I have some things on my heart that I want to say to you as your pastor with regard to the nation in which we live. And as I think about Memorial Day and all that’s been sacrificed through the years to give us our freedom, and as we watch those things that we love and those freedoms that have been purchased for us at the price of blood beginning to disappear, and things changing dramatically, it’s important for us to have a perspective that is biblical and God-honoring. And it is this: the Bible presents the truth that the human heart is deeply embedded with wickedness and corruption.
All are sinners. All fall short of the glory of God, we know that. Man is evil, not only in his behavior; he’s evil in his thinking, he’s evil in his intension. Every part of him is infected with evil. He is evil to the core. He is desperately wicked – to borrow the language of Jeremiah. He is characterized by sin, iniquity, and transgression; and nothing he does pleases God. This is the biblical definition of the human condition.
Now that evil is obviously rampant in every human heart; and collectively, it encircles the globe. It infects everything that man does, everything he touches. So what we have on the planet is massive evil. It is compounded by the presence of Satan and demons who orchestrate a system of evil and a system of spiritual wickedness that corrupts the environment, that corrupts the thinking of man. And so you have the Satanic kingdom doing its work and you have sinners moving within the framework of that Satanic kingdom who are infested with evil down to the very core. That leads inevitably to disaster.
We read in Ezekiel, chapter 7, it was that that lead to the terrible, terrible devastation that came in 586 when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian forces came and destroyed the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. And God hasn’t changed, and man hasn’t changed. God is still a holy God and He will not tolerate sin, and He will judge it.
In order to mitigate sin – and God has to do a lot to mitigate sin. Just think about the fact that the world is created in Genesis 1 and 2, and by chapter 6, God destroys the entire planet. Why? Because He saw only evil continually. It doesn’t take long. Once you have the fall in chapter 3 until you’re in chapter 6 and God drowns the whole of humanity. There is such massive evil loose in the world in human life that God has to place restraints in the world. Man is so evil, he has to provide some restraints or we would literally self-destruct.
Sin, by definition, is man going beyond the bounds, beyond the borders, beyond the established laws. The Bible says sin is lawlessness. It says sin is rebellion. And the heart of every man and woman is the heart of a rebel, a heart of a sinner.
In fact, sin is God’s would-be murderer. Sin, if it had its way, would kill not only the law of God, but God Himself. And if you wonder about that, then ask yourself why there is such an exploding percentage of our population who are declaring themselves as atheists. The problem in our city, the problem in our state, the problem in our nation is not circumstances, it’s not economic, it’s not poverty, it’s not lack of education; the problem is inside man. The destructive reality is the rebel sinner. That’s the only kind of person there is in the world.
And Jeremiah said they work hard at it; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Psalm 7:14says, “Behold, he travails with iniquity,” birth pains. He literally goes through pain to sin. You might say men go to hell sweating; they work hard at their transgressions.
Sin causes evil to overpower all of us. Individually and collectively, it dominates the mind, the will, the emotions, and the affections; and consequently, it infects everything collectively. It is a massive amount of evil; therefore, overpowers good. Sin causes people, of course, to fall under the dominance of Satan and to do his bidding and his will; and everything he does is against God. Sin subjects people to all kinds of misery, all the miseries and pains of life.
In fact, in Romans 8:20 it says that it is sin that subjects the creature to emptiness, to emptiness, corrupting the body, degrading all well-being, destroying all relationships; eliminating rest, joy, comfort, peace; defiling conscience, beauty, love, darkening the mind; making man virtually an unteachable and uncontrollable beast who is sensual and never satisfied. Man is therefore robbed of his honor, having been made in the image of God. He has corrupted that. He is robbed of his peace. Sin sets man on a damning course for eternal hell. Sin is the problem; it is the problem everywhere. It destroys everything that is good, everything that is noble, everything that is right, everything that is just; and all men are sinners. Fallen man is so bad, and so selfish, and so destructive, and so unkind, and it runs so deep, that God had to place in society some restraints, and He built them in. And I told you there were four basic restraints that God has built into human life.
Number 1 is personal control in the life of every individual. What is that? It’s the law of God written in the heart, the law of God written in the heart. Romans 2: “Every human being has the knowledge of right and wrong written in the heart.” And that restraint has a weapon, and the weapon is conscience, which accuses a person when they violate the law in the heart. That’s a restraint. That’s a personal, internal restraint.
The second restraint that God has put in the world is parental restraint, family restraint. God has designed that fathers and mothers operate well-ordered families and pass on righteousness, goodness, kindness, and truth to the next generation. And the weapon they have, according to the Bible, is the rod; and they use that rod to discipline children, to spank children, if you will, in order to inflict pain on them when they violate the law, to train them to go the right way. There are family values, moral values that belong to the very essence of what it means to be a family, what it means to be a husband and wife, and father and mother.
The third level of control is societal control, and that belongs to government. And government is given by God the power and authority to control our lives collectively. We have government at all levels. There are forms of government in your business. There are forms of government in your communities. There are forms of government in towns and cities, and states and nations, and even in the world. And the weapon that the government uses is the sword. The weapon of the personal law of God in the heart is the conscience. The weapon of the family is the rod. The weapon of government is the sword, and that’s a lethal weapon, and it exercises that weapon under divine command.
There is a fourth restraint in the world and it’s the church, the people of God. We are the salt and light of the world, and the weapon that we have is the gospel, and it’s the most powerful weapon because it is the only weapon that totally transforms the whole person, totally transforms the whole person. The church wields that weapon.
Now let me tell you something about man. God has placed the law in the heart, the family, government, and the people of God, the church, in the world. God has given the weapon of conscience, the rod of discipline, the sword of civil law, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and sinners fight against all those restraints as hard as they possibly can. They fight all those restraints.
Sinners fight those restraints relentlessly, aggressively, and they are aided by Satan and demons. They are aided by every aspect of human life. They are aided by philosophers. And educators, and politicians, and teachers. They are aided by false religious teachers. And they are aided by just the collective life of sinners.
That is an ongoing war. If they can, they will fight against the divine law of God in the heart. They will do everything they can to rewrite the law that should govern men’s lives. They will throw away the law that they know in their own heart.
Romans 1:32 says they know they’re doing wrong, and they know there are consequences; and they not only do it, they applaud those who do it. They will fight against the law of God in the heart, and they’ll do everything they can to silence the conscience. They will do everything they can to destroy the family. They will take every angle, every possible approach to destroy the family, to destroy parental authority, to destroy the union between a man and a woman, to destroy the relationship between parents and children, to make children as rebellious as possible. They will do everything to destroy the family. They fight against that restraint.
