Art aficionados for centuries have unanimously agreed that Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, the “Mona Lisa” is the world’s most famous work of art. The 500 year old painting is kept in a climate controlled display case behind bullet proof glass. Curators, security guards, and experts in art preservation at the Louvre Museum in France are meticulous in their handling and care of this priceless masterpiece.
Now try and imagine what would happen if a bottle of paint thinner were to inadvertently spill over the surface of Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile resulting in a painting resembling more of a Picasso than a Da Vinci. Wailing would be heard in every corridor of every art museum throughout the planet. Within the cultured world of art the tragic event would instantly become the top news story of the day, the week, perhaps even the century. The painting would most likely be ruined forever. And this from a simple drop of paint thinner allowed to seep into the oils of what was once considered the most famous artwork in the world.
Visualize this tragic occurrence and then transfer that image to the tragic consequences of your own sin. Let us not limit this sin to its mere consequences. For how much more valuable are you than even the most famous painting in the world? Jesus pointed out the birds of the air which are taken care of by God then said, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt. 6:26c)
When you sin, you are, in essence, causing insurmountable devastation, not only to your own life, but contributing to the debilitating cycle of pain and misfortune your sin has upon those around you. Like a cancer, it continues to unleash its life destroying agents and becomes a festering sore upon humanity. Even more than its dreadful stain upon life, is its affront to the absolute Holiness of God. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.” (Isaiah 64:6-7)
It is easy for us to see the ugliness of sin in others. We have our list of sins and we rank them. Even if we recognize our “mistake” and feel sorrowful for a season, we still justify it or lessen its impact. We are cavalier in our response to our own sin, for after-all, the culture around us is saturated with a myriad of “acceptable” sins. The very wrongs our God has emphatically stated are against his divine directives are even sanctioned and worse, venerated in our culture. If we could ever grasp just how impactful our sin, even the “smallest” sin, is in contrast to the goodness and holiness of God, it might cause a paradigm shift in the way we view ourselves and the grace of God.
Some of you, who are Christians, may exclaim, “Praise God for His Grace.” Praise Him indeed. How highly do you value His grace? In the example of the tragic loss of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, I wonder how the art world would react to God’s grace being able to restore this remarkable work of art. How much more would we value not only the painting, but the gift of restoration from this Master Rejuvenator? How much more would we sing his praises? Carry that scenario over to the gift of grace that was made on your behalf. You are a creation far more valuable than the work by mere human hands. God’s grace has been bestowed upon you through the costly sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Let us open our eyes and take notice. How highly do we esteem this sacrifice when we take such a casual view of our sin? Let us love and reverence our gracious Creator. With love for God and our fellow man becoming our heart’s cry, along with an accurate awareness of the atrocious nature of our sin, we may more easily live a worthy and victorious life.
Why then, do we take such a callous attitude towards the One to whom we must all give an account for our heart’s affections and life choices?
Let’s travel back in time, long before you were born, long before Christ walked this earth, long before Moses handed down God’s directives, all the way back to the days when our ancestor’s, Adam and Eve walked in harmony with their Creator. Few examples today portray the kind of relationship this couple experienced with God. But then something happened which perfectly composes the very fiber of today’s sin filled world.
Satan, that crafty serpent, posed a question which has remained in the minds of all men and women since. He hinted, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) Notice the inference of this question. “Did God really say…” suggests to Eve and to us that God can be judged. Satan suggests that we can live autonomous lives apart from the authority, wisdom, and directives of God. Secondly, Satan twisted the words of God. God did not say, “any tree”. In fact, He told Adam he could eat from any tree in the garden… even the tree of “Life”. He commanded Adam (and thus Eve) not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned Adam that, “for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” This declaration from God was also discounted by the Adversary. We do the same. Death did indeed come to Adam and Eve. Spiritual death came immediately and physical death many years later. But make no mistake. Disobedience to God brings about death. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) Those nasty little DNA’s of Adam and Eve have transported their spiritual comatose hearts down through the generations of mankind, showing up in you and me. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Thus the very nature of sin is to subsist in our own godhead. At the heart of every act of disobedience is the declaration, “I am the captain of my soul.” You may be surprised at the frequency of this occurrence, not just in society, but even in your best of intentions and life principles. See which ones apply to you:
Trusting in the principles of this world over God’s principles found in his Word
I’m going to live life my way without any regard to God’s rule in my life
Living to please self rather than living to please God
Ignoring any sense of accountability to God – after-all, it’s my life and my time
Believing that it’s better to “try out” my potential mate first by living with and having sex with him or her, rather than trusting God’s authority through his standards for sex and marriage
Having the attitude that your money is yours with no appreciation or reverence for the One who graciously provides for your needs
Trusting in Church tradition and the principles of men rather than the authority of Scripture
Getting advice from a secular counselor rather than reliance on Biblical admonition
Looking to astrology and horoscopes for direction rather than God’s sovereign rule (worshiping the creation over the Creator)
It’s not sin. It’s just a lifestyle choice or a “disease”
Trusting my emotions or my heart over God’s authoritative Word
Searching for satisfaction from God replacements (idols) such as:
Believing you must have another person to meet your needs
Reliance upon alcohol or drugs to replace God’s provision
Money and things
Success and prestige
If my mate isn’t meeting my needs, then the answer is to divorce and find someone who does.
