural help in overcoming sin in your life. The psalmist prayed, Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me. . . . Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:13-14).
David prayedand we also should pray (Psalm 25:4-5):
Make me know Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths,
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.
3. Develop a sensitive conscience before the Lord.
One of the chief reasons why people presume to sin, even when they know that some attitude or action is wrong, is that they have sinned so much that both their mind and their conscience are defiled (Titus 1:15). Paul said that some people are seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (1 Timothy 4:2). He also referred to various sinful Christians who had not kept faith and a good conscience, that some had rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20). It is dreadfully serious when one deadens his conscience to the extent that he can sin without having a feeling of deep guilt!
In contrast, God wants us to develop a tender, sensitive, godly heart that shuns every hint of sin. If such a person sins, even inadvertently, he cannot tolerate remaining in unforgiveness. His heart is grieved and immediately he must confess his transgression (1 John 1:9). Everyone needs to develop this sensitivity to all known sin!
4. Seek to have a godly fear of God.
We must also grow to have a healthy and appropriate fear of God! This refers to a rightly understood fear (Greek, phobos). It is a reverential fear that is a controlling motive of the life, in matters spiritual and moral, not a mere fear of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary). Paul says that we are to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). He says that we are to have the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and are to know the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11).
How does a godly fear of God relate to sin? If we fear God, we will turn from all known sin! By the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil (Proverbs 16:6). The absence of true fear of God is one reason why most people look at sin in such a superficial and casual way. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil (Proverbs 8:13; cf. 3:7). If we sincerely fear God and hate sin, we will not deliberately indulge in it.
5. Depend on the power of the Spirit to help you in your battle against sin.
While it is true that God will give the Christian the inner strength to overcome sin, we must also realize that He uses the Spirit to give us this powerful and transforming ability. Paul puts it this way: If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13). Notice that it is the Spirit at work in our hearts that enables us to overcome the sinful acts of the body. The apostle says that we must be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16, cf. v. 20). With the Spirits power, we can renounce sin and live in holiness.
6. Actively refuse to sin: turn from the sins of commission and refuse to commit sins of omission.
God is not going to do the entire sanctifying work without your active participation. Quietism is a false teaching and belief that God does it all! Let go and let God, is the slogan. Instead, we must actively pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Paul says, Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34). God wants us to actively stop sinning! Paul says that we must actively flee fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18). He also says, Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22). Paul said that he disciplined his body and made it his slave so that he might not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).
There are things to do: Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Lay aside the old self . . . . put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22, 24). Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:14). There are hundreds of such commands that require our active participation.
7. Live a life of faith and obedience.
Faith and obedience are two parts of a whole. We must diligently pursue a life of faith and with equal diligence we must seek to live a life of absolute obedience. Our genuine faith will be manifested in obedience. James reminds us: Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. . . . faith without works is useless. . . . a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. . . . faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 20, 24, 26). We must have a true faith in God and this faith must overtly obey the Lord in good deeds. We must put off the sinful deeds and do the good deeds (Galatians 5:19-21).
8. Recognize the inconsistency of serving sin after you have been released from slavery to sin.
The entire chapter of Romans 6 is devoted to our slavery to sin and our freedom from that sin. Paul asks, How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:2). The apostle then reasons:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (vv. 3-4).
This shows us that when a person comes to Christ in repentant faith, he is baptized into Christ Jesus and is baptized into His death. He is buried with Him through baptism into death. One identifies with the crucified and risen Lord in baptism and is buried in baptism into the believers own death to sin. In baptism, one renounces sin and dies to it, to rise from the burial of baptism to walk in newness of life.
This new life comes in a repentance-baptism or a faith-baptism. It is a life freed from the bondage of sin! Paul says that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves of sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7). How can we be slaves of sin after having been released from such slavery? If one finds himself in bondage to known, continual, deliberate sin, this would indicate that he has not really been set free from sinor that he has returned to sin again (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22)! What should be our present perspective? Paul replies, Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (v. 11). There is a twofold attitude here: we are dead to sin and alive to God! He explains, Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts (v. 12).
The interested reader should continue reading Romans 6:13-23 to see that sin shall not be master over you (v. 14) for we have been freed from sin (v. 18). Having been freed from sin, we have been enslaved to God and now are to live in holiness or sanctification, with the result that we have eternal life (v. 22). All of this shows that it is inconsistent and incongruous for a believer who has been released from sins bondage to again serve that sin through deliberate wrong-doing. You are a slave of God, a slave of obedience, a slave of righteousness (vv. 16, 18, 22), and must never again serve sin!
9. Earnestly love God and let this motivate you to cast off all sin.
The Lord Jesus plainly said, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15). In effect, Jesus is saying, If you really love Me, you will turn from sin and obey Me. He goes on to say, He who has My commandments and keeps them [the one who obeys and does not sin] is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him (v. 21). He continues, He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Fathers who sent Me (v. 24).
Notice carefully that the Lord said that the one who does not love Him does not keep Christs words. When one does not keep His words but deliberately sinsthis is the one who proves by this sin that he doesnt really love Jesus! The more we love Jesus, the more we will love what He loves. The more we love Him, the more we will hate what He hates. It was written of Christ, You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (Hebrews 1:9). If Jesus hates sin and loves righteousness (the opposite of sin), then we should strive to have this same view of life!
Choose to turn from Known,
Deliberate, and Presumptuous Sin Today!
Sin is much too dangerous to play with it. It is an offense against a Holy and Righteous God whose wrath is kindled against it. Deliberate sin is heinous to our pure and holy God! We should grieve before our God because of any remnants of sin in our life. We should allow this godly sorrow to bring us to the point of genuine repentance, a clear-cut renunciation of all known and deliberate sin. The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Repentance is a change of heart and mind that issues in a change of action and a transformation of life. John the baptizer declared, Bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). Paul commanded his hearers that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance (Acts 26:20). Scripture says that the one who confesses and forsakes his sins will receive Gods compassion (Proverbs 28:13). All of this means that one must be heartsick over his sins, must decide to turn from and forsake his sins, and renounce them with the purpose of living a holy, pure, and righteous life in the future.
We began this discussion with a reference to the disaster that comes through known, deliberate, and defiant sin. Thanks be to God, we have a Savior from sin! Remember that the angel told Joseph before Christs birth, He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Paul echoes the same thought, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Have you been saved from sin? Have you been rescued from the tragedy of sin? Were you redeemed from slavery to sin so that you now live as a slave of God who is devoted to absolute holiness and righteousness?
Jesus Christ suffered for your sins on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:3). In Christ Jesus we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14), because Christ died for those sins, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). He shed His blood for your sins so that you need not pay for your own sins in the flames of hell (Revelation 21:8). God solved the age-old problem of sin through the giving of His dear Son who died for your sins!
If you have turned to God with a sincerely repentant faith expressed in baptism, you need not continue to commit known and deliberate sin. You can have the victory over that sin through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit! Accept the power and provision of God that is yours and turn from all sin today! Pursue . . . holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Choose to trust and obey God today! Choose to renounce all deliberate, purposeful sin! When you do fail the Lord in some way, determine to repent and then immediately seek Christs full forgiveness.