And they will fight against the divine institution of societal authority as well. They’ll fight against every law. They will violate every law they can possibly violate. That is why we have to have police everywhere, and they can’t keep up with the violators, they can’t keep up with the violations because sinners collectively, relentlessly fight against these restraints. It is their nature to do so. And they will fight against biblical Christianity. They will fight against the truth. They will fight against the gospel, the only truth that can transform them.
Now, listen: this fight goes on all the time. Man would go to destruction without the restraint. God puts the restraint there, and what they do is fight against the restraint, to overthrow this restraint, to rebel against it. And it is true that in a democracy like ours, in a republic that essentially is a democracy where the people have the ultimate power, they will eventually destroy all those restraints, they will. That wouldn’t happen necessarily in a dictatorship. It might not happen in a dictatorship where you get your hands chopped off if you steal, and you are executed if you commit adultery. If somebody rules that way, those things might not change.
That is not that I’m advocating that; I’m simply saying in a democracy with sinners fighting against everything and all the power in the hands of sinners, they will eventually overthrow all the restraint. It’s the nature of it. And when they do that, and when they do that, Romans 1 comes into play: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” When they throw the truth away and trample it with unrighteousness, when they overrun all those boundaries and all those restraints, then Romans 1 says, “God gave them up. God gave them over.”
So now you have a form of divine judgement kicking in. So you watch a society like ours and you see the fight against the law of God written in the heart: what is normal, what is natural, what is sensible, what is common knowledge about what is right and what is wrong; the fight against overthrowing that; the fight against the conscience, to silence the conscience. You watch them fight to destroy the family every possible way it could. You watch them rebel against all the social order and social discipline and fight against biblical truth, biblical Christianity, the gospel, the true church. And when they succeed in overrunning all those restraints, then Romans 1 begins to take place, and God gives them up.
And how do you know that? Because it says, “God gave them up to sexual immorality.” And then it says, “And, secondly, he gave them up to homosexuality, and then he gave them up to a reprobate mind.”
All you have to do is look at a culture and ask: “Have we had a sexual revolution? Have we had a homosexual revolution? Do we have a reprobate mind?” Answer: of course we do. This is indicating we have not only kicked over all the restraints and we are loose in the field of God, if you will, and He has pulled back and said, “You’re turned over to the consequences of your own sin.” That is a form of divine judgement. It’s not that God will judge this nation; we’re in it.
Oh, there’s an eschatological judgement, yes, coming. There’s an end-time judgement and an eternal judgement. But already we’re experiencing judgement. And where there are – and there certainly are – advocates for righteousness, and advocates for morality, and advocates for goodness and kindness, there are some people who are still clinging to the things that are noble and good because they followed the law – and I’m not talking about Christians, but people who followed the law in their hearts and grew up in good, sound, healthy, sensible, reasonable families, and who have learned respect because they’d been taught to respect, and they have that respect to society. There are those people.
But advocates for righteous and beneficial morality, and advocates for righteous and beneficial family, and advocates for righteous and biblical societal government, and advocates for the true church and the gospel of Jesus Christ, are like little Hans Brinkers with their fingers in a dike that’s going to overwhelm everybody. So it’s a losing effort in the end because God has allowed all the nations to go their own way; this is the pattern.
So as we look at our nation – and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks when I’m not here. I’m just kind of preempting that a little bit by helping you to be able to think through whatever happens. I have to say at this point that there are many churches who aren’t helping.
One of the pastors in one of the largest churches in America said, “The church should be the safest place for homosexuals. We welcome them in love, but we confront their sin for their own sake, for the sake of their salvation.” There’s so much confusion.
So how do we understand all those? Well let me kind of pull apart some things that you – I don’t need to illustrate them, you’ll understand. Let me take a look at what is driving this nation’s terrible demise, what is causing us to run so fast at the edge of the cliff. Kind of a spiritual pathology. What is on display? Let me give you a dozen things that you’ll already recognize.
Number 1: what we’re seeing that mark a doomed culture, that mark a doomed nation, one: fascination with living for pleasure, fascination with living for pleasure. Do I need to explain that or is this not the most pleasure mad society in the history of the world? Thrills, cheap thrills, mindless kicks, adventure, danger, entertainment, sports, you name it. People with too much time, without work, without self-discipline, without control; media feeing them a frenzy of entertaining devices by which they can waste their entire lives. The pursuit of pleasure, personal lusts, just feeding the very essence of fallenness.
Many years ago, Neil Postman said, “We’re amusing ourselves to death.” He was right. This is the reprobate mind, that mind that isn’t productive. It’s not disciplined. It doesn’t think deeply. It doesn’t think broadly. It doesn’t be to the culture that it exist a force for good, and greatness, and nobility, and elevation. We’re becoming more drunk on alcohol and drugs all the time. Now we’re legalizing drugs to keep people in a permanent stupor that’s legal.
Second Thessalonians 2:12 says this is a society that takes pleasure in wickedness. Titus 3:3defines it as being enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, living our life in evil. That’s the culture, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures. In fact, 2 Peter 2:13, you may have overlooked, says this: “They count it pleasure to riot. They count it pleasure to riot,” says one translation. Well, whatever they think is a fulfillment of their lusts and desires and passions, they rush to it.
First Timothy 5:6 says, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” You kill yourself chasing pleasure. It’s the death of dignity, it’s the death of respect, it’s the death of potential, it’s the death of achievement, it’s the death of refinement, it’s the death of individuality, it’s the death of development, it’s the killing of your life, it’s the killing of your future. You’ve got to get past being endlessly entertained and fulfilling your lusts and your pleasure desires, and matter in the world. That’s hard for this culture to do, very hard.
A second thing that I would mention – and I don’t need to go beyond what I’m saying; you understand all this because you see it. Secondly, we have to understand the dominance of selfishness, the dominance of selfishness; the fascination with living for pleasure and the dominance of selfishness.
Has there ever been a society as self-centered as this? Has there ever been a society this egotistical, this consumed with its own agenda. Pride and self is elevated and exalted; has been for years, and years, and years.
Psychologists have created this thing called “self-esteem.” That is a satanic idea. You’re not as important as you think you are. You are far less important than you think you are, and so am I, so are all of us. You’re not better than you think you are, you’re worse than you think you are. You are far worse than you think you are, and so am I. In God’s eyes, you are inconceivably sinful. In your own eyes, you’re something wonderful. Has there ever been such an egotistical culture.
You know, I look back at some markers. I remember watching a football game on television many years ago, and I saw the first time a football was spiked in the end zone: “Look at me.”