Esteeming the acceptance and approval of men more than the approval of God
Leaving God out of government
Leaving God out of education
Ignoring God as the Creator and substituting Evolution, thus diminishing any sense of accountability to this Creator
Do any of these apply to you? Could you add to the list? You may have noticed that this list does not include the usual list of “sins” we normally think of and then rank. Every act of disobedience, to reiterate, comes from the conscious or subconscious desire to set one’s self over God. As you and I become aware of our transgressions against our Holy God, it is critical that we acknowledge these through confession and repentance. Suppose, if you will, that the Mona Lisa had indeed become damaged beyond any hope of restoration. Imagine still that it was discovered that the Master Rejuvenator was able to restore the painting to pristine condition. Now imagine that no one ever asked this Master Rejuvenator to perform his work on the painting. This is all too often the scene in our own sinful condition. We may realize the sin, realize the consequences, and experience remorse. But unless we confess this specific offense to the One who can restore us, we are still lagging behind in the ability to overcome this tendency to sin. “But if we confess our sins, he is able and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Yes, be analytical. Take the time to confess the sin and not just assume God’s grace has covered it. Allow that grace to penetrate our hearts and complete the restoration. James tells us, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” (James 5:16a). Therefore, it becomes necessary to confess these sins to someone you trust; someone who will be honest, hold you accountable and will pray for you. It also becomes necessary to make restitution, either in a practical way by making the wrong right, or by seeking forgiveness from the one you wronged.
2 Peter 1:3 (New American Standard Bible) says this:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Read it again.
Do you truly believe this?
This article began by providing an illustration of the dreadful and tragic nature of sin. God’s wonderful and glorious grace was pointed out. I then led you to recognize that what makes up the very essence of sin is living an autonomous life with disregard for God’s wisdom, rule, and principles in our life.
You may have then recognized the fact that you have been deceived by the wiles of the wicked one who wants nothing more than for you to live a life apart from God’s rule.
Hopefully you then gained insight from discovering that everything you need for overcoming sin and living a victorious life comes from God who powerfully works through the knowledge we obtain of Him through his Word. And then finally you have come to see the need for confession: True, specific confession applied to a specific transgression which will cleanse and change our heart.
Although you may have gained some insight from this treatise, another truth reigns supreme. For you see, recognizing these things will do you no good whatsoever. With the best of intentions you may make the decision to change and to begin living a life for God. But God’s Word makes it clear that you cannot, on your own merit, do this. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) Those traits of Adam and Eve were handed down to you, rendering you helpless to live a sinless life fully devoted to God. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7)
That is, unless He comes to live within you and actually live the life he intends you to live. Did you catch that? His Spirit must come to live inside of you. That old heart full of sin and death must be replaced by a new heart which can never die. “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11)
This is what Christ’s sacrifice did for you. By acknowledging that sacrifice and receiving this new life of Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit. Without God’s Spirit living within you, you are destitute and hopeless. Dead men cannot make themselves live. Only God can bring life to that which was once dead.
Since Satan (the adversary) is all about casting doubt on God’s Word, then it goes without saying that we must trust in these life giving Words of God. The Holy Spirit works in tandem with God’s Word to bring about change in the believer’s life. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us (His Word). This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1 Cor. 2:12-13)
The Master Rejuvenator is waiting to remove the stains from the canvas of your life and restore you to your “original condition”, which is not the condition you were born into, but His intended design of you which He will one day bring to completion. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6) “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil. 3:20-21)
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