When I was a boy, we had a car that leaked oil. In time, there was so much oil that it was a hazard. You could slip and kill yourself. One Saturday, Dad and I cleaned up the oil, scrubbed it with soap and water.
The concrete was permanently stained, but the oil was gone. At that point, my dad cut a piece of old carpet and laid it over the stain. Then he pulled the car back into the garage. Instead of leaking onto the driveway, the oil now leaked onto the carpet. Every so often, dad cut a fresh piece of carpet and switched it out with the old piece. Problem solved! Well, not really. The car still leaked. All we did was cover the problem, not fix it.
We do the same thing with sin, don’t we? We wipe it up. We cover it up. We hide it. And it looks good for a while. But it always comes back.
How do we deal… with sin?
Jesus’ half-brother James was a leader in the Jerusalem church and is also credited with writing a book of the New Testament. James writes to a group of folks with a sin problem. Their sins include anger, favoritism, envy, quarreling, coveting, slandering, judging, boasting, bragging, grumbling, and swearing. In other words, many of the same sins we struggle with today.
The real problem underlying these sins is selfishness—a human tendency to be self-focused and not others-focused. James’ solution? Stop sinning! And start living righteously! Looks good on paper, but we all know that it’s easier said than done.
While we, like Eve, tend to blame Satan for our sins, James says that sin originates with us— in our hearts. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Allurement, enticement, and desire. That’s how sin happens.
Sin is cancer of the soul. If sin cancer is not cut out immediately, it grows, spreads, and consumes. Eventually, it kills.
A good fisherman has a tackle box full of lures—different lures different fish. Spinners, jigs, crank bait, stink bait. The fisherman switches out lures depending on the conditions and what kind of fish he wants to catch. Most fishing lures are shiny and will glimmer as they swim through the water. They look tasty to the fish… enticing. The problem for the fish is that each lure contains a hook. They don’t see the hook. They only see the tasty, enticing lure.
A good fisherman knows how to “set the hook”. And once the hook is set, there is no escape for the fish. The hook embeds itself in the mouth of that fish. The hook goes in easy, but it’s almost impossible to get out.
Satan’s has the world’s biggest tackle box. He’s been fishing for the souls of people for a long, long time. He is experienced. And make no mistake, he knows your bait. He matches the lure to your desire. If your desire is for wealth, he’ll dangle dollar bills. If your desire is fashion, he’ll dangle the little black dress or the $400 shoes. If your desire is sex, he’ll lure you with a pretty girl or a handsome guy with similar desires. Satan is sly and he always has a plan.
James goes on to say that “desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin. And sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Sin kills. It can kill your soul in this life and destroy your soul in the next life. Look into the eyes of an alcoholic or a drug addict or a sex addict and what do you see? Not much. Their eyes are empty orbs. Their souls are dead. Sin has eaten them alive. Sin is cancer of the soul. If sin cancer is not cut out immediately, it grows, spreads, and consumes. Eventually, it kills.
God has a plan for conquering sin. When we submit to God’s way of dealing with sin, He will transform us. Instead of being a self-absorbed sinner, we become an others-focused servant.
His plan requires a healthy dose of honesty and humility. We will have to accept the Spirit’s assistance in saying ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to truth. God’s plan may also include pain and suffering. After all, the truth hurts. But once we get the sin out into the open so that it can be dealt with, the pain will be temporary. God will heal your sin and guide you through its consequences.
This Sunday morning, we’ll look more deeply at God’s plan for dealing with sin as outlined in James’ letter. In preparation, please read the following verses from James’ letter. Focus on the verbs—submit, resist, draw near, cleanse, purify, mourn, weep—and think about what God is calling you to do.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:7-10).