You cannot allow sin to go on. How do you deal with sin? How can you be sure that you can hack it? How do you put sin to death?
Good afternoon, everyone. It sure is nice to be with you this afternoon. As you heard Mr. Johnson, I live in Minnesota. Minnesota is a very special place. You probably didn't realize how biblical Minnesota really is — it's the land where many are cold, but few are frozen. Now I know you think it's cold today, but I think our high back home was supposed to get to —5 today so it's a little cooler back there. In fact, my wife was telling me it is so cold in the house that she had to open the refrigerator to get some heat. So it can get pretty cold. In fact, my dad was telling me the other day - you know you had those days when it was minus a couple of degrees — was it last week or the week before, I think? We had about —40 on that one day. That was without the wind chill and I was talking with my dad after that and he said that it was so cold that his teeth were chattering. I said, "That doesn't mean much." He said, "But they were still in the glass." So it can get to be a little bit cold back in Minnesota, so you can really appreciate that this feels more like spring today — especially with the beautiful sunshine.
Well I have an interesting scenario that happened back in the Old Testament because sometimes when you start talking about cold and whether you can take it or not — up north we oftentimes will say, you know, 'we can hack it'. 'You can really hack it.' Or, 'Can't you hack it?' And with that in mind, there is a passage in the Old Testament — in fact a whole scenario back in 1 Samuel 15 if you'd like to turn there with me. In fact, we are going to be coming back and forth to 1 Samuel 15 a couple of times during this first split, and if you want to, put a little marker there — if you want to put a little ribbon there — it might be helpful to do that. There is the account of King Saul, the very first King of Israel, and his duty that God gave him to take care of the Amalekites. And there's an interesting lesson, I believe, that we can learn as we look at what happened to Saul and the task that God gave him to do. It was something that God felt that Saul would certainly be able to hack this job. And yet, we'll begin to see what actually happened. Let's notice in 1 Sam. 15 all the way at the very beginning of that chapter, let's notice what God gave Saul to do. It says:
I Sam. 15:1 - Samuel said to Saul, - so here's the prophet, Samuel, talking to Saul giving God's instructions. It says - The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD.
So this is God's word.
Verse 2 — Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him on the way when he came up from Egypt.
And so He says, verse 3 — Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox, sheep, camel and donkey.' "
So here God gives something that sounds like just an awful task — to just go and wipe these people out. And, of course, if you know your history a little bit, the Amalekites were the people who attacked Israel as they were coming out of Egypt. And so as they were wandering through the wilderness, the Amalekites came and they attacked the stragglers. They attacked those who were at the back; they attacked the women and children. And so here God is giving Saul instructions. He wanted to take care of that problem. Of course, they were pagan worshipers. They didn't worship the true God. In fact, they disrespected God and so God wanted Saul to take care of this problem. And as things began it seemed to go pretty well. So Saul goes out to battle then. Let's notice what happens if we skip down a little bit to verse 7 we'll notice what Saul did. It says:
Verse 7 — Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt.
Verse 8 — He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. And so he started out doing exactly what God had instructed him to do, but he didn't follow through. Look at verse 8. It says, He also took Agag...and utterly destroyed all the people.
Verse 9 — But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
And so we see King Saul modified what God told him to do. He proved to be disobedient to the instructions of God.
Now, as a prophet of God, Samuel had to confront Saul. And so he does exactly that. Just a couple of verses later, let's notice Samuel confronting Saul. In verse 11 he starts out. Samuel says
Verse 11 — "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me...now this is God talking to Samuel. He turned back, he has ...not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.
And so Samuel then has to speak for God. So let's notice what Samuel does.
Verse 12 — Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal."
And so as we see this story, notice as we skip down just a little bit. Let's go down to verse 26.
Verse 26 — Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel."
And so at this point then Samuel has to take things into his own hands.
Skipping down to verse 32 — Samuel said, "Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me." So Agag came to him cautiously... I think you would too, wouldn't you? He cautiously comes to him. And Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is past." Isn't the battle over?
Verse 33 — But Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
Now maybe your translation says he hewed him to pieces — the King James Version says that. I think there is one translation that says he chopped him to pieces. He hacked him to bits, some more modern translations say.
