For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 NKJV
Billy Graham shares a beautiful illustration of truth about this verse:
After a minister had spoken strongly against sin one morning, one of the church members said, “We don’t want you to talk so plainly about sin, because if our children hear you mention it, they will more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake, if you will, but do not speak so bluntly against sin.”
The minister went to his medicine shelf and brought back a bottle of strychnine marked “Poison”. He said, “I understand what you want me to do. You want me to change the label. Suppose I take the ‘Poison’ label off the bottle and put on a label like ‘Peppermint Candy’. Can’t you see the problem? The milder you make the label, the more dangerous the poison’s presence.”
It is high time we put a “Poison” label back on the poison of sin. We must not be afraid to be as plain as the Bible is about the traffic consequences of sin – or about the antidote for that poison: the blood of Christ.
Yes, sin leads to death – but the Son leads to life. And one or the other is master of our lives. One or the other is ruler of our heart and drives our underlying desires, which affect our resulting thoughts, actions, and words. And we are promised the same eternal fate as that of our master. So our eternal hope is to live with Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, with the Holy Spirit guiding us in His ways, and with His resurrection from the dead as the example of what will happen to us.
The prince of this world, that enemy of God, whispers in our ear that there is no life after death, that our bodies will simply return to dust and that our spirit will simply cease, stop, disappear forever. What hope is there in such a purposeless life? It doesn’t surprise me that such hopeless people who don’t know Jesus Christ would happily swallow daily what they even acknowledge is not good for them, with the simple excuse, “What does it even matter?”
But the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, He has a differing message that He has for us – one of hope and love and eternal life. The one who served as the blameless example of God’s perfect will, in the face of the blame worthy example of how the world treats God – He extends mercy and love and forgiveness and redemption to a world unworthy of redemption. We realize the contrasting example of the Grace in His Passion played out at Gethsemane, at the cross – set starkly against the example of utter depravity of man’s denial of Him in those same places. We instance the example of the world not just denying Him two thousand years ago and placing Him on a cross – but our own denying Him and being the reason He went to the cross each time we sin in our lives.
So it should be clear to us by now, that if we put our trust and hope in ourselves, in our own abilities, in our own strengths, in our own works, that we will continue placing those thorns upon His head, lashing Him with that cat of nine tails, driving those nails into His body, thrusting that spear into His side. Do not be so eager to point the finger at others, whether it be “the men of the past”, “the Jews”, “the Romans”, or whoever else you would foolishly lay blame on for His death. No, it is you – it is your sin that did each of these things friend.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:5-12 NKJV
His body was crushed for you, and if we don’t accept that and believe it, and understand the consequences of sin, how can we say that we’ve heard the Good News and received it in our hearts?
Do you understand today the consequences of your sin?
Does your grattitude for what He did at the cross lead you to an attitude of hatred of disgust towards those temptations that face you during the trials ahead?
Do you recognize the poison of sin and want to see it gone from your life?
I’m so thankful that “He who knew not sin” was made sin for you and I so that we might become the righteousness of God(2 Corinthians 5:21). I’m so thankful that John tells us that if the Son sets us free, that we are free indeed(John 8:36). I’m so thankful that Jeremiah reminds us that God know the plans He has for us, for good and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope(Jeremiah 29:11). I’m so thankful that God came in the flesh as the perfect and blameless example, not to condemn the world, but to open our eyes to see that we have been blind in the darkness, far from God, and in great need for His touch upon our lives (John 3:17). I’m so thankful that it is the opening of the soil through belief, so that the seed of His grace could be planted in my heart, to grow into the ongoing faith that strengthens me as I press on towards the upright call of following in His footsteps, so that His work, His ministry, His love might be manifest in my life even today.
