Perhaps we could say that the worst sin in the world is one that looks "sinless." After all, most people avoid sins that they think are horribly sinful; but they overlook those that seem "innocent" - perhaps even "righteous." If we were to ask how something that is sinful could look righteous, we would discover that many of these "righteous" sins actually originate in something that God intended as good - but that (1) the act itself has been distorted, or (2) the context or circumstances have turned it into something sinful.
In this series, we look at various concepts that can be either good or evil, based on various factors, such as context and circumstances. We will look at righteous examples, as well as sinful examples, and attempt to determine why the difference exists. We will also look at "neutral" things, and see how they become righteous or sinful. Finally, we will consider some ways to recognize and respond to (or avoid) such sins - principles that can apply to any type of sin (even obvious ones).
THIS SERIES IS INCOMPLETE. It examines at length one "killer sin," and briefly looks at two others. But the principles shown here will help us to recognize and deal with those various sins that are not examined. [The study came to an end when we looked at how sinful the "world" is - so we could better understand why certain "killer sins" were so sinful (especially "neutral" ones). But that naturally led to the need to understand the "remedy" to the world's influences - namely, the Good News of salvation. So that is where we ended up going.]
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In the early centuries of the church, people came up with a list of what they called the "Seven Deadly Sins." In terms of "killer sins," these "Seven Deadly Sins" are just a small part of the whole picture. Normally, people know that these seven sins are sinful (even if they view them as inconsequential sins); whereas, "killer sins" include those that aren't typically viewed as sinful.
Introduction to the "killer sins" concept; and comparing them to the "Seven Deadly Sins."
Our focus is not on a "list" of such sins, but the "nature" of them.
We tend to view Judas as an evil villain (perhaps wearing a constant snarl), but he actually looked like a trustworthy, loyal follower of Jesus. He had only one "little" sin. But he didn't deal with it when it was small, so it eventually grew up and became the "big" sin of betrayal. This is a warning to us, that our "little" sins, if left to themselves, can grow up into something big. Big enough to kill us.
They start with wrong thoughts and attitudes... and they grow from there. Because of our sinful natures, we are naturally inclined to do them. We must respond to them - fight them with God's power - or we will eventually be overcome by them and destroyed.
We look at issues that will guide us toward an understanding of the nature of "killer sins." Our main focus is on our need to deal with any sin that may be in our lives (a continuation of last week's focus). Along the way, we look at the various "sin lists" that are found in the Bible, as well as some weaknesses of the "Seven Deadly Sins" concept.
Two issues: (1) Why some sins might not be considered "killer sins"; and (2) why "killer sins" might be confused with good. The first "killer sin" we will look at is related to the "Deadly Sin" of lust - though we will be dealing with a much broader concept than what is referred to in the "Seven Deadly Sins." [In future presentations, we will give it the name "I crave."]
"I crave" - introduction and instances in which it is good.
Our understanding of lust (as a "Deadly Sin") normally limits it to a specific type of sexual sin. But the the broader concept has a much wider application, and can refer to a strong desire for anything - whether good or evil. When looking at the "killer sin" concept, we need to realize that (1) this concept can include good desires, and that (2) the evil desires can include much more than just sexual matters.
Here, we look at how this is true - some basic principles. We also introduce the idea that the goodness/badness can be context-determined (an issue we will look at later).
Just as it is not always sinful to crave something, so also it is not always sinful to be discontent! Though we may quote Philippians 4:12 to show that we need to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in (as explained in the context)... there are also situations in which being content and not craving would be sin!
This is craving in a good sense - a way that is supremely good! If it weren't for sin, this would be the natural response of every human being. But now, because of sin, the only way we can do this is in Jesus Christ.
The "foundational" (or most-ultimate) cravings of our heart will influence all the other cravings and desires we have. If we pursue the foundational craving/desire for God, it will influence all the other things we crave/desire.
We don't merely add "good values" to our lives. Rather, we have to reject our old ways of living and replace them with new ways that are compatible with a new foundation (= craving/desiring God).