That was never done. I played football in high school and college. When I went into the end zone to score a touchdown, I dropped the football and went back and thanked by teammates. Then it became, “Look at me. Draw attention to me.”
I remember when Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest.” He didn’t live a legacy of boxing in the world, he left a legacy of ego in the world. That’s like a byword for the culture: “I’m the greatest.” I’m the greatest what? Why? It took a whole generation and moved them into the psychology of self-esteem.
God hates pride; He hates haughty eyes. It destroys love. It destroys relationships, all of them. What is the killer of all relationships? Pride. Pride kills all relationships. It kills care, it kills sacrifice, it kills kindness. It kills the supreme virtue of all virtues: humility.
Only humble people love. That’s why Proverbs 8:13 says, “Pride and arrogance I hate,” says the Lord. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor.” It does the opposite. Do you notice that? When pride comes, then comes dishonor. Pride doesn’t honor you, it dishonors you.
Proverbs 13:10 says, “Through pride comes strife because it destroys relationships.” Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction.” Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride shall bring him low.” And then it says, “Honor belongs to the humble.”
James and Peter both said in the New Testament God exalts the humble and abases the proud. Only humble people love. Only humble people build meaningful relationships. We have a total society consumed with people chasing their own personal exaltation and elevation. So the sins of loving pleasure and loving self cause disaster.
Number 3: the evil of materialism, the evil of materialism. In 1 Timothy 6, we’re all familiar with this, verses 9 and 10. I’m just giving you some biblical context to kind of hang these thoughts on.
First Timothy 6:9, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.” The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.
Let me tell you something: you can love it and have very little of it. It’s not money that’s the source of evil. Money can be the source of good. It’s the love of it. Things are more important than people. You kill people over a parking space. You murder somebody for the DVR.
Materialism wants everything and wants to give nothing. Jesus said, “Man’s life does not consist in the things he possesses,” Luke 12:15. Jesus said in Mark 8:36, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? What’s he going to give in exchange for his soul?”
Sinful people are consumed with pleasure, self, and stuff. They will even kill for the stuff.
The fourth thing that I think is part of the pathology of a culture that is doomed is immorality, immorality; or in our case, amorality, the absence of any morality.
First Thessalonians 4:5 says that, “The nations that know not God are driven by lust and passion. The nations that know not God are driven by lust and passion.” That is part of not knowing God; you become totally dominated by lust and passion.
The legacy of that in our culture, it’s obvious everywhere. This is a corrupt culture morally. Doesn’t show up any more clearly than consuming preoccupation with pornography. Pornography at every level, in every possible format, in every possible way, delivered by every possible means, incessantly and at all times to this culture. And they consume it faster than it can be propagated. The loss of all moral sense, the shattering of all purity, the loss of all morality; fornication rampant on every level, in every direction; infidelity, adultery, homosexuality. The smashing and crushing of family, pornography, violence, sexual, music, rap music, movies, books, popular movies that are deviant, television.
What does it lead to? Unwanted pregnancies. In major cities, 75 percent of the children born are not born to a married mother and father. So they set loose, completely disconnected, disoriented kids who come out criminals. Abortion by the millions, unwanted children.
I got a letter this week from a police officer in the Midwest named Paul who wrote me a really heart-moving letter. He said, “It’s tough here.” He said, “I go in every morning for my, basically roll call at the station, and the first thing that happens in roll call is we hear from the federal side. We hear if there are any imminent threats from terrorism, and then we hear if there are any other sort of federal crimes that we need to be aware of. And then we move to the state issues, and they tell us what dead bodies we should be looking for, and any other crimes that are sort of outside our immediate jurisdiction if we need to know about anybody that be passing through. And then we get to the local stuff, and the local stuff is all the crime we face in our faces every day in the major city that I work in.”
He said, “The other day, just to tell you how it goes, this is about as tame a thing as I would be able to tell you. The rest would make you throw up,” he wrote. And then he told me this story.
He said, “A little boy with a cell phone in his hand, a phone that comes out of the home that you put in a little dock you use at home. He came running into the police department in stocking feet, bleeding all over with this cell phone in his hand, with the phone from home in his hand. And as the story unfolded, it turned out that his arms were just a mass of bleeding, his forearms, everywhere on his arms, blood everywhere; and his feet were all bloody.
“And the story began to unfold that he was a foster child in a foster home, and he had not cleaned his ice cream dish; and so as punishment, his parents had put him up against sand of stuccoed walled all dragged him back-and-forth hard against that wall until his forearms bled. And then said that he hadn’t picked up his shoes, and so they took his socks off and dragged him up-and-down the hall in his bare feet until his feet bled. Then they made him go out in the backyard and clean up and pick up sticks without any shoes or any socks, and that added to the damage to his feet. And, eventually, he was in so much pain and so terrified, that he grabbed the phone off the dock at his house and he started to call 911.
“He’s 11 years old. He started to 911 and his parents saw him, and so he ran out the front door and bolted, and he only knew one place to run. So he ran with his stockings on and ran into the police department.” This is a world we live in. He said, “That’s the part that I could tell you about and not make you sick.” That makes me sick.
This culture is perverse. Single parents abused children, rape, neglected infants, unwanted families, juvenile sex, venereal disease, every possible deviation. Now the Supreme Court of the United States of America is going to either do one of two things: either legalize homosexual marriage, or they’re going to kick it back to the states and let the states do it; and then eventually it’ll come.
Just to remind you that Genesis 19, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexuality. They were so driven by the passion of homosexuality in Sodom that they tried to rape the angels who came to Lot’s house. And in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13, it says if people engage in homosexuality, they’re to be executed. That was the Old Testament law.
First Corinthians 6 says, “No homosexual will enter the kingdom of God, along with no adulterer, or any other sinner.” That is a sin that keeps people out of the kingdom of God. But 1 Corinthians 6 also says, “Such were some of you; but you’re washed, you’re sanctified, you’re justified.” We have to tell those people that sin is a sin that will keep them out of heaven unless they repent, and they can be washed and justified.
When you see that kind of thing happening in the culture, you know we’re in Romans 1, don’t you, that God has given us over to homosexual revolution, men doing what is unseemly with men, and receiving in their own bodies the due reward, AIDS. Women with women; Romans 1 says that. Spell it out. That’s the very evidence of it, a population driven by sexual deviation, perversion, and lust, TV, music, films. Every day exacerbates the problem. So these are the things that mark our society: love of pleasure, love of self, love of things, and sexual perversion.