Lord, you are perfect and righteous and holy and loving and merciful. And we come to you as an unworthy child that has returned from the vomit of the dogs and the slop of the pigs, returning from drinking in the ways of the world as the very poison of sin that has been killing us. We know that your precious blood, poured out on that cross is the only antidote, the only cure. We want to believe, we want to walk faithfully, we want to follow you, Lord, because we know that you are the Christ, and we ask ourselves, “Where else can I go? He is my portion and prize, there is nothing in this world worth trading for my eternal soul. My only Hope is in clinging to Christ.” Lord, this is our safe place, humbly at your feet, confessing our sin and accepting your forgiveness, seeking you ever closer in our lives as you teach us your ways and lead us along this narrow path to our final destination. Lord, keep it fresh on our minds the high cost of grace that was paid for us, the high pile of sin that has been cast to the ends of existence, not so that we will walk anymore in shame or guilt, but so that we can kneel or hearts in humble grattitude, even as we strive to walk bold and upright in your ways. We give you our lives, Lord. Let us rise today in life and walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Let us be the light set on a hill so that those who see might hunger and thirst for your righteousness and for the abundant life of purpose and value eternal that you have set, aside for each of us. Amen.
So, if the Word of God tells us that sin is poison – if it tells us that it is a snake that will bite us, a snare that will entrap us, a hindrance spiritual that will sear and harden our hearts and that grieves the Holy Spirit and causes separation and isolation in our relationship with God – and if we believe God, and are seeking Him, and are living Him with our everything, shouldn’t we avoid this enemy of God’s will and purpose for our lives?
A life of faith is a life of surrender, repentance, trial, and testing. Rinse and repeat. But this life of faithfulness produces a new type of treasure that is so much more valuable than the things that we used to chase.
How much would someone burdened daily by anxiety and worry give for a life filled with peace that passes all understanding? I’m talking about the peace that only comes from trusting that God has a purpose in mind even when we don’t understand it at the moment. I’m talking about the peace that Job demonstrated when he found out that he had lost everything, family, loved ones, riches, and his response was to fall on his knees and bless the name of the Lord.
And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord .” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Job 1:21-22 NKJV
I’m talking about the peace that one of our church friends demonstrated when she lost her 11 year old son to an unexpected accident in their home, after her youngest daughter find her brother lifeless in his room, and the mother shared her testimony at the school and on the news, giving glory to God and warning other parents of the dangers of social media “dares” and “challenges” that put our little ones at risk of unexpected calamity.
Who else can offer us such peace?
Who else can overcome what the enemy intended for destruction and chaos to turn it for good?
Because her son, who was baptized and who loved the Lord is with His Father in heaven now, and their story is helping shed light on an important and dangerous evil that had been lurking in the shadows.
We can’t buy things like love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, or long suffering with silver or gold or money or credit. But Christ offers us these abundantly when we trust in Him, believe in our hearts, and follow in His footsteps.
The life of the faithful is not a life free from burdens, trials, and sufferings – it is a life empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, so that we don’t just have to survive them begrudgingly, we can walk through them in victory, praising the Lord, with our eyes set on things eternal, because the veil has been torn to reveal what truly matters.
Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV
This is the commandment of the Lord, our God. This in one of those “Thus says the Lord” moments, when He lays down His terms for our belief, for our faith, for our lives that are now His to guide and use for His purposes – which just happens to also result in the fullest and most abundant life that we can experience.
Jesus taught that there is victory in sacrifice through the example of His life , His death, and His resurrection. And that love is putting away our selfish, prideful, short sighted ways to follow in that example. Love is asking how can I give instead of focusing on what will I receive.
Jesus demonstrated that perfect love to us, proved how far about and beyond our natural ways it truly is when He set the bar even higher than the law demanded, saying things like if you look with lust you have committed adultery in your heart. God is so great at getting right to the root of the problems that we try to dance around, because He always goes straight to the heart of the matter. He’s concerned with the state of our heart, not just the appearance of our lives – while also pointing out to us that if our hearts are right, our desires, our thoughts, our actions, our words, our obedience and our faithfulness will grow out of that changed heart.
He calls out to us – come and learn love – true, sacrificial, godly love – and find that it fulfills the law, because the law existed both to confirm Christ who we did not know, and to confirm Love that we did not have.