The Seven Deadly Sins: An Introduction
This morning, I’m going to begin a sermon series on sin. Oh joy, just what you were hoping for, right? In Hebrews 2:3, the author reminds us that the salvation that God provides repentant sinners is a great salvation, and we are fools if we neglect it. I would submit to you this morning that we cannot understand how great is our salvation until we understand how great is our sin.
We catch a glimpse of this truth in the 51st Psalm. This is King David’s Penitential Psalm of confession after he has been caught in the sin of adultery with Bath-sheba, and the murder of her husband Uriah in his attempt to keep the whole affair under wraps.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalm 51:1–4, NIV)
You can almost hear the plaintive wail in David’s voice as again and again he bemoans the sinfulness of his sin. Only as he comes to a new understanding of his depravity, does he also gain a new appreciation for God’s unfailing love, and His great compassion. He comes to understand that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Praise and worship toward God cannot come from hearts filled with unconfessed sin.
I have discovered in my own walk of faith, that one of the ironies of the Christian life, is that the closer I come to Christ the more sinful I become. That doesn’t mean that I’m picking up “new sins” or “sinning more” as I grow older. It does mean that the increasing glory of Christ in me continually reveals how truly dark is the indelible stain of sin in my soul.
- What I call an accident; God calls an abomination.
- What I call a blunder; God calls a blot.
- What I call a defect; God calls depravity.
- What I call an error; God calls enmity.
- What I call an infirmity; God call iniquity.
- What I call a liberty; God calls lawlessness.
- What I call a mistake; God calls malicious.
- What I call a weakness; God calls wickedness.
You see, the human capacity for self-delusion is nearly limitless. Scripture says we are all sinners, and we don't mind being called “sinners” as long as the sins are “nameless” and “faceless”. When we actually begin giving names to our sins—pride, sloth, lust, anger, greed—it is as though we are confronted by muggers in the back alley of our souls. In the 51st Psalm, King David is disgustingly honest with himself about the enormity of his sin and his need for the cleansing of his sin that only God can provide.
The value of salvation ought never be underestimated, for its price was the suffering and death of Jesus. In Hebrews 2:10, Jesus is called the author of salvation who brings many sons to glory. Therefore, the believer’s salvation is immeasurably great because our sin was immeasurably great.
As Baptists, we have developed over the last century our own hierarchy of sins that are to be especially avoided. The four greatest commandments in Baptist life have been, Thou shalt not drink, thou shalt not smoke, thou shalt not chew and thou shalt not go out with those who do! If you are really spiritual, you can add the next two commandments to the list: Thou shalt not play cards – except Old Maid – and Thou shalt not go to movies.
Seriously: There are some sins that must especially be exorcized in the believer’s life—sins that the early church considered deadly in that they can kill the Christ-like life within us. Those deadly sins include: Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Lust, and Gluttony. I understand that sin is a topic many will feel uncomfortable talking about. Some of you may feel it is better to take a more positive approach to faith and not dwell on sin so much. Your like author Rita Mae Brown who wrote: “Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.” Others of you believe that all sin is equally repugnant to God, and so any classification of sins is just not helpful. Still others of you just want to forget the whole thing since you’re saved and God loves you and you really don’t care about all this "sin stuff."
My heart’s desire over the next two months is to 1) help you understand that your sin is deeper than many of you have imagined, and 2) help you understands that God’s grace is greater than you ever contemplated!
I. SIN IS A CONDITION THAT SEPARATES MEN FROM GOD
- according to our primary text, sin is something that entangles us
- in fact, it easily entangles us
- sin creates a vast gulf between the sinner and God that no amount of effort on our part can bridge
- “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2, NIV)
- sin curses us with spiritual death
- a condition that will carry over into eternity unless we receive new life through faith in Christ
- sin corrupts human nature
- it turns our thoughts to evil acts, arouses wrong desires, and so weakens our wills that we choose the wrong even when we know what is good
- sin condemns man under the divine wrath of God
- how terrible sin is
- but how wonderful that we have a Redeemer
A. SIN HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND REMAINS MAN’S BASIC PROBLEM
- most of us here this morning don’t have any trouble believing that
- we should not be surprised to learn, however, that a growing number of our fellow citizens consider the Biblical concept of sin as archaic
- even the secular world recognizes the Seven Deadly Sins—but scoffs
- ILLUS. Back in 1993, MTV ran a special entitled “Seven Deadly Sins: An MTV News Special Report.” What it really was, was a bashing of the bible in which well known pop and rock stars pretty much agreed that the idea of sin was stupid. Queen Latifah said, "Pride is a sin? I wasn't aware of that!" Actress Kirstie Alley agreed, /"I don't think pride is a sin, and I think some idiot made that up."
- instead it is a question of each person’s own preference
- in other words, what is sin to me may not be sin to you, and as long as I don’t acknowledge some behavior in my life as a sin, well, it just ain’t a sin and you don’t have the right to tell me that it is
- ILLUS. Herschel Hobbs, was a noted Southern Baptist preacher, teacher and convention leader for most of the latter half of the 20th century. Concerning modern man’s ability to minimize the sinfulness of sin, Hobbs wrote: “Some people deny the reality of sin. But to do so is to deceive themselves and to make a liar of God. Other laugh at sin, but the Bible says that ‘fools make a mock of sin’. Still others take pride in their sin. The most dangerous attitude toward sin is to town down its awfulness. Psychology calls sin maladjustment; biology labels it a disease; ethics suggest that it is a moral lapse; philosophy regards it as a stumbling in the upward progress of the human race. But the bible calls all these things what they truly are—sin.”