Number 5: the deadly danger of anger. Anger was once recognized as a sin. Everybody recognized it as a sin. Just a normal, healthy culture recognized that anger had no place, that anger ate up the person who was angry and damaged the relationships of everybody around that person.
Self-control used to be something socially valuable. It used to be valuable if you thought something and kept your mouth shut and didn’t say it. It didn’t all of a sudden become a virtue for you to vent every angry thought you have as if some kind of psychologically freeing experience. It is in itself damaging.
Psychologists say anger is healthy. I’ve heard it all the time: “People have a right to be angry. They have a right to be angry. They have a right to do what they want. They have a right to react the way they react. They have every right to do that.” Really?
Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and evil speaking be put away from you, along with all the rest of the evil.” James 1:20, “The wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.” Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Anger lives in the heart of a fool.”
Read Proverbs. All through Proverbs there are proverbs that warn us against the deadly danger of anger. Anger is the venting of the flesh. The works of the flesh are anger, Galatians 5:19-21. Anger destroys.
You say, “Well, what about somebody who treats you unjustly?” Well, Jesus is the model, 1 Peter 2, when He was reviled, He reviled not again. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Following on the heels of that is the deadliness of vengeance, vengeance. You have a culture that loves to feed on vengeance. Videogames are filled with this, dominating the lives of junior high kids, creating a culture of people, a whole society of people, entire generations of people who are into vengeance.
This is another dominant sin in our day. It’s hailed as a virtue: retaliation, getting back. Chain reactions of evil: you get them back; they get you back. You get them back; they get you back; and that’s how life is lived. It’s like life in a biker gang, or like in an inner city gang: you do them; they do to you. So you do to them and they do to you, and you have an amoral, antisocial, destructive, murderous culture, all because of vengeance.
Vengeance is in the human heart, it’s in the human heart. We want to get it. We want to get our pound of flesh. We want vengeance when somebody does something wrong.
Vengeance is such a natural thing that in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 19, Joshua 20, God in Israel created cities called cities of refuge so that if somebody accidentally took a life – it could happen when you’re out working, doing something like using an ax, as it talks about; and somehow the ax slips or goes in the wrong direction and someone dies. There needed to be cities of refuge, because immediately what was natural to the human heart was vengeance on somebody who really did something without premeditation, and just by accident. So God ordained cities where people could go and they would be safe there until the thing could be handled correctly – cities of refuge. And that was simply so there’d be a place for people to hide from avengers.
You know, if you read 1 Samuel 24, a beautiful picture of David who is unwilling to take vengeance on Saul. He has him where he could kill him and he doesn’t do it. And then in the next chapter of 1 Samuel 25, he restrains his vengeance against Nabal; you remember that story. There’s an intervention and he backs off.
It’s in the human heart to take vengeance, we remember this, 1 Thessalonians 4:6, “The Lord is avenger. The Lord is the avenger.” It’s what it says. Vengeance is destructive of the avenger, destructive of the avenger, destructive of the culture; glorified in movies, glorified in videogames. We have furious, angry, vengeful, retaliating people filling up this culture, shootings every day. The Bible absolutely forbids this, absolutely forbids it.
In Leviticus 19, I’ll just read this to you, verse 16: “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you’re not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your fellow countrymen in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, you shall not bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the context for “love your neighbor as yourself,” not taking vengeance.
How would that change our culture? Massive problem. And that leads me to another, Romans 12: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “Vengeance is Mine, I will – ” listen, God keeps all those accounts; you don’t have to do that. And Number 7 on my list: The absence of forgiveness. There is an utter absence of forgiveness, and that kind of goes along with it. Whatever happened to, “I forgive you.”
My brother-in-law, sister-in-law (Patricia’s sister), had a wonderful son in our church and he was working up at a market near here a number of years ago. And a guy came in to rob the market, and Tim tried to intervene, and shot him dead. I remember when his dad Dwayne went to the hospital to tell the killer he forgave him and give him the gospel.
Number 8: The divisiveness of prejudice. The divisiveness of prejudice. I could say more about that; I won’t. The divisiveness of prejudice – Jonah was prejudiced. Obviously, the whole story of Jonah is he didn’t want Gentiles horning in on the blessings from his God.
Proverbs 24:23, “To show partiality and judgment is not good.” John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance.” First Timothy 5, “Do nothing with partiality.” “God is not a respecter of persons,” Acts 10. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Who’s my neighbor?” the lawyer said in Luke 10. “Who’s my neighbor?” And what was the answer Jesus gave? “The Samaritan, who is your enemy, your mortal enemy – ” Jews and Samaritans had no dealings “ – he’s your neighbor, he’s your neighbor. You’ve got to get over the prejudiced towards Samaritans.” There’s a Jew line there: “You’re a Samaritan; you need to reach out to him.” The Good Samaritan. You’ve got to get over the prejudice.
Prejudice is shredding this country. It’s a dishonor to God. It’s a dishonor to the body of Christ. It’s a horrible dishonor to the culture. As Christians, we love everyone; all in Christ are one, neither Jew, nor Greek; nor male, nor female; nor bond, nor free; nor rich, nor poor; black or white or brown, or anything like that. We love the way God loves. The divisiveness of prejudice which runs deep in the heart is destructive.
Number 9: The seriousness of loss of respect for authority. The seriousness of loss of respect for authority. Undermining respect for authority is a deadly thing, Romans 13. We talked about that in February and I told you that God instituted government as an authority and gave government the sword; and the duty of government is to protect those who do good and punish evildoers. And we are told in Romans 13 to submit to the powers that be because they are ordained of God. And we’re told in Peter’s epistle that we are to honor the king and those who are in authority over us, and we are to live peaceable lives.
We have an entire culture that hates all authority: parental authority, teacher’s authority, police authority, any authority. Undermining respect for authority is a deadly, deadly sin. There are even things that our government does to undermine its own authority, and to undermine other governments’ authority. You don’t accomplish anything good when you create distrust of authority.
Number 10: The disaster of civil rebellion. Civil rebellion is just collective anger against authority, collective anger against authority; and we’re seeing that more often now than I can ever remember. And just two more.
Number 11: The decline in swift and severe punishment. The decline in swift and severe punishment. There’s a very interesting verse in Ecclesiastes 8:11. Listen to this: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”
You want to turn criminals loose; just delay their sentence, just delay the process, just delay the consequences. And if you push the consequences out far enough, you literally encourage them to crime. We’re pretty good at that in this society.
Finally, we have said that trouble with society is civil rebellion, lack of respect, prejudice, unforgiveness, vengeance, anger, hate sexual perversion, love of things, love of self, love of pleasure; and finally, a desire for weak, impotent, and immoral leaders; a desire for weak, impotent, and immoral leaders.