"I crave," when it is a "killer sin."
Sinful craving did not exist until people chose to sin. Here, we see how it came into existence, its two forms, and what God has done to enable us to return to good craving.
First, a reminder: In Christ, we do not have to do these sinful things. Then we look at the issue of sexual lust. Even though it may occur in the mind (i.e., invisible to other people), it is a killer sin that will separate people from God eternally, if they do not repent and turn away from it. (God warns us numerous times in Scripture, and he wasn't joking.)
Craving money, riches and wealth (in all its forms) - if we desire them more than we desire God and his kingdom, we are living in sin!
The problem is: When we are guilty of this, we normally don't know it. It's only when we allow Scripture to change the way we think and evaluate things (= the "renewed mind" of Romans 12:2), that we can recognize it and avoid it.
Any desire that focuses on self can be sin - if it is a desire that goes against love for God and neighbor. We need to remind ourselves about: (1) where sinful craving comes from, and (2) how we should respond to it.
This is a serious matter!
How "neutral" cravings become good or evil. (They don't stay "neutral.")
The same "neutral" crave can become good or evil, depending on context. We must be willing to learn what makes the difference!
Several examples are given to show how the context will determine whether a "neutral" desire is good or evil. Scripture tells us how to recognize which it is. (It's not based on our personal opinion or desire in the matter.)
On the Day of Judgment, everything will be evaluated as good or evil. (There will be no neutral category.) After a few more examples of "neutral" cravings becoming good or bad, we look at how we can make it our goal to turn all "neutral" cravings into good.
Principles for resisting killer sins (especially sinful craving). In Christ, we have the ability to do so!
Many of these principles are applicable to resisting any type of sin.
A focus on some foundational matters. Some basic features of all killer sins; some principles for responding to them; why they occur so easily.
This is not a reference to "temptation," but to the result of yielding to temptation. Yet since the Bible does describe it this way, we can learn principles for avoiding spiritual adultery, based on what it teaches about physical adultery.
Before we can deal with it, we have to first admit that it is sin, and that we have to deal with it. It is a battle, a war. Yet our #1 "battle focus" isn't to be on the sin, but on the source of the sin. Ultimately, it is a spiritual battle.
It may be a surprise to some, but Scripture doesn't tell us to fight sin, but to avoid and run from it! (It's a spiritual battle, and that is the level where the actual fighting is to be done.) If we are following Jesus, he has given us the power to do this "avoiding" and "running away."
We don't "have to" keep on sinning, because God has provided a way to escape from the temptation that results in sinning. But we must be willing to learn how to do this escaping! Ultimately, we have to decide whether to yield to the temptation, or yield to the escape from it!
What the devil wants to use for our destruction, God uses for accomplishing good. Even temptation!
God helps us in our fight against killer sins.
God's grace teaches us to not sin. God's people are willing to learn! (Only fakes use grace as an excuse or justification for sinning.)
Our duty is not to sin, but to be holy. Sin is enslaving; but Scripture tells us that obeying the moral law is the way to freedom.
God has given us his Word, the Bible, which teaches us how to live in freedom. What is your attitude toward learning what it says and obeying it?
There are many potential hindrances. The only way we can develop a strong response to hindrances is through learning and following God's instructions in the Bible.
Victory over killer sins - especially sinful craving.
Many of these principles are applicable to resisting any type of sin.
God works in our salvation and our sanctification (i.e., making us holy). He changes us ... and the world will oppose it.
Those who belong to Christ are united with him. God changes our nature, and this will affect everything in life.
We now turn our focus to our responsibility. It involves two concepts that are interrelated in Scripture: love and obedience. If we love Jesus, we will pursue the renewed mind that Scripture offers us (Romans 12:2), so that joyful obedience will become possible.
If we belong to Christ, God has changed our nature. It's our responsibility to focus on a change in our conduct. God has given us both the instructions (teachings and commands) which will give us a renewed mind, as well as the power and motivation to pursue it. This will affect our conduct, and will make possible victory over sin.