- ILLUS. In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy is confronting Charlie Brown and she screams at him, "The whole trouble with you is you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is!”
- the world may not like what it hears, but the bible is resoundingly clear about what the whole trouble with you is
B. SIN PRECONDITIONS US TOWARD DISOBEDIENCE
- we must understand the difference between “sin” (singular) and “sins” (plural)
- “sin” and “sins” are not the same
- the first is the root, and the second is the fruit
- the first is by birth, the second is by choice
- the easiest way to understand the difference between “sin” and “sins” is to think of a tree (or a plant) that bears fruit
- if the root is rotten, then the fruit will be infected
- the Bible calls this root in us the “old man” and it is often referred to as the “old nature” or the “sin nature”
- as a result of Adam's fall, sin entered the world
- Adam, who is the root of the human race, caused every man after him to be born into a sinful state or fallen condition
- “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5, NIV)
- “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— ” (Romans 5:12, NIV)
- that original sin was the desire to “be like God”—Satan’s most powerful of temptations
- the result is that the root of all sin is essentially idolatry—putting something or someone (usually our self) before God
- sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent, and self-sustaining
- ILLUS. If you ever want to see evidence of the sin nature that is at the root of our character, merely place two three-year-olds in a room with only one toy and watch what happens!
C. SIN HAS REAL CONSEQUENCES
- ask King Saul, he would tell you that this is true
- ask Queen Jezebel, she would tell you that this is true
- ask Ananias and Sapphira, they would tell you that this is true
- sin separates sinners from the Lord and makes them enemies of God unless and until reconciled to God by faith in Christ
- the Apostle Paul reminds us that man’s natural progression is always away from God and never towards God
- he tells us that our innocence has been lost
- “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10, NIV)
- not one mortal man, save Jesus, has ever lived up to God’s standard of holiness
- “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:11, NIV)
- “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12, NIV)
- “The soul who sins is the one who will die. ... ” (Ezekiel 18:20, NIV)
- “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9, NIV)
- “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15, NIV)
- ILLUS. Several years ago, Bill Bennett, former Education Secretary and author of the book of Virtues and Catholic by faith was discovered to be a heavy gambler in Las Vegas. Bennett in an interview following the disclosure in the media, apologized for gambling and said he would quit gambling all together. Bennett quipped to a Fox News reporter in an interview at that time, “Apparently what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas.”
- you cannot sin and hope that God does not see it!
- “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV)
II. GRACE IS A CHARITY THAT SHIELDS MEN FROM AN ETERNAL HELL
- have you ever thought about what charity really is?
- Webster defines it as ...
- "love for one's fellow”
- "kindness in judging others”
- “the giving of aid to the poor and suffering”
- charity is God’s kindness toward sinners poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore
- that is exactly what God's grace is!
- and if you will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms
- lost men have a spiritual need
- sin has made the sinner spiritually destitute
- but God looks upon the sinner’s condition and offers hope
- “ ... We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:11, NIV)
- ILLUS. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was constantly receiving requests for pardons in regard to soldiers who had been Court Marshaled for some serious crime and who had been sentenced to death. Usually the pardon was accompanied by a testimonial from some influential person who spoke on behalf of the accused's character. One day, Lincoln received a request for a pardon that had no other recommendation attached. Lincoln asked his clerk, "What, has this man no friends who will speak on his behalf?" "Evidently not," came the clerk’s response. "Then I will be his friend." said Lincoln, and he signed the man’ s pardon.
A. GOD'S GRACE IS GREATER THAN ALL OF MAN'S SIN
- there is no way you can be "good enough” to get into heaven
- ILLUS. Trying to get to heaven by being good is like walking on ice. Careful as you may be someday you're going to slip and fall.
- “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, ... . ” (Romans 3:20, ESV)
- contemporary translation of that verse might sound something like this: "by the good deeds of your life alone you cannot be seen as 'good enough' to get into God's heaven."
- just as you can't be “good enough” to make your own way into heaven
- so you can't be “bad enough” that your sins will keep you out of heaven
- God's grace doesn’t cover just “some” of the sinner’s sin, but “all” of the sinner’s sin
- ILLUS. If God can grant unfailing love, and great compassion to a coveter, and an adulterer, and a murderer like King David, God can grant marvelous, matchless, infinite grace to a sinner like you!
III. FAITH IS A COMMITMENT THAT SECURES A MAN’S SALVATION
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV)
- it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone that men are saved
- "not of works" God says, "lest any many should boast"
- ILLUS. To believe that a man’s own efforts can earn a way into heaven is like telling a drowning man to simple swim harder.
A. GOD HAS MADE IT SIMPLE
- “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved ... for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9–10, 13 NIV)
- it is more, however, than just believing in a certain set of facts about Jesus, but believing on the Lord Jesus as the Christ of God
- the word believe in this passage means to be "persuaded with conviction"
- ILLUS. The best earthly illustration I can think of are the vows that a bride and groom express to each other during their wedding ceremony. They stand there, unapologetically committing their heart, mind and body to the other person for as long as they live. They are persuaded with conviction that this is the mate for them.
- faith means that we Accept God's way of salvation in Christ as the only way
- faith means that we Believe that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He rose again according to the Scriptures
- faith means that we Confess our sinfulness to God, but we also confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’
God wants sinners to be saved from their sin today! He wants saints to fight sin with all their strength. ILLUS. In one of his fiery sermons, the evangelist Billy Sunday said: “I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and sin goes home to perdition.”
Are you fighting against sin with all your might?