I don’t think this country cares about the character of its leaders. Some do; we do. Proverbs 16:12, “It’s an abomination for rulers to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness, or justice.” Proverbs 29:2, “When the wicked rule, people groan.” Proverbs 29:12, “If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his ministers become wicked. If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his ministers become wicked.” What is the principle there? You allow lies and you’ll attract liars. You’re corrupt and you’ll be surrounded by more corrupt people.
Now on the other hand, 2 Samuel 23, “God gives His picture of a leader. These are the last words of David: “David the son of Jesse declares – ” but these are the words of God in verse 3: “The God of Israel said: The Rock of Israel spoke. ‘He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain.’” A ruler who rules righteously in the fear of the Lord is like a beautiful dawn and a fresh rain. Those who rule in utter submission to God and righteousness make life beautiful.
All right, symptoms. So where are we now? You have to give me another few minutes. Our times are dominated by these kinds of things. These are the motives, incentives, attitudes of our culture. And it isn’t the whole list; just read Romans 1. The false church won’t help. Nothing superficial will help. The sickness is incurable.
So where are we? What are we facing? What do we do? Turn to Exodus 20. Just be patient for a few minutes because I want to bring this to its necessary conclusion, Exodus 20. This is the Ten Commandments.
The most important commandment of all has to do with God. “I am the Lord your God,” verse 2, Exodus 20. By the say, this is repeated in Deuteronomy 5, the same thing. God repeated this when they got back into the land later. This is when they left Egypt. He repeats it when they are ready to go back into Canaan.
“I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the water or under the earth. No other gods, no idols. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. Okay, you worship Me and Me alone, Me and Me alone, or I will be visiting the iniquity of the fathers – ” plural – the leaders, those in responsible positions. The fathers represent those who lead the society. “I will be visiting the iniquity of those leaders on the children – ” plural “ – on the third and fourth generations – ” plural “ – of those who – ” notice this, what “ – hate Me.”
Listen: any other god but the God of Scripture, any god that anybody devises, the god of Islam, the god of Mormonism, the god of Judaism – any other god but the God who is the Trinity; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the God of Scripture, Old Testament and New; the God of the gospel. Any other god is an idol. Any other god is an idol, whether you’re an atheist or you worship a false god, that’s idolatry.
If you’re an atheist, you worship yourself. But any other god means you hate the true God, that’s what it says. “Those are those who hate Me,” and that’s what we’re seeing in this country, folks. You have to see, they hate God. They hate the true God. And Jesus said in John 15, “They hate My Father and they hate Me, and they will hate you.”
We just have to set the record straight, this is how it is, okay. This society is not your friend. They hate God; they hate Christ; they hate you. This is going to create generational impact to the third and fourth generation.
What does that mean? Please, it doesn’t mean when a father sins, his kids pay. No, it’s not a father, it’s fathers. It’s not a child, it’s children. It’s not a generation, it’s generations. What this says is when you have a corrupt generation, it will take three or four generations with the best conditions to change that.
So here it is: you’re not going to fix it; don’t try. Neither will your children, neither will your grandchildren, and probably neither will your great-grandchildren. This is your world, and their world, and the next world, and the next world. And it may be the last one; Jesus may come. But you’re not going to change it, so stop trying. You can’t change it politically, can’t change it financially, it’s how it is.
Ezekiel 18:20 says the sins of an individual are never punished in his children. You only are punished for your own sins; that’s a different issue. This is generational impact. A corrupt generation gets so embedded that it takes generations, if ever, to root it out. That’s where we are: lust for pleasure, selfishness, materialism, sexual perversion, anger, hate, vengeance, unforgiveness, prejudice, lack of submission to authority, civil rebellion, corrupt leadership. That’s going to be around for your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren. It’s not going to change.
So what do we do? Well, first of all, remember this: this culture is not going to help you in anything that is God-honoring. Don’t look to the culture for any help in your personal holiness. In order for you to be personally holy, you need to separate. This culture offers you nothing. The less exposure, the better.
There was a time when I was a boy growing up that it was cultural morality, cultural dignity, cultural honor, cultural honesty. There was a kind of Christian mentality. No more; they’re your enemy. They hate everything that you love. They’re you’re enemy. They’re God’s enemy, Christ’s enemy, your enemy. They’re not going to help you in your personal life: separate.
Parents, they’re not going to help you in your parenting. They’re not going to help you; you’ve got to know that. They’re not going to help you. They’re not going to help you in any way. They’re not going to help you through the toys they make for your kids. They’re not going to help you through the entertainment they provide for your kids. They’re not going to help you through the schools. They’re not going to help you. They’re against you.
This raises the stakes in personal holiness and raises the stakes in parenting. And they’re not going to help the church, they’re going to come against us really strong. They’re going to come against us maybe with taxation and who knows what, against Christian colleges and those who hold to the things of the Word of God. They’re not going to help. The culture is destructive; it is the enemy of God.
Now here’s my message, because that was the introduction. Okay, this is it. Now listen; wake up. Turn to Matthew 5:43. Okay, let’s be like the Jews in Jesus’ day. Mathew 5:43, “You’ve heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, your fellow Christian, and – ’ what ‘ – hate your enemy.’” Is that what we do? Is that what we do? No.
What did Jesus say? “You don’t hate your enemy. I say to you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Listen to me: you’re never more like God than when you love your enemies, because you were one of the enemies God loved. Romans 5:10, “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God.” Right?
Listen, here’s the message: Your enemy is your mission field. Your enemy is your mission field. The world of enemies was God’s mission field. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Don’t hate the enemy; love the enemy as God loves the enemy and sent His Son for their salvation.
And remember this: to convert a sinner from his eternal doom is an event of far greater significance than the deliverance of an entire nation from temporal evil. Did you get that? To convert one sinner from his eternal doom is an event of far greater significance than the deliverance of an entire nation from temporal evil. We’re not here to deliver a nation from temporal evil. We’re here to say with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to anyone who believes, Jew or Gentile.
So what’s our job? Go into the mission field, love them the way God loves them, and preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and let the kingdom advance one soul at a time. Amen? Okay, it’s time for amen. Amen. Let’s pray.
Father, we’re so grateful that we’ve been able to be together this morning and worship and consider these precious truths. And give us clarity and understanding in the time in which we live. Help us, Lord, to be a force for the gospel in this very, very doomed world. Lord, open up doors for us to preach Christ to perishing souls. Use us, Lord, to call Your own to Yourself. Help us to be faithful in proclaiming the truth and living it out. We’ll thank You, in Christ’s name. Amen.