And so Samuel followed through with what God gave Saul to do. Now, in the midst of this story - this was a physical example of how God wanted certain justice for those who opposed Him. God didn't want that influence in ancient Israel. Now there is a spiritual counterpart for you and me today. We, spiritually speaking, are to hack Agag to pieces. And so the question is, can we hack it? Can we hack it? You see, in a sense, our conversion and our baptism are supposed to be an execution, aren't they? We are supposed to execute sin. We are supposed to put the old man to death. You know it says that in Romans 6. It tells us exactly, God gives us spiritual instructions much in the same way that He gave instructions through Samuel to Saul. And so, spiritually speaking, God says we are supposed to hack it. He commands us to put sin to death. He doesn't say to be namby-pamby about it. He doesn't say to use kid gloves. Just like Saul was supposed to do, He says we are supposed to be ruthless and without mercy when it comes to dealing with sin. Just like Agag was ultimately dealt with, we too need to deal with sin in the very same way. But, you know, oftentimes you find yourself maybe dealing with it in the way that Saul did. Sometimes it seems that we spare sin, don't we? We have a tendency to do that sometimes.
There are a number of ways that we do that — that we have a tendency to spare sin and maybe give sin a break — or maybe thinking that we have dealt with it when we really haven't. You see that was part of what Saul had a problem with. Initially as Saul didn't carry out what God had him do, when Samuel confronted him, it was very interesting how Saul dealt with sin. Initially what did he do? He denied it. He denied sin. He denied actually slaying Agag. In much the same way, we oftentimes deny sin. We deny it. We spare sin by denying it. That's the first way, I think, that we have a tendency to spare sin.
Now let's notice how Saul acted and maybe we can draw a spiritual parallel with us. If you are still here in chapter 15, look at verse 12. It says:
1 Samuel 15:12 1 Samuel 15:12And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
American King James Version×—Samuel rose early... we read a little bit of this just a moment ago. He went to Carmel and he set a monument up for himself. This is what Saul did. Can you imagine? Thinking that he did good he said, "Look at how great I am." And he sets up a monument to himself. And then in verse 13:
Verse 13 — Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD."
You see, Saul thought he did what God commanded. Now did he really think that? Do you think that he really thought that he did what God commanded? Nah, I don't think he really did. He was pretty specific, wasn't He? The instructions beginning in chapter 15 were very specific. God told him what to do. He didn't say, "Well, think about what to do with the king and the animals and all the nice fatlings." No, He told him to annihilate it all - get rid of all of it. That's what you are supposed to do. And yet, here Saul is saying, "I've kept the commandments of the Lord!" But, in fact, he didn't. He denied it. He denied it all around. And, you know, sometimes we may have a tendency to do just that, to really feel like, well, maybe we are keeping God's way and yet, at the same time, we deny the reality that we are sinners and we have sinned.
Now if you hold your place here, there is an interesting passage over in 1 John 1. Just before the book of Revelation — 1 John 1 — the very first chapter — verse 8 is where we will begin. We can notice a spiritual parallel for us. Saul certainly denied what he was supposed to have done. He didn't follow through. He didn't annihilate the Amalekites. But what do we do when it comes to sin? Do we have that same approach at times?
1 John 1:8 1 John 1:8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
American King James Version×says very clearly: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Now that's kind of interesting if we just pause there for a moment. We can say that — we can even think it — we can deny the fact that we are sinners and yet it doesn't change the fact of what really is going on. You see, Saul could say all he wanted. "Oh, I've kept the commandments of God." But it didn't deny the facts of what the reality was. The reality was that he did not follow through. And so, if we say we don't sin, then we are actually denying God and it doesn't change the facts that we really have — that we really are sinners.
And so, we see a solution in verse 9 — If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But, on the other hand, verse 10 — If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
We sort of see that in the story of Saul. It was making a mockery of God. Do you think the armies probably knew what their mission was? I'm sure they probably did. "We're going to go out and we are going to kill... we are going to wipe them out. Look what they did to us when we were in the wilderness. Now God wants His justice. He wants justice carried out. He doesn't want that influence from them any longer so we've got to commit our war into God's hands and do what He said." So they knew. And so to deny what God had in mind for them was to deny God, Himself.
