Have you ever thought most sin seemed practically harmless, or felt like God denied you worldly pleasures as some mean joke? I used to have this mindset, like it was my duty to obey God’s commands because he saved me, even when his commands were no fun. I tried to deny myself the pleasures of sin out of gratitude for God’s salvation and out of respect for his power. While these are great reasons to not sin, they reveal an incomplete understanding of what Christ saved us from and are woefully inadequate to motivate us to live a godly life. To despise sin and prefer God’s ways instead, we must understand just how dangerous sin is.
The most important thing we must realize about sin is that it is deadly! Whether we realize it or not, we’re in a life-or-death battle with sin. John Piper describes sin as armed to the teeth and always killing us; either we kill sin or sin will kill us. We must meet sin only with a sword: no truce, no compromise, no prisoners. To the death! – we’re playing games otherwise. Therefore, kill in yourself every quivering of the corpse of sin lest you find him to be no corpse but a captor and you dead. Our sin is so deadly that it killed Christ; now that Christ has freed us from sin’s death grip, it’s paramount that we put to death what he died to kill.
The Bible makes it clear that sin brings death. When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death (James 1:15), for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13). Proverbs 7 talks about a young man lacking sense who spends a night with a prostitute not knowing it would cost him his life (Proverbs 7:23). This prostitute’s slain were a mighty throng. Her house was the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death (Proverbs 7:26-27). In the end, an immoral woman is as dangerous as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave (Proverbs 5:4-5). An evil man will die for lack of self-control (Proverbs 5:32).
We may rationalize that we’re not hiring prostitutes or sleeping with other men’s wives, but Jesus says that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He goes on to say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:28-30). Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living (Romans 6:16), for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
The concept of sin killing us may seem a bit extreme and we may read the passages above as mostly symbolic and not applying to us especially if we’re saved. However, sin is corrosive and seeps into any area of our lives that we don’t protect, destroying whatever it touches. It wreaks havoc on anything it finds causing stress, wasted time, and withered energy, literally sucking the life out of us.
While we no longer stone people for their sins, sin is still killing people physically. Each year, one in four teens contracts an STD and more than half of Americans will have an STD at some point in their lifetime. In 2015 men who had sex with men accounted for 83% of reported syphilis cases. Ad revenue from pornography often goes back into the business to purchase more girls who will be prostituted, filmed, and who will die after 7 years, killed by the ravaging ripples of lust. Unmarried women commit 83% of abortions in the US, proving that even the innocent may be killed by the deadly effects of sin.
Not only does sin kill our physical bodies, it also kills our relationships with those we love. Very few marriages can survive the fatal impact of infidelity. Cheating consistently ranks as a top reason for divorce. Jeff Crippen, who has studied domestic violence and abuse since 2009, says, “With some sins, the sinner gets no second chance at the relationship. Molest a child and your relationship with that child and the child’s family is over, no matter how close you were. Abuse your wife and, well, do not tell us that you deserve another shot at the marriage.” And don’t forget that even “smaller” sins, like gossip, can separate close friends (Proverbs 16:28).
Next, sin kills professionally. This year Bill O’Reilly got fired from Fox News because of sexual comments to a coworker, and former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez hung himself in prison while serving a life sentence for murder. Last year Wells Fargo’s CEO was ousted because of dishonest business practices, and Fox News’s CEO was forced out because of sexual misconduct. One year prior, the Duggars’ TV show, 19 Kids and Counting, was canceled after details surfaced of Josh’s molestation of five girls, and the year before that Bill Cosby’s career was ruined when dozens of women came forward with sexual assault allegations against the comedian.
Even before sin kills our bodies, relationships and jobs, sin will kill our dreams. Anyone who has struggled with roots of sin in their life knows that sin zaps a person’s energy and leaves them feeling worthless. It drains them of ambition and causes them to settle for mediocrity because they feel they “don’t deserve” a big dream. In his classic work, The Mortification of Sin, John Owen says, “An unmortified lust will drink up the spirit, and all the vigor of the soul, and weaken it for all duties.” He goes on to describe sin as “a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God’s love and favor.”
Perhaps the most obvious area of our lives that sin kills is our relationship with God. Sin will separate us from spiritual inheritance (Ephesians 5:5). Loving sin will kill our ability to pray (Psalm 66:18). Sin can cause a person to doubt their salvation (1 Peter 1:9). John Owen says that sin “lays hold on the affections, rendering its object beloved and desirable, so expelling the love of the Father. The unmortified soul cannot say uprightly and truly that God is its portion, having something else that it loves.”
I always knew intellectually that the wages of sin is death, but only recently did I realize just how deadly sin actually is and feel the weight of what Jesus saved us from. This change of perspective has brought me to a new level in my struggle against sin in my own life. I’m also far more grateful than I used to be that Jesus stood in-between us and this mortal enemy. He refused to back down even when it killed him. Because of the deadly effects of sin, no human in their right mind should choose the fleeting pleasures of sin over God’s far superior plan for their lives. Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace (Romans 6:1)? Never!