Take your Bible and turn back to the text which I read earlier in Hebrews chapter 12. As you know, this is a great and monumental Scripture. There is much here to be considered. In the brief time that we have as we anticipate sharing in the Lord's table, I want us to focus only one one phrase, just one phrase of great import and that phrase is found in verse 1. It says, "The sin which so easily entangles us." I want to see if we can't this morning talk about dealing with entangling sin.
It is the nature of man, even the nature of a believer, to be easily entangled in sin. It happens so easily. And frankly, there are certain sins which more easily entangle each of us than other ones. Each of us in our own lives have certain propensities for specific kinds of sins. It can be because we have in the past life cultivated habits of sin which now plague us even after our salvation. It could be because in our spiritual weakness even after becoming Christians we continued o develop habits of certain types of sin, certain specific sins that now we find more easily than others do entangle us.
It is true of every Christian that we have certain sins that easily capture us. But it is also true in general that sin easily entangles us. Not all sins are what we could call "our personal entangling sins," or "our personal besetting sins," "our personal habitual sins," the sins which we commit and then confess and then commit again and then confess and then commit again and then confess and go on that way in our lives. Some sins fall into this category but in general all sin seems to have sway with us.
And maybe it will help you to understand why that is true if I just give you three very simple points about sin. First of all, sin has great power...sin has great power over our flesh. Sin has great power over our flesh. The reason it so easily entangles us is because of its power, its strength, its force. It exerts strong influence on our will. It exerts strong influence on our motions. it exerts strong influence on our affections. It rarely suggests things to us, it almost always commands them. It rarely leads, it most always pushes from the rear, drives, forces. Galatians 5:17 says, "The flesh sets its desire against the spirit." They are in opposition to one another so that you may not do the things you please. The beachhead that sin has with its power is our flesh. And sin exerts tremendous power, tremendous strength against our flesh. It is a very powerful force. And it finds in our flesh a very willing ally, a very receptive environment.
Secondly, sin easily entangles us because it is so close, it is so close. More than just forcing its way from the outside powerfully on our flesh, it forces its way on our flesh, as it were, from within us...from within the very flesh. It is very close. In fact, it is in our being. You can become a monk and sit in a cave and you will still deal with sin. Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil." The point being you can no more change the internal sinfulness that is a part of your life then the leopard can change his spots or the Ethiopian can change the color of his skin. It is a part of what you are. Sin is very powerful and finds a willing ally in your flesh because your flesh is fallen and your flesh itself has propensities toward sin. Sin is very close. Your heart, says Jeremiah 17:9, is deceitful, it is more deceitful than everything else and is desperately sick.
There's a third component that makes sin easily entangled into our lives and that is that sin does not remain separate but it mingles in all our motives and all our actions. Sin is powerful, sin is near in that it is in us, and it isn't categorically separated. You can't draw a line and say..."Well this is where my righteousness ends and this is where my sinfulness begins." It has a way of weaving itself into the fabric of all our duties and all our motives and all our thoughts and all our actions. It entangles itself with our purposes and our plans. In fact, even your best deed, even your best deed is not unmixed with sin. It is tangled up in our lives. In Romans 7 Paul cries out, "O wretched man that I am." Why? Because no matter how I try I cannot disentangle myself from sin.
And so, sin is powerful and sin is near even within us and sin does not separate itself but is mingled into everything. It is interwoven with everything in our lives. The best that we do is somehow corrupted in some way, large or small, by a taint of self-will or self-pleasure or self-aggrandizement or self- righteousness, or self-gain or whatever. And so we become easily entangled. And as I said, there are certain sins that more easily entangle us, each of us, than others do.
But if we are going to be the kind of Christians God would want us to be, this verse says, "Let us lay aside the sin which so easily entangles us." Put it aside, put it away. Now the question comes...how do we do that? How do we do that? It's not the first time we've been commanded to do that. Second Corinthians 7:1 says, "Let us cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh."Ephesians 4:22 says, "Laying aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit." Romans 6:12 says, "Don't let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lust." First Peter 2 and verse 1 says, "Lay aside all evil." And verse 11, "Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." So we are very often told to set this aside.
The question comes...how do we do that from a practical standpoint? We know, yes, it is the work of the Spirit and if you walk in the Spirit you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We give all the credit for this to the divine Holy Spirit and yet there is a responsibility that is ours as we yield to the Spirit. How can I lay this aside?
Before I answer that question, let me suggest to you that this is an appropriate moment to be discussing this. I suppose it would be typical for many Christians, if not most, to come to the Lord's table and confess their sins in order that they might partake of this table and not bring judgment on themselves, as Paul warned us. And so we tend to come here perhaps with our accumulated sin from the last time that we had communion or the last time we seriously confessed our sin, but with really very little change in the pattern of sinning. And that's because while we want to confess our sins and have the confidence that He is faithful and just to forgive them, we don't take the steps, the necessary steps to so live that every time we come there is a decreased load of sin. The list is a little shorter because we're dealing with it on a day-to-day basis, we're laying it aside. We're not just accumulating it at the same rate, dumping it all, as it were, on Christ, receiving His forgiveness in those great moments of confession, but seeing no diminishing pattern of sin in the day-to-day routine of our life. So let us then this day as we come to unburden ourselves of the accumulated sin and confess it and make our hearts right with God also make a covenant, also make steps of commitment to start out a new pattern of life in which we will take strides, take the necessary strides to lay sin aside...a preventative act, not simply a remedial act of confession.
Let me give you some principles that will assist you in laying aside sin. Number one, don't underestimate the seriousness of your sin. I think the major reason we don't deal with sin strongly and firmly is because we underestimate its seriousness to God...to God, to us, to those with whom we fellowship, to the church, to the unbelievers. Our sin steals joy. Our sin ruins fellowship with God. Our sin diminishes fruitfulness. Our sin robs us of peace. Our sin renders our service useless. Our sin mitigates against our effectiveness in evangelism. Our sin hinders our prayers. Our sin brings the discipline of God. We need to understand the seriousness of our sin. It violates first and foremost our relationship with the Lord.
