“Sin makes you stupid”

Posted on November 22, 2011 by

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I had a conversation with a friend of mine last week in which we were talking about the besetting sins of a couple of people dear to each of us.  I was noting that it’s remarkable that when people are immersed in sinful behavior we can seemingly have so little awareness of the fact that it leads to destruction in every sense of the word.  He observed very matter-of-factly, “Yeah, sin makes you stupid.”

That is an excellent observation.  And it’s a dynamic that we as leaders need to understand, both for the good of those whom we lead, and also for our own good.  Sin does indeed make you stupid.  Or, perhaps more precisely, it makes you blind.  Note the exchange that Jesus had with the Pharisees in John 8:31-47:

John 8:31-33 (NASB77)
31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ” If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

33 They answered Him, ” We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free’?”

The response that the Jews gave Jesus is stunning.  “…we have never yet been enslaved to anyone…”  ‘C’mon… really??  There had hardly been a generation of Israelites who had NOT been enslaved!  They had been enslaved by Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, various nations who conquered them during their wanderings – and now these Jews say this with Roman coins in their pockets!  How is this possible for them to say with a straight face?  Yet we ourselves are likely to deny our enslavement when we are faced with our own sin.  Paul, in Romans 6 and 7, characterizes sin as slavery, and Jesus in John 8 says everyone that sins is a slave to sin. Once we get used to it, however, sin becomes the “new normal.”  That is what makes it so insidious.  We may at first seek to hide or justify sin and only act as if it’s not a problem.  But later on, our blindness and self deception can mature to the point where we don’t actually believe that we’re in sin.

As leaders, we are called to confront sin whenever we see it.  That applies to the sin we see in the lives of those whom we lead as well as the sin we recognize in our own lives.  It’s serious business.  Jesus told us that it would be better to lose an eye than to have that eye continue to foster our sin (Mt. 18:9).  Paul admonishes us never to offer ourselves again to that kind of slavery (Ro 6:12-16).  He further commands that we confront and discipline sinful Believers in the Church for the good of the Body of Christ (1Cor. 5).  And James encourages us that as members of the Body of Christ we have an obligation to seek the restoration of those who have turned from the truth (Ja. 5:19-20).  Confronting sin is never fun.  It can in fact be excruciating to deal with, whether it’s sin in a brother’s or sister’s life, or in our own.  But make no mistake – though it may be one of the most challenging things you are called to do as a Christian leader, confronting sin in our lives and the lives of others is clearly one of the most important things we have been called to do.  And the great news is that because of the cross, we have the power to find victory over our sin, and we have the opportunity to help others to gain victory over theirs.  The process may be excruciating.  But the word “excruciating” means “out of the cross.”  The cross is where we find our victory and the resurrection is where we find the power to live in obedience.

Both in society and within the Church, history is replete with the devastation that is caused when we do not hold ourselves and others accountable.  Rarely are epic and public scandals a one-time issue.  They are nearly always the end product of small acts of sin, fed by self deception, and left unchallenged by some who knew there was a problem.  May you and I as Christian leaders be ruthless in our desire to eradicate sin from our own lives and the lives of those whom we lead, that God might be glorified in the victory we already have in Christ.

(For an excellent sermon on this topic, listen to Tim Keller’s sermon entitled, “Sin as Slavery,” 1996)

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