Imagine an armed intruder breaks down your front door in the middle of the night. He is determined to kill you and your family. As he marches into your house, the fear you have of him would soon give way to a determination to make war against him. It would be the natural and right response to rise up out of bed and meet him with every force available to you for the sake of protecting those you love and yourself. It would be absurd if you just laid in bed an thought, “This might actually be an enjoyable experience. Maybe he won’t kill me. Perhaps I should entertain him.” As ludicrous as that would be in the face of sure and certain death, that is exactly what we do with sin.
The Bible promises sin will kill us, but we treat it as a harmless houseguest.
Not a Harmless Houseguest
The Bible promises sin will kill us, but we treat it as a harmless houseguest, a welcome friend. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die” Paul writes in Romans 8.13. You will die. If you welcome sin and fail to make war against it, you will not simply be significantly harmed or suffer emotional damage or escape with a flesh wound—you will die. Sin leads to death as certainly as touching fire leads to getting burned and jumping off a cliff leads to falling. And still, even as Christians, we treat sin as if it’s just not that harmful. We think that if we can entertain sin for just a moment, the gun it has pointed at our head will be put away, and we can enjoy one another’s company. We think that if we are careful enough, we can walk away from the trained assassin sent to destroy us unharmed. And we think that if we do tarry too long with sin, the wounds that it may inflict are shallow and can be covered with bandages—or lies or fabricated self-confidence or makeup or another round or another relationship. And so the trap of sin continues.
We have taken up the ancient question of our ancient enemy for our own—did God really say? Did God really say this sin is not for your good? Did God really say if you live according to the flesh you will die? Perhaps we ask this question because we rarely see sin as an armed intruder sent to seek and destroy. Sin comes cloaked as a friend whispering promises of delight. It is this reality that makes sin so dangerous and our enslavement to it seem so casual.
Yet what God has said is clear. A thief comes to kill and destroy us (John 10:10). An enemy prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Someone is scheming against us, trying to outwit us into sin (2 Corinthians 2:11). Though sin is attractive and enticing, it leads to death (Proverbs 5:3-5). Sin is lurking desiring to win mastery over us and destroy us (Genesis 4:7). If you live according to the flesh and its sinful desires you will die (Romans 8:13). Therefore, no matter how enticing or friendly or harmless sin may appear, it is only the clever masquerade of death.
This is why Jesus says,
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 5:19-20)
We read this as an overstatement and an exaggeration because we do not have eyes to see sin for the horror and danger that it is. Jesus says these things not simply to make a point that sin is bad and we should take it seriously. He says these things because sin leads to death, and if we fail to make war against sin, it will kill us.
If we continue to entertain the sinful deeds of the flesh, we scoff at the Crucified Savior.
Remember the Cross
As Christians, we have to look nowhere other than the cross to see clearly the horrors and dangers of sin. On the cross, the incarnate Son of God hung bloodied and beaten because His death was the only way to atone for sin. There should be no thought more troubling, no sight more terrifying than that of God incarnate suffering and dying for sin. “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin,” Paul writes in Romans 8:3. What can condemn sin for the evil that it is and the death that it brings more than the cross of Christ?
Therefore, if we live according to the flesh, we dismiss God’s condemnation of sin in the cross. If we think sin is manageable on our own, we deny the very necessity of the cross. If we continue to entertain the sinful deeds of the flesh, we scoff at the Crucified Savior.
Yet the same cross that illumines the horror and danger of sin is the same cross that gives way to the empty tomb that illumines the wonder that sin and death have been subjected to the risen Christ so that all those who trust in Him are given the power to make war against sin:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in us. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:11-14)
Make war against sin, for its desire is to destroy us, but God has given us the same Spirit who won victory over sin in the resurrection of the Crucified King.
A version of this article originally appeared at Brandon’s blog.