Fall of Man
At the base of the Tetons in Wyoming lies Jackson Lake. Sometimes, early in the morning when the lake is perfectly calm, the reflection of the Tetons is magnificently duplicated and mirrored on the lake’s surface. The interesting thing is that if you were to take one little flat stone and skip it across the surface of the lake, the image of the Tetons would be distorted and marred. In the same way, when Adam committed on sin, God’s image in man was distorted and marred. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Children in England used to play a game called "Saints and Sinners." A hoop was erected at a measured distance, and the contestants were given 10 arrows each. The object was to aim them at the hoop. If anyone shot ALL the arrows through it, he was acclaimed a "saint." But if he missed just once, he was designated a "sinner." If he missed with all 10 arrows, he was no greater sinner than if he missed with only one! One error was as bad as 10! That was the rule of the game.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. The Lord Jesus Christ never "missed the mark" but kept God's law perfectly. All others have sinned and "come short," so they need Him as their Savior. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Sin is like a woodpecker. Each particular attack makes noise but doesn’t seem to do much damage. But, like a woodpecker, if you let it chip away at your life long enough, it will leave many an ugly hole that never fills in. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
If you have to do wrong to stay on the team, you are on the wrong team. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
He that falls into sin is man.
He that grieves at sin is a saint.
He that boasts of sin is a devil.
He that forgives our sin is God.
── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
A flippant youth asked a preacher, “You say that unsaved people carry a weight of sin. I feel nothing. How heavy is sin? Is it ten pounds? Eighty pounds?”
The preacher replied by asking the youth, “If you laid a four-hundred-pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?”
The youth replied, “It would feel nothing, because it is dead.”
The preacher concluded, “That spirit, too, is indeed dead which feels no load of sin or is indifferent to its burden and flippant about its presence.”
The youth was silenced. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
There is something of a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of evil practices in their lives, not an utter disowning of the being of God, but a denial or a doubting of some of the rights of His nature… Evil works are a dust stirred up by an atheistical breath.— Stephen Charnock
Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.
Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine.
For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life--namely myself. . . In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. . . But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is in anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
Few college football coaches have made a point against drugs as effectively as Erk Russell of Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol' country boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the squad. "Everyone screamed and scattered," Russell recalls. "I told them, 'When cocaine comes into a roon, you're not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they'll both kill you!"
Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what is there left for it to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones every time the clock ticks.
Dr. Ralph Sockman writes about an experience he had while standing on the edge of Niagra Falls one clear, cold March day. Wrapped in white winter garments, the falls glistened in the bright sun. As some birds swooped down to snatch a drink from the clear water, Sockman's companion told how he had seen birds carried over the edge of the precipice. As they dipped down for a drink, tiny droplets of ice would form on their wings. As they returned for additional drinks more ice would weigh down their bodies until they couldn't rise above the cascading waters. Flapping their wings, the birds would suddenly drop over the falls.
Today in the Word, October, 1990, p. 14.
Augustine's stages with sin:
1. Lord make me good, but
2. Lord make me good, but not entirely.
3. Lord make me good.
Exact work unknown.
This was how Susannah Wesley defined "sin" to her young son, John Wesley: "If you would judge of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of pleasure, then take this simple rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things--that to you is sin."
Resource, July/August, 1990.
Time-lapse photography compresses a series of events into one picture. Such a photo appeared in an issue of National Geographic. Taken from a Rocky Mountain peak during a heavy thunderstorm, the picture captured the brilliant lightning display that had taken place throughout the storm's duration. The time-lapse technique created a fascinating, spaghetti-like web out of the individual bolts. In such a way, our sin presents itself before the eyes of God. Where we see only isolated or individual acts, God sees the overall web of our sinning. What may seem insignificant -- even sporadic -- to us and passes with hardly a notice creates a much more dramatic display from God's panoramic viewpoint. The psalmist was right when he wrote, "Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins" (Psalm 19:12-13).
Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a "necessary evil," it begins to look more and more necessary and less and less evil.
Sidney J. Harris.
I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and, every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost . . . Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, 'Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost."
