– How Sin Works –
…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing
their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to
reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things
in earth, or things in heaven.
is the wonderful truth of our Gospel. The good news of the gospel is a
life of freedom over sin – not from sin. God through his
Spirit of grace has opened up the way for us his people to live in this
life of victory.
overcoming life while no cakewalk is gloriously possible [1Jn 5:4;
Act 20:23-24a; Rom 8:38]. Paul's injunction in Phil 2:12
informs us: "work out [not at] your own salvation…" In
other words – live out what God has birthed in you.
is real, sin is real, so too the temptations that can lead to
transgressions – those things that we do that hurt ourselves and others.
Temptations are a normal part of the human experience; even Jesus had to
deal with temptations, more than anyone ever did [Lk 4:13; Heb 2:18;
4:15]. Being tempted is not wrong – giving way or yielding to
temptation however hinders our spiritual walk. Temptation's end is
always toward some action of sin, and "actioned sin" or
transgressions are seldom an individual affair, inevitably others
are affected. From the beginning 'man' has sought to shift the blame for
his deeds [Gen 3:12-13]. The poet Robert Burns echoes this
knowest Thou hast formed me
passions wild and strong;
listening to their witching voice
often led me wrong.
much as we find it convenient to "pass-the-buck" sin is our
responsibility, in fact we have a scriptural injunction to "rule over
it" and not visa versa:
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well,
sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should
obey it in its lusts. …For sin shall not have dominion over you,
for you are not under law but under grace.
Temptations and consequent transgressions can be stifled or nourished,
and deliberate sin only has entrance through our own lack of
self-control. Man is not a helpless victim; he in fact initiates much
trouble from within his own heart [Jer 17:9; Mk 7:20, 23]. Man
then, is accountable for his own temporal condition.
Progression And Development Of Sin
find in James 1:14-15 an unfolding plan, a pattern of 'How Sin
Works'. The imagery in these verses is suggestive of a fish swimming
in one direction and being lured aside, being drawn off course towards
something that initially seems attractive, only to discover to its own
peril, the bait it has taken has a deadly hook in it.
Steps Down To Death"
But each one is tempted when he is DRAWN away by his
own DESIRES and ENTICED. Then, when desire has CONCEIVED,
it gives BIRTH to sin; and sin, when it is FULL-GROWN,
brings forth DEATH.
How are we drawn away?
Greek word "drawn" [exelkomenos
εξελκομενος] means to allure – much like a fish, though not
seeing the bait yet sensing and becoming aware it. This speaks of
something that catches our attention e.g., the 'burning bush' caught
Moses' eye [Ex 3:2]; David "saw" Bathsheba – he could have
turned away 2Sam 11:2 [Job 31:1].
be drawn away, drawn aside by the fleeting thoughts that pass through
our minds – often impulsively and not always intentional. We cannot
always stop thoughts from entering our minds, but we certainly have the
choice as to whether they stay. As the old maxim goes: "You can't
stop birds flying over you, but you can stop them nesting in your hair."
misleading thoughts come, as they happen to do – that's normal, what
should our response be but determine to challenge them immediately,
surrendering them to Christ [2Cor 10:5], as Rom 13:14
says: "…make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
DESIRES: What are they?
are the by-product of those fleeting thoughts we choose to
entertain, mull over or ponder. Much like our fish, who now seeing the
bait goes in for a closer more intense look e.g., "…the woman was
very beautiful to behold." 2Sam 11:2 – David was
looking intensely, he was captivated. Moses also, saw and beheld
the bush – it grasped his attention.
Whether good or bad, be it help or hindrance, if what catches our
attention is held and meditated upon will undoubtedly lead to some
action. We tend to draw to ourselves that upon which we set or fix our
delight i.e., what we pleasure in – desire. We need to be sure that our
desires and delights are God-wards [Psa 37:4; Mt 6:21].
tells us "…lay aside every weight [wrongly based motive,
attitude, memory or treasure that leads to] …the sin that so easily
ensnares us." This area of desire is crucial, because there is
tremendous power in desire. Desire is a foundation for vision, and
vision the unfolding plan or revelation of impending action.
Further, Heb 12:2 suggests we will run life's race well as we
keep "looking unto Jesus." The principle of 2Cor 3:18
comes into play here i.e., 'what we behold, we become.' [Hos 9:10b]
Desire generates a powerful inner hunger, drive and thirst. Jesus speaks
of this in Mt 5:6 – desire seeks, and in this instance finds
ENTICED: What Happens?