And so he transposes it in an amazing way when you think of it in a spiritual realm because if we don't admit — if we try to deny sin — we deny God. We deny the reality of God and we make Him out to be a liar. So if we spare sin by denying it, we do God a disservice. We do ourselves a disservice as well.
Now there's a second way I think that we can oftentimes spare sin and, like Saul, sometimes we spare sin by hiding it. We hide it. Maybe it is taking denial and going just a little step further when we hide it. It's that extra little step. It's kind of like the alcoholic who hides the bottle and drinks in private and they thinks he is getting away with that. Or, perhaps, it's maybe like the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira who were dishonest and deliberately came up with a story to hide their dishonesty.
And so, denying it and hiding our sin only postpones the inevitable. It only postpones the inevitable. Just like Agag ultimately was slain - Samuel carried out God's command — if we postpone it, we hide and try to cover up sin - eventually it will be known. It will be known.
Remember what it says over in the book of Numbers? You might just write it down, we don't have to turn there. Numbers 32:23 Numbers 32:23But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
American King James Version×says you can be sure that your sin will find you out. You know, it is an absolute. It will happen. And ultimately, if we continue to hide those things, if we don't repent, if we don't change, Proverbs 28 comes into play. I think we can turn over there. Proverbs 28:13 Proverbs 28:13He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.
American King James Version×. In Proverbs 28 I suppose there is a pretty direct correlation between Agag and sin and what can happen if we try to cover it up and we try to hide sin and if we deny it. Proverbs 28:13 Proverbs 28:13He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.
American King James Version×puts it a little mildly to begin with. It says:
Proverbs 28:13 Proverbs 28:13He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.
American King James Version×— He who covers his sins will not prosper... He will not prosper. Now that's the first step, but if you continue that, what's the ultimate aspect of not prospering? Well if we are not prospering, we are not going to be in God's favor and if we are not in God's favor, we certainly are not going to be a part of His kingdom. We want to be a part of His family so we cannot cover it. On the other hand ...whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
You see, ultimately God can have mercy on Israel because His commands were carried out. Samuel carried out His command and that sin — Agag — was no longer hidden, it was no longer denied. It was taken care of. It was forsaken, ultimately done away with. And so that's our duty as well. So we certainly can't deny it. We cannot fight it.
In fact, we can also discover another way that we can spare sin — and Saul was certainly one that tried to do this as well. And that was to justify it. Saul tried to justify his sin. Now if you flip back to 1 Samuel 15:14 1 Samuel 15:14And Samuel said, What means then this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
American King James Version×we will see the justification that Saul begins as he tries to explain the situation to the prophet, Samuel. Let's notice that.
1 Samuel 15:14 1 Samuel 15:14And Samuel said, What means then this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
American King James Version×— Samuel said... remember, we just got done hearing that Saul said, "I kept the commandment. I performed that commandment." ...Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" "So, explain that, Saul. What do you mean you carried out the commandment?"
So did Saul then say, "Okay, I really blew it. I didn't follow through. I need to submit myself to God. I need to change. I shouldn't be..." No, he didn't do that, did he? It doesn't say that at all. Notice what he said.
We see very clearly in verse 15— Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen... oh, yeah, yeah - that's right ...to sacrifice to the LORD... Wouldn't that be great? "That's what we did. Yes. That's what we did. We spared them because we want to honor God with that. Now the rest, well we wiped them out. We wiped out the bad stuff - we saved the best because we want to honor God with that." So he starts covering up. He starts back peddling. He starts justifying the fact that he didn't do what he was told to do. He didn't follow through.
Now, do we ever find ourselves doing that — kind of justifying sin, justifying why we did what we did? If we do, we could fall into the category of Saul and allow sin — allow Agag - to live. Now if you would hold your place here, flip back to 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×. I think oftentimes today in the world that we live in this happens so often. It so happens all the time in society today, it has almost become a mantra of the world around us that we can justify what we do. We can justify how we live. We can justify the things that we do and what we think by just saying, "It's okay." It's okay. And even those who claim to be religious oftentimes will do this. How could they allow gay ministers in a religious organization? How is that possible? You know, the Bible is pretty clear on those things. Well, how do they do it? Well they justify it. They just justify it. They say, "Well, God wouldn't want us to be unhappy, would He? God would want the best for us." So, oftentimes they use God's name and use attributes that God has — "Sure, God is a loving God and by being a loving God He wouldn't want me to suffer and so, you know, doing things like this make me happy and I like these - I enjoy doing these things — and so God certainly wouldn't oppose that!"