Americans are in the process of nibbling their way to being lost. . . We keep moving from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home or how far away from the truth we have managed to end up.
Mike Yaconelli, "The Wittenburg Door."
STOP. I know you're thinking about crossing this gate. What you should know is that if the Coyotes, Cactus, Mesquite, Heat, Dust or Rattlers don't get you, I will.
"No trespassing" sign seen in west Texas, with rancher's name signed in blood red paint at bottom.
A man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the unsuspecting mouse into the snake's glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. The tiny mouse had a serious problem on his hands. At any moment he could be swallowed alive. Obviously, the mouse needed to come up with a brilliant plan.
What did the terrified creature do? He quickly set up work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem.
The solution, however, came from outside. The man took pity on the silly little mouse and removed him from the cage. No matter how hard we try to cover or deny our sinful nature, it's fool's work. Sin will eventually awake from sleep and shake off its cover. Were it not for the saving grace of the Master's hand, sin would eat us alive.
It's like a World Series of weeds, a Hula Bowl of herbicides, with agriculture students from U.S. and Canadian universities competing to identify problems in farm fields. This year, Iowa State took top honors in the Collegiate Weed Science Contest, which tests students' abilities to identify weeds and the right chemical to kill them and diagnose herbicide failure. "They need to be able to recognize weeds when they are tiny," said James Worthington of Western Kentucky University, president of the North Central Weed Science Society. "When they get big enough that anybody can recognize them, it's too late to do anything about them."
Spokesman Review, July 27, 1989, p. A9.
When John Belushi died in the spring of 1983 of an overdose of cocaine and heroin, a variety of articles appeared, including one in U.S. News and World Report, on the seductive dangers of cocaine: "It can do you no harm and it can drive you insane; it can give you status in society and it can wreck your career; it can make you the life of the party and it can turn you into a loner; it can be an elixir for high living and a potion for death."
Like all sin, there's a difference between the appearance and the reality, between the momentary feeling and the lasting effect.
Sin arises when things that are a minor good are pursued as though they were the most important goals in life. If money or affection or power are sought in disproportionate, obsessive ways, then sin occurs. And that sin is magnified when, for these lesser goals, we fail to pursue the highest good and the finest goals. So when we ask ourselves why, in a given situation, we committed a sin, the answer is usually one of two things. Either we wanted to obtain something we didn't have, or we feared losing something we had.
Augustine in The Confessions of St. Augustine (Christian Classics in Modern English).
We never see sin aright until we see it as against God...All sin is against God in this sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught...Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, "I have sinned;" but the returning prodigal said, "I have sinned against heaven and before thee;" and David said, "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned."
W.S. Plumer quoted in: J. Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, p. 20. cf. Gen 39:9
Sin is a blasting
presence, and every fine power shrinks and withers in the destructive heat.
Every spiritual delicacy succumbs to its malignant touch...
Sin impairs the sight, and works toward blindness.
Sin benumbs the hearing and tends to make men deaf.
Sin perverts the taste, causing men to confound the sweet with the bitter, and the bitter with the sweet.
Sin hardens the touch, and eventually renders a man "past feeling."
All these are Scriptural analogies, and their common significance appears to be this--sin blocks and chokes the fine senses of the spirit; by sin we are desensitized, rendered imperceptive, and the range of our correspondence is diminished. Sin creates callosity. It hoofs the spirit, and so reduces the area of our exposure to pain.
John Henry Jowett in The Grace Awakening.
There is something terribly right about...realizing that our struggle with sin is in many ways similar to an alcoholic's struggle with drinking. It's never over. How often I find myself talking about sin in the past tense as if being a sinner is something I'm beyond--a page turned in the book of my life. But sin is like alcoholism. Sinners are never cured; they simply decide to stop sinning...and it's a daily decision.
John Fischer, Contemporary Christian Music, September, 1987.
A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
Discipleship Journal, November / December 1992.