Greek word literally means – to take or catch with bait. Having
perused with increased interest and having had sufficient desire aroused
the fish reasons, "I'll have some of that" – and does so, the fish has
been enticed and moves in to partake. This speaks of a wilful decision
incident with Bathsheba, King David became enticed – he saw;
he wanted; he took [2Sam 11:4]. When we wrestle with
areas of sin in our lives we may need to ask ourselves: "have I left
those at the foot of the Cross, or have I picked them up again,
giving them undue or unwarranted attention?" Isa 43:18 says: "Do
not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old." [2Pet
Calling to mind
from whence we've come may bring with it opportunity to return [Heb
11:15]. We have the choice not to take the bait, as nice as
it may seem [Heb 11:25].
For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make
myself a transgressor.
Word exhorts us not to flirt with sin [1Cor 6:12; 10:23; Gal 5:1;
CONCEIVED: The Process
the wilful decision i.e., the heart's intent, blatant action to
do wrong takes root. The fish is well and truly hooked – there's
no turning back, no way of escape. Just as an unborn child grows and
develops through the period of gestation, so does the soul encumbering
nature of sin grow. Left unchecked or not repented of, our soul
destroying wilful action grows and increases, progressing or digressing
one upon another.
David, after coveting Bathsheba, stealing her, committing adultery with
her and then lying to her husband Uriah, finally arranges his murdered.
In one fell swoop David broke five of God's Ten Commandments [2Sam
BIRTHED: The Result
we have now is habitual sin in action. Our fish is now well and
truly being reeled in. Sin sooner or later has repercussions [Gal 6:7].
Even as an unborn child is alive and kicking in the womb before the
actual point of birth, so sin is no less active just because there might
not be any apparent manifestation:
Some men's sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but
those of some men follow later.
time habitual sin having now taken root and established will be
revealed and no longer hidden, being plainly self-evident.
problem with blatant sin is that its effects have far reaching
consequences, for instance:
innocent victims of the Aids epidemic.
King David's family paid the price for his yielding to temptation [2Sam
cry of derision from the Jewish people "…His blood be upon us and our
children" Mt 27:25. The full brunt of this malediction that
came home to roost upon the "this generation" [Mt 24:34]
of Christ's contemporaries in His 70AD Parousia with the destruction of
Jerusalem and her Temple, as prophesied by Christ in Matthew 23-25.
FULL-GROWN: The Consequences
fish has been landed in the boat and is as good as dead – hook line
and sinker. Full-grown sin shows itself as being sold out to
the carnal nature, a slave to sin, being DOMINATED by base
instincts. Again, in all this we have choice:
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to
obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin
leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? [Jn
8:34; 2Pet 2:19b]
lyrics to one of Simon and Garfunkel's songs: "I am a rock, I am an
island" simply do not ring true. As the great Scottish theologian
William Barclay once said: "No man lives to himself. When a man sins
he sets in motion a stream of consequences which has no end." Or as
writer poet George Eliot penned:
deeds are like children that are born to us,
live and act apart from our will;
children may be strangled, but deeds never;
have an indestructible life both in and out of our consciousness.
AMP Behold, [the wicked man] conceives
iniquity and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to
Full-grown sin pays a bad wage, DEATH [Rom 6:23], and
brings forth a spiritual condition that experiences no life.
wise fish knows there's a hook [sin] in the bait [temptation]
and so keeps to his course, however:
Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding
keeps a straight course.
'Death' so many times in the Scriptures is understood in terms of
relationship, broken relationship first with God and second with others,
broken through our foolish transgressions:
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
with the roots of a strangler vine, if not completely severed, will in
time grow back and squeeze the very life out of a tree – our
TRANSGRESSIONS must be dealt with. Humanity's sin
condition has been dealt with in Christ [Jn 1:29] through the
Cross. However, our wrong doings [transgressions] those unrighteous
works that separate, that break fellowship and strain relationships need
to be kept in check – lest we not hear nor see face to face in our walk
with Him and others.
Knows No Mercy: But God Does
man's sin knows no mercy, God however does, and through His grace toward
humanity in Christ we find restoration – and this is the Gospel.
King David through repentance found the grace and mercy of God [2Sam
12:13; Psa 51:1-19; Hos 14:1-3]. David's sin with Bathsheba was the
only black mark on an otherwise diamond-studded crown.
self serving ways of sin always awaits an opportunity to turn blessing
into curse, however, as Dr Larry Crab says:
is full of choices, and as we endeavour to choose the path of
righteousness, our capacity for right choices in the face of adversity
and temptation enlarges.
conclusion and for some final words of encouragement in our study we
need but to glance back to Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who
endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the
crown of life which the Lord has promise to those who love Him.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you
are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that
you may be able to bear it. c.f. 2Pet 2:9
DRAWN -fleeting thought- bait sensed.
DESIRE -thought entertained- bait
ENTICED -wilful decision made-
CONCEIVED -action takes root-
BIRTHED -habitual action- reeled
FULL GROWN -slave to sin- netted.
DEATH -destroyed- gutted.