But, you see, that's not Biblical. That's not godly. That's not what God says about it. In fact, over in 1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×, we'll read this from the New Century Version. It may read just a little bit different from yours. It kind of brings out a little bit more in the modern English.
1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×— Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God's kingdom.
It says it pretty plain, doesn't it? It says, Don't be fooled. Don't be deceived. Or, in other words, whenever you see that phrase, don't be deceived, it is one of those things that maybe we should just take a step back for a moment and realize it is possible for me to be fooled. I could be deceived. I could be taken in. This could really, you know, fool me! And so we need to step back a little bit and say, "Wait if God is telling me here and He inspired this, saying don't be deceived, then it must be possible that I could be fooled. I could be deceived." And look at the list He says we shouldn't be deceived about. It says, those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes... or men who have sexual relations with other men.
Verse 10 — those who steal, those who are greedy, those who get drunk, those who lie about others or rob - these people will not inherit God's kingdom.
That's pretty straight up, isn't it? It just says it straight out. That's not a part of what God wants in His family. That is not the perfection that we are to strive for. It is unacceptable in other words. Just as Agag and the Amalekites were unacceptable, sin has to be unacceptable to us and we cannot justify it because he goes on:
Verse 11 — Now in the past, some of you were like that... some of us were like that ...but you were washed clean, you remain holy, you remain right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Spirit of our God.
And so God condemned sin outright. And so we cannot use justification to say, "Well, it's really not that bad, is it? It's really not that big a deal. It's just that, if you saw how much I've overcome, you'd see how this is not really that big a deal." We can be fooled into thinking that way, can't we? We can be fooled. And so I think God includes this situation with Saul and Agag to help us to realize that we certainly shouldn't justify ourselves. Boy, isn't it amazing how much people justify things? They justify. I've heard of justification that "the Bible can't be true and that justifies the fact that I'm an atheist". Well, they didn't study their Bible very much, but they can just say that blanket statement and it justifies everything that they think and that they are.
In fact, I did hear an interesting story about an atheist the other day. He was spending a nice, quiet day out on the lake fishing, enjoying the day and then suddenly as it was just so calm and quiet and serene, the Loch Ness Monster came up from below his boat and WHAM it hit his boat and just smashed it up in the air. And he is just flailing and flying in the air and as he is falling back to the water, here is the Loch Ness Monster with his jaws wide open ready to just chomp on this guy. He didn't know what to say so he inadvertently just called out, "Oh, God, please save me." And right at that moment time froze. So here's the atheist hanging just in front of the teeth of the Loch Ness Monster and he is in utter fear. Then he hears a voice from heaven. And this voice said, "I thought you didn't believe in Me!" And the atheist said, "Oh, Lord, please have mercy on me because just two minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loc Ness Monster either."
It seems, sometimes we can justify our situations, can't we? Maybe not to that extreme, but we don't want to be fooled by that. We don't want to be taken in and then find ourselves justifying and sparing sin.
Now I've got one other way that we spare sin. I'm sure that you could probably think and add to this list of many ways that we have a tendency to do that. But one that shows up in our story is blame. It is blame. Sometimes we spare sin by blaming others. If you go back to 1 Samuel 15:20 1 Samuel 15:20And Saul said to Samuel, Yes, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
American King James Version×, we find Saul talking about why this happened. Now, of course, the instruction of God was given directly to Saul. There was no in-between. Samuel spoke for God. He said, "This is what the Lord says." Saul says, "All right, I'd better do that." Well, after he didn't follow through, down in verse 20 of 1 Sam 15 he says,
1 Samuel 15:20 1 Samuel 15:20And Saul said to Samuel, Yes, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
American King James Version×— Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag the king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
Hmmm. That wasn't quite the instruction, was it? So what's his justification? How does he blame others? Well, verse 21.
Verse 21 — But the people took of the plunder... "You see it was those rotten people — they took the sheep, they took the oxen, they got the best of everything. They got the best of all the spoils of war. And so I would have utterly destroyed it all, but those people — they were the bad ones. That was their fault. They made me do it." You hear how the whole conversation probably went.