In the 1950s a psychologist, Stanton Samenow, and a psychiatrist, Samuel Yochelson, sharing the conventional wisdom that crime is caused by environment, set out to prove their point. They began a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing of 250 inmates here in the District of Columbia. To their astonishment, they discovered that the cause of crime cannot be traced to environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead, crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, wrong moral choices. In their 1977 work The Criminal Personality, they concluded that the answer to crime is a "conversion of the wrong-doer to a more responsible lifestyle." In 1987, Harvard professors James Q. Wilson and Richard J.Herrnstein came to similar conclusions in their book Crime andHuman Nature. They determined that the cause of crime is a lack of proper moral training among young people during the morally formative years, particularly ages one to six.
Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, p. 30.
U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recently published a disturbing essay entitled "Defining Deviancy Down." In the Nov 22 issue of The New Republic, Commentator Charles Krauthammer writes that "Moynihan's powerful point is that with the moral deregulation of the 1960s, we have had an explosion of deviancy in family life, criminal behavior and public displays of psychosis. And we have dealt with it in the only way possible: by redefining deviancy down so as to explain away and make 'normal' what a more civilized, ordered and healthy society long ago would have labeled--and long ago did label--deviant."
Christian Research Institute letter, December 6, 1993.
Why would Christians choose to sin rather than choose what they know God wants them to do? Four answers are commonly given today.
1. Some would point to Romans 8:16 and explain that Christians who willfully sin have forgotten their true identity as "children of God." While it is true that Christians can forget who they are and sin as a result, Christians can also be well aware of who they are and sin anyway.
2. Some say Christians choose to sin because they have lost sight of what God has done for them. 2 Peter 1:9 indicates that Christians can be "blind or short-sighted, having forgotten [their] purification from [their] former sins."
3. Some wisely state that Christians consciously choose to sin because they have forgotten that God will severely discipline disobedient believers.
4. Some have said that Christians who consciously sin have lost their focus on the future. These Christians have forgotten that God will reward in heaven only those who have lived faithfully for Him here on earth (1 Cor 9:24). Christians who fail to keep eternity in mind often sin in the here and now.
J.Kirk Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 31.
What is sin?
Man call is an accident, God calls it abomination.
Man calls it a defect, God calls it a disease.
Man calls it an error, God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a liberty, God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle, God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake, God calls it a madness.
Man calls it a weakness, God calls it willfulness.
Sin, its effects: How does a worm get inside an apple? Perhaps you think the worm burrows in from the outside. No, scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside. But how does he get in there? Simple! An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Sometime later, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple, then eats his way out. Sin, like the worn, begins in the heart and works out through a person's thoughts, words, and actions.
Heaven and Home Hour Radio Bulletin.
Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman told of a distinguished minister, Dr. Howard, from Australia who preached very strongly on the subject of sin. After the service, one of the church officers came to counsel with him in the study. "Dr. Howard," he said, "we don't want you to talk as openly as you do about man's guilt and corruption, because if our boys and girls hear you discussing that subject they will more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but do not speak so plainly about sin. "The minister took down a small bottle and showing it to the visitor said, "You see that label? It says strychnine -- and underneath in bold, red letters the word 'Poison!' Do you know, man, what you are asking me to do? You are suggesting that I change the label. Suppose I do, and paste over it the words, 'Essence of Peppermint'; don't you see what might happen? Someone would use it, not knowing the danger involved, and would certainly die. So it is, too, with the matter of sin. The milder you make your label, the more dangerous you make your poison!"
Imagine all the obstacles a person might have to overcome if he were to walk from New York City to San Francisco. One man who accomplished this rare achievement mentioned a rather surprising difficulty when asked to tell of his biggest hurdle. He said that the toughest part of the trip wasn't traversing the steep slopes of the mountains or crossing hot, dry, barren stretches of desert. Instead, he said, "The thing that came the closest to defeating me was the sand in my shoes."
Our Daily Bread.
Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls. It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river. As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls.
I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave. It was engrossed in the carcass of a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings. The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice out of the water, and I thought it would escape. But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice. The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss.
The material possessions of this world can entrap us if we become too attached to them. They will take us to our destruction if we cannot give them up. And as Sweeting observed, "Oh, the danger of delay!"