God doesn't just do "sovereign" things, and then leave us alone to do our "human responsibility" things. We are now part of his family (through adoption); and our brother, Jesus, has done things that have a direct impact on our ability to do our part. If we have become part of God's family, we now have the ability to live as part of God's family!
Life in Christ involves a willingness to replace specific types of sinful conduct with specific types of righteous conduct. (It's not just a matter of vague generalities and nebulous prayers about becoming "a better person.") Just like changing one's clothes, we must "take off" specific sins in our lives and "put on" the corresponding godly character.
Being united with Christ and controlled by the Spirit are interrelated concepts. (It's impossible to have one without the other.) If the Spirit is living in you, it will affect how you live!
The life changes that are a part of salvation begin with mind changes - the "renewed" mind. We have a responsibility to learn about and to develop godly attitudes and values... and then to apply what we learned to our actions.
God has empowered us to do what we need to do... and we must do it. No excuses! When we don't do it, it's like saying, "I choose to not use the power God has offered me." We also look at the significance that Jesus' future return has on our responsibility to get ready for that day, now. Our old "unsaved ways" are not an option!
A final reminder that sexual lust (one of the "Seven Deadly Sins") is a serious matter. We are not to consider it as an option in life... and those who do will be held accountable at the Day of Judgment. It is s rejection of God's life-changing power.
Some final comments. We must be willing to kill the killer sins, before they kill us. (1) Recognizing the nature of the crave; (2) using our mind to change our focus; (3) a warning about the nature of the effort. If you choose to be lazy in this "struggle," you won't have victory.
Introducing the next two killer sins: "I devour" and "I cling."
If we get what we have craved for, then what? This brings us to the next two killer sins. Do we "devour" what we attained? Do we "cling" to it? (These are related to two of the "Seven Deadly Sins" of gluttony and greed; but as killer sins, they involve much more than that.)
Here, we look at the similarities and differences between these two sins, as well as their relationship to "I crave." More often than not, Scripture describes these two actions as being sinful. ("I crave" is often presented as a good concept; but these two concepts are rarely described that way.)
As killer sins, these concepts often appear as "small," insignificant sins; and when we do them, we may even make it sound as though we were doing something "Christian." But they influence our values and make it easier for us to commit "big" sins. We look at two parables that Jesus gave us, to show us how bad these sins really are.
They will claim to be saved. But the very fact that these sins characterize their lives is proof that they are not saved. God calls them "hypocrites" - and even though many people claim that "churches are full of hypocrites," God warns us that saved people are not characterized by hypocrisy.
Living for the glory and honor of God tends to be the opposite of living for devouring and clinging. The questions are, (1) how do you do it? And (2) how do you know you are doing it? Is it mere opinion, or does Scripture give us specific instructions for doing it? This shows us the importance of having a "renewed mind" (Romans 12:2), which we cannot get if we're unwilling to find out (and apply) what the Bible says! Many of the values that we tend to call "neutral" come from the world and are actually opposed to the ways of God.
[Interruption] The sinfulness of the WORLD; the remedy found in the GOOD NEWS.
46. Learning about the horrible sinfulness of the WORLD. [A link to that study.]
These 2 killer sins, devouring and clinging, are commonly found in churches, in "christianized" forms. Yet Scripture says they are what the world does; they are the world's response to getting the things they crave for.
The world is not neutral, but evil! Its ways are utterly incompatible to the ways of Christ! Yet because so many people in the church don't take seriously the evilness of the world, we needed to get a better look at what the Bible says about it.
And so, we began our study on the concept of "world."
47. The GOOD NEWS - the solution to the world's sinfulness. [A link to that study.]
We never returned to this "killer sins" study, because, once we learned about the horribleness of the "world," it naturally required us to look at the remedy for all this horribleness: the Good News.
However, what we have learned about killer sins is a good starting point. From here, it shouldn't be too difficult to learn to recognize and deal with the other killer sins.