Now blaming isn't new, is it? It is not new by the time we get to Saul. If you remember all the way back to the Garden, remember what Adam said when God confronted him about sin? He said, "Oh, yeah, it was that woman. That woman..." In fact he had to blame God. "It was the woman You gave me. You gave me that woman and, boy, it's all her fault and maybe by extension it is Your fault, too. I don't know." You see that's part of our human nature to blame somebody else. It's somebody else's fault. "It's my husband's fault." "It's my wife's fault." "It's my boss' fault, you know, I had to work late on the Sabbath because he gave me this job and it was like a half hour before sunset and I just had to, you know, follow through." You see — we blame others. We justify that. In fact, sometimes we even blame genetics. Have you ever blamed genetics? I have. I've blamed genetics. 'I'm Italian' or 'I'm Irish' or you fill it in, you know. There is some characteristic that our heritage has - 'I have a bad temper because do you know what my family is like? If you think I'm bad, you should see my brother. He's terrible. You know? And then there's my dad, you know, so...'
And we do that. That way it seems to take the pressure off of us and we don't have to deal with the horrible nature of sin because we can blame all these other things just like Saul did. And so ultimately we can't do that. In fact, some people take blame to the ultimate extension and just blame life. They blame life overall. You know, 'life hasn't been fair to me so I'm going to give up. I can do these things because it's just not fair.'
And so as we look at the example of this whole situation with Saul and Agag, it certainly is a reminder we cannot spare sin. We cannot allow it to live. We cannot allow it to go on. And so how do we deal with it? How do we be sure that we can hack it? How do we put sin to death? How do we become like a Samuel and be able to take that sword and chop sin to bits?
Well, I think there are a couple of things that we could do to begin to move in a very, very positive direction. I think the first thing is, and maybe the first thing that Saul didn't realize, you know, when he got to the battle and they were in the midst of all the things that were going on - he realized that as the slaughter began there were a couple of things that didn't seem to be that bad. "Look at these sheep. What did they ever do? What's wrong with the animals? They seem to be fine. Actually it's the warriors — they are the bad ones. The king, he is just way off in the background. He's not really the one that's fighting." You see? And so he didn't realize the extent of how awful it was and how this army was such an affront to God. He didn't understand that. And I think that's the first thing that we all have to realize, don't we? We all have to realize how awful sin really is; how awful sin is to a holy God. Our God is awesome and He is holy and He is almighty and He is all knowing and omniscient and omnipotent and sin is an affront to God in any of its forms. And sometimes we have a tendency not to realize how bad it is and how awful and how horrible it really is to God.
Now there's a passage in Isaiah 59 that maybe begins to bring this point home a little bit - of the horrible nature of sin and how awful it really is. In Isaiah 59, right at the beginning of that chapter we have an indication here of how sin can just be so overwhelming to us and how awful it truly, truly is to a loving, perfect God. Notice what it does to us. Isa. 59 right at the very beginning it says:
Isaiah 59:1 Isaiah 59:1Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
American King James Version×— Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.
Verse 2— But your iniquities have separated you from your God...You see it is so awful and it is so horrible and it is such an affront to God — that sin separates us from God. It puts a wall between us that we cannot pass over when we are in that state of sin. We cannot develop a relationship with God — a right kind of relationship — with this wall of sin between us. And so God says it is awful. It is so awful that it doesn't allow us to have a right relationship. You see God is not going to have a relationship with sin. And so He says very plainly that your sin separates you. In fact, He goes on here: ...your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
When we live in a state of sin, it separates us from God. We are isolated from God. And so the only solution to this is that we have got to repent, we have got to change, we have to knock down that barrier. God's will has to be carried out in our lives so that we can have that relationship, so God can be our Father; Jesus Christ can be our elder brother. We can have a family relationship with God and with Jesus Christ because the barrier has come down.
You know Israel could be right with God because the Amalekites ultimately were destroyed. Samuel carried out God's commands. Israel could be that nation living under the auspices of God. And so we can, too, but we have got to always keep in mind how awful it is even in what we might consider its smallest state, the smallest increment, it is still awful. It is still horrible before God.