One of the most tragic days in the history of England was August 17, 1662. A tragic day because it was the last day for certain pastors to be able to preach to their congregations before they were exiled. Some of them lost their lives. Some of them were exiled out of England to other countries. What precipitated this was something called "the act of conformity." Through the years there had been developing in England a group of preachers and a group of churches that were called "non- conformists" because they did not subscribe to all of the ritual and ceremony of the Church of England and nor did they confine their worship to the Book of Common Prayer. They were more concerned about biblical Christianity, they were more concerned about teaching proper doctrine. They were more concerned about worshiping God in spirit and in truth and so they were known as non-conformists. Many of you would know them as Puritans. They did not conform to the strictures of the Church of England, which, of course, had neglected the Word of God and the gospel for the most part.
And so a law was passed making them illegal. Twenty-five hundred of their ministers were exiled, forbidden to preach. Three thousand non-conformists were killed and 60,000 families were disrupted. And it all came to focus on August 17, 1662 because that was the last Sunday when these non-conformist preachers could preach in their churches.
For the last two weeks I've been reading a book called Farewell Sermons, it is a compilation of twenty-four of the sermons preached on that day...sermons from a pastor who would never see his people again, some of them died in exile, some of them later came back. But this was the end of their ministry and this terrible terrible thing was being done, this terrible act of persecution. And they were being dispossessed. The churches were losing them as their pastors. There were going to be none to replace them and they were being shipped off to exile.
It's very interesting to see their...their approach, to hear their sermons, to see and hear what was really on their hearts. None of the sermons which I have read so far were self-serving. None of them condemned really the government for what it did. None of them were vengeful or retaliatory. There was a common thread in all of them. All of them sort of were along this line, "This is the will of God, we accept the will of God, we gladly suffer with Christ and our greatest concern is what happens to you."
One of the sermons struck me as extremely powerful, preached by a man named Calamy, C-a-l-a-m-y. He made one statement in this sermon that struck me, he said to his people, "You have experienced a calamity, this is a calamitous thing...this is a calamitous event." But then he said this, and I quote, "There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest calamity." There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest calamity. And he later said, "There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest misery." That is profound.
You look at your life and generally speaking you are distressed about your calamities and you are distressed about your miseries but you are tolerant about your sins. You do not understand what that man understood. There is more evil in the least sin than the greatest calamity. A calamity, a certain misery is not necessarily sin. Sin is sin. Treat your sin seriously. It dishonors God. It abuses mercy. It despises grace. It presumes on forgiveness. It defiles worship, service and fellowship. It stains and taints and poisons and destroys everything good and holy.
Secondly, another principle that is necessarily understood if you're to lay aside sin, strongly purpose and promise God not to sin...strongly purpose and promise God not to sin. Take a solemn vow and say, "God, I do not want to sin. I don't want to break Your law. I don't want to grieve Your Spirit. I don't want to dishonor the name of Your Son which I bear."
The psalmist did that in Psalm 119:106, "I have sworn and I will confirm it that I will keep Thy righteous ordinances." Unless you have that kind of resolution in your life, you'll find it more easy to be entangled by sin. In fact, I believe it is that kind of heart purpose, it is that kind of bold affirmation that is at the root of all holy living. And until you make that kind of conscious commitment to the Lord, you're going to battle the same things over and over and be defeated.
There's a great verse, verse 32, in the same Psalm, Psalm 119, "I shall run the way of Thy commandments for Thou wilt enlarge my heart." It's a very beautiful picture. I shall run the way of Thy commandments for Thou wilt enlarge my heart. What it means is I'm going to run in the way of obedience because I have a heart to do that. It starts in the heart. It's like a runner, very good illustration, a great runner, a long-distance runner, an endurance runner, a marathoner very often has an enlarged heart muscle because of the tremendous development of his running ability and the strengthening of his heart to keep pumping all that is needed to that body as it pushes itself beyond normal limits. And a great runner can run the way he runs because his heart is enlarged. And the psalmist is saying, "I will run in the way of Your commandments because You have enlarged my heart, You've given me a heart for obedience."
That's the kind of purpose that is absolutely essential. There's a great difference, you see, between sin dwelling in us and sin entertained by us. There's a great difference between sin remaining and sin harbored or sin preserved. And to lay aside sin means to purpose and promise God to obey, a firm promise...I promise You I will obey You.
There's a third component in this kind of commitment to lay aside sin and it is this, be suspicious of your own spirituality...be suspicious of your own spirituality. Paul said it this way, "Let the one who stands take heed lest he fall." Job 31:1, Job said, "I made a covenant with my eyes, how then can I gaze on a virgin?" He said I've got to be careful where I look because I don't trust myself. I've got to start with what I see because I don't trust myself.
Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence for our of it are the issues of life." There's a certain watchfulness. You have to be watching for sin's subtle movements within your own supposed spirituality. Your heart is, as I noted, desperately wicked, very deceitful. And Satan is desperately wicked and very deceitful. And the seducing motions of your own heart can sometimes rise out of the moments of your most supposed spirituality. Be suspicious of your own spirituality, don't trust it. Understand that except for the grace of God you would fall into any and every sin and you can be deceived so easily.
Fourthly, resist the first risings of the flesh and its pleasures...resist the first risings of the flesh and its pleasures. Don't try to stop the process near the end, stop it near the beginning. James notes for us a certain process, "People are tempted when they're carried away and enticed by their own lust, then when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin." Well you want to stop it at the point of conception not try to stop it at the point of birth. You want to stop sin at conception after its been conceived and run through a certain period of pregnancy, if you will, and now is about to give birth to the sin. You don't try to stop it at that point, you resist and oppose the first risings of the flesh and its pleasures. Sin comes to you promising pleasure. And you remember at the very outset, my goal is not to please myself but to please the Lord.
There's a fifth principle in this and that is meditate on the Word...meditate on the Word. There's a wonderful verse, verse 31 of Psalm 37, you probably should write this down...Psalm 37:31, it's a bit more obscure than some but it really is very very important, listen to what it says. "The law of his God is in his heart. His steps do not slip." The law of his God is in his heart, his steps do not slip. When a heart is controlled by the Word, the steps don't slip.
Another more familiar text dealing with this and a wonderful one at that is Psalm 119. And you remember that that Psalm begins in the very first part of those 176 verses with these words, down in verse 9 of Psalm 119, "How can a young man keep his way pure?" How can you lay aside sin? How can you win this battle? "By keeping it according to Thy Word." By guarding it with Scripture. It is the constant input of the Word of God that begins to fill up the mind and control the thinking and that alone becomes the strength and resource in us that can resist the initial impulses of the flesh. How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping his heart completely committed and guarded by the Word of God. Then in verse 10, "With all my heart I have sought Thee, do not let me wander from Thy commandments, Thy Word I have treasured, or hid, or kept in my heart that I may not sin against Thee." It is the Scripture that must be meditated on. Meditate on the Word of God. You are always studying the Word...studying the Word...learning the Word...learning the Word...meditating on the Word. As you get the Word so filling you up so that it dwells in you richly,Colossians 3:16, you will find that it controls you. And as you start in to some kind of attitude of sin or some kind of act of sin, the Word of God will act as a restraint. When you feel the impulse of the truth you know, meditate on that, not on the enticings of the flesh and its pleasures.
