By Brian G. Bettes
The smoke stacks at the power plant I worked at were over 600 feet tall. We were building the coal-fired plant and we had to line the inside of both stacks with brick. There was a cable drawn elevator for hauling people, bricks, and mortar that went all the way to the top on the inside of the stack. One of the workers told me, “If you stand out on the edge of the stack on top, the wind is so strong that you can lean out into the wind and not fall.” Visions of what would happen if the wind stopped raced through my mind, but, I guess there was no real danger of that happening in Wyoming. I never tried it because I was not allowed on the elevator. But, crazy as it may seem, I always wanted to. As a young man, I was a risk-taker. It is amazing I have lived as long as I have.
I was thinking about that the other day and asking myself, “How often do we do dangerous things with regard to sin, and think it is kind of fun, or get a thrill out of it?” Do we like to get as close to the edge of sinning as possible “without sinning” (or so we think), then “lean out into the wind,” hoping nothing will happen? Are we spiritual risk-takers? Or do we try to stay as far away from “the edge” of sin as we can get?
During this time of year, as I prepare for taking the Passover symbols established by our Savior, I have been focusing on sin and its effects in my life. Sin caused my Elder Brother and Savior, Jesus the Messiah, to have to die. Even one single sin by any human being was enough for Him to have to die as the sinless sacrifice, if that human was to be given eternal life. That gives me pause for thought. How cavalier am I with sin? Do I sometimes take the approach of, “Well, I know I am human, but Jesus died, so God will forgive me?” It hurts my heart to realize that I have made that statement all too often in my life. What about you? Are you casual with sin?
Many times, I have heard people say (one of those people saying it was me), “Of course, we will never be perfect in this life.” That statement is offered up almost as if it is an excuse to not really put that much effort into fighting sin. Do we really want to eradicate sin from our lives? Or do we just “accept” that, because we are human, we don’t have to struggle mightily against Satan or overcome the world around us that is under his influence or our own human nature? Yet, are we not told to not love this world (1 John 2:15-17), and to come out of it so as not to partake of its sins (Revelation 18:4)?
Let’s talk about 1 John 2:16, which says, “Because everything that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pretentious pride of physical life—is not from the Father, but is from the world” (Coulter, emphasis mine). Most translations use the word “all” where this one uses “everything.” Same essential meaning, but I just like the emphasis that it places on everything; not some things, not a few things, not most things, but e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that is of this world that is not of the Father. It is all encompassing and total. Nothing is left out. Then John goes on to identify, in three basic groups, what everything includes: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.
What we must ask ourselves is, are we in tune with our Father’s and Brother’s idea of what this means. We should be examining every area of our lives, asking ourselves whether we are striving to be righteous as They are righteous (1 John 3:7), or are we trying to get as close to the world, or sin, as we can without falling into the abyss?
What about our words? Does our speech reflect Jesus and our Father when we talk to others, or is it laced with profanity, course jesting, or maybe even sexual innuendo? Is our language clean and pure as Jesus’ was, or do we make excuse for, or even worse, not care much about what comes out of our mouths? I am embarrassed to say, as the old adage goes, “Been there done that.” There are no excuses one can legitimately give God as to why that kind of behavior is okay!
What about how we dress? Do we like, or even wear, tight-fitting or revealing clothing that leaves little or nothing to the imagination? Do we wear suggestive clothes that would cause members of the opposite sex to use their imagination? Have we bought into the influence of Satan regarding dress to where we think showing a lot of skin is okay? Have we bought into the societal thinking that, if we wear clothes that are suggestive, and members of the opposite sex have to avert their eyes, that the problem is with them; that we have no responsibility in that situation? This applies to both men and women. We have to ask ourselves whether Jesus Christ approves of what we are wearing, not what our friends or society around us thinks. Basing our thinking on what anyone but God thinks is what got this world in to the mess it is in.
We should apply this mindset to every part of our lives; what we eat, how we interact with each other, how we drive…again, everything! Second Corinthians 10:5 says we are to cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Again—every thought. Not just a few, or some, but every thought!
Did Jesus play with sin? Did He try to get as close as possible to sin? When dealing with Satan during His temptation, though Satan was quoting Scripture and the words he used were true, Jesus did not buy into any part of Satan’s proposals, staying as close to the real meaning and intent of His Father’s word, and as far away as possible from sin (Matthew 4:4,7,10). No, I think the example we see is that He stayed as far away from it as He could. He left us a clear example of how we are to use God’s Word to live our lives (Hebrews 4:12). Satan is the father of lies, and is a master at twisting God’s words from truth into something that sounds good, but leads to death (Genesis 3:4-5).
When it comes to sin, if Jesus was not willing to stand on the edge and lean out into the wind, neither should we.