I know we are challenged, every day it seems, in the world that we live in. I remember one that just happened to hit me the other day. I was watching a movie and it wasn't a bad movie or anything like that, but it was one of these shows — and maybe you've seen similar types of things, maybe on a television show or movie — but it was one of these shows that you are watching the movie and the guy, the hero of the movie, is actually a bad guy. He is doing things that aren't right. You know, he is actually a criminal. He is a robber. He is a thief. And yet, because of the way the script is written and because of the way things are carried out, I started pulling for this guy. You know, I wanted that guy to win because of the way the scenario in the script was written and the actor was doing such an amazing job — suddenly I'm feeling compassion for this thief! And it just kind of struck me as I was watching that - it was like, how easily we can get just sucked into something and not realize the depth of how sin will just come around every corner to try to get at us. Now if you think about the thing from God's perspective, this movie was not drawing our attention to all the evil things. It was drawing our attention to all the other kinds of things, some of these personal kinds of thing where you didn't see the pain of the consequences to what these individuals were doing. You didn't see the pain of what their robbing these poor people of — you didn't see the poor people suffering and difficulties. Perhaps there was a murder. You didn't actually see the family suffering or what was the result from that perspective. You know, if we look on that principle then we have no problem seeing how evil sin is. But oftentimes it is like the movie or like the television show — we can be caught up in it so quickly that we don't really realize how bad it really is and how awful it really is to God.
And so maybe that is where we have to step back then and ask, what is the cost? What does sin really cost? What does sin really cost us? Well, if it was a robbery, it costs the victim their income. It costs them their savings. It costs them a way to have a better life. If it was other crimes, what was the cost? Now if we begin to think of sin in that way — when we think of the cost of sin — what did sin cost God? So often we forget to realize, it cost God the death of His Son. That's the ultimate cost of sin. How awful is sin? Sin is so awful that our savior, Jesus Christ, had to be beaten — just terribly beaten beyond the shred of His life before He was crucified and bled to death - for our sins. Sin is awful and we must always remember that it is an awful, awful thing. If we keep that perspective, I think it begins to help us to really put sin to death. In the story of Saul, we have to realize in God's eyes how awful the Amalekites really were. In fact, some interesting things happened because of what Saul did. We will talk about that in just a moment.
Now I think another way that we can absolutely begin to hack it — begin to put sin to death — is that we have got to avoid it. We've got to avoid sin. There's a great passage — it is over in Romans 13:14 Romans 13:14But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
American King James Version×. It's a very short, little passage. In fact, you don't even need to turn there. It very plainly says:
Romans 13:14 Romans 13:14But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
American King James Version×— ...make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Make no provision. In fact, it literally means don't even think about it. Don't even think about sinning. You see, for us, whatever that may be. Whatever that weakness that may be - or sometimes it is what we may think is a strength - don't allow it. Don't even allow it! If you've got problems with the Internet — if you've got problems with pornography - unplug that computer! Don't even think about it. Give absolutely no provision. If you are an alcoholic, don't even go near a liquor store. Don't even think about it. You know, whatever that may be. If it's fornication, don't ever be alone with the other sex. Don't do it. Don't allow it. Don't even allow the crack at the door to open. Give no provision for the flesh. Is that extreme? Well, not according to what Christ taught. Remember what He taught in Mat. 5. If your eye causes you a problem? What did He say? Just pop it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. That sounds pretty extreme, but it's not. It's not extreme because what do you compare it to? Imagine comparing that — what is getting your hand cut off compared to being thrown in the lake of fire because that's really the ultimate comparison. When you talk about sin and sin is allowed to live, sin that is spared, if we continue to do that ultimately that's where it is going to lead to. It will lead to the lake of fire so we need to avoid it at all costs.
And then, rather than just avoiding it — I think avoiding it is a good step — it is a first step — but then we have got to go to the next step. We've got to go to the next level if we are really going to overcome and that is to do whatever it takes — do whatever it takes much the same as what Christ taught in Mat. 5 — put on righteousness. We have got to be doers, right? We just don't want to be avoiders, but we've got to be doing something. We've got to be doing the will of God.
In fact, if you want to turn over to Romans 6, verse 12 begins a section of scripture that deals with putting on something — an action step for us. He makes a general statement as Paul begins writing to God's church in Rome; he starts in a general sense. He says,
Romans 6:12 Romans 6:12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.