So watch for sin's subtleties and don't trust your own spirituality. Resist and oppose the first risings of the flesh and its desires to please itself and meditate on the Word, the engrafted Word which is able to save your souls. Number six, be immediately repentant over your lapses...be immediately repentant over your lapses. It says in Matthew 26:75 that Peter having obviously been aware of his sin at the crowing of the cock went out and wept bitterly. Something very admirable in that. We castigate, and rightly so, Peter for his defection but we must also honor and respect him for his immediate...his immediate remorse. Be immediately repentant over your lapses and go back to the place of confession. And repentance isn't only saying, "I'm sorry, Lord, forgive me," it is saying, "I'm sorry, Lord, forgive me and I don't want to ever do that again." That's the stuff of real repentance. And if that third element isn't there then you're not fooling God about the genuineness or lack of genuineness.
When you confess your sins and when you say "I'm sorry I did that, please forgive me, I don't ever want to do it again," name it...name it specifically. Let your own heart and even your own ears hear the naming of that sin so that you develop in your heart a high degree of accountability with God for having named the very sin for which He is holding you accountable not to commit again. That's how you develop accountability. That's how you develop the fear of God. If you hold back from naming your sin it's because you want to do that again and it's bad enough to sin without having to be responsible for telling God you didn't want to do it and defying what you told Him so you'd rather sin only once rather than twice, that's why you don't want to name your sin. Then you're guilty not only of sinning again but of being hypocritical before God. True repentance will name the sin, specifically name the sin. Be immediately repentant over your lapses.
Number seven, and there are...just one more after this...continually pray for divine help...continually pray for divine help. Ephesians 6:18, after all the armor is put on and the battle against Satan and demons, after all of the warfare has been said and the battle is engaged against Satan and all of his forces he says, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication." Jesus said to His disciples, "Watch and pray for you know not when you're going to enter into the hour of temptation." Devote yourselves to prayer, Colossians 4:2, being alert in it. Don't fight the enemy on your own. When you engage the enemy, pray...plead with help. But even in a preliminary sense, I really think anticipatory prayer is the most effective. You need to start your day, "Lord, this is the way you taught us to pray, lead us not into...what?...temptation...and deliver us from evil, Lord, please today lead me away from temptation, please today, Lord, deliver me from evil." You need to set the course of your prayers before the tempter arrives, before the flesh begins to rise and entice.
And then lastly, establish relationships with other believers. Establish relationships with other believers that hold you accountable. Establish relationships with other believers that hold you accountable. "Bear ye one another's burdens," says Paul in Galatians 6, "and so fulfill the law of Christ." We are all in the same boat, folks, we all struggle the same way and we need each other. "If a man is caught in a paraptoma, a fall, a sin, a trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one look into yourself lest you too be tempted, bear one another's burdens." We're all in this together. It might be you going down this time, it might be me going down next time but between the two of us we're going to hold ourselves accountable for holy living.
By the way, that is in my judgment the greatest factor in a Christian marriage is the intense and intimate spiritual accountability with regard to sin that exists at that level. That is a very very important reason for Christian marriage. I believe that there ought to be in every single sense a high-level of spiritual accountability between a husband and a wife for every aspect of their life in that marriage. The most intimate knowledge of my spiritual life apart from God Himself is in the mind and heart of my wife. The most intimate knowledge of her spiritual life and her struggle as a Christian apart from God Himself is in my mind and heart. We know each other better than anybody in the world knows us. Therein lies the highest level of spiritual accountability...for me and for her. No one apart from God Himself holds me as accountable for what I am before you and before the Lord as she does, and vice versa. And that is what makes a Christian marriage really Christian and really distinctive. That's the highest level of accountability.
But beyond that, there are other relationships in which you engage that can be very very strengthening for your own spiritual life. You want people around you who lift you up, not people around you who pull you down. You want people around you associated with you as friends and close co-workers who will see your failures just like you'll see theirs, love you in the process and lift you up and demand of you the highest standards.
How are you going to come to the place where you lay aside the sin that so easily entangles you and especially those besetting sins which you tend to fall into over and over again? First of all, realize sin is powerful, it is near, even in you, and it is intertwined with everything in your being. And in order to deal with it you must understand its seriousness. You must promise God not to sin. You must watch carefully for your own spiritual weaknesses. Don't trust your spirituality. You must resist the first risings of sin in the flesh. You must meditate on the Word. You must be repentant immediately for the lapses that come. You much continue in prayer and dependence on God's power and establish intimate relationships of spiritual accountability.
And I would say that there's no better place to start this kind of life pattern then right here at the Lord's table. We're here not only to unload the burden of sin we've accumulated for which we will be forgiven, but I hope we're here to start afresh in a new course that's going to bring us back here next time with a lighter load and a shorter list. And maybe the sum of it all is found here in Hebrews chapter 12 in those wonderful and magnificent words, verse 2, "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith."
Listen, He is one who in His striving against sin never fell...never fell. He was in all points tempted like as we are yet He was without sin...He never fell, He never succumbed. So if you're going to look at somebody as a model, look at Him. He was striving with sin even to death and never fell. He's our model, He's our example. So we're here to remember His death, we're here to ask His forgiveness and we're here to ask Him again to be our example as we lay aside our sin and fix our eyes on Him to follow the path of victory over the sin that easily entangles us. Let's bow together in prayer.
Father, we thank You that again Your Word speaks so pointedly and powerfully and directly to our hearts. We thank You that You have given us the resident Holy Spirit who can enable us to be obedient when we otherwise would not have the strength. Help us this morning to make the vows that we've learned about as we've considered about entangling sin and how to deal with it. Help us to take these steps so that we can pursue the path of holiness and not need to be disciplined as often so that we can not miss the joy and the peace that should be ours and the usefulness and fellowship and ministry. And now as we come to this table, we pray that as we think of the bread and the cup we will remember what a price our Lord paid for our sin. And we will take it seriously as You do, we come to confess our sin and to renew our covenant, to lay sin aside, to walk in a holy way. We now confess our sins, all of them, and ask You to wash us and make us clean, forgive us every sin known and unknown, every sin. And help us, Lord, not to do them again but to walk in obedience.