Adaptation of Dr. George Sweetings Special Sermons for Special Days.
Gary Richmond, a former zoo keeper, had this to say: Raccoons go through a glandular change at about 24 months. After that they often attack their owners. Since a 30-pound raccoon can be equal to a 100-pound dog in a scrap, I felt compelled to mention the change coming to a pet raccoon owned by a young friend of mine, Julie. She listened politely as I explained the coming danger. I'll never forget her answer. "It will be different for me. . ." And she smiled as she added, "Bandit wouldn't hurt me. He just wouldn't." Three months later Julie underwent plastic surgery for facial lacerations sustained when her adult raccoon attacked her for no apparent reason. Bandit was released into the wild. Sin, too, often comes dressed in an adorable guise, and as we play with it, how easy it is to say, "It will be different for me." The results are predictable.
Gary Richmond, View From The Zoo.
Not long after a wealthy contractor had finished building the Tombs prison in New York, he was found guilty of forgery and sentenced to several years in the prison he had built! As he was escorted into a cell of his own making, the contractor said, "I never dreamed when I built this prison that I would be an inmate one day."
Today in the Word, July 12, 1993.
Man, reading about an "eat-all-you-want" diet, to friend: "I knew there'd be a catch to it. You have to run seven hundred miles a day!"
Hoest in Parade.
The man huddled on the cabin floor was slowly freezing to death. It was high in the Rockies in southwestern Alberta, and outside a blizzard raged. John Elliott had logged miles that day through the deep snows of the mountain passes. As he checked for avalanches and as dusk and exhaustion overcame him he had decided to "hole-up." He made it wearily to his cabin but somewhat dazed with fatigue, he did not light a fire or remove his wet clothing. As the blizzard blasted through the cracks in the old cabin walls, the sleeping forest ranger sank into oblivion, paralyzed by the pleasure of the storm's icy caress. Suddenly, however, his dog sprang into action, and with unrelenting whines, finally managed to rouse his near-comatose friend. The dog was John's constant companion, a St. Bernard, one of a long line of dogs famous for their heroics in times of crisis. "If that dog hadn't been with me, I'd be dead today," John Elliott says. "When you're freezing to death you actually feel warm all over, and don't wake up because it feels too good."
This moving story illustrates the spiritual condition of many people today. They are cold spiritually, and sadly are oblivious of their true condition. Thank God for all the ways in which He arouses such sleepers. He sends His messengers to nudge them awake. Sometimes the methods used to awaken them are drastic, but always for their good. Let us not imagine that because He shakes us, He therefore hates us. He awakens us from lethargy because He loves us, and wants to save us from an eternal death. When we were "ready to perish" (Isaiah 27:13), He was "ready to save" (Isaiah 38:20). Trust your life in His hand.
The Prairie Overcomer.
In 1982, "ABC Evening News" reported on an unusual work of modern art--a chair affixed to a shotgun. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and looking directly into the gun barrel. The gun was loaded and set on a timer to fire at an undetermined moment within the next hundred years. The amazing thing was that people waited in lines to sit and stare into the shell's path! They all knew the gun could go off at point-blank range at any moment, but they were gambling that the fatal blast wouldn't happen during their minute in the chair. Yes, it was foolhardy, yet many people who wouldn't dream of sitting in that chair live a lifetime gambling that they can get away with sin. Foolishly they ignore the risk until the inevitable self-destruction.
Wake Up Calls, Ron Hutchcraft, Moody, 1990, p.60.
Roman Catholic theology distinguishes between mortal and venial sins. A mortal sin removes your justification, and if you die with unconfessed mortal sin on your soul, you will be sent to hell. Venial sins do not destroy your justification, and only reduce your rewards or add to your time in purgatory. The Reformation rejected this system because of its works- orientation, but did not reject the idea of degrees of sin. John Calvin said that all sin is mortal in the sense that it deserves death, but no sin is so severe that it can destroy the grace of justification.
Tabletalk, April, 1990, p. 34.