Does the thought of consequences scare you?
On the day of my wedding, I prayed and gave thanks that I had escaped the consequences of my sins. Or at least, I thought I had escaped: I had no STD, no unwanted children, no prison term, and no physical or mental handicap that I had inflicted on myself. I had a growing bank account, a great career, and got to marry the woman of my dreams. I was getting off easy!
But shortly after that special day, I read something that stopped me in my tracks. It scared me. I mean really scared me. This was the kind of fear that could cause a grown man to cry. When is the last time that you cried because you were scared? Now that's fear!
A Scary Story
It was a story of a man who struggled with a sin that he did not acknowledge. The type of sin we've all done. He would rationalize it, and feel that he had it “contained”—not that he had stopped doing it, but that he had it contained within certain limits that he thought were acceptable. He always thought the consequence of his sin was the guilt he felt afterwards.
Then, on his way to a conference, he took some vacation time to drive up the New England coast. It was his favorite place in the world, and a drive he had made many times. “Nothing affects me like the long drive up the rocky coastline of Maine,” he wrote. “It is an invigorating, almost religious experience.” It brought him far more joy than his pet sin ever did.
But on this most recent trip, he was shocked to discover that was no longer the case:
I followed my usual practice of staying in homey inns with big fireplaces, and of eating by the waterfront and watching the sailboats bob in the shimmering sea, of taking long solitary walks on the rocky promontories where huge waves crashed with thunder, of closing my eyes and letting salt spray splash across my face, of stopping at roadside stands for fresh lobster and crab. There was a difference this time: I felt no pleasure. None. My emotional reaction was the same as if I had been at home, yawning, reading the newspaper.
Truth and Consequences
Sin truly does rob us of life, fooling us into thinking we are living life to the “fullest.” Sin, any sin, turns family into an obligation, turns our relationships into burdensome commitments, and turns friendships into strategic conversations and empty laughter. Sin turns your career into work, turns memories into blurry visions, and turns the beautiful into the ordinary.
Go read Romans 1:18-31. Notice that the consequence for sin appears to be…more sin. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of the hearts…” “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…” “Furthermore…he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” If sin were really just this “guilty pleasure,” then this downward spiral into more and more sin might actually be considered fun. Instead, it is punishment, characterized by futile thinking, darkened hearts, and death. It is the opposite of a full life.
When you think that you truly have escaped the consequences, look at your life deeply. Think about what used to bring you so much joy and now just seems boring. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is experience that changed that. Sin leaves you cold and won’t allow you to realize it until you’re too comfortable being cold to change.
So why do I write something like this? Most of us won't do something unless it affects us for the better, and won't stop doing something unless we know it is going to hurt us. We can be kind of self-centered that way. So let’s make the choice a bit more clear. That repeated sin that you enjoy? It is stealing your joy in life. That guilty pleasure that you manage to get away with? You are not getting away with anything. Avoiding the consequences? You are living the consequences.
Hey, I am here to say there is hope. Jesus came to set you free from sin and death. And you can ultimately get away with it, in that you can freely have eternal life despite whatever you have done. But there are still consequences in the here and now, and we can't have the full life He desires for us when we are living with the sin He died for.
My prayer for you is that you would find Him more satisfying than that sin you keep returning to. There is a more abundant life found in the freedom Jesus offers. If you don’t believe me, let’s talk.