Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at how sin stands in the way of a life-giving relationship with God. Specifically, we’ll examine 7 deadly sins. We call them deadly because they lead us down the path of destruction; and we call them sins because they stand in opposition to God, causing us to miss the mark of Jesus Christ that we are aiming for through faith. These seven deadly sins are Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, & Lust.
Now, this message series is called VICE VS VIRTUE because our spiritual lives are truly a battle. The schemes of the devil, the adversary of faith in Jesus Christ, compete for our loyalty to God. That competition is the spiritual struggle that each of us experiences as we attempt to live out our faith daily. There’s tension and hardship because we were created to be in relationship with God and yet sin pulls us toward everything but God. It’s a battle of worship, whether of God or of the idols in the world. Adam and Eve experienced this pressure and gave in to the Tempter’s plea to eat from the tree God forbade them from. Each of us, now, experience in ourselves this tension and it is only through the redemptive work of Jesus that we find the freedom to choose the good and stick to it. We fight the good fight and we press on toward the upward calling set forth by Jesus.
The verse I want us to use over the new few weeks comes from Genesis 4, where in vv.6–7 God tells Cain, one of the troubled sons of Adam and Eve, “‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’”
In this scripture reference, Cain had everything he needed in order to succeed in life and please God. God had warned his parents and now was warning him that sin was near and that by staying away from it he could avoid it’s snare. For Cain, like his parents before him, the desire to answer the knock of temptation was strong because of his unwillingness to trust God. Cain sinned when he chose to obey his temptation. What he found was that instead of mastering sin and ruling over it, he now was being ruled by sin. Sin trapped him. Sin, then, is a vice.
A good working definition of vice is, “a habit that disposes one to think, feel, and act in disordered and dysfunctional ways; a habit inclining one to sin.” Vice is Latin for vitium, meaning “defect.” It’s that defect, the defect of sin, that holds us like a vice, which conveniently is the English word for a tool that holds an object in place, trapping it from moving. My aim through all this to help us learn how to move again; how to loosen the grip of the vice and turn our lives toward Christ through a fighting life of virtue.
*WHY IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE HARD?
Our spiritual lives are truly a battle from beginning to end. There is nothing easy about being Christian. We so often miss the reality that there are forces pushing against us at all times. It’s scriptures like:
Ephesians 4.26–27 — Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Ephesians 6.10–12 — Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
James 4.7 — Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
1 Peter 5.8 — Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
As Christian, we often have our sights set on the wrong problem and attempt to fight off the wrong adversary. We take out our angst, our anger, and our frustration out on the tangible when it’s the intangible, the untouchable, the unseen that’s the real problem. This is EXACTLY why a life of faith is so hard, because we are fighting a power, an opposition that’s fighting on a different level, a different plane than we try and understand. This is why we must fight life’s problems on a faith level first and then turn to the more in–front–of–your–face stuff. It’s about getting our hearts right so that we can get the rest of our act together.
*WHAT IS SIN, REALLY?
From the beginning, sin has been the cause of the rift that exists between people and their loving God. God created people in His imagine; He gave them a world to rule in–His–image and in–His–name, as stewards of His possessions. There was to be fulfillment in their work and satisfaction in their relationships with each other and with God.
God created them in love and therefore gave them the capacity to love or not love in return. Adam and Eve eventually did what God asked them not to do. Though they were deceived, they were still accountable and therefore God held them accountable, honoring their choice of the created thing over the Creator God. They chose the gift over the Giver and there are consequences to such choices. The consequences were unfulfilling work and a lack of contentment in their relationships. Their selfish choices removed the perfect love God gave them and that imperfection left a void that humanity would continue to try and fill on their own, apart from God, sadly.
This is sin. In Greek, sin is hamartia meaning “missing the mark.” The mark we are missing is the center dot of the bullseye that God widened and made big enough for us to hit. But instead, we chose to aim for the edges. In our desire to do things our own way, we’ve stopped aiming for God’s ideal. We’ve found it too hard or found it undesirable because it doesn’t serve our immediate needs or appetites. But if we will look back at the target, at the bullseye, and aim true through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will find that that bullseye is not only able to be hit but is a joyful and fulfilling action.
*HOW DO I COMBAT SIN?
Now, back to vices. These vices, these sin–habits, compete for our faith in God and replay the scene in the garden of Eden every day. Like God told Cain, we must rule over sin, and we do that through our reliance upon God and in our chasing after the character of Jesus. That character is what we can refer to as virtues. For every sin–habit, every vice, there is an opposite virtue that negates or squashes the vices that try and grip our lives. Combating sin and vice is a daily battle and only when we die to ourselves—our sinful selves—will we rise up with Jesus Christ victoriously over sin and even one day, death. Like the scripture says in Luke 9.23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” When we deny the sin in our lives, we are choosing God, choosing the good, which is possible through faith in Jesus Christ. God provides the grace for us to live virtuously, to live free from the grip of sin. Will sin still knock at the door and call to us at times, you bet. But the grip of sin can be loosened and removed through a live lived closely with Jesus. This is what I want us to explore over the next few weeks and I pray you’ll fight the good fight with me as we go deeper.
…I want you to know that the life you may live that is gripped in habits, addictions, and dysfunctions is NOT the life God created you to live. These things are a result of sin in the world. Know that God came in Jesus Christ to remove sin from the lives of a children He loves enough to die for. Each of us can hit the mark and live as we are intended. The question is, will you aim for that life and shoot true with Jesus?
Because of the nature of this topic, there are many questions that may come from this message and I want to strongly encourage you to talk with me about the various sins and vices that grip you and compete for your faith. We will be walking through the life-giving virtues that can enable our faith, so stay with us as we journey together.