American King James Version×— Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
So all right, we've got to get out of the way of it. Don't let it control us. We don't want to fall into that hole at all. But then he goes on. He says:
Verse 13 — And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
He says — verse 14 — For sin shall not have dominion over you...He said, don't allow that to happen; don't allow sin to have dominion....you are not under law but under grace. Don't allow that to happen.
Present yourself...literally it means to yield yourself or put yourself right beside something. And, of course in this instance, what are we to put ourselves right beside? Who are we supposed to present ourselves to? It says to God. We are doing the will of God. We are supposed to be like the soldiers in Saul's day, we are supposed to be at God's disposal, to present ourselves in active obedience - doing whatever it takes to do the right thing; to be that tool, to be that instrument. Literally it is an instrument that it is talking about here. And, in fact, it can refer to an instrument of war; it can refer to a weapon. We are to be a weapon - not like Saul and Agag - but to be a weapon of righteousness - to be a weapon of righteousness. So God wants us to put sin to death by going on the attack — by going on the attack in much the same way that Saul was to take care of Agag. In fact, that probably is taking it to the next level once again.
So it is realizing how awful sin is, avoiding it, doing whatever it takes and being on the offensive and that is a fourth thing that I have. We've got to realize how sin is so terrible. We have to avoid it. We have to do what it takes, but yet be on the offensive. Don't wait for sin to come to you, be ready to defend yourself at all cost, at any time.
There's a great passage that is such a reminder of this. It is over in Philippians 3:12 Philippians 3:12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×. Philippians 3:12 Philippians 3:12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×is such a great reminder for us of how we need to be on the offensive against sin. Phi. 3 is quite a reminder of the offensive that we are to be about. If we begin in verse 12 it tells us:
Philippians 3:12 Philippians 3:12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×— Not that I have already attained, or ...that I have... already perfected... So here Paul is telling God's Church in Philippi that he hadn't reached the pinnacle; he wasn't perfect yet. So he said, I am not quite there yet. ...but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
He was pressing on. Literally that word means to chase after it, to go after it, to pursue it swiftly. I think the King James says something a little different. It says, ...I follow after... I think is what the King James says. That kind of misses the point of what the word really means: to really go after, to press on, to pursue it, to chase it like you had to catch something is what we are supposed to do for righteousness. That's what we are seeking for. We are seeking the reward as though we were really chasing after it. Or maybe if you can imagine when you were a kid and you weren't 'It', but that other kid is 'It' and 'I'm going to run and get away as fast as I can'. And we are to chase it as though we've got to tag it. We've got to grab a hold of it, he says.
Verse 13 —Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
Some translations say straining. You know, that word right there — reaching forward — that's the same word for pursuing. That's the same one that we read about pressing on. I'm straining forward. I'm reaching ahead. I'm pursuing it with everything that I have.
I press...in verse 14 ...toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.
So we have got to be after righteousness. We've got to seek ways that we can serve God, seek ways that we can fulfill His commands in our life. How can we do that? Maybe we can sit down and we can write a list of how I can serve, how I can give, how I can be pleasing to God, the things that I need to overcome and really pursue after them and make it happen through the power of God's Holy Spirit. God does give us the ability to be able to hack it. We can hack it through the power that God gives us.
Now in thinking back to the story in 1 Samuel, Agag was pretty happy when he thought he got away with it. He was pretty amazed that he was able to get away with it. And that's the way is it with sin. When we spare sin it is thrilled because that means it is going to have another opportunity to do even more damage. In fact, it is kind of ironic. When you think of the example of Saul and Agag and not following through with what God commanded — do you remember the ultimate demise of King Saul? He was killed in battle. But do you know who ultimately killed him? An Amalekite. An Amalekite ultimately came back and killed Saul. What an amazing example for us that sin can come back to haunt us. If we don't take care of it it's going to come back and it's going to take us down. In this battle that we are fighting it will never end. But when Jesus Christ returns, it will end. And so, until that time we engage in combat. We engage in combat. Don't deny it. Don't hide it. Don't justify it. Don't blame others. But let's do — let's pursue righteousness. And with God